18 December 2014

25 : Santa is Real : Something Borrowed!

The Truth About Santa Claus!

'A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread'

Twas' the night before Christmas, Clement C. Moor

As a parent it is always hard to know how to approach the 'Santa' situation. Some parents don't bother with the myth and just go with reality, others (like myself) perpetuate the lie/myth somewhat awkwardly! I am the kind of parent that prefers the truth, in fact I'm the type of person that demands it. I don't have issues with some forms of 'white lies' to spare hurt feelings and age appropriate answers, however, I much prefer the truth from the beginning. I'm not the sort of parent that tells children that a rainbow is a 'painting from God'; I tell it as it is, that a rainbow is simply a refraction of light caused by the sun shining through the raindrops - and yes it is a beautiful phenomena but that is what it is! I have big issues with liars and have spent my life trying to live by the truth, to my own detriment I might add as it seems many 'adults' unfortunately don't like facing the truth!

So the dilemma for me, each and every Christmas, is just what to do with the myth of Santa. I am no spoil sport so I do go along with the fantastical explanations for it all. My compromise is trying to enjoy working the stories out together, rather than tell them factual myths I prefer to discuss possible explanations or solutions to Santa's dilemma. It can be a bit of fun, but I do get a bit unstuck if directly asked 'Is Santa real?' I expertly avoid the answer, as mentioned I don't like to out-rightly lie, instead I prefer to throw it back and ask 'What do you think?' With my younger two sons aged 8 and 5 years, I know we don't have too many magical Santa Christmas' left, so while they still believe in magic and make believe I'll go right along with the fantasy. It is a fantasy reality I do secretly love, as I'm sure many adults do, as it reminds me of the innocence I once had as a child. 

I have always loved the 'idea' of Santa and especially of the North Pole and the wonderful toy making factory run by elves. I mean what a child's dream, to think that there is someone special out there that loves ALL children enough to hand make their gifts and personally deliver them to each and every child around the world. What a wonderful concept. All children, and adults of course, most of all just want to be loved and to feel like they matter. If making a child's imagination come true means I have to wrap presents from Santa in different wrapping paper and different tags then that's what I will do. After all I love the mince pies, cookies, milk and carrots for the reindeer being left out especially for me, I take on my Santa role seriously and carry it out to perfection. The one thing I have to shirk around is not being the obvious person to thank for them receiving the exact gifts they asked for, that I searched high and low for and spent a small fortune on. I have to deal with the fact that Santa gets all the praise and I don't, that's a small price for a parent to pay when watching the joy on a child's face as they frantically unwrap their gifts and let out a scream of happiness.

For that small sacrifice it is worth it. To keep the magic and Christmas spirit alive it is all worth it. For as we all know, only too well, when that magic fades so does hope and those magical feelings of belonging and happiness. If we can all keep those feelings alive then Santa is real, he lives in each of us that enjoy Christmas and carry out his wishes to bring a special kind of magic to all who believe - this is the truth about Santa Claus...

26 November 2014

25 : Faramir makes Two - Something New!

We are cat people!

Who knew? Turns out we are cat people. Weird the way things turn out, we started the year with three dogs and five fish tanks but will finish with one dog, two cats and four fish tanks. Unfortunately we lost two of our dogs this year; both had very long lives though and were very much a part of our family. Rusty had been with us for 16 years and Roxy was 11 when she passed away naturally of old age. Our remaining dog Aragorn had been very upset and lonely at first, but with some extra attention he began to settle and readjust and now enjoys a permanent cat TV show! I was proud of myself for not adding more fish tanks this year; instead, I actually reduced my tanks by one and am happier for it. That particular tank just never stayed clean long enough for me to enjoy it, the fish were divided into my remaining tanks and all is well.

I still can't quite believe we are finishing this year, 2014, with not one but two kittens! After spending all of my adult life believing I was allergic to cats it is insane that I now have two. But that was before I had ever heard of bengal cats. A few days ago we welcomed our second kitten, our little boy Faramir, a gorgeous brown marble bengal. He is a very energetic ball of attitude, after a few tentative days of growling and hissing we now have two best buddies. Although I have missed some of the personal one on one attention from Eowyn, it is so much more rewarding seeing that she now has one of 'her own kind' to play with 24 hours a day. As much as it is nice to be close to an animal, our human lives interfere with their schedules and we can't ever truly sync. We can learn to happily co-exist though and we look forward to many years of that, of our new family dynamics.

Our house is filled with Christmas lights and decorations and we are ready for the festive season ahead. It's been a rough year in many ways but it's nice to be finishing it off enjoying new beginnings and all the antics that follow with two busy little kittens! After all this is my new family and that is something that I truly cherish...

08 November 2014

25: South Australian Criminal Justice System equals Justice for Criminals - Something Old

Admitting Guilty to Aggravated Assault to Paramedic = NO Conviction

Yesterday's appalling verdict by Magistrate Joanne Tracey on the 'one punch, king hit' attack on Paramedic Amanda Martin resulted in the defendant Maryann Hogg being let off with only having to pay for court costs, despite her admission of guilt! Although Magistrate Tracey admitted that on the night of the assault Maryann Hogg was both intoxicated and uncooperative, she went on to congratulate Hogg on her 'remarkable progress' on the intervention program she was compelled to complete by the court; she cited that due to Hogg's diagnosis of post traumatic stress (PTSD) from a previous assault from a partner she would not convict her of her own attack on another.

Despite the defendant suffering from PTSD after her own assault, she still chose to partake in binge drinking of alcohol and then went ahead and chose to also assault the very Paramedic that was assisting her on the night of another alleged domestic incident to her. On the one hand the Magistrate linked the defendants prior stressful incidents with her current behaviour, on the other she discussed how important it was to protect Paramedics who are doing their job and helping and do not deserve to be put at risk - it was never discussed how much stress and damage she has now inflicted on another, perhaps because there can be no justification for this! However, despite the power she had on that day to enforce the law Magistrate Tracey instead chose to side with the defendant and let her off with absolutely no recorded conviction or punishment. The case had even been adjourned until the afternoon to allow Hogg's solicitor to gather extra information suggested by Magistrate Tracey to allow the sentencing to be finalised by end of day. In the open court the reason provided was that Maryann Hogg was keen to not have a criminal conviction of aggravated assault recorded against her as it would prevent her registering as a Teacher of children. Magistrate Tracey in her decision to not record a conviction gave the green light for Hogg to now work with vulnerable children despite her admission of her own struggles with PTSD and alcohol issues. 

Although Magistrate Tracey acknowledged that the offence was serious and that the court should do what they can to help the safety of paramedics, she herself did not reflect this stance with her verdict. The ten page Victim Impact Statement by Amanda Martin about the affects the assault has had on not only her but on all of her colleagues was also acknowledged, again this was not reflected in the verdict. Unless the courts have the courage to actually convict the perpetrators of these disgusting attacks on Paramedics then all the words and acknowledgment in the world means nothing! Action speaks louder than words.

