Are you OK?

It’s “Are You Ok?” Day today in Australia.  Pity this wasn’t around in 2008.  Our lovely daughter, Miriam, aged 24, was lost to suicide late September 2008.  She had been suffering depression but, because she lived away from home, and with friends, we were largely unaware of her condition. Every time she visited us, or spoke on the phone, she was always our lovely bubbly Mirri. But after she was gone we heard stories from her friends of her real behaviour and activity and we wondered how we could have possibly missed this side of our daughter that we didn’t know.

I do truly believe, that if her friends, who lived with her, or saw her regularly, had contacted us to voice their concerns about her, she may well be with us today.  Through a misguided loyalty and sense of betrayal, they chose not to do or say anything to the ‘olds’ keeping it to themselves. Today they probably wonder if they could have done any different.

The idea behind “Are You Ok” Day is to speak up and let people know you do notice them and you do notice their feelings.  They might deny and say they’re ok, but friends should keep a close eye on anyone they feel that things are not right for, and speak up, even if to seek advice from someone else in confidence. You may just save a life.

If you want to know more about this day, click here. And if you have concern for a family member or a friend, or colleague, speak up!  Your friend or family member may get temporarily angry with you, but later on, when things are fine again, they will recognise that you had their best interests at heart and that you truly did care.

For us, it is nearly 5 years since we lost our lovely daughter. How we wish we could see and speak with you again in this lifetime.


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We’ve got our girls!

Picked them up last Saturday morning and have been having fun watching them. They are quite entertaining. For the first two days they stayed in the chook house and wouldn’t come out, unless I stood in the house with them. But now they’re getting the idea that they are allowed out of the house (they were in small pens at the place where we got them) and can wander around in their large pen whenever they want.

But if they hear a noise they’re not familiar with, they all go scurrying back into their chook house, often with wings flapping and clucking (more like cheeping at the moment). They are aged between 8-14 weeks and we have 2 x Rhode Island Reds, 2 by Australorpes (one appears to be a X), 1 x Gold laced Wyandotte and 1 x Plymouth Rock. So far the Rock appears to be the dominant one in the group.  But they all seem to get along.

Could be 8-10 weeks at least before we start getting eggs.  I’m sure we’re going to have lots of fun watching them and getting to know their personalities.

Our new pets at home

Our new pets at home

Our new pets at home

Our new pets at home

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Chook pen finished

Well, what can I say? It’s done.  Took 5 days to complete but it’s done now and we’re happy with the end result. Plan to plant some bushes at the end of it.  It was built around an existing chook house so they’ll have protection from the rain and sun. We’ve had two nesting boxes built inside there and a perch set up.

The corrugated iron has been set down into the ground to make the cage fox proof and there is cement set under the door.

Day 4

Day 4



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We’re getting chooks!

Pretty much since we shifted here, I wanted to get chooks so we could have fresh eggs. I wanted to bake again, grow veges and fruit, and put in a fish pond. Well, we’re getting there. The vege garden is happening and we’ve had silverbeet and tomatoes. We have new tomatoes growing now, carrots, lettuce and the corn and pumpkins have just begun sprouting.

We have several fruit trees here already but we will put more in, hopefully later this year.

Our current project is the chook pen so we can get some chickens (hopefully next weekend).  Was hoping we’d be ready this weekend just past but the builders found removing tree roots to get the trench dug around 3 sides of the pen rather challenging and time consuming. So it’s taken longer.

This is the start of the pen. It’s being attached to an original chook shed/house and extended to 6.5 x 4mtrs in size.
Chook pen build

This was day 1. Below are images from day 3. The cage wire has been added on the roof and most of the sides and the door put in place with a bolt.

Chook pen build

Chook pen build

They’ll be back on Tuesday to put in the colourbond sheets into the trenches to prevent foxes from digging in and finish off the cage wire and put cement under where the door opens. Plus build the nesting boxes inside the shed. From there we should be ready!

