Monday, July 25, 2016

Maiah's Visual Bucket List - Why I'm Helping a Dream Come True

Some of you might be wondering why I'm sharing a link to a Go Fund Me page to raise money for someone you've never heard of?

Well it's one of those things. Up until recently I had never heard of Maiah either. In fact her and her mother, Mandy are total strangers. Well at least they were when I first heard about them.

A few weeks ago I was reading through some comments (dangerous I know!) on a story that was shared in a post by Kidspot, which is a great online community for all things parenting relating. The post was about a woman receiving money from a radio station and other kind-hearted listeners after she had told the story of her plight of trying to find the money for therapies for her ASD child. Some comments were pointing out the fact that some of the money raised was going towards a Disneyland trip did not sit well with them. Now I don't wish to create a debate about that case … Rather to set the scene.

Because the comment that spoke to me was written by Mandy who said simply that she would love to just have the money to take her vision impaired daughter to the theme parks on the Gold Coast before she goes blind.

For some reason I couldn't get it out of my head. The idea that of all the things a child could put on a wish list she simply wanted to do what so many other kids get to do, go to the major theme parks. Plus the idea that she could actually go blind one day without ever having been able to have a theme park holiday just sounded wrong to me. Surely there was something that could be done? Living on the Gold Coast I find plenty of us take the theme parks for granted. Some kids get to go every weekend. But just one visit would be a dream come true for this one young girl and I just felt I had to try and help.

So I contacted Kidspot who got in touch with Mandy and it was agreed I could set up a Go Fund Me account. I've since spoke to Mandy who graciously told me more about her amazing daughter. I made no promises about what we might achieve as I'm hardly the type of person that makes posts go viral. However I felt I had to at least try to help.

The more I found out about Maiah the more I wanted to help. Here is a girl that has been going blind her whole life due to having a form of Rod Cones Dystrophy. Her night vision is completely gone and her peripheral vision is better than her front on vision which means she often turns her head in an attempt to make sense of her environment. So she is already vision impaired but it will progress and one day she will go completely blind. Plus recently she was also diagnosed with epilepsy.

Through all this Maiah is a happy, friendly 13 year old who loves her sisters and longs to work with animals.

She has a simple visual bucket list which lists things she would like to do before she loses her sight completely. Well I think it is a relatively simple list considering what some kids might ask for.

Her list is:

1. To see the theme parks on the Gold Coast
2. To go to Australia Zoo and meet Bindi
3. To swim with dolphins
4. To meet Luke and Cody from House Rules.

I don't know if we will be able to manage all those things. But surely we can manage to get enough money together to give this family a trip of a lifetime? Mandy and her partner have 5 children between them and have never had a family holiday. Those of us who are parents can well imagine how much Mandy wants to bring her daughter’s dream to fruition but has simply never been able to do so.

So below is the link to the campaign. I know it's often said but it really does stand in this case and that is that even a few dollars will help. If lots of people donate a few dollars then Maiah could well get her dream holiday.  If you genuinely can't spare a few dollars then that is fine too and I totally understand - but please think about sharing the link so we can get as many people knowing about this as possible.

Thanks in advance for helping!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

#7 Photograph of the Town You Live in.

I'm doing the Odd May Blog Challenge in an odd way. I'm doing the 7th on the 9th. Then again I probably won't do #9 since as much as I love cooking I rarely follow recipes so couldn't think of one to share.

So here is a photo of the 'town' I live in. Technically I live in a suburb of the Gold Coast so I suppose I could have used a photo of any part of the Gold Coast. But I figured since the little pocket I inhabit is actually quite lovely I would share a simple photo taken not far from home!


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

#5 - 15 Facts about YOU

So here is the challenge for May 5th in the Odd May Blog Challenge. I must admit the thought of listing 15 facts about me had me a little puzzled. I figured facts were different to what I thought about myself or the usual listing your strengths or positive traits. Then I thought listing simple facts might not make for great reading so do I elaborate or not?

Anyway I put away my crazy train of thought away and just did it. Here they are -

1. I have blue eyes and fair skin. The blue eyes are often complimented upon most notably once when I was in a dentists chair with so much stuff in my mouth keeping it open that my mumbled 'thank you' could have sounded like anything.

2. My ancestry as far as I know is a combo of English, Scottish, and Irish. I'd dearly love to find some Welsh.

3. My maiden name is Sneyd. It is a relatively rare surname and has an interesting history. The Sneyd family had a grand ancestral home in Stoke on Trent in England, Keele Hall. It is now a university.

4. I have no real 'favourite' anything. When people ask what is my favourite colour, film, TV show, food, band or song etc I honestly can't answer. I have such varied tastes that I could never choose just one of any of these things.

