#61

If you asked anyone to describe me, you’d probably hear the word creative thrown around once or twice. When I put my mind to work, you can never quite be sure of what the outcome will be, but it’s always guaranteed to be big, bright, a little out of the box and concocted in a way that only I would have done (to be honest, I don’t really know if this is still considered an attribute, or just outrightly strange…).

It’s a creativeness derived directly from my mother I think. She taught me how transform ordinary into extraordinary long before Play School could even develop the “useful box” into script. Nowadays, I pride myself a little on being able to find a good solution to most problems, and put it in colour on an oversized poster in less than 24 hours.

So naturally, I’m always down for learning anything new that involves using my creative side – and when a new little studio down town opened at the beginning of this year offering pottery classes, I couldn’t help but excitedly babble about it to my Mr. To take a pottery class has sat on my Bucket List at #61 for a while now, and with no time being as good as the present – I was keen to check it off the list!

To my surprise, my Mr. was totally down with trying it out himself, and nonchalantly states, “Book us in, baby!” with an all-knowing smile that even if he hadn’t of wanted to, this was here another thing he was most definitely getting roped into!

A couple of weeks later, we’d booked ourselves a spot on a Wednesday class, and after getting a little lost in the back streets of town, found our way to a small shed home to a small pottery studio.

With rows of shelves adorning the walls of the studio with the many creations of pottery-goers before us, we felt quite cosy finding a spot to sit at the bench amongst 437 small clay coffee cups and others of the like.

Our instructor introduced herself as Gabi with a kind and gentle smile. She spend a small amount of time teaching us three prominent pottery techniques before letting us loose with our own clump of clay.

Choosing a slab approach, I started bringing my creation to life. I had already planned to make a coffee cup similar to one I had seen in a cafe recently, even bringing in my own syringe (this is explainable with the statement, ‘I’m a nurse’ for the most part) in the hope to create a melting effect at the top of the cup.

Gabi stated she had never seen anyone do it this way, but helped me mix up a small bowl of slip (runny clay) to experiment with. The tester cup worked out reasonably well, so I decided to go ahead and recreate it on the real deal.

I was actually surprised to find it worked – often things don’t always turn out the way you think they will (it’s why we find the Expectation vs. Reality memes so amusing – we’ve most definitely all been there!) but this one almost looked to have panned out!

As for my Mr.? Well, he did find himself a little too far on the reality side of the well known meme when his coffee cup turned out to resemble something somewhat closer to a soup bowl instead. We laughed about it, but were definitely excited about the prospect of a new two-person-share ice cream bowl joining our ranks at home!

The thing that I really loved about the class though, was that there seemed to be an endless amount of clay on offer. You’d finish one job, and Gabi would then ask, “What else would you like to make?”, before fetching another clip of clay for you.

After a coffee cup, a coffee cup saucer, a small honey pourer and a porridge bowl – I figured I had gotten close to using up my fair share of clay creating my own winter breakfast set. And in all honesty, if my Mr. had let me sit there any longer, I would have probably made a whole table setting worth of pottery – it was simply addictive to me!

We organised our pieces, dated and stamped our initials into the bottoms of our masterpieces and left them in the studio to be placed in the kiln. With a gentle wave, Gabi let us know that in two weeks we could come back to glaze each piece and take it home with us. I couldn’t wait.

I was grinning ear to ear as we walked back to the car, snuggled under my Mr.’s arm – it had truly been one of the best mornings for this creative little heart of mine. Pottery had become a real contender in my line up of hobbies, and with so much more to learn, and ten more ideas left to try – I think Gabi realised we’d be back before she knew it.

Next time we’re planning on trying wheel throwing (which I briefly gave a try in the Philippines two years ago and failed miserably…), so really the fun has only just begun!

But for now?

#61: Take a pottery class – that’s a wonderful big, check!

d x

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Self Love

In this day and age, mental health is fast becoming a prominent factor in society. With the leaps and bounds of social media over the last few years, we’ve watched each other compare and despair over whether we make the grade of “acceptable” to society and strive for an unobtainable state of “perfection”.

Despite the many movements to shift the mentality of Instagram-comparables, or unveil the truth behind the cloak of what a true Instagramer’s life looks like, our mental health has not been ultimately spared.

Whether you’re yearning for the perfect body, or those frighteningly white HiSmile teeth; or simply wanting your small business to boom as much as the one before you – we find ourselves struggling to avoid the wormhole that is comparison.

