About Reb

2009 Cancer doesn't always have to win! I know. I'm a survivor but my mum was not. Now I'm a fighter and dreamer. I believe in loving life to its fullest and helping others to do the same. 2012 Pfft! So it rears it's ugly head again - well, well, well you so got to admire it's tenacity BUT guess what? It's in for one heck of a rough ride!

She’s back! Almost :)

Well it’s been an interesting time since I blogged last and over the next couple of weeks I will share some of those times it with you all  as i update this blog and get things rolling. Needless to say Frightened  has been very loud and annoying and she nearly won — but Fighter rallied eventually and you can see on  our Facebook group that things are moving forward and it will not be long before I am on the road – gathering stories, having parties and catching up with all those people I love 🙂

Over the next few days I will be updating some pages in this blog – you might get more notification than you want – I’ll try to keep them to the minimum.

I’ll also be adding a new page – where you can tell your own story, because everyone has has something you simply want to share.



Protect or Prepare?

A little bit of controversy for you today…  the next line of the blog is probably going to shock many of you and and possible start a flourish of criticism and complaints, but here we go.

I let my eight and six years old grandchildren handle my medications – and being a secondary cancer patient, there is some beefy stuff in my arsenal.

There.  I said it.  For those of you not already rushing off to call Children’s Services I’d like to explain why and how, and then you can be the judge.  A few weeks ago I blogged about old-fartinalia and how my medicines were getting so unruly I bought an idiot box – um I mean pill box – to stop me killing myself with the wrong medications.

“I remember that,” you might be saying “But hang on…  one day they were too confusing for you to handle but you’ve being letting the kids handle them?”

That’s right, I do.  Each Sunday Jordan and Charli help me take all my tablets out of the packets and fill up my pill box for the week ahead, and each Sunday I choose to be less hands on so that their confidence and skill increases.  Protect or Prepare.  Any one who has ever had a child will no doubt be faced with an endless stream of Protect or Prepare choices.    Sometimes you have to protect (when they are very small and don’t have experience) and sometimes you have to prepare (they have to go to school or learn to cross a road).  Other things are more discretionary and one of the most challenging choices is how to handle serious illnesses and dying.

My approach is to opt on the side of prepare, rather than protect my children and grandchildren from these tricky issues.  My grandkids (as with all little people, are curious and natural learners) and having three of them (4, 6 & 8) living with me at the moment, I’ve had an awful lot of sticky questions.

Jordan (left) teaches Charli (right) how to fill Nonna’s tablet box. Jordan had been filling the box for a few weeks prior to this photo.

We have had impromptu conversations about my mastectomy:
“Whats this Nonna?” asked Charli (6 years)
“That’s my fake boob honey.”
“Oh. Ok.  Why do you need a fake one?”
“Because the cancer made my real one very sick and the Doctor had to cut it off.”
“Oh, and the fake one makes you feel better about yourself?”  Charli surmised. I just had to hug her.  Little Miss I’m just six, had more understanding than a lot of adults.

We have talked about my Cancer being incurable:
“When is Nonna going to get better?” asked Jordan (8 years)
“She’s not, honey.  This type of cancer can be cured.” Said Mel, her Mum.
“So, her medicine are to stop her hurting so much?”
“And slow the Cancer down”.
Once again we were proud of Jordan’s understanding, she only turned 8 last week.

We talk openly about my treatment and medications:
“Nonna, Nonna!  One of your lollipops is on the loose!” said Harry aged (5 next week) before carefully picking up the non-drug end of my empty lozenge pain killer. Harry knows that particular drug can hurt other people and is aware of how to handle one on the loose 🙂

We’ve been fortunate in our house (and in both my grown childrens’ homes) that cleaning products have never been ingested, fire’s never been lit and medicines never taken in mistake of lollies.  I don’t believe it is because we have locked these things away and made them a mysterious taboo – in fact the opposite,  Hot, Sharp and Poison, were some of the first words my kids and now their children learn to understand.  Dangerous and breakable things were displayed safely, but never locked away or removed.  Kidlets were just closely supervised and taught about these things.

Now I have five beautiful grand children, who are being raised in a similar way. These five kidlets are very lucky that they have amazing parents who help them to see the wonder, fun and magic  in the world  as well as prepare them for life in all the forms they might encounter it. Needless to say a little bit of proud mum and Nonna bragging is sneaking into this blog but you know as much as  I adore my own children, the grand kidlets would not be as charming and awesome as they are without their other parent too. I love and appreciate my ‘other’ daughter Sharon, and my ‘other’ son Grant for the way they love, care for  and nurture their children too. I don’t like the term “in-law”  it sounds like a legal document rather than a heart based relationship, so I am lucky enough to have two daughters and two sons who between them are raising really wonderful human beings.

