#Book Snap Sunday – The Accidental Tourist

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“Just put your hand here. I’m scarred, too. We’re all scarred. You are not the only one.” 

How does a man addicted to routine – a man who flosses his teeth before love-making – cope with the chaos of everyday life? Blending glorious comedy with aching sadness, Anne Tyler’s novel maps out the landscape of a man’s hesitant heart with tenderness, sharpness and unputdownable truth.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler was published in 1985, won a National Book Critics Circle award for the most distinguished work of fiction for that year and was made into a film starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Geena Davis.  

Macon Leary writes travel guides for the business man who would rather be at home. After the murder of their son Ethan, Macon’s marriage to Sarah falls apart and he moves back home to live with his sister Rose and brothers, Charles and Porter. Macon and his siblings are a somewhat eccentric bunch who like their routines and arrange the pantry alphabetically (a nifty idea!). And then he meets Muriel, who is as different to Macon as night is to day.

Muriel’s entry into Macon’s life brings about a change from which he can never return. Despite the pain of grief, life is still fresh and beautiful, wonderfully chaotic and very full. While Macon’s siblings have concerns about this “Muriel person”, Macon discovers that he is becoming more himself than he has ever been in his whole life. As he slowly opens himself up to love again, he learns that life is messy, no one escapes unscathed but that there is always hope and love. 

This was a delightful read. Funny and sad, full of witty and accurate observations about people, grief, love and life.

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The Last Stop

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The Great Australian Dream

For decades now the Great Australian Dream has been a home of one’s own. We grow up aspiring to be home-owners. When I was growing up, it was the quarter acre block. Nowadays blocks are a lot smaller, but the dream is still the same – a home of one’s own.

Since I first moved out of home, many years ago now, I have been a renter more than I have been an owner. I have lived in the city, by the coast, out west and now on the top of the Great Dividing Range. I have lived in units, regular houses and on a semi-rural block. I have moved house numerous times for a variety of reasons. Less than two years ago I wrote about my 18th move which you can read about here. And now we are gearing up for move number …19!

After four years of renting in Toowoomba, we are finally moving into a home of our own. We moved from our home out west for a few reasons, namely so Bec could finish high school and Dan could access better support. Initially we thought we would rent for a while and then buy a house somewhere. Unfortunately this took a lot longer than we expected. The boom and bust mining cycle can play havoc with the regional real estate market. But finally we have a new home and we can’t wait to move in. 

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Why is this post titled The Last Stop? After so many moves, Paul has asked whether I have Gypsy blood – not to my knowledge. He asked whether our new house will be “the last stop”. Straight away we knew that would be the perfect name for our new house – The Last Stop. I am certainly hoping it will be the last stop for quite some time. Bec has noted that the longest time she has ever lived in one house is six years. I am hoping we can beat that record. In fact, I told Paul the only way I was leaving this next house was in a box!  

The Last Stop is located on a block just outside of Toowoomba. It is one of those places that requires a little TLC but has plenty of room for Dan to ride his bike, for Bec to have chooks again, for a garden that consists of more than just pots and for Paul to indulge his passion for woodwork. We have been a little crowded in our small duplex. Some mornings the kitchen is just not big enough for the three of us. And when Paul comes down for the weekend, well, there is even less space. 

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We all like to have our own space. We like peace and quiet. We like to see open space, smell the country air and hear the sounds of nature. We need places where we can find solitude. And we are looking forward to finding places for all our bookshelves and books and other stuff too.  

Just knowing we will have our own home again has fertilised our imagination. Those home renovation mags which we usually ignore have suddenly become far more interesting.  A master plan of future possibilities is starting to take shape in our minds. Who knows, perhaps you may see some Reno posts sometime down the track. 

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Renting can have its advantages but it is not the same as your own place. Over the last four years we have lived in three different rentals, which were all perfectly nice places but they weren’t a home. Two of them had perfectly blank walls without a single hook. We weren’t allowed to hang anything – not even a clock. They may well have had a modern and sleek interior, but they were cold and sterile. They weren’t a home. So we are looking forward to pulling out our family photos and artwork to hang on the walls. We are looking forward to creating a home. 

