First Christmas & New Year Celebration with my Sister in Over 40 Years

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How can you retrieve lost family togetherness years that have been missing for over 40 years for my sister Caroline?

As written previously in this blog, my half-sister Caroline was taken away from the family unit by her estranged mother, when she was only 8 years of age. Admittedly this was due to our father who had entered into another relationship and subsequently wanted to marry this other woman.

The life she endured with her mother, who had a mental illness, was something that has had a psychological effect on Caroline. She lived her life mostly in less than suitable shared housing and or social housing. She wasn’t educated how a child of 8 should have been. In her thirties, Caroline took herself off to TAFE NSW to gain some literacy skills, something that she still struggles to maintain.

When I heard that Caroline was going to spend another year pretty much alone over the Christmas and New Year period, I took it upon myself to arrange that she spend as much time with my daughter and myself in Coffs Harbour. This took some rearranging and discussion with her adult children, who were fostered out when they very young due to Caroline’s inability to care for the children, as she was a victim of the most horrific domestic violent relationship, which almost ended her life and has left her with ongoing disabilities.

Caroline resides in Wollongong and she has never flown in a plane, organising the tickets, as a surprise Christmas gift from her three children was the perfect gift for her. Although a nervous thought of flying all the way to Coffs Harbour via Sydney Airport was something that deep down she wanted desperately to do, spend Christmas with her eldest sister and of course my daughter. Caroline and I have not spent a Christmas together in more than 40 years; actually, this could even be longer.

Knowing she was confirmed to arrive on 18th December 2017 we looked into the 101 things you can do in and around Coffs, which wouldn’t cost a lot, but enjoyable.

After our welcome to our home Champagne drinks and nibbles, the following day we set off to take her up to Buxner Park lookout to view the entire Coffs Harbour and its beautiful mountains and how they spread down to the sea. Then off to pick blueberries at a local farm, where we collectively picked, dropped and sampled some of the fine blueberries. Unfortunately, this day was a bit too full on for her and after the nervousness of flying up to a subtropical location such as Coffs Harbour, she ended the day feeling quite ill. Rest day followed and this then became the desired method for her following few weeks.

The ventures included Christmas lights sightings, Solitary Island Marine Centre, Clog Barn where we ate horrible tuff scones with our coffees, Nambucca Heads, Macksville and Valley of the Mist, Woolgoolga Headlands, saw two great movies, visited our local RSL Clubs, which included a lesson from my daughter on how to play pool, stroll around the local markets at the newly developed Jetty Foreshores and the best of all a family Christmas lunch and New Year’s Eve celebration with us. We mustn’t forget the lots of cuddles and big sister talks for planning a better life ahead than what she has endured over many, many years.

She also witnessed one of our famous sub-tropical electrical storms, something she won’t forget in hurry.

We also managed to fit in a pre-birthday dinner for my daughter, born on Christmas Day at a great Italian Restaurant, Silvio’s.

Caroline is now back home in Wollongong knowing that her time here with us was special and that we are only a plane or train trip away, something to plan for the future in 2018.

One resolution she desires for the future is to go overseas to New Zealand. This is something achievable with some careful planning of finances could actually happen.

Great Gatsby Night

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Nothing describes the Gatsby Era more explicit than F. Scott Fitzgerald fictional novel ‘The Great Gatsby’. It was the 1920s an era of extremes of wealth and decadence.

Attending a recent Great Gatsby Annual Ball event, hosted by three local musical groups with a friend at downtown Park Beach Surf Club was a hoot. Everything from the moment you walked into the upstairs area of the surf club demonstrated the 1920s flawlessly. The room was decked out in the 1920s era; tables were beautifully decorated with large white feathers in high glass vases, candles adorned around pearl necklaces and the seating shone with gold shimmering coverings. It made us think we had stepped into a different era, well done Park Beach Surf Club!

On glancing around the room you could see hundreds of magnificent looking women in Gatsby gowns and furs, men is suitably clothed suites some with hats and artificial cigars. Some of the women pretended to smoke their cigarettes in long-stemmed cigarette holders.