In 2009 the State Government changed legislation to include Paramedics in an aim to protect them under the law from common assaults by increasing the charge to aggravated assault. However, to date there has not been a conviction under this new law despite the dramatic increase in assaults on Paramedics, with figures nearly doubling over a recent two year period Sharp-increase-in-assaults-on-sa-paramedics.

At no point during the so called Justice System was the victim truly taken into account. The victim has gone through 12 months of her own stress and is still suffering from the horrific injuries sustained from that night. She was king hit completely by surprise in a one punch cowardly attack by Hogg causing not only concussion, but also whip lash injuries that were so severe she now has permanent cervical disc damage and daily nerve issues from this injury; requiring constant physiotherapy, multiple doctors visits and high doses of medication to ease the pain. The same victim had to deal with the psychological trauma inflicted upon her from that night and after having to take two months off work to recover from the bulk of the injuries and learning to heavily rely on her husband to help with caring for six children, who also was required to take time off work to do this. She has had to battle with her own fears of returning to work, to knowing that putting herself back in that position of being vulnerable to attack over and over in each and every shift was something she couldn't stop. She has to deal with that trauma each and every day. As does her Paramedic partner from that night who was also witness to the assault and the effects upon her; as do all of her Paramedic colleagues who constantly battle with dealing with aggressive patients and just hope that they can get through their shift without sustaining a permanent disabling injury.

How do I know that she has to deal with that and how damn hard that is, especially when whilst I type this blog my fingers are tingling and numb again. My neck is sore and aches from the constant cramping of muscles in my neck, the recurrent headache is threatening to return. The reason I know this more than any other is that I am the victim of this malicious attack, I am that Paramedic in the photo. I am Amanda Martin and I was attacked doing my job. I was not supported through the minefield of legal issues surrounding my case by my employer, instead I was strongly supported and encouraged and advised by my union, the Ambulance Employees Association (AEA). It is through that same support I will be seeking an appeal for this injustice, not just for my case but for all the many cases that will no doubt follow. There is no point in having a law to protect Paramedics if no Magistrate is prepared to enforce it!

29 October 2014

24 : Cat's Eye's - Something Blue


We recently welcomed a new member to our family - Adelhills Okas Eowyn - a beautiful seal lynx point snow bengal kitten. She has the most iridescent luminous blue eyes that draw you in. She has the most luxurious pelt you have ever felt on a cat and she has a way of talking to you that makes you sit and listen. We like her so much that we are adding a second bengal cat to the mix, a gorgeous brown marble male in a month. The hope is that they will grow up together and become best of friends.

Bengal cats are a very special breed of cats that, for me at least, means even a person allergic to cats may be able to live with them. They have an attitude closer to a dog and bond with humans as a part of the family. It's still early days for us but so far things have gone smoothly, and for a cat that is allegedly not famous for being a 'lap cat', this one certainly didn't read that part of the manual. Even as I type my laptop is perched perilously in my lap while she is making herself right at home and purring so loud the vibrations can be felt through the keyboard.

Somewhere in her genetics is the partial albinism gene inheritied from a siamese ancestor and responsible for her blue eye colour. A mutation of this gene produces the point coloured coat, which restricts colour to the extremities of the body, the coolest parts. The seal describes the brown colouring found at the points, which darkens with age. The lynx describes the creamy white base of the rest of the body. Therefore, my seal lynx point bengal was born white and as she ages she will gradually get darker, not only in her points but also her rosette spots inherited from the asian leopard cat will become more prominent. Her eyes, however, will always remain blue.

16 October 2014

24 : Snowblack's Trip to New Zealand - Something Borrowed

Up Up and Away

Master 5 and Master 8 have a much loved toy named Snowblack; their latest new love following on from the Baby Bear saga. Snowblack ironically, much like Baby Bear, is also very naughty but thankfully much more placid and so far appears less likely to run away quite so easily. Snowblack has just returned from a wonderful trip to New Zealand with his family. He very much enjoyed being a part of the whole experience and his first ever overseas plane trip. He was reasonably well behaved and enjoyed being a part of 'most' activities. His highlights of the trip seem to be the plane trip, driving through the snow, playing with the dogs Sheila and Pixi and meeting cousin Nina's bunny.


23 September 2014

24 : 15,777 Days - Something New

43.195 Years

I simply cannot fathom that I have been in the world for exactly 15,777 days! That is an incredible 15,777 sunrises and sunsets since I was born. It is so hard to imagine that the young child featured in those black and white photographs of my childhood is actually me. That my body was once that small, mind so full of wonder and so innocent, so much yet to discover. To think of those many years between birth and now is incredible, mind boggling. 

I feel as though I have already lived many lives within this one lifetime as I have packed so much in; yet I feel as though I have so much more to experience. The changes in the world between 1971 and the present day have been monumental, for example the reason I know I have been alive for 15,777 days is because there is an app for that! I wondered aloud to my husband about how many days I have lived through when he pulled out his iPhone 6 and seconds later we had the answer, just like that! Yet during the those days that I was a young toddler pushing an old fashioned toy pram (modern for then I'm sure) a sum like that would have had to be worked out manually. Still possible, just more time consuming and would either have to be done on a calculator or even pen and paper.

I have enjoyed watching the jelly bean analogy by Ze Frank where he uses the average life of approximately 28,385 days to visually represent a lifetime using a jelly bean for each year of life.  It is an interesting watch, he estimates we spend 8,477 days sleeping, 3,202 days working and even 2,676 days watching TV. Obviously this would be different for each of us, but the point is that once you take out all the mundane and necessary parts of life there isn't a whole lot of time left for basically doing whatever you want. It is a simple and easy to understand visual reminder to live life for the moment, to remember to enjoy each and every day and most of all to not waste it worrying and stressing about things out of your control.

Today I realised, like it or not, good or bad, that I have already used up 15,777 days from this lifetime and I don't get any back. Instead I have to look back and accept it all, which I do and I am very thankful for so many of the wonderful experiences and achievements I have had already. I chose a long time ago to not live my life with regrets, but I do struggle at times with the enormity of it all. Of understanding how much time has passed and all the things that have happened. It's why I love photographs so much; capturing a moment in time that becomes a memory the instant the trigger is clicked, already a part of the past. I enjoy looking back over my life using photographic reminders of the many fond memories and wonderful moments. Today was special because I chose to make the most of it, I was reminded of the many days that I have already accomplished and the memories that I get to carry with me into the future. 

Today I was reminded that I have yet to live the rest of my life, to get as much out of it as I can. To love the ones that are important, not waste a second on those that are not and most of all to treat others with the respect and kindness I expect for myself. To be remembered for the good and not the bad and leave the world a better place than I found it. Simple really!