In your own home, when something gets broken or needs fixing, you can fix it! You don’t have to go through the whole rigmarole of reporting maintenance issues to the real estate office and then wait for ages for them to get around to actually getting it fixed.  And, best of all, no more routine inspections!

So move number 19 is fast approaching. Another round of packing and unpacking boxes, loading up furniture and negotiating stairs, corners and hallways.  But this is a move we are all really looking forward to. We can’t wait.

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Bec Turns 21

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We have just celebrated Bec’s 21st birthday. It feels a little strange to have both children over the age of 21. I don’t know where all the years went. One minute I had two small children and the next they are full grown adults. How did that happen?

Twenty-firsts are becoming a thing of the past in some places. Times have changed. The 21st once signified a major milestone in a young person’s life, a coming of age, a time when they would take on the expectations, responsibilities and privileges  of the adult life. Today the 18th is often seen as marking that milestone, however it still is a joyous occasion to gather together to celebrate a birthday and always provides a good excuse for a party.

Bec is not the raging, partying kind. She loves her family and close friends and prefers intimate gatherings where friends and family can get together, enjoy a meal, and celebrate in a relaxed, low-key manner. So a group of family and friends gathered at the local Golf Club for a lovely evening together in a private room. It was exactly what Bec wanted.

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Of course, it is still hard to believe that she has reached this milestone. It is hard to believe she is no longer that tiny little baby with the long blond hair. And yes, when Bec was born she did indeed have long blond hair, long enough that we could have tied it up with a ribbon.

Bec’s life hasn’t been an easy journey. She has been surrounded by loving family and friends. She has known the challenge of having a special brother like Dan, who I know she really does love, even though he drives her mad. But she has also known the heartbreak, pain and grief of losing her beloved Dad, Rob. It is a grief she will carry forever in her heart.

Bec was only four when her Dad died, yet she has memories that are crystal clear. She is very much like her Dad in so many ways – the way she smiles, the interests she pursues, the way that she never puts anything away in the same place twice. But she is especially like her Dad in the ways that count: in her compassion for others, her attention to detail and dedication to excellence, her love for music, the natural world, and the written word.

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Through the hard times Bec has endured. She has grown deeper and stronger, and having experienced both the pain and joy of life, she can look into her future with hope, knowing that she has the inner strength to face whatever comes her way. She has grown into a beautiful young woman and I know that her Dad would be very proud of her.

We are all very proud of Bec too and long after the tea lights and flowers have faded, and the music themed cake has been devoured, we will continue to wish her joy, hope and love as her journey in life goes on.

 

 

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A Day at Victor Harbor

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Victor Harbor is a small coastal town, 71km south of Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It has a long history as a popular holiday destination for many South Australian families and it holds a special place in the hearts of my family. Back in the 1930’s, when my grandmother was a young woman, she enjoyed holidays at Victor Harbor with her friends and family. Later, when she was married and had a family of her own, she continued to enjoy the time they spent every summer at Victor Harbor. My mum and aunty remember these holidays with great fondness: building sandcastles on the beach, eating fish and chips on the grass under the tall Norfolk Pines, and going for a drive around to see the Bluff. As one of the next generation, I also have fond memories of summer holidays at Victor Harbor with my grandparents and cousins. 

 It’s funny how place becomes important to us as we grow older. Victor Harbor was a favourite place for my grandmother because it held so many memories for her. Even in her old age, she still liked to go there, to sit on a bench overlooking the sea, and remember. My grandmother passed away quite a few years ago now, but still Victor Harbor remains a special place for the rest of her family. We are all scattered across Australia, but when we do get together in South Australia, Victor Harbor is always at the top of our list. We remember the family holidays, but most of all, we remember my grandmother and we always feel close to her in Victor Harbor. 

Before we even left Queensland for our recent trip to South Australia, I knew that I wanted to visit Victor Harbor. It’s such a special place for all of us, that when my aunty learned we were all going for a day trip, she burst into tears. Living in Queensland too, she doesn’t get down to South Australia very often either, and given the circumstances of our trip, she didn’t expect she would have the opportunity for a visit to Victor Harbor. I knew then, that come what may – wind, hail, or even snow, we had to go to Victor Harbor.