And then there are those that suffer from an organic mental health objection. The just as deadly wormhole not associated with social media, but instead one evolved from a long standing feeling of not being good enough.

The feeling that no matter what you do, or who you try to be, there is no triumph left for you. That you are not smart enough, pretty enough, brave enough.

But I’m here to tell you that you are, and you always have been.

I don’t need you to believe it right now. Because I know these things take time. But I’m going to teach you how to, by loving yourself first. And I understand that it’s easier said than done, I’ve had my fair share of mirror moments where I’ve not liked the person staring back at me – but if there is one thing that I have come to realise it’s truth in this life, it’s that you can’t change anything if you don’t first do something about it.

So darling, dry those beautiful eyes and drag those heavy shoulders out of bed with all the strength you have left – Today is that day we do something. We are going to find you a small sparkle to nurse back to health. We are going to learn the power of self-love.

Step one: Debrief.
Find a way to off load all those thoughts trapped in the inner-workings of your mind – the good, the ugly, the broken. I want you to let it break its walls and tumble down. I want you to allow yourself to feel vulnerable.

How you do this is going to be different for everyone. What works for one person, won’t necessarily work for the next. For me, I find writing to be my escape. Putting words to paper, or keyboard to document lets me toy with the ideas in my head. Let me lay them out in front of me, re-read and evaluate. For you, it may just be opening up to a loved one and finding the long hug you have needed for more than you have ever dared to admit. Or maybe finding a meaningful playlist to sing loudly against, releasing a little of what you feel with each lyric. Whatever it is, use it to empty your mind and heart so you can start with a blank canvas.

Step two: Fresh Air.
The power of fresh air is largely underestimated and only realised when you truely acknowledge it. Finding a warm spot in the sunshine on a busy esplanade, or a cool breeze at the beach on sunset can change perspective like you’ve never expected. Take five long deep breaths in. Feel the coolness of the air rush through your nostrils and fill your lungs right to their bases. Enjoy the stretch of your chest cavity expanding and hold your shoulder back in place.

Now that you’ve oxygenated your brain with the best the earth has to offer, let it inspire you. Try to think of something you would like to achieve this year. Something that is going to bring to happiness. Give yourself a deadline and devise a plan to achieve it. My best moments of clarity and creativity always stem from a moment like this. This is your moment to press reset and try again.

Step three: Treat yourself.
Take time out from life to treat yourself, because after all, this is all about learning self-love and your body needs it too. Book yourself a massage (a neck and shoulders is my go-to!), or spend a night in with a good glass of shiraz and a bath tub full of bubbles. Get your hair done, or your nails done – go all out and do both. Spoil yourself for once. Let yourself feel refreshed, and by expansion, surprised by the confidence boost this gives.

Do this once a week, even if it’s just a face mask, a block of chocolate and a rom-com on a Thursday night. Take time out from the world, and social media, to enjoy pampering yourself the best way you know how. Love yourself from the outside too, it’s important.

Step four: Write down 5 things you love about yourself.
No matter how negatively you may see yourself right in this moment, take time to write down the things you do love about yourself. I want you to find at least 5 things – but if you think of more, write them down too.

Doing this has always been a hard one for me. I’m the kind of girl who knows her strengths but hates listing them – it’s largely why I detest my yearly appraisal paperwork for work. But as cringeworthy or self-involved as it may feel, I want you do it. Listing these things empowers you to understand just how much you have to offer in this world. Knowing what you regard as your assets in life is your key to changing your perspective on who you see in the mirror.  Use these things that you love about yourself like a set of tools to build with in life.

Step five: Complete a task.
Think of something you’ve started in the past, but maybe never quite completed. A business idea you thought of, but never brought to fruition. An 8-week challenge you dropped out of half way through. A work project you’ve been dragging your heels on and forever extending its deadline. A degree you always thought you’d enjoy doing, but never mustered the courage to apply. Find your uncompleted task, no matter what it may be – and get the ball rolling again.

For me, having a project has always motivated me to keep moving. And completing these projects provides a sense of achievement. A small win for you to treasure close to your heart. Another reason to love yourself and the brain that enabled the completion of your next great thing.

Step six: Food and friends.
Gather the girls, the boys, the family – whoever your supportive network is, and I want you to take them out. Order the gourmet double cheeseburger, or the loaded fries and enjoy it – don’t think about the calories for this one. Enjoy good food, and even better company. Hear about what’s going on in the lives of the ones you love, and take a moment to realise everyone has their own battles in life.

