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.

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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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Gift Ideas for Someone Who Is Sick

Gift ideas for someone who is sick

Gifts that Bring Comfort to a Sick Person

It can be difficult to buy a gift that brings comfort to someone who is sick.  I have been on both sides of the sick role, as patient and nurse. While it is common to buy the usual chocolates and flowers, I will suggest alternatives that show you have put a little thought into the gift.

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure.

Edible Gifts

Hospitalised people usually love a gift of their favourite food and drink.  Please check with the hospital first. Some hospitals have policies that ban home cooked food, or the patient may be on a restricted diet.  

Peppermint tea is very good for abdominal pain and is allowed on most diets.  Camomile tea may be used to aid sleep.  Most hospitals only supply black tea and coffee, and cows milk. If there is any other favourite beverage this usually goes down well.  Highly carbonated drinks are not a good idea for anyone who has had abdominal surgery as the gas can cause bloating and abdominal pain.

Fresh fruit is preferable to sweets and chocolates.  It is better for digestion and healthier.  Plain biscuits may be appreciated if the recipient is on a bland diet or has a lot of nausea.  Home made clear broth is usually allowed even on the strictest diet.  Other home made pureed soups are great because they are nutritious without being difficult to eat.

For people with a poor appetite, or those recovering from surgery or an injury, high protein snacks and drinks help with healing.

Gift Ideas for Someone Who is Sick.  A collage of suggested gifts - A soft blanket, reading material, peppermint tea, fruit, warm socks, books and magazines
Gift Ideas for Someone Who Is Sick

Gifts that bring Comfort

My boomerang pillow has been a vital comfort whenever I have been in hospital. Hospital pillows aren’t very soft, and a boomerang pillow helps me position myself comfortably.

A soft, warm blanket helps with comfort as well.  Because hospital rooms can be drafty, a small blanket or shawl can help to keep their shoulders warm when they are sitting out of bed, or can wrap around their legs.

Some people really feel the heat so a small portable fan can be a welcome relief.

A wheat bag or heat pad alleviates pain.  Check that the hospital policy allows it, and avoid using heat packs for elderly people or those with altered conscious levels as they can cause burns.

Wearable Gifts

Slippers should be chosen for safety as well as comfort.  Make sure they fit correctly and avoid scuffs for older people.  Badly fitting slippers account for many falls in elderly people.  See my post, Gift Guide for the Older Gentleman in Your Life for more suggestions on gifts for elderly people.

Pyjamas, a dressing gown and socks are nice gifts for someone who is sick.  Offering to do their washing is a very thoughtful suggestion.  

Other Gift Suggestions

Other gift ideas for someone who is sick include:

  • Things to while away the hours, e.g. packs of cards, puzzle books, magazines, books, games, DVDs or hand held games.
  • Toiletries, especially toothpaste and toothbrush, comb, body wash.
  • Offer to help with chores while they are recovering.  For those on restricted movement, offering to walk their dog or pick up some groceries would help.
  • Sometimes just being there to listen can be appreciated.  Being unwell, whether it is an acute illness, injury or surgery, or a chronic illness, can leave someone isolated and lonely.  Being a good listener can be more important than any gift.

I hope you found these gift ideas for someone who is sick useful.  If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy:

For all your wellness products, buy from The Well Store, Australia.  

Purchase gift hampers from Gifts Australia.

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A Positive Attitude Can Improve Your Quality of Life

A Positive Attitude Can Improve Your Quality of Life

A positive attitude can improve your quality of life and contribute to longevity and improved health as you age.  A positive attitude to life has been shown by studies to increase your lifespan by 11 to 15%, and increase your odds of living to 85 years or more.  Other benefits of optimism include stress reduction, improved immunity and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.  It improves resilience to illness and contributes to happiness, leading to a richer, more fulfilled life  (Source VeryWellMind.com).

My Observations of Elderly Patients

 As a nurse I have developed the opinion over many years, that if you make it to your 80s and 90s, you are often healthier than the 50 or 60 year old in the next bed.  That generation was made of steel and their inner strength comes from having to survive and thrive during so many hardships.  In their eight or nine decades they have seen wars and hardships like no other.

The Strongest Woman I Know Is 85 Years Old

The strongest woman I know is my 85 year old mother-in-law.  Strength can be measured in physical terms, but in this case the strength is her inner strength and fortitude. Over three years ago she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  She was offered treatment but she declined as it wouldn’t have cured her.  While her family fell to pieces she declared “I feel fine!  What are you all upset about?”