Disclaimer:  I am not professing that my parenting or my kids parenting is so flawless that accidents don’t happen; constant supervision is needed to teach these concepts.  No lock or education can take the place of an interested, involved parent supervising kidlets as they learn and explore the world.

I also think that by letting the kidlets be actively involved in my disease it will help them cope late on.  Medicines, doctors and long periods in bed while I am drowsy are going to become a regular feature of the rest of my life and likely to increase as time goes by.  I hope that exposure and explanations now, will make whatever happens in the future less scary and more normal for them.

To this end I encourage Jordan, Charli and Harry to come up and snuggle me on the weekends, or simple play computer games or watch a movie in bed next to me.  I love having them nearby, they enjoy the one on one time and I am happy that they are so comfortable being near by while I am sick.  I know that down the track there will come a time where I am spending more time in bed and able to do less: in these times I hope the grandies will continue to jump in next to me for a hug, chat, or a story, and that these fun memories will outweigh the not so nice ones.

Kidlets are more in tune, capable and responsible that we give them credit for.  Little hearts and souls can carry very heavy loads with such adult understanding and simple acceptance that it would put most of us to shame.  What kids CAN NOT handle is feeling unsure, excluded or not important enough to be involved.

I have trusted my kids (all 4 of them), and grandkidlets with the truth and the facts and they have responded with empathy, understanding and responsibility.   This, is why I believe in Prepare over Protect wherever possible.

Talking to a five year old about disease and dying is much more refreshing and honest than talking to most adults.  Not that this is a topic of conversation all  or even most of time in our house but on the occasion it arises we do talk, listen and  respond. Perhaps as adults we over-think the big issues, worry to much and forget to be in the moment – genuinely BE present, with the people around us.

Next time you are feeling frustrated and thinking of telling someone to “grow up”  … consider… maybe that’s the problem 🙂

The Ballad of Rebel and Dodge

Thank you for your votes and comments on Dodgybago Vs. The Perfect Vehicle.   It was great to hear different perspectives and experiences and add these into the melting pit of decision making.  As announced earlier today I have decided to go ahead with the purchase of the Dodgybago.

Dodgy and I are something of kindred spirits, I feel. We are both practical and resourceful, unique and a little off beat.  We are both hopeless nomads to the core.  A little bit battered by a full and joyful life and our new shine has long been replaced by a wicked patina wrought from experience and fun.  (This is nowhere near as articulate as Charles’ similes between ‘Vanessa the VW’ and me, but you get the idea. Read his gem here).   I feel Dodgy is my perfect travelling companion… not just a random vehicle.  I am sure Dodgy has many stories to tell and many more to live; just like me.

A story to tell… yes that reminds me the title of todays blog is the Ballad of Rebel and Dodge.   My dear friend, chief instigator of the Parfait Party marathon and talented songwriter Bright Oh once penned a song called the Ballad of Hope and Prime.  For some reason, whenever I thought about purchasing Dodgybago and starting our adventure together this tune popped in my head.  You can tell I am a bit gushing and romantic over the whole vehicle selection thing; hence my delay.  Anyway, with the intention of entombing this saga in the fair art of song…  and sincerest apologies to Bright Oh, I have ‘commissioned’ the bastardisation of his tune to suit my own blossoming romance with this 1973 Dodge, known as Dodgy (I’m really super sorry Bright…erm sort of).

The Ballad of Rebel and Dodge (I, Mel Ziarno accepted the above ‘commission’ to pen these words under certain duress and hereby beg Bright Oh’s, Prime, Hope and who knows who elses forgiveness. As you know mothers have some awfully powerful persuasive methods and some mothers even stoop to blackmail – not pointing at any in particular of course.)

She’s a Rebel with a cause and a parfait glass
Cancer’s got her, feelin a bit busted-arse
But there’s something she’s been seekin’
A trusty home with a v8 engine
Here in the ballad of Rebel & Dodge

He’s a clunker dodge, with plenty of space (oh la la la)
His most redeeming feature is not his face (oh my oh my)
But his history’s sure to please ya;
He’s been to Canada and Indonesia.
In the ballad of Rebel & Dodge

I don’t really know, who will outlast who
But I’ve never seen a bolder two (twoo ooo ooo)

I’ve been watching Rebs dance around Dodge
Could he prove to be both transport and lodge?
But there is something that’s for certain
Dodge is big enough to cart all her kit in
It’s the ballad of Rebel & Dodge

She’s the Rebel with a cause and heavy load
He’s the grunt, the wheels and her abode
To be going with them, I’d give up anything, even my left one.
This was the ballad of Rebel and Dodge

Such a crazy pair, with their Parfait ways
For Rebel and Dodge it’s party every day (ay ay ay)

Such a crazy pair, with their Parfait ways
For Rebel and Dodge it’s party every day (ay ay ay)

For the less romantic amongst us,  Dodgy’s measurements and photo’s are below for inspection.

