A Weekend in the Lamington National Park

The Lamington National Park, Gold Coast, Australia

Exploring the Beautiful Gold Coast Hinterland

My husband had two weeks off recently due to an infected cat bite on his thumb.  We had some time on our hands and, because we hadn’t been away since last March, we decided to make the most of it.  Luckily we live in one of the most beautiful areas in Australia.  We often have a staycation – a short trip within an hour of home.  Right on our doorstep is the beautiful Gold Coast hinterland, so we had a night away there, at Lamington National Park.

The sun sets over O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park, Canungra, Queensland, Australia
The sun sets over O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park, Canungra, Queensland, Australia

The Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia

The Gold Coast is known as the glitter strip because it has all the glitz and glamour of high-rises right along one of the most pristine beaches in the world.  Our most famous beach is Surfers Paradise.  It is a tourist mecca, with many attractions like theme parks and night life.

I rarely go to that part of the city, however.  I much prefer the natural environment that can be found in the Gold Coast Hinterland, also known as the Green Behind the Gold.  There are waterfalls, rainforest and a diverse collection of wildlife.  Away from the crowded beaches, up in the hills is where my heart sings.  That is where I feel at peace.

One of the beautiful native birds at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
One of the beautiful native birds at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

We decided to visit O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.  I had only been once before, and my husband not at all.  I took a youth group camping up there the first time, an experience I will never forget.  Many of the teenagers had never stayed overnight outside their family home so it was a huge eye opener for them.

To get to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is quite an experience.  The road is narrow and windy and the trip takes 90minutes through Canungra, up the mountain to the World Heritage listed Lamington National Park.  The views are stunning of farm land in the valley below and the mountains of the McPherson and Darlington Ranges.

View over the valley towards Beaudesert from the Lamington National Park
View over the valley towards Beaudesert from the Lamington National Park

O’Reilly’s has an interesting history.  It started over 100 years ago as a settlement for the O’Reilly family who cleared the land for cattle farming.  Over time they began to receive guests who had made an arduous journey to get there.  That is how the guest house began, in 1926.  Over time it has grown and is now a large operation of several types of different accommodation options, a restaurant, bar, day spa and winery.

View over the pool area, towards the south at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, in the Lamington National Park
View over the pool area, towards the south at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

Another interesting historical fact is that in 1937 Bernard O’Reilly trekked through the rainforest to rescue survivors of the Stinson Plane Crash. There is a replica of the plane at O’Reilly’s. His knowledge of the local area was vital in locating the wreck, and during the rescue effort.

Replica of the Stinson Plane that crashed in the Lamington National Park in 1937.  The survivors were rescued by Bernard O'Reilly who knew the area well.
Replica of the Stinson Plane that crashed in 1937. The survivers were rescued by Bernard O’Reilly who knew the area well.

The Wildlife and Rainforest

Part of the attraction for us was the wildlife.  Very experienced guides are available to lead the guests on a number of different guided walks, educational talks and hikes through the Lamington National Park.  We took part in two guided walks, and also viewed a documentary of the wildlife in their cinema.

Feeding one of the many birds during the guided bird walk.  Some of the paths are suitable for people with reduced mobility, like this one.
Feeding one of the many birds during the guided bird walk. Some of the paths are suitable for people with reduced mobility, like this one.

There is also a treetop walk – a series of suspension bridges up to 15 metres above ground that allow you to walk amongst the tops of the forest.  Because I get severe vertigo with heights I was very nervous at the slight swinging of the bridges but I made it across by not daring to look down.  My husband even climbed up the 30 metre high ladder to a platform where he could view 360 degrees across the top of the rainforest. 

One of the suspension bridges on the Treetop Walk at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, where you can walk amongst the treetops in Lamington National Park
One of the suspension bridges on the Treetop Walk at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, where you can walk amongst the treetops in Lamington National Park

The Glow Worm Tour

Without a doubt my favourite part of the weekend was the nighttime glow worm tour.  The guide took us for a short drive from the resort. We then hiked through the bush to a stream where thousands of glowworms sparkled like stars along the bank.  The stream was flowing gently, so that the glow worms reflected in the water.  When you looked up through the trees, the milky way glittered brightly above us.  It was incredibly beautiful.

Two ringtailed possums in the top of the tree in Lamington National Park
Two ringtailed possums in the top of the tree

Matt our guide helped us to spot many native animals and plants along the path.  His knowledge and enthusiasm for the wildlife enhanced the experience.  One of the more interesting creatures was a bright blue crayfish which can walk 2km away from water!  This was a feisty little crustacean who snapped its claws at us.  He has a mean bite we were told.

The bright blue coloured crayfish on the rainforest floor in Lamington National Park
The bright blue coloured crayfish on the rainforest floor

We encountered two types of possums, many different varieties of birds and insects, lizards and spiders.  I would have just walked straight past many of the creatures but Matt had a way of finding these elusive animals in the dark.  

Matt the guide pointing out a native frog.  One of the wild animals in Lamington National Park
Matt the guide pointing out a native frog

Hand Feeding the Birds

The early morning bird walk was just as interesting.  Being able to hand feed the wild birds was a beautiful experience.  The rainforest is home to a huge variety of birds.  The most colourful are the parrots that you can hand feed. Many of the walking tracks are suitable for all types of fitness levels, with two being suitable for wheelchairs..  

The more adventurous can take a segway safari tour, or try the flying fox.  There are guided walks through the Lamington National Park, or there are many tracks that you can do on your own without being a paying guest.  Maps are available from the National Parks Information Centre or O’Reilly’s reception.  

Hand feeding one of the native parrots that live in the rainforest
Hand feeding one of the native parrots that live in the rainforest

If you are ever in our part of the world, pay a visit to the hinterland.  The experience will stay with you much longer than a day at Sea World.  There is so much more to the Gold Coast than the glitter strip and Surfers Paradise.