She got on with life and it was easy to forget she had incurable cancer and other health issues.  She has always been very active and sociable and cancer didn’t slow her down.  Off she went to bingo and lunch with her friends, carrying on life as usual.

Gwen has not only survived, but thrived.  She refused to change her lifestyle and continued to live life to the fullest.  She’s the type of person that cleans up and moves all the furniture before the cleaner comes.  We offered to help her and my father-in-law but they push on, staying as independent as they can in their own home.

A Positive Attitude Can Improve Your Quality of Life

We often complained about our aches and pains and other physical ailments.  Gwen would sit and listen to us all moan, then would pipe up with “You’re all falling apart!  I feel great!”  She put us all to shame because she never complained, and rarely has had a day in bed.  If she goes to bed during the day we know she’s really sick. Her positive attitude and stoicism has helped her maintain her health.

A positive attitude can improve your quality of life and contribute to longevity and improved health as you age.
A positive attitude can improve your quality of life and contribute to longevity and improved health as you age.

The Cancer Has Progressed

This year we’ve all noticed her slowing down, becoming more short of breath and looking pale and gaunt (under the makeup of course!).  One day she coughed up blood, which gave us all a fright.  My sister-in-law persuaded her to go to hospital to be checked.  Remarkably she’s never been in hospital other than that time, and another time when I called the ambulance because she was having chest pain.

The scans revealed that the cancer has grown and now 90% occludes her bronchus – the main airway to her left lung.  It spread from the initial tumour on her left chest wall to surround all the major blood vessels and organs beneath her sternum.  It’s finally catching up with her and she only has a limited amount of time left.  Mind you, she was given 9 months to live over three years ago so she’s far surpassed anyone’s expectations.

Staying Active Keeps You Healthy

Her positive attitude and get-up-and-go is the reason she is still here with us.  If she had decided to slow down, sit around and accept our help, I have no doubt she wouldn’t have still been here.  Just by being more active (she even still does her exercises) she has kept her physical strength up, and not allowed her body to degenerate.  

If she had lain around, she would have been at higher risk of developing pneumonia because her lower lungs would collapse and trap mucous in their bases.  Just by keeping active she has prevented this common cause of death in the elderly.  Both my parents-in-law have had influenza and other upper respiratory infections during the last few years, and miraculously have pulled through every time.  

Just seeing how the two of them have not only survived, but thrived, is so inspirational.  My own father lost most of his mobility over the last two decades of his life because he enjoyed being waited on hand and foot.  I remember encouraging him not to sit around when he was only in his 60s.  Use it or lose it.

Strong Family Connections Are Important

My husband’s family have always lived within 10 minutes of each other which is in contrast to my own.  I had no family around when I was bringing up my sons as a single mother, so it was a shock to the system to suddenly have so much connection with family.  That connection has contributed to my parents-in-law living such fulfilled lives.  My nieces and nephew don’t know how lucky they are to have so much contact with their grandparents in their 20s.

Keeping Mentally Active Improves Quality of Life as You Age

Keeping mentally active has also played a part in their quality of life.  My mother-in-law does puzzles and crosswords, while my father-in-law has a keen interest in documentaries.  He tinkers with the boat and has always been a keen gardener.  We always get great advice on gardening and home improvements from my father-in-law.

Living Life Without Regrets

The one thing I’ve seen in common with my father and my parents-in-law is that they don’t fear death.  They have lived long productive lives and don’t live with regret.  They have strong connections with their families and look forward to being reunited with their loved ones that have gone before them.  My dad was incredibly peaceful and serene when he was on his death bed despite severe pain.

We can’t choose the day we die (unless we commit suicide) but we can live our lives in such a way that the quality of life is maximised.  Keeping physically active and emotionally connected to our families – having a purpose in life – is vital if we want to live life to the fullest like my mother-in-law.

Our Family’s Loss Will Be Acutely Painful

We will all be devastated when we lose her.  The heart of the family will be gone.  We’re all dreading the day.  My sister-in-law and I lost our mothers when we were newlyweds so we know what it’s like.  30 years later and I still miss her.  Our husbands don’t know what being without your mother is like.  I just hope I can be strong enough to help my husband through the grieving process as he has helped me.  I lost my sister suddenly and my father after a long battle with prostate and pancreatic cancer, and Phil has supported me through both those losses.

We’re planning a surprise high tea garden party for my mother-in-law’s 86th birthday in three weeks.  If she can make it through her birthday, then Christmas, then my father-in-law’s 90th in January, we will be relieved.  We’ve had her for borrowed time already but that would be a bonus.