Dodgy is in great condition for his age – his last owner enjoyed his company and kept up his maintenance and appearance. He runs on LPG but does have a petrol tank for emergencies. There are a couple of LPG tanks for the engine and one for the house. The house will also run on batteries or plug into mains electricity.  He’s 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. Dodgy likes to plod along about 90-95km per hour which suits me as I can enjoy the countryside as we go.

When he arrives here sometime within the next 10 days, he will be packing all his papers and history from birth in Canada in 1973.

For those days I bush camp or don’t want to play with the other kids 🙂

A large one – lots of room for everything 🙂

Always at the ready – i never have to pull it down to make it up 🙂

A full kitchen – for lots of Parfaits 🙂

Airconditioned – even when the door is closed 🙂

Welcome Dodgybago to the Parfait Party and this epic adventure.

A caravan, a caravan, my kingdom for a caravan or was that a motorhome?

Fighter Vanessa grabbed me by the scruff of my collar on Tuesday morning.
“C’mon, the sun is shining.  Caravans are a selling.  Let’s go!”
“No!” Frightened protested.  “I need to stay in bed today.”  I had run out of one of my pain killers and it wasn’t avaiable for a couple of days. I was terrified of how bad today was going to be.  The last thing I wanted to is go driving round the place climbing in and out of caravans.
“Well you are obviously not serious about this Parfait Party thing.” Fighter goaded.
“It will be different when I am actually on the road” Frightened tried.
“Rubbish”. Fighter retorted. “If you can’t be bothered getting out of bed to reach your goal, you don’t deserve it.  It ain’t gonna happen magically while you cuddle your pillow.”

Arrrh!  I hate it when she is right.  Off to Port Wakefield and Pt Clinton I went,  to walk around a handful of likely caravans in the flesh.  Soooo worth while.  On the first day I found out that all the pop-tops on my short list had to go  I just don’t have the reach or strength every day to be pulling roofs up and down or beds in or out.  I also realised that after a day of climbing in and out of caravans, there are sometimes that I just wont be able to come and go without a lot of pain so a toilet and shower inside is even more important than what I first considered.   Also as I looked at different sized caravans I wondered if I would be able to tow one after all.
“That looks awfully heavy and unstable.” Frightened worried.
“Hundreds of people manage to tow caravans everyday.”  Said Fighter Vanessa.
But despite Fighters instance that caravans were a viable vehicle, my mind and my heart began wandering back to motorhomes.

I spent the evening and well into the  small hours on Gumtree and Trading Post and anything that sold used caravans or motorhomes assessing a big list of vehicles.  I was sore and tired, and incredibly encouraged by the fact I driven and climbed all day.  But now  I was more confused that ever as I drifted off to sleep.  Caravan? Motorhome? Caravan? Motohome?

The magic is inside and how they are built.

Tuesday was ground hog day.
“C’mon , the sun is shining. Caravans are a selling”  Fighter chiming again.
“No! Just let me rest, please.”
“Okay sure. Rest up. No road trip then!” Fighter threatened with a very ‘no-dinner-no-desert’ tone.
“If you are serious though… I’m going back to Pt Wakefield to have a look at this private caravan sale.”
“I sat up in front of the mirror and blew a big childish raspberry at myself and hopped out of bed.

Fighter was right – if I couldn’t even be stuffed getting out of bed to go caravan shopping two days in a row, how did I really think I was going to go sight-seeing and parfait-partying all the live long day? 

Off I trotted again with Frightened and Fighter bickering away all day in my head.
“You don’t know where we are going do you?”  Frightened asked Fighter.  As I threw a  u-turn on the highway. “I do… just give me a minute to bring up a map… I’ll have a clue in …just…a … minute.”  Fighter responded (she is stubborn as all hell, terrible at directions and frankly a bit of a liar when it comes to stating her level of competence in such things).

Finally we (I?) got ourselves un-lost and found the turn-off to a private caravan sale on a rural property only to be met with a dead end.

“I told you I shouldn’t have come today.  This is stupid.  I can’t even get in the road”.  A road plant had just dumped tonnes soft fresh dirt lumps all across the road ready for grading. “It’s not a strong car, she’s old and needs to be handled gently.” Frightened said. “It’s still a car, it can do this.  JUST GO!”  my other alter demanded.   “Look that car went through.”