Hand feeding the birds at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
Hand feeding the birds at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

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Infected Cat Bite Caution

An infected cat bite on a thumb

This is a cautionary tale about an infected cat bite.

How Not to Say “I Told You So”

I’ll preempt this by saying that I’m terrible at saying “I told you so” without coming across as a Know-it-all.  This is definitely a “what not to do” situation.  My fifty plus years of life have not made me any better at it.

As a background to the tale, I’ve been a nurse for about 35 years.  Family members often come to me for health advice, and I will tell them straight up what I think they should do.  My mantra is don’t ignore symptoms, don’t put your head in the sand, seek medical advice early because it is easier to treat illness early rather than when you develop complications.

I am happy and grateful that my sons do take my advice, especially my older son.  They could never pull the wool over my eyes when they were younger as I could always tell when they were faking symptoms to get out of school.  My sons are proactive with their health and really compassionate with other people when they are sick.  They would have made awesome nurses except for their blood and needle phobias.

My husband remains stubborn however.  We’ve been together almost ten years so he had forty plus years without my knowledge to guide him.  This has been frustrating over the years because he’s a workaholic and will not take a sick day even when he should.

Cat Bites Can Lead to Nasty Infections

A couple of weeks ago he got a nasty bite from our cat on his thumb.  She’s 19 years old and only weighs about 3 kg but she’s as feisty as a young cat.  Phil was trimming her nails and, because she’s deaf and blind she panicked and chomped down on his thumb.  The two teeth marks were deep and bled profusely.

I told him that cat bites often become infected because they’re deep and transfer bacteria from the cat’s mouth deep into the wound.  I regaled tales of patients I have cared for that were in hospital for days on intravenous antibiotics after cat bites.  My advice was to go to his doctor and start antibiotics as soon as possible, and have a tetanus vaccination as well.

Infected Cat Bite Wounds Should Never Be Ignored

Phil did not take my advice.  The following day was a Monday – he went to work.  I looked at the wound that evening and it was purple and looked nasty.  I reiterated that he needed antibiotics.  He again ignored my advice.

The following day was Australia Day, a public holiday.  He would have gone to work as usual, so it is just as well he didn’t.  His wound looked really nasty.  A pustule had formed at the puncture site. The surrounding area was purple and his thumb joints were swollen and he had difficulty bending them.  It was obviously infected.

Infected cat bite wound on a thumb
The infected cat bite on my husband’s thumb. This was after the staff at the hospital had cleaned the wound, but before he had been to surgery

To the Hospital Emergency Department He Goes

We phoned all the GP clinics on the after hours list and none of them were open.  We were due to spend Australia Day with his family so I went there while Phil went to the hospital emergency department.  Over the next few hours he had an XRay, was given a tetanus shot and was commenced on intravenous antibiotics.  

As the wound had gone close to tendons and bone the doctors decided it could not be cleaned enough without surgery.  Cat bites on the hand can lead to nasty infections that can affect your body systemically.  They should never be ignored.

My husband ended up staying overnight in hospital, having surgery to open up and clean out the wound, followed by oral antibiotics and two weeks off work.  This is my “I told you so” moment.  I find it difficult to be patient and calm with him because it’s so frustrating to know that this situation could have been avoided if he’d listened to me.

My husband in hospital.  His infected cat bite wound on his thumb required intravenous antibiotics, cleaning out under anaesthetic and a course of oral antibiotics.  The bandage had to remain intact for two weeks.

My husband in hospital. His infected cat bite wound on his thumb required intravenous antibiotics, cleaning out under anaesthetic and a course of oral antibiotics. The bandage had to remain intact for two weeks.

His Dressings Need to Be Kept Dry and Intact For Two Weeks

Even more frustrating is the fact that he still thinks it’s overkill to make him have two weeks off!  There is no way he could work and avoid getting dirt and muck into his wound.  I have banned him from cleaning the cat litter trays, picking up dog poo, doing any gardening or any other dirty jobs around the house.  This has taken considerable effort because he’s so bloody stubborn!  I feel like I have a child who won’t listen!

Now if that doesn’t take the romance out of a relationship I don’t know what will.  I spend more time keeping an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t do anything he should do, than being productive myself.  He is not good at finding things to do to occupy his time so he’s been driving me nuts.  I hate being a nagging wife.

How Do You Occupy a Bored Husband?

I would love to know if any of my readers have any ideas for keeping a bored husband occupied.  Most of all, how do I say “I told you so” without completely losing my cool?!

Note:  I love my husband dearly and our relationship is strong.  This is very much tongue-in-cheek and meant to amuse my readers as I’m sure some of you have had similar stories to this.

Post cat bite infection.  Two weeks after the wound was cleaned up in hospital.  The wound on the thumb has two sutures
The Great Reveal! After the bandages were removed. There were two sutures which were removed and he has been given the all clear to return to work.

The Outcome of The Infected Cat Bite

Update – After two weeks convalescence at home, Phil was given the all-clear to resume work.  The post-op appointment at the hospital went well.  He had two sutures which were removed and now has full use of his hand again.  Our marriage survived intact!

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Clarifying Your Values for Deeper Self Awareness

Clarifying Your Values For Deeper Self Awareness

Clarifying your values leads to a better understanding of your inner self.

We all have values.  Our values are those attributes that define who we are as people.  Values are those qualities we hold dear to us.  Some are more important than others.  They are the values that we are most passionate about.  By clarifying your values, you will understand  your inner self – what makes you tick.  Clarifying your values will lead to a deeper self awareness.

"Values are our heart's deepest desires for the way we want to interact with and relate to the world, other people, and ourselves.  They are leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life" Russ Harris
“Values are our heart’s deepest desires for the way we want to interact with and relate to the world, other people, and ourselves.  They are leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life” Russ Harris

How my health struggles have led to deeper self awareness

My health struggles have helped me to redefine what is really important to me.  They have led to a deeper meaning of what makes me tick.  Through this self reflection I can understand why I struggle with some aspects of recovery more than others.

