Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One Year of Copaxone

Wow, can you believe it?  I hardly can.  I have now injected myself with Mr C 370 times... For those of you scratching your head as to what this milestone is, I have been injecting Copaxone for Multiple Sclerosis for a whole year.

I can remember being utterly devastated at the news given to me by my neurologist just over a year ago now.  I had come to accept I had MS, but mostly, from day to day, I could ignore it and get on with my life without anyone really needing to know about it.  I only had sensory symptoms - weird tingling, buzzing and sometimes a first thing in the morning Lhermitte's sign.  Most of these symptoms I put down to other things.  Once I was chatting to my husband about the tingling you get after exercise and he looked at me funny and said, well that must be an MS thing.  So, as you can imagine being told by my neuro that I had some activity going on in my brain (I'm pretty sure he didn't mean thinking!) and that I needed to start medication to calm the inflammation down, spelt out the worst impending doom in my book.

I was point blank, scared out of my wits.  I think while I managed to keep a lovely calm exterior, internally I was preparing for the worst.  I read up about Mr C on the net and found a multitude of nasty symptoms to email my neuro about... he replied calmly and sensibly (of course)... but how could all those opinions be wrong?  Yet I knew I had a responsibility to my young family to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible, thus I knew I would start Mr C and persevere with it.

I remember C day clearly, as if it was yesterday in fact.  My family were all at home and we ever so patiently waited for the MS nurse from MSWA to arrive.  She came in a little white car, was really tall and introduced herself as Ann.  She spent a very long time talking through our concerns in a laconic, yet laid back style.  She knew what she was talking about and this put my mind at ease.  But then it came time for her to give me my first injection.  It seemed to me like she dawdled, dragging it out, when all I wanted her to do was press the auto inject and fire Mr C through my skin and into my fat cells.  I guess time slows when you are experiencing extreme anxiety.  When she finally did press the button, what I felt was nothing like a bee sting, which would have required that I jump up and down and swear quite a lot.  About a minute later a slow burn commenced and a red spot developed.  The red spot grew and finally developed into a welt.

In the beginning, my injections didn’t tickle, but were nothing like a bee sting.  I rotated my injection sites as suggested and would do my stomach, hips and thighs.  I was advised not to do the backs of my arms, firstly because how can you inject the back of your upper arms and secondly because I like to wear sleeveless tops.  The injection sites usually turned into big welts, which lasted a few days.  Sometimes, a few days after the welts disappeared the site would begin to itch.  But you know what, I don't get the welts now, the injections don't sting at all - in fact sometimes the only way I know I have given myself the injection is to check the syringe is empty and unless I am doing a completely new injection site, I don't itch either.  I have given up doing my thighs, because I don't want to risk the dreaded lipoatrophy or pots holes on my thighs because I like to wear bathers/swimmers/a swim suit/cossie/togs in summer and it winter too, for the kids swimming lessons.  I try my hardest to rotate injection sites on my stomach and hips, but I'm a bit too lazy to do the whole diagram thing and mark the exact location of the injection to make sure I don't hit that spot again in four days’ time.  I also know that when I keep a list about certain things I will become obsessive about them... and I don't need that crazy business going on right now.

So since being on Mr C I have had one full MRI of my spinal cord and brain.  My neuro was unconcerned by a small lesion which was not active and did not request that I come in and see him.  I took that to mean Mr C was doing his job and would remain in his fulltime permanent position as a decoy for my immune system.  I have another MRI booked for June/July.  I'm not concerned as currently I have no new symptoms.

So what have I learned in this year of daily injections?  I have learned that there are a lot of websites and social media pages out there that obviously want to help people with MS, but do no more than breed fear through inaccurate information and personal opinion.  I have learnt that many people with MS do not know much about their disease and therefore are frightened by going to these websites and pages.  I have learnt that many people on such websites and social media pages will only talk about their WORST experiences with MS and MS medication.  I have learnt that the average Jo or Joe does not necessarily know the things that I have learnt this last year - that personal experience and opinion does not equal fact about MS.

If you are reading this and you have MS, I beg you to go to highly regarded and well known MS websites where facts about Multiple Sclerosis are recorded and read up on them. Your homework is to get to know your disease.  If you are feeling mentally strong enough, then brave the websites and social media pages where fellow MS-ers write about their personal experiences and voice their opinions.  But if you are feeling fragile then I would suggest that these opinions and personal experiences are not a good place to be.  After all, your personal experience will be different to everyone else - because you are different.  You are not going to know how something will affect you until you have experienced it yourself!

Shall I get off my soapbox now?

I just think about all the worry and concern I spent pondering what might happen when I started Mr C, such as gaining weight and know now that I could have saved myself a whole lot of mental anguish.  I bet many of those people who put on weight while taking Mr C, just started eating more or exercising less but attributed this weight gain to Mr C... you just don't know other peoples circumstances.  However I know myself pretty well and I will continue visiting these web pages that cause me mental anguish, but not because of the problems that Mr C could cause me gleaned from other peoples experiences.  But rather due to ill-informed people with MS teaching and informing ill-informed people with MS. 

Anyways my lovelies, yay me for injecting myself for 12 months! 

Merry Christmas, have a safe and prosperous new year and thanks for reading.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dowerin Field Day Equals Unexpected Fun!

Quite a few months ago now, my non farming background husband decided that he would like to attend the Dowerin Field Day in the small wheatbelt town of Dowerin a couple of hours north east of Perth.  He decided it would be a fun and exciting thing to do after hearing my father, a retired farmer speak about it and reading about it in the local newspaper.  I shrugged my shoulders and was like, "what the hell for, do you plan on buying a great big boom spray, harvester or plough?"