“He is a four-wheel drive and about six feet tall! “


And we did.  Very uneventful ride despite all the drama.  I giggled to myself about all the fun I was going to have on the road as Frightened and Fighter both jostle for the decision-making seat.  Fun times ahead!

Another successful day of caravan hunting revealed more facts:  The crew at Port Wakefield Caravans  can automate anything and love challenges, and their Aussie By Design caravans are to absolutely die for!  Frightened and Fighter are both properly in lust with this brand of van, although Frightened was muttering something about the microwave being to high and the overall size too big (Lordy girl, give it a rest).

Retiring to my laptop in the evening, still sore, still tired but still pressing on (thank you Fighter, you were right to make me go out again), I began googling a question bigger than the meaning of life… Should I buy a car and caravan? Or a motorhome?

Happy with my two days of road tripping and caravan hunting, but still perplexed, I was about to go to bed when…

… I found it!  Well I think I found it.  It was old and unexpected, irreverent and a little off kilter.  Solid, but not serious. Practical, but with room for personalisation.  If all goes well in a few days you’ll be hearing the first of many adventures from Rebs and her vintage Dodgybago!  Stay tuned

PS It was lovely talking to the helpful owners and staff at both Aussie by Design and YP Caravans & Custom Annexes . Customer service is right up there with both business even through they sell to very different markets. Together over the two days they taught me many things I did not know.


When life gives you lemons… part II

I’m quickly learning through the Parfait Party that is the unexpected surprises that make life so sweet. The quirky, the thoughtful and even the downright confronting 🙂

So todays blog follows on from When life give you lemons part 1 to a little more unexpected tang in my Parfait. The Quirky, the Random and the Downright Confronting.

The Quirky and the Random…
One of my biggest sources of joy and giggles this week has come from a 3D logo created by Sam at Blue Crab Studio. Nowhere in my Parfait Party planning did I factor in a set of over sized novelty parfait glasses wrapped in a wood and perspex box.  I walked down the hall way the other day to find a BIG quirky 3D Parfait Party logo staring back at me.

Not only is it a piece of art, but a piece of functional inspiration: Sam has built in a removable lid and little note card giver.  Each day I can add a thought or a piece of inspiration to the great parfait of life!  What a wonderful crazy, unexpected idea.

This and many other wonderful big and little  and random things that my friends and family have been working on sometimes without my knowledge, remind me that much like the lemons in my letter box last week, there are many more people at work for the Parfait Party in many more creative and interesting ways that I will ever be able to imagine.

3D Parfait Party gift

Lemons: two large over sized parfait glasses.
Lemonade:  A beautiful, inspiring functional diary / artwork

Here are just a few examples of how people in my life have been busily making lemonade:
A Kiwi ( New Zealander) is planning a make your own Parfait Party at her home.
Kombi’s against Kancer concept stage
Parfait Party mentioned in blogs
Fuel sponsorship
A gift of glass rainbows to travel with.
SL friends – a giant marathon.
Friends and family sending letters to the media.
Family contacting potential sponsors.
A local group is planning a gold coin donation afternoon tea.
A fun name / numberplate competition.
An almost 5 year old telling me to not worry to just think about the fun I will have in my van.

Sometimes, as stated in an earlier blog I can get really hung up on the big things and trying control things. But I know firsthand that the surprises and little gestures mean the world to us and really do have the power to change attitudes, outcomes – and heck – probably even the world.

So I’ll be looking for opportunities to pass the lemonade forward wherever possible.  Sometimes it’s easy to think that I have too much on my plate or that I no longer have anything to give – but we all do have something to give.  A smile, an hours help, a loan of something fun, friendship, or a crazy 3D artwork and glass rainbows!

Everything – no matter how small, quirky or unexpected – influences the end goal.

And the Downright Confronting

So we’ve talked about good things begetting good things.  But what about proper lemons.  You know those downright crappy things that just darken the day? I’m going to bust out the silver lining cliche soon.  Twice in recent weeks I have had rather “dark cloud” conversations with professionals about the exit plan for palliative care. Umm … that’s awkward.

The professionals (both involved with people in various states of health) were so busy ticking boxes and being inconvenienced by my ongoing palliative care status – not even 6 months yet, that they were perfectly oblivious to the fact that getting out of palliative care generally involves a six foot box.  I guess this may not have arisen if I had moved through the system in an expected and efficient way …

Admittedly I made some assumptions that employees from a health transport service and a superannuation fund would have been exposed to the terms ‘terminal’ and ‘palliative’.  Surely I wouldn’t have to spell it out for them would I?