17 September 2014

24 : Behind the Mask - Something Old

Something to Hide Behind


Sometimes there is a case that touches me more than the others, as a paramedic we are often involved in people's lives in tragic circumstances and times of stress. I have learnt over the years to provide empathy and support but to keep myself emotionally distant, yet sometimes the pain from others can seep into your psyche. One of the hardest things about my job is seeing how other people live and knowing that there isn't anything I can do about it. 

I had a first hand reminder this week from the bravest little boy I have ever met, he put himself on the line to protect his younger siblings and because of that their lives - I hope - will be much safer. When asked what he wanted to bring with him to hospital he picked one thing - a simple paper mask he had drawn. Watching this child run bravely all the way to the ambulance, roaring with delight and wearing his angry face mask, helped me recognise the difference a mask can make. That paper mask was a representation of what we all subconsciously do; present the face of our choosing to the world. For some it gives confidence and courage to be brave, to fight the demons; for others it provides a safe place to hide. 

A very brave little boy reminded me that I can't change the world, I can't fix everybody, I can't stop bad things from happening to good people. But I can be kind in those few moments that fate allows us to meet, and realise that the kind words and smile I can provide may become a very important memory for that person; affirmation that someone once cared. Although my heart swells with emotion and my mind races with confusion, I can hold on to that memory of that little boy and his paper mask and remember the difference I can make.

09 September 2014

23 : Fathers Day - Something Blue

Days of Public Celebration

Little Boy Lost

'Father! Father! Where are you going?
O do not walk so fast.
Speak, father, speak to your little boy,
Or else I shall be lost.'

The night was dark, no father was there;
The child was wet with dew;
The mire was deep, and the child did weep,
And away the vapour flew.

William Blake 1791

Sometimes days of celebration, particularly heavily commercialised days, can hurt more people than it was ever intended to; a reminder of bad decisions, poor choices and bitter emptiness. Although it is wonderful to celebrate the many fathers that actually do go above and beyond for their children and deserve to be praised and recognised; there are far too many that don't deserve that recognition. There are sadly far too many that will remain forever trapped within their own selfish walls of denial. There are sadly far too many children - whether adult or not - that dread this day for it reminds them of what they have lost; no father to share this special day. For some this can be bitter sweet - a special day to remember how wonderful their father truly was in life and a day to honour that memory; for others there are no memories, no special moments to recall.

I too have bitter sweet emotions on days like these, where I am more than happy and proud of my own children to show their love and respect for their fathers. However, I am not entirely sure we really need one single day a year to do that, true love doesn't require a 24 hour window; love is shown in how you treat each other and by actions that speak louder than words. It can be a difficult day for broken families, with children used as pawns in a constant state of war, for others it's just too difficult to organise. It can be hurtful for those that never knew their father, that didn't get the chance. A reminder of the hollow space beside them; never to be filled. For me, it is a reminder that I don't have anyone to call father, that in truth perhaps I never really did.

In spite of my own mixed emotions, to my husband and father of my two youngest boys, step-father to my four older children, to you and the other fathers out there that do dedicate their very existence to their children - I celebrate this day. For you this day is truly a day of celebration and I am very thankful that I have such a wonderful role model in the lives of my children ...

One of the good guys!

27 August 2014

23 : Bees - Something Borrowed

Doing my bit for the Bees

The men of experiment are like the ant; they only collect and use. 
But the bee... gathers its materials from the flowers of the garden 
and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own.
Leonardo da Vinci

With Spring only a matter of a few days away in the Southern Hemisphere, I feel as if I am doing my bit for the bees. The blossoms in our garden are blooming, welcoming swarms of bees collecting their pollen. We have spent the past few days preparing our garden for Spring; trimming back old growth making way for new.  Planting new flowers, including flowering ground covers, punnets, bulbs and flowering shrubs.

I'm reminded when hearing the buzzing of bees how important they are for us all. Bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 70 of the 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world population. It doesn't stop there, if we lose the plants that bees pollinate we also lose the animals that feed on those plants and interrupt the well oiled food chain; which would be catastrophic for the world as we know it. 

18 August 2014

23 : Bengal Cats - Something New


I've recently discovered Bengal Cats; a breed of cats that are a hybrid between a domestic cat and the Asian Leopard Cat (Felis Bengalensis). These cats were first bred in the early 1960's but not attempted seriously until the late 1970's; with the first Bengal Cat registered in the International Cat Association in 1983. The Asian Leopard Cat is a jungle cat that lives in the forests of Southern Asia, India, China, Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Borneo, Java, Bali and Sumatra.

Asian Leopard Cat

Domestic Bengal Cats; named from the scientific name (Felis Bengalensis), are those that are at least four generations or more from their wild ancestors. Unlike many other domestic cats Bengal Cats are very energetic, playful and intelligent. They behave more like a dog than a typical cat and become very attached to their owners; they are extremely social and love being a part of the family, particularly with children. The breed also tend to like water and can be found jumping into any unattended water in the house, on the up side this makes bathing them easier. 

The thing that most attracted me to this breed is it's reputation for being hypo-allergenic. Although no cat is truly hypo-allergenic this one comes pretty close. Instead of the typical cat fur, Bengals have a pelt that is very short and thick, this means there is minimal hair loss and the pelt feels soft as mink. Some Bengals even have a glitter coat, this is unique to the breed and makes them appear to be sprinkled with gold. Not everyone with cat allergies find they don't react to Bengal Cats, however, I have to say I am one of the lucky ones!

I began to read up on allergic reactions to cats and was surprised to find that for some reason it is thought that the lighter the cat's coat the lesser the allergens. In addition, female cats that are desexed seem to cause less allergic reactions than male cats, particularly if they still entire. Armed with this knowledge I began to research this amazing breed of cats and went to visit a local breeder. I was astounded that for the first time in over 20 years I was able to hold a cat without itching, wheezing and suffering from a runny nose. That visit I held a huge range of Bengal's from kittens to females and entire males.

I was hooked; to have a little leopard running around our house was too tempting an opportunity to let pass. I put my name on the waiting list and kept my fingers crossed that I would be able to take home a Bengal Cat that was not only hypo-allergenic, but as a bonus also a desexed snow female. There were no guarantee's that a female snow would be born, but I felt confident it would happen.

Éowyn - so named from Lord of the Rings - was born 26 July along with her two sisters and one brother. Her father is a seal lynx point snow Bengal with blue eyes, just as she and one of her sisters are. When she turns 12 weeks we will welcome her into our home where she will become a part of the family, can't wait! 

10 August 2014

23 : Sugar is Bad - Something Old

Trying to Keep My Teeth

Unbelievably three weeks to the day after my first tooth was removed, due to decay and breakage, I broke another! At least with the first tooth I knew that it was inevitable; after all a huge chunk had broken off over 12 months before I suffered the pain of infection and decay of one of the remaining nerves. It took me a long time to come to terms with that loss. I was unprepared to lose another tooth, especially in such a spectacular fashion!