Look I mock, but previous experience tells me that unless you have a passion for farming equipment that generally goes hand in hand with owning a farm - the Dowerin Field Day is not going to be a big highlight on your social calendar.  I do have to point out that the last time I visited the Dowerin Field Day I was fifteen years old.  I probably only went to hang out with my boyfriend, so we could pash in the backseat of his family's car... but that is another story!

In passing I mentioned to a friend, who also does not come from a farming background that I was thinking about going to the Dowerin Field Day.  She got really excited and wished she could go too.  I actually began to wonder what drugs these people were taking to make them so keen to attend a gargantuan show of machinery might, which held absolutely no relevance to their current lives whatsoever.  Further along in the conversation my friend mentioned there was live music - yeah that’s great if you want to listen to some mediocre country music.  "It'll be fun for your kids" - she hit the nail on the head... some things you don't do for your own benefit (quite a lot if you are a mum actually), but my two year old son, Sabin who is an obsessed transport devotee would LOVE it.  I wasn't so sure about my daughter, Chynna - there wasn't going to be any of her favourite things, like dolls, sparkles or bubbles, but she had the day off anyway.  And I can tell you now.... I astound myself with how wrong I can be!

On the morning of the said event, my father, my husband, my two kiddies and I got in the car and commenced our almost two hour journey to Dowerin.  I was seated between the two kids car seats - booooo, because I had the smallest bum - as if that’s any consolation!  The trip, surprisingly was pleasant enough.  There was no crying, no stopping and not much whinging.  But there were plenty of green pastures interspersed with the most gorgeous yellow canola crops of all time.  They were just a sight delight against a clear blue sky.  We also spotted many baa’s, some moo's and a lot of brum brums.

Finally we arrived and were directed to park in a huge paddock, already chock-a-block full of utes and cars.  By this stage, none of us minded the walk to the gate... we had two hours of being couped up in the car.  I had a feeling my dad was pleased to be getting back to his roots and was secretly singing "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" on the inside.  I also think he was excited to be taking his youngest grandson to see trucks and lots of them!  The sky was blue and the air was fresh, so I really didn't have much to complain about.

We made it in the gate and I seriously thought my son's head was going to spin right off - trucks, tractors, bikes, ride on lawn mowers and BIG STUFF everywhere!  It is such a massive show that we didn't really know where to start.  Funnily enough, but rather astutely, we decided on the toilets by the gates!  Our second stop and the first of many where we lifted the kids onto the machinery, was some old tractors and old bulldozers.  My dad used to have a bulldozer and it probably the most entertaining piece of machinery he had when I was growing up.

Time and time again we stopped and put my son into a tractor or truck.  On one occasion there was a display of a variety of orange machinery.  Sabin yet again insisted on sitting in one of the tractors and a salesman came over and chatted with us.  When he walked away, I presumed he doubted we were keen to buy a $30 000 Kubota tractor for my two year old to play with!   He returned with some gifts for the kids - pens with radios in them (which we could never get to work)!  We managed to get the two year old future truck driver out of the tractor, only for him to escape the grip of my father’s hand and get into a small runabout number, one truck over from the one he was just in.  Finally I had to drag him out and he howled like his throat had been cut.  What was I to do?  I just smiled through gritted teeth at anyone who cared to stare and think I was depriving my son of some tractor action, which couldn't have been further from the truth.

 Chynna up to this point seemed to be enjoying herself... just!  However she nearly wet her pants when she saw two big imposing Clydesdale horses standing to attention in front of their cart.  I was very pleased when the drivers waivered the fee for my son, otherwise I would have been up for thirty dollars.  Off we went on a leisurely ride around the show.  Chynna loved it!  She was even more impressed when the drivers revealed they had a cute Boarder Collie pup sitting in the front with them.  No one ever says no to my daughter’s beautiful face, so she got to have a proper cuddle and play with the pup when the ride ended.  I should have charged the other passengers who were more entertained by my kids’ antics than the ride itself... I would have easily have made my money back!

Next stop was lunch, we jostled a bit to get a table, but it was well worth it just to sit down.  I had spied an Indian stand near the Clydesdales therefore I had a chick pea curry and rice and I bought enough naans for everyone.  Everyone else had hot chips and hamburgers. While we were eating I caught a glimpse of a quite notorious West Australian politician - the chair sniffer himself and lad about town, Troy Buswell.  He and his cronies ended up sitting at the table next to us quite by default.  The woman that was sitting at the table waiting for her friend was asked by two nicely dressed men if they could sit at the table as well.  She agreed.  Buswell arrived on the scene and the woman looking a little overwhelmed, had no choice but to engage in conversation.  Perhaps she enjoyed it and maybe I am transacting my own perception onto the situation, but I would have been none too impressed at sitting with a man, known for showboating like a juvenile delinquent!  Although I will admit, he's more handsome than the telly affords him (but he's no George Clooney!)

After lunch we headed towards the Ram Pavilion.  It's kind of embarrassing to admit but I was totally enamoured by the rams.  What on earth for, I hear you lament.  Rams on my farm weren't an animal you could get up close and personal with, but these rams were shed housed, convivial and fully prepared to engage in a bit of heavy patting.  I was smitten as you can tell by the photos!  I was also the passive (well almost) recipient of some Farmer Wants A Wife hoopla.  I just smiled over the farmers shoulder at my husband who refused to enter the shed.  The bubble quickly burst when I was flanked by my eager daughter.  Mr husband smirked and shook his head - I bet he sent her to spoil my fun. We almost left with a Maremma sheepdog.  I wasn't sure whose sheep it would guard, but I guess guarding my chooks or kids (for that matter) wouldn't have been out of the question.

