That liberating feeling! (Part 1)

It’s weird to think that a week ago today I was finishing the final day of the Salkanty trek, ending up at the base camp of Machu Picchu……

Now I am sitting in my all to familiar little abode with the spring breeze floating through the house, the suns out and I feel liberated, free and totally self satisfied!!

The South American trip was two years in the making! It’s hard to believe now that it is over.

I am still in awe of what we did as a team! I mean who can say they have built three fully functioning toilets for a small kindergarten class that were using the small patch of dirt behind their classroom as their toilet??

Well I can and the 8 students who came with me can!

It’s amazing what hard work, being a team and basically pushing through the mental and physical barriers of being exhausted, adjusting to altitude and an overall lack of sleep can produce.

Arriving at the camp, day 2 of being in South America, our view snow capped mountains that stretched for days! Tents, our accomodation.

I was totally overwhelmed with where we were and what we were about to undertake. Would we finish our project in time? Would we all adjust to the altitude? Would anyone get sick? All these thoughts, racing through my head.

I laugh now as all it took was looking out at the view and we had to realise that we had already achieved so much! We had arrived! The rest was easy!

Waking each day at 6:30am, breakfast in the small hall built by a previous team using mud bricks called Adobes, we fuelled our bodies for the day ahead. The hike down to the school was always a quick and easy one! As downhill always is!

When we arrived it was straight to work. Mixing concrete, sifting sand, walking to get buckets of water…. the list goes on! We all became brick layers, sifters and concrete mixers. We watched the wall start to grow, the first line of bricks already down! We worked alongside a local ‘Mistro’ named Sisilo! He was so amazing and man did he work. He NEVER stopped!

Here in the first world we have no idea what hard work is! These guys do!

Nothing happens quickly in a third world!

Over 6 days our toilet block started to take shape! It was extraordinary! Each day we would pack up, dirty, exhausted and sweaty ready for our warm bucket showers.

These showers though, were at the top of the hill we walked down every morning. Now as I said downhill was easy! The uphill was crazy! We felt the altitude when we started the climb! It was only a 1.16km walk, straight up mind you, but it felt like a mountain! Your heart pumping faster than ever before, your breath stolen from you, your legs burning and the sounds of blood pumping in your ears! Altitude is an amazing thing! You can’t see it but you can feel it!

It took us 47minutes on day 1 and I am proud to say by the end of the 6 days we managed to get it done in under 26 minutes! Booya!!!

When given the chance we can do amazing things! From start to finish here is our progress!!

How amazing is that!!!

I have been asked a few times before why would you pay, or make students pay to go overseas to build a toilet. Why make them pay to work?

Well it’s easy! Look at what we achieved! In the first 6 days of this amazing 17 day adventure (see part 2 coming for the second half of the trip), we flew 33 hours, went on 5 planes, discovered the airports, came together as a team, shared stories, discovered the sights of Cuzsco, hiked up and down a hill each day, watched our project transform from one row to ten to over 20!

We watched the small local kids smile as they themselves saw their toilets transform! Our gift to them! This strange group of white ‘Gringos’ who has flown across the world to build something just for them!

We pay to help as without us they would still be going to the toilet at the back of their classroom, in the dirt and the dust.

We pay to show our over privileged children just how lucky they are!

We pay to give back to those less fortunate.

We pay to find ourselves and to build on what we have already!

We pay to build resilience, grit, patience and awareness!

We pay because the benefits far outweigh the costs!

(Stay tuned, this is only a snippet of what was a life changing, mind altering and liberating 17 days!)

Bottom of the bottle…. what’s it feel like…

It’s 10am and all you think about is when will you get a chance to have a wine, a vodka and coke or something stronger?

What about it’s after a long school day and you have only one glass of wine left….. is that enough…. no it’s not, you make the trip and vow only to get one bottle but you get two as you know it won’t be enough to numb the pain, the loneliness, the emptiness….

Coming home after a long day, a vodka and coke on ice. An hour later and number of drinks later the numbness sets in. The feeling of inhibition, of pure carelessness and what we think is calmness… but it’s a false calm. A false sense of peace.

This is what you wanted, to be able to feel it’s all okay. The fact you’ve been discarded, thrown away like a piece of gum after being chewed for 6 years and just thrown away… discarded. Stuck under the chapel pew only to be found years later and scraped off by no one who understood why it was placed there in the first place.

The numbness and the haze of the bottom of a bottle makes it okay. It makes your mind seem to accept that being considered trash is okay. It makes the evening pass in a blur. What was once cuddles as you made dinner or simple conversation about your day the norm….. now a blur…

Is it okay?

Who knows, we, as in me and my actual self will have this conversation tomorrow. Then we will decide whats acceptable and what’s not. Until then, the bottom of bottle brings me the numbness and the total illusion that it’s okay, that today will pass, as yesterday did.

