Sunday 18th August 2019

Women of Courage Series. #7. Dorothy. 74/2019.

Trigger Warning: Suicide, Grief, Family.

 

 

Women of Courage Series. #7. Dorothy. 74/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Welcome to Dorothy’s story.  She is 67. In 2016 I was ‘introduced’ on-line by a fellow art lover to Dorothy who has a Mandalas For A Season Group on Facebook and in that time, we have followed each other’s stories as women of a ‘certain age and stage’ and similar careers. Dorothy’s image is her mandala for Jarrod.

 

This is the icon mandala for Jarrod I created in the week before he suicided.

Dorothy shares her story here:

I am into my 5th year of creating mandalas (from October 2014).

In my retirement from being a Primary School Principal, I began with Kathryn Costa’s 100Mandala Challenge, having dabbled in Zentangle previously. I found as I immersed myself in creating mandalas, the greatest inner peace I have ever known.

Little was I to know that I would be launched into a devastating grief experience in January 2016 when my 36 year old son suicided after 18.5 years of battling multiple complex mental health issues.

My mandalas provided me with solace and comfort and continue to do so.

In the first month I created a mandala for every year of his life, and then on the 20th of each month in the year after he died I created a mandala to honour his life.

I was moved to create a mandala community on Facebook after Kathryn Costa took her 100Mandala Sharing Circle off Facebook.

Because of the value I have found at various seasons of my life, I called the community Mandalas for a Season.

Apart from engaging fully in the mandala journey, the nurturing of this community for each member has deepened and grown, and I have developed wonderful friendships through this community.

I am not a professional mandala artist – for me it’s deeply personal, and an amazing healing and encouraging experience.

 

I have learned that the grief journey is messy, non-linear, and has no end.

It’s not a matter of getting through it. It’s a matter of continuing to breathe.

I never knew that in grief love grows.

I never knew that I would miss my son more as the days pass.

I thought that in the immediate aftermath, life would go on and the pain would dull.

I am a member of several support groups for the “bereaved from suicide”. I gain perspective from other people’s sharing and it’s been reassuring that my aches and pains, days of lethargy, a feeling of the cloud hanging low, are not unusual.

I have learned that each member of the immediate family experiences the grief differently. For one stoicism is the pattern; for another distancing oneself is needed at times, for another detaching is the way.

I have learnt not to expect that anyone else can meet my needs – that the courage to go on comes from within me, and through my mandalas.

 

Dorothy, I am honoured that you have chosen to share your story about your son and the journey with mandalas.

Thank you for your heart-felt words and telling us how it is and has been.

I am including Lifeline’s 13 11 14 here.

Denyse.

 

Follow Dorothy on Social Media:

Instagram: dorothy_heartfulmandalas

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

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Art,Creativity, I.C.A.D. and Me. 57/2019.

Art,Creativity, I.C.A.D. and Me. 57/2019.

A few years back, six specifically, I was told about a U.S. based creative fun art challenge called I.C.A.D.

Index Card a Day.

The founder, Tammy Garcia, is someone who is not a trained artist but one who has found creativity unlimited through art. Her website is here.

The notion of using a simple thin card called an index card to product ‘something’ creative each day for 61 days began a few years  before I joined up in 2013.

I found a place. I love it and this art and creative part of me grew and grew. I continued being part of the I.C.A.D. community is a member and for a couple of years as a moderator. I made (and continue to make) new on-line friends there and have met on of those people as she lives in Australia.

Art of some kind, not just I.C.A.D. has been immeasurably a significant part of how I have learned to manage my anxiety in the transitions of my life (retirement, leaving Sydney, moving away from family & friends) and it has been a daily activity since 2017.

Helping with Cancer.

Already having re-discovered my art/creative side back in 2013, when I was diagnosed with cancer, making something arty every day has really helped me in managing my stress, pain and worry about cancer’s return. I have written many times about this and here is the link to all of the posts.

Back to I.C.A.D. in 2019.

I had a break from I.C.A.D. in 2018 and that has made me doubly enthused to be back for 2019.

The challenge itself is a self-challenge. Complete a simple index card a day in an art-ful way for 61 days. Tammy has loads of ideas and being part of the group I know I get inspired. She makes up a list for one week at  a time of daily prompts. Like my blog prompts for Mondays, these are optional.

In one week’s time I will have published my first 2019 Index Card and will be prepping #2.

Have Fun is the Message.

If you get bogged down in ‘making art perfect’ then what you get via I.C.A.D. involvement is learning to enjoy the process and the imperfections.

Do think about joining in for 2019.

I know Alicia is from here. 