Celebrate their triumphs, and now yours too. You’ve made it this far, and hopefully you’re starting to see how loving yourself is changing you for the better. Organise a camping trip, or holiday overseas. Give yourself time to realise sharing this life with good people is one of the best ways to love yourself too.

And that’s all I want you to do.

I want you to find how to love yourself again. Because it doesn’t matter whether you have 200k followers, or you have only 200 – this is not the number that defines you. It doesn’t define whether you’re good enough, and I hope one day soon you’ll believe that. Some of the best people in this world, the ones that truely have made a difference, were never insta-famous – they were just everyday people.

So don’t discount yourself yet. Instead, learn the power of self-love.

d x

self-love-wide

 

#40

I’m the type of girl who loves to customise and loves what can’t simply be ‘copied and pasted’. From monogramming clutches, to rose gold trimmings on my car – I love giving anything I buy a little creative difference. While I can fall in love with trends as quickly as the next person, I can’t help but utterly love the thrill of finding a small business just as creative as my own heart, to splurge a little on something you just can’t buy anywhere else.

My Mr. always shakes his head as a new package will arrive on the doorstep, and smile as I explain what grand plan I’ve got for a hand-woven basket adorned with silk tassels – and even if it were for use as a ‘puppy toy basket’, he somehow seems to understand and lets me create a home full of unique finds and gold edged marble coffee coasters.

So when I realised there were places in the world where making your own Magnum Ice Cream was a thing, it naturally formed it’s own mental note, and a place on the bucket list at #40. Now I know that this isn’t exactly a big thing, or hardly notable for some. But my bucket list has never solely been about the big things, and if you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know the little things are just as important to me too. And this here little thing, well I’ve been dying to tick it off the list for a long time now.

Whilst exploring the endless aisles of Orchard Road’s shopping district in Singapore earlier this year, we stumbled across the first customisable Magnum Ice Cream connoisseur I’ve ever seen. Registering the mental note made years earlier, I excitedly dragged my Mr. into the shop with me whispering, “This is the place I’ve been telling you about!”. He was already pulling a paper note out of his wallet to pay for the ice cream knowing there was too much excitement in my eyes to ever have dragged me back out.

Step one of making your own Magnum involves selecting the toppings for your ice cream, and with so many to choose from, it took a little time to decide. Eventually choosing crushed cashews, gold drops (like small golden balled 100’s and 1000’s) and rose petals (it had a nice colour contrast to it…), I watched from the other side of the glass as my very own Magnum flavour was brought to life. Dipped in white chocolate, decorated with my selected toppings, drizzled with milk chocolate and made complete with a small round chocolate logo at the bottom, my custom Magnum was placed in a small container and handed to me. You should have just seen my smile.

To date, it’s been my favourite Magnum yet, and so it should have been – I designed it. And yes while I can agree that my world would have kept spinning without having stopped to make my own Magnum, it’s often these kinds of things – unremarkable in their own right – that collectively contribute to a life story. It’s like enjoying a Singapore Sling in Singapore, or posing next to the Eiffel Tower, or any of those “When in Rome” moments that seem silly at the time, but in their own way add to your story.

It’s these little things that you look back on and are always glad you did. Or at least that’s what I think, and if that makes me too easy to please, then so be it, I can definitely deal with that! Stamping embossed initials on my pj’s and making my own ice creams – I wouldn’t have it any other way!

#40: Make my own Magnum Ice Cream – Check!

d x

Falling into range.

Body mass index. Name a more feared set of words when it comes to the weight loss world. I’ll wait… (although I would accept that ‘gimme fifty burpees‘ may come close).

Sitting in with my doctor back in January for my once yearly, much detested, checkup – we started talking about weight. Partly because I’d happen to found a bit more of it than I should have over Christmas (or the whole of 2018 for that matter) and partly because there is even more reason to lose it as I age closer to my midlife crisis point.

Being the daughter of my father gave me a lot of great things in life, but in terms of hereditary gifts – the ol’ “Eddie” genes as we call them, didn’t leave me much to brag about.

My father is the third generation on the ‘Eddie’ side to have suffered a heart attack by the age of 50… and inclusive of his own brother, my uncle, one year ago… the only one to have survived. This means, I’m next in the firing line with the only advantage now being that I know it’s coming.

My doctor kindly pointed out that we had an opportunity to change the odds in our favour if I was willing to make a few new choices and give myself the best chance at seeing 50 years (oh, god!) through. Undoubtedly I wasn’t all that excited about more lettuce in my diet, but he had a good point and I’m not one for ignoring good logic.