Last but not least... well actually it was least, we entered the Lifestyle Tent.  We were all knackered, so browsing all the aisles was just out of the question.  We did sample some local gourmet food and wine and were suitably impressed. If there is a next time... my plan would be to start in the Lifestyle Tent.

On the way out, we had one more stop at the animal circusy/farm bus.  Chynna got her fill of animal patting in for the day and Sabin just followed his sister’s lead.

 We walked out to the car, hopped in and headed back to the big smoke.  My plan of attack was to fall asleep immediately... it was luckily for me that it was my kids plan as well.

A great time was had... and I will eat my earlier words and recommend it as a fun family outing for all and sundry.  Definitely do some research and planning though.  Thanks Dowerin!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bloody Telstra Issues

Oh my goodness - how long has it been?  Well I kind of have a good excuse.  Do you want to hear it?  No, it's not the of the common dog ate my homework garden variety. Here it is anyways.... 

My internet connection went down, down, down a couple of weeks ago.  I was pretty pissed I can inform you.  Especially because on the morning it disappeared, at the top of my street, there was a Telstra van and a man up to his elbows fiddling about in a manhole.  I had the kids in the car and I was running late for school, otherwise I would have stopped, rolled down my window and yelled, "Hey, what are you doing... am I going to have my internet when I get home?" 

When I got home, of course, I had NO internet - arhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  I had to go out again, but when I returned, my husband asked me if I saw the Telstra man at the front of our house fumbling about in the manhole? Geez louise... no, but if I had of I would have been out there and asking the f**ker where my internet was! 

Thus after reporting my lack of internet to my IP and running through all the stupid checks they make you do of your own equipment, they agreed that it was probably the Telstra man who had caused the issue.  BUT -  just in case, they needed to send out one of their own technicians to review, otherwise I could be billed by Telstra if they came out and found the complication was my fault (for causing a nuisance I presume).  The problem with this is they can not give you a specific appointment time or even narrow it down to morning or afternoon - the best you can get is that they will be there on a specific day between eight and four - however they can give you a "courtesy" call half and hour before they will be in attendance!  This is all well and good if you are not in the middle of a swimming lesson or further than half an hour from home... therefore my time without internet dragged on another couple of days until I could be at my service providers beck and call!

Oh and would you believe it... they found the broadband service to my house fell short about 600 metres, which is about where I saw the naughty Telstra man with his grubby little hands in the manhole on the way to school. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr bloody grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! 

The next step was my IP logging a fault with Telstra and that is where a lot of time was eaten up, waiting for Telstra to get off their bums and fix the problem.  Of course because I am not a Telstra customer they are in no hurry to do anything! 

While I was waiting, not so patiently, I telephoned my IP to check on Telstra's progress.  I had a nice chat and discovered that some rogue Telstra technicians, do not check to see if a line is unused before assigning it a new home.  There is one MAJOR failing with this, besides being lazy and ignorant... broadband does not have a dial tone and sounds like an unused line and this explains why at least once or twice a year my internet connection goes missing in action! 

I should bill Telstra for the nuisance they have caused me.  What I do know is next time I see a Telstra technician working in my area I will be stopping, questioning him and getting his name! Far out.... and now that I have written this saga down I will definitely be phoning the Ombudsman for advice before approaching Telstra regarding this whole cock-up.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

High Tea Shoot

Recently I was involved in a photo shoot with my friend Dee, of Deanna Whtye Photography.  She had seen some advertising calling for photographs of Kustom Cupcakes' glorious little gems of sweetness.   Dee being the creative butterfly that she is envisioned a 50's inspired high tea featuring Kustom's cupcakes.

When Dee put the call out for people to be involved in the shoot... I asked her if she wanted model types... because I'm certainly not 16 years old, 180cm and 50kg.  But luckily for me that was not what she was looking for...  Fortunately I'm not one to shy away from being photographed.  In my late teens I figured out that if I tried to hide from a camera, I would most certainly take a bad picture, with a silly screwed up face.  And as an adjunct to this little morsel of knowledge… when I am scrutinizing a photograph of myself, I am probably the only one who sees flaws, because no one else is interested or looking for them!

When Dee put the call out and qualified that she was not looking for models per say... I jumped at the chance of being photographed by Dee – who is without a doubt an imminent star on West Australia’s photography scene.  She just has this way with a camera... it's kind of hard to explain without actually knowing her.  She is very charismatic and her enthusiasm is contagious.  So consequently you feel great about yourself... less self-conscious and more natural in front of her camera.  The result is relaxed and organic photos with a really authentic feel.  Nothing is forced about her photos and you can see her clients’ personality shining through the photograph at you.  She is self-taught, intuitive and passionate about her work, and I think this is why she is so awesome at her work.  I am such a big fan (gee could you tell by the love-fest she asks blushing); I wish I could have my wedding and children all over again so that she could do my photography.
So arrangements were made, time and dates set and cupcakes collected.  I arrived at Dee's house to find that the group of five "models" had diminished to three.  The other lovely ladies in the shoot were Natalie of Petite Bijou and Jennifer of Jennifer Birkhead Design, and Vivid Health and Fitness both extremely talented and accomplished in their own right.  Unfortunately our makeup artist who was one of the five to be photographed was poorly, so Dee took over this role as well.  She was a little ruffled but determined to see her idea come to fruition. 