  Even at the height of summer, the weather in Victor Harbor can be cool. In the middle of winter, it can be downright cold, wet and windy. And that was exactly what I was expecting. But I didn’t care. We were going to Victor Harbor, whatever the weather. Fortunately, it turned out to be a beautiful day – cool, overcast but fine. In the summer you would hardly be able to move for the crowds, but if you don’t mind the cold, blustery weather of a southern winter, then July is a good time to go.

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Looking back towards the mainland

One of the major attractions of Victor Harbor is Granite Island, which is connected to the mainland by a pedestrian causeway. After crossing the causeway, visitors can follow a walking path around the island and take in the beautiful ocean views. I don’t know how many times I have walked around Granite Island but I never get tired of the view. I love the ocean. It’s the one thing I miss living in Toowoomba. This time there was something new. Some very interesting and sometimes quite unusual modern sculptures had been erected around the island, complete with signs not to climb on them, which of course is a direct invitation for any child! 

Granite Island used to be home to a large colony of Fairy Penguins. In past years, if you were there at the right time, you could spot them making their way back to their burrows. Sadly, the penguins have fallen victim to fur seals and worst of all, local vandals. In 2012 the colony was numbered at just 7 penguins! You can still take a penguin tour at dusk but otherwise access to the island is restricted at night in order to protect the penguins. We didn’t see any penguins but we did see this sign! 

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One of my favourite attractions at Victor Harbor is the horse drawn tram. It is one of only two horse drawn trams in the world that still maintains a daily schedule. The tram is drawn by one of six clydesdales and carries visitors out to the island and back again along the causeway.  The tram began operating as a tourist attraction way back in 1894. Over the years there have been a number of different trams but sadly the service came to an end in the mid 1950s. However it was never forgotten by the many South Australians who holidayed at Victor Harbor. For them, Victor Harbour was never quite the same without the horse drawn tram.

In 1986 South Australia celebrated it’s 150th Jubilee and as part of the celebrations, a number of community projects came into being, including the reprisal of the Victor Harbor horse drawn tram service . Unfortunately the old trams were long gone. One ended up in the US in a museum; the other in the sea after years of deterioration and vandalism. So they had to build them from scratch based on the original designs.  In June 1986 the Victor Harbor horse drawn tram service had a grand re-opening and since then has continued to cart visitors back and forth over the causeway. After all my visits to Victor Harbor over the years, this was the first time that I finally got to have a ride on the tram!

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The day would not have been complete, of course, without fish and chips. In the summer there are plenty of lovely spots to throw out a picnic rug under the Norfolk Pines, but in the middle of winter we had to be content with the foreshore cafe. This was our last day in South Australia, so it was so lovely to spend it with our family in a place that means so much to all of us.

 If you ever visit South Australia, a trip to Victor Harbor is a must. Stroll around the island, enjoy a relaxed ride on the horse drawn tram and have fish and chips on the grass under the pines. And if you have time, take a penguin tour at dusk. I don’t know when my next trip to South Australia will be, but you can bet it will include a trip to Victor Harbor.

Family Time

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In our hectic modern lifestyles, it can be hard to carve out spaces for quality family time. It often becomes a matter of minutes snatched here and there, in between ferrying children all over the place, never-ending domestic chores, and work or study related activity. Until one of those significant life events occur that draws the family together in a big way. 

We’ve just recently returned from a trip down to Adelaide for my uncle’s funeral. Funerals are a bitter-sweet time. There is sadness because we miss the one that we loved and we cannot imagine our family without them. But sometimes there is also happiness and relief that a long and painful journey has come to an end. And so it was with my uncle. After a long fight with cancer, he is at peace. 

Adelaide is my home town. Although most of my family grew up in South Australia, in Adelaide and in small farming towns to the north of Adelaide, most of us now live in other states. We sometimes joke that we get along better that way. It is difficult for us to be together in the one place, at the one time, and so, when we are together, the time is very precious. Despite the reason for our gathering, it was a beautiful time with my parents, my brother and his family who flew in from Western Australia, and my aunty from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

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My uncle was a farmer, a traveller, a glider. He married late in life, gaining not just a loving wife and companion, but three young adult children, who held him in great esteem, love and admiration They gave such beautiful tributes about the role he played in their lives, showing that family isn’t always about blood, but about love. He was their hero. 