You climb into bed alone, the ground spinning, the bed not as comforting as it was once.

You pull the dunar over and you send your leg over the other side, searching for the touch you are all to familiar with.

Then you remember, it’s gone, it’s no longer there, and who knows if it will ever will be there again.

But it’s okay, the numbness makes it seem all okay.

The haze of the bottom of the bottle numbs the feeling of being alone, of being wrong or right. Who knows at this time as the haze is making the whole thing something you can no longer understand!

It’s knowing that eventually the numbness has to fade and something has to give.

That something is you.

You have to realise that the bottom of a bottle only hides and masks what’s really eating away at you. It’s you that’s suffering. It’s you that has to find a way out.

It takes time, it takes strength and it takes those around you to make it possible!

Seek out the help, tell those around you about the haze surrounds you.

If you don’t it’s all you will know and it’s not fair on you to let the bottom of a bottle win!

You’re more than that!!

Trust me!!

Road Trips – what not to do!

Okay, so if you are ever unsure about how your relationship is with not only your partner but also your kids….. Take a road trip!

An unplanned one. One you haven’t thought out, planned for or even spent time trying to figure out what’s what.

Then see if you all come back in one piece, or if you all come back at all!

Let me take you down memory lane. It was a little while back now, but at the time we needed yet another car.

My husband had a thing with never hanging onto a car for to long.

We needed not just a car… but a car that was in Victoria.

Living on the Gold Coast one would think after the hours he had spent looking, there would have been one closer. Well there wasn’t.

So without the money having cleared in the bank ,the four of us set off on a plane to Melbourne.

A young daughter aged 8, a teenage boy aged 14, myself and my husband. We had no idea what the car would be really like, or even if the money was going to clear in time, but I trusted the hours it seemed my husband had spent on cars for sale and in the end all would be okay.

I even managed to imagine the beautiful scenery, the laughs we would have and the memories we would make!

road trip 2

The hard part was I didn’t even know where we would be sleeping…. this sent my OCD and planning brain into overdrive. A few deep breathes and quiet restrained meditation I managed to just go with the flow. I mean what could go wrong?

I should have realised that all would not go as planned when my daughter kept asking; ‘mum, what are we doing?’ ‘where are we staying’, ‘how long will it take’, ‘Is there a plug for my iPad?’. My reply was valid and honest in that I said; ‘I have NO idea darling!

This is what happens when a 40 year old male has an idea. I am sure if I had said, “honey there is a great dress in this shop in Melbourne that I have to see”, he would have laughed at me and turned up the TV!

FAST FORWARD – skip the plane ride and near death experience in the Taxi from the airport.

Well we pulled up and the Nissan Patrol, chunky mans car, was in the drive way.

I left the two men to do their thing, while I got the kids organised to start the long trek home. The whole time I was thinking to myself, lets hope this car is not a lemon!


Once all the finances had been settled we got into the ‘new car’. The husband and kids exploring all the new things and me just sitting int he front seat thinking I hope we make it! How different we are!

Spending the days driving for hours on end with a continual nagging feeling that the car was a ‘lemon’……… only to have this fueled by the air con shutting off …….. and then the speakers stopped working…… and being told, ‘do not worry this is normal!’

You have got to be kidding!

Not only do the long drives test your patience but also your ability to sleep in weird and wonderful positions.

I also managed to keep everyone happy, all while feeling flustered, as I had to clean the husbands sunnies, peel a lolly wrapper for the daughter and unpack the condoms we had bought for the teenage son who wanted to see how big he could get them to be if he held them out the window.

Does this sound normal to anyone else.

Mum, whens lunch? Babe, can you make me a sandwich? Mum, can you change the song? Babe, could you get me some water? Mum, how long until we stop?

Babe, why didn’t you see the sign? (Me thinking; because I was making you your bloody sandwich on my lap, on the lid of an esky traveling at 110kmh with no air con in the middle of summer, what bloody sign??)

My reply: Sorry darling,  all my fault, I will be sure to keep my third eye out for all the signs next time!

I swear I was was a second away from doing a tuck and roll out the car! The patience was being tested, the fuse being shortened!

Three days later, two motels, a lot of coffee, lollies and country hick towns we were almost home.

Now I must share with you some tips should you ever have the desire to drive and unplanned trip of 1800km….

  1. Take your own pillow – and one for each of the kids as they will fight no matter what. If you don’t you will find they steal yours just when you need it most!
  2. Toilet paper – As the need arises often when you need it most being in the car with an old man and two young children. Oh and of course it will be right at the time when you just passed the last toilet stop for the next 100km!
  3. Pack music – I think we could all sing the lyrics to the full CD of James Blunt… I still, today, 5 years on cannot play the same CD! It has scared me for life! One CD – 3 days. You do the math with how many times we listened to each song!
  4. Remember you will forget something, and no matter what or who did it, it will be YOUR fault!
  5. 5. Wet wipes are essential – you can clean up anything and everything with these! If you remember to pack them!