I couldn’t pick up chickens on Saturday 🙁 but I was able to go pick up straw for their nesting boxes, their feed and a feeder and waterer.  All ready in our garden shed, alongside the hay for our sheep.  Almost ready to get our chickens. Can’t wait!


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Update on our family

Can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted here.

I have recovered from my broken leg, although I had a rod in my leg now and it prevents me from kneeling on my left knee comfortably. But I am back to walking, although I take it carefully on downward slopes. Upwards is fine.  Trying to get back into walking 25-40kms a week.  So far I’ve managed about 15kms in a week. Attempting to go out 3-4 times a week at least and sometimes achieve up to 6kms but most times it’s more like 2.5-4kms.  This is partly due to finding sufficient time to go out when it’s not too hot, being near the end of a hot summer here, and partly due to sometimes feeling like my left ankle isn’t up to it. Since the op I sometimes feel my ankle isn’t clicking into place properly. But most times it’s ok.

Over the past year both Meredith and Christine have gotten married and settled into their new lives and their homes.  Christine experienced a bad accident 6 weeks after her marriage and got kicked in the face by a thoroughbred horse. She spent 4 days in the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a coma and then in recovery. She’s almost back to normal but is still working shortened hours, waiting for the doctor to say she can go back to full time. She’s been on workcover all this time.  Her husband is reluctant to let her back with horses yet, which I fully understand, however it is her love and passion and she’s never wanted to do anything else.  Hopefully that will resolve over time as she gets back into things fully.

Graham turned 60 last December and the family and I bought him a cruise to New Zealand. It was a 13 day cruise and well deserved and needed. We also had our 21st wedding anniversary just after his birthday and then Christmas after that, so it would a good combined gift from us all to him (and me).  We loved the trip and will be doing more cruises, I’m sure. Got tons of photos (as is to be expected) and saw so many lovely places, the weather was perfect and so was the trip.  Highly recommend doing the Princess Cruise to New Zealand if you’re looking for a great cruise to do. We loved that we could leave from Melbourne and didn’t have to catch a plane.
Visit to Hobbiton Movie Set

Graham is still improving, but much more slowly now. He’s probably at 80-85% capacity since his accident in 2011 but will probably never fully recover. But it hasn’t stopped him doing things, even if he is still in constant pain.  He’s off most meds now and has gotten on his bike about 3 times now – hard work but he’s determined to really get back into it. Once the weather is cooler, then I’m sure he’ll be going further afield and doing longer rides.  For my part, I’m pleased to see him get back on his bike. It’s his love, he enjoys it and I know he feels confined and restricted when he can’t be doing what he loves doing.  A part of him dies or is asleep, but comes alive when he’s riding. So I encourage him to go for it.

We have other things happening and I’ll share in other posts.

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A walk goes wrong

It was a dull grey Monday morning 12th December but I still chose to go out for a walk. I usually do to get my regular exercise and hope to see new things for my camera.  I chose to visit a park I’d not been to before. I’d only just learnt about it two days prior at the local market where I held a stall to sell my photography items.  Think that was my first mistake. Mind you, it had been raining on the weekend but the tracks didn’t look soaked to me and I stayed off tracks that weren’t visible due to overgrowth. Only the big wide tracks like the firetrack at the top, a road down the side and another track that sloped slightly downhill but was wide – looked newly slashed.  That was the next mistake. Walking down that path.  I now know that there was dirt covering a large smooth rock near where the grass ended, but I didn’t know till I slipped on it…

As soon as my left foot slipped underneath me I heard the crack and felt the snap.  I yelled out to no-one in particular, as I was on my own, “oh no, I’ve broken my leg!”  I went down and tried to brace myself on my elbow but as my left heel tried to touch the ground to rest, pain shot through my left leg and I knew I could not do that again.