My uncle will be missed but the time we spent sharing stories, laughing and remembering, deepens the memory of him in our hearts and minds. My mum and aunty reminisced about growing up on the farm with their brother, riding to school in the horse and cart, and family holidays at Victor Harbor. These are the stories that become part of our family folklore to be passed down through the generations. And the telling of these stories, over and over again, strengthens the relationship between all of us. Sharing our grief and our joy brings us closer, even though we live many miles apart.

We also added a new story to the family folklore. One evening we went out for dinner at one of the local hotels. Paul has a sweet tooth and so he ordered some dessert – strawberries and cream. When the dish arrived, there was great amusement as we embarked on a strawberry hunt. Apparently “strawberries” means one strawberry cut into four pieces, spread across a rectangle plate with small blobs of cream. Photos were taken, of course, and the story has already been repeated and will no doubt be embellished as time goes on.

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Paul’s Strawberries and Cream

Some stories become traditions imbued with special meaning. When my mum, aunty and uncle were growing up, they went on an annual holiday to the beach. Initially this was to an Adelaide beach called Glenelg, and then to Victor Harbor, as mentioned before. The tradition didn’t stop there. When our cousins came down from Queensland to visit, our grandparents would take our whole family for a holiday to Victor Harbor. Interestingly, the holidays to Victor Harbor started well before my grandmother was even married. Victor Harbor was a special place to her and so it has remained for our family, so of course, any trip down to Adelaide must include a visit to … Victor Harbor. My brother even took his family down there for a few days holiday continuing the family tradition.

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Looking Across to Victor Harbor from Granite Island

 All family gatherings eventually come to an end. We all have normal lives to which we must return, accompanied by a collection of new memories and a story or two. As the years pass, and more and more family members pass away, it can often feel that we only see each other at funerals. And this where we can see the true blessing of technology – for keeping us in touch with those who live so very far away and the recording of stories for future generations.

No More Plates

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Just to be clear, we have not decided to dispense with using dinner plates but have finally come to the end of attaching Provisional Driving plates onto the car. After four years of attaching yellow learner plates, then red provisional plates and finally green provisional plates, Bec has officially come off her Ps. So no more plates on the car. Hooray!

Learning to Drive in Queensland

Once Bec turned 16, she was able to sit a written test about road rules to obtain her learners. She had to be on her learners for at least a year, log a minimum of 100 hours of driving experience, including 10 hours of night driving, and display the yellow learner plates on the car whenever she was driving.

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At this time, we were still living in a small town out west, where it takes about five minutes to drive from one side of town to the other, so it was quite a challenge to log 100 hours. Fortunately, we took regular trips to Toowoomba and an occasional trip to Brisbane, as well as one road trip down to South Australia to visit family, so she eventually accumulated the 90 hours of day driving. The night hours were a bit more difficult. We hardly went anywhere at night, so when we moved to Toowoomba, we would deliberately go for a night drive. I would check out the Toowoomba map, chart out a route that would take us all over town, and off we would go.

After a year and 100 hours were logged, Bec could sit her driving test. I was quite nervous about how she would go but fortunately she had a lovely examiner who cracked some jokes and helped her to relax. After passing the test on her first attempt, Bec then had to spend a year on a provisional license with a red P plate. At the end of that year, she had to pass an online hazards test and then it was onto the green P plates. It was supposed to be only one year on the green Ps, but of course the rules were changed and she had to do two years on the green P plates. There were some restrictions for P plate drivers, mostly about who could be in the car late at night, but this never really affected Bec.

And now finally that is all over and we are both relieved. No more shuffling plates on and off the car. So often I would go out in the morning to take Dan to Yellow Bridge- oh, have to take the plates off. Sometimes if we were all going somewhere together, Bec would ask if she could drive – oh, have to put the plates on. I am so glad that’s all finished. I think it is an excellent system for preparing young drivers. Ensuring that everybody is safe on the roads is extremely important – the road toll is bad enough as it is.