Many of my readers are aware of my journey through recovering from a bilateral mastectomy that had complications.  Part of my recovery has been coping with the emotional and mental struggle due to not being able to work because of my health.  I have been seeing a psychologist to help me to deal with my struggles.

She has been helping me to manage my anxiety and feelings of loss by helping me to reframe some of my thought processes.  One of the things that has really resonated with me is learning about values conflict. I have been finding it hard to cope with the change in my life because there is a values conflict.  

What is a Values Conflict?

A values conflict is when something or someone challenges a value that is important to you.  In this case, my value is helping people which is why I became a nurse.  Not being able to work as a nurse means I can’t fulfill that part of me that wants to help people.

She gave me a list of common values.  My task was to choose the ten values that mean the most to me.  Narrowing it down to just ten was a challenge in itself.  Some of the values are more important than others.  When there is a values conflict you can react strongly – it’s a visceral reaction, like “being kicked in the guts”.  It made me realise why I react so strongly to some situations, and why my self worth suffers when I can’t fulfill those values that are important to me.

Defining Your Most Important Values

My ten most important values are:

  1. Contribution and Generosity
  2. Fairness and Justice
  3. Fitness
  4. Honesty
  5. Kindness
  6. Order
  7. Respect/self respect
  8. Responsibility
  9. Safety and protection
  10. Trust

I’m going to share the three values that mean the most to me, and explain where the values conflict lies.

Contribution and Generosity:  to contribute, give, help, assist, or share.

This is important to me because I get enormous satisfaction from helping others.  The main reason I chose nursing as a career was to help people.  I need to contribute to society and be a positive influence on others.  My blog aims to motivate other midlifers to live a healthy lifestyle.  I share my story so that I can inspire other people.  In other words, my life’s work is to be helpful.  

Now that I’m not working a huge gaping hole appeared in my life and it has taken a toll on me.  My role as a nurse is a major part of my identity.  I wrote about it here.  My values conflict lies in not being able to help others, and to be on the receiving end of that instead.

Fitness:  to maintain or improve or look after my physical and mental health.

This is probably the most important value to me.  Without health life is hard to bear.  I aim to keep myself as healthy in mind and body as possible.  My health and other people’s health is my life’s work.  I prefer to prevent health crises by being proactive with my health, using preventative measures to avoid disease, and following the health advice of experts.  I aim to show people how to live a healthy lifestyle by leading a good example, raising awareness of disease, and continually learning about health.  

Keeping physically fit is not for appearances, but rather to keep healthy.  My values conflict has been dealing with the aftermath of surgery that had complications.  Not being healthy and fit enough to work has been emotionally difficult.  I am working with an Exercise Physiologist to build my strength up so I can return to work.  It is hard work, my progress is slow and I get a lot of pain.  But working towards being fit and healthy is very rewarding as well.

Honesty:  to be honest, truthful, and sincere with myself and others.  

I hate being lied to.  It is my pet peeve.  It makes my blood boil when I find out I have been lied to and I can never really trust that person again.  I have a strong lie detector but it doesn’t always work, and that really shakes my world especially if the deception has been going on for a length of time.  It is heartbreaking to discover people close to me have lied or deceived me.  

I also am a terrible liar, even a white lie.  It makes me extremely uncomfortable to lie to somebody.  I would rather be told the truth, no matter how brutal, than be told a lie.  My visceral reaction whenever I sense someone has been lying is because there is a values conflict.  I included this value here because honesty is so important to me.

Clarifying your values helps you to understand your emotions

By clarifying your values in this way, you can reflect on those aspects of your life that are causing an emotional reaction.  It’s that gut feeling that something is not right.  For example, when I sense someone is lying to me, I get a gut churning sensation that makes me really uncomfortable. 

Values conflicts cause me to have sleepless nights and anxiety.  By clarifying my values, I now can understand why some situations cause me to react in that way.  With that clarity, I have been able to work with my psychologist on reframing my thought processes.  She is helping me to pinpoint what it is that is causing that emotional reaction, and to deal with stressful situations in a different way.

When your values align with your significant other

Having values that align with your closest loved ones – in my case, my husband – means less conflict in our relationship.  My first husband and I had different values which led to a lot of conflict.  I feel blessed to have met someone whose values are similar to mine.  It’s nice to be “on the same page” when we make decisions.

Clarify your own values

What values do you value the most?  What is the most important quality to you?  What would you want to be remembered for?  Clarify your own values for a deeper understanding of your self.

By clarifying your values, you will understand what makes you tick. Clarifying your most important values will lead to a deeper self awareness. Values conflicts cause an emotional reaction so you can manage your emotions by knowing which values are important to you.

If you would like to explore this concept in more depth, Russ Harris of www.ActMindfully.com.au has some excellent resources on his website.  Clarifying Your Values and Making Life Changes is a worksheet from his book The Confidence Gap that will help you clarify your values.  I found this to be very helpful.

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Celebrating Australia’s Birthday

Celebrating Australia's Birthday

January 26th is Australia Day, which commemorates the arrival of the first fleet in Sydney in 1778 and the beginning of the colony.  Celebrating Australia’s birthday on this date has become controversial, however, because the nation’s first peoples see it as Invasion Day.  There have been calls to change Australia Day to another date out of respect for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.  So far Australia Day remains a public holiday and a day to celebrate our diverse culture.

I Am A Kiwi Aussie

Even though it is not politically correct, I still enjoy celebrating Australia Day.  I am proud to call myself Australian, and love my adopted country.  I was born and raised in New Zealand and came to Australia when I was 19, in 1986.  New Zealand is as much a part of me as Australia.  My sons think of themselves as Kiwi Australians because they had frequent holidays to New Zealand with me.