It was a long trip and we all survived, but I must tell you what append to the car. Well it was in fact a lemon and we sold it three weeks later.

I was right after all!

Peace… is this what it’s like

It’s been a while since I can say I felt peaceful or even calm.

Years in fact!

So what does the word ‘Peace’ actually mean. Well this is what I found. I particularly liked the second one as it feels like life has been like fighting a war!

“freedom from disturbance; tranquillity”

“a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended”


Today I took a moment. In this moment I looked at Miss C as she stood in the kitchen and her school friend who had stayed overnight, both with ear to ear smiles on their faces, the TV on in the background, the breeze coming through the door and both cats calmly asleep in the sun.

Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.

I even felt relaxed!

Beach and rocks

Not a care in the world for just a moment!

It was wonderful! An emotion that I had forgotten the feeling of.

In the turmoil of what has been my life for the past 6 years I would say, it was hard to ever say I experienced peace or had a chance to be ‘calm’.


The past six years encompassed an emotionally abusive relationship which I removed myself from, only to return to the same man after hearing the words ‘I have changed’.

To the family and criminal court system to fight for the right for my child to have peace. With the days of affidavits and lawyers and and endless money steam out of the bank seeming like it would never end.

One would think we or more I had been through enough!

No it wasn’t to be, a few months later a marriage breakdown… PHEW!

There is so much talk about resilience and grit in the media these days. Talk about how to make our kids stronger, able to cope and adaptable. To better prepare them for what is in front of them.

The questions on; how do we make them more resilient? what can we cram in to an already to full curriculum to help them be more resilient? What can we do? what activities can we include? What speakers can we get in?

Personally, it’s not about what we show them, what we tell them or who speaks to them. Often they have heard it all before. They tune out or even, as I see hundreds of teens do each year, they say, ‘I know all this, why do we have to listen to this again?’

For me, I believe, to truly help our kids be resilient we have to be there to support them when they go through the adventure called life. The events they experience day to day, night after night, week after week are what shape them to be strong individuals.

“I am strong, I am resilient and I believe I have grit! All because of what I have both done and experienced throughout my life. I am strong because I have survived and have amazing parents and family to thank for always being there, and coming on my adventure even when they could have chosen not to.

I am who I am because of them and what life has thrown at me! I am who I am because I chose to get back up even after failing many times!

(Sorry dad, I made you grey earlier than you probably would have been and mum for the sleepless nights filled with worry)”

We have to let our children make choices, and fail safely. For example let them spend their money on the theme park rides and then let them wonder why they did after the ride ended 30 seconds later. Don’t give them more money rather say, you made your choice and now you can’t go on another ride. Make them see the other side.

If they fall, help them up and then get them back on the bike or the horse or even back up the tree. Showing them it’s okay, they can overcome their fears and in this they become strong.

To many times as a teacher we now have to defend ourselves and our positions to over caring and smothering parents who want to fix everything for their child. Who always believe it is never their child’s fault their shirt got stained, their shoes broke or the other guys started the fight.

Jumping the gun in front or your kids teaches them nothing but how to manipulate and ensure that even if they were in the wrong they can tell you in such a way you are immediately on the defensive. This does not teach them to be honest or own up to their own behaviours. Neither does it allow them to learn. This will not give them or yourself peace.

I have watched as parents come in seething hoping for justice or an apology only to be shown footage that quietens and sometimes embarrasses them. I have watched parents deflate as they hear the real story or even as their child bursts into tears and tells them they lied, they made it all up and in fact it was their fault.

Kids are kids and they learn through us as role models. We have to remember this when we lose our tempers, when we talk about other people or even how we act just around the house. They learn from us.

So back to peace, resilience and grit. While I realise the past few years have been turmoil and at times I have shriveled up into a ball and tried to hide from the world.

I have survived and am stronger than ever. My daughter, has had an emotional roller coaster ride and she to has survived.

She has in fact been strong for me right when I needed her to be. She has shown me how mature and hyper aware kids are of their surroundings. Do not be fooled by your child’s age, they see and hear everything! Now she is experiencing peace!

This strength and understanding she has learnt from life in all its awesomeness and ugliness will only benefit her in the future.

I always wanted to cover her up and hide her away from what was going on but at the end of the day doing this would only be worse for her. One day she may find herself dealing with the same things or even supporting a friend as they do. I know she will be strong enough and have the knowledge to hold their hand through it or ask for help if she ever needed it.

She has seen that life can be unfair and also rewarding all at once.

Now it’s time for peace, it’s time for us to re group. Re focus and spend time working on us. Working on her growing up to be an even more amazing woman than she already is. For me it is time to look in the mirror at the person looking back and build her back up.

It’s time to be strong, to draw on the strength and resilience I have acquired throughout life and move forward.