Now, breaking every womanly instinct and manner, I’ll tell you I weighed 79.8kg as I looked down at the scales between my toes that day – which for me, is the largest I’ve ever been in my young life. The horror must have been written all over my face as I had sat back down, because my doctor smiled gently and said, “Try to look at it this way…It’s the perfect starting point”.

And while I felt a little like bursting into tears the whole drive home, something seemed to click inside me driven by a sense of determination to not be the girl who had a chance to change and didn’t. No one wants to feel large, and I really did that day.

At a height of 166cm, my increase in weight had ensured my falling out of range from the green healthy bar into alarmingly orange ‘overweight’ area. And as a side note, I truely believe the person who created the BMI charts was male, because no female would have ever named the next range up from healthy, “overweight” – it’s far too harsh. But whether I liked it or not, it was a universal truth thanks to every BMI calculator out there, and perhaps the obtusely orange overweight indicator staring me in the face was the kickstart I needed.

My doctor had said the weight loss didn’t have to be drastic, or immediate, but to just aim for 75kg at first and see what happens. According to the BMI chart, ‘Healthy’ for my body sits somewhere between 50 and 68kg apparently – which seems like a lot, because it is. And I think there has to be room in there for common sense, because when it comes to being healthy, I feel like this can never be rightly limited to a numerical boundary. There are different aspects to being healthy, and not all of them revolve around weighing in at a certain amount. While my goal is to lose weight because I do need to (doctors orders, not just mine!), more than anything else, I’m just trying to fall back into healthy – in more ways than the BMI chart dictates.

So now, in my year of ‘happy and healthy’, I’m choosing to do things a little differently than anything I’ve done before. I’m introducing five habits to my life in the aim to establish a health as the motivator, and weight loss as it’s beneficiary. The goal is to find a cohesive regime for my body that doesn’t focus on getting to a specific numeric weight, but rather editing the edges of my daily routine to change unhealthy habits into better ones, and to see that transform into a healthier body – inside, outside and love-handles included.

FIVE HABITS TO CHANGE A LIFE

  1. plan and schedule
    This is a big one for me, and perhaps simultaneously the easiest. Anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I am a planner. I love lists and schedules, I live daily by them and love the structure they give to my life. But being a nurse means no two weeks are the same. It can be hard to fall into a rhythm or routine when my work life is both sporadic and unpredictable, interwoven with night shifts. So sitting down every Sunday night for an hour, be it at home after dinner, or on my tea break at work, I plan my week ahead. This helps me allocate time to exercise and plan meals for the next seven days. It gives me a road map to follow, and once I have it, I find an odd comfort in having a game plan. It also works to relieve a lot of the stress I have around all the things I want to do in providing a time for them. Planning and scheduling makes me productive and accountable, and I love it.
  2. do 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day
    I think of this habit as a way of becoming a better dog-mum first and foremost. Being the owner of two golden retrievers means there is always plenty of energy in the house. From the moment I arrive home from work, Igloo and Millie are running loops around me. It’s not always easy to want to go for a walk – especially after a long day. But the reality is that I’m a better dog-mum if I do. The added bonus? It’s the extra exercise I need too. I’m starting out with something easy and achievable. Jumping into trend-led workouts has never really stuck for me, so by starting out with something that’s catered more to the little golden loves in my life makes it an easy starting point. The more intense stuff I can integrate later. And the more I do it, the more I actually find walking to be therapeutic. It’s fresh air, at sunset, with the ones I love most (my Mr. included). It’s fast becoming one of my favourite things to do.
  3. keep a food diary
    Now not to advocate for counting calories as such, but logging my meals into My Fitness Pal, has helped me to decipher what foods are actually not as good as they seem! It also has helped me work out better portion sizes and keeps me in check when it comes to meals and avoiding overeating. It’s human nature to feel better about eating a Krispy Creme when you can’t see the calories that accompany the iced-wonder, but when you have to account for it later, you start to really think about whether it’s worth it. I am loving being held accountable for what I eat, and with the gentle push the app provides, I’m making healthier choices when it comes to food. Its rewarding to be able to look back at your day and realise you gave your body the nourishment it thrives on. And it’s even more rewarding when your body starts to feel it too.
  4. get enough sleep
    I used to be notorious for not getting enough sleep. As I said before, it’s hard enough being a nurse to find routine, but sometimes finding enough hours to sleep between one shift to the other can be even harder. Then there’s errands, housework, and the weekly parental dinners – and before long, sleep becomes almost illusive (especially so when you have a racing mind like mine bursting with ideas and plans). So lately I’ve been making conscious effort to go to sleep earlier, I aim for 8 hours and feel so much better when I achieve it. The extra z’s also help with my digestion and I find myself less bloated in the mornings. The body just works better on a good night’s sleep – and although I already knew this to be a fact, feeling the difference really seals the deal.
  5. make your own meals
    Over the years, I’ve always been a fan of easy meals. Off the shelf, processed, cook for 20 minutes and voila! But often these meals provide little nutrition and altogether, turn out to only add to the waistline. A couple of months ago, I found a website called DietDoctor which is a Keto Diet based collection of recipes. And while I don’t exactly use the website for it’s intended purpose as I don’t plan on sticking to the fad diet, I do love that the recipes on there are low carb. It has been such a game changer when it comes to choosing healthier meal options, and when they taste as good as they do – there’s really no turning back to all things processed. There are ingredients in some of the recipes I’d never even think to use, and with the intended use of healthy fats over saturated ones, you barely feel like you’ve missed out on anything at all – which gets the tick of approval from my Mr. We’ve picked up a few favourites so far like Chicken Pesto Casserole, and Cheese Garlic Stuffed Chicken Breast, but with more than 50 more recipes yet to investigate, we’ve got dinner sorted for quite a while to come.