The symbol for a Kiwi Aussie - half kangaroo (Australian), half fern leaf (New Zealander).  Source:  Clipart
The symbol for a Kiwi Aussie – half kangaroo (Australian), half fern leaf (New Zealander). Source: Clipart http://cliparts.co/clipart/2806792

There has always been a bit of rivalry between Kiwis and Aussies.  The beginning of this video by actor Sam Neill explains it with a humorous twist:

https://www.facebook.com/SBSAustralia/videos/10156058565748686/

Australia, My Adopted Home

My sister and I came to Australia as two naive teenagers, and set out on the big Aussie adventure, backpacking on a working holiday.  We started off in South Australia, picking grapes at a vineyard and packing dried fruit at an apricot factory.  My poor mother struggled with the sudden loss of her daughters, so much that my parents emigrated the following year.  One brother then the other eventually moved here as well.

Three of us married Aussies.  I decided to make it official and became an Australian citizen after my first son was born.  My dad, who was a widower by then, became a citizen at the same time.  The law changed over time, and now it is much harder to become an Australian citizen.  One of my brothers had to go through a very lengthy process because he had returned to New Zealand to live for five years.  He proudly became a citizen on Australia Day 2020.

Celebrating Australia Day with friends - I'm in the middle.  Photo: 3 women wearing Australian hats
Celebrating Australia Day with friends – I’m in the middle

Celebrating Australia Day

We will celebrate with my husband’s family the way we usually do:  with a barbeque, a dip in the pool, and a few beers.  We’ll try not to get sunburnt, and avoid the crowded beaches that are the favoured place to celebrate Australia Day.  This year’s celebrations will be much more subdued because of Covid-19, but we’ll fly our Aussie flag and get into the spirit of day by listening to some Oz Rock.

Happy Australia Day!

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A Very Special Birthday Celebration

A Very Special Birthday Celebration

Celebrating a long life with joy

My father-in-law turned 90 years old last week. I would like to share with you how we celebrated this special event in this post. It was a very special birthday celebration which almost didn’t happen because of sudden changes in travel restrictions. We were so lucky that the weekend strict lockdown in Brisbane didn’t affect us.

Happy 90th birthday Cec
Happy 90th birthday Cec – cheers to a long life

A Positive Outcome From 2020

One of the most positive things about 2020 was nurturing relationships that are important to me.  Normally my life is extremely busy and I feel continually jetlagged from unrelenting shift work as a nurse.  Many of you know that I have been off work since May because of complications during surgery.  Having time on my hands has been a blessing in that I have been able to spend a lot of time with my in-laws. 

I have had time to visit for a chat and a cup of tea, and not stress about needing to be somewhere or do something on my brief days off.  I also have been able to attend all the family gatherings, whereas most of the time I work on public holidays and other special occasions.  This is something I don’t take this for granted.  I feel like I have been blessed with this time.  

Stronger Family Relationships

My relationship with my parents-in-law and my sister-in-law have been the most improved by this.  My sister-in-law and I have been able to plan some lovely family gatherings such as my mother-in-law’s High Tea surprise birthday party.  I could also help with my sister-in-law’s 50th birthday Alice In Wonderland party.  Just in general we have become closer this year, bonded by being married to two lovely men who are definitely the product of their equally lovely parents.

My sister-in-law and I share another thing in common. Both our mothers passed away when we were newlyweds in our early 20s.  I think that it is why we know that we need to create lovely memories during the latter years of our parents-in-laws’ lives.  Every birthday and special occasion has taken on new meaning as we are aware that time with them is limited.

My husband and I with Gwen and Cec, my parents-in-law
My husband and I with Gwen and Cec, my parents-in-law

My Father-in-law’s Special Birthday Celebration

My father-in-law’s 90th birthday is the latest milestone for our family. We celebrated the occasion with a lovely lunch.  The family let me organise the event which I felt very privileged to do – they needed to put some trust in my organisational skills!  I don’t have the same creative, event planning abilities as my sister-in-law (just look at what she did for my mother-in-law’s High Tea and you will see what I mean!).  But I am pretty good at organising things.

The day was a success, and the smiles on everyone’s faces were my reward.  We had the lunch at a club nearby which we have used previously for events.  

My father-in-law celebrating his 90th birthday with his sister and dear friend
My father-in-law celebrating his 90th birthday with his sister Shirley and dear friend June

Celebrating a Long Life

At 90 years old, my father-in-law has been through a lot, including serving in the Australian Army in the Korean conflict when he was a young man.  He has chronic pain from injuries sustained in a fall through a roof, and suffers from COPD.  His mind is still sharp and he and my mother-in-law still drive and live independently in their own home.  Cec is one of the kindest men you will ever meet.  To be able to organise this special birthday for him was an honour.

I was brought to tears when the whole club sang Happy Birthday to him.  I created a collage of photos of him from babyhood until now and he was “tickled pink!”.  He talked about each photo and shared his memories with us.  His sister aged 92 was able to come from Northern New South Wales. A close family friend who has been like an Auntie to my husband and his brother was also able to come.

A collage for a 90th birthday - celebrating the life of my father-in-law Cec
A collage of photos depicting the life of my 90 year old Father-in-law Cec

The Special Birthday Celebration Almost Didn’t Happen

We have been holding our breath leading up to this event. No-one knows whether the border to New South Wales will close again or we’ll be sent back into lockdown.  There was a weekend lockdown as close as Brisbane and Logan because of two new strains of the more contagious UK variant of Covid-19 being detected in Brisbane.  We have been extremely lucky here to avoid it.

Treasure your loved ones as you never know when they will be taken from you.  This year marks 30 years since my mother passed away, and 10 years since my sister died suddenly from an epileptic fit.  It’s hard for me to fathom that so much time has passed.  Many of you know that my mother-in-law is in the final stages of lung cancer so we value any time we have left with her.