Remember to bring up strong individuals we have to be willing to let them go.

peace 1

Then you will achieve peace!

The Art of Farting

A funny side of life!

For generations farting in public and/or even celebrating the act of farting has and is still deemed to be inappropriate and somewhat disgusting.

Culturally ‘farting’ is mostly seen as disrespectful and something that should be done only in private if not at all.

It’s funny though because when we are born we are encouraged, often, to fart and burp. We are patted on our backs and given praise when we do these things. How strange. At what age does this change? 1, 3, 5, 10, 30?

Who knows exactly when it changes but my goodness it does.

I am currently on a camp, Outward Bound, with 16 Year 9 students. It involves taking one large group of students out into the remote bush lands of the Clarence river in New South Wales. This year I have 31 students in total from years 9 and 10 who are split into 2 smaller groups. The aim of Outward Bound is to remove the students from all the ‘mod-cons’ and basic everyday items they are used to. It provides opportunities through challenges for the students to push themselves. Students enter their stretch zone and maybe even their panic zone in order to better understand themselves.

A pretty powerful set of opportunities and challenges!

What are these ‘mod cons’ I speak of. Well they include, running water, showers and toilets. Instead we use river water, which needs to be purified, for drinking, a ‘Bommy’ or man dug hole as a toilet and wet wipes or icy cold river water for a shower.

The students carry on their back the necessities together with food drops, which come every second or third day. The students learn to navigate, work as a team, cook, clean and also maintain their own personal hygiene all the time learning to respect the environment. It’s 10 days where the students are pushed, their personal boundaries stretched and life lessons are learnt. A true hands on learning through doing experience, all of which I am privileged enough, not only to organise, but also attend. Watching the individual triumphs, failures, victories and ultimately their transformations!

Now before I get off track let me return to the title of this blog – The Art of Farting.

Each year I hold a parent information evening prior to departing on this expedition and I mention to the parents and their young ones that we will all become very familiar with each other’s bowel movements. Not only our bowel movements but also ‘poo’. Poo will become what we talk about most. They all laugh at this and think, surely not!!

Well every year, it happens!

I know more about my students bowel movements than their parents!!

Out bush it’s vital that the students ‘poo’ we feed them trail mix filled with all sorts of goodies, including many different types of seeds, not even I am sure of the name of them all. We feed them snacks and lots of fresh fruit to encourage these necessary bowel movements! The breakfast muesli, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are all made up of ‘poo’ encouraging nutrients!

On day one we introduce the students to games such as; bommy golf or fart baseball.

Now these may not be familiar to you but if we are going to spend 10 days out bush, in close quarters, with these kids, we have to make their toileting something not to scary.

A lot of them think of a bommy – a bucket lined with a bin bag, and a hole in the ground as things so foreign to them they would rather wait 10 days and poo when they get home. Well this can bring on all sorts of health issues and concerns!!

So bommy golf – a great game. It’s easy, if they poo once a day they are on par. If they poo twice they are one under. If they miss a day they are one over. A great game for any out door educator who wants to have some fun with kids or help make their bowel actions into a more comfortable and acceptable game. I have had years where we are close to camp and the boys and girls are racing to dig the hole with ‘dug’, the aptly named shovel, in order to win the game. The best score in the past 9 years was on 10 day camp was when male students ended up 32 under. That was more than two a day! Talk about chew the toilet paper!!!

Another bush game, which I learnt this year is called, fart baseball. This was introduced to me by, Forest. Yup that’s his real name! The instructor with me this year. He is hilarious and has shown me other fun ways to ease the students into bush toileting.

So here are the rules of Fart Baseball.

If you fart, you move to base one. This move can only happen if your fart is validated. This means it is either heard by someone else or smelt by someone else. If this is the case and your fart is validated you yell out ‘1st base’. Now the aim is to then fart again and have it validated to allow you to move to 2nd base before someone else farts and moves to 1st base thus kicking you of. It’s all about speed and getting through the bases before someone else does. What a challenge!

Now that you have an idea about the rules imagine unleashing this game on a group of mostly year 9 boys!! Well it happened! Not only has this become the best game ever played but their runs and home runs can happen at any time.

This may be while preparing their food and the next minute we either hear it or smell it! It can even happen when in a serious moment sitting around the camp fire enjoying the silence and, boom…… there it goes. Now these boys are serious! As soon as one person is almost near a home run the race is on. We have farts going off left right and centre. The girls have even joined in.

It’s a great game but I do have some issues with it as I am the one who travels up the back when hiking. A high fibre diet, young kids, exercise and of course a game of fart baseball make for a very interesting smell coming up the rear (pardon the pun) of the team! Phew!!!

The best times are when we are in our tents and the camp is quietening down and BOOM, someone lets one rip and you hear 1st base or 2nd base etc. this of course has us all in fits of laughter and with uncontrollable laughter comes more…. yes you guessed it…. farts!! Bed time is when most achieve their home runs!