I am also thankful that I only had one child to teach to drive.  I really feel for those parents who have three, four or more children. Teaching a teenager to drive is a very stressful job. Bec is a very responsible driver, but in those early months the brake pedal on the front passenger side didn’t seem to work at all! Funny how we push our foot to the floor, even though we know there is no brake there at all. Just habit, or panic, I guess.

People are sometimes surprised when I say that Dan will never be able to drive. I’m sure he’d love to. He loves driving the dodgems at the show and the driving games on the Wii, but that’s as close to driving a car as he’s ever going to get. He probably gets a little frustrated when he sees Bec hopping in the driver seat and he never gets to have a go.  It’s not that Dan couldn’t learn how to drive a car. I think he’d be able to steer the car quite well. He’d probably be ok driving the ute around a paddock, but not on the road.

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Dan would never pass the learners test to start with. While he knows some basic rules – red means stop, green means go – he has enough trouble crossing the road safely. Dan’s autism means that he can be very fixed in his routines and when he gets in “the zone”, he just goes. More importantly though, he lacks the ability to make those split-second decisions when the situation or routine changes or somebody else does the wrong thing. If the traffic light was green, he’d go. Regardless. Besides, having seen his driving technique on the Wii, I think it would be a lot safer for everyone if he stayed in the passenger seat!

People have suggested that driverless cars might provide an option for people with disabilities in the future. Maybe, but I don’t think I’d be willing to give them a go. I don’t fancy being in a car which drives itself. For now, Dan will just have to get used to being in the passenger seat and driving on the Wii and at the show. I’m just relieved that I can  hop in the car and not have to worry about taking the plates off. 

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)

Dan the Mailman

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In this digital age, an actual letter in the letterbox is a rare occurrence. Most of our mail is announced with a ping in the inbox rather than the roar of a motorbike. Yet every day we still trek out to the letterbox, just in case there is something to retrieve. However, apart from the occasional bill that still comes by snail mail,  it seems that Birthdays and Christmas are the only high points in the mail delivery year.

Dan has always liked opening the mail. Which isn’t a problem, unless it is mail I am yet to post. He likes opening parcels even better (don’t we all!). One time we caught him opening the gifts at his cousin’s 21st birthday party. Fortunately she was very kind hearted and didn’t seem to mind. But it did mean that at Christmas time we could only put the gifts under the Christmas tree just before we opened them – otherwise there would have been nothing to open on Christmas Day.

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Dan likes posting things too. When he was very young, he liked to post all sorts of things – paper, lego, apple cores – into the combustion heater (when it wasn’t going, of course!), so we would always have to check very carefully before lighting it. Even today he still likes to post the letters through the slot of the big red mailbox whenever we do go to the post office. 

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At Yellow Bridge, Dan is part of a small group that does a mail run. Every morning they go to the main post office in Toowoomba, collect the mail for a number of businesses around town and sort it into bags before going around to deliver it to the businesses. I think it is a great initiative which shows businesses and employers that people with disabilities are very capable. Instead of hiding them away in a sheltered workshop, they are out in the community providing a valued service.

One day when I was doing the grocery shopping with Dan, the lady in front of me at the check out recognised Dan because he delivers the mail to her workplace. She said he was always very quiet when they delivered the mail. Quiet? Doesn’t sound like Dan at all, but it was nice to hear people recognise the job they are doing.

Dan can even play mailman at home.

Speech therapy has been an integral part of Dan’s intervention even before he was diagnosed with autism. As an ongoing support, it’s important to find ways of making it fun and the therapists always do an excellent job of using games to practise communication skills.  One of Dan’s therapists had this really cool mailbox, where Dan could post a card in the top and it would pop out the bottom. There was a myriad of ways this activity could be used, from practising sight words, matching words and pictures, or constructing sentences. Dan really enjoyed it, so I thought it would be a good idea to have one at home.

Now we could have made a mailbox with a cardboard box – but that wouldn’t have lasted very long.  However, I remembered seeing a mailbox craft kit at our local Kaisercraft store, so we bought the kit, collected some supplies and got to work. 

