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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The Carer’s Road

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Every day is a journey,

and the journey itself is home.

Matsuo Basho

 From the moment we are born, a path stretches out before us. We don’t know where it will lead. We just begin, one step at a time.

Sometimes the way is a smooth, well-worn path and at other times it feels like we are cutting a path through rugged terrain. The road meanders, curving left and right, every turn revealing a new mystery or challenge. Sometimes we coast down hill only to struggle to reach the top of the next rise.

The carer’s road is a life long journey. We didn’t set out to be carers, but here we are, on a road that has contained curves, u-turns and uphill challenges. As the years go by, though, it can feel like we are caught on a treadmill. The days run into each other, a monotonous streak of repetition and predictability, with no reprieve in sight.

Life with Dan can be a bit like that. Every morning the routine is the same – the same steps, the same prompts, the same responses. Dan likes routine. Routine is good. It keeps everything ticking along like clockwork. Sudden changes in routine can cause all sorts of trouble when you’re on the spectrum. But it does feel like you will keep on repeating the same day, forever.

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When you are a carer, it can be tempting to feel that your life is on hold, that you are stuck on the bench watching, while life is passing you by. You see others moving on to the next stage in their life, breaking through glass ceilings, travelling to far-flung places, seeing the sights of the world and climbing Mount Everest. Meanwhile, we are still giving the same round the clock care and supervision. We can feel that life is out there somewhere, in the distance, for others to experience, and always out of our reach.

But this is not true.

Sure, the carer’s road looks different. Different can be good. It is filled with everyday miracles, outstanding achievements and more spills and thrills than a rollercoaster.

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I don’t need to break through glass ceilings. I am quite regularly sweeping up broken glass after Dan has precariously balanced the crockery on the edge of the shelf.

I don’t need to see the leaning tower of Pisa. Over the years we have seen many of the towers of Dan, some leaning, some standing perfectly straight, each one a master of architecture.

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I don’t need to climb Mount Everest. After many years, we finally made it to the top of the toilet training mountain. It was a long haul but the achievement was exhilarating.

Life is not passing us by.

This is our life and we are living it every day.

 

The Journey into Autism

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The word ‘journey’ can conjure a variety of images in our minds. Perhaps you imagine packing your bags and catching a plane for that once in a lifetime trip around the world. Or perhaps you think about stepping into the great unknown, travelling down an unfamiliar track, not knowing where you will spend the night or who you will meet. Throughout our life we will embark on many journeys, some short, some long, some never ending. Sometimes we know the final destination and sometimes we can end up somewhere completely unexpected. But every journey begins with that first step.

The dictionary defines journey as an act of travelling from one place to another.  It is also defined as a long and often difficult process of personal change and development. I think this second meaning sums up the journey into the world of autism.

From the moment I knew I was pregnant with Dan, I knew he was a boy. I don’t know why or how I knew. I just did. Like all parents, we held hopes and dreams for our child. We had so many questions. Who would he take after?  Who would he look like? Who would he become? As first time parents we didn’t really know what to expect, but we expected our parenting journey would be pretty similar to those we saw around us. I didn’t know then, how different our journey would actually be.

Dan arrived a little earlier than expected into the world. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, but we got there. It’s difficult to describe that moment when you hold your child for the first time. Your heart is filled with more emotion than you ever thought possible. All the pain is pushed aside as you gaze upon this little person, overwhelmed with the rush of love and the awesome responsibility of the journey ahead. Dan was beautiful, perfect, precious and very loved.  

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As babies go, Dan was pretty placid. He slept well, didn’t cry too much and seemed pretty happy. We had no reason to suspect that things weren’t all as they should be.

Dan reached almost all of the major milestones within the right timeframe – except for speaking. I wasn’t too concerned at first, but to be on the safe side, we consulted a speech therapist. After a while we were directed towards an early intervention program in our town, and eventually a paediatrician. That was when we heard the A word for the first time. I thought that Dan just needed more time. 

 Finally, just before Dan’s 3rd birthday, we heard the A word said with definition. And then our world changed forever.

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Autism. It’s not a huge word – only six letters – but it means a whole world of difference. Eighteen years ago that word would devastate me. All our hopes and dreams for Dan’s life were shattered and we were filled with despair about the life he would have. On that day I could never have imagined that there would come a time when I would say that there are no regrets, no wishful thinking, no desire for a cure. I would not change Dan for the world. 

