Friday, January 28, 2011

Townsville Project!

Trish Lovedayhas been a foster carer in Townsville for over 15 years . During this time she and her partner have provided a home for over 100 children. 

These placements have included short term of 1 or 2 nights right up to long term placements including a placement of a sibling group for over 9 years. 

In 2009 Trish and her partner were the North Queensland Recipients of the Foster and Kinship Excellence Award in recognition of their dedication to fostering. 
Trish has been actively involved in many different aspects of fostering within her local community and has a passion for providing children entering out-of-home care placements the opportunity to feel safe and protected. 

When not engaged in different roles of being a foster carer, Trish is an active committee member of La Luna Youth Arts, and has an interest in many different aspects of the theatre. 

 Here you can see that Trish and her team have been busy, collecting, sorting and packing!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A prize for writing, a prediction?

The day Cyclone Larry hit us, I won second place in a writing competition with this short story.

The Cyclone
She sat. Unbelieving eyes staring through the shards of glass still clinging to the window frame. Her breath came quickly now, the smell of sodden earth saturating her nostrils.  Sickness welled up inside her rigid torso. The vomit came suddenly and violently, no longer trapped within her will.  The young woman let it go, she let it all out. Vomit, tears, screaming, beating the floor with her fists, shaking, trembling and then finally nothing.  Could it really be that she felt nothing.  What about the man at her side?  She looked down at him.  No, there was nothing, no feeling, no love, just nothing.

She put his hand over his chest and tried to stand.  Her legs were still wobbly, so was her head for that matter. Her long dark, matted hair fell over her shoulder and into her tear soaked eyes as she forced herself off the floor.

Finally upright, she was able to take stock of the damage to their home, at least, it used to be their home.  She looked at her husband again.  His face looked so peaceful.  Like a deep sleep.  He’ll wake soon, and then they can start to rebuild their home, their lives.

As she walked through the house towards the back door she heard a yelp, then a cry and then another yelp. Oh God, the dog!
She moved as fast as her tired brain would let her, manoeuvring over broken furniture and slushy, sludgy water.  It got deeper towards the back door.  That damn creek never did empty properly when there was a big wet. 

Pushing the tangled hair out of her face, the young woman stood on what was left of the back steps and listened. Yep, there it was again that yelping and wait, was that splashing? Yes! Over by the shed she saw her beloved mongrel dog crying and clawing his way onto the guttering.
“Hey boy! Come on, here I am!” The sound of his mistress’s voice visibly excited the little animal and from somewhere he found the strength to swim into her waiting arms.
“Oh, baby I thought you were a goner. I told you to stay...” she roused, but just barely.  They were both happy to be safe and held.  “I’m gonna put you down now darling, just stay close to mummy ok?”

Once inside, the little black dog ran through the slushy water into the master bedroom to shake himself dry and to roll on the bed sheets.  But a horrible shock was in store for the small refugee.  There was no warm dry bed, no soft doona or fresh carpet to roll on.  Everything in the house was drenched and in disarray.  Confused, the dog ran to find his mummy.

He found her sitting again by what was left of the front window, next to her sleeping husband. The little doggie was careful not to wake the boss; he’d nearly drowned and didn’t want a smack as well.  Instead he climbed into his mummy’s lap, turned around three times and cuddled in for a well-earned nap.
Absently she stroked the creature.  He was warm, wet and shivering but he’d be o.k.  As she stroked the dog she reached out and took her husbands hand in hers.  It was cold.  Maybe she should get him a blanket, but they were all wet.  He’d have to wait; he’ll be right while he sleeps.

Sleep, hmm if she just closed her eyes for a moment everything would be alright.  She was safe, it was over now surely.  Everything was so still and quiet. Not even the sound of rain in the distance.