Truth be known I was eating a lolly at a child's birthday party when it happened. Yes, yes I know sugar decays teeth. However, it shouldn't really break off two/thirds of the tooth after one bite of a soft lolly!  A lolly that I quickly realised wasn't that soft after all; it suddenly was very crunchy with chunks of tooth I had spent a life time carefully growing! Gone, in an instant. The shard remains looked grim, both from what I could see in the mirror and what I could feel with my tongue. The darkened base looked suspiciously decayed and I knew its fate was sealed, I would lose this one too.

As all things like this seem to happen on a Friday night, I had to wait until Monday morning before the inevitable call to the dentist. I was kindly squeezed in that day where x rays revealed what I already knew; the tooth was gone. I was surprised that I wasn't in pain, but recalled I had recently been in pain there when my other tooth had been infected. I had put it down to referred pain and thought nothing more of it. The dentist told me that the nerve was actually exposed and was atrophied! I couldn't believe it, another one. Back to the periodontist I went. 

Surprised to see me, my periodontist was very kind and not at all condescending. He remembered me very well as my last tooth extraction was particularly difficult. Thankfully this time the tooth came out in a mere 5 minute extraction, beating the last by 40 minutes! Attached to the tooth, in one piece this time, was an abscess sac; the periodontist surmised that I actually must have a high pain tolerance. I had a really positive discussion with the periodontist and listened very carefully to his advice as to how to approach the care of my teeth from now on. After the last visit he had recommended I book in with my dentist for a full check up and organise all the fillings that were already needed for some small cavities. I now was armed with a plan of attack which was going to be another 4 visits to my dentist with two fillings booked for each visit. I had also already endured the dentist cleaning my teeth, not fun but necessary. He stressed the importance of attending to the remaining teeth first, before I spent hard earned money on new implants.

I will probably get the first implant now on this last tooth lost, tooth 44, as it is more visible than my molar. However, after losing that molar I realised how much help it had been with chewing and will definitely be going ahead with that implant too. Unfortunately none of these procedures come cheap, despite having private health insurance, and will have to be done in stages.

I have been recommended a strong flouride toothpaste from the pharmacy; also to ensure I drink more fluoridated water (not bottled) and to rinse my mouth after fizzy drinks and coffee. I learned that sugar-free carbonated drinks and fruit juice are still just as destructive to teeth as they are acidic, and the worse possible way of drinking them is sipping them slowly over a long period of time. Bingo! That's me in a nutshell. Even worse I skip brushing my teeth regularly due to shift work and fatigue, adding to the problem. I am also going to go back to chewing sugar-free gum, particularly at work after eating, which helps significantly increase saliva to reduce cavities. I may even have a go at flossing, although I can't commit to that one!

I have a long and expensive road ahead, but I am determined to not lose any more teeth than I have to. I just have to take this teeth thing seriously; when they start disappearing you suddenly realise that you lost your chance when you had it, and you don't get another.

25 July 2014

22 : Paramedic Assaults - Something Blue

Most Trusted Profession in Jeopardy

from NSW Ambulance Anti-Violence to Paramedic Program

The high incidence of assaults on paramedics has caused the NSW Ambulance Service to launch an anti-violence campaign using posters designed to show the human side to paramedics. Their campaign reminds offenders what constitutes assault : 

Assault is legally defined as any contact or threat 
of contact by a person to another, which instils 
immediate fear of violence. The threat must be 
made in such a way that the person making the 
threat has the ability to carry it out at the time it 
was made. For example, if a patient or bystander 
threatens to punch a paramedic, which causes 
fear in the paramedic, and the person who made 
the threat can physically carry it out, that would 
constitute an assault.

A recent 12 month jail sentence given to a 36 year old woman who assaulted a male paramedic in NSW, is evidence that there is zero tolerance to assaults on paramedics. It is the beginning of a long process to ensure that prosecutions to crimes against paramedics are being taken seriously.   zero-tolerance

South Australia has recently followed the lead of NSW Ambulance Service in commencing a new awareness campaign to prevent violence against paramedics. The statistics of assaults against SA Ambulance Service paramedics has nearly doubled in the short space of two years. Despite legislation changes in 2009, which increased the assault charge against paramedics to the charge of aggravated assault, to date there have been a very disappointing number of cases that have led to prosecution.  increase-in-assaults-campaign

In November last year I was assaulted by a female patient whilst at work, the first time I have been physically assaulted in the 15 years I have worked as a paramedic. This aggravated assault case is still slowly working its way through the court system and will hopefully end with a significant sentence that reflects the serious nature of the offence. In the meantime I have had to recover from the physical and psychological injuries this vicious and unprovoked attack has caused me. The flow on effects have been numerous: to my family, my colleagues, my friends and my trust in others and confidence in returning to working as a paramedic. 

Violence at work is an issue that has been tolerated in the past, and sometimes put down to just part of the job, will be no more. The zero tolerance policy on assault to paramedics within Australia is spreading and the violence will no longer be tolerated. In my case I was unfortunately physically assaulted; a king hit to the head which caused concussion, bruising and worst of all cervical neck injuries, nerve damage and pain which I have had to learn to deal with. I was also psychologically assaulted in the same incident, but also in many others over the years. We have tolerated being verbally abused and frequently spat on as if it was an expected part of the job. However, any threats verbal or otherwise toward us will no longer be tolerated. It shouldn't have to be only the physical assaults that take the focus, no level of abuse should be tolerated.

Paramedics are highly trained professionals that pride themselves in giving their all to help those in need and care for their patients. The more times we are stopped from doing our job by threats of violence and abuse the less likely we will be in the future to help. In order for us to continue to do our important work, being the difference between life and death for so many people, we need respect and safety to do our work. No-one deserves to be injured at work.

19 July 2014

22 : Humans Killing Humans - Something Borrowed

Tragedy of Humanity

I kept asking who did it?

Israel? Palestina?
Russians? Ukraine?

Then my mom answered.
Humans killing humans.

This short phrase doing the rounds on the internet at the moment says it all!

The tragedy of humanity is humans, humans are the sole cause of this latest tragedy reeling across the globe - the downing of Flight MH17. For two days I have watched little else and have learnt, like the rest of the world, the awful truth; that this plane and all of its innocent 298 passengers and crew were killed for no good reason. It wasn't an accident, an unavoidable catastrophe, it was a conscious and malicious human act that caused this tragedy, using weapons of mass destruction. Killing 298 people of all backgrounds, of all races and religions, people who have contributed to society each in their own ways; 80 innocent children on board that will never have that chance.