After only minimal primping and preening, the three of us were looking like alluring pearled 1950's wives about to indulge in a spot of afternoon tea.  The cupcakes were moved into position and our delicate teacups were filled with tea because there is nothing more ridiculous than lifting an empty cup to your lips.  Champagne was decided against for fear the whole shoot would unravel into drunken revelry.  As the cupcakes were the focus of the shoot, Dee issued some direction about how to hold them, head tilting or sitting, but generally we giggled (like school girls) and chatted among ourselves as the camera clicked away in the background.

Finally it was time to actually take some photos of us eating the cupcakes. My mouth had been watering since first laying eyes on the cupcakes, so after an hour of cupcake foreplay... gazing at the cupcakes, smelling the cupcakes and handling the cupcakes I was more than ready to sink my teeth into the firm icing and soft fresh cake.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that my selected cupcake had a gooey peanutty centre.  Had it not been for the shoot I may have just gobbled my cupcake all up in an instant, but instead I was made to saviour it... taking delicate bites being careful not to smudge my red lipstick!  After two cupcakes, my eagerness to eat more began to wane... quite considerably in fact.  And by the third cupcake I was more than ready to smear it all over my face and be a glamorous 50's housewife, undone!
I had a fantastic time... Thanks to Dee, Kustom Cupcakes and the two other delightful 1950's wives – Jen and Nat.  I think our enjoyment of the shoot really came through in the pics, what do you think?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Desperate Need...

Of some "likes" for my entry into Ctrip's Dream Vacation competition. I think "likes" are probably the most accurate record of how many people are actually voting for each entry in the comp and I think likes will carry a substantial weight in the final result (especially if the judges are alert to and care about cheating).  And it is a super easy thing to do also... so easy my five year old could do it.

So please consider these your super easy instructions... 

Please go here

Next scroll down to my entry, which is entitled, "West Aus Hot for the Cool of China Dream Vacation"

On finding my entry, hit the "like" button.

That's it and thank you for your time. Of course this will only work if you have a Facebook account.

If you decide to read my entry, which is entirely optional, you may wish to leave a comment regarding how super exciting my entry sounds compared to the others.  There is no need for you to read the others, unless you really want to... just believe me when I say my entry is the best!  This again this is entirely your call, however I know some of you are exceptional writers and your comment could increase my chances - use an alias if you wish!

To my regular readers, sorry I have posted about this yet again... unless I win I promise not to mention it here again at any great length.  

Oh, this is an important point... voting closes at midnight, Wed 27th of Sept 2011.  That is Perth, West Australian time (GMT + 8:00).

Please like my entry.  Over and out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Baby Boy's Second Birthday Party Plus Overdrive

A little while ago, my baby boy, Sabin had his second birthday!  I still can't believe he is already two.  Where did that time go?  He is my dream, text book child... I know that sounds horribly like favouritism, but he would be anyone’s dream child.  He sleeps, eats (lots), is sociable, calm and funny.  He's not at all querulous... except when it comes to his toy trains and cars!!

We invited family and close friends to Sabin's second birthday party.  I can hear your brain ticking over... how many close friends can a two year old have?  Well believe it or not, since he was born he has been accompanying me to school with Chynna five days a week and this has resulted in him adopting a second, third and fourth mum and also a second, third and fourth dad.  These are people we see frequently and who Sabin recognises to the degree of running to them and giving them a hug and kiss when they are in the near vicinity.  It's lovely to watch and I totally get a kick out of seeing those second, third and fourth mums and dads loving the attention Sabin pours on them.  He is such a special little petal!

As Sabin is into cars and recognises Lightning McQueen, I decided to make him a racing car cake.  It was pretty simple and turned out a treat.  I also made some chocolate gluten free cupcakes for the gluten intolerant kiddlet and a vegan cake for myself.  I try to mollify everyone's dietary needs because I know what it is like attending a party and being able to eat squat.  Everyone liked the gluten free chocolate cupcakes, but no one liked the vegan cake.  I accidently sprinkled a Japanese salt seasoning on top of it, instead of the Japanese strawberry sugar... these two items were gifts from one of our Japanese homestay visitors and clearly, I cannot read Japanese.  I thought the salt on top was a nice accident!  Kudos to those who tried it. My husband took the day off work and made a meat curry and chickpea curry in the slow cookers for the adult’s party dinner and the kids feasted on tortellini.  

Sabin's Poppy R, rang several days before his birthday and inquired as to what Sabin might like for his birthday.  A few weeks earlier, we were waiting in line at Subway, when in walked a little girl with her mother.  The little girl was carrying a "Hoot" toy owl, the host character from the kids TV channel, ABC2.  Sabin was fascinated with her Hoot, but the little girl was not at all eager to part with or even show her toy to Sabin.  So I said to Poppy R, I haven't mentioned this gift to anyone else - he will totally love it!  I really talked it up because I witnessed Sabin's reaction to the little girls’ Hoot in Subway! 

On the party night, Poppy R was running a little late.  Sabin had already opened many gifts and was very happy with his Chuggington train set and Matchbox car ramp among other things.  I managed to drag him away from these toys and sat him down ready to open the Hoot present.  We all stood around expectantly... he ripped the paper, look at the Hoot and kind of just went, oh big blue soft owl thing so where are my trains at?  What a fizzer... and to this day I still haven't seen him play with the big Hoot.  I say big Hoot, because Poppy R thought he was onto a good thing and bought a hand puppet Hoot as well!  We use hand puppet Hoot as a mobile above his change table!  Not much can compete with cars and trains at the moment... I still feel terrible about my judgement.