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Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

A Holiday At Home – Staycation

I have previously written about making the most of your staycation and suggested ideas for having a holiday at home.  I wrote that blog post at the beginning of 2020, before lockdowns and social distancing were an everyday reality.  Already many people were changing their travel plans because of the emerging health crisis from Covid-19 in Asia and Europe. 

Since then, travel has been severely curtailed in most corners of the globe. The tourist industry has been severely affected worldwide.

This post is to encourage you to be a tourist in your own town. Being stuck at home during the holidays can still be enjoyable. You can support local businesses as well as discover new things about the local area.

We enjoy being a tourist in your own town.  On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia.  Photo of Christina Henry on the HOPO ferry
On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia.

Travel Restrictions Due to the Pandemic

Up until now, Queensland has managed to avoid high numbers of Covid-19.  Our strict border control has been effective in keeping our state virus-free.  We have been lucky, unlike Melbourne and Sydney who have faced much higher numbers and harder restrictions than us.  We have two new cases of the new more contagious variant so Brisbane is now in lockdown for three days in an attempt to contain it.

My city, Gold Coast, has managed to avoid going back into lockdown.  Time will tell whether our luck will run out.  We are on the border of New South Wales, and as of today most of NSW residents can travel here, apart from Sydney residents from hotspots. Up to date information about border restrictions can be accessed here.

The Effect of Lockdowns on The Gold Coast, Australia

As soon as the border closed to Sydney, and more recently, when Brisbane went into lockdown for this weekend, there was a mass exodus heading straight for our city.  Why people can’t just stay put for one weekend is beyond me. There were lines at supermarkets and shortages of toilet paper and essentials again – as if we didn’t learn anything from the last lockdown.

Gold Coast is a tourist city.  One of our major industries and source of employment is tourism.  Whenever an Australian city or state goes into lockdown there are mass cancellations of flights and accommodation bookings.  People are losing confidence in travel because of the insecurity of not knowing whether you will be allowed to leave your town, or even your house.  Consequently our tourist industry is struggling.

Being a Tourist in Our Own Town  

Last weekend my husband and I decided to be tourists in our own town.  We had been wanting to check out our HOPO service (hop on, hop off ferry) for over a year.  This ferry does a continuous loop throughout the day, stopping at five destinations in the heart of the Gold Coast.  Rather than drive to Marina Mirage for lunch we decided to travel on the ferry.  We love the water and our canals are one of the most beautiful parts of the Gold Coast.

We were really impressed with the HOPO ferry.  It is set up to showcase the best of the Gold Coast to tourists, stopping at iconic destinations such as Surfers Paradise.  The ferry is licensed and the staff provide a commentary as you pass interesting spots on the journey.  We discovered interesting information about our own city that we had never heard, even though my husband has always lived locally and I’ve been here for 22 years.

We had never seen a floating church before!  Photo of a superyacht next to a floating church.  On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia
We had never seen a floating church before! Photo of a superyacht next to a floating church. On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia

A Day On The Gold Coast HOPO Ferry 

We commenced our journey at HOTA, the Home of the Arts, where there happened to be a fabulous market that day.  Our first stop was Marina Mirage where we disembarked.  We walked up through the shopping centre and passed cafes and restaurants, to Fisherman’s Wharf Tavern.  The Tavern has been here for as long as I can remember and is a Gold Coast icon.  We enjoyed fish and chips and a couple of beers overlooking the water.  

After returning to the ferry, our journey continued to Southport Broadwater Parklands which has a fabulous playground for kids and an aqua park.  Following this we travelled to Sea World Marine Park, followed by Surfers Paradise.  The whole journey takes an hour if you remain on board.  A $25 day pass allows you to hop on, hop off as many times as you like.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town.  Christina and Phil Henry in front of Fisherman's Wharf Tavern, Gold Coast, Australia
My husband and I in front of Fisherman’s Wharf Tavern, Gold Coast, Australia

Where Are the Holiday Crowds?

It is the summer school holidays in Australia at present, a time when you would expect the city to be packed with visitors.  This was not the case – there were very few tourists around and we did not have to wait in line anywhere.  Great for us, as we could enjoy our day out without the crowds, but indicative of the dire situation for the tourist industry.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town.  Our view at lunch - the Gold Coast Seaway, Australia
Our view at lunch – the Gold Coast Seaway, Australia

Support the Local Tourist Industry

If our tourist industry is to survive in Australia, we must support it.  If you are free of travel restrictions in your town or city, consider spending a day as a tourist.  We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Gold Coast through tourists’ eyes.  Support local businesses who are undoubtedly struggling to remain afloat.  

The footbridge from HOTA (Home of the Arts) to Chevron Island, Gold Coast , Australia
The footbridge from HOTA (Home of the Arts) to Chevron Island, Gold Coast , Australia

Support local businesses:

  • Shop at farmers’ markets and independent grocery stores;
  • Eat at local cafes and restaurants rather than getting take-out from fast food outlets;
  • Have a night at a local motel with your partner or girl friends (a girls’ night out);
  • Check out the tourist attractions in your town;
  • Buy essential items such as clothing from independent retailers.

The pandemic is far from over unfortunately.  We will be living with the threat of the virus until most of the population is immunised.  Keep using precautions, social distancing and hand hygiene to protect yourselves.  Stay safe and healthy.

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My Word of the Year 2021 is Resilience

Word of the Year 2021

Why I Am Choosing A Word of The Year

Choosing a word of the year can be more effective than setting New Years’ Resolutions.  New Years’ Resolutions can fall by the wayside, whereas a Word of the Year embodies a positive quality that you wish to strive for throughout the year. In this post I will explain the reason my Word of The Year 2021 is Resilience. 