I don’t know which order things happened in – did I get my phone out of my pocket first or did I brace my leg with my arm? I suspect the phone first.  I hung my left arm under my hamstring to brace my left leg in the air and then rang 000. Or tried to.  I could make my hands meet so I could use the phone but not sure if it was my third or fourth attempt before I actually got my fingers working to make the call. I was shaking badly and knew I was in shock.  I was relieved to hear a voice answer quickly and I asked for the ambulance operator.  I was switched through to Andrea and she stayed on the phone with me for the next half hour or so, till the Ambos had arrived.

I spoke and cried to Andrea often during that time and if her voice went quiet I’d call out for her and she’d assure me she was there and not leaving me.  I’m sure I rambled in my fear and pain. She asked me questions about my condition and where I was. I got frustrated because I felt like I’d described where I was three or four times but perhaps I was slurry and not very clear, I don’t know.  I told her my mouth was dry and I was shaking, I had water with me but thought perhaps I shouldn’t and she told me I was in shock and not to take a drink.  Andrea assured me the Ambos were on their way even though I often said “I can’t hear the siren”.

I knew the track I was on didn’t show up in the directory or GPS and I was going to have to talk them in, via Andrea. It was important I remained conscious, even though I felt light-headed and panicky and in oh so much pain.

I told Andrea I could feel trickling down my leg. I could see a lump protruding under my trousers and knew I had a compound fracture – no-one had to tell me that. Andrea asked if I could pull my jeans up to have a look if there was bleeding but I baulked at that idea and told I couldn’t do that.  She calmed my panic and told me it was ok.  Was I comfortable where I was?  What was I lying on? How was I dressed?

The ground beneath me was slightly damp but I had my photographer’s jacket on, which is waterproof, and a cardigan too. My body felt warm to me and I didn’t feel cold.  We kept talking, now and then me giving more instructions about what road I’d parked on, where the park was, the Ambos have found my car now, they’re on the track, they won’t be long.  And then they lost radio contact with Andrea so I had to scream out help every minute or two till I heard a voice saying “Coming!  We can hear you”.  Seemed still a long time before they got to me.

I really don’t know how long it was but I’d say it was around 40 mins before the Ambos arrived after I first dialled 000.  I was so relieved to hear the man’s voice and then see the top of his head. I shouted to Andrea “I can see him, I can see him, thank you so much, thank you”.  She told me she would leave me in their hands then.

The rest of the day is in a bit of a blur. Kevin and Eva gave me a green tube to inhale and breathe out (like a cigarette but I don’t smoke so strange to try and get it right) and that helped relieve the immense pain. They put a plastic boot on over my foot and up my leg. I asked Kevin to take photos as you’ll see (yes, my camera was safe – I always wear the camera strap around my neck, never just in my hand or wrapped around my arm).

My hubby later commented wondering how many ambos get asked to take photos of their patients. The ambo even slipped on the same rock I did – but didn’t hurt himself thankfully.  They had to ring around to get someone to unlock the park gates so a vehicle could be brought in and then they had to get a 4 wheel drive with a stretcher brought in to retrieve me. My guess is from the time of accident to when I was finally in the first vehicle is close to an hour.  They had to drive me to a road at the edge of a park where I could see there were two further ambulances and I was transferred to one of them.  By that time I had rung Graham and left a phone message for him saying ‘it is my turn now’ and what was happening.  It had been around 2 hours since I’d left home that morning.  So much for my nice walk in a ‘new park’. I did see a bird I’d not seen before but didn’t get a photo of it 🙁

I was taken to one hospital where they knocked me out, straightened my leg and put me in plaster. They confirmed I had two broken bones in a compound fracture – the Tibia and Fibula.  Great. I was hoping they could just plaster and send me home. Instead I was going to have to have surgery.  My husband had joined me at the hospital and we discussed what was best for me with one of the doctors there. We decided it was best to go to a private hospital and to a surgeon the doctor recommended.

