Friday 13th December 2019

My Latest Head & Neck Cancer News.120/2019.

My Latest Head & Neck Cancer News.120/2019.

For those who are new to the blog and my head and neck cancer story, all posts can be found here. 

As I reach the end of the year, it’s timely to do an update of how it is to be living with the results of head and neck cancer.

Specifically for me, the cancer was found inside my mouth: top gums and under the top lip.

It was named squamous cell carcinoma at first diagnosis after the initial biopsy but after my first surgery here, the results from the massive pathology testing done then according to my head and neck cancer surgeon was a form of verrucous squamous cell carcinoma. I do not pretend to understand my version of head and neck cancer. It IS oral cancer but for ease of others finding my blog I file it under head and neck cancer.

I am told by my professor that my version of this cancer is rare. The fact that head and neck cancer like mine (no Human Papilloma Virus/HPV cause) and no risk factors like smoking or drinking alcohol makes me “rare of rare”. Professor Jonathan Clark AM 2019. Sigh. Ok, I am glad it’s rare I guess but there is a puzzlement always about the how and why of my version of this cancer that I discuss with my dentist (who ordered to original biopsy after I had him take the bridge and teeth out…so I have learned to accept the no reason as best as I can.

Always grateful for my head & neck cancer surgeon

Supporting Others Helps Me Too.

My Blog.

This place (right here!) provided me, initially, with a way to tell my head and neck cancer story. I am glad I still keep going with the updates. Now as I hear, it can also be a place that others who are newly diagnosed, family members, friends and professionals can pop in, using the top of the page link to see all posts.

My Social Media Presence.

Twitter.

I like to talk (!) and connect so when I want to do this, without face to face catch ups (we are all over the world!) then it’s to social media I go. I have an active twitter account https://twitter.com/DenyseWhelan1 where I follow head and neck cancer patients, carers and professionals. Some of those include Beyond Five where I am an Ambassador, my fellow Ambassadors Julie McCrossin and Marty Doyle. The New Zealand based Facebook group, found here, has two of its admins Maureen Jensen and Tammy Von Keisenberg who are on twitter.

Facebook.

My blog’s facebook page https://www.facebook.com/denysewhelanblogs/ is where I do my main connecting these days and also use this profile in the Head and Neck Cancer Support Aotearoa. If you have head and neck cancer, or a family member or friend does, this group with over 500 members is an active and supportive place to share, read and find information. Meeting up with Fergus was a delight and getting to know Tara too. These people are the first who have also been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer in similar place to mine and we all have Chris O’Brien Lifehouse as our cancer centres.

Groups.

The local Head and Neck Cancer group for me (Central Coast NSW)  has a social media presence with a public facebook page found here: 

Beyond Five: found here, also lists meeting days and updates from groups around Australia. This is the link to the general page.

Most months I attend the Central Coast group meetings and next year will continue the practice. The group is open to all, and each 3rd Thursday of the month from 10 – noon we can be found at Erina’s Cancer Council rooms, within Erina Fair. Gary Ma is the group’s facilitator.

Beyond Five Ambassador.

I am delighted to announce I am continuing in this role for 2020. I have really enjoyed learning how to be the Ambassador that works for me and for Beyond Five and this is going well. It was in this role that I supported Soup for the Soul Fundraiser back in July for World Head and Neck Cancer with  my own (on-line!) and the event held at Cancer Centre Gosford Hospital in July. The group is grateful for the Head and Neck Cancer Patient Co-ordinator Nurse Lisa Shailer for her insights and lead and to Twynette Dickinson from the Cancer Council for her interest and presence.

Eating

I planned my eating in advance of going to the Christmas Lunch. It’s the best way for me.

  • I have found eating some foods fine. These include breakfast cereals with milk, some cracker biscuits with cheese, a small cake, grapes, mango and some meals which include mashed potato, meat (like cutlet or steak) and some tomatoes which can add some liquid to the food. It is a challenge for me to eat outside the home so I have accepted that unless it is say at my daughter’s house, I will be fine with a cup of coffee, a cake or something to dip into the coffee.