5. I'll stand by what I believe in - I'm steadfast. This fact comes courtesy of my husband, David. This was his response when I asked him for a fact about me!

6. I have an awesome husband! 😉 Plus a super awesome, smart, crazy son named Sachell. ( see second photo)

7. I'm a survivor of chronic illness.

8. I grew up watching Rugby League and am a passionate Wests Tigers fan.

9. I grew up in Marrickville, in the inner west of Sydney.

10. I have an irrational fear of dying of thirst in the desert. This came about after watching a mini series about one of my heroes, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. It depicted the incident where the pilots Keith Anderson and Bob Hitchcock crashed their plane in the Tanami desert and perished. Hence why I've never done the epic journey across the Nullarbor Plain and probably never will!

11. Strangely though I don't have a problem flying in planes!

12. I can name the English line of succession from 1066 by memory.

13. I've never had a broken bone (touch wood!)

14. I currently live on the Gold Coast in Queensland. ( see photo - such a beautiful place!)

15. I hate hot weather ... So yes I live in the entirely wrong place ...

#3 Make a Wish list Collage

So I'm a day late with my second post for the Odd May Blog Challenge. But this is the brilliance of the idea in that you post every second day so being a day late can totally work. Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it ...

Anyway a collage of my wish list? Well I could have gone all out and made it a big craft project which would have been fun and is perhaps something I should do one day. Whether you call it a vision board or a collage or whatever there are some major positives in creating a visual reminder of what you want from life.

But instead I decided to make something digital using some photos and text. It was simple to put together and I knew if I planned anything too ambitious it probably wouldn't get done.

I also decided to limit it to a few things. I mean there is nothing wrong with wishing for a mansion or a million dollars and things like that but I wanted to narrow it and think about a few things that are simple but still very much wanted. I decided also to go with the first few things that came into my mind - no censorship.

So here is my collage.

My small wish list is for me to:

1. Travel more. I love travel and hope to see a lot more places before I die. The picture is from a recent trip to Japan.

2. Have more pain free days. Given my health conditions ( fibromyalgia amongst others) I find myself always wanting more pain free days where I can get things done. I know every day won't be a pain free day but a few more would be nice!

3. A claw foot bath. I've always wanted one. I love taking baths. They are the ultimate in pampering and luxury for me and I would love a traditional looking claw foot bath in a huge bathroom.

4. More visits to the Theatre. My first real writing gig was for a Theatre website ( and as much as I've always enjoyed the theatre there are so many shows out there just waiting to be seen by me. If I could I would go every week! But maybe once a month or so is doable. Let's see.

5. My own gorgeous study or library or both combined. I'd love something that looks like it came from an old English drawing room full of history and character. It would be wonderful even if it would probably not go with the decor in the rest of the house!

So there you have it. Will see you again tomorrow for #5 - well hopefully tomorrow!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

#The Meaning Behind Your Blog Name

This could prove to be a rather dull tale I'm afraid. My blog name is simply to be consistent with my identity as a writer. So it's basically my name.

But I can at least explain the  'Wordsmith' part. I wanted to have one word that would describe me as a writer that I could use across all platforms and that was a little bit different.

Writer was too obvious and I haven't written a book yet so author would be confusing (I've written short stories).

So I wanted a word to encompass all the writing I do and the love of the written word I have. So wordsmith popped into my head. I've often wondered if it sounds a bit pretentious but I don't really care now.

I love the old fashioned nature of the word and the alliteration is cool. Shame my first name doesn't start with a W really ...

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A cautionary tale about an all-natural 'super food'

There has been a fair bit in the media recently about people becoming ill (or worse) due to natural or herbal products. My general attitude is that just because something is natural doesn't mean it isn't harmful and we really should remember that almost anything in excess can harm or kill you. You can overdose on water for instance, yet we can't survive without it. Plus let's all remember that some of the most toxic substances on Earth are natural.

Most people who know me know I am a balance kind of person. I try to eat mostly pretty well and use supplements where there is benefit. A lot of my attitude to food and eating has to do with the fact I once suffered from an eating disorder and since I recovered I am very wary of diets or restrictive eating in any form. But a lot of it too, I like to think, is common sense and not wanting to believe fads without at least looking into it first. Of course the fact that I'm not giving up chocolate, twisties, pasta or certain other yummy foods any time soon has a lot to do with the whole 'balance' thing!

So here we have a cautionary tale coming from me, someone who should have known better. I have been suffering digestive upsets recently, often quite severe. Some might assume I must be eating really badly or else they 'helpfully' recommend I cut out gluten, milk or any other such thing that is considered the latest big bad wolf of food. I may even get dirty looks for not having drunk a green smoothie this past week .... or you know .... Ever!