And thats my five habits! While they aren’t big changes to my everyday life, they are are giving me a good foundation to start building a healthy life upon. I can already see the changes in my thought patterns and energy levels. I’m less emotional, and more driven to make these second-nature. And this week weighing in at 76.5kg, affirms that something is working.

So here’s to healthy habits, happiness and seeing any challenge life throws at you as the perfect starting point.

d x

#39

At this point in my life, my strengths and weakness are becoming pretty clear. And not that I like to focus on my weaknesses by any means, but this blog entry relies on one of my biggest – balance.

Since I was little, my balance has never been my strong point. I can elegantly trip over my own feet standing still, and while that sounds like a unique talent, I assure you it’s never been beneficial.

I’ve tried everything from skateboarding to surfing, but I’ve just never been able to figure it out. Perhaps I’ve never really given it enough of a go, but after watching a documentary on bones at the age of sixteen, the fear of falling with my wrists out first has ever since had me fear unbalancing the wellbeing of my radius’.

But as all things go in my life, this determined bundle of ambition I call myself can’t seem to ever give up on the hope of one day not being capable of losing balance on flat ground (or in a room full of people at Pilates).

The thing is though, if you don’t keep trying, you never will learn something new. And I’ve grown to learn that the moment you believe you can’t do something, is the moment you quite literally can’t.

I met someone the other day who told me she couldn’t snorkel because she hadn’t ever had lessons. Now I’m not sure I’ve met one person who’s ever actually had a snorkelling lesson, so I was confused by the notion at the time. Put the mask on, breathe through the tube, swim. Granted it takes some getting used to at first, but I’ve always thought the process to be pretty straight forward.

The entirety of our trip at Isla De Potipot in northern Philippines, she refused to snorkel the beautiful reefs surrounding the island because she’d already made up her mind that she couldn’t. She was scared she would fail at it, and despite us all offering to teach her how, she declined.

And the more I think about it, the more it really stands out to me as a lesson on never imprisoning yourself in accordance to what you think is not possible. She missed out on a whole under water wonderland that day, and while she had every right to make that decision – I just couldn’t understand it.

So I guess when it comes to balance, why should the fact that I have none of it mean I should corner myself in. The reality is, I’m happy to fall off, over or out, if it means experiencing something new. Sometimes you just have to give something a chance and see where it takes you. To hell with the wellbeing of my radial bones, right?

Ergo, bucket list #39. Learning to stand-up paddle board (SUP, as it will from here on be abbreviated to).

It’s always been something I’ve wanted to try. I live close to the beach, and on the ocean’s softer days, it’s home to many people aboard SUPs. To stand on the roof of the ocean, under blue skies and sunshine, had always struck me as being the dream.

On the fourth day of being at Moreton Island last year, we had woken up to a windless morning. The sea was calm, and clear. So my Mr. and I decided to hire a couple of SUPs and give it ago. The added bonus was that I figured falling off into water, would turn out to be a much softer break fall than concrete.