At Head & Neck Cancer Support Group Christmas Lunch this was my manageable and enjoyable choice to eat while socialing.

 

  • The foods that can be ordered out take me far too long to eat and my mouth gets sore inside. Whilst I have upper teeth they are tight inside my mouth and up against the gums and the biting and chewing that is enough for safe swallowing takes time. I get tired. The food gets cold. I tried to eat a meal out once and was refused a bag to take the rest home so another reason for no eating out is it is very expensive to waste money on food I cannot eat in two stages.

 

  • My main meals at home are like a bread & butter plate size. Or I use a regular plate and eat half one meal, cover it, and refrigerate it and eat the rest the next day. Because I have found this is a good strategy it means at least once a week I am eating some red meat (iron) that I love and some accompaniments and also sharing this meal with my husband. Most meals though, are ones I have made in bulk and are in small containers for me to eat after defrosting.

  • Occasionally I will try a salad as caesar salad is a favourite but again, I take so long and my mouth gets sore, so I make it in two halves. I cannot eat corn on the cob, tomatoes were lovely but they are affecting my mouth by stinging now (skin is very sensitive) and an apple…well, how long do you have? I cannot bite into it and the skin is too challenging, so if I give an apple a go, I may just grate it.

 

  • I have never been a spicy food person and would be hard pressed to have anything like that now or anything too hot. Cold is better in my mouth than hot.

 

  • Inside my mouth the skin is of different ages – some was added in 2017 and the remainder in 2018. My right thigh is the donor for my delicate areas between the gums and inside of lips. I have, as you would know, the flesh and skin from my right leg as my palate.

The wounds are where the bone (fibula) and skin/flesh were taken in July 2017

  • What is interesting is that because the top of my mouth is made from my leg (skin, flesh and bone) it acts like a legI am fortunate that the palate no longer grows hair.

 

  • However, I cannot taste nor feel any food in the top half of my mouth. IF I really want to savour a texture or taste, I need to put the food upside down in my mouth!

Appearance

Unless there is a reason to do so, I no longer mention to anyone new that I have had cancer. The reasons I did in my first years was about the way I looked. I certainly DID look different with no top teeth (upper prosthesis) and a mouth that was healing along with my leg. It was, for someone like me, a talking point or conversation started in 2017 and until I got my upper prosthesis in August 2018.

After that for a few months those I had met before were amazed to see me with teeth and smiling..even my head and neck surgeon (above) who remarked “Denyse you look fantastic…great work Suhas” when I’d sent him the email photo of me after Suhas (the prosthodontist) had fitted my upper prosthesis.

My top lip on the right hand side is pulled in (still) despite the months I spent with a stent trying to push it out. At least the stent did the work for me to have the upper prosthesis fitted. My top lip and under my nose is completely numb. It is very dry too and can itch. I have bought tube after tube of lip creams/balms/ointments to be told that there are some nerves in there that no longer work and so I just need to keep things in better condition for me to feel more comfortable instead of this constant tightness. The top lip appearance changes completely when I smile. So, I smile as much as I can!!

Nothing is as it seems. Sometimes.

I would be less than honest if I did not make a comment about this. I have found as time passes, that with little visible differences now in me, there is no real interest in my head and neck cancer. This is in my family and friend relationships too. I have pondered this and I believe once the novelty (strange word to select) has worn off this cancer diagnosis of mine  – it was very unusual – then people move on. In some ways I have but I also can never forget I have had cancer.

Each time my mouth moves one way or another, I feel the difference. No-one can see it of course, but I know it. When I can not stretch out my right leg or even my right foot then I am reminded of the sacrifice one part of my body made for another.

In the lead up to my third year of living with the diagnosis of a head and neck cancer (May 2020) I do take time to count my blessings and express gratitude (of course) but there is something quite profound about having a part of your body placed in another part of your body so you can function and live as well as possible.