As I have watched in horror the events unfolding from the safety of my warm family home, I realise how incredibly lucky I am to have not lost a loved one on that flight. It really could have randomly happened to any one of us, every one who has ever flown knows the remote risk of being involved in a crash. However, I doubt there are many who are afraid of flying that would have ever thought that a missile would have been the cause of their demise. We can only hope that those on board didn't know what happened; that it was instantaneous for them. It is not instantaneous for the rest of the world and the families and friends of those on board who are destined forever to grieve for them. To those families I feel for you and sympathise with your terrible and tragic loss.

Although it is actually humans that are responsible for this, I still have hope for humanity. Already this tragedy has rapidly brought together multiple different countries, governments, politicians and ordinary people from around the globe, united in their frustration of this atrocity. I strongly believe that although there are still many ongoing conflicts around the world, that there are enough humans that do care and want an end to global conflict and violence. 

Humans killing humans needs to be acknowledged as the cause but not the ultimate focus of this tragedy. Humans uniting and putting an end to our conflicts should be the focus. After all, we have enough to worry about with the rapidly reducing natural resources of our world and dealing with the natural disasters yet to come, than to stress about humans killing humans.


16 July 2014

22 : The New Age Tooth Fairy - Something New

My Tooth Fairy is a Periodontist

Turns out when you are over 40 and lose a tooth you don't get a visit from a magical tooth fairy visiting you through the night to leave gold coins under your pillow, complete with a sprinkle of fairy dust. Instead, when you are over 40 and need to lose a tooth it is off to the periodontist you go; where your tooth is unceremoniously ripped from the jaw that held it for all those years and you are sent home with a hefty bill instead of a shiny gold coin!

The dentist is not my favourite place to visit, like many people I put off the inevitable and avoid that drill a few weeks longer than I should. The trouble with this plan of action is that the problem that may have started out small turns into a bigger one the longer you avoid the inevitable. I can use the excuse of money as a genuine one, however, there really can be no price put on a situation that causes so much pain. The truth is that my problem started many, many years ago, but the latest in a string of events had been over 12 months of avoidance that led to the demise of my tooth.

I spent a great deal of time at the school dentist when young, commonly returning back to my classroom embarrassed to wear the sticker that warned everyone that I shouldn't bite my lip. I had teeth drilled, filled, poked at and pulled every single visit. It's no wonder now as an adult I choose not to go back to be maliciously assaulted unless absolutely necessary. Of course I now know they actually mean me no harm and that I am not a small child shaking in a cold chair without explanation anymore. Now I know fully well what is about to happen and why. I have no one else to blame but myself and whoever introduced me to sugar!

I have been plagued for many years from an unusual and very annoying ache, mixed with shooting pains from a certain tooth in my upper jaw. This particular tooth has caused me to undergo the removal of all four of my wisdom teeth and the cause of countless cavities over the years. The last awful dental visit came with recommendation for a root canal. Of course my response was quite reasonable, I just never went back. So it is quite understandable that when a huge chunk of tooth broke off one day over 12 months ago, I suspect the very tooth that had caused all these years of suffering, that I would react with the same diligence I had always had where my dental care is concerned. I dutifully and willfully ignored it and hoped it would magically go away.

After all, I wasn't in pain, yet. I decided that I would deal with it later and at least that part was right. I certainly did deal with it later! It was a couple of weeks ago when I admitted, even to myself, that the recent aches and difficulties with chewing was caused by a problem with one particular tooth. By this time the pain was so global it was really difficult to work out where it was actually coming from. It made sense to be from my tooth with the jagged edged hole, but I just couldn't be sure. I managed to isolate the pain to the top right jaw but was very disappointed to realise that at times the pain even shot around to the bottom jaw too. Even I knew that surely the likelihood of multiple cavities occurring at the exact same time was remote. It was all my own fault, I had left that tooth and should have had it repaired over a year ago.

It was probably a week of pain that increased by the hour before I shared my thoughts with others. Then I did what any sane person would do; I brushed my teeth - a lot - started using magic mouthwash designed to kill all sorts of bacteria and took bucket loads of pain relief. When all that didn't magic it away I rummaged through my tablets and even found some unused antibiotics I could try. Finally, in tears of pain and exasperation I complained to my husband that I had done everything humanly possible and the pain was only worse. I mean what else could I possibly do? He looked at me with disbelief, and told me to go to the dentist!

After a few more days of pain that had begun to interfere with one of the few pleasures I had left, drinking hot coffee. I made the dreaded phone call and organised an appointment, but made it four days later. I mean you shouldn't rush these things and I was still prepared to hold on to the fantasy that it might magically disappear all on it's own! It didn't, and the day arrived. Like a lamb being led to the slaughter I dutifully went to the dentist of my own free will and returned to that cold hard chair, determined to meet my fate head on. It was a lovely new dentist that day, for some reason they are always lovely people. What was there to be afraid of with such a smiley face?

After a chat and one simple xray and a bit of a poke around, the chair came back up, the glasses and bib were removed and I knew I was in for a big problem. With xray behind him for support the dentist started on his well worn speech, but the difference was he didn't know quite who he was dealing with. I was given all the options which I instantly said no to each and every one of. When he realised he was out of helfpul suggestions I gave him mine. I wanted the tooth out, and now. I was ready to give up this tooth which hadn't been kind to me for years, the pain I had endured was like no other and something I was never prepared to deal with again. He smiled and admitted that the tooth was not really worth saving, that a root canal at this point would have a high failure rate. He rang his periodontist friend and managed to get me an appointment in the city the very next day.

The periodontists office was amazing and instead of being afraid I was very determined to see it through and have my tooth removed in the chair with no general anesthetic. If I had wanted that I would have had to wait, waiting was not an option anymore. The periodontist was very professional and patient with me, such a kind man who laughed with me and not at me. He spent the time I needed and drew not one but two pictures for my benefit, he then spent the next 45 minutes attempting to extract tooth number 16 that was holding on until the bitter end.

After what seemed like an eternity and two extra shots of numbing local anesthetic out flew my tooth with a snap, nearly knocking the periodontist, the dental nurse and tray on the floor in the process. Or so I thought. My ordeal wasn't over yet, the tooth had snapped off and then the roots had to be individually drilled and plied out one by one! The gaping hole that was finally left went right through to my sinus and I was told that I was lucky this was not damaged in the procedure! After another lecture on caring for the remaining teeth I have left and sent home with a care sheet, an appointment was booked for 8 weeks to check on healing. Instead of a broken painful tooth, tooth number 16 in my mouth will be eventually replaced with a dental implant.

I'm told that the insertion of a metal screw directly into the bone of my jaw will be the easier part of the tooth replacement process, I had already gone through the worst. Once the numbness wore off I was ecstatic to realise that the horrible pain I had put up with over all those weeks and even years was actually gone, completely gone! Although I still have considerable healing to go through and nurse my poor jaw back from the bruising, I no longer have that shooting horrible aching pain and for that I am very, very thankful. 