After the candle blowing, cake cutting and eating, all family members vacated the premises at a speed of knots, however Sabin's three other mums and dads hung around with their own children... seven in total, nine including mine.  It then became an adult shindig.  The kids were all pretty happy playing together, with only a few adult interventions required.  Slowly but surely the kids were put down somewhere comfy... it's not like we have seven spare beds!  The kids made a few adjustments among themselves... but soon enough, we could not hear anymore carry on!  I noticed all the boys went to sleep before the girls, who were too busy nattering to sleep, is this any surprise to you?

The adult party was in full swing before the kids went to bed, but went into overdrive afterwards.  It was a low key, sit around the table, shooting the shit affair. I guess we all share a similar outlook on life, have quite similar senses of humour and all live pretty close together, so are not constrained by having to drive miles in the middle of the night - some of us even live within walking distance of each other.  I can only speak for myself, but I really enjoy Sabin's super extended family's company and carousing with them regularly really brightens my life, considerably.

What's this boy's birthday going to be like when he turns twenty-one?  Was the question one of Sabin's other mothers was asked when re-telling details of the night.  On her way out, this mother somehow fell out our front door and sprained her ankle.  Another of Sabin's mother's fell off her chair.  I thought I was going to be unlucky number three... but I got away with not a scratch on me.  And to answer the question... I think Sabin will happily ban us from his twenty first birthday.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ctrip Dream Holiday Hopes

Recently I entered Ctrip's Dream Vacation competition. Entry required that I write a short piece about my ideal holiday to China which could include up to 4 cities in 14 days. On my previous jaunts to China I have seen the big draw cards of Shanghai, Beijing and Xian so I decided upon the cities of Harbin, Chengdu, Guilin and Wuxi.
The winner of the Ctrip Dream Vacation comp gets to live their dream with an all expenses paid, dream vacation to China - ie the one I wrote about for myself.
I was over the moon to see that my submission, as selected by the judges, made it into the top 20.  I am really proud of myself.  It was not easy writing about a dream holiday in so few words - there is not much about me that is concise and succinct!
My biggest problem now is getting people to vote for me.
I do not usually win anything... so my hopes are not high and already there are entries with hundreds of votes. I am also honest and do not know enough about computer technology to cheat!!  And I do not have the time or inclination to create millions of email accounts to vote with. So....

I can not win or even be competitive without your assistance.

Voting is no big deal. You have to sign up to Ctrip, but this is quick and simple and at the end of the comp you can easily unsubscribe.

Please go here
My submission is called "West Aus Hot for the Cool of China Dream Vacation"

You can vote once a day until the 28th of September, so knock yourself out! (Please).

I know this is a case of shameless self promotion, but I refuse to be ashamed of this on my own blog!!  If I don't beg (although you can't hear it, thats what I am doing) I won't stand any chance of getting overseas again anytime soon. So pretty please with sugar or chocolate or vegemite on the top vote for me now and if is not too much a pain, can you point a few of your friends or family members in my direction too.  Thanks so much.
Kind Regards

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Ctrip Dream Holiday

As you may know my husband and I taught English in China for about a year in 2005.  We had a super fantastic time... but I fell pregnant way earlier than expected and had to cut our working holiday severely short... goodbye working in Beijing during the Olympics. 

Often on Sunday mornings we would sit up in bed and watch an English program about different cities, sites of natural wonder or minority groups in China.  We came to learn you could probably spend ten years travelling in China and never see everything because it is such a vast, scenic and culturally wealthy country.   And just when you thought you had finished seeing everything in China, you would discover something else utterly jaw dropping that you MUST see. 
When we were there and travelling during our holidays we signed up to a Chinese travel company called Ctrip.  I recently received an email from them about a very cool competition whereby one lucky couple could win a dream 14 day holiday in China.  The parameters were this... be creative - no run of the mill tour, be realistic - up to 4 cities over 14 days and be social - shameless self promotion.  Oh and most importantly be concise - 2000 characters only!!  Far out brussel sprout - if you have read my posts, you know this was a tough ask for me.

Today was the last day for submitting entries.  In total I think there are about 126 entries.  The top 20 submissions, as determined by Ctrip judges, will be put to a public vote - so what do you think my chances are?  (Yes I know I just finished a fourth year statistics unit!)  Are you a glass half empty type person or glass half full?  I guess I'll know the answer on the 14th of September when the judges nominate the top 20 submissions. 

Anyways, here is my submission.

West Aus Hot for the Cool of China Dream Vacation

Living in Western Australia, one doesn’t experience freezing winters. Thus stop one on my Ctrip Dream Vacation would be leaving Shanghai for the winter wonderland of Harbin.  Every year during the peak of summer I watch on the evening news Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival. I wonder at the sheer size of the ice sculptures decorated in colourful lights. I want to be one of those people frolicking in the snow having the time of their lives. After much cavorting and working up an appetite I would relish sampling local delicacies or feasting on some hearty local cuisines. 

My next stop would be the “Heavenly Kingdom” of Chengdu. The obvious reason for visiting this city is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Where else are you going to see gorgeous cuddly Pandas while contributing to their conservation and research? I have dreamed about exploring this place forever! However there is a plenitude of possibilities in Chengdu - Wenshu Temple, Sichuan Opera and spicy hotpot. 