To be fair I know that most people (myself included) don’t really understand ‘palliative’ until it touches our lives, so for the sake of clarity…

…palliative care is essentially end of life care.  You may not die for several years, but palliative care is the term given when your treatment is no longer focused on a cure, but instead on quality of life and comfort for you and your family.  It is care for those who have a condition from which they will not recover.

The community health transport service is an amazing service for people on the Yorke Peninsula to access treatment and specialists in other towns (e.g. Wallaroo, Adelaide) at minimal cost.  It is an absolute godsend, and I don’t wish to detract from its immense value in retelling this little dark moment after all we all have our off days.

Anyway back to the story, I have been accessing the transport service for months, using the health bus when I am physically able but changing to a health car when the pain is too much for extended bus travel.   Upon booking a health car recently it appeared that my expiry date had passed, at least for car travel.
Transport Coordinator:  “I’ve got you down for the bus.”
Vanessa: “No, I have been taking the car while I getting my leg tumour treated”
Coordinator: “Well, you have been using the car for a while now and it’s only a short term thing it’s really for the frail-aged or disabled.”
Vanessa:  “Or in palliative care”  I added
Coordinator: “Yes but that is only supposed to be SHORT TERM. (Sigh) It can’t be a long term thing. How much longer will you be in palliative care?”
Vanessa: “Umm until I die … I suppose?”

It’s quite lucky that I have an odd personality. I can imagine that telling people that they have overstayed their palliative care timeframe could be very distressing.  I am fairly open about the subject but even I found this somewhat confronting.  I raised a brow, grinned and said to Mel that I felt like apologising for living too long.

Even worse was the interrogation from one of my superannuation funds. Earlier in the year I turned 55 and given my big adventure and having no guarantees on old age, I decided to draw down my super and use it for the Parfait Party.  After a long and non-productive discussion with HostPlus, my patience was wearing thin.  The super rep seemed  determined to hold on to my superannuation. We ended up here…
Super Rep: “So you are retired?”
Vanessa: “Yes, not by choice, as I said before I have a terminal illness and am in palliative care, I will not live long enough to retire.”
Super Rep: “Ok.  So you will be returning to the workforce at some stage then?”
Vanessa: “No, (eyes roll to the ceiling) I’ll be dying instead.”

Give me strength!   I had to nearly grunt the facts ape style at him before he would loosen his grip on a simple form.  “ME NO WORK – ME SICK – ME NEED SUPER NOW – NO LATER – ME DIE SOON.”

Again, I was thankful to be a fairly resilient  person with certain tolerance  about such things, people and systems.  I know end-stage disease is a very difficult position to accept and I was mortified (not for myself) but for all the people in my position, especially those who are less resilient  who have to justify their requests  to bureaucrats in such demoralising terms:  “Please sir, I need this because I am dying. Yes Sir, I promise I won’t go back to work”.

And so at long last we reach the silver lining:)

Lemons:  A crappy disease with no cure, and a world that finds it difficult to deal with these conditions. Hanging around in palliative care seems to be a bit on the nose.
Lemonade:    Sharing my story and helping people understand what is means to be in palliative care.

I am in Palliative Care
I am alive; please don’t write me off or treat me as if I was already dead.
I am ill and I will probably die from my condition, that is if the proverbial bus doesn’t get me; so please understand I might have new physical, mental or emotional limitations.
I am ill and I am going to die far sooner that I imagined, there are uncomfortable things we  will need to deal with.
I am still the same person, sister, friend, son or parent I have always been; Please treat me the same. Our relationship doesn’t need to change.
I may have things I wish to do or I may change my priorities. Please try to understand.  My decisions might not make sense to you, but they are decisions I choose to make, and, sometimes they are ones I have to make.
I am interested in what you are doing, feeling and thinking, let me wipe your tears and hold your hand too – protecting me from unpleasantness doesn’t help – it makes me feel alienated.
I do want to hear what you think or dream of, we don’t always have to talk about me 🙂
I do want your honest  feedback and ideas – just because I am ill you do not have to let me have my own way all the time.

UT oh! They’re back!

Darned Fighter Vanessa keeps adding things to my bucket list.  Normally I’d be on her side for this, but lately… Well I think she has gone a bit barmy.  Her latest item is “Make something go viral”.  I mean what the heck?  It doesn’t even have to be Parfait Party related she tells me: just any old thing will do.   Fighter assures me that cracking the elusive magic of a viral campaign will somehow enrich my life and make it more meaningful.

Frightened Vanessa’s response “Ok, maybe we could do that. After I sleep for a week and wash my hair.  Oh yeah and I’ve also got the very pressing matter of re-organising my lint collection.

Seems like these two girls in my head are poles apart: one keeps throwing more at me and the other has a small case of head-in-sand.