So although my tooth fairy no longer pays me and has turned into a periodontist that I'm sure I'm personally sending on a very expensive overseas skiing holiday. I don't care, I have learnt my lesson and taking care of my remaining teeth is now my new priority.

02 July 2014

22 : Leaving the Proverbial Nest - Something Old

Flying Free

The time has finally come for Miss 22 to leave the proverbial nest and fly off to England to live and work for the next five years. We all face that time in our lives when we have the urge to leave home, one way or another, but there are the select few of us that have an urge to go as far away as possible. My daughter had that urge and her dreams of becoming a fashion journalist meant staying home was not going to be an option. She has bided her time, saved her money and organised as much as she could so she could give it a go. The time had arrived for her to take that final plunge and go for it. There are no guarantees for success, no way to know how it will all turn out, but what she does know is that if she doesn't give it a go then she will never find out.

The human species would never have populated all parts of the world if we weren't born with the urge to know more, to seek out new futures for ourselves and to travel. Even though in this current internet age we are actually more connected with the world than ever before, and it is not such an unknown and frightening place. It still is a huge thing to just up and leave everything and everyone behind and start over. It takes a certain kind of courage to risk it all and even a little brashness. But if we all stayed home safely tucked in our homes, living the same mundane lives over and over then there would be no such thing as progress. Progress needs forward thinking people who are prepared to risk it all and give new things a go; a steep learning curve to success.

I'm not sure why but when Miss 22 was a little 3 year old girl, with the world still in front of her, I had a sudden flash forward into her future. I pictured this tiny little girl all grown up and working as a journalist. I had a vision of myself opening my front door to find her standing there with a short blonde bob hair cut and grinning from ear to ear, somehow I just knew she was a journalist. This is an image I have always remembered and now, 19 years later, she is actually heading off to live out exactly that dream. However, instead of having a short bob hair cut and knocking on my door, she was heading off to the airport dressed stylishly with her medium length brown hair ready to embark on her new journalism career.

Maybe my vision of her was an insight into her future, I don't know.  What I do know was that vision was accompanied by a very strong sense of knowing that helped me realise all those years ago that everything would be alright. That this child was destined for greatness somehow and she would eventually make all her dreams come true. It is a very long road to success and for her it is only the beginning; but this great leap is a step forward in the right direction to follow the path she has set for herself.

... until we meet again.

22 June 2014

21 : Technology Distraction - Something Blue

The Age of Diverted Attention

It makes me very sad to witness how the latest technology gadgets, particularly our smart phones, have crept into daily routine and distract us from the life going on around us. I intentionally put my phone in my bag and don't look at it, unless there is a very good reason to, whilst my kids are involved in sporting activities. I do this on purpose because I don't want to be distracted by a device that connects me to a world of cyberspace, that quite frankly can wait. I pay a lot of money for these activities and the whole point of involving your children in them is for them to learn and achieve at a sporting activity. I enjoy watching them do this and I don't want to miss those magical moments of success for my kids. When they look up to see if I'm watching I want them to see that I am and that I care.

Today at our usual Sunday morning swimming lessons for Master 8 and Master 5 I couldn't help but notice the inactivity surrounding me.  Kids were dutifully swimming in the pool for their lessons whilst the majority of the parents were captivated by their phones; aimlessly scrolling in zombie like fashion, heads down, blinkers on. Some had younger siblings bouncing around them vying for attention, but to no avail. Parents were much more interested in transporting themselves into cyberspace. There were even several holding their babies awkwardly just so they could simultaneously scroll through their phones.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the technology in my smart phone. The reason I got it was I was sick of everyone around me being totally absorbed in their phones and I felt I was missing out. Having Google a couple of finger clicks away is fantastic to search for any information or to settle an argument. Being able to transfer money as you are in the checkout line so you can afford your shopping, brilliant. However, there surely has to be a time and place for this kind of technology. Surely a 30 minute swimming lesson is a time you can put down your phone and live without it whilst you watch your children achieving and learning.  

I have always loved watching families interact with each other, I do enjoy watching the baby class at swimming because their adults are in the water with them and enjoying learning with them.  It is a lovely thing to watch and I enjoyed it when I did it with my children. Unfortunately, these days when we are out and about with the family, at playgrounds, cafe's, museums, zoos and the like; witnessing the techno distraction is pitiful.

The complaint often made about technology gadgets is against the younger generation who are constantly stuck on social media without speaking to each other in person. Well it's about time we look at our own generation and lift our own heads and take a look at what is going on around us. I'm not against social media, I think it is a fantastic medium to communicate; in fact, in better ways than we ever have in the past. We can communicate online with friends and family throughout the world, I really don't believe that this can be seen as a negative. 

If the younger generation communicate better through social media than face to face then so be it, it is their prerogative to do so. I do suspect that their generation will actually foresee many of these social problems in the future and revert back to face to face communication, and learn to put away their devices as it will become socially in-acceptable for certain activities. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking. I am very aware that the younger generation are particularly environmentally conscious and motivated to make changes for the better, so I do have much hope for our future that will be in their hands.

I know I am guilty of being distracted and not paying attention to the things that matter, but I am conscious of this and I try and improve my own behaviour. I think the saddest part for me is when I see this behaviour in others I fear that they don't actually notice that their ignorance of their own children's success may lead to poor relationships in the future. 

It is a constant struggle to maintain the balance in our fast paced rhythm of modern life, but surely we can put away technology for, at the very least, 30 minutes once a week. I know I can.

19 June 2014

21 : Study - Something Borrowed

Adult Learning

Studying again is a good way to help prevent a decaying mind, however, it certainly isn't quite as easy at it used to be. It would have been a little more convenient for me to have been this interested in learning back when I had more things, such as: time, less responsibilities, a mind that agreed to work before midday as well as after midnight and once again time! Trouble is when you do have all those things you don't appreciate it and when you have the time to study it becomes just another mundane part of life you wish away. A benefit of learning when you are well and truly an adult, and it is your choice, is that you can actually enjoy what you are learning.  After all, lets face it, being time poor probably actually helps with organisation and motivation.

I'm sure there are plenty of younger people in universities and colleges around the world taking full advantage of their opportunities to learn. However, there are also many that do not appreciate the chances they have been given or even really know why they are studying in the first place. I am studying again simply because I have the choice to do so and I am interested in learning new things. I must admit I have questioned my motives, more than once, when bogged down with all the readings and deadlines, not to mention paying for the course itself. These issues can be a little trickier to justify.