I must admit that while I knew my balance and lack thereof, would keep things interesting, I didn’t anticipate just how hard it would be to stand up, let alone remain upright.

In the time it had taken my Mr. to help me push my board out, head back to the beach, grab his board, head back out, stand up and paddle over the small breaking waves – I had barely accomplished kneeling on all fours.

He could barely control his laughter in between shouting encouragement my way as I put on a show that could only be likened to Bambi’s first steps. With wobbly legs and a whole degree of arm-waving, I finally stood up after far longer than I care to admit.

From there things got easier. Turns out standing up was the hardest part for me, the rest was relatively straight forward. While the occasionally lump in the ocean unsettled my balance, I never fell off. However I will admit to a fair bit of yelling, “Don’t come near me!” and some use of my oar as a jarring stick whenever my Mr. would teasingly come too close for comfort.

After we had paddled ourselves up the beach and back, we decided to spend the rest of our last hired hour laying on our boards. From the depths of the clear blue waters, we had been spotted by a pod of playful dolphins. Sitting on my sup with a smile as wide as my face plastered on, I watched them swim, dancing through the ocean as if it had been rehearsed especially just for us.

If I could SUP and swim with dolphins everyday, I would – because I’m really not sure how it ever gets any better than that, even if it does take me a small lifetime to stand up.

Balance or no balance, never let your weaknesses define what your capable of. There’s always a way if you will it. You can always do something extraordinary.

#39: Learn to Stand-up Paddleboard – Check!

d x

#66

When I was 12 years old, I broke my wrist riding a scooter down a hill. Granted that it could have been partly my fault given I had been sitting on the foot ledge rather than riding it properly, but you just couldn’t have convinced a younger me that this wouldn’t have ended in disaster at the time. Nevertheless, one fleeting 15 second ride led to a 6 hour wait in hospital and whole lot of not swimming in the middle of summer thanks to one very unfashionable cast.

When I was 13 years old, Dad let me drive the family run-around car back into the garage after we had finished washing it. It was one of those things that sounded like a good idea at the time, but later left you thinking why on earth did we do that. Because there were two things that went terribly wrong in the space of a few seconds. The first was that I forgot where the brake was; the second was that my soap-covered feet had little grip. Slipping on the accelerator was bad, crashing at a decent speed into the foundation wall of our two story house was worse, but forgetting where the brake was and plowing straight back into the wall a second time was downright priceless (in the most expensive way). This stunt also landed me in the emergency ward with a nasty gash to my forehead, and the requirement of a tetanus injection.

When I was 14 years old, I let my friend teach me how to ride her motorbike. I’d never ridden one before, nor did I really know how they worked – so naturally, this also seemed like a good idea. I actually hadn’t been doing too badly, the worst only happened when we decided to stop. You see, there’s a throttle on the handlebar and if you relax your wrist in the form of twisting down (don’t ask me how), you can find yourself tangled in a barb-wire fence pretty quickly with half a metal barb sticking out of your ankle, and a rather large third degree burn curtesy of the exhaust. Back to the hospital, and eight weekly burn dressings later – I never touched another motorbike.

When I was 15 years old, I let a boy push me down a grass hill in a shopping trolley. Was I sober? Yes. Was I smart? Not that day. Hitting a rock halfway down caused the trolley to capsize to the left crushing my elbow under both the trolley and myself. The stomach-turning crunch of my poor bones landed me a return trip to hospital, this time for a surgery and nine months of rehab. I still can’t look at shopping trolleys without cringing.

The point of these three stories is to show you that things with wheels and me, well we’ve never really gotten along. I purposely have never taken on a skateboard for obviously reasons, and have more than a few misfortunes to tell when it comes to my cars. The reality is, there would be less havoc in my life if the wheel had never been invented. But the greater good prevails, and as it turns out, they’re pretty useful in anyone else’s opinion.

But despite having sworn off wheels for the most part, there has always been one more set of wheels I’ve always wanted to try…

At #66 on the bucket list was to ride an adventure ATV, and call me crazy, but despite my unfortunate history with all things round – I’ve always been mentally prepared for the injury I would surely entailed completing this bucket list item.

When planning our trip to Moreton Island last year in November, I stumbled across an advertisement for riding beach ATV’s through the islands notorious sand dunes. Better to stack it on a balmy sand island rather than out in a balinese jungle, I thought. So I convinced my Mr. in no time (who is most definitely pro-theinventionofwheels, and master of all of them!) and we booked it in.

