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Futureproofing – Part 1
I began writing these posts for my children. I wanted to share with them the things that we weren’t likely to talk about over dinner, or at family gatherings or just hanging out. I wanted to tell them how special they are to me, how essential to who I am, how they have shaped my life and to thank them for letting me into their lives as they grow and change.

So much has happened in the five years that I started writing. Weddings and grandchildren; better management of my pain and continued improvements in my walking and gait; shifting to a home near a beach in preparation for my husband’s looming retirement. But most of all, I have discovered a growing determination to look time squarely in the eye and to fight its ravages – I will not go gently “into that good night”.*

Futureproofing has been on my mind for a couple of years as I get older. Where to retire and when to relocate? How to support family, and how to ensure never to become a burden in any way to family? How to maintain my upper body strength and minimise muscle and joint disintegration? How to keep improving my walking gait? What does quality of life mean to me? What will make my heart sing?To sum up, how to live a full and satisfying and even exciting life?

“Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas*

First thing to tackle has been to find a place where I can take my stand. No more coping with Wellington’s cold winters. I didn’t think I could manage one more. The decision to move was difficult. We have a son and daughter law with two little ones in Wellington, a daughter and son in law with a toddler and another one on the way, and a son and daughter in law in Auckland.

What was important in deciding where to live? It had to have warm summers, be near a beach, be accessible to family, a place to tempt grandchildren, a place to welcome and draw people to, a place to retire to. And, we realised, a place that my husband could work from until he retired. I wasn’t worried about proximity to medical services. My instincts tell me not to make it a problem. It’s on my radar, but barely.

Our kids were right to advise us not to decide to live somewhere because it was close to one or other of them – the world is mobile and our kids may not stay in one place. We have moved our kids backwards and forwards between cities as work dictated.

So here we are on the Hibiscus Coast. Where people come on holiday. Thirty minutes from the CBD (don’t drive in peak hour traffic) yet a world away in culture and stress… And house prices. We up-sized, got a better quality house, more land and we are 600 metres from a fabulous and mostly empty beach. For pretty much the same price as the home we left in Wellington.

Oh, how I love this beach! In summer I wheel down in my wheelchair with my crutches clipped on twice a day. At low tide so I can walk the length of the beach. That’s my rehab and therapy. At other times I wheel down then walk into the surf and just stand there as the waves sweep over my thighs and higher. My heart sings! The locals have come to know that when they see my wheelchair at the top of the boat ramp I am somewhere on the beach.

The locals, my neighbours, are all here for the same reason we are. They love the beach. All summer long people wander along the roads that lead down to the beach wearing only their swimming togs with a beach towel slung over their neck, or round their waist. Some carry a body board or surf board or paddle board. My husband is not alone in pulling his kayak on its trolley along the 600 metres to the beach. People of all ages and all unselfconscious. Oldies with their wrinkled saggy bodies, teenage boys with rippling abs, girls in bikinis, men with their bellies hanging over their board shorts, walking in groups or singly. Greetings and waves to friends and neighbours. It’s wonderful. Acceptance all round.

It’s like going back in time. We know our neighbours. I call them if I need something while my husband is away. They ask me for favours. I have good friends here.

My daughter and son in law come here in the weekend to recharge. We play with our grand daughter. She loves it here too. Our neighbour lets us use her swimming pool. Our grand daughter goes down the road to the play area either sitting on my lap in the wheelchair or pushing herself on her trike, speeding down the slope.

When our son’s family stays with us everyone piles in too, bodies in every room.

As I write this I can hear the ocean, my friend’s dog barking, some birds singing. I can see the palm fronds rippling in the slightest of breezes, huge hibiscus blossoms, tropical greenery. I can feel the tiny edge to the temperature that tells me that Autumn is coming.

This place is everything I wanted as I contemplate a future to look forward to.

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Just over a week ago our son married a wonderful young woman.

She is witty and wise, has a wonderful laugh, a radiant smile that brings joy to others, is caring and giving, inclusive, and loves my son. It may seem odd, but one of the things I love most about her is that she loves her mother. Family is important to her. Of all the gifts she offers my son, this is one of the greatest.

Their vows to each included that they would love each other through sickness and good health, and they mean it. Both have experienced trauma in their families and both know how difficult it can be to keep going forward together. It can be easy when things go well, but, as they alluded to in their vows, times together can be mundane, can be frustrating, can be sad, troubling, difficult. But where there is real commitment, love can be uplifting, the source of goodness and fulfilment.

This couple knows that. I love them for this, and for what they bring to each other.

I watched my son as his bride walked towards him. His face was lit up with happiness and joy and excitement. She was glowing and so very happy to be walking to him, about to marry their lives together.

We say that all we want for our children is to be happy.

This is a very happy couple. I thank my daughter in law and her family for bringing so much to this marriage.

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Seize the Day – We’re On Our Way!

Wednesday 22 August
We’re on our way!
It’s hard to believe that in only a few weeks I’ve gone from asking Peter    a hypothetical question “Where would you go if we ever went back to Europe?” to sitting in Sydney airport waiting for the next leg of our journey to … well … Europe!

It’s been like surfing a giant wave.  Once I’d realised that the timing of my carpel tunnel surgery was something of a circus, paused the merry-go-round, and decided to step off for four weeks, we were paddling like mad to catch that wave. Where? How long? What to see? What to do?Flights, accommodation, research … Whew!

And I am SO glad we threw all caution to the wind. I found out yesterday that the surgeon still hasn’t made the request for ACC to fund surgery. The date for surgery has moved from July, to August, to September, and if it doesn’t happen by the end of September, it won’t happen til next year! So instead of feeling disempowered by the uncertainty, I’m punching the air, “YES” what will be, will be, but I’ll be in Europe!