Of course we keep score and the winner is the one with the most home runs at the end of 10 days.

Now you may think this is weird but it has to be the most entertaining game when out in the bush. If you’re an adventurer I encourage you to try this. Your students will never forget the game and or be hesitant to poo by the end of your trip!

The students who arrived on the bus 10 days ago, worried about how they looked, whether their girlfriend in the cubicle next door would hear them wee or even worse hear the sound of them pooing.

The students, male and female, who would never dream of pooing in a hole in the bush and rushing back to camp, arms high in the air yelling, ‘I did it, I finally pooped’, resulting in high fives and celebrations all round.

Who would have thought that these students were the same ones who got off the bus 10 days ago.

Farting when we were babies is an encouraged behaviour, but soon it becomes an unacceptable behaviour. Well out here, the Art of Farting is something else! It’s a game, it’s part of being human. It’s not something to be embarrassed about. A lesson for the students who are so worried about what others think about them. Rather being comfortable within oneself.

I know that when these kids get off the bus and we go back their parents they will not be the same. They have conquered mountains, pushed themselves mentally, emotionally and physically. They have been tried and tested. They have been broken, brought to tears at times and felt like they could not go on.

They were taught to accept themselves, their peers and of course recognise that ones own limitations and boundaries are not the same as the person sitting next to you.

The one fun thing we do know from these 10 days is the students have learnt there is an Art to Farting. The students become comfortable in their surroundings and have amazing memories of experiences that are life changing.

For me; I cannot wait until next years Outward Bound!

Bittersweet goodbye…

This morning I said goodbye to two of my most beautiful children.

(You may wonder why this photo but it always made me laugh, something I need right now)

A bittersweet goodbye!

I had to say a bittersweet goodbye, tears streaming down my face as you peered at me through the gate. I think you knew that we may never see one another again. I think you were wondering what was wrong and why I was leaving. Had you done something wrong? Was it you?

No, it was time for me to go, time to go on camp. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to go knowing when I returned you would not be there. The house quiet, the toys from the yard gone. The sound of you whining as I opened the gate knowing I was home no longer there.

We woke together at 5am after sharing the the bed all night.

We ate breakfast together, walked around the house together, you both even sat in the bathroom while I showered. You even joined me in the toilet.

You never left my side.

I think you knew this was goodbye. I think you knew I was sad. You always seemed to know.

The time came for me to leave. We chatted a bit, at the front door before I left. We cuddled and kissed. You tried your best to make me stay.

Your tails stopped wagging as I closed the gate.

I tried not to look back but I did and there you were, still watching me, wondering, waiting for me to yell, ‘only kidding, I’m staying!’

I’m sorry my puppies, my babies, but it was time to say goodbye.

I am not sure if we will ever meet again but I just wanted to say;

Thank you for always being at the gate and so excited to see me. Always.

Thank you for following me round house and making sure I knew you were always there.

Thank you for making me walk for hours along the beach or in the park. You made me get out of the house when times were tough. I think you knew I needed it.

Thank you for keeping me up with your snoring and your butt in my face, while this was annoying it meant we had a bed and I had company.

Thank you for waking me up by licking my face at 5am and telling me it was time to get up and enjoy the day. I mean who could ignore this face!

Thank you for making the house dirty and leaving your muddy footprints everywhere. This meant I had a home.

Thank you for chewing, everything, and I mean everything. Even rocks. This meant we had money.

Thank you for loving the cats and making their life more eventful I’m sure!

Thank you for laying your head on my feet and licking my toes as this meant I was loved, and so were you.

Thank you for being part of my life!

Let’s say this is not goodbye but maybe, see you later! Enjoy your new home with dad, you will still be loved and always happy.

Don’t forget me!

A bittersweet goodbye!

Five days five friends

A few weeks go I had an exceptional five days.

I haven’t, for a long time, taken the time to see some of the people who mean the world to me.

Well this school break I was determined, and saw 5 very important people in my life, apart from my family!

For years I have ignored the fact that I was slowly being disconnected, (forced disconnection) from the people in my life. It was subtle but now it is clear as day to me.

Let me tell you about the 5 days I had.

Day 1. A girlfriend Mrs. W, made the time to drive hours to see me. We haven’t seen each other since she was a beautiful bride a few months ago. Months before that was the last time I saw her. This beautiful lady, she knows who she is, being someone who brought laughter, memories, vodka and a day of card games to my doorstep. I cannot remember the last time I laughed, relaxed, talked about life and just truly felt like I had come back to life. It was short lived but a wonderful 24 hours! After being a ‘shitty’ friend who had and always seemed to have crap going in my life, this wonderful woman was just waiting for me to return! Thank you Mrs. W!