We seemed to blend beautifully into the crowd with our outfits, which were in step with the 1920s style of headgear; feather Boer, sparkling top, long gown and artificial fur.

On arrival, we were greeted by two smiling men, one looking like a gangster. They handed us our free glass of wine tickets and we were encouraged to mill around the bar area with the other guests prior to taking up our places at one of the beautifully presented tables.

It wasn’t long before the entrées were placed, alternate drops, in front of us enabling a bit of entrée swapping to happen if we didn’t like what we received. Same alternate drop with the main meal. The choices were excellent selections and perfectly presented, which is not normal for a surf club. Park Beach Surf Club is the exception.

Dinner over it was time for best-dressed announcements followed by the racy music of the 1920s. Again a lot of thought had gone into ensuring the music was perfectly selected recordings and it encouraged almost everyone to head to the dance floor. Some of us, like me, thought that a quick Charleston moves would be in order, well only for a few dance moves. Perfect workout especially when a wine is being consumed.

This is one event to definitely attend again for next year!

One-Day Road Trip

Waking up to another magical day in Coffs Harbour, not a cloud in the beautiful blue sky gave me the idea; it is time for a road trip west of Coffs Harbour for the day.

I phoned my daughter and said, “do you feel like a road trip today?” With enthusiasm, she replied, “yes, but where?” “What about driving to Armidale, which is less than 200 kilometers from here?”

A car full of petrol, our journey commenced at 7.30am knowing Armidale can be much colder than on the coast, we prepared ourselves suitably with suitable shoes, jeans, and jacket.

Driving up through Bellingen, Dorrigo, Ebor and all the small towns in between gave us the perfect opportunity to talk about everything that was happening in both our lives. It only took a few hours before we drove through the most beautiful autumn leaf maple trees residing on both sides of the road. “We have arrived in Armidale”.

I couldn’t resist pulling over the car and taking some selfies with the magnificent autumn trees in the background, so beautiful!

“Let’s do a bit of looking around before we have lunch”. We found a rather unique oldest style café’ in a small shopping centre where we noticed everyone wore jumpers and jackets. We had jackets with us but didn’t feel it was cold enough to wear them to the shopping centre. This was probably why everyone appeared to be looking at us like we were strange.

After sharing a blueberry pancake stack and having a cup of coffee we continued with our sightseeing around Armidale. I thought to myself, Tamworth is only 100 kilometers further. I said to my daughter “Do you want to drive onto Tamworth?” “Absolutely!”

The pancake and coffee gave us plenty of sustenance and time to digest during the drive southwest to Tamworth home of the ‘big guitar’ and the famous country singers and of course line dancing.

Trying to find the big guitar challenged my GPS app, but we found it to the delight of my daughter who worked near there approximately for two weeks when she attended some regional training about twenty years ago when she worked for Prime TV Sydney.

After looking through the information centre and taking photos of the famous guitar personalities like; Dolly Pardon, Kenny Rogers, Beccy Cole, Kris Kristofferson, Keith Urban and Troy Cassar-Daley it was time to find another interesting eatery before we headed back home to Coffs Harbour.

I thought instead of going back via Dorrigo why not travel down through the Enfield Forest mountain ranges to Port Macquarie then home.

This was not a good idea, as it turned out to be more than 100 kilometers of winding road with forests after forests before we came to the township of Wauchope, then onto Port Macquarie for a nice rest and our evening meal. Our decision to eat at West Point Club was probably one of the best locations we chose for the day. The club is positioned overlooking the Hastings River, although rather difficult to appreciate the view at 7.30pm. Our meal wasn’t like most clubs; it actually looked and tasted delicious giving us sufficient provisions for the 140 kilometers back home.