Our parenting journey has been different. The road has been long, and sometimes it has been very hard. But it has also been filled with much joy. Despair soon gave way to a fierce and absolute determination to give Dan the best life he could have. It was a steep learning curve. Patience, alternate communication, maintaining routines, sensory issues,  persistence, food intolerances, special education, and advocacy. Every thing we learnt along the way, were the very things we needed to show to the world – patience in the face of ignorance and insensitivity;  persistence to keep on going when things are tough and get even tougher; and advocacy to bring about the changes we wanted to see, the dreams we wanted fulfilled, and for the rights we all take for granted.

Dan is a wonderful human being who graces this world with much love, enthusiasm and enjoyment. He is loving and generous, happy and giving, friendly and helpful. He possesses all the characteristics a mother could ever want for her child. He is a son to be extremely proud of. Even though verbal communication is a struggle for him, Dan demonstrates his love and kindness everyday. I don’t know quite where his journey will lead, but I know it’s going to be awesome.

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The journey into autism is tough. It is not for the faint-hearted. But you will learn about true friendship and what really matters in this life. And you will discover depths you never thought you had.

If you have just started on this journey, may you be filled with hope and encouragement.

 If you are someway along this journey, may your well be replenished with the strength to keep on going. 

And if you are not on this journey personally, may you be a source of encouragement, support and understanding for those of us who are. 

Walking Together in Grief and Love

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Our friend Barry passed away in the early hours of Easter Sunday. After a remarkably swift battle with cancer, we mourn his passing, yet at the same time, we are relieved that he is now at peace. We knew that the end was near. We hoped that his suffering would be over sooner rather than later. Yet now that it is here; now that he has left this life; we still feel stunned.

It feels almost inconceivable that we will not see his smile, or hear him laugh or see him tending the gardens of his hometown.

There are so many emotions swirling deep inside us – sadness, grief, pain and disbelief. We find it hard to adequately express all that we feel. We struggle to find the right words.

The Path of Grief

I ache for my dear friend, Sandra, and her family, for I know the path of grief all too well. I know the pain of losing your life partner, the one with whom you thought you would grow old and welcome grandchildren. I would change things if I could, turn back the clock, take away the pain, make everything better again. But all I can do is be her friend.

Every person’s journey of grief is different. The circumstances of every loss are never quite the same. Some know and have the time to say goodbye, while others reel with a sudden and unexpected loss. Yet some things remain the same.

We nurse a deep sadness in our hearts. We grieve the loss of the one we loved so dearly and who loved us too. There is a hole in our heart that can never really be filled. Every person in our life is unique. They each leave their own individual mark upon us. Other people will come and go in our lives. They will love us too and leave their mark upon us, in their own special way, but it won’t be quite the same.

The path of grief is hard.  There will be sad days when just the mention of their name will bring forth tears. There will be days when your heart will feel so heavy you can barely breathe. And there will be days when the pain of their absence will cut like a knife. These days will pass. There will be happy times too, when we reminisce, and laugh and remember all that they meant to us and we will treasure those precious memories in our hearts forever.

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I don’t believe we ever truly get over our grief. Life goes on – true. And we do go on, carrying our grief and loss with us, wherever we go. We go on, living and loving, because we know that is what they would want us to do. We go on, even though our lives will always be tinged with bitter sweetness. Every celebration, every anniversary, every special day will be happiness mingled with sadness as we remember the one who is not here.

The loss of a loved one becomes a defining moment in our lives. There is our life before, and then, our life after. Our life is different. We are different. We are changed forever, but we step forward into this new life, tentatively, sadly, but with hope because this is what life is – happiness and sadness, love and grief, hope and pain. To live a full life, we must experience it all – one day at a time.

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But we do not walk this path alone. No matter how sad and broken-hearted we might feel, we are loved more than we can ever know. Bound in love and friendship, we walk beside each other, sharing our joys and sorrows, wiping away each others tears and  holding each other tightly. We know that no words are needed, because a hug says more than a thousand words ever could.

Barry’s physical journey in this life may be finished, but he lives on in our hearts. We remember him with joy, give thanks for his life, and slowly step forward, to go on living in love and hope.

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Life Long Learning

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I am often asked why I am studying or what do I hope to do with my Arts Degree when I am finished. Sometimes I find it difficult to give a satisfactory answer because the answer isn’t always straightforward. I study because I love learning. I study to learn more about subjects that are of special interest to me, such as English Literature, History and Creative Writing. I study because I wanted a career change. I study because I want to challenge myself and try something new. I study because I believe in life long learning.

We are all life long learners. Our learning doesn’t stop the day we leave school or graduate with a degree. Every day we learn from each other – at home, at work, at school, in the community. It’s often said that we learn something new every day. It doesn’t have to be anything truly earth-shattering. It can be something very simple. And even when we make a mistake or have a disaster, we learn what not to do.