But I know what they are both up to.  Oh yes, I’ve got their measure. The Parfait Party needs to start officially.  It’s the time of gunna’s-be-gone and although Frightened and Fighter both desperately want it to succeed, we are at the the final point of commitment, toes just creeping over the edge, but still gripping tightly.   I need to book a party, buy a caravan and just – GO!

So, once again I find myself in front of the mirror having difficult conversations with myself and alter egos.

“Maybe we could just stay here, wouldn’t it be great to still have this house, just in case?” Asks my protector Frightened.

“”Yeah, just another month or two to crack the viral puzzle and THEN we can get back to the original goal” says Fighter, in a rare moment of agreement with Frightened.

“No.” I reply calmly (ok … nervously) “I am going to do this. I am going travelling. I am writing a book.  I am eating Parfait. End of story!”


“Ah ah! No buts.”

“Couldn’t we just…”

“Shh!  No more!”

Frightened and Fighter are very, very quiet for a very, very long time and then… it’s just me…the mirror and my goal.   Whoa!

When Life gives you lemons: Make Lemon Meringue Parfait

There are 7 billion, 60 million odd souls on the planet today. That’s over 7 billion unique viewpoints and approaches.  What makes my perspective so much more informed and valid than my fellow earth-dwellers?  Not a darn thing!

Sometimes (like all of us I guess) I get so caught up in trying to make things happen – to succeed – that I start to get frustrated when others seem to be moving in a different direction than what I envisage. After all, I control the world and know what’s best don’t I?
What’s that? I don’t? Oh. That’s disappointing. 

I have my crazy, diverse, beautiful family to thank for this revelation.  Last weekend my wonderful sister Sandie, her daughter and granddaughter came for a surprise visit from interstate!   Seeing these guys at the end of my Indiegogo campaign reminded me how much I have to live for, how much I want to travel and how I don’t actually need to control every little thing in the world.  Sometimes, it might be in my best interest to go with the flow instead of pushing up river.

I started to get my knickers knotted when my daughter Mel started behaving weirdly.  Strange phone calls, vague answers and to make things worse she seemed to be pushing me to get everything I had planned to do over the weekend done on Friday.  Back off Mel!  I can do things in my own time thank you very much! Anyone who knows me well will know exactly how I respond to people ‘pushing’ me to do things.  In hindsight poor Mel was desperately trying to keep the secret visit a secret and make sure I was able to enjoy it at the same time. But to my mind I knew better… needless to say, we had words and tears on Friday as I attempted to reassert my authority over the world. Of course eventually my surprise turned up and suddenly the ‘pushing’ etc made sense.

Catching up with my sister and her family was great! We reminisced, teased each other and as with all great family reunions we ate and ate and ate. We talked about our adult children and a growing brood of grand children. Doesn’t this one look like that one?  Remember when what’s-his-face did such-and-such as a toddler?

We have a large family and we were always close growing up, still keeping in touch frequently now.  While we talked about family traits and times together, what struck me most about this weekend was how we could be so close and yet so very, very different.

My gorgeous niece Katie had timed her visit to coincide with the ‘start date’ of the Parfait Party, wanting to spend some time with me before I hit the road.  Beautiful thought and what a wonderful surprise 🙂  Yet in my one track mind, I was sooo focused on my Indiegogo campaign that for a few moments I couldn’t even see why they would choose to come down at this particular time.  I had in my mind that I would spend the last three days campaigning hard so I could raise funds to travel, spend time with loved ones, enjoy good meals with others and have fun.  Instead of raising money to do this I actually got to … travel, spend time with loved ones, enjoy good meals and have fun…. Hmm…I think there is a lesson in there for me:).
It reminds me of a tale about a Mexican fisherman and an American tourist’s advice on retiring:  http://www.cleanjoke.com/humor/How-to-Retire.html

Letterbox full of citrus

Speaking of jokes… something else surprising happened this weekend.  On Sunday I found my letter box stuffed with lemons and oranges.  What the…?  My first thought was perhaps some local kids playing a joke but why?  Why would I think this – maybe because once again I had not planned on finding citrus in my letterbox.  Lesson number 2 coming right up…It turned out it was actually a farm fresh gift from a lovely local family.  Why was I so quick to assume the worst?  … just because I wasn’t expecting a letter box full of citrus, didn’t make it wrong.   No more limiting ideas about what is ‘supposed’ to be in the letter box!  Or anywhere else.  (Well, I’ll try)

It is well known in my family that I am terrible at surprises ( I love giving them but usually snoop or guess the incoming ones – sheesh I even open other peoples Christmas presents to peek and then re-wrap them – I just love to know and then spend my time giggling and imagining their joy when they open them. Even my grand children know to keep the gifts hidden from Nonna :)) but you know until this weekend I didn’t realise how far this went.  I was at first very cranky with Mel because MY PLANS were interrupted over the weekend and grouchy because lemons in the letter box didn’t make sense. And to top it all off my Indiegogo campaign brought out similar feelings. I have received more funds, support and encouragement than I ever expected, but still missed my own goal. I had wonderful donations from some great friends, family, acquaintances and strangers but some of the people closest to me completely ignored the campaign.  It was a puzzle: I couldn’t understand and I felt like a failure. In my head I left no room for surprises or something I haven’t planned.