Her eyes closed – There he was. Damn he was handsome.  She felt like the luckiest woman on earth.  Look at him in that Hawaii shirt and the chain of plastic flowers around his neck, such a dork, yet the love of her life.  He had chosen a brightly coloured shirt covered in lovely dark haired women wearing nothing but grass skirts and coconut shells.  He’d said they reminded him of her, dark hair big breasts.  He’d gotten a playful slap across the cheek for that comment, especially in front of her father!

She was wearing an orange and yellow sarong and exactly the same type of chain of plastic flowers around her neck, not to mention a huge smile and overwhelming feeling of love and delight.  She was finally marrying the man she loved.  The only man who made her feel special, beautiful, intelligent, happy and most importantly . . . loved.  When he smiled so did she, when he was sad so was she, when he was tired or angry or happy or anything at all, so was she! It was good to be in love.

What a perfect day this was to be wed.  The beach was shady this late in the day and the pelicans were using their magnificent bills to find that last feed before bedtime.  Looking out over the water the couple could see the tell tale signs of small bait fish being chased by something larger.  They watched as the water bubbled and rippled over the small waves as a stingray leapt out of the water and splashed down in the middle of it’s prey. The waves fell gently on the shore as the tide slowly crept its way in.

After the ceremony the couple was joined by various necessary people for a brief photo shoot before the light faded. A pink sunset concluded the afternoon’s events as everyone retired to the marquee for drinks and a barbie.  It was nothing fancy, but it was the happiest day of their life together so far.  Perfection, even down to the old school friend and his band they had hired to play during the reception.
Of course they wouldn’t accept cash, but they did drink their fair share of free alcohol during the evening.  The couple’s first dance together was unforgettable. ‘Till there was you’ was the newlyweds special song, chosen by him which made it all the more special for her. 

He was her best friend, lover and now husband. What a beautiful life they had to look forward to, and what a beautiful place they had chosen to live.
Both of them had grown up in the ‘big smoke’ down south.  It was cold and damp, rushed, crowded and unhealthy.  Here, in this small seaside town they had found peace and harmony.  They were glad to have made the move, quick to make friends and even quicker to fall in love with the lifestyle.  Laid back, quiet, relaxing, neither of them missed the traffic or the noise. 

They felt like they had found paradise.

“Sarah! Sarah! Mick … are you guys in there?!” Shaken from her dream they young woman clambered to her knees, forgetting about the dog, her husband and her exhaustion.
“Dave, is that you? We are in here, in the front room,” Sarah called out the front window through the broken glass to the elderly man in her, in what was her front garden.
“I’m coming up, just you stay put.  Where’s Mick?” Dave had already begun to move the small boat towards the place where the front steps used to be.
“We’re o.k, I found the dog but I haven’t seen the chickens anywhere. I hope the chickens are alright.”
Dave tethered the tinny and climbed into the damaged house. Sarah reached out for his arm to help steady him and found that it was she who needed the steadying!
“Love,” said Dave,” you need to sit down.” The pensioner helped her to the floor and tucked a knotted mess of hair behind her ear.  He looked her over and decided that she was uninjured. Sarah managed a weak smile and forced back the tears that had started to overflow again.

As Dave looked around he noticed Mick lying by the front window. He smiled at Sarah as he called out, “Hey, fella. You got yourself a good woman here, very brave. Mick?”
“He’s sleeping,” droned Sarah. 
Dave walked the few paces to where Mick lay. Comprehension dawned on the old man’s face. He knelt by Mick and patted his hand, “It’s o.k mate.  We’ll look after her for ya.”
“When he wakes we’ll have to start cleaning up,” Sarah’s voice sounded miles away. She was staring out the front door.
Dave just nodded, “Sure love. How about we get you into some warm clothes and I’ll come back for Mick a little later.”

Without looking at him, Sarah stood and headed towards the boat.  The dog was already there, asleep on the life jackets.  Sarah climbed in while Dave undid the rope.
Silently her friend pushed away from her house, her husband and headed down the street.
The young woman did not look back.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Post Traumatic Stress

This is quite a personal post and it's been prompted by the flood disaster.

