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Vidins in Mackay :: Dolphins & Whales

We woke up early. To early. The early bird gets the worm, and the early traveler gets the dolphin, so to speak. Yes, we woke up early to get to Tin Can Bay to see and feed the dolphins.

Grey Nomads aside, it was a pleasant journey to Tin Can. Nestled at the point is a cafe and the internationally famous Barnacles Dolphin Center. Nanny-no-fun had arrived their first (by a few years, by the looks of things) and had signposted the entire place with penalties regarding feeding, touching, swimming or sharing moonshine with the dolphins. Fines of thousands of dollars for dolphin related infractions. If the dolphins didn’t want to be touched, why do they flock to humans? I just found it bizarre that there was a host of legislative penalties to protect the dolphins, like they couldn’t choose to swim away from humans like every other fish in the sea.

So we arrived and paid our money, took off our thongs and washed our hands, and stood in line for our turn to be in the water the same time as the dolphins.

For about 10 minutes, we got to stand in calf-deep water about a meter away from about five playful dolphins, constantly being reminded of the penalties involved in swimming, touching, approaching, imitating, or otherwise enjoying the dolphins.  Just standing, watching the dolphins, being reminded again and again of the penalties. Thrilling. We then had to proceed off the beach, and wait in line again to feed the dolphins. I’m sure it would have taken longer to get off the beach, if we were behind Grey Nomads. They like to take their time and liberties when it comes to these things.

Well after the thrill of watching the dolphins wore off, we were at the front of the line to feed the dolphins. We got our bucket with one fish, waded down the the water, fed the dolphin, and filed off the beach. With one more reminder of never ever to feed the dolphins and the penalties involved, we were done, and the dolphins had their state-mandated quota of three kilos of fish for the day. I wonder if feeding dolphins would ever be an election issue.

After a pleasant morning of dolphin-penalty education, it was back to Rainbow to prepare for a lovely afternoon of whale watching. We had plenty of time after checking out to pop up to Hervey Bay, via the lovely town of Maryborough for an afternoon in the Bay. We enjoyed lunch at Migaloo’s Cafe near the pier, and I was slightly dissapointed that no whale was on the menu. Still, a nice ham cheese and tomato toastie filled me up ready for the cruise. Naturally, I ‘shared’ the kids beer batter chips. A skip to the marina and we were ready to go!

“Before we hop on, ladies and gentleman, can I just get your attention please” the overly tanned lady corralled the group “The seas are a little rough out there today. We will have a little bit of rock’n’roll, so if anyone has any medical conditions just let me or one of the staff know”. At that point, I should have taken the recommended seasick tablets.

The trip out was fantastic. The boat smashed through the waves, splashing over the hull, engulfing the boat in a roaring white wash. I perched against the side and waxed lyrical in my mind, Old Man and the Sea style. Yes, I was enjoying the high seas, the waves, staring out into the offing and generally loving life. I was unworried by the horizon rocking like a swing in the breeze, oh no! Those suckers around me were looking green, some even taking the vomit bags and quickly filling them. HA! Not me though, I had my sea legs on, feeling the sun and the salt and the spray on my face. How wonderful!

Finally, the overly tanned lady’s voice came through the ship’s PA “Whales, three o’clock”, much to everyone’s excitement. Camera primed, I raced to take some photos of these wonderous creatures.

Snap snap snap. Snap snap snap. The mother and her calf breached, flapped and wallowed just meters away. Snap snap snap!

The gentle rocking of the boat suddenly didn’t feel like a dream, and life didn’t seem so wonderful. A certain grumbly rumbled across my tummy. Nausea rippled through me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so good.

Fast forward three hours, three full vomit bags and generally wanting to die, I crawled across the gangplank, back onto dry land.

So, whale watching didn’t go as planned. I’ve got a few nice photos, and some very unflattering ones!

It may not have been the best end to the holiday, but in the scheme of things, it was a minor setback to a wonderful, wonderful holiday.

We packed the car for the final time, readying for our final trip – the four-or-so hour trip back to Brisbane. After Gympie, the Bruce opened up to a smooth, multi-lane highway, and we comfortably sat on 110 without the risk of going up the back of any Grey Nomads. There was a comforting familiarity of passing the Sunshine Coast beaches, north Brisbane, over the Gateway and down for our final stretch home. Home. Home, from a wonderful, wonderful holiday.