The decision for a one-day road trip to Armidale, which turned into including Tamworth and Port Macquarie, was definitely too much to achieve in a one-day trip.Processed with MOLDIV

Holiday Travel Hazards

IMG_2406.jpgHolidaying on the Gold Coast in January established a great location for planning yet another holiday. This time the plans included both of my daughters for a longer than normal long weekend to explore more destinations, including new shopping locations, like Robina Shopping Centre.

My youngest daughter and I drove to the Gold Coast in cloudy conditions. The tail end of cyclone Debbie swirling down the east coast of Australia attributed to the challenging weather conditions, which were about to hit the Gold Coast.

Our Surfers Paradise Airbnb accommodation apartment included everything we required, our own bedrooms, two bathrooms, a pool, and a spa. The only drawback for me included three flights of stairs to reach our apartment each time we ventured out. Thankfully, my youngest daughter carried most of the initial trips up the flights of stairs with our bags and food supplies.

Knowing my eldest daughter’s flight from Newcastle was going to be affected by the weather concerned me greatly. The plane had two aborted landings at the Gold Coast Airport.

The thirty-five-minute drive to our apartment took over an hour due to the extreme weather conditions. At one stage we had to almost pull over, with hazards lights on we drove through to our apartment where we settled into having a quiet drink and catch up talking until we couldn’t keep our eyes open before retiring to our own bedrooms for a good night’s sleep.

Our first day comprised of a wonderful healthy breakfast prepared by my youngest daughter, then shopping was high on our to-do list. It turned out to be tiring and amazing, as it included Robina Shopping Centre. We all agreed we could just stay there the whole time and forget about doing the tourist ventures. The food hall included every type of delicacies one could imagine, something that we yearned for in Coffs Harbour.

The decision to stay at the Airbnb apartment was organised by my eldest daughter, good choice indeed. She also suggested Uber services when we went out for dinner. The Uber drivers were polite, clean, on time and cheap, compared to the local taxis. Another good decision!

After shopping, swimming, eating, drinking our way throughout Surfers Paradise, which included dinner at Jupiter’s for Chinese and La Rustica for Italian. It was time to drop off my eldest daughter at the airport and for us to start our trip back to Coffs Harbour.

We had no idea how bad the weather ahead of us was going to be, apart from looking up the obvious road conditions weather apps on my mobile. The apparent problem areas were marked with red at certain locations south of Woodburn.

A few kilometers north of Woodburn the traffic came to a halt. It was a long wait before the traffic started to move, only one lane being used for all traffic north and south, hence the reason for the long wait. We could see RMS (Roads and Maritime Services) trucks and vans for many kilometers.

We had no idea of the type of major hazard ahead of us. Flooded roads, major highway roads flooded both ways for many kilometers. At Little Italy we drove through three flooded roads urged on by RMS vans driving alongside us. The heavy trucks ahead of us were causing backwash waves hitting up against my poor Toyota Corolla.

It wasn’t until we came across the fourth flooded road when both of us thought it is too high! We could either go through or turn back. A decision to turn around and head back to higher ground was not an option, so we pushed ahead. Feeling somewhat scared and concerned about the water coming in through my car made us both feel overwhelmed. The comfort knowing if we got stuck the RMS vans were nearby to assist us.

The drive back from the Gold Coast normally takes about five to six hours, our trip this time took over nine hours. Two exhausted, but relieved travelers arrived home safe and somewhat happy to have made it through this hazard of driving through flooded roads.

We were fortunate compared to all the homes and business areas affected by the impact of cyclone Debbie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Coast Holiday

 

IMG_0687.jpgPlanning a holiday is all part of the excitement. The planning with my youngest daughter was only a few weeks ahead of our trip and we didn’t have the time to get overly excited. We didn’t really care as our destination was to the Gold Coast, Queensland for a few days to relax and enjoy whatever we found of interest for both of us.

Our first day of driving from Coffs Harbour to the Gold Coast complete with our clothes and of course our own pillows was pleasurable and relaxed as most of the Christmas holiday traffic was going south, not north as we were heading.