After completing one semester and one introductory psychology subject I'm feeling pretty satisfied with my efforts so far. However, I need to complete two introductory psychology subjects before I'm eligible, along with my first degree, to enroll in a post graduate diploma. I'm really glad I made the decision to return to study and I hope that I can maintain my motivation and dedication to learning. Of course success and results will make a difference. I had previously become quite used to being a high achiever as a mature aged student, therefore, it is a little humbling to start a new discipline and have to start again from the very beginning.

Don't think for a moment that I can cruise through learning new material and get top grades without even trying. I have never been one of those students that whipped together their essay the night before it was due and scored a high distinction with no effort. Instead, I am the sort that realised I am entirely capable of doing well but only when I put in a mammoth effort.  

It had been a total surprise to me the first time I went to uni, at age 30, that I could do well if I applied myself. Go figure, all those high school reports were probably right with their recurring theme: 'does not live up to her potential'. When I first started uni I didn't even realise there was a grade called high distinction, however, once I worked out I could get them if I put enough effort in, it became my own personal challenge.

Completing my first degree was damn hard work, I was studying 100 km away from home, driving a minimum of 15 hours a week in my car to get there and back and working night fill at a supermarket at night to pay for the privilege. Oh yeah, I also had four kids to raise at the time and was spending all my spare time volunteering for the ambulance service! Despite all of this, I didn't hand one assignment up later than its due date and finished my degree scoring in the top 15% of the entire university. Now that was a nice surprise, considering I hadn't actually finished high school. Well that was all over 10 years ago now, unfortunately I haven't felt that motivated for a very long time, until now.

Life has changed again and I have finally settled on a new topic of interest that intrigues me. I'm not entirely sure how far I will take it, or what it will lead to, but I have my suspicions that it will be exactly what I have been looking for. I'm keen to start my second psychology subject in a few weeks, followed by the graduate diploma of psychology where I will be taking on two subjects per semester after that. Finishing just one subject has been hard enough, however, I'm up for the challenge. As long as I am still enjoying learning new things and gaining good results, I'll maintain my enthusiasm.

For anyone else out there that has toyed around with the idea of returning to study as a mature age student, I can highly recommend it. Just don't go into it unprepared and have unrealistic expectations. It's hard to get the brain working again in a scholarly way, and even harder to learn an entirely new discipline. My husband has joined me with studying again and he is trying his hand at something new as well.

The fantastic results my husband has achieved so far has made all his efforts worthwhile. He is finally getting an opportunity to enjoy learning simply for the sake of learning and studying topics he had never dreamed he would get a chance to. I think he will go a long way and realise that he is already an expert in his field. After all, this is where maturity does have an advantage. After living a life already enriched with experience you find yourself in a position where this finally does make a difference, and you can contribute in ways that you had not anticipated.

In the meantime, I have been enjoying a short break from study to work, instead, on finishing off the first draft of a manuscript I have been working on for a couple of years. As much as it is nice to be a part of formal learning it is also fun to still keep my dreams of becoming an author alive and keep writing. So much to do, so little time. I better get back to it...

14 June 2014

21 : Cherry Blossom Tattoo - Something New

Great Friday 13th!

had a very productive Friday 13th, I finished my first psychology exam and got a new tattoo!  I had been wanting to incorporate cherry blossoms in a tattoo for a long time but wasn't settled on how or where.  I had decided I wanted a bracelet look so I could enjoy seeing a coloured tattoo every day, rather than have it hidden away where I didn't get to enjoy it. I had searched through pictures of existing tattoos and looked at natural cherry blossoms and discussed my ideas with the same tattoo artist that designed my kids names and angel on my leg, we eventually settled on the above tattoo. The thing I love about this artist is his work is original and hand drawn, he incorporates your ideas with his vision of how the finished product will look.  It's amazing how a simple line drawing can transform to life through carefully applied layers of shading and colour with dimension, form and beauty.

I absolutely love it. It is exactly what I had wanted but had trouble expressing and visualising, the final product is much better than I had anticipated. I am pretty done with tattoo's for a while I think, this one hurt A LOT and now I'm feeling content and complete. After my last zen inspired tattoo's I couldn't wait to get another and had attempted to pace myself.  I certainly don't want an entire body or even a limb covered in tattoo's, I simply wanted the carefully chosen few that are enriched in personal meaning and beauty. I love the way my existing enso circle and 11:11 tattoo have been incorporated as if as one.

I have appreciated cherry blossoms since I was a child and every time I see them I am reminded how much I love them and how I enjoy their beauty. It's as if a small branch of a cherry blossom tree reached out and wrapped itself around my wrist; a permanent representation of what it means to blossom new life. New buds ready to burst into bloom and eventually break free from the branch and be carried away with the wind making way for new growth and change.  The circle of life continues, a reminder of fragility and beauty; that life is both precious and precarious and to be present in the moment before it so quickly passes.

Hopefully I had equal success with my first psychology exam, I guess I will just have to wait and see ....

08 June 2014

21 : Growing Up - Something Old...

Moving Onward and Upward

It's a strange thing growing up, you never feel quite done. When you are a kid you look at all the 'oldies' and think they just don't know anything, but it also seems right that they go off to work and pay all the bills. Yet when it's your turn, it somehow doesn't feel so 'right'. It's so cool when you get your first pay packet, for me it was cash in an envelope I had to line up and sign for, very happy! It isn't long before you realise how much physical work you are expected to do for the little money you receive, and become pretty annoyed that just because you are 'younger' you should somehow receive less pay. This part annoyed me for many years. Especially as I became a parent way too early and had to support a growing family with a pitiful wage that I worked full time for. Because I had to live so far from my job-only place we could afford, I would spend a minimum of 12 hours away from home each day just for the privilege!

I'm pleased to say that things have improved somewhat in the financial situation. However, in many ways it truly is only in comparison to how it used to be. Considering we have 8 children between us (only 2 have left home-sort of) we are still in the midst of the financial/poverty grind. We have heaps more stuff, I mean assets, but we also have only just enough money to pay for it all, just. I figured out a long time ago that although we have to be a slave to money in some respects, we certainly don't have to put up with situations that cause you to hate what you do. Life is all about choices and opportunity, you can choose to stay the same or you can take the opportunity to improve your life and your job.

I have been very privileged in my life to have had the opportunity to raise my own six children, three already into adulthood. It's really nice to see all that damn hard work and huge fortune you end up spending actually pay off with well rounded, educated and motivated adult children. Not too many families get the opportunity to have older children and younger children at the same time. Of course personally it means you lose your opportunity to finally do your own things and not have to worry about the daily grind of caring for children. Instead, I'm still taking kids to school, sports, dealing with homework and balancing studying and working to somehow pay for it all. The pay off is you get to appreciate a little more how quickly they will grow and learn to become independent of you, you already know that because you have been through it before.  When you are caught up in the middle of all the constant activity and drama the first time around you forget that this is just another stage of life, one that you need to get through to be able to move to the next. We are all learning together; the children, the teenagers, the adult children and us. All moving forward and experiencing new things all the time, nothing is set in stone, life is flexible and malleable.