Over the past few years I have learned quite a few new things. As an online student, I have learned some new things about technology. Even though I now live in Toowoomba, and the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) is based here in Toowoomba, I still find online study to be a more flexible option for me. And I am not the only one. Many of the students at USQ are distance students from across Australia and even the world. Studying online is a popular choice for people trying to balance work, family and study.

It hasn’t always been easy to balance study with family responsibilities. I try to organise my study timetable while Dan is at Yellow Bridge and this works most of the time. It’s not that Dan is difficult to manage, it’s just that he really loves computer screens and it’s very difficult to concentrate when you have someone peering over your shoulder. There are times though, when it has been a bit of a mad scramble to get an assignment in on time and that’s when I vow to be better organised in the next semester.

Well, the first semester for 2018 is just around the corner and for the first time, we will have two uni students in the family continuing their journey of life long learning. While I will be parked in front of my computer here in Toowoomba, Bec will begin studying in Brisbane. Even though I am just over half way through my degree, we joke that she will probably graduate before me. It’s okay. It’s the journey that matters, not the speed. It will be strange not having her around so much, but it is very exciting to see the next generation of students full of enthusiasm about the learning opportunities available to them. I wonder if their enthusiasm will have dimmed when the first round of assignments are due.

A new semester is a bit like New Year. We promise to be better organised, to keep up with the readings, to start our assignments well in advance and to not be reduced to pulling all-nighters to get them in on time. Every semester we promise it will be different – and then life happens. Family crises strike. We get sick, and tired. Appointments take up space in an already crowded schedule.  Perhaps this year it will be different.

So what will I be learning this semester? I’m about to get my head into Ethics and Human Rights, as well as Speculative and Science Fiction. I think Ethics will be quite challenging and require a fair bit of mental acrobatics, but at the same time I think it will be interesting to think about the difference between ethics and morality, how we determine right and wrong and how we know what we think we know. And as an avid reader, I am definitely looking forward to  Speculative and Science Fiction, although I hardly need an excuse to get into some sf classics like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Dune by Frank Herbert.

I have really enjoyed my learning experience at USQ but you don’t need to go to Uni to be a life long learner. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new. Read a book. Watch a foreign movie. Make a new friend. Join a club. Accept a challenge. Embrace change. Be a life long learner.

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Putting Out Fires

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We’re in the middle of one of the hottest Februarys on record. Here in Toowoomba, we’re reaching temperatures of around 36°C which isn’t too bad, as long as you don’t have to go outside. But out west, where my husband Paul works, the temperature has been hitting 42°C. That’s hot. Especially in the middle of harvest. But that’s summer in Australia.

As the mercury rises though, so does the risk of bushfire. Especially after a dry winter. In the right conditions, the smallest of embers can turn into a raging bushfire that destroys family homes and livelihoods, reduces precious memories to ash, and all too often, takes lives.

I have never personally experienced the horror of a bushfire, but I can remember the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983. On February 16 – Ash Wednesday – around 180 fires broke out across South Australia and Victoria. Thousands of hectares of land were burnt, over 2,000 homes were lost and 75 people lost their lives, including 12 volunteer firefighters.

From the safety of our front porch we could see the red glow of the bushfire burning in the Adelaide Hills. Our television screens showed the distraught and devastated faces of those who had lost everything. I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel to gaze upon mounds of ash, twisted metal and the charred remains of what was once your family home. Nor can I imagine the conditions and danger that confront the firefighters, many of them volunteers, prepared to risk their own lives to save the property and lives of others – people they might not even know. I only know that they are among some of the bravest people on this earth.

For most of us, our experience of bushfire will come from the safety of our front porch or living room, but we might have times in our lives when we get just the tiniest sense of what it means to be a firefighter. I’m not talking about the kind of fires that threaten our home or lives, but the times when life events seem to spiral out of control and no matter where we look, we see small fires breaking out.

Individually, these small fires are no big deal. They are just another little hiccup which we can deal with quite easily. But when they come one after the other or all at once, it can be overwhelming, exhausting and very stressful. We might feel a bit like a firefighter, putting out fires while keeping one eye on the weather and the other eye on any embers threatening to explode.

Over the last few weeks I have felt a bit like a firefighter. I knew it was going to be a stressful time – after all, we were moving house. I knew it would require careful planning and coordination – Bec was transitioning to tertiary education at the same time. And Dan has autism. However, I wasn’t prepared for all the little fires that just seemed to erupt at the same time. Things didn’t quite go as planned and everybody seemed to look to me, the Mum, to be chief firefighter.

Needless to say, some things just got pushed aside while I was busy putting out fires.