But you know, spending time with family this weekend made me realise that we are all so different, we all have a unique roles to play and my view and my plan is just one of 7 billion perspectives in play right now around the world.

Lessons for  me from the weekend
1. Sometimes the things you want or need the most are right in front of you.
2. Everyone has a unique contribution to make to the world and to each other, and a unique perspective to drive them.  I don’t need to control or even know what each of those roles will be.  Let go of preconceived ideas and make room for surprises and unknown opportunities.
2a. When life (or a good friend) gives you lemons, make Lemon Meringue Parfait… or lemonade… or preserves… or invisible ink… or whatever you wish!     And who am I to dictate what the lemons will be made into anyway. 

So, here I am. Officially trying to losing my grip on the steering wheel just a little. When I think back over the Parfait Party so far, some of the greatest successes and boosts have come from unexpected corners, things I can’t control or didn’t know were happening. So I guess the Indiegogo campaign was just one step along the pathway the party 🙂   If two heads are better than one, then I am an idiot to think I know better than 7 billion other people.   So please consider Parfait Party, open slather… if there is something you think will work; just go for it!  

What is in your letter box today?  And an even better question; what can you – with your unique experience and perspective – make of whatever is in your letterbox?

Coming soon to a blog by me – The weird and wonderful things people are making out of ‘lemons’ to help the parfait Party. 

What the heck was I thinking evidently I wasn’t!

The human brain is a funny, funny thing.  Sometimes I can be so darn clever and sometimes I can be SOOOO stupid; it’s really incomprehensible that those diverse thoughts come out of the same brain.

I’m not going to talk about my insane cleverness (after all it’s a bit crass to brag), however I did want to focus on a brief moment of stupidity that lasted… oh, I don’t know…. about three months.

Yesterday morning I awoke with a crazy idea.  Well technically Frightened Vanessa woke me.

“You are not going to raise enough money for a motorhome… you are going to have to do this in a Kombi, like you have been threatening.   And really; have a good hard look at yourself in the mirror.  How long is this broken body going to be making folding up beds and walking 200 metres to the nearest toilet in the middle of the night.  You have buggered this up.”

“I CAN and I WILL do this” Fighter replied “Oh ouch that hurts… Just as soon as my pain killers kick in and I get out of bed.”

So after awaking to these two toddlers carrying on inside my head, I had a good hard look at the situation just as Frightened Vanessa suggested.    Ok, I can afford a Kombi.  I can’t afford the magnificent motorhome of my dreams yet.  What other middle ground might there be?

And then it happened.  A wondrous bolt of lightening.  I could perhaps buy a caravan instead.  But wait… didn’t I hate caravans.  I had discarded this idea really early in my planning piece.  A little bit nervous of the idea of towing something so large, I also had some rather outdated ideas about connecting a caravan.  I flicked through my caravan and camping books to see with fresh eyes pictures and stories of seniors happily unhooking and setting  up caravans easily.  It was a oversight worthy of physically slapping my forehead.  Doh!  Caravans pretty well all have hydraulic methods or attachments.  Not all caravaner’s were herculeans, dragging mammoth ‘vans around on their backs.  What a git I have been.

Testing the idea with my friends, yielded more insights.

“What about if you need to pop to the shop?”  One friend asked. “With a motorhome you will have to disconnect and pack away everything every single time you want to go somewhere.  A caravan can stay put and you can just jump in the car?” you know I have no idea why this had not occurred to me earlier.

 Spectacular Fail, Vanessa. 

Anyway, with new clarity I began redefining the needs of my trip.  This revelation led me to the idea that to reach the funds I needed something simple for folks to participate in.  I worked out 5 x 5 would do the job (see previous post).  If everyone involved in the team, group or on our contacts list asked 5 friends to give $5, then those five friends asked 5 friends to give $5, The Parfait Party would have the necessary funding to get a reliable towing vehicle and a beaut little 16 foot caravan.   Joy!