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Vidins in Mackay :: Rockhampton

IMG_8422Unexpected joys were found in Rockhampton. It was really just meant to be a sleepover stop-off between Mackay and Rainbow Beach – it turned out to be so much more!

We sadly said goodbye to Mackay, and I truly hope we will return again. I hope we return to her crystal blue beaches, her swaying cane farms and handsome mountains. I hope we return to Cape Hillsborough and all the rich natural beauty that fine town has to offer. Goodbye Mackay, you’ve been a fine city, and we’ll miss you.

Approaching from the north, Rockhampton is home to a series of caves. Found by accident by a Norwegian back in the day, these interesting, interesting caves were open for tours. The information center had a fascinating display of early life in this central Queensland city. If you could look beyond the spelling and grammatical errors, it truly was an informative snapshot of the hardships of early life. Picture, 30oC weather, a hot wind, on a horse or buggy across a dirt track, dressed in full suit or dress, visiting this inhospitable place. At least they didn’t have Grey Nomads to contend with. We visited and explored these caves, and wow, what an adventure! Now no longer full of guano (look it up), these caves were truly wonderful to explore.

The drive to Rockhampton was surprisingly bearable, despite multiple roadworks and herds of Grey Nomads. Rockhampton lies on the Tropic of Capricorn, so the local tourist board erected a pole on the southside of town commemorating it. Think of the equator mark in Uganda, sans political unrest, desert and local militia. Our airbnb host, an amiable lady of a certain age enlightened us to the Rockhampton Zoo. Before you ask, yes, there is a zoo in Rockhampton, and yes, it’s free! We spent a wonderful few hours strolling around the simple but satisfying zoo. The usual things were there – kangaroo, emu, koalas and token crocodile. Rockhampton Zoo also had some more exotic animals, the names of which elude me.

Being the beef capital of Australia, we naturally had to have steak for dinner – yum!

Our airbnb was a cute miners cottage, brought in from Mt Morgan. It was nearly 90 years old, quaint, cozy and I’m sure full of memories. Rockhampton itself is a fascinating town. Full of old buildings, with a train line running through it, it truly was an interesting place.

Refreshed from our stopover and lovely sleep, it was time to hit the road once again for our last location – Rainbow Beach!

Vidins in Mackay :: Notes from the road

IMG_7555Home. I arrived back late last night. Bags have been unpacked, clothes washed, the car ridded of the collection of bug brains and sandy car seats. I’ve returned to four broody chickens, long grass, slightly larger tummy and much thinner wallet.
I’ve returned still loving Paul Simon and Johnny Cash. I’ve returned for a much greater appreciation for early European explorers and settlers. I’ve returned with spoonfuls of gratitude that I get to live in the great state of Queensland.
I’ve driven about 1200klm north, clicking just over 3200klm driving in total.
We traversed half the mighty Bruce Highway. We passed through crackly dry beef plains, head-high sugar fields, faded green bushland, the brilliant blue Whitsundays and through hundred-year old towns.

I’ve seen more roadkill than I can poke a stick at, cussed at more grey nomads you can poke a pension card at, been amazed, awestruck, laughed, giggled, hurled and everything in between.

So join me any my brood as I incorrectly recollect some of the best bits of when Vidins does Mackay.

Father’s Day matters more than ever

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I remember seeing him in the freezing mornings covered in a blanket, on his knees in deep prayer and meditation.
I remember watching him shave every morning.
I remember being subject to his firm, yet loving discipline.
I remember his terrible jokes.
I remember watching his hair going grey and receding.
I remember being able to hear him clear his throat in the shower every morning.
I remember a man who, in retrospect, made very difficult decisions to lead his household in holy and righteous ways.
I remember a man who would take punch after punch to drag his children out of the gates of hell.

I am blessed to have this man, who called me his own, even though I wasn’t. This man who took responsibility for me in every way, and to the best of his capacity. A man who still does this, even to this day.

Yes, I am talking about my step-dad, a man whom I have absolute respect and love for.

Despite these rich blessings, he wasn’t, and never will be my dad. Even though he loves me like a son, and offers me the same rights and privileges as all his children, he is not, and will never be my dad.