But finally, the embers have been dampened and life has calmed down. The boxes are unpacked and things are mostly in their right place. Bec is excited about the year ahead. There’s still Dan’s program for 2018 to finalise and the matter of a funding reduction to deal with, but I’m hoping I can hang up my fire helmet, at least for a while.

At the end of the day, although it was tiring and stressful, the fires weren’t life threatening, and for that, I’m truly grateful.

 

For the 18th Time

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We are moving house – again. For me, it will be move number 18. And I expect I can look forward to a few more moves yet.

I don’t remember my first move. I was only about three when my family moved from a small country town to Adelaide, where I grew up. Almost my entire childhood and adolescence was spent in one family home. The same family home that my parents moved out of about a year ago. My Dad has just turned 80 and my Mum is in her seventies, and they have just moved for the third time in their life.

In contrast, Dan and Bec have lived in eight different homes and they haven’t even left home – yet. I wonder how many moves they will clock up in their lifetime.

I’ve moved house for all sorts of reasons – education, marriage, work, family. As you might already know, we moved to Toowoomba to access better support for Dan. Much as we loved our small country town, Dan’s life opportunities were always going to be limited. So, like many other rural families with special needs children, we did what we had to do. We moved.

However, it split our family in two.

While I relocated with Dan and Bec, my husband Paul remained behind for work. It’s not ideal, but it’s what we have to do. Paul comes in for weekends, when he can, and sometimes we go back out west. At times it can be a bit stressful, always trying to work things out and make decisions over the phone. Sometimes I feel caught in the middle, not really sure where we belong or where to call home. But at the end of the day, I know that moving to Toowoomba was the best decision for Dan.

So, why are we moving house again?

A momentous transition is about to occur. Bec is moving out of home. Very soon she will be moving to Brisbane to study Music Technology at the Queensland Conservatorium. It’s a very exciting opportunity for her, but it means we will be going from mostly three in the house, to only two – for the most part. With Dan spending more and more time away from home, having his own life, we don’t really need such a big house. So we’re downsizing.

While Bec packs for her move to Brisbane, we are packing boxes too, sorting out stuff, throwing some away, donating others, and whatever doesn’t fit in the new smaller place, goes back out west to deal with in some future time.

For many families with autism, moving house can be very stressful. Fortunately for us, Dan has always coped well with moving. Perhaps it’s because we have moved a lot and he sees it as just another part of life. Perhaps it’s because we have involved him in the process, explaining what was happening, showing him the new place, his new room and getting him to help sort, pack and unpack.

I hope that we will be able to stay in this next place for more than one year. I hope that the next move will be Dan making the big transition into supported accommodation with some mates from Yellow Bridge. I hope that not too far down the track Paul will be able to join us in Toowoomba.

Until then, the next few weeks will be busy as we gear up for move number 18.

A New Year Dawns

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As the sun sets on 2017, our eyes turn to the new year. 2018 promises us a chance to begin again, to wipe the slate clean. As we reflect on the past year, our achievements and blessings, our failures and disappointments, we resolve to be better, be healthier, happier, kinder, work harder, spend more time with family or in the gym. In a moment infused with champagne, with fireworks echoing in our ears and rose coloured glasses firmly in place, we make resolutions that will be lucky to survive a few weeks let alone a whole year.

What is it about a new year that creates this desire to make promises that secretly we know we will never keep? Most resolutions do not survive more than a couple of months – if that. Despite the best of intentions, bad habits are notoriously difficult to kick. I guess that’s why they are called bad habits. Yet every New Years Eve we trick ourselves into thinking we can make a complete 180 degree turn in the few minutes it takes to move from one year to the next.

And when our best made intentions fall beside the wayside, what then? Do we give up? Do we have to wait for another New Year’s Eve to try again? Do we watch the sun set on another year’s opportunity for change?

Well, actually, no.

The sun sets and rises each and every day. We don’t have to wait for another year to wipe the slate clean, turn over a new leaf or make a change for the better. When the sun sets at the end of the day, that day is gone. Finished. We put our failures, disappointments and frustrations  behind us and when the sun rises the next day, we stretch, take a deep breath and start again.

Every day is a day to start again. Every day is a slate wiped clean. Every day is a chance  to make a change, to take one tiny step on the road to being the person we really want to be. Instead of a complete 180 degree turn on one day of the year, which is doomed to fail,  we could choose to take one small step each day for 365 days. And when we slip up, or fall short, tomorrow is a new day. We pick ourselves up and try again.

Tonight the sun will set on 2017. Tomorrow it will rise on 2018. What will the new year bring us? 365 new days. 365 sunrises. 365 sunsets. 365 opportunities to live with love, joy, gratitude, forgiveness and grace.

Wishing you not just a Happy New Year but 365 Happy New Days.