Day 2. I caught up with a long lost love, an inspirational man with his own troubled past .But, who no matter what makes you laugh and laugh. My cheeks were sore and my heart filled with thoughts and positive reinforcement. I know I am loved, I am wanted and I am beautiful! How much more could you ask for. See you soon Mr. J.

Day 3. A friend from the Sunshine Coast made his way down to the Gold Coast (GC) to take me out to dinner. A friend who is still fondly known as the ‘guy who beeped his horn outside my house, letting me know he was there to collect me back in 2001’. This being a pet hate of my father, as no one ‘toots’ for his daughter. This has been and continues to be a running joke and Mr.N knows it! Mr. N has become an amazing man with a heart so big it’s astounding! Always giving to anyone and everyone despite it sometimes being at the detriment of himself. We had a wonderful dinner and an even better, fun filled brekkie! Thanks for the company!! Oh and Mr. N, my daughter cannot wait to have a round of 9 holes with you! Be careful she will whip your butt!

Day 4 and 5, while these two days were also ‘work’, with a wonderful groups of 11 boys and three male staff members I could not have asked for better company. You all may not think working with 11 boys overnight aged from 8 – 23 each with some form of mental health issue as being fun, but it was wonderful. It was made even better by the man who started it all. Mr. A, has made it his life goal to help young men and women who need time to learn, life skills and what we call respite. He is my inspiration, my ‘brother from another mother’, everyone says. We are so alike and yet so different. Mr. A’s passion and love for life make your heart swell, your cheeks hurt and your abs sting. Oh and I must mention your tummy expand as we eat so may lollies and sneak so many treats while hiding around a corner from the kids. Overnight work is tiring and exhausting, as the kids can be so demanding, but there is always positivity, laughter, love and care! When I was asked to help, I did not give it a second thought. At this hard time of my life I couldn’t think of a better person to spend it with than Mr.A!

Mr. A provides experiences which the kids and his staff won’t forget.

I mean how many people can say they watched a huge, 105kg man who’s confident in a boxing ring run from a number of pelicans as they chased him down a small strip of sand exposed in the Tullebudgera river!! Well I can.

On a side note, Pelicans are huge amazing creatures! But up close they can be scary!!!!

Besides pelicans I learnt about the male and female mud crab, more weird and unexpected information Mr. A provided for me!

These crabs, caught in crab pots which the boys hooked an dragged up, were smelly and yet stunning. Seeing them snap carrots in their claws making me squeal in amazement and the kids watching be totally and utterly astonished. A memory, something I won’t forget anytime soon!

I now know how to tie up a mud crab. I will never do this, ever, have you seen those claws, but at least I know how to!

Day 5. Now I am home from the weekend away. I smell like fish and have two crazy and un-walked dogs who are so over the moon so see.

I start the washing, unpack the car and receive a voicemail from yet another important person. One who is driving to see me for another girls night! Who could imagine, our friends are really the most important people in our time of need.

I must admit each of these days I did say to myself, it would be easier to sit at home and do nothing. To see no one and not have to entertain or be made to feel good. To not laugh at this crazy time of life when so much is going on and there is so much to be sad and angry about. However, you know what, no matter how much I have felt like I didn’t need or deserve the past 5 days, I did need the 5 friends. Big time!

Each and every one of them, some I have known since 1999 have played such a role in my life, seen me through thick and thin and are special to me. I may be starting again as a single mum but you know what, my friends re still there. They always have been!

How powerful are friends, how powerful is laughter, how powerful is being inspired!

5 days have shown me how lucky I am, how happy I can be and how happy the time ahead will be. I realise now how I have surrounded myself before with amazing people and I cannot wait to surround myself with more. People have so much to teach us and show us. It’s like the start of a movie, the ads go forever but then the movie begins and you never know what the ending will be. It’s the parts in the middle that matter most! It’s the part that make you laugh, jump, cringe and sigh that matter!

I am excited, scared and counting down the days until my next friend encounter!!

The things our children will not know until they are older.

So many things we do, our kids won’t know about until their older.

Some of these may include thinking thoughts and doing things which may include the following:

I made dinner, butter chicken and rice, your favorite. We didn’t have enough money so I ate the rice and left over sauce so you could have a big meal. I do this because you are important to me and I know that one day you will appreciate everything I did, not all the time but I do know deep down you realise how lucky we are.

I bought you KFC, a regular combo meal with a sunkist. I had two chips and a piece of chicken so you could have a full tummy. A reward for your amazing debate speech, how proud I was!

We bought you new shorts even if it was from an OP shop but it was the last $20 I had in my account. Ensuring you do not grow up to be one of those kids who thinks OP shops are below them. Enjoying the 30 minutes of just you and me time, exploring trash from others that become treasures of others.