I have my memories of my children as babies, as toddlers, as cheeky little kids and then the growing years, right up to the arguments of teenage years. I've done it all, experienced it all, and I'll do it all again and again until they are all grown and off exploring the world. I'm very lucky to have this experience extended over so many years, of course it means that my life has to take a different course than if I had never had any children. It doesn't mean that I don't get a life or experiences of my own. I have had an incredible life, I feel as though I've lived multiple lives all in the one and I'm only 42! I've got so much more to come and I'm excited about that, about the years ahead.

My biggest problem is fitting everything I want to do in my life, there are so many amazing places out there I want to visit and people I'd love to meet. I don't want to spend all of my days stuck in the same house, in the same neighbourhood, in the same job, surrounded by the same people. I want to learn new things, experience new things and new places. I feel I still have so much more to give and enjoy from this amazing world we live in. I'm so over worrying about all the little things, the crap of mundane life and mundane people. There's so much more to life than that, the world is ready to be explored.  

In the meantime, however, I get to enjoy my cozy home, I love where I live, I love the views from my house, I love that my kids are close to their school and their friends and I love that we have a place that we can truly call home. A home surrounded by family photo's of all our experiences, filled with hand picked pieces of furniture that we love, full of life, aquariums, laughter and small and large feet running through the house at all hours.  Although sometimes this can be annoying!

I especially love to walk through my home and enjoy the many, many photo's adorning the walls. I particularly love my baby pictures at the entrance of our home; all my babies lined up together, so many. I remember each and every one of their births and love those memories, they were amazing times but certainly not without the stress and worry that comes along with a new so called bundle of joy. 

Sadly there's one photo that reminds me of our loss, of the hole in my heart that will never quite heal. We still have her picture with the other babies, but it's not a picture of her birth, it's a picture captured when we first saw her on the ultrasound screen. A tiny perfect little human, that we made, a part of us; kicking tiny legs, waving tiny arms, heart beating strongly. Perfect. Within weeks we lost her forever, gone, just like that. Our dreams of her life with us gone. Others may be able to forget that and wipe it from memory, pass it off as one of those things.  For us we couldn't do that, she meant more to us than that, she had already become a part of our family; we gave her the name we had chosen and we put her photo with the others along with an angel to watch over her. She physically left us but has never truly left me, she is with me forever in a way none of the other kids will be. She won't grow up and leave me and move on, she will always be with me in her own special way, I have to learn to be at peace with that. Even still, the ache remains, the emptiness from her physical presence gone from this earth. 

However, I am so lucky to have had my six babies that did make the long journey and survived, one day I hope to enjoy grandchildren. Life will become full circle then and it will be amazing to see these new people existing because I brought my six into the world. I know those six will make a difference in their own ways and contribute to the world in amazing ways. I can't wait to see that and to see what else I have to give and get to experience ...  

Life is good!

28 May 2014

20 : The Stuff of Life - Something Blue

Stuff is just Stuff!

We have spent the past few weeks sorting, carrying, throwing and re-using loads of stuff!  When a person reaches the final stages of their life you realise that all the stuff that was once thought to be so important becomes, simply, just stuff.  Useless stuff, things that may have served a purpose once in life are suddenly no longer necessary.  My mother-in-law has just made the big move into a nursing home, it was entirely her choice and she is very content in her new safe and cosy home.  It is lovely to see her enjoying meeting new friends, being cared for 24 hours a day-but still maintaining her autonomy, and relishing the fact she no longer has to worry about the menial chores of every day living such as cleaning, cooking and paying bills.  She is still surrounded by plenty of stuff, those extra special items that survived the necessary cull to fit into a surprisingly large, but single, room.

As I enviously watch my mother-in-law enjoying her new digs, surrounded by the most special mementos of her life, it has really made me re-think just how important stuff really is.  After all we certainly can't take it  all with us when we are gone; if we could we would need a ridiculously large coffin to fit all of the stuff we collected throughout life!  Morbid I know, but that is the reality of life.  I was recently contemplating this with my 19 year old son when he reminded me that although stuff eventually becomes useless to us, we should still get to enjoy it while we can.  He is right, just because we can't take it all with us doesn't mean we should simply throw it all away or not strive to attain it. This experience has simply been a reminder to me that all the things we strive for in life, to purchase and to own, is simply stuff that will one day have to be culled. It has helped me realise that a simpler life may be more beneficial as life moves forward.

Packing up a person's life is a huge task riddled with emotion, as item by item memories are stirred and the clock suddenly winds back as if, just for a moment, time didn't exist at all.  It is both a difficult and empowering experience to realise that you don't actually need objects to remind you of life, that you already have those memories stored away ready to recall whenever you need them.

Making room for this stuff that simply was too good to pass on or to discard was also a challenge for us. This experience actually forced us to sort through our own collection of stuff and cull the many things that we realised we no longer had use for.  Our house has been transformed throughout every room, inside and out, to make room for new stuff, new memories.  It's healthy to allow for change and it is certainly rewarding to enjoy new stuff. However, what has changed for me now is the meanings that I place on that stuff, I realise more and more that objects are simply reminders of our life thus far.  However these memories are not simply attached to things, they are embedded in our minds and it is ok to let go of the stuff, doing so does not diminish the memories.

Although I have traditionally been an avid collector of stuff, believing they elicited special memories for me.  I had begun to slowly realise that there are actually many things that have cluttered my life that are just not worth taking up the physical space.  It has been very strange for me to throw away entire files, old tax returns and all the hard work I put into keeping meticulous records from previous businesses I now no longer need.  You become so used to simply keeping everything, you forget why.  Although there has to be some stuff that is worth keeping, such as a couple of my first pay slips to remind me how far I've come, and a few school reports and select childhood mementos. 

Something I could never throw away are my photo's, even though I don't look at them very often, when I do I am always thankful I have taken the time to document my life through pictures.  Photographs have always been important to me and something I can pass on to future generations.  I'm sure the huge volume of digital photo's that are produced today will not carry forward to the future, instead a select few that are printed and kept in real, rather than virtual space, may be retained.  I have already had to let go of so much stuff throughout the stages of my life that I am learning to get better at it; it is cathartic to let go.  After all, it is the experiences and lessons learnt along the way that is important, not the stuff.

When I see my mother-in-law in the nursing home she now calls home; cosy in her new room with gorgeous views from her lovely big window overlooking the perfectly manicured garden.  I realise that all the struggles, the heartache, the sheer hard work and stress will all be worthwhile in the end.  After all, I hope that one day I too will be an old lady enjoying a well deserved chance to sit back, relax and contemplate the long life I have enjoyed; reminiscing the many achievements and experiences along the way. I sincerely doubt that I will spend too much time remembering the stuff that cluttered my life...

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