There are some that have been arguing that all a child needs is love. That love is love. And who can argue against the fact that a child needs love to bloom and flourish?

My dad was taken from me by cancer, but I am still blessed to not have my heritage withheld from me. I am still blessed to know my dad’s family – uncles, cousins, extended family. I can look at a family photo and see exactly where I fit in. I can see the classic Vidins traits in my brothers, my uncles, my cousins, my niece and nephew. I know where I’m from. I know where half my roots lie, where half my heritage is from.

I can’t imagine what it would be like not to know half my story. To look in the mirror and only have half the picture. To look at a family tree and not know half the roots, or half the branches. To not know the heritage, faith, ideals, quirks of half your family. To be robbed of being able to make up your own mind on your identity.

Love was never in question when I grew up. I got it in spoonfuls from my mum, my dad, my step dad and a host of extended family on all three sides of my family. I never had a deficit of love. I just didn’t have my dad. I remember snippets and snapshots, I’ve got second hand stories and a his smile when I look in the mirror. I’ve got his name on my birth certificate and his ears sticking out of my head.

To say that all a child needs is love robs a child. A child needs their mum, and their dad. They need the good, the bad and the ugly. To be able to make up their own mind on the bits they’ll keep, the bits they’ll learn from, the bits they’ll challenge and the bits they’ll cherish.

Love might be love, and my life has been greatly enriched by people that continue to love me. I’m thankful and blessed and gracious for all the love I’ve received. I guess when you boil it down, I just miss my dad.

Love whoever you want. Marry whoever you want. To be honest, I couldn’t care less if you prefer Adam or Eve. Just don’t rob a child from their right to have their mum and dad.

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Political Correctness vs Manners

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We hear a lot about political correctness. You’ve probably heard people say things like ‘oh, that’s not politically correct’, or ‘that wasn’t a very politically correct thing to say’. It pervades almost every area of our lives – in some areas more than others.

 You’ve probably also heard the saying ‘manners maketh the man’. I know I certainly heard it growing up. Manners were drummed into me from a very early age. Things like standing when an elder entered the room, opening the door for a lady, taking my hat off inside, table manners, conversational manners – I could go on. I suspect for many in my demographic this was the case. I’ve recounted a story before of a family friend, a doctor and true gentleman who referred to my grandmother always as ‘Mrs Vidins’, in the most respectful, humble way. His manners were always impeccable.

 I’m sure you’ve come across people who have fantastic manners. The inverse is probably true too. I’ve certainly met people who come across as disgusting pigs – foul mouthed, disrespectful boors.

 Political correctness is the idea that you are restrained by an outward force – a cultural norm, a policy, a coercive power. It coerces you to not say something, or do something, in the name of ‘offending’ someone, regardless of the truth or accuracy of the message. You may have bitten your tongue sometimes because you were worried, or feared about the repercussions of your words. I’ll give some examples. You might have wanted to question the effectiveness of our past, or current refugee processes, but didn’t because you were concerned about being called a racist. You may have wanted to raise your thoughts on same-sex marriage, but didn’t because you knew you’d be labelled a homophobe. Perhaps you had questions on the millions of dollars that were being spent on our indigenous brothers and sisters, without any identifiable increases in health, education, workplace participation or decreases in violence and abuse, but didn’t because you knew you’d be labelled as a hater.

 It’s important to pause at this stage, because I’m sure some will think I’m pointing the finger at progressive, or left-wing political correctness. If you’re thinking that, you’re correct, I am. I’ve noticed the most intolerance has come from the left in our present age. It comes in the form of bullying, of the threat of legal action (s18c, anyone?), of having your businesses targeted (refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding). It even comes in the form of opposing a whole nation (the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish Boycott, Divestment & Sanction (BDS) movement). We see our politicians take a politically correct line when talking about terrorism. How often have you heard a prominent politician say a terrorist atrocity undertaken by a Muslim in the name of Allah has nothing to do with Islam? It’s like saying a drunk driver hitting and killing someone on the road has nothing to do with alcohol. Are all Muslims terrorists? OF COURSE NOT! Are all drunks likely to get behind the wheel and be a danger on the road? OF COURSE NOT! Political correctness is that outside force preventing you from speaking the truth, asking a question or voicing a concern because it may cause an offence, be taken the wrong way or cause a retaliation. It’s external.

