Masquerade Party

 

IMG_2309From the moment we stepped out of the taxi we were greeted with let’s have a fun party mode. Fire dancers greeted our arrival at Opal Cove Resort, Coffs Harbour followed by the most amazing creations of masks to adorn the guests in the room, some you knew straight away, but others kept their secret alive by wearing rather interesting disguises.

Once inside the venue, our lips touched a cold glass full of champaign or here in Australia bubbly, followed by delicious canapés. This, of course, took away any formality as we wondered around saying hello to the people we had the opportunity of catching and of course a photo or two. How could you not partake in photo opportunities, after all this was the first masquerade party I had ever attended in Coffs Harbour, all thanks to the inventive ideas of our hosts at Joyland Carers Retreat, Korora.

With more than 7000 carers in and around Coffs Harbour and only one facility like Joyland Carers Retreat, who raises funds by holding such events to enable carers to have a few days respite themselves.

The bubbly enjoyed, now time for settling into a night full of surprises and most importantly fun!

It was long before our host got the party started by welcoming everyone, especially the sponsors who donated the most fantastic prizes for the raffles and of course a table of eight carers who were special guests for the evening.

As the surrounding area is Aboriginal Country, Aboriginal Elder Aunty Bea Ballangarry, read out a perfect ‘Welcome to Country Story’ welcoming everyone, especially the carers of the country.

It wasn’t long after this that an incredible icebreaker called ‘pass the parcel’ was actioned. This entertaining event certainly got the competitive spirit pumping, as at the end of several wrappings of paper, someone got the prize, unfortunately, it wasn’t me!

A beautiful two-course meal followed with a special birthday cake for our host Ellen who was celebrating her birthday and all the Arians in the room one of those Arians included me. This was such a wonderful surprise and perfect gesture for all the Arians in the room.

Dinner over lets the dancing begin and wow it certainly began. The musicians were without a doubt the best three-piece band, including the guitarist performing the wonderful array of songs, which we could dance and dance the night away, regardless of how tired we were, there was no way that this terrific music wasn’t going to have our full-on dancing skills tested thoroughly.

My colleague, who was one of the carers, just couldn’t stop her motor running. Such a delight to see her dancing to anything and everything that the musicians pumped out, their repertoire was far-ranging, from nice and slow to the country and of course rock. Some of us nicely dress ladies, including my carer friend, adjourned with their fine shoes and went barefoot dancing, why not when you are having so much fun!

 

 

 

 

Humbling Experience

I recently had an overwhelming experience through the social inclusive efforts of a company that I represent as a board member by participating in a philanthropic grant funds allocated to a Neighbour Hood Centre in the Mid North Coast, enabling them to purchase equipment suitable for accommodating reclaimed foods for community members who are mainly unemployed people finding it difficult to survive and have food on their tables.

To be part of assisting the community in such a worthy cause is humbling, yet disturbing to see the volume of people, adults, and children that are in a situation where they are needing food relief assistance.

The real heroes are the community volunteer members that need to be celebrated for their tireless work. They give their time and efforts to ensure that every opportunity is ceased to help people in their community. Without these volunteers sourcing opportunities like grants and companies willing to participate by donating grocery items, disadvantaged people in our community would suffer even more.

 

 

Excitement Abound

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One of the most exciting events occurred recently when I planned and ventured on my road trip to finally meet up with my sister Caroline and her children, the children whom I have never met, to help celebrate her 53rd birthday.

It had been over forty years since I last saw my sister, the last time she would have been about eight years of age.

The excitement felt took over me, what if I got too emotional and fell apart by just seeing her?

Caroline sighted us before we saw her, she yelled out “their here”. What wonderful music to my ears just to hear her voice after all the years.

The forty years seemed to just fade away, she looked the same, of course, older, as we both were, but the same little girl stood there in front of me. We hugged, cried, talked continually and just stared at one another.

Throughout her birthday lunch celebration, I couldn’t stop glancing at Caroline, she was so much like our Dad, she has the same glare when concentrating on the conversation, raised eyebrows expression just like our dearly passed Dad.

Looking across and down the table at my nieces and nephew, which I have never met appeared to be strange, but wonderful. Added to the wonder is a sweet little two-year-old grand niece, her big brown eyes just melted you away. She too has that similar expression to Caroline, so sweet!

How do you really catch up on all those lost forty years? Obvious you can’t you just live for the moment, talk about anything and everything, giving particular attention to how she is feeling. Her excitement was contagious and this, of course, positioned the mood for everyone.

Glen Innes, NSW Road Trip

Up until recently, I have not been able to plan a road trip just for me, somewhere that I wanted to go and see in our beautiful country. My chosen location was Glen Innes, north/west about 256Ks from where I live in Coffs Harbour.

Thankfully one of my friends also wanted to see Glen Innes and she suggested that it was a good idea to travel there when something of interest was happening.

The weekend we decided to drive there was at the time of their annual gem festival, where exhibitors from all over the country set-up their stalls, some selling precious and non-precious gems, while others selling their finished jewelry wares. And a wine, cheese and chili sauce exhibitor somehow managed to set-up a stall. This exhibitor became my dancing partner on a Saturday night.

After our three and a half hour drive, booking our two nights accommodation at a motel with WIFI, we set off to explore the gem festival. It wasn’t long before we were entrenched in discovering all about rocks, fools gold, and of course gems. Trying not to spend too much by way of seeing and wanting, what I really didn’t need was a challenge.