In an unlikely turn of events, I can confirm I managed to ride one without injury or a hospital admission… maybe wheels have taken pity on me and my battle scars after all. In fact, in comparison to the three tourists riding in front of my Mr. and I, who undoubtedly were more of a liability than even me, I think I did quite well. And I most certainly enjoyed every second of racing through the sandy figure-eights built low into the sand dunes, and over the tops of the berms.

Moreton Island is such a beautiful part of the Australian coastline, and to see it from behind the handle-bars of an ATV was such a great experience. Zooming along the shoreline on the beach at sunset is something I will remember as being one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen. Even with the most wonderful of descriptive words, I couldn’t out-do seeing this place in person. It’s just simply something you’ll need to add to your own bucket list.

There is video proof of my successful ATV adventure in my latest holiday vlog, so if you wanted to check it out in live motion, you can click here.

And as for my war with wheels? Well, I’d like to believe that perhaps we finally made peace in paradise.

#66 – Ride an Adventure ATV: Check!

d x

 

 

 

#5 and #52: Philippines 2018 (Helping Children Smile Medical Mission)

First of all – I have to make an apology for taking such a long time to write this blog! There’s been a whole lot of work, and a new tiny-pawed furry addition to the family since finally landing back in Australia last month, so my hands have been kept somewhat hostage…but more on that in my next blog!

Second of all – Philippines!

I’ve been really struggling to find the right word to describe my trip to the Philippines. In reply to most people, I use the word amazing with a gushing enthusiasm and a widen-eyed conviction of the word. But even then, I know this is still an understatement. Because it was just so much more than that.

For those that have been following Life, She Wrote, you will have known that this year’s addition to Bucket List #5 came with it’s own special purpose – but for those that are new to the story, you can read about it here.

Having looked forward to trip since finding out I would be apart of it back in September, I couldn’t believe it had come round so quickly. The end of February was nearing as we all met up at a hotel near the airport in preparation for the three flights ahead of us the next morning. I had met most people prior to trip, but there were a few I hadn’t and it was nice to sit down with everyone, putting faces to names over wine, cheese and Thai.

It was still dark when our early-morning alarms sounded at 4am and we eagerly threw on our team t-shirts (bright blue and not easily missed in a crowd), making our way to the airport. With thirty-something luggage bags in tow carrying various pieces of equipment and monitors, we hustled into the group check-in and busily set about labelling and weighing bags. If I thought the amount of bags we had then and there was extravagant, I had another thing coming for me when we finally did arrive in Vigan (but that’s getting ahead of myself).

The first leg of the trip was flying into Sydney, where we met up with the two surgeons and two anaesthetists, and one other member of the team. Choosing to go it alone at the Duty Free, I managed to get myself utterly lost between terminals an hour later – but I’ll blame that on the airlines changing the terminal departure and those big electronic boards displaying way too many flights to Manilla (was there really that many people departing to Manilla?). Nevertheless, we all boarded on time and I was quite happy not to be left sitting back at terminal 34 on my lonesome.

Touching down in Manilla was a relatively smooth process. We quickly caught a bus to the hotel, with our priorities set on food, sleep and a quick 7-Eleven pitstop. I don’t remember falling asleep that night, I just figured I must have switched out as soon as my head hit that pillow and woken up 6 hours later.

After a traditional buffet breakfast we checked out and made our way back to the Manilla airport to catch our next flight to Laoag. It was a quick flight, landing beside one of the smallest airports I’ve ever seen. The little brick building, covered in pink flowering vines, could be walked end-to-end in less than five minutes.  But with a large sign welcoming Helping Children Smile to the Philippines, we felt right at home.

We collected ourselves, and our many pieces of luggage, into a large coach bus which carted us on a two hour journey to Vigan – our final stop for the trip and the location of the hospital we would be performing surgery at. We stopped midway at a small village supplier for afternoon tea where we we lucky enough to try some local food. Any food at this point was a god-send after having only had a pork bun since breakfast!

We arrived at our hotel in Vigan late that afternoon and quickly changed before heading into town to see the hospital. Having never been on a mission before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect – but the hospital appeared in relatively good condition in comparison to pictures I’d seen from previous mission trips. We toured the theatre rooms, recovery and the shed-like room that would be our ward. Everyone seemed pretty happy with it’s prospects and so we went to check on the luggage. Well in addition to the bags we had brought over, there was at least a dozen more to fill three ward rooms full. How we could have ever needed this much, I’ll never quite know – but it was our way to ensuring we never had to place any cost upon the hospital by only using our own equipment and supplies.