See You There, I Hope!

The direct link to finding out more is here. It is free. However, to be part of some extra connection and learning from others and Tammy there are two paid options. I have paid $9.03AUD for the $6 USD entry in special, private group. This is because the changes in Facebook and Instagram make it impossible to track your art and others.

Publishing on the Sunday before I.C.A.D. starts to give you the chance to consider signing on!!

Denyse.

Not a sponsored post. I don’t do them. This is sharing to connect if you are interested! 

 

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Updated: What Art Has Taught Me. 45/2019.

Update: What Art Has Taught Me. 45/2019.

The words below, after the photos, are from my blog post of 2017. Before I had a cancer diagnosis. When I “knew” something was going awry with me, but no-one knew specifically. I knew I needed some mindfulness in my life back in 2013. I sure did find it via Art. So much learning for me and I love(d) it. I now know this:

  • art of about the process not the product
  • art in many forms is soothing to my sometime unsure and worried self
  • art is a place and space for me
  • when I visit my art-space, I immediately focus on ONE thing!
  • this one thing, which helps me feel much more relaxed and mindful, may be about what media I will use, what I will make, or what I need to keep on doing
  • it does not matter, the thing is “I become mindful” and settle to create “art”

In 2013 I was searching for more in my life to help me through the bumps and trials.

A friend suggested an art-based group in U.S. where there was an annual challenge.

I’ve written about this a few times on the blog.

Today I am listing what Art has taught me from that mid-point in 2013 until the present.

And it’s not always about Art!!

  • I can be patient
  • I can see the world from different perspectives
  • I can select what I want to do with my art materials with confidence
  • I now know the process is more important to me than the product
  • I find that I prefer to share my art, imperfect as it is, with many and am happy to give it away when people express an interest in it
  • I find it interesting that others see different things in my artistic pursuits than I do at times
  • I enjoy the way in which I became at one with the now when I’m engaged in a creative process be it writing, photography, art or gardening

In general, Art has taught me to allow my mindfulness to be part of who I am. I am no longer striving as much nor wanting to do the next thing. It is teaching me to slow down. 

This is a good lesson to be learned!

Have you learned lessons from life?

I believe it’s a good fit for Min’s link up too. Zen Tips Tuesday found here.

On Wednesday, sharing this post with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share the Love.

Denyse.

 

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My Mindfulness Practices’ Update. 13/2019.

My Mindfulness Practices’ Update. 13/2019.

I have written about the value of mindfulness and meditation several times here and here since 2015 and I have decided to update my readers and in doing so, join in with Min of who is launching her ZenTipsTuesday link up today!

Join the #ZTT train by linking up your post about any kind of lifestyle choice, activity, or holiday that helped bring you a feeling of ZEN – peace, or enhanced feeling of balance (mind, body and spirit).

Congratulations to Min. I hope this Tuesday link-up is a great one.

In the past year, these are some of what I practise to achieve mindfulness:

mindfulness: rather than me explain it: this one page article has three ways in which to describe mindfulness and I suggest a read because…it is ‘not all about being in this moment’. Nor is it all about meditation and clearing out your mind. That as I know is impossible and no meditation teacher ever expects that to occur.

 

When I notice my body (and soul I suppose!) not being as in sync as I now know they can be, I try to find s part of nature that soothes me and helps me add the world around me to filling me up again.

A place called Porters Creek – part of Wyong River – is a favourite place to walk alongside and stop and take in what surrounds me.

 

Of course, I have written before about Mindfulness and Mandalas and that is here. However after quite a gap between making mandalas due to busy-ness of making bookmarks from my art, I felt called back to this most mindful of art I do. I love the creative process and then carefully deciding after the pattern has been completed, just how I will colour it.

 

An A3 size mandala created by me and eventually coloured with some of these fabulous markers which has a brush end and a pointed end.

 

Recently I could not settle myself. That happens at times when there is more on my mind than I may admit to: possibly related to cancer recovery. So on this occasion again I took myself out in the car and found a place at Tacoma beside the Wyong River and sat. And looked and noticed: what I held in my hand. Check out the tiny mandala shape in nature!

Sometimes it is the change of view that helps and I get out of my house. This find told me that if I look carefully I will find something of interest. I did.

 

I have learned the lesson over and over again that there is no one right time. Take a risk, give something a go and be kind to yourself as you do so. That is living in the now!

 

Calm is my preferred meditation app now and I have life membership – it was surprisingly cheap and there are many options on the app that it is for me better than my previous Headspace app.