Stop three is Guilin because you’d have to be crazy to miss such exquisite and unique scenery. I could ride a bicycle to see some karst peaks, burning calories gained from eating too much at my previous stops. Though I am informed there is a wealth of restaurants locally. A relaxing cruise down the Li River may be more my speed to contemplate the many picturesque sites. There are many splendid peaks, caves and parks to appreciate and photograph in the region. 

Stop four is the “Land of Fish and Rice” otherwise known as Wuxi. It is not well known, but it has its share of natural beauty, cuisine and culture. I would endeavour to cruise on Lake Tai, visit Turtle Head Park and ride the Star of Lake Tai. I would love to ascend Mount Xi and Hui and explore their vast park. I would ponder the magnificence of the Grand Buddha at Ling Shan and espy the barges as they make their way along the historical Grand Canal. Then I would travel back to Shanghai primed and eager to share my memories with who ever read my posts or cares to listen.

Excited?  Want to take my tour?

Well check back on the 14th of September to see if my submission was in the top 20!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Denmark Trip

You know you haven't written in awhile when an anonymous comment to your last post remarks, "Bored...this post becomes a little annoying to see over and over again."  Ooops, sorry anonymous commenter.

On the MS front, not much is happening right now.  Now can I complain about that?  No way José.  But I have learned something through trial and error.  After a couple of days in a row of encountering very large bruises after my injections I decided I must be doing something wrong.  It occurred to me if I was getting bruises maybe I was pressing too hard on my skin with the auto-injector - I know, light bulb right?  So not only did the bruises not occur if I just placed the auto-injector on my skin... it hurt a whole lot less as well.  So there you go... if you have to inject MS drugs and you are left contemplating angry bruises and pain, double check your injecting technique.

Moving along to Denmark.  Denmark in the south of Western Australia is a small hippie town - my husbands words. It's located 400kms south of Perth and is surrounded by some amazing beaches, forests and wineries. When my bestest bud (BB) mentioned that she and her family were renting a house there for two weeks and would we like to come for a few days... I had to pick my words carefully.  "I'll check with my husband".  The last time I went to Denmark I stayed in a tent, it was freezing and it pissed down with rain.  So did I really want to go - uh, no.  I may have mentioned it to Ryan in passing, but certainly did not place any emphasis on it.  However BB's husband informed Ryan they were going and did we want to come? Oh of course and I was voted off the island, thank you very much.

Now it's not that I don't like cold weather, I do... when you are properly prepared for it and when said cold weather isn't accompanied by rain.  Given that we were mid winter and we were actually heading closer to Antarctica I figured rain would be part of the holiday.  I was careful to pack raincoats and welly's for the kids as well as many warm jumpers and long sleeved tops as possible.  We also packed our minus degree sleeping bags, so I was fairly confident I would not freeze to death in my sleep!

It rained on route to Denmark and was raining when we arrived.  However I was pleased to see that Braidwood Retreat was furnished with many holiday necessities including a wood fire.  But to my dismay it was not lit and roaring away warming the house!  But in the BB's defence they have two small, early to bed rug rats and Dad BB was fishing with their soon to be departing current house guests.

On the first night after the four kiddies were in bed, there was a little alcohol to warm the cockles and much shooting the breeze (my husband says this is the same as shooting the shit, but without swearing!)  I remember we all passed comment about a pic of Kimmy Kardashian's butt poking out of her bikini bottom.  Was the butt big or the bikini bottom small?? Oh the seriousness of it all.  Anyhow, as we were last in the house we drew the sofa bed near the fire... I was not at all unhappy, even with the prospect of being woken by four eager beavers at 6am for I knew I would be warm and snug all night.  Little did I know at midnight I would wake, drowning in a pool of my own sweat.  I got out of my sleeping bag and started peeling off the layers - first the socks, then the pj's, followed by the long johns, I put on my t-shirt and got back into my bag.  An hour later I unzipped my sleeping bag to allow for some much needed ventilation. Eventually I got the temperature right with a leg poking out!

The following morning we headed to the Pentland Alpaca Stud and Animal Farm.  Just ask my husband, but if you want to cheer me up and make me forget about the rain and squelching through mud just put a farm of pattable animals in front of me.  It's even better if I have my two offspring with me so I can spend even more time feeding a cute alpaca, goat, kangaroo, rabbit, lamb, Beryl the big pig, Scottish Highland cows, a pony or koloa all the while encouraging them to have a closer look.  Although Sabin required very little encouragement at all and is seemingly up for anything.  Chynna, on the other hand is going through quite a testing phase of crying when she thinks an animal might eat her instead of eating the food from her hand.  
 After lunch back at Braidwood we took a trip to the cliffs overlooking Ocean Beach, Black Hole and Wilson Head.  I think the heavy cloud coverage made the whole scene more spectacular and all the more foreboding.  We were about to leave when we saw some dolphins, so back to the rocks we headed to see if we would get another chance to see them.  We did and there is video I am taking with my voice saying "bloody" this and "bloody" that several times.  Not in a bad way... I can't help it when I am excited I cuss... I just forgot I was in the company of a highly impressionable three year old.  Needless to say little Master BB started to repeat the word “bloody” as soon as he got in his parents car!  Oops and did I hear about it?  Wash my mouth out with soap.
That night we moved into one of Braidwood's bedrooms.  I put on all my clothes again - yes long johns and pj's and socks then jumped into my sleeping bag.  I woke not long after boiling hot.  First I just took off my pj's - how hot could I be without the fire I wondered?  A little while later, still hot and unable to sleep I had to take off my long johns and socks.  A little while later still, I had to unzip my sleeping bag.  I was still fairly uncomfortable and wished I had brought my cotton sleeping bag insert, but I did eventually fall back asleep.  Ryan also had a similar problem, yet he did not have layers of clothes to take off.  So I think this proves that minus temperature sleeping bags are exactly that, made for minus temperatures – am I the only one who doubted this?