Celebrating my 70th Birthday: with my husband who has been by my side throughout almost 49 years of marriage, but even more in the years since I was diagnosed with HNC.

I do get on with my life (as a now 70 year old!!) of course but have to say, despite the head and neck cancer existence for me, that I am noticing I can be more distracted and interested in hobbies such as my art and designs, getting out to meet people, going to the shops..ahem..for coffee of course. NOT always clothes shopping as my husband seems to think.

Am I grateful?

Yes I am.

However, I will continue to be monitored and tested for a return of cancer until at least 5 years has elapsed from diagnosis. So, I will be looking at May 2022.

Appointments scheduled.

Ask any cancer patient and they will likely say that once the more frequent appointments spread out (for the good news reasons like mine) there is an initial feeling of what now? I did have that this year once I got to May and was told my future appointments would be 4 monthly. So I am back to the Prof early March 2020 at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. My prosthodontist who saw me for my…40th appointment late November does not need me to return till mid March at Westmead. I am never quite sure of what the next appointments will entail. I trust I will continue with my path of wellness for which I am very grateful.

Head and Neck Cancer Patient Forum. 2020

On Friday June 12 in 2020 at the Garvan Institute I will be a patient who is interviewed about my experiences with head and neck cancer. It is open to patients , carers, family and more. The details are here. Costs are free to attend for some and a small fee for others. The link is here and I will be updating no doubt in 2020.

About my word of year 2019: Integrate.

When I chose this word at the end of 2018 it was after a conversation with my husband where he pointed out that maybe my cancer could be less important in my daily life. Mmm. Easy to say from a non-cancer person but much harder to do for me. Then. However, when I had the word engraved on the bracelet I have worn daily since 1 January 2019, on the back it says “HNC & Me” meaning that over time I hoped to grow to the point of head and neck cancer being a part of me but not the main part. I can now announce, I have noticed this for myself in the past few months so like all things, it happened in its own time.

Thank You.

The blog is my place for recording what I can share with the wider world about what it is like to have head and neck cancer. I now know some newly diagnosed patients and families have been assisted by reading the blog posts which I keep in a special page on my home page – right hand side. When I give someone my business card, the website is there and my information as an Ambassador for Beyond Five; head and neck cancer awareness on-line.

Top: L: Beyond Five Ambassador R: My Prosthodontist & Nurse: Westmead Bottom: L: Professor Jonathan Clark AM R: Sr Cate Froggatt

 

Earlier this year, I was published here too if you are interested. Life, Death Whatever take submissions from around the globe and a book will be coming in 2020

Thank you to my readers. This was a long-ish update!

Denyse.

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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Taking Stock #5. 49/51 #LifeThisWeek. 119/2019.

Taking Stock #5. 49/51 #LifeThisWeek. 119/2019.

Dear Readers,

My timing for Taking Stock  may not be as regular as some bloggers write theirs, but I will stick to the ‘around every 9th week’ for Taking Stock when it returns as a regular optional prompt in 2020.

Making: lots of art and loving it

Cooking: many cupcakes: some for me, some for you, and some for giving for Christmas gifts

Little cakes. Iced later.

Drinking: regular readers would know this without my words

Reading: birthday card wishes…with such love and care back to me for my 70th at the end of November & this one from long time follower and friend:

Wanting: the bushfires to be extinquished NOW.

Looking: to see if there is blue sky outside instead of smoke and haze

Playing: mahjong on the ipad along with listening for the 4th time on audiobook: Boy Swallows Universe

Wasting: energy on social media calling out our so-called elected leaders: Scott Morrison (you are a $ic$) and Gladys Berejiklian (no words) & the opposition isn’t actually one..so….

Wishing: someone, somewhere needs to act for the people instead of the big end of town & owners of media. Looking at you all,….and in UK and USA.

Enjoying: not being in schools much as I loved them back when I was working. I am tired  and I remember the tiredness of end of school VERY much. Wishing all my education friends and family the very best as 2019 draws to a close: very proud of all that has happened at this public school in particular!