So it was with some surprise that I have discovered that my problem substance is in a fact something that has been touted as being good for me, labelled as a super food ( I hate that term!) and isn't involved in the production of twisties or freddo frogs or any such things. It is in fact Maca.

Yes that incredible substance everyone is telling you to eat! Proponents claim that Maca balances your hormones, gives you energy, increases your sex drive, supplies high doses of certain vitamins and more. Well it possibly can if you look at what it is and how it actually works. So in other words, if you step back from our crazy western obsession with foods of the moment, our habit of 'discovering' staples from subsistence farmers, and our pretentious assumption that we must know better, there may be something there ... but look with caution. 

Because those subsistence farming people do know their stuff, a lot better than us as it turns out. A Peruvian might indeed prefer their Maca to be organic and labeled vegan, who knows? But they would never eat it raw, as is the form it often comes to our health food shops in. For thousands of years the Peruvians have respected the Maca plant, used it in moderation and cooked it! Because raw it causes severe digestive problems, such as I have been experiencing. I do wonder if they are all laughing at us? Raw Maca? Seriously? Crazy, stupid sanctimonious western morons! 

Yep pretty much sums us up huh? The realisation that perhaps it could be causing my problems started to solidify very quickly when I took to google. If you search 'does Maca cause digestive problems?' you will find some very valuable and thought provoking reading. As much as I have suffered, I have found tales of people with severe digestive discomfort weeks or even months after they last ingested the stuff. They too googled their query too late.

So sometimes something touted as healthy can cause more harm than good if you don't understand what the product is and how it works. Maca is a plant and cooking it doesn't strip away the vitamins or any other such rubbish you might have heard about cooking, it actually takes away all the stuff that is indigestible. Additionally raw Maca can harbour dangerous bacteria which if ingested can cause severe problems of their own. None of which is stated on the packet of the stuff you are intended to throw in your smoothies, or even on the bottle of the capsules. 

If you want to use Maca as a supplement, show caution. It may be there are a lot of benefits if you eat it cooked as part of a balanced diet, in small amounts, a few times a week like the Peruvians do. But even if you get the gelatinised versions ( cooked so therefore digestible) who knows what large amounts of the stuff shoved into a daily smoothie might be doing? Maybe it is in fact making us stronger, wiser, more effervescent and overall more healthy ... Or maybe not.

So my cautionary tale is this .... natural doesn't mean it can't harm you, raw isn't always best and you shouldn't ingest anything new without first researching it. Because chances are anything negative isn't making it onto the packaging, especially if the words 'super food' are involved. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

But I Wanna See the Monkeys!!

So it is about time I shared some of my tales from my latest holiday to Japan. It was December 2015 so you know, better late than never! Here is a tale about how I managed to overcome obstacles and visit the amazing Monkey Park at Arashiyama. Enjoy!

Sometimes having a chronic illness can put a dent in holiday plans. I certainly don't have huge amounts of stamina but I manage with good meds and plenty of rest. Plus coffee and sugar can help too!

Our latest trip this past December (2015) was to Japan. We have been twice before but this was our first time visiting Osaka and Kyoto. One of the things on our to-do list was to visit Arashiyama whilst in Kyoto. It promised a lot and delivered. It was a gorgeous little town with outstanding scenery and an old world feel. It was spectacular. One thing that was a must while there was to visit the Monkey Park. The Park is high up a mountain and has become popular because the monkeys seem to like it and so stay there. A ready-made tourist attraction.
The Japanese Macaques Monkeys have been an attraction for many years. There are approximately 120-150 monkeys currently living there and they are all named. There are very strict rules about how visitors can interact with the monkeys. No touching or feeding the monkeys, (you can feed them from inside the visitors hut) or making eye contact with them. These are still wild animals after all, even if they do not bat an eyelid at the amount of humans who visit every day.

Now I knew it would be a climb. You just have to look at the pictures online to realise how high up it was. I really wanted to go though, so decided we just had to.

Well aside from my chronic illness I was also by this point - about 8 days into a 10 day trip, very tired and sore. I imagine most people would have been with the amount of walking we had done. We had visited so many places and we had walked and walked.... Though mostly it was flat and not hiking up a mountain.

So imagine me - tired and sore at the best of times now attempting a walk fit people would struggle to do. It was entirely uphill and was said to take approximately 20 minutes (I think we took longer) and once you got to the top you were at 160m above sea level.

So we started off. There is a massive stairway that gets you so far and is hard going. I saw other people out of breath and stopping for a rest. After this you were still probably less than 1/4 of the way. There were more stairs at various points but mostly it was a zig zagging rough path that was incredibly steep.