 

And here it is – Dan’s mailbox…

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The cards don’t pop out the bottom, but Dan just opens the lid at the top and pulls them out – just like a real letterbox. We use it to play all sorts of games to help Dan develop his communication skills.

Despite all the whizz bang things we can do with technology, there is still much pleasure to be had with a simple red mailbox.

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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!

Caring for the Carer

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Life is a difficult balancing act. Most of us are trying to juggle work and family commitments while also trying to maintain our own well-being and sanity. For the most part, it works, even if sometimes it’s a mad scramble and there are a few near-misses. Occasionally though, it doesn’t work and everything falls in a screaming heap. Including ourselves. 

If you’re a carer of someone with special needs, the balancing act is often a lot more precarious. The demands on a carer can be relentless and overwhelming. And it is the carer’s needs who always come a very poor last.

Carers Get Tired

Caring is a tiring job. It just goes on and on and on. My son Dan is a great kid, or should I say, young man. He is always happy and helpful, but he also has a never-ending source of energy. Even though Dan is nearly 22, in some ways it is like caring for a pre-schooler. I’m not saying that Dan is a pre-schooler, it’s just that he requires supervision round the clock. I can’t just pop down to the shops and leave Dan at home alone. He is either in care or he’s with me. And while Dan continues to live at home, that is how things will continue to be.

Dan requires constant prompting for every little task, even though he usually knows exactly what to do. This does get rather tiring because it feels like you are trapped in Ground Hog Day. It’s just the same day over and over and over again. And since Dan needs to be prompted to use the bathroom, there are no sleep-ins. Not if I want a dry bed.

Dan loves to be out among people, but his boundless energy and long lanky legs make it a very exhausting exercise. Exhausting for me, that is. Dan has no sense of road safety, so I need to hold on to him, just to keep him safe. Unfortunately, Dan loves to travel at maximum speed. Walking slowly is just not on his radar. I think he would make an excellent physical trainer.

 

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Carers Get Run-down

As carers, we are always told to “look after yourself” but no one really tells you how this actually works in practice. We know that we should get plenty of sleep and exercise, eat a healthy diet and enjoy some down time. But keeping up with all the demands of caring, plus everything else the world likes to throw at us, means that the things we know we should do, get pushed aside.

Getting enough sleep is a real challenge, especially when Dan feels the need to break out in song in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning. I know regular exercise is important, but it’s hard to fit it in when there are already so many things I’m trying to squeeze in during his time in care. Now and then I  get enthused about planning an interesting and healthy menu, but at the end of the day I’m tired, the fridge always seems to be empty (I don’t know where it all goes) and I actually hate cooking.

We often don’t even notice that we are getting run-down. So often we are just concentrating on getting through the day, doing all the things we have to do. But when we are constantly giving out, without being replenished, eventually we just run out of steam.

Carers Get Sick

Carers are pretty tough. We can survive on little sleep and we get used to putting ourselves last. And when people ask us how we are, we always say we’re ok – even when we’re probably not. But the thing is, we have just done this for so long that we don’t know any different. We have felt tired for so long, we can’t remember how it feels to not be tired. We have put ourselves last for so long, we feel guilty indulging in a few minutes of down time when there is so much to do. We actually don’t recognise that we are not ok. This is our normal.

But Carers can only run on empty for so long – and then we get sick. And what happens to all the things carers usually do? Well, either someone else picks up the slack or we just focus on what is absolutely essential or things just don’t get done. And then we feel bad for all the things we’re not doing because we’re tired and run-down and sick. It can be a vicious circle.

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Things have been a bit quiet here of late.

I got tired. I got run-down. I got sick.

Getting sick is our body’s way of telling us we need to stop. We need to prioritise. We need to take care of ourselves. We need to learn to say – no.

It all sounds very easy but it’s so hard to do. But you can help.

Everybody knows someone who is caring for a person with special needs. It doesn’t have to be a child. It could be a parent with dementia. It could be a partner with a terminal illness. The next time you feel moved to say, “take care of yourself”, you might like to think about how you can offer some practical help – a few hours respite, mowing the lawn or doing some grocery shopping. Every little bit helps.

Carers need to be taken care of too.

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