 

Waiting: for rain. Everywhere in Australia affected by the drought is doing just that. 

Liking: that some communities on the coast are travelling west to take much needed goods to families in the bush affected by the hardship a drought brings

Wondering: if I will enjoy Trent Dalton’s new book next year as much as I did Boy Swallows Universe.

Loving: my Christmas faves playlists back in the car for my solo sing a longs. I love singing Christmas songs….I love Infants Assemblies and classroom music at the end of the year for that too. I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas by Patsy Briscoe..an oldie but a goodie! 

Hoping: my husband and I (no we are not Royal) continue to be well as we are both now in our 70s! Our seventies!!

Marvelling: that my father though somewhat frail physically is sharp as a tack mentally  at one month off being 96.

Needing: nothing much at all. Well-satisfied.

Smelling: the blooms that are Christmas is coming (next door’s hedge): gardenias

Wearing: a smile much more than a frown every single day. Back to the beach to escape the smoke scenes.

Following: social media on the  drought, weather and education

Noticing: that it is not helping me to become too immersed as it is somewhat stressful

Knowing: my limits in ability to eat and acting upon them instead of feelings of regret or missing out

Thinking: of how very very fortunate I am. In fact, I am GRATEFUL for my improved health: emotional and physical 

Feeling: grateful…and a bit sad …and a bit happy….and knowing it is also part of the human condition

Bookmarking: a page in this book which I read every day…it continues to help me make sense of the world for me

Opening: the best and most surprising gift I ever received last weekend…for my 70th Birthday from my kids and grandkids..not often I can be surprised either.

Smiling: with joy and appreciation for all the care and love I received on my birthday. I am very much blessed by my family and friends.

Did you take stock recently?

Thanks to Pip Lincoln for her original idea and list. Found here.

Denyse.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not. * Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do! * Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s optional prompt is: 50/51 Share Your Snaps #10 16/12/19

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My Gratitude Month of November.118/2019.

My Gratitude Month of November. 118/2019.

For my seventieth birthday month, I decided to do something different via instagram photos and post about:

G R A T I T U D E

My November Instagram Challenge:

On Being & Feeling Grateful.

For my Birthday month: 70 on 30 November 🎂

I want to share & celebrate #gratitude #givingthanks #reflectingonlife #celebratinglife

Do join me! 😊

Today is 1/30.

With each photograph I added all the reasons for my gratitude. I took some time to collate the collages in October and then filed them in an album ready to publish. I used various backgrounds for the bottom section and words of gratitude too as well as making sure I had the date (and day of 30) added.

About Gratitude.

I was not someone who came easily to the adoption of having a grateful outlook and to show appreciation for what ‘is’ and what I ‘have’ and ‘feel’. I was taught by my husband that I needed to see gratitude more and adopt an attitude of gratitude as they say. Well, I started small. I could change some of my thoughts and feelings around by adopting gratitude and I sensed the difference it made in me.

 

I listened to Gratitude Works!: a 21 Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity by Dr Robert Emmons and, even though there was a religious thread through it, it did not detract from the messages of thanksgiving and gratitude for me.

In the newest little book of his I have, The Little Book of Gratitude, he explains much better than I, the power, value and essence of gratitude:

A 2015 article in the popular journal Scientific American reported that, out of 24 strengths, including powerhouses as love, hope, kindness and creativity, the single best predictor of good relationships and emotional well-being was gratitude.

Gratitude is not just good medicine, though, a nice sentiment, a warm fuzzy feeling, or a strategy or tactic for being happier or healthier.

It is also the truest approach to life.

We did not fashion or create ourselves, and we did not get to where we are in life by ourselves.

So living in gratitude is living in truth.

It is the most accurate and honest approach to life.

 

                          “GRATITUDE is, first and foremost a way of seeing that alters our gaze”

Rounding off the Month of Gratitude. 