 

If my mind is whirling and worrying sometimes a more complex but different kind of drawing challenge helps me focus on “just one thing”. This is an example of a previously “too hard” mandala in its final stages of drawing.

Taking my time, reading the instructions (!) and doing this was such a good thing for me at the time.

 

I have been learning about Self-Compassion for over 3 years now but am always learning something new about it and myself. I am far less likely to speak to myself harshly these days and I remember to practise self-compassion when I do not have a great day. Completing the Mindful Self Compassion Workbook by Dr Kirstin Neff and Dr Chris Germer is helping cement my practices.

Do you practise self-care? In 2019 each 7th week, for LifeThisWeek I am asking bloggers to share their self-care and self-kindness stories.

 

A favourite way of re-connecting with myself in a pleasant environment is this place. I found it before I knew I had cancer in 2017 and visited it once I found out. I like to walk here and take time to gather my thoughts and at the same time immerse myself in the bigger world beyond my mind!

The walking bridge at Budgie is a favourite.

 

It is no secret to those who follow me on Instagram that the beach is a winner hands-down for me as a mood-buster and a ‘time to give thanks’ spot.

I knew last week this is where I HAD to come at 6 p.m. and it cheered me no end. Especially dipping in the water and facing the challenge of crashing waves!

 

And so, that IS my mindful practices’ update. I hope you are finding this thing we are in called LIFE going well for you. If you are not so, and that happens, maybe some of mine could be ones to help you too.

Denyse.

Joining in with Min from Write of the Middle for Zen Tips Tuesday for the first link up!

On Wednesdays I link here for Midlife Share the Love. Thank you Sue and Leanne.

This Thursday I link up here as part of Lovin’ Life linky  with Leanne and friends.

 

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My Daily A-Z Challenge On Instagram. 8/2019.

My Daily A-Z Challenge on Instagram. 8/2019.

By the end of January 2019 I admit this had started to be ‘over- challenging’ me in some ways, so I have admitted I want to do my instagram photos with greater flexibility and that perhaps I am now less likely to need a challenge! Go figure. I continue to do a daily post with what I am wearing because I enjoy this and will add other photos to my collages. Thanks for your interest! Denyse 

I like to have a daily photo of me taken as it helps me remember why I started to #dresswithpurpose in 2017. See here for more.

I do tend to get a bit bored after a while with myself AND what I post on Instagram (then to Facebook and Twitter) so in 2019 I came up with this idea for the first half of the year. Goodness knows whether I will continue it after that but there IS a way to go.

For me, Instagram is photo-centred and I am visually- oriented. It is a quick way for me to connect each day. BUT, the snag for me is this. I cannot connect universally as my account is private. For the very good reason : hacked in May 2017. Ask for follow: @denysewhelan

Each week, starting on Tuesday: because 1 January was a Tuesday, post a photo with the letter of the alphabet and its word I have listed loosely themed around the collage I post. Here is one example from each of the first weeks. 

 

1 Jan: Week One: Appreciation

8 Jan: Week Two: Beauty

15 Jan: Week Three: Connection

22 Jan: Week Four: Details

 

29 Jan: Week Five: Exciting

5 Feb: Week Six: Flourish

12 Feb: Week Seven: Gratitude

19 Feb: Week Eight: Hope

26 Feb: Week Nine: Inquisitive

5 Mar: Week Ten: Joyful

12 Mar: Week Eleven:  Kindness

19 Mar: Week Twelve: Love

26 Mar: Week Thirteen: Mindfulness

2 Apr: Week Fourteen: Noting

9 Apr: Week Fifteen: Optimism

16 Apr: Week Sixteen: Pleasure

23 Apr: Week Seventeen: Questioning

30 Apr: Week Eighteen: Read

7 May: Week Nineteen: Scenic

14 May: Week Twenty: Teach

21 May: Week Twenty-One: Understand

28 May: Week Twenty-Two: Voice

4 Jun: Week Twenty-Three: Wonder

11 Jun: Week Twenty-Four: eXtra

18 Jun: Week Twenty-Five: Yay

25 Jun: Week Twenty-Six: Zest

So, how about it? You sure do not have to post every day. That is just me. But should you choose to, use this hashtag (I hope to remember it!)

#denysewhelanAtoZchallenge2019

I look forward to sharing more of these – as my creative brain can find examples – over the next 6 months. Gosh, almost the end of January….the next five months!

Denyse.

Joining the lovely Leanne for Lovin’ Life on Thursdays here.

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November Notes #4. 2018.122.

November Notes #4. 2018.122.

At the beginning of 2018 I decided to make myself accountable on-line.

To ME!