I am still totally in love with the Jayco look and practicality, so now I add to my vision board the Jayco Starcraft (16 foot), and a towing vehicle.  Don’t get me wrong any automatic motorhome or car and van that turns up at my door will be most welcomed, however these are my Creme de la Creme images.    A Girls gotta dream right?  🙂

16′ is a perfect size for me to live in and to tow. This one is just gorgeous and is my dream one, but I am looking at all kinds.

Everything… even a good sized shower and toilet within easy reach for the not so good days 🙂

Comfortable bed and lots of storage, I wouldn’t miss a stay in one place home at all 🙂

And all the conveniences of home in case I need to simply pull over and sleep.

I like the double as it’s easier to make but then again the twin allows me to have a co-driver sleep here too? What do you think?

oh and lookies at this – a modern kombi 🙂 and lots of room for friends and family to tour with me 🙂

5 x 5 x 2 really does = 75000 :)

Only 5 days until the http://www.indiegogo.com/parfaitparty?a=698918 campaign closes and I’m still quite a distance from my goal 😦  BUT  If every team/group member asked five good friends to sponsor  5 dollars each, and for those 5 good friends to ask 5 good friends of theirs – we WILL reach the goal! It’s that simple   5 friends X 5 dollars X 2 steps really does = yipeee!  – LET’S DO IT!

Look Good, Feel Better – A bedtime story

Once upon a time – not that long ago – doctors treated out-patients for illnesses, and when that failed patients went to hospital to be treated by more doctors and nurses.

Once upon a time – back in the old olden days – physicians treated illness with medicines and when ‘he’ failed (they were all ‘he’s’ back then, the family stood vigil and waited.

Even longer ago, village healers (men and women) treated illness with yes, medicines, but also herbs, chants, charms and beads, prayer, song, and all manner of unusual methods classically labelled mumbo jumbo.

Today, well where are we?  Healers come in all places and professions. We still treat illness with medicines and other mumbo jumbo…..  highly effective mumbo jumbo.  We treat the body for depression and mental illness.  And we treat the mind for physically illness.  What am I rambling on about?

Oh yes, I was about to tell you about  how I recently partook in some new age, non medical, mumbo-jumbo to improve my well-being.   Did it involve eating raw snails for 48 hours, sleeping with my left elbow pointed due north, or anything with just two simple payments or just a tiny $99.99?  No, my newest treatment super successful craze is a brand new just-for-me make-up kit!

When you are diagnosed with cancer (and especially if it’s the ‘get your affairs in order’ type), strange things can happen to people around us.  Of course most of our family, friends and acquaintances are fine – look out for us and carry on with life as usual.  But some people have a harder time.  Employers might see you more of a liability than an asset.  Friends and family can ignore you completely because they don’t know how to talk to you.  Casual acquaintances write you off from the get go… because, well why bother or  I just don’t know what to say.  Even Doctors, trained professionals in the business, can disengage and stop trying quite so hard.

So it’s a real  pleasure to have someone (all volunteers and sponsors) invest skills, product and attention into you to acknowledge that your are still worthwhile.  There comes a point where medicines stop working and surgery is no longer an option.  But even when the traditional medicines stop, there are other things that can be done.  The Look Good, Feel Better workshops are testament to that.   Patients in all stages of cancer can come to this workshop and receive information, be taught skills and given lots of products to make themselves look good and feel better.  And it works.   It is so wonderful, that big cosmetic companies and the lovely volunteers are willing to invest in me and thousands of other patients (cosmetics and skin care product donations  amount to $30 million annually.

By the end of the workshop, I felt like a princess – not just like I was prettier – but somehow my confidence increased. I looked around the table at 10 other smiling faces and realised magic had been woven.  New friendships had begun and lots of great, make-up, fashion and hair tips shared.   And so the story  draws to a close and all that’s left for me to do is introduce the main players in this Look Good, Feel Better fairytale. Somewhere on this Yorke Peninsula, there is a bunch of fairy godmothers making knitted hats for recipients they will never see.  Somewhere in the vast Australian corporate land there are hero’s signing off on products to be donated.  In a humble castle in Sydney magicians weave their magic compiling special show-bags to help the sick people of the kingdom smile again.  In Minlaton there is florist hiding smiles inside flowers and sending them where they are needed most.   Several brave South Australian lady knights volunteered (some with make-up brush in hand) to rescue me and all the other princesses, and in the end… through kindness, information and donations of time and product, all of these heros help others live a little bit more happily ever after.

Wow it’s Christmas in ummmm errr August 🙂

Look Good…Feel Better is a free community service program dedicated to helping Australians cope with the appearance related side-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy such as hair loss and changes to the skin.

Cancer treatment, and the ensuing appearance changes, can be a very difficult period of time for many of the thousands diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia. More info http://lgfb.org.au