The following day we headed to the Valley of the Giants near Warpole to do the Tree Top Walk.  I have done this several times, but it never gets old - it's so lovely to be amongst the trees.  The walk is a 600 metre boardwalk in the 400 year old Tingle Tree tops.  The kids loved it, especially Sabin who raced ahead of us.  Even though in places we were 40 metres off the ground the safety fences were sufficiently high and unclimbable enough that I did not need to stress about his show exuberance.
Our next stop was Dinosaur World.  The replica dinosaur skeletons and reptiles in the indoor exhibit were just ok.  The feature for me was the sick snake, apparently he had just returned from the local veterinarian ... I don't know about you, but I hope they didn’t pay for its treatment because it looks pretty dead to me!!  The absolute highlight was the bird exhibit.  Before we were joined by the bird handler and before we knew the birds were shoulder friendly I sidled up to a black cockatoo to have a closer look and it jumped on my shoulder.  My dad has a pet weero so I wasn’t particularly perturbed by it’s rather large presence on my shoulder, but it did have one massive beak, which could have easily have taken my nose off if he had felt so inclined. 

The bird handler appeared and he gave a bird to everyone who wanted one.  This was cool, especially because we were the only visitors at that time and didn't have to share.  Then he looked at me and tutted slightly saying that I should be carrying the other black cockatoo.  I didn't dare ask why, but readily handed the one on me over.  It was quickly replaced by the other black cockatoo anyway, who I would have taken home if I had the chance.  Sabin, to all of our surprise, was all for having birds of all sizes on him.  Chynna again decided that she would much rather cry about having a bird on her because it might bite than actually trying it, until the very last second, when she realised she might really miss out.  When we were ready to move on the handler tried to take the black cockatoo off me, it dodged his hands and tried to bite him to which I was informed wasn't a show of mad love, but that a black cockatoo bonds very quickly with whoever might be carrying it, especially if you are female. Boo!
We next entered the kangaroo enclosure and hand fed the kangaroos.  Sabin marched right in and Chynna was again more cautious.  I'm no expert, but I guess this behaviour disparity is due to their ages and stages.  At least Chynna wasn't crying!  The kangaroos were quite underwhelmed and felt no urge whatsoever to get up in our company.  We had been in the enclosure for a while, when I had a thought about lying down next to the kangaroos and having my photo taken.  I think Daddy BB must have read my mind or something, but he saved me from a whole pile of trouble in the form of huge Kangaroo Ticks, which he pointed out on the kangaroos.  I made sure when we all bathed that night that I checked us all over because the last thing you need is a big tick hangin’ off your bum sucking your blood!  Eeek!

That night, you will be pleased to know that I didn't wear my long johns - just my pyjamas.  Unfortunately I still ended up quite warm.  Geez, who would have thunk it?  I really didn't need to worry about getting frozen to death in my sleep, but actually slow roasting in my sleeping bag instead.  So I rather routinely took off my pjs and unzipped my bag to be comfortable enough to resume sleeping!

The following day we headed into town for a bit of a look around.  It was a pleasant enough tour - the shops are highly focused on the tourist market, which is neither here nor there really, except I think the prices were a little inflated as a result.  I was also looking forward to the pie shop, which Mummy BB had mentioned all week.  I had a veggie pie that was so super delicious I wished I had bought two.  We went down to the Denmark River where we were going to feed the ducks, but they were well out numbered by the seagulls, so we fed them instead! FYI, which was nowhere near as fun.  The kids played on the very well equipped playground - yay for tourist towns!  And then we headed home.
Later that afternoon while Sabin was taking a much-needed afternoon nap, the BB crew accompanied by Chynna and Ryan headed off to Light Beach for a spot of fishing and frolicking.  I can tell they had a heap of fun by the photos.  I had a nice moment to sit on the verandah, relax and read a book.  When Sabin woke up I pushed him on the swing for what seemed like hours.  He was happy so I was happy too.  

The final chapter in the sleeping bag saga goes a bit like this...  After three nights of waking up cooking up a storm, I decided I should just open up the sleeping bag and wear a t-shirt as opposed to the several layers I thought I needed to stay warm.  I still woke up during the night to a chorus of "Mummy toilet" but I wasn't all hot and bothered.  Clearly I am a bit slow in the learning by experience stakes...

The next morning we packed the car and tidied up the house before hitting the road for Perth.  I had a really nice break with the BB family and hope that there is many more trips to come.  You will also notice that I only mentioned rain once or twice because it stopped raining on the second day of our expedition south - thank goodness for that...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How Has The World Changed Since Osama Bin Laden's Death

I was lying out in the lovely sun getting my vitamin D today, which is imperative in the winter month for those of us with MS, and of all the things I could be thinking about, I was thinking about Osama Bin Laden.  Don't ask me why I was thinking about him... when I should have been concentrating on my cells turning UVB into vitamin D but I was!

I remember where I was, what I did and how I felt that fateful day almost 10 years ago when the world changed forever.  I went to bed early on September 11th 2001.  The following morning I got out of my bed and opened my bedroom door ready to start the day when my house mate (and dear friend), Cathy pounced on me, almost breathlessly asking, have you heard what's happened?  Nope.  I've been sleeping... soundly!  I perched myself in front of the TV and every station was showing the same thing... planes flying into the towers – was I awake or was this some kind of nightmare, a Hollywood stunt?  I was horrified and shocked.  What was going on?  I couldn't, for the life of me, drag myself away from the set. 