Accountable by sharing on Instagram and then via Facebook and Twitter three daily posts.

Every.Single.Day.

I did!

Well, I did until the reason stopped having meaning for me.

Routine.

Despite being retired and recovering from what was then “only” two surgeries on January 1, I committed to posting:

  • A Daily Outfit post: #outfitoftheday #dresswithpurpose
  • A Daily Creative post: #creating #process #product
  • A Daily Nature post: #gettingoutside #noticingnature

I remain committed in many areas of my life: career, partnership and more and so this was going to be keeping me:

  • accountable to ME for 3 different reasons
  • every day had 3 opportunities to share on line and enjoy interactions
  • help with a daily structure
  • less likely to sit around doing little
  • to keep my mood steady and somewhat elevated as I had interactions outside the house…and via connections on-line
  • managing my life with cancer by having 3 separate interests and reasons to connect with others
  • finding new people on-line, including groups of people with Head and Neck cancer
  • using my eye for noticing …and my creative brain for making…and helping my recovery by dressing each day for a photo

Here’s how it went, via a few examples from each category, until it stopped…on 30 October 2018.

Why Did I Stop?

I had had enough. Once something serves its purpose it IS time to move on. But there was also another landmark I had passed and I think it also had something to do with the decision.

On 30th October I had posted a “photo of me” every day for the previous 365 days (maybe a couple of exceptions) and I know how much I was both encouraged and buoyed when I first started doing this as I had only had cancer (and just one surgery!) for a few months. It fed my need to be ‘seen’ even with my face and body taking some blows and then recovering after surgeries 2, 3 and 4. BUT, I was knew things had changed for me.

From 31 October, I decided to post ONE instagram/facebook/twitter snap a day based on Daily Gratitude.

I still show me in whatever I wore that day, but on the side of the collage I group 4 similar reasons for gratitude for me.

I am finding this something meaningful as I wind down till the end of the year.

I will still, on occasion, post other pics but no longer via the need to do 3 a day for 365 days!! I cleared out a lot of my Instagram feed too now, keeping mostly the images of me as they help me see my progress.

So, that’s it.

This is the second last November Notes and I have decided not to do a Thursday post in December unless there is a need. I did enjoy the challenges of thinking more for my creative space…

Just for July, Appreciation in August, September Stories, Observations in October & November Notes.

When the reason has changed, change what we do. Do you?

Love to know what you think about habits that keep on going on and maybe they are no longer needed.

Denyse.

Joining the bloggers who link here with Leanne for Lovin Life on Thursdays. (I will still link up a post, even if it is not a newly published one!)

 

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My Bookmarks & The Big Hug Box. 2018.121.

My Bookmarks & The Big Hug Box. 2018.121.

Regular readers would know I have a ‘thing’ for creating with paint, markers, crayons and pencils. In fact, this creative side of mine has bloomed in the past few years. I made a pact this year to create daily and I did until about a month ago. Here’s the post about my creations which focussed mostly about mandalas. I will come to the bookmarks soon!

I am someone who has learned to enjoy the process of creating as well as the product. Many of my mandalas have been given away or made into coasters and placemats after laminating.

Before mandalas became a thing for me, I created patterns in grids, patterns in free form and more. I just get/got a lot of relaxation and meditative experiences through taking my time, letting my mind flow and enjoying the sensations of adding colour to blank pages.

Then: I still am a product-person too! I began to make bookmarks using strips of the patterns for friends and family. I laminated them and it was pleasing to see them being used and appreciated by others.

But: I ran out of people to give them to…

Until: I heard of the Big Hug Box. Lisa Greissl, a cancer patient herself 3 years ago, wanted to help ‘give back’ and to raise funds for cancer research. I followed Lisa via the Big Hug Box and could see how special her “boxes of hugs via gifts and more” were. I wanted to help by contributing and asked Lisa would my bookmarks work in her gift boxes.

Her response was as joyful and positive as she is. YES. Emphatically YES. A bright, hand-made bookmark would be a great addition.

I loved my skills being helpful to others with cancer. In fact, I was stoked to see an Instagram photo from a friend I met via blogging…who sadly has cancer…but had a Big Hug Box given to her and one of MY bookmarks was in there. I felt like I had contributed to her HUG.

Above is a selection of my most recent delivery to Lisa: 200 bookmarks. I have probably donated well over 100 before this!  I admit I now streamline my making.