Stay Positive – It Will Improve Your Quality of Life

Elderly people who maintain their quality of life have much to teach us.  A positive attitude and a sense of optimism will not only improve your quality of life, but it will help you live longer.  Embrace all that life has to offer.  Keep strong ties with your family and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Your health will be enhanced if you stay active and continue to exercise your mind. Above all, a positive attitude can improve your quality of life as you age.

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Christmas Shopping During a Pandemic

Christmas shopping in a pandemic

The Added Stress to pre-Christmas Preparations

Christmas shopping has taken on a new focus this year.  Normally the shops are packed leading up to the big day but this year the pandemic has added a level of anxiety to this already stressful period.  Now we have social distancing to consider, with limits to the number of shoppers allowed in at one time.  Christmas shopping during a pandemic is even more stressful than it normally is.

Many people aim to avoid the shops for fear of getting sick, especially if they are in a high risk category.  Online shopping is a growing sector of the market as shoppers strive to avoid the crowds.  It is best to purchase as early as possible because delivery may be delayed due to demand this year.

Christmas gifts under a decorated Christmas tree.  Online shopping is the answer to Christmas Shopping during a pandemic.
Christmas gifts under a decorated Christmas tree

Christmas Shopping During a Pandemic Is Stressful  

Personally I find Christmas shopping to be very stressful at the best of times.  The noise level gets on my nerves, with annoying sound tracks (never the nice versions of favourite Christmas carols) competing with screaming kids.  The pressure to buy the perfect gift is very high.  I had a full blown panic attack in the toy aisle one year.

Over the years my Christmas list has become shorter and shorter as the kids grow up and the adults agree to not buy presents for each other.  I try to do my Christmas shopping very early in the year to avoid the rush.  Most of my presents are purchased through online shopping this year.  Online shopping is my answer to avoiding the crowds and lower my stress levels. This post aims to introduce a few unique online sources of gifts.

Avoiding the Crowds with Online Shopping

I’m an affiliate for the following companies which means I will earn a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.  Please see my full disclosure.

There are always a few people that are hard to buy for.  They’re the ones who are picky, or they have everything.  We’ve resorted to buying gift vouchers in the past but I definitely prefer to buy something meaningful.  

Christmas Shopping in a Pandemic - Online shopping is the answer to avoiding Christmas stress.  Photo of a woman using a laptop while resting.
Christmas Shopping in a Pandemic – Online shopping is the answer to avoiding Christmas stress.

Gifts Australia

If you are scratching your head trying to find a unique present, take a look at the Gifts Australia website.  They have some wonderful gifts on their site.  You can search for presents according to who will be the recipient, the price range and the occasion.  They offer free delivery over $99 within Australia, free gift wrapping and a gift card.  I love their hampers as they are full of quality goods and beautifully presented.

The Well Store

If someone on your list is health conscious, or vegan, or loves environmentally friendly products, have a look at The Well Store.  Their range is extensive so you are sure to find a unique gift.  Many people are making these lifestyle choices so buying them a thoughtful gift will be much appreciated. All of the products sold by The Well Store are non-toxic, natural, organic and cruelty free. The Well Store offers free delivery within Australia for purchases over $30, and Internationally for purchases over $50.

HideAWAY Bath and Body

Beautiful skin care, body and bath products can be purchased for someone special at HideAWAY.  This is a local company who handcraft their skin care range from locally sourced natural ingredients.  With names like Black Sugar, Frangipani Dream and Fantasea, their unique fragrances are very enticing.  A lovely gift from their range would be perfect for someone who appreciates prioritising time for self care. HideAWAY offers free shipping for purchases over $120.

Amazon

If you live further afield, you may prefer to do your online shopping from Amazon.  Amazon’s website showcases gift ideas for all price ranges and gift categories. I’m waiting impatiently for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to complete my Christmas shopping for the year.  Black Friday is November 27 while Cyber Monday is 30 November.  These sales are eagerly anticipated as the discounts are huge.  

More Ideas to Help With Your Christmas Shopping

I have written two previous articles which you may like to read:  Gifts that Inspire a Healthy Lifestyle and Gift Guide for the Older Gentleman in Your Life.  I also have a free eBook “Survival Guide for the Holiday Season”.  It helps you reduce your stress and keep on track with your healthy lifestyle during this busy season. Christmas shopping during a pandemic doesn’t need to leave you stressed and run down.

How about you – do you love Christmas shopping or does it stress you out?  Are you someone who buys everything early, or do you leave it til the last minute?  I’d love to read your thoughts on this.

Shared in Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan Blogs

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