I have read articles from my favourite bloggers throughout 2020 that mention their Word of the Year.  Debbie Harris’ word for 2020 was Jump, while Elisabeth McKnight says that “A word of the year sets to your goals and direction in the new year.  By tying all of your goals back to your overarching word, it is easy to keep them front-of-mind.”  I like that the word becomes a common theme in their blog posts throughout the year, reminding us that they are keeping on track with their overall goal for the year.

Why I Chose Resilience as My Word Of The Year 2021

A running theme through many of my posts in 2020 was my prolonged recovery from several surgeries. I have had many setbacks in my journey towards recovery, therefore the need for resilience in my life has been in focus.  I have been inspired by other people who have overcome health issues, especially my parents-in-law.  Their resilience to aging and failing health has been admirable.

Resilience to my health challenges and the change in my lifestyle has been difficult to achieve.  I have really struggled during this time.  I am not good at adapting to change, so this enormous change in my life (going from a fully functional, healthy, productive member of society to being someone who can’t work because of ill health) has been really difficult.

Why I Want to Be Resilient

I want to become more resilient which means adapting to change better.  It also means persevering even when lack of progress tempts me to just give up.  It means finding inspiration in other people’s triumph over adversity.  Lastly, it means not being hard on myself when I have setbacks or am slow to improve.

Resilience collage - 8 images.  Slogans: You got this; A little progress each day adds up to big results; Be positive, patient and persistent; The best view comes after the hardest climb; Stay positive.
Resilience: Don’t Give Up

Inspiration from Businesses Who Are Resilient

Resilience was chosen as the Word of the Year 2020 by Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global in this article.  Huffington says that  she chose this word because resilience is a quality that will carry over from the challenges of 2020 into the New Year as we recover from the pandemic.  Resilience is the ability to get through challenges, but it also means using adversity as a catalyst to get better and become stronger.

Small businesses that were able to pivot during the pandemic were able to thrive.  For example, when lockdowns and restrictions forced the closure of cafes and restaurants, many of them turned to home delivery.  The closure of cafes and restaurants reduced the need for fresh produce.  One local company who previously supplied wholesale produce, offered home delivery and the demand soared.  Local manufacturers of bath and body products and even breweries started producing hand sanitiser to meet the demand.

What Being More Resilient Means To Me

I want more resilience so that I can overcome the health challenges I have faced in 2020, and become stronger and healthier both mentally and physically.  I want to strive for improved health and strength so that I can return to work this year.  And if that goal ends up not being achievable I want to be more resilient to my change in lifestyle.  I want to adapt to my new normal better, and become more accepting of it.  I want to learn more skills and broaden my knowledge so that I can change direction if necessary.  That will require me to be more resilient.

How I Will Achieve Resilience In 2021

I have taken steps already to build my resilience.  My fate is in my own hands so I took the first steps towards improved wellbeing.  My mental health was suffering so I started seeing a psychologist.  Being able to talk about my struggles and develop skills to deal with issues has been very worthwhile.  

I was not content with being held back from working due to my health so I sought help from my GP.  I am now seeing an Exercise Physiologist weekly and building my strength back.  It takes dedication and hard work but I am determined to do it.  My goal is to be back at work this year,to a job that requires both physical and mental fortitude.

My motto will be “Don’t Give Up”.  No matter how long it takes, I am determined to overcome the health struggles of 2020 and reach my goal.  I may need to pivot like successful businesses have done, but I will face that possibility if the need arises.  I am starting a course that will open up other career opportunities for me as a nurse.  That is my “Plan B” just in case.

Have you chosen a Word of the Year for 2021?  If not, you may find some inspiration in these articles:

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A DIY High Tea For a Special Occasion

A DIY High Tea for a Special Occasion

A DIY High Tea To Celebrate My Mother-in-law’s Birthday 

We had a DIY High Tea last weekend to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday.  The event was such a success I thought I’d share it here.  I have included instructions on creating your own DIY High Tea because this themed party was easy to put together ourselves.

A Special Birthday Celebration

My mother-in-law’s birthday was approaching when my sister-in-law and I planned this event.  It wasn’t a milestone birthday, however it was an important one.  This could be the last birthday we spend with her because she is in the final stages of lung cancer.

As a family we know the importance of creating memories.  No event has passed without us celebrating together in some way.  Our parents-in-law haven’t been in great health for a few years and, although they still live independently in their own home, we have noticed that they have slowed down considerably.  We are blessed to still have them both at age 86 and nearly 90.

My mother-in-law Gwen at her surprise birthday party looking beautiful and so happy.
My mother-in-law Gwen at her surprise birthday party looking beautiful and so happy.

Hatching the perfect plan

Michelle and I decided to make this birthday a very special celebration for our mother-in-law.  It would be a surprise party as we knew Gwen would love it.  The theme was a garden party high tea.  A few years ago we had gone to a revolving restaurant at the top of a Surfers Paradise building for high tea.  Unfortunately there are no high teas available due to Covid restrictions so we decided that a DIY high tea would be easy to put together.

The original plan was for a garden party under a white gazebo.  Unfortunately torrential rain forced our party indoors but it looked just as beautiful.  My husband and I were to pick up my parents-in-law for a surprise location.  We were to follow my husband’s brother in our car, but first we needed to go to his house.

A lovely surprise for our guest of honour

We made sure Gwen walked in first to the beautifully decorated room.  The look on her face was priceless.  Everyone was in tears, overcome with emotion.  We managed to pull off the biggest surprise birthday for the most special lady.

Gwen my mother-in-law just after she came into the room - surprise!
Gwen my mother-in-law just after she came into the room – surprise!

Here’s how to have your own DIY High Tea:

A DIY High Tea is a great theme for a special occasion. For a birthday, hens’ night, fundraiser, girls’ night out, Mother’s Day, baby shower or family celebration. Everything you need to decorate it is easy to obtain from second hand shops and discount stores, which makes it budget friendly.