Many hours of discovery passed and it was time for us to go back to our motel, which actually lacked the WIFI connection, have a shower and frock up to see what the nightlife was all about. The place that stood out what the local Club, where to our delight they had a live two-piece band, called ‘Spanish Fly’. Neither of us had heard of them, but when you are in the country you do what the locals do and enjoy!

It wasn’t long before we got into the groove of the wonderful entertainment, except there was something missing, people. We seemed to be the only two people sitting right in front of the band and enjoying the grooving along, we even asked for our chosen songs, which they happily played. Their repertoire was amazing.

Neither of us could believe that this wonderful music was being played by just two people, us.

It was about an hour or so sitting there by ourselves when all of a sudden three men who just wanted to dance and obviously have some company surrounded us. One of the men was the wine, cheese and chili sauce exhibitor.

Three hours later, tired feet and exhausted by all the laughing that occurred we said our goodbyes and parted for our motel beds.

On arriving at our motel we both agreed that having a sleep in was a good idea before we headed off the next day to explore the surrounding areas, including the heritage buildings, which dated back to 1886, all in pristine condition and such character, something that is missing in Coffs Harbour.

The last few hours of the following day were spent sampling the wine, cheeses and chili sauce and laughing about what a great night we had the previous evening.

Our road trip to Glen Innes was certainly a town of discovery and without a doubt one to remember.

 

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Frozen In Time

After recently finalising my will I arranged a suitable time to discuss with my daughters the ‘what and why’ I included certain content, especially around ‘enduring guardianship’ in my will.

This discussion was one that my youngest daughter couldn’t comprehend, as just mentioning the “if I am in a vegetable condition to pull the plug”, obviously a more legal terminology describes my intent in the document.

She thought for a while and said with a sheepish tone “oh well, we could just freeze you and when the medical profession finds a solution as to how they could cure you and bring you back to life in say 20 years, you could end up being our age, just like another sister”.

These comments changed our emotional thinking; especially mine, not that I would ever think of such a strange concept, but the notion of having some immediate fun with this idea was an opportunity too good to miss.

I directed the conversation to my son-in-law who was sitting directly opposite me and said: “just think about it Nigel I could come back after being frozen for 20 years and end up being your sister-in-law instead of the Mother-in-law”. The look on his face explained totally what he was thinking.

The Rights of Women

Ending off a rather difficult year, I decided that yesterday was a day to treat myself and see the acclaimed ‘Suffragette’ movie at the local renovated Majestic Sawtell Cinema.

This was a brilliant decision as I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a part of history being played out on the big screen. It made me reflect on how much these suffragettes suffered to ensure women had better conditions and the right to vote. It took decades for women to gain equal rights, although this is not a given across the world. Through men’s ignorance and determination to pull women down these women had the strength and determination with many suffering personally they achieved what we women today take for granted.

Reflecting on history and how long it took to gain the rights for women to vote, especially in the UK, USA, and Australia. However Australian women through the Australian movement of suffragettes, such as Jessie Street Australian women gained the right across Australia to vote in 1902 although South Australia and Western Australia were a few years earlier.

The United Kingdom and the United States followed ten years later.

When I lived and worked in Sydney I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Jessie Street Annual Luncheons at Parliament House. Jessie was a key figure in Australian political life for over 50 years, from the women’s suffrage struggle in England to the removal of Australian constitutional discrimination against Aboriginal people. She was recognised both in Australia and internationally for her activism in women’s rights and social justice.

Although Jessie had passed away in 1970 it was at these annual luncheons that I would listen intently to the stories being told by the elders in attendance regarding their personal struggles and what they had to endure to make our lives much better today. These women were the extraordinary Australian suffragettes.

Years on and there is another struggle for women, domestic violence. Through the heartache of a mother Rosie Batty losing her son to domestic violence pushes our nation into facing the disturbing reality that as a country we have a long way to go to stop domestic violence.

Could Rosie Batty be today’s Jessie Street and achieve the ‘stopping of domestic violence’?

Happiness is Finding Your Missing Sister

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What is happiness? For me, it is finding our missing sister Caroline, which had disappeared for more than forty years.

Through the most amazing determination from one of my sisters Debra, Caroline’s biological sister, she discovered the whereabouts of Caroline. She left our Father with her Mother, who isn’t my biological Mother when she was about eight years of age.

Over the years that passed we all wondered and worried about her, was she all right, did she get married and have a family. Of course, there was always the dreaded thought that she may have passed.

Thankfully Debra located her and found that she is well, although she has had a horrible life. She had to confront the death of her Mother at an early age and finding that she had no family members around for support. At that time her immediate family members had moved away some got married and obviously changed their names, including me.

Caroline was a victim and suffered the most horrific abuse by her violent partner, gave birth to four children, two boys and two girls and now a proud grandmother.

Fortunately, her life has now changed for the better, she has found her elder sisters, especially Debra who lives only an hour from her. Unfortunately, I live on the Mid North Coast more than 700 kilometers from her. However, through wonderful phone calls and of course the use of social media we are all connected and can share photos, send messages to her as well as our new found nieces and nephews and grand niece.

Life has now changed for the better for all of us, this is real happiness for everyone, especially Caroline who just can’t believe it is actual, she just keeps crying with happiness, just like the rest of us.

The most beautiful and heartfelt comment came to me from one of my newfound nieces Claudia “I’m so happy that I’m now in contact with my family. I’ve been waiting for this day my whole life”