I work full time and have to work on the weekends some times as well. I give up spending time with you so I can pay for your Math’s tutor. It is hard to do, I promise, but when you are older I will explain to you why I sometimes worked 7 days a week or late into the evening helping other parents with their children instead of being home with you. Trust me I did want to be home, but I couldn’t. I wanted to give you every opportunity possible and this meant sacrificing things, such as time with you.

Our children are our everything. We do what we can for them, always, without question. Even if it means spending our last few dollars.

At the end of the day it’s just money and most of the time the best memories we have and make are when we don’t spend any money at all. Rather we take the time to be present.

In saying this, be sure to spend quality time with your little ones and your family. It is not quantity rather quality that counts. They are desperate for your love and full attention. This may come when you are rushing out the door or have other things that seem more pressing in your mind but be mindful that that few minutes of pure and utter attention is more valuable than anything else you could give them.

In doing this you will realise you are in fact not poor. Being wealthy, or having all the money in the world, is not always important. It is beneficial of course, but not always helpful.

At the end of the day you are growing your own wealth, a more important wealth in your children. So be sure to take the time to be present for them.

They are what your legacy will be after all, so think about what legacy you would like to leave behind!

Ayres Rock – Uluru

A rock, a giant red rock in the middle of nowhere. This may not sound very exciting but man it’s one amazing Rock!

Made of sandstone and iron, is rusty red colour, so deep you can’t take your eyes off it.

A giant looming structure literally in the middle of nowhere.

Uluru, has been something I have had on my bucket list for years. Always wanting to scale the side of the ROCK and reach the top. To see as far as the eye can see. The borders of the other Australian states, some 400km away, others only 70km!

Well I did it! I scaled Uluru and I looked into the distance! I ticked another thing off what is becoming a long bucket list!

The weekend was what I would call a fly in fly out weekend. I was lucky enough to join my parents. Dad who was attending a conference and mum who was accompanying him.

The Rock itself takes your breathe away. Flying in you can see it, on its own, just sitting in the middle of a massive grassy plain. It’s beautiful, majestic and enormous.

You don’t appreciate the size until you are right up close. You don’t appreciate the wonderful natural structure until you are at the bottom staring up and up and up, the top invisible to you.

I woke on the Sunday morning fully prepared to conquer the rock. Little did I know it would literally take my breath away.

We approached the bottom and I looked up, the signs saying it was currently closed to walkers. The disappointment seeped through me as I thought, oh no!

I turned back to mum and dad who were chatting to two of their friends and said, “it’s closed!”. They also expressed disappointment.

It wasn’t long after this that two rangers approached the sign and started taking them down. Stating, it was now open.

I didn’t move… I didn’t want to be the first one…

As I stared at the climb ahead of me, a lady and her husband, Donna and Al, came up behind me and said ‘come on you let’s go’.

To say they were amazing is just short of a lie. Donna and Al spoke to me the whole way up, even when we all stopped to catch our breath. Al had claimed the rock three times in three days. Why you ask? Well he said he did it because he could. For Donna, the rock had always been on her bucket list!

As we climbed to the summit we chatted about our lives and all that jazz, talking with people when you’re tackling a challenge like a very, very steep climb, all while hanging onto a chain and the sheer drop either side of you, keeps you distracted.

About 30 minutes after we started the climb we reached the first ‘top’. Like any mountain there are always what we call false peaks. Well when we reached this one, we had reached the top, a place where many people stop. Here the view was amazing, the car park no longer visible and the people now resembling ants! You could see as far as the eyes could see, the grassy plains just never ending. The sheer expanse of the land and the scenery were breathtaking. In the distance the Olga’s or Katajuta another spectacular site and place to visit.

This was not the top for Donna, Al and I. We wanted to go further. It was another 30 minutes to the very centre and very top. I was on a time limit, thanks mum, so we decided to walk just a little bit further, every step closer to the very top, the true top. We stopped just short of this point but at a point where you could see the entire 360 degree view of what lay around us.

It was beautiful, majestic and cold!

Uluru, because of its sheer size has its own weather system. How awesome is that! Reaching the top we were exposed and the wind was something that literally throws you off balance. Not only this but the wind changes, one minute coming from one direction and the next a different direction. It’s strong enough to knock you off your feet. This is generally one of the reasons why the climb is closed.

Spending a few minutes taking in what I had just accomplished, what I was seeing and literally feeling, like I was on top of the world I breathed in and breathed out! A hug from Donna and a high five from Al, watching Donna shed some tears as she had to achieved a life long goal was something I won’t forget too soon.

The hard part about climbing such an amazing mountain is having to go down again. This can be just as scary and dangerous. Many people have died climbing Uluru, a memorial dedicated to them resides on the side of the rock wall near where the climb begins. You climb at your own risk. The dangers so real your heart races with every step you take.

Zoom in on the above picture, you can just make out the chain you have to use to climb!

Coming down with Al and Donna was great. Al has some great advice and it was actually quick and easy. Going backwards and letting the chain slide through your hands.