When we arrived at our rather cheap motel, a so-called 4-star property, we couldn’t unpack the car have a shower and head off into our holiday mode to explore as there was a sign on the closed reception door “back at 2.30pm”. Great, so we had to wait around for an hour and a half or head off to do some exploring. We chose to explore the rather large nearby Pacific Fair Shopping Centre.

What a great idea this turned out to be, whilst wandering around this enormous shopping centre we discovered a pop-up stand promoting ‘three theme parks for $30 each’. What! We just had to find out more about this, as the normal cost to see three theme parks was $100 each.

It turned out to be promoting time-share for 90 minutes the following day at a beautiful resort only 15 minutes south from our motel. We could do that just to save the $140, as that would be spent on shopping for the different type of clothes than what we could buy in Coffs Harbour.

My goodness, this so-called 90 minutes time-share information turned into over two hours with so much repeating of information that we were both turned off. This was an example of overselling big time. Thankfully my ability to brush off ‘killer salesmen’ especially the sales manager that tried to give us the deal of a lifetime is one of the skills I learned many years ago. Our task was to walk away with the three theme park tickets, which we had previously purchased at $30 each and enjoy the rest of the day.  Laughter overtook us as we drove away to our first theme park ‘Movie World’.

Movie World was absolutely amazing, one of the hottest days though and without any suntan lotion, not even able to buy any, we were dashing between places where we could get some respite from the heat. One of the locations was watching the Looney Tunes 4D Road Runner & Coyote at the Roxy Theatre.

What a fantastic experience, not only was the movie in 4D, the seats rocked and rolled whilst the seat in front sprayed water on us, so refreshing! Heaps of photos were taken and lots of laughter, just what we needed, especially after having to endure over two hours of time-share overselling. The best buy of the day was our $3 ranch hats and Looney Tunes shopping bags for $2.

That evening, as the previous evening we chose to eat at Jupiter’s Casino in one of the Japanese Restaurants after of course having a look around and a few drinks in one of the cocktail bars. Our meals were cheaper than the bottle of wine and a mixed drink in the cocktail bar. A bar that had gone back in time to the eighties, actually the whole Casino hasn’t moved on in design since the eighties. We did notice a new building being constructed in front of the Casino. Hopefully, that is more impressive when complete!

The following day when we chose to go to the Sea World it was clouded over, although still very hot. Our ranch hats purchased for $3 at Movie World was our salvation, as there weren’t many places where you could sit in the shade. Neither of us was that impressed with this theme park; our timing was out with being able to see most of the show-stopping events. I must admit we were both thinking about the poor animals being on display, especially the seals and dolphins.

Being our last day before heading back to Coffs we left the theme park and headed to the most popular Harbour Town Shopping Outlet where we could grab some bargains from discount clothing stores. Apart from purchasing some clothes, and bags the best deal of the day was buying Lindt chocolates at 50% off the RRP and relaxing in their coffee shop whilst enjoying the best ever-cold frappe, so delicious!

Our last night’s dinner was at Chiangmai Thai Restaurant Broadbeach.   We thought we would go overboard and enjoy a banquet, the smallest one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t small enough as we ended up leaving nearly half of the food.

A vital lesson learned from our short holiday to the Gold Coast, don’t believe all you read about accommodation on Trip Adviser. Our motel, Burleigh Gold Coast Motel may have had a swimming pool, which put it into the 4-star category, but swimming in it made us feel dirty to the point of hopping out and dashing over to the surf to have a real swim in the ocean. The only thing good about the motel was it did have clean sheets and a place to shower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Normal?

The human brain is the most amazing untapped part of our bodies. Most of us sail through life not even giving our brains any credit for how it processes everything our bodies do every second of the day.

It is at a time when we overstretched our bodies by filling it with stressful situations that the brain triggers ‘enough is enough’ and has a meltdown.

I witnessed a scary meltdown with my youngest daughter recently and it was the most difficult thing I have had to endure. Through mother’s instinct, I felt that something was wrong with my daughter and phoned her.