Colour co-ordination

Choose complementary colours. Pink, mint and white are lovely colours that are very feminine.

Theme

As well as being a high tea, we made it a garden party – as if you are having tea with the Queen!  We bought sun hats for everyone and we all wore floral or linen.

Decorations

Most of the decorations came from KMart and discount stores.  We looked for colour co-ordinated decorations, with a floral theme to suit the garden party aspect of the theme.  All the flowers were dried or silk flowers.  My lace tablecloth was draped over pink disposable tablecloths.

A DIY High Tea would not be complete without three tiered cake stands displaying petite cakes and chocolate dipped strawberries.  Pretty teapots, cups and plates, set out on a lace tablecloth suit the feminine aesthetic.
A DIY High Tea would not be complete without three tiered cake stands displaying petite cakes and chocolate dipped strawberries. Pretty teapots, cups and plates, set out on a lace tablecloth suit the feminine aesthetic.

Tea pots and crockery 

It was nice to use our own crystal glasses and china that we had in our china cabinets.  I have a dinner set that originally belonged to my English great-grandmother – it is over 100 years old.  My sister-in-law scoured second-hand shops for teapots, milk jugs and cups.  It was a very eclectic collection which looked awesome and suited the feminine aesthetic well.

Food

This is the focal point of a High Tea.  Everything is bite sized – cakes, sandwiches, savouries and scones with jam and cream.  We bought most of the petite cakes from a French Patisserie, and supplemented that with supplies from the local supermarket.  If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, local supermarkets usually have a great selection of bite sized cakes and frozen savouries.  Pretty floral serving platters and tiered cake stands display the petite cakes beautifully. 

Drink

Pots of tea, coffee and juice on the tables.  Pink champagne in an ice bucket.

DIY High Tea Table Setting showing pretty cups saucers and tea pot, a three tiered cake stand with petite cakes and platters of finger sandwiches.
DIY High Tea Table Setting showing pretty cups saucers and tea pot, a three tiered cake stand with petite cakes and platters of finger sandwiches.

Music

A sound track of music from the 40s 50s and 60s suited the occasion.  My mother-in-law really enjoyed hearing the music she listened to in her youth.

Game

My mother-in-law loves bingo so that is what we played!  We all put $10 into the kitty and played two games with various amounts to win.  It made it more exciting.  The winner on the day was my mother-in-law which thrilled her no end!

Playing Bingo at the DIY High Tea
Playing Bingo at the DIY High Tea

A Successful DIY High Tea

The day was a great success.  It was very easy to plan, and was probably one of the easiest themed parties to source everything we needed.  I’d highly recommend giving someone special a DIY High Tea.  Even the men in the family enjoyed it. 

My sister-in-law Michelle had the initial idea, and together we expanded on it.  She missed her calling as she is so good at party planning, down to the fine details.  

A DIY High Tea for a Special Occasion - the Henry Family enjoying tea and smiling towards the camera.  Everyone has sun hats on, which suits the theme of Garden Party High Tea
A DIY High Tea for a Special Occasion – the Henry Family enjoying tea and smiling towards the camera. Everyone has sun hats on, which suits the theme of Garden Party High Tea

Credits: 

Michelle Henry, execution of the high tea plan, preparing most of the food and styling the room

Aaron Tawadros, photography

The Henry family, enthusiastically taking part in a surprise party for a very special person. Everyone was involved in some way, from setting up the room to helping set out the food.

A DIY High Tea is a great theme for a special occasion.  For a birthday, hens' night, fundraiser, girls' night out, Mother's Day, baby shower or family celebration.  Everything you need to decorate it is easy to obtain from second hand shops and discount stores.
A DIY High Tea is a great theme for a special occasion. For a birthday, hens’ night, fundraiser, girls’ night out, Mother’s Day, baby shower or family celebration. Everything you need to decorate it is easy to obtain from second hand shops and discount stores.

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Coping With Loss and Grief After Major Life Changes

Coping With Loss and Grief After Major Life Changes

Grieving For All Major Losses

The grieving process can occur when you experience any major loss.  Most people acknowledge that losing someone close to you leads to a period of grief. Many people don’t realise that grieving can occur at other times of our life. Major life changes are grieved as well.  This post is about coping with loss and grief after major life changes.

Grief After a Change in Your Health

Grieving after major life events such as changes in your employment status, or an illness or injury, can impact you in a similar way to the loss of a loved one. Although it is not as acute, it is a type of grief as well. I wrote about the loss of my role as a Registered Nurse due to post mastectomy complications previously. I have been grieving for the change in my health, from being a functioning member of society, to not being able to work.

A few weeks ago I started working with an Exercise Physiologist to build up my upper body strength.  Because I wasn’t allowed to exercise for six months after my bilateral mastectomies, my upper body strength was very poor.  Adding to my issues, I have had chronic back pain for years due to degeneration in my spine.  My aim is to return to my job as a Registered Nurse.  Because I work for Queensland Health, I am unable to return on light duties (as per policy).  I need to be able to do my job 100% including CPR and heavy patient cares, which requires a lot of upper body strength.  

Coping With Disappointment

I started the program with great enthusiasm, believing that the light was at the end of the tunnel with regards to my prolonged recovery.  My first disappointment was being told it would take three months to get me to that point.  This is on top of the eight months I have just had.  Sometimes I feel like I’ll never get back to work, and that’s when I get really despondent.

The second blow was just how much pain I had.  I was using muscles that had been neglected for eight months so they were crying out at having to work!  On top of that I was doing half the exercises wrong, hence the pain.  That was a week wasted.  The exercises seem so basic, but they are making me relearn movements so that I minimise the amount of work my back and leg muscles have been doing.  Something as simple as sit to stand – using the correct method is nothing like I normally would do it.  