 Manners, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. The total opposite, in fact.

 Manners come from a place of inner strength, a place of confidence. Manners isn’t cowardice, oh no. Manners, which goes hand in hand with self-restraint, comes from a place of steadfast conviction. Manners give you the confidence to articulate, not as a reaction, but as a confident position of concrete values. Manners comes from a place of seeking to understand first, to inquire, to test and to challenge, wanting the best, even if that means discomfort during the process.

 Manners is an absolute inner process that regulates, analyses, tests and speaks from a place of conviction, with conviction. It comes from a place of respect – self-respect first, then respect for others. Manners is the practice of holding back, not out of fear of retaliation, but from understanding there is no point in an argument for the sake of an argument.

 Political correctness is a fear that your words, or some actions will have dire ramifications either directly, or from a third party. Political correctness is suppressing the truth out of fear of retaliation. Despite what some argue, there are truths. There are universal truths. Biological truths. Scientific truths. Spiritual truths. Truths that have real implications for here, and the hereafter.

 Manners always seeks the best, even when there is disagreement. It’s the dignified silence in the face of howled insults. Manners is the confidence of truth, spoken in earnest respect. It’s not a cowered, timid mumble. It’s not a brash bulldozer of anger.

 Political correctness seeks to crush. It seeks to paint over truth with lies. It seeks to silence. It hates dissent. It fears the thinker. It scoffs at the one confident in truth. Political correctness employs all means necessary – shame, legislation, violence to silence and intimidate anything outside the ‘correct’ narrative. It uses name calling, lies, gross distortions and hatred to plough over and rip up. Political correctness hates free speech, free thought and debate. Intolerance is its mandate, coercion is its goal. It does it for power, for powers sake. It is never satisfied with enough.

Manners seeks to edify the individual. It seeks to understand, it seeks the truth, it proclaims what is right. Manners is the respectful debate of ideas. It’s the safe harbour where ideas flourish, where the individual is nourished. Manners come from a place of confidence, it extends the hand of respect. Manners doesn’t compromise the truth, and confidently invites others to seek it.

Let me tell you this. We need more people with manners, across the spectrum of ideas, ideals and thoughts. We absolutely need less political correctness. Next time you have a choice when it comes to the truth, what will you do? Will you cower to political correctness, or will you use your manners to confidently proclaim what is right?

 

Trempez vos orteils dans l’eau (Dip your toes in the water)

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“Dip your toes in the water” she spoke, almost a whisper, like a prayer to a mere mortal. The warm July wind hummed across the the Cote d’Azur, singing softly through the trees. He stared pensively to the blue, hesitant to offer any response. Still, she prayed once more:
“Dip, just try it, dip, dip your toes in the water”. Her call was sweet, and despite her beauty, she was no siren, there was no temptress tone in her words.

The pain was still too great. The fear, crippling. For dipping would lead to heels, heels to which his head would fall over too quickly.

Her soft fingers traced down his sunbrown back. Sand stuck to his lightly sweated neck. Flinching, he was unable to dissuade her hearts call to touch.

“Just a toe” she whispered.

His cheek flinched, the sun sparkling rays of warmth into his otherwise cold soul. His raised arm over his face no match from the glare from the blue. He shifted, nestling under the protection of the vine, shielding, as if it were, from the warmth. Her words resonated. Echoed. Bounced off the walls of his heavily guarded heart. Still, her hand gently persistent, tracing ‘eternity’ around his squared, pensive shoulders.

“One dip, it’s all I ask” sweetness permeated from her lips. He wondered, picking his salt-dried lips, wondered, wondered, wondered why. The pain gripped him around the throat one more time, angrily choking the wonder from his mind.

He remembered the cruel sea. He remembered the pain of the dark blue. The storms. The angry wind, the viscous waves. The grave of the deep reaching his angry hand to drag him down. The siren of the water, that whore, promising pleasure, leaving him shipwrecked, alone, adrift.

Still, he wondered.

She stared out across the Mediterranean. Her fingers, massaging the nape of his neck, prying the anger away from his throat. Her warm fingers.  Twirling a lock. Tracing the bones of his spine. Being.

They hadn’t spoken since her proclamation in Marseilles, since he shut down, wondering why she would ruin what they had with something so reckless as love. His broken heart still clenched tight, he angered at why she would dare. Why she would be so foolish as to entrust such a thing in him. Still, her fingers lingered.