Immediately on speaking with her I knew something wasn’t right to the point of dropping the phone and driving over to her place running up her stairs and instantly grabbed her and asked “what is wrong” she replied “I want my mummy” “I am your mummy and I am going to take you to hospital”. She burst into tears and I knew that the prognosis wasn’t good.

The ten-minute drive to the emergency section of the hospital seemed to take hours. Thank goodness the assessment by the triage nurse was almost immediate, her blood pressure was extremely high, she wasn’t speaking or concentrating adequately. The doctors and nurses’ actioned blood, urine samples, brain scan, lumbar tap and MRI, drips and heart monitor. This was overwhelming for my daughter and myself, things like meningitis, epilepsy was mentioned without actually definitive result. Two days in the emergency, then two days in the medical assessment unit and finally transferred to the well-being unit where she was finally diagnosed as having had hypomania episode.

All of this hypomania came out of the blue, with no previous episodes experienced by my daughter, all right she may have been anxious from time to time, but this was more than anxiousness. Due to her working two different high-level technical jobs it was inevitable eventually her body would show signs that she is overstressed and stop coping. Her brain finally said “enough is enough we are stopping” and that is what happened.

My knowledge of such an illness was limited to knowing that people suffer mania episodes, however, after reading heaps of information on suitable websites referred to me it was too complex and there were many unanswered questions from my perspective. My daughter now as an inpatient is learning how to be good to yourself, not to allow any part of your work life gets overbalanced, which obviously her work life was totally out of balance. She hadn’t had any ME time for her nor a holiday for more than eight years.

During the psychiatrist review he mentioned to my daughter; her older sister and myself that she had suffered a mild hypomania episode and left unattended it would have had a devastating effect on her. She listened politely to the psychiatrist explain her situation, a psychiatrist who happened to be wearing woolen socks underneath a pair of leather thongs shoes, how very odd! Could you actually take him serious was our immediate thinking as we looked at one another!

My daughter responded with “so I am not normal” his immediate response was “what is normal?” This prompted all our minds to go into overdrive, as who and what is actually normal, especially when we put too much stress on our bodies and expect our brains can just keep taking large amounts of pressure without some type of consequences.

Some lessons learnt for all of us, treat the diagnosed condition with the correct medication, education and most importantly well being, something that both of my daughters need to adhere too especially the well being, giving yourself some special ME time and not to let any part of your life get out of balance – work, family, personal relationships, and friends.

Degree of Content

For the past two years, I have been through an emotional and stressful time with realising my marriage was over, including having to deal with a partner in denial of his personal issues.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t actually the most stressful part of my life, the loss of my dearly passed father was what nearly tipped me over the edge.

Thank goodness for my immediate family and the most wonderful caring friends and my inner strength has brought me to a completely new life.

Yes, I am now contended with my lot in life and living on my own.

However living on your own comes with a degree of difficulties, like the handy person type tasks, which I have never had to endure before.

Being someone who is committed to learning new skills, what is picking up a spanner and wrecking the toilet seat, destroying the ceiling fan or screwing the wrong end of the hose fittings to the outside tap? Sooner or later you learn and become skilled in areas you never needed to venture beforehand.

Falling off the stepladder recently and ending up in the emergency room at the local Medical Centre hasn’t deterred me either, despite my sister in Sydney saying, “I know how to scare the bejesus out of her “Nursing Home”.

These comments from my sister created some very interesting conversations amongst my family and friends on Facebook. Unfortunately, it had no effect as I used that same stepladder to trim the garden hedge and this time did more damage to my poor right knee by twisting an already painful knee. Now it is waiting to see a physio to do their magic by easing the swelling and of course pain.

Despite my painful knee I have managed to master fitting out a new toilet seat and yes now have the correct connections on the hose. Will wait until my friends from Western Australia arrive on Saturday to fix the rather lopsided ceiling fan.

The degree of difficulty living alone can be remedied, especially if you have self-determination and prepared to use all your skills and of course Y-tube to learn about fixing things around the house.