Once again I’m frustrated at my slow progress.  I’ve never shed as many tears as I have this year, apart from when I was grieving for my parents and sister.  It does feel like a kind of grief – I’m grieving for the loss of my health and my ability to work.  Even acknowledging to myself that I’m coping with loss and grief doesn’t make it any easier to bear.

Working on my upper body strength has been one way I have been coping with loss and grief.  Photo of my home gym equipment and my dog who I take for daily walks
Working on my upper body strength has been one way I have been coping with loss and grief.

Coping When Someone Close To You Is Dying

I have written about my parents-in-law previously.  My mother-in-law is in the final stages of lung cancer.  We had the palliative care team initial home visit last week.  They are an incredible team who will help my mother-in-law stay in her own home for as long as possible, and in hospital when the time comes.  While my in-laws are excellent for their age, they still struggle sometimes so we are grateful for the extra help they will receive.

We have been planning a surprise birthday party for my mother-in-law.  It is very emotional, knowing that this will be her last.  I don’t think there will be a dry eye there on the day.  I have been planning my father-in-law’s 90th birthday celebration as well.  The amount of planning these two events takes just compounds an already busy time of the year.

Grieving Before They Have Died

I feel like I’m grieving for them before they’ve even gone.  I felt the same when dad was dying of pancreatic cancer.  You’re seeing them deteriorate, and their quality of life diminish as the cancer takes over.  When they no longer enjoy food because their sense of taste and smell is gone, and simple activities sap their strength and leave them breathless, it rips your heart out.

The Affect Grieving Has On Your Life

I had plans for blog posts that still aren’t written.  My time and enthusiasm for writing just hasn’t been there.  Some things are more important, like spending time with family.  When time is limited, you prioritise.  I felt compelled to write  to my remaining uncles and aunties.  They are all aging so quickly and none of them live close.  They are the last link to my parents so I value keeping in contact with them.

Nurturing Yourself When You Are Grieving

I am nurturing myself in order to cope with these circumstances.  I’m making sure to continue activities that I know help me deal with stress.  I never miss a day where I walk my dog for half an hour.  I write in my journal daily and do gentle yoga every couple of days.  When I’m tired I have a rest.  I’m also seeing a psychologist for counseling which has been really helpful while I am coping with loss and grief.

If you are also experiencing grief, or stressful life events, ask for help.  You needn’t go through it alone.  My GP has been supportive of my need to improve my strength and have counseling.  Often women are the ones who prop up the rest of the family.  While they care for everyone around them, they don’t get their needs met.  Don’t be afraid to speak up.  

When there is more than one stressor in your life, such as the ones I am dealing with, your ability to cope is stretched thin.  Sometimes I wonder what my breaking point is.  Life seems to throw more and more at me.  I don’t have all the answers, as sometimes I really don’t do well.

Allowing the Grieving Process to Take Its Course

What I have learned from grieving in the past is that you can’t avoid it. If you deal with it by using substances like alcohol, you just delay the inevitable.  The only way through grief is to let it run its course.  Those days when you can’t get out of bed because you’re crying so much your whole body hurts, just go with it.  Be kind to yourself and accept that it’s going to take time before life resembles any sort of normality.  

There are some deaths you never get over, like my mum’s.  It’ll be 30 years next year and it’s still hard without her.  Losing someone else close to you reminds you of your previous losses.  Small things remind you of them, and can take you back to a different time and place.  

People Grieve in Different Ways

There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  And every death will be different.  People don’t cope the same way.  Some like to spend as much time with the person while they still can, while others avoid seeing them sick.  Grief can bring out the worst in people, especially when they don’t think the person is dealing with it the ‘right’ way.  Patience and understanding are needed at a time when the whole family is coping with loss and grief.

Even though life won’t be “normal” for me for a while yet, I won’t give up. I have survived other difficult periods in my life and I know I can get through this. If you would like to read more about coping with difficult situations, you may enjoy:

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Mood Boosting Playlist for Midlifers

Mood Boosting Playlist for Midlifers

Music Affects Our Emotions

Music has a positive affect on our emotions.  I have always used music as a tool to uplift my mood.  Spotify sent me my list of songs I listen to the most, and it’s too good not to share.  I have dubbed my playlist the Mood Boosting Song List for Midlifers because listening to these songs never failed to uplift me this year.

Music Evokes Pleasant Memories

Music evokes memories of growing up in a very creative family.  My parents met because dad spotted mum singing in the Church choir.My parents loved music and we were brought up loving a variety of genres from classical music to rock.  My mother was a beautiful singer and I learned to harmonise by singing along to Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel and Fleetwood Mac. At Christmas we would stand around the piano while mum played Christmas Carols, and we’d sing along.  Mum would also entertain by playing the ukelele and singing fun folk songs.

Our family’s love of music goes back generations.  Dad’s father played the piano while silent movies played at the cinema.  Dad had 8 brothers and sisters and they all learned to play an instrument.  As a group they would play on stage to entertain a gathering. Some of the extended family became accomplished musicians.  My cousin played viola for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. 

Mum playing Christmas Carols on the piano while everyone sings along.
Mum playing Christmas Carols on the piano while everyone sings along.

Passing My Love Of Music On

Both my sons both inherited the music gene and can play multiple instruments.  My elder son has played the drums in several bands and has a Diploma of Music.  He has made a business out of creating band tour videos and music videos. My love for music extended to singing in the choir. I taught my younger son to cook while playing our favourite tracks in the background. He is a content writer, but the first expressive material he wrote was song lyrics.

Starting them young - My sons at age four and one
Starting them young – My sons at age four and one

So you could say that music is in my blood. I have used music a lot this year to uplift my soul as it has been a really tough year. Music never fails to improve my mood.

Here is my Mood Busting Playlist for Midlifers:

Mood Boosting Playlist for Midlifers

What music do you use to uplift your mood? Please share in the comments.

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