In March 2006 our town, Innisfail was hit, bashed and smashed by Category 5 Cyclone Larry. Our town was devastated by not only the cyclone, but by the 3 or 4 months of continuous rain and storms afterwards. Not light showers... rain, wind and more rain.

I distinctly remember yelling at my partner and my stepson for going for a sightseeing drive after the cyclone had passed. They took photos of the destruction and I refused to look at them. I should point out that my partner was checking on his place of business.

I busied myself with cooking on the gas bbq and making sure we had enough drinking water, looking after the school guinea pig (which I'd just got for the kids the week before, and which was renamed Larry that day), my little black mongrel dog and worrying about my cats and chickens that I'd had to leave at my house, (I wasn't living with Bruce at that time).

During the cyclone I think I was in a daze. I couldn't sit and watch the debris fly past our front door like the rest of the people in the house. I just sat and hid and rocked behind the couch.

We lost nothing really. Our roof stayed on and we only had one window crash in.

But to say I was terrified would be an understatement. I really, really thought we were going to die. I know people say that all the time, but until you actually feel it, you just can’t imagine the fear, the smell of fear, even the sound of fear . . . your whole body tingles and trembles with it.

The worst was to come however. Eventually I did have to leave the house to check on some relatives and friends. I did have to drive through the destruction on a daily basis on my way to work.

I was expected to 'counsel' the students at the school I was working at. I was expected to clean up the school grounds, my home, my partners home and somehow keep it all together.

It was like moving in a dream.

I broke down one day and yelled and screamed at my stepson, (something I had never done before), and burst into uncontrollable sobbing. Obviously there was something wrong with me, but I didn't know what.

Devastation to Brenden Collins banana crop as ...
Every time I drove to work past all the flattened banana plants and sugar cane, past the dump trucks and fallen trees, past the houses that had literally exploded and via at the work crews on the roads, I would feel sick. I was trapped in a nightmare.

And the really stupid thing was, I was fine, my house was fine except for some water damage, wet carpet and some fences down. My partners place was fine, my dad’s place was fine.

My best friend had to move her young family from the caravan park they were holidaying in to her parents house . . . which lost its roof for a while, then when the wind changed direction it slammed back on again.  My
partners sister and her family lost everything as their house blew away from around them while they huddled under a mattress in what used to be the bedroom.  Several of the kids at school told me of how the walls of their home ‘flew away’ or their roof ‘went up’ in the sky. Parents were shaken and teary as they dropped their kids off for the day, and I was supposed to reassure them!

I had ‘survivors guilt’. I just couldn’t understand why I could possibly feel so stressed when I was ok and unhurt, we had our home, a generator, food and unfortunately we were able to make the tv go each night for the news updates.

I say unfortunately, because that was the last thing I needed to see.

So, I guess this was the beginning of my anxiety and panic disorder. Pretty sure it all started off as
post traumatic stress. I had nightmares every night through the constant wind and rain for months after the cyclone, being expected to counsel children and parents through their ordeal and receiving no counseling myself.
Just the act of traveling to work over the next year through all the devastation and the painfully slow rebuilding and clean up process was putting extra pressure on my nerves.
TempestaImage via Wikipedia

By the start of March the next year I thought I was really turning into a ‘fruit loop’. I couldn’t bare the
drive to work anymore, but I did it. When the storms came in the arvo I cringed, but I got through it. Little things at work started to get to me. I couldn’t make a decision without second guessing myself.

I stopped sleeping and starting drink 4 or 5 coffees a day with 3 or 4 sugars just to get through the day. We started eating baked beans on toast several times a week for dinner and in the end my partner just did the cooking while I lay on the couch or cried in the shower.

What was wrong with me?!
On The Threshold Of Eternity, by Van Gough

I carried my work with me everywhere I went, but it never got done, (not to my high standards anyway), and eventually I wound up crying through the Huggies commercials and could no longer watch Neighbours because it was too stressful!