“Try me” she implored once again “Just dip your toe in, just once” her words, reassuring, her repetition comforting. He found himself inching towards the thought.

He trained his eyes on the sea. The white caps of the waves, the boats rocking like distant metronomes on the water. He felt the tempest recede inside of him. He wondered, just wondered.

“Dip your toe in the water, my darling, dip it in the water, with me” her voice once again gently persistent like the incoming tide, coming up to meet him, to meet his shore.

The storm still stirred, yet he turned, turned towards her. Her eyes deep as the blue before him, he mustered a squint and a smile

“I’ll dip my toe in the water, I’ll dip it with you”.

Image from http://swim-in-the-sea-count-the-stars.tumblr.com/post/112132247487

 

The Quiet Whisper of Truth

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Have you noticed the world getting louder? That there’s just so much more grabbing for your attention? I’m finding I’m being bombarded almost from the second I wake up, to the moment I go to sleep. 
There just seems to be so many ‘things’ that want to take from you. Expectations. Things you ‘should’ do. Political messages, religious demands, work pressures, the crush of insatiable capitalism. 

 It’s unrelenting, and it seems to be increasing. 

 I don’t really ‘live online’, and try to keep a low social media profile, however even I’m finding there’s so many things that make my blood boil as soon as I log onto Facebook, or read the news. Things that affront my faith, heresies, wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Things wanting to tear down. 
I’ve found there’s a stack of things simply yelling at me. Yelling, assaulting almost every part of my being. 

Have you found that?
Even in my own walk of faith, there seem to have been people and organisations yelling out at me, proclaiming all sorts of things. Yelling out a mish-mash of political messages intertwined with an ‘interesting’ doctrine. Yelling out for me to attend their church, their conference, their course, or read their latest book. Yelling out for me to join their particular political movement, cause or group. These things – they burden. They saddle with distraction, and they crowd out the quiet whisper of truth. 

Yelling out. 

Here’s what I’ve also found, in amongst the noise. The quiet whisper of truth. 

From the get go, this quiet whisper isn’t some zen-like state. It’s not finding mindfulness, or meditating on nothing. It’s not something abstract that distracts you, or promises self-fulfilment, or fills your mind with another distraction. No, this quiet whisper is something completely different. 

I’m talking specifically in relation to my faith, but I think these principles can probably be applied to most areas of life. You see this yearning for the truth in so many areas. You see it with food, when people seek out the ‘original’ ways of doing things. You see it in some aspects of environmentalism, where people seek ways to live without the noise of everyday, and electing for a sustainable lifestyle. You see it when people restore cars, aiming to get their classic back to ‘original’ condition. You see it when people lose their way in their relationships, and they seek to find the things they first enjoyed about each other. 
The quiet whisper of truth. Listen to her. This is how she makes herself known to me:

She is the quiet whisper guiding me to holiness, when there’s yelling about ’10 things I need to do to improve my life’
She’s the gentle beckoning to repentance, when the seductive siren of lust tries to tempt me
She’s the sweet call of righteousness, when the hiss of shadows tries to lure me to corruption
She’s the unfailing rock I grasp to, when the tide of popular culture melts beneath my feet
She is the wisdom of ages, unchanging, unfailing, unfaultable, when the dross of fancy speakers, loud music and ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ messages turn to dust. 

 This quiet whisper of truth. Heed her call.

I’ve found this whisper, this whisper in places seldom sought. 
I’ve found her in the beautiful Law. I’ve found her in the ancient voice of the prophets. She calls out your name. I’ve found her, not in the flashing lights of the pulpit, but in seeking, and searching the scriptures. 
This whisper of truth, I have found her in the counsel of men who speak quietly. I have found her in the voices of women refined by fire. 

 Her voice isn’t brash, but her authority is immutable
Her call is sweet, but her message is life-affirming
Her whisper illuminates the hidden darkness in you, her embrace calls you to repentance, her grace calls you quietly, calls you to the light. 

 I’ve found this quiet whisper of truth makes me squirm, and makes me uncomfortable. Truth will do that, for darkness can’t hide when the light of truth beams down. 

 Let me encourage you to seek this truth. Seek out her quiet whisper, this quiet whisper of truth.