Your breath quickens and you start to shake every time someone has to pass you coming up. They ask how far to the top, we tell them the truth, a while and don’t stop, take it slow as once you’re at the top the pain is worth it! So worth it!

On the way down I came across a father and his son. His son clinging to the metal pole scared and frozen. I asked if he was okay and he said he had to wait there for his friends to climb to the top and back down to get some photos of him and his son. Looking at the distressed little boy I said, ‘here let me take some photos and I will send them to you so you and your son don’t have to wait on the side.’ The father was so thankful! So I clung to the chain myself, removed my back pack and took some photos.

He was so appreciative and I could see the relief on his sons face.

Here’s some of them.

When my feet touched the solid base, pardon the pun, the solid, flat, red ground relief swept through me. Donna and Al gave me a hug and their well wishes. What a lovely couple. Such an amazing feat we completed.

It just goes to show that even when we think we are incapable of achieving great things, you can, nothing and no one can stand in your way. Determination and literally sweat and sheer muscle power allowed me to achieve something great!

I am now planning a return trip, to take my daughter as well as some school children through the outdoor education program I run. I think it’s a necessary and essential place enriched with history and amazement to be experienced.

If you haven’t been, you must go! Even if you don’t want to or have no urge to climb Uluru, then go anyway. Walk around it. That alone is an experience!

Also add to your list – the Field of Lights. An exceptional feat by Bruce Munro who assembled over 381km of fibre optic cable to create what is 8 football fields of beautiful changing, glass fired globes. As the sun sets the field comes to light. You then get to walk through these amazing fields. While it was freezing the sights of the spider webs and globes took your mind of the frostbite which may be crawling into your toes!

You can even enjoy the sunset with a glass of champagne!

A change of perspective, Uluru through a glass.

Here’s a snippet of that adventure.

So as the sun sets in sunny and cold Queensland on this cold June evening I hope you have realised that in our back yard we have stunning places and sights to see.

Take the plunge, accept the challenge and add it to your bucket list!

Trust me you won’t be disappointed!

The mask we all wear.

There are days where I get up and I am sure you do too, you look in the mirror and realise the only way you will get through the day is by putting on ‘a mask’.

I wear a mask, more often than not these days. I am a teacher and have the lives and education of our young people in my hands. It helps, when all I believe in is being the best I can be when at work, being passionate and believing wholly and completely in who I am and what I do.

Just as these people do.

However, some days I feel the mask I wear is only just hanging on by a thread, and at any moment it would slip and people would see me, the real me.

If it slipped they would be exposed to me as a human, a person who also lives a life, who has everyday issues just as they do. A person who has money troubles, is angry, sad and deflated all in one.

They would see a person who is exhausted and tired. A person who is tired of being the world’s punching bag but do we show them? Do we show anyone?

No we don’t, or at least we try our hardest not to.

Everyone wears a mask, some of us are better at it than others. Some of us have daily practice, others it’s just something that happens if and when it is necessary.

What if that mask were to slip? What if sometimes it was necessary for people to see you as you are. Maybe they need to.

After all would it be so bad?

Well to tell you the truth it’s not bad to let it slip every now and then. It’s important for those around you to realise you are also human. You are not the strong and invincible person who is alway able to be positive no matter what. It’s okay to show weakness.

I did!

It was a Monday morning and I had dealt with a big personal issue over the weekend. Feeling exhausted, tired, confused, sad, lost and empty. I got up and put on my mask, as hard as it was I did as I had done so many times.

I went to work, it being my refuge, my place of belonging and got to work. The bell hadn’t rung yet for the day to begin and I was already barely holding it together.

It’s at this time it’s the question you dread from colleagues that I got: “are you okay?”.

Well I must have looked like hell or my mask had slipped just enough to be noticed. They asked and I said ‘yes all is okay’ as tears streamed down my face. It was okay, well it would be okay, but it wasn’t at that very moment.

I took some breaths, wiped away the tears and kept moving. It’s all we can do, it’s all we ever do.

The thing we have to realise is that sometimes we have to let the mask slip to get the support and help we may need but thought we didn’t. Being told to take a few minutes, to take a walk to just ‘get it together’ or have someone ask you, do you need some time? Sometimes taking this time to realise that the people we surround ourselves with can be and are truly amazing. The colleagues we may have, the family and friends are all part of a support network we don’t all know we have but we do. You may not talk to them everyday or even every month but they are there when you truly need them.

I realised it’s okay to let it slip, the mask, it’s okay to show people you are also only human. The mask we wear doesn’t have to be on all the time. It can’t! Physically, emotionally and mentally we are human beings and we cannot spend our days acting and being something we are not when we are truly hurting inside.

It’s okay to show weakness, it’s okay to ask for help! Sometimes it’s breaking down that allows us to build up again!

Trust me!

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