So here we are, sitting in Sydney airport … Next stop Abu Dhabi!

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“Storytelling is how we survive, when there’s no feed, the story feeds something, it feeds the spirit, the imagination. I can’t imagine life without stories, stories from my parents, my culture. Stories from other people’s parents, their culture. That’s how we learn from each other, it’s the best way. That’s why literature is so important, it connects us heart to heart.”

Alice Walker

Alice Walker, author of  “The Colour Purple”, represents for me more than the literature of the oppressed and the marginalised, more than literature of  social justice, more than literature of a gifted writer. Yes, she has the power to reach across boundaries and to connect with people regardless of nationality, gender, class, ethnicity. Yes, she has the ability to change lives and can influence the way we think about racism.  Yes, she uses literary devices to breathe life into characters and situations.

She has the gifted writer’s ability to draw us into relationships with her characters. She gives us the opportunity reflect on the ethics and values of our community, to empathise with characters from different backgrounds and experiences, to walk a mile in another’s shoes.

Her storytelling has the power to connect many hearts because her storytelling is literature.

Nonetheless, everybody has stories. Everybody needs stories.  “(stories are) … how we learn from each other, it’s the best way.”  Stories tell us who we are, tell much about the community that shaped us.

My son set up this blog for me to encourage me to write. I’m not sure what he thought I would write about. At first I didn’t know what to write about. When I realised that this was an opportunity to tell stories to my grown up children I realised I had an audience, at least one I could address in my head. They can choose to read or not read what I write, but I can share stories with them that otherwise might not be told. I have told stories about my mother and her mother. I have told stories about my travels, stories about our family, what it is like to live with a spinal cord injury, my hopes and dreams, opinions on social or political issues, my interests and thoughts in general. My daughter always clicks “like” when she has read a post “Because”, she told me, ” I want you to know I’ve read it.” That’s when I knew that it’s not only literature that “… connects us heart to heart” but all storytelling, whether it is sharing experiences or thoughts and ideas. When I see that she has read a post I feel a connection.

The storyteller, like the artist or poet makes herself vulnerable  because she reveals something of herself and the background that has moulded her. Opinions can reveal prejudices and introduce conflict. But that is how we learn about each other. Reflections can stir the imagination, expand and inspire ideas. Memories can provoke interest in finding out more about who we are and the forces that given us “identity”.

Using technology anyone can create a social role as a storyteller. We can connect with people on a global scale. I am excited to read something written by a woman who has lived most of her life in Africa and the Middle East. To connect with someone from such a different cultural background and to learn something of her life and yet find we share many concerns and priorities is eye opening.  It is awesome that someone may read my words and connect in some way, and that conversely I will read someone else’s story.

By the way, Alice Walker has a blog. I recommend reading it!

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The once in a lifetime snow in Wellington coincided with an early appointment I had at Wakefield Hospital. I live in Karori, one of the hill suburbs hard hit by snow, but my appointment was in Newtown, where the snow never settled.

This morning the snow had turned into hills of ice and vallies of black ice. The windscreen and rear window of my car had at least three inches of ice! My plan was to turn the motor on ten minutes before i left and defrost the windows … Immediately foiled by my crutches skidding on the icy steps and me on my hands and needs.

Then my knight in shining armour appeared. A wonderful young man who turned my car motor on, scraped the ice off the windows (oh, his poor cold hands …) then retrieved my ski outriggers from the garage so I could walk on the ice to my car, all the time gently trying to dissuade me from driving – he’d rung the council and been told that it was unwise to drive in our part of the world.

But my appointment was a final check before I leave for Europe, too important to ignore.

I put my car in low, backed slowly out of my car pad, carefully turned downhill, round the corner, and immediately knew I’d make it. Hurrah!

Traffic on the main roads stopped for cars easing out of icy side roads. The snow and ice definitely brought out the best in people.

Then “tres horreurs”, a phone call from the surgeon I was to see in fifteen minutes! He also lives in Karori, but wasn’t prepared to take on the ice!!!!

Still, he eventually got into his office, and made space in his busy, busy, busy day to see me.

So, ten out of ten for this cripple’s bravery and driving skills; ten out of ten for my magnificent old Corona; and twenty out ten for my saviour neighbor!

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Peter had two meetings in Christchurch yesterday morning and flew down for a quick morning’s work. He was at the airport waiting for his 1.30pm flight back to Wellington when the earthquake struck.

His work colleague who lives in Christchurch was in Queenstown at the time and began a long drive home. Peter managed to get a rental car and returned to Christchurch to make sure that his colleague’s wife and children were ok. He stayed the night with the family to make sure they were ok during the aftershocks. Their home has water and power returned about 9pm.

Knowing that Peter was ok, I spent the night watching the story unfold on TV. It is awful.

This morning Peter is still not sure how he will get home. Flights are full, and he’s unlikely to get a seat on standby. It looks like he will have to drive to Picton and catch a ferry to Wellington. That is, if he can get a sailing – apparently most people in his situation have the same idea.

At least he wasn’t in the CBD at the time of the quake, and he will eventually get home somehow. Unlike many people who will never get home, or those who have had to limbs amputated to be rescued from the rubble, or have other horrific injuries.

Still, I’ll feel better about it all when I know that he is out of Christchurch.

Postscript:

Peter made it home. best summed up in his own words. Peter’s text: “overwhelming sense of relief as plane doors closed”

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Usually I rigorously maintain a record of what’s happening in my lower limbs, particularly spasm, that may affect movement and walking. With the holidays and general feeling of laziness I’ve not been so careful. I made an entry today and reading the earlier records that I had kept, reminded me how useful this diary is. Resolution: make a note every day of what’s happening, no matter how small. I remind myself to make the time and the effort, it’s worth it. “Everything costs, every effort pays.”

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