Graham left me to meet up with his mate Dave to go retrieve the car I’d gone in and which was still at the park – our daughter’s car.  Later he met up with me at the new hospital but it was a few more hours before I got transferred.  I drifted in and out of pain and confusion and wishing I could start the day all over again, making different decisions. But that was not to be the case.

I had to wait two more days before surgery. I couldn’t understand the wait but was later told by the surgeon that they don’t like risking bleeding in the muscles and feel it’s best to wait for it to settle. Those two days were excruciating, even if I was on pain killers. I couldn’t move from my bed, my heavily plastered leg kept sliding off the pillows it rested on and I was not comfortable in any way possible.  The next week was going to be hell, I was sure of it.

The day after surgery I remembered that I could access Facebook on my phone. Ahh!  I can keep in touch with some friends!  I remembered earlier I should make contact with a client whose work I was supposed to be doing that week and explained what had happened. I kept in touch with one of my VA team members to let her know what was happening and had Graham divert the phone to her.  My phone and the television kept me occupied for the next five days.  I finally came home on day 8 after the accident.

Thought you’d like to see what a good job I did of my leg.  Pretty colours hey? :p Also one of the xrays. I have a nail and cross fixation in my leg and ankle. That is, a large nail or stainless steel down the centre of my leg and then cross screws top and bottom. I’m told nothing will break those but I have to keep the weight off that leg for six weeks to give it time to settle, otherwise I could end up with a shorter leg. Don’t want that. And I definitely want to be able to go out walking again with my camera – just not on that track!



Oh, and did I take any shots while on the ground waiting for the ambos? Of course! But not very interesting view.

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Another amazing thing

I hadn’t thought about this before. Regular readers will know that we have a special thing in our family – three generations with a birthday on the same day. My husband, our son-in-law and his son/our grandson. But what I didn’t realise was this…

Just last Friday our eldest was saying that when her son celebrates his 18th, his father will celebrate his 50th and his grandfather his 75th. That’s 3 big birthday celebrations here (18 is considered being ‘of age’ in Australia).  We hadn’t realised that would happen. Graham began to think of himself as a 75 year old and groaned. I just reminded him he’d be married to a 70 year old and that it would be ok 🙂

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Clothing stores and the disabled

Thank you to all those people who ask about Graham often. It’s so nice to know that so many of you are thinking of him and wondering of his progress, and praying for him too.

He’s been making good progress and is now working from home fulltime. He occasionally goes into the city office to work but finds that 2 days in a row is more than sufficient – it wears him out. He’s much better off putting in full days at home for now and we are truly blessed that the company he works for allows this scenario. His boss has been excellent in facilitating this – thanks Mac!

In the meantime, we’ve discovered something interesting since Graham’s accident. And it’s not something we would have thought about had his accident not happened.  To look at, Graham appears to be fine and those who don’t know him would not know anything is wrong at all. I know when I watch him walk – I can see the limp and know that his right leg doesn’t carry through in the way it should do. I’m conscious that he has to be careful walking but he can now walk a couple of kms with me down the gravel road of our street – not every day, but some days.  He still has to be careful and still tires easily.

Anyway, what we’ve found is that many clothing stores do not cater to the disabled, i.e. they do not provide a chair or stool to sit on when trying on clothing. Went into Just Jeans today at Knox and their rooms were so small you couldn’t even put in one of the armchairs they had. I told them we’ll have to go and find another store with what he wanted. A staff member went off and found a folding chair out the back and put that in a changing room for Graham to use.  And yet later in Target we found they had a change room specifically for the disabled – large enough to push a wheelchair into and a padded bench to sit on and room for another person to be there if needed.

This isn’t the first time we’ve gone into a store for Graham to buy clothes only to find they don’t cater for those unable to stand steadily while trying on clothing.  (Rebel Sports is another we’ve found that doesn’t cater for the disabled) If you have a disabled person in your family or amongst your friends, please encourage clothing stores to cater for them. Write to them, speak to their staff, tweet about it. Being disabled does not mean that those people are aged, fat or poor, i.e. wouldn’t be going into many of the clothing stores we go into.  Younger people, non-fat people and people who do have incomes can be disabled too!