  • Firstly, the art is cut into suitable size,
  • I have sheets of coloured card which I cut to match The Big Hug Box’s dimensions. I need, in future, to make slightly smaller ones for the Random Hugs of Kindness Boxes.
  • I paste my patterned paper on one side of the card
  • On the other side I add a now-signature Owl stamp at the top of the bookmark and a little quote that is on the bottom
  • Somewhere along this side of the bookmark I write an individual “My Bookmark”, later I embellish that side with some dots of paint.
  • On the front, where the pattern is, I often add a star, or heart symbol sticker and then as Lisa suggested, a little message from me on a sticker: Hand Made For You By Denyse Whelan Who Blogs Here: denysewhelan.com.au
  • Then I place 4 or 5 into an A4 laminate sheet and start the slow but careful job of feeding them in.
  • Lastly, over time again, I trim each card and the group becomes  individual bookmarks.

I do take a few days to a week to make a group of bookmarks. I recently made 60 on top of these at the request of the Central Coast Cancer Centre Head & Neck/Lung Nurse who is part of the group I meet with once a month. She will be adding them to new patient packs.

One reason I continue to make these is that I can share my love and care for another person affected by cancer as I was. I do make a definite and  conscious decision as I create each one to send loving kindness.

Update!

A little while back, Lisa, who lives only 5o minutes away was planning a “packing of Big Hug Boxes and Random Acts of Kindness Boxes” morning at her place and I accepted her invitation to attend. There were a few of us connected to Lisa via friendship and/or cancer. I even got to meet the creator of Colour Me Well who asked me to supply some of my mandalas for cards she was selling to patients.

It was a heart-warming morning, and at the completion, we had some photos taken. Lisa then went to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on Monday 12 November to deliver 40 boxes, ready for gifting to cancer patients, and donated by various groups and individuals. I was thrilled to play a small role.

There is much to be said from helping our fellow humans and connecting and for those of us with cancer even moreso. Do check out Lisa’s wonderful work on The Big Hug box and she is now partnered by Cancer Aid app (another start-up from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse). Do share the information about the Big Hug Box widely…it helps all of us.

Lisa’s story on Channel Tenhttps://tendaily.com.au/news/good-news/a180530vxb/cancer-survivor-gives-back-with-the-big-hug-box-20180530

Thank you Lisa for your initiative and hard work. I know it’s for the love of it too but with a young family and working, it is a lot that you do for many!

Denyse.

Joining Kylie for I Blog On Tuesdays here and Sue & Leanne here for Midlife Share The Love linky on Wednesdays.

 

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Observations in October #3. 2018.107.

Observations in October #3. 2018.107.

Regular readers will recall I love mandalas.

I liked making patterns and designs too, but somewhere in mid 2016 mandalas caught my attention, and I was onto them. Firstly I bought a book which helped me design my first few (and I remembered geometry taught in primary school!) and then I took off.

I made a promise to myself to make 100. I exceeded it. Mandalas made by me have gone to others to use as decorations or just to enjoy. I truly love sharing them.

Our dining table, when visitors are here,  is adorned with versions made with laminating tbat have become coasters, table places and mats. My Dad has quite a few in frames at his place.

This week I did something I have been looking forward to for a while. I began teaching a class of adults about the mindfulness of colouring and using mandalas as my examples.

By the time this is posted, it will have happened. I shall report back!

Reporting back! On Tuesday 8 people joined the class and that was awesome. Each told me they came for learning, to have a new thing to do and to chat with others. It went so well they are returning next week!

What I am hoping is that you, my readers, also begin to appreciate and see mandalas where you go.

I noticed these walking down one street in Wyong on Sunday.

Three of my grandchildren were delighted to see that I had left parts of a new mandala for them to colour (using my best markers!) and they did a super job.

From The Mandala Workbook – A Creative Guide for self-exploration, balance & well-being. by Susanne F. Fincher. P1.

What Are Mandalas?

 Mandala is Sanskrit for “magic circle” and in the most basic sense, a mandala is simply a circle. Since ancient times in many cultures the mandala has had a powerful role in depicting, containing and expressing the sacred.

 Mandalas can come in many forms, from stone carvings, to domed cathedrals, ritual dances and calendar cycles.

 No matter their form, mandalas often us a profound way to examine our inner reality, to integrate that understanding with our physical selves and to feel connected to the greater universes. 

 “The circle has been universally accepted as a religious image of perfection, a shape of total symmetry, hermetically closed off from its surroundings. It is the most general shape, possessing the fewest individual features but serving at the same time as the matrix of all possible shapes” Rudolf Arnheim.

 

Mandalas are everywhere and here in each ceiling at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is one:

I see them in nature. Everywhere I look.

 

Will you look too now?

Denyse.

Joining my friend Leanne and others who link up here for Lovin’ Life each Thursday.

 

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