I lost weight, I put weight on, I slept a lot or hardly at all, I loathed myself for being so weak and wanted to hide in my room with my cat.  But I didn’t, I just kept on going . . .  until I couldn’t go on anymore.

I took leave from work, saw a doctor and went on an overseas holiday with my partner (which we’d had planned for months and was the best thing I could have done). I took more leave when I got home, which wasn’t very helpful as I just sat around the house and in the end, I couldn’t even leave the house without having a panic attack.

I went back to work, without receiving any proper medical treatment and by the end of the next year I had had another melt down.

The good news is, once I did get proper medical treatment  . . .  and yes people, that means a ‘shrink,’ I started to get better.
Psychiatrist Gottlieb Burckhardt
Ok, my shrink doesn't look quite like this , but you get the idea!

It’s been a long road, but I’m better now. Not cured, just in remission. Like a cancer, the type of illness I had needs to be monitored and lifestyle changes MUST take priority so I can stay healthy.

Am I ashamed to say I had a mental illness? . . .  nope. I am pissed off that I didn’t take better care of myself and it’s probably the same reaction I’d have if I was in remission from cancer.

If you see yourself in any of this story, please go to your doctor and talk to them. More importantly, don’t downplay your symptoms, insist on seeing a professional counselor and then later on if you need to, see a shrink. There are free programs your Dr. can put you on.

Of course, this is only a very vague summary of what happened to my life. There is much more, much deeper stuff that went on.

I’m writing this for the people who survived the floods and fires and any other catastrophe to say – it may take 6 months or a year, but if these symptoms start appearing in your life, don’t dismiss them, get help.

It’s so true that in times of need we can pull together to get through it, however it’s the aftermath that we may need to be looked after.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Post Christmas clean up

A bauble on a Christmas tree.Image via Wikipedia
How was your Christmas? Lots of fun and busy, busy, busy? If you have kids, did they get inundated with lots of pressies? I bet they were excited! I love it when Santa comes to visit :o)

So.... what are you going to do with all the toys the kids don't want anymore? Please don't tell me you are going to bin them! Consider donating the ones in good nick to your local charity shop or foster care agency, (no junk though, these kids have been through enough).

Personally, I'm a bit of a 'bah humbug!' when it comes to Christmas. It's starts way to early for me, like - October! Just as Easter apparently has begun with the eggs already on shelves in some places.

I'm all for the Christmas spirit, but I really think it should be all year round. I'm pretty sure that's what the bearded guy who died on the cross was after. (I went to a Catholic school, but I'm not Catholic, more Agnostic).

Maybe the shops start Christmas so early because they think the Christmas spirit should start earlier as well! Doubt it though LOL!

It's the blatant marketing to the kids that really gets me. Fair enough if you don't subscribe to the fella upstairs but still, I think the whole idea of 'giving' at Christmas has been lost. For kids it seems to be about 'getting' the latest whatever it is and chucking a tanty if they don't get it under the tree!

So I have to ask, do you encourage your kids to make or purchase Christmas presents for family members or friends? If they get pocket money, do they buy mum or dad a gift (with help from the other parent obviously) and wrap it and put it under the tree?

When I was a kid, Dad would 'secretly' give me and my little brother $20 to buy something for mum, and Mum would 'secretly' do the same thing!!! (we didn't get pocket money and still had to do our jobs!).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

We did it! Goal Smashed :o)

Donation Thermometer

We did it!
Actually we've packed 1230 backpacks!!!

New goal!

Donation Thermometer

 Thanks to the Perth Project who packed 500 backpacks all on their own! The Townsville Project has packed about 100!
Of course this doesn't include all the little extra bits that get sent to the agencies like shoes and toys etc. as well as toiletry packs and towels and school backpacks for our local youth shelter.

While I'm really chuffed at this achievement, it still saddens me that this needs to be done at all. It does, however, continue to amaze me just how generous people are. None of this could have happened without you... the reader! You became an active participant in our goal and you are a big part of the reason we have been able to help so many kids in care.

Thank you :o)

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