Perhaps by 1pm I decided I should go on my usual early morning walk (it was slightly later than normal but better late than never).  As I walked down my street, I could see Perth's skyscrapers.  All I could picture was ominously low flying planes crashing into them and wondering if I would be covered in debris.  I thought about people jumping from windows way up high and people on the street watching the twin towers imploding in on themselves.  I thought of the families of those people trapped and killed in the towers - the trauma, the disbelief and horror of it all.  Who would do this and why?  Was it the beginning of the end?

For many years I think the "end" may have been far easier to deal with, than the invisible terror lurking just over my shoulders.  I remember talking to my therapist about 9-11.  She suggested it sounded like I had been traumatised by the event... hadn't everyone in some form or another?  It rattled my psyche and reinforced that the world, indeed was a dangerous place.  Average people like me, had never heard of al-Qaeda... let alone knew they held a massive grudge against the west.

So we all probably agree the world has changed since 9-11, but how has the world changed since Osama Bin Laden's death? 

Hmmmmm lets see, what was I doing when I found out Osama Bin Laden was DEAD, er um, I think I was having my breakfast watching Sunrise (a current affairs, chit-chatty morning show).  How did I feel... apathetic? Indifferent? Unmoved?  Maybe I had a brief moment of relief.  Hadn't we all forgotten about him before his death anyway... wasn't he permanently hiding or previously dead or something?

Since Osama Bin Laden's death does anyone feel any safer, or better maybe?  Perhaps the lovely folks of America feel better.  But I think it is unlikely they feel any safer, just like the rest of us.  The jihād leader is brutally slain and even if he was just a "figurehead", I am pretty sure the jihādists are pretty bloody angry and are reading resumes as I write, looking for a new and scarier chief.  I don't know about you, but I don't feel safer - a new leader will need to prove himself and outdo his predecessor.  This equals new terror, more uncertainty and definitely more attacks to come.

Since Osama Bin Laden's death did the world change back to it's blissfully ignorant pre-9-11 self?  Nuh-uh.  What's gone down in the last ten years can't be undone.  There are still thousands of people dead, there are still thousands of people grieving, there are still invasive security checks at airports, there are still people wary of Muslims and burqas and there is still no safe haven in the world where terrorism can't happen.  What's done is done and we are scarred for life.  Luckily we are a resilient bunch and what is new (and sometimes horrible) soon becomes normal and routine.

Did al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations just shut up shop since Osama Bin Laden's death? Ummm... NO!  HELL NO, now they are angrier and looking for revenge.  They are probably recruiting like never before.  I bet there are many who would be willing to avenge their hero's death.  Osama Bin Laden evaded death for ten whole years... is that a good deterrent?  Not if everything I learnt about punishment all through my life and at university is correct.  Punishment should be swift, otherwise you won't learn from it... and neither will anyone else.  Not that anyone could forget about 9-11, but any future Osama Bin Laden's will be happy to try their hand at terrorism, knowing that they have a good life expectancy, can go into hiding, get married, have some ankle biters, send out secret memos and go down quickly in a blaze of glory - never to be forgotten.

Did the world's troops get yanked out of the Middle East since Osama Bin Laden's death?  Nope.  The troops are still fighting the war against terror - whatever that is (or was).  As of the 6th of June 2011 there have been 2433 coalition deaths in Afghanistan as a part of ongoing coalition operations since the invasion in 2001.  Australian's have been killed 28 times up to the 6th of June 2011 (there have been more in the last month), with 182 soldiers wounded.  That is 182 Australian lives turned up-side-down - irrevocably changed forever and 210 plus families who will never ever be the same again.  The organisation, icasualities ( puts America's death toll for this year alone at 243.  What's my point?  Did the world's troops get pulled out of the Middle East since Osama Bin Laden's death?  They didn't and they continue to die because of Osama Bin Laden - his legacy lives on.

How different would the world be if Osama Bin Laden was captured immediately after the 9-11 attacks?  Perhaps dramatically - he wouldn't have been able to continuously call all of his jihādist brothers and sisters to arms, maybe there would have been less attacks on places such as Bali and maybe we would have had just one huge hiccup and returned to our blissfully (little less) ignorant pre-9-11 self.  Or perhaps it would have made no difference.  Maybe after 9-11 we were set on a collision course with terrorisim regardless of Osama Bin Laden's input.  I guess I will never know.

Is it better Osama Bin Laden is dead?  Maybe for the families who lost loved ones.  Was his death too quick and easy for him compared to those who died in the towers and those troops who have died?  Would it have been better if he was prodded into a prison cell all on his lonesome and forgotten?  Maybe, maybe not.  Prison is not all its cracked up to be.  Osama Bin Laden was human (I know right) and he would be entitled to three meals a day, clean clothes, likely have access to the media, ie a TV and newspapers and he would still likely be able to see his family.  I did not rejoice in his death... but it really is hard to deny a human his basic rights, so maybe prison, as we know it may have been too easy for him.  I don't have the answer about what was the best outcome for Osama Bin Laden - death or prison and I guess I don't need too now.

So how has the world changed for the average Joe since Osama Bin Laden's death.... well it hasn't as far as I can tell.  I still have my beautiful family, I still have MS and I still have bills to pay but I do hope and pray the world will be a little safer as a result of his death and that less people suffer now he is gone…