Now after those stairs I was tired and sore and a bit out of breath but I was still keen. Around a couple of more bends each with seats to rest on. When I started getting wobbly I made a game with myself and would say ok 50 steps and then rest. This worked for a while. Just about half way or maybe a bit over we rested on a bench and I noticed the large map on a billboard.

I sighed and panicked. I could barely move by this point and the map showed me just how far we still had to go. I felt defeated, no amount of trying would get me there. People walked past going up and people walked past going down. One of whom was smoking a cigarette which seemed like a cruel jest. Even someone who smokes can make it up there!

So I told my husband David that that was it, he would have to go alone. He didn't want to go alone and suggested we simply turn back. I didn't respond straight away. I felt too fatigued to even get up and walk downhill. But a part of me was rebelling. Each time I said to myself or out loud that I could never make it a little voice inside me screamed 'but I wanna see the monkeys!' The more I expressed that I couldn't do it the louder that little voice inside me grew.

I'm still not sure entirely what happened. Perhaps it was that we had paid for our tickets, or that I didn't want to let David down. Or perhaps simply it was my love of animals and the fact that I really wanted to see the monkeys. Because if it had simply been a walk for the view then I would have turned back ... Ticket and all.

But we didn't turn back. I took a deep breath, and headed on and I said that we would go a bit further and see what happens. Though I knew I was actually determined to get to the top no matter what.

So we did it! Well I did it. I imagine David would have been able to do it without the hesitation and doubt. As soon as we first sighted the monkeys I knew it had been worth it. They were adorable. We watched some frolic near stones around a pond including a little baby tentatively taking a drink and trying to avoid the large well fed koi that were resident.

After a quick peek at the view we went into the little visitors hut to have hot coffee in a can (the Japanese are so clever with these thing) and to purchase food to feed the monkeys. You are required to feed them through the bars from inside the hut and not outside in the open. Presumably so they don't get too hungry and attack! So armed with my apple pieces and peanuts I proceeded to feed the monkeys.

Each monkey was an individual, though their place in the family quite obvious, There was a couple of old ones. One in particular looked like quite an elderly gent and had what seemed to be a glaucoma in one eye. His movements were very slow and deliberate. He stuffed two peanuts in his mouth and held onto a piece of apple before he departed ... No doubt he wanted to go and snack slowly and in peace!

There were some younger ones who were slightly smaller. They were fairly fast and very hungry but they were no match for the alpha males. While feeding a juvenile I heard a noise coming from the roof. The juveniles jumped down quickly just as a large monkey popped down for the roof and held out his hand to me greedily, obviously what he says goes! He was very greedy. So much so I had to get to a point where I told him firmly that there was one more piece of each for him and that was his lot!

Even the baby came for a snack. His movements were erratic and a bit clumsy and unlike his elders he took one peanut and spent an age chewing on it. Also once he left the hut he almost walked straight off the edge of the mountain, but he was saved as another monkey gently put his hand in the way and pushed him back. I don't think it was his mother, possibly an uncle or aunt or cousin. I imagine they take turns watching the baby and stop him from going off the side a few dozen times each day!

Strangely each monkey took the food from my hand very gently and graciously. I lay my hand out flat with the food on my palm and they carefully reached through the bars with one hand and took it then put it in their mouth. It really felt like they were saying 'Oh an apple piece? For me? I don't mind if I do. Thank you!'

After leaving the hut, we enjoyed the panoramic view some more and then headed down. I was dizzy with wonder and amazement by now plus going down was obviously a lot easier and used different muscles. At one point David pointed and said 'that is where you almost gave up.' It was powerful and I wondered how I ever could have thought of not making it to top ... Even if David had actually pointed to the wrong spot...

On the way down I saw people heading up looking bright red, out of breath and exhausted. I wished I had had a megaphone on me as I wanted to shout 'Keep going. It's worth it for the monkeys!' Though I am sure they realised that for themselves once they made it.

So I did something I wanted to do despite the odds. Now as happy as I was about it I am not stupid. I have not cured myself and the fact is I must have had it in me that day. I still cannot do as much as others and that is okay. Plus I knew then and know now that there would be and are consequences. I did a lot less than I wished on the last couple of days of the trip. Plus I've been very weak since I got back. I started this year in a huge flare up that I had anticipated!

So I'm not saying that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. But I am very pleased that on that particular day I was able to go a bit further than I had thought. Because the monkeys really were worth it, as was Arashiyama ... It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I highly recommend it.

Enjoy some photos!

A view of Arashiyama
Its uphill already!

Baby monkey

Baby monkey drinking

View from the monkey park

The hut at the monkey park

large monkey drinking

isn't he sweet?

Monkey and koi

Proof it was high up!

Monkeys grooming - as they do!