It was still light out when we ventured back to the hotel, so we snuck in a quick swim in the pool and laughed hysterically at those game enough to take on the waterslide that ended at least a metre above the water. There were plenty bruises and red marks all round to tell the tale of that endevour.

 

The next six days were a bit of a blur. But after setting up our recovery room on Monday, we were straight to work with two surgeries that afternoon. Back home, recovery spans across almost a whole floor catering for well over twenty patients. In Vigan, the recovery room was no more than 4 metres by 4 metres, perhaps smaller. It had two small beds either side of the room, with a cupboard in the corner and a cabinet full of drugs at the tail-end. We commandeered two small tables and set them up between each bed, tetras-packing them with our equipment. And we made-do. Theatre was much the same, simplistic, but functional – and from all accounts, better than expected.

It was such a rush to see it all play out, and then to be a part of it. Carrying the children in their hands, the anaesthetic nurse would rush out of the OT into our small recovery placing the child onto one of the beds. In a swift rush, the pulse oximeter and oxygen mask would be connected and we would intently monitor their small airways until they woke.

Waking up from the anaesthetic in the Philippines was a little rougher than at home, and so as soon as our little ones opened their eyes, we would whisk them off the trolleys and into our arms to rock and soothe. Their were plenty of wrigglers and plenty of tears, but that all got a little better as soon as mum arrived to hold there hands. After a quick dose of pain relief and a drink of water, we let them return to the ward.

Upstairs in the ward, it became a noisy collection of people after the third day. Families consisting of parents, siblings, uncles and aunties would squeeze into the same bed offering support to the children, becoming the ultimate nursing team. We would leave instructions for the parents in regards to pain relief; how much and how often, each night and return each morning to do a quick round and see how they had progressed.

The children were beautiful. And again, this too feels to be a rather large understatement. I fell in love with them the moment I met them. Their tiny faces that lit up the moment you gave them a smile, or handed them something as little as a toy car, had my heart bursting at it’s seams. These children were just so grateful for the things that many children here take for granted, and I couldn’t help but be in awe of their strength despite their circumstances.

Before each surgery we would adorn them with a little material cape made by volunteers here in Australia, and help them believe in superheroes. We would place little coins called ‘lucky money’ in their hands when they went to sleep, and would make sure they woke up with the lucky money still there. It was these little things that made surgery feel a little less frightening, and helped them feel a little more brave.

 

The differences to the their lips and palates were remarkable, and being a part of a process that changed each of their lives in the most unbelievable way has undoubtedly changed my perspective on my own world immensely.

After six days, we had performed over thirty operations. The hospital had kindly provided food each day and made every sacrifice possible to ensure our operations went smoothly. We were truly spoilt to have been able to work in Vigan, and were treated to dinner each night in the small town by different members of the Vigan Rotary Club.

On our last few days, we had enough downtime to do some exploring throughout the Provence of Vigan, a budding city on the tourist hot-spot list. From Dancing Fountain Shows to historical 17th Century walkways, monumental buildings to heritage listed sites – we were privileged to see so much in such a short time frame. And as we drunk a San Miguel (apple flavoured, for me) Beer at sunset on the beach, I think each one of us counted ourselves as lucky to have been on this trip.

After a heart wrenching clinic morning, checking up on the kids after their surgeries and waving goodbye to the children that had changed our lives perhaps even more so than we had changed theirs, we packed our bags and set off on the long journey home.

There aren’t enough words to describe the fullness of my heart, or the awe I have in the strength of these little ones and their parents. I am so proud to have been able to work alongside some of the most amazing clinicians and to have had the opportunity to utilise my own nursing career in a corner of the world that really needed it.

This trip has taught me that there is so much kindness, courage and generosity still to be shared in this world, and that it sometimes comes most from those who have far less than you.

For more information about the Helping Children Smile Organisation, or to donate to the cause for next year’s mission, click here. I cannot express how much of a difference surgery for these children makes in simple tasks such as eating and speaking, nor the happiness it brings to a part of the world who truely appreciate it.

For more details about visiting Vigan and Manilla, where to go and what to do – head over to The Travel Log!

And to have a sneak peak at the trip, the children we operated on and the places we managed to visit after-hours all in colour motion, you can head to my YouTube Channel!

This has been the most rewarding bucket list ‘check’ yet, and I really do hope to go again next year!

#5: Travel to a new place every year and #52: Volunteer in a Third World Country – double check!

d x