In a way I guess you could say that disabled people are being discriminated against in those stores.  What makes them think that a disabled person wouldn’t want to buy a pair of jeans, or wouldn’t want to buy sports clothing, i.e. trackpants, leggings or other clothing items that first need to be tried on to ensure they fit?

All people should be catered for in clothing stores and given the opportunity to try on clothing safely and without embarrassment or risk of further injury.

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Almost another year has passed…

It’s almost 3 years since we lost our beloved Mirri.  The first year dragged by and I lived in total fear that year. Fear for what our future held, fear for how my husband was coping, fear for our whole family really.  The second year got a little better and once Graham and I shifted to our new home things picked up and improved a lot. I think it’s because we have new surroundings that are peaceful and healing in themselves.

This past year has brought a mixture of things.  It started out ok and things were moving forward and Graham and I were enjoying being here in our new home very much. We still are. But he had an accident some months ago and that changed things yet again. It’s like the old constant we once had will never be again and we keep adjusting trying to find a new ‘normal’.  Is it like this for everyone as they grow older?  I suspect so in some ways.

I’ve had challenges too both on a personal and business level.   Personal because once again I lived in fear for my husband and what our future might hold. I know I should have a stronger faith and I pray constantly but it doesn’t stop me from worrying or being panicked now and then. And then I had someone attack my business via my shopping cart and I became an unsuspecting victim who is still trying to get things back on an even keel.

And yet there is still hope around the corner. I’ve made new connections recently for my business that look promising, Graham and I are making friends at our new church and settling in and feeling like we belong. We’ve been there a year together now. And we’ve found that three of our immediate neighbours are really lovely people who are only too willing to hold out their hands and arms and help us in times of need.  They all barely know us but they have accepted us as a part of their lovely community.  It’s lovely to feel like we really belong somewhere and we really do feel that way. Belonging is so important and part of the human need, don’t you think?

Anyway, the third anniversary of our loss is at the end of this month and I know we’ll be having our sad days and thoughts once again.  It’s not that we don’t think of Mirri often – we do, but her birthday, the anniversary of her death and Christmas tend to heighten those feelings of loss. I wonder how all her friends are doing? Used to see them a lot on Facebook but only see a couple regularly now. They seemed to have moved on with their lives, which is a good thing for them.  Anyway, I’m rambling…

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No longer silent

Kathie and Graham Thomas

Guess I really should update here.  Graham thought it was time 🙂  He spent 7.5 weeks in hospital and has been home now for nearly 6 weeks. The house is no longer lonely and silent. He has his music playing, or watches funny clips on the web or sometimes watches the TV in the loungeroom by our office.  I’m sleeping much better now knowing he is home again.

I’m adjusting to sharing the office fulltime, instead of just the evenings and weekends.  We both have to learn to keep our voices down when on the phone so the other can concentrate or also carry on a phone conversation or meeting. It’s been a long time since we’ve both worked in the same area but never actually worked together in the same room/office.

He is still recovering and it will take some time yet, but it is good that he has returned to work 2 hours a day here at home.  I take him to some appointments, and others come here to see him. He’s able to do physio in our own gym/games room which is good.  The meds still tire him but they’re necessary to help him handle the nerve pain, which we believe will be with him for quite a while yet.  The prayers are always welcome as we know first-hand that they do help a great deal.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us during the time and continue to do so.  When I was home alone travelling back and forth to hospital many from our church supplied meals, checked on me and visited Graham. We are so grateful for this.  And our family have rallied round us – the girls have been great checking on us often.  It’s a blessing to have our family, the girls, the sons-in-law and friends and our beautiful grandson who is a real delight.

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