 

We are at the dawn of a global gratitude renaissance. Unprecedented interest in the science and practice of gratitude is so welcome because this is what gives us the strength of character to make life better not only for ourselves but also for others.

From Robert Emmons’  The Little Book of Gratitude’ I follow him on twitter: @Dr_RobertEmmons

What are you grateful for today…and every day?

Denyse.

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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Self-Care Stories #7 48/51 #LifeThisWeek.117/2019.

Self-Care Stories #7 48/51 #LifeThisWeek.117/2019.

Dear Readers,

We have finished the series for 2019 for Self-Care. However, “I” know how much it means to me to continue the practice of caring for the self…and so it will return as a regular prompt in 2020.

 

My approach for self-care in recent weeks.

Daily. Every Day.

I’ve long been the fan of my morning ritual of:

  • dress with purpose
  • go out to a coffee shop, shopping centre, cafe….
  • order my small, latte, double shot in a glass…..
  • open my current art journal and see where I am at..or what I want to share today
  • and often have two of these little biscuits

IF I do not get to do this because of being unwell or in Sydney for an appointment I really, really miss it so as best as I can, it’s the next day for me.

About the journal.

  • all pages are art-paper – heavy-ish quality
  • all are blank
  • sometimes I prep a page layout with paint at home
  • I write a bit
  • I might add a list- for example, what went well
  • I write to get stuff out…usually helpful and always something I need to do and work on
  •  I add in little patterns and designs
  • I make one if these little babies last me about 2-3 months if I can because they are expensive
  • I used a changing range of unipin black pen (0.5 or 0.8) for writing, outlining and some mixed media for colour

Something to read.

Only recently, when I found this little book, have I read something in this special self care time. This book has given me so many insights and I find myself nodding in agreement. It has confirmed lots of what I have been learning in these recent years and it’s done in such a great, easy-to-follow way.

Author: Ashley Davis Bush

This excerpt is from: Enjoy Your Non-Toothache.

The wise Vietnamese spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh talks about gaining inner peace via the path of noticing what you don’t have. His classic is to enjoy your “non-toothache”. If you’ve ever had toothache you will know (as I do well!) it causes a bit of pain..ok, a lot of pain. All you do when you have it is notice it, thinking about it…..you’d give anything not to have a toothache.

However when the toothache is gone, you quickly forget about the pain and immediately begin to focus on other issues or concerns.

For this equanimity practice write a list of ten things that, for today, you are currently NOT experiencing, but would definitely be unpleasant if you were. In other words, write a list of “it could be worse” items.

The author’s list:

  1. I enjoy not being homeless
  2. I enjoy not being in hospital
  3. I enjoy not vomiting
  4. I enjoy not have a migraine
  5. I enjoy not declaring bankruptcy
  6. I enjoy not going blind
  7. I enjoy not being caught outside in a blizzard
  8. I enjoy not losing my electricity
  9. I enjoy my car not having a flat tyre
  10. I enjoy not having a serious illness.

Here’s my list as of time of writing

  1. I enjoy not being in pain
  2. I enjoy not being employed as a principal
  3. I enjoy not being worried about my job
  4. I enjoy not have issues with IBS today
  5. I enjoy not having a deadline for anything
  6. I enjoy not needing to do Christmas shopping
  7. I am really enjoying not having to prepare family meals each night
  8. I am enjoying not feeling pressured for any reason to be anywhere
  9. I am enjoying not being in treatment for head and neck cancer
  10. I am enjoying not being in debt

How is your self-care?

Meeting up with friends is a really important part of my self-care and I am so glad to have people I know to do so!

On  a recent Monday Kirsty  and I met for coffee and a good old catch up. Kirsty is one busy lady and I am glad to see her role helping educators and parents better understand kids with special needs is taking off. Kirsty can be found here.

 

Sanch and I caught up recently when we met for coffee! Wishing my blogging friend all the best in her new job AND new place of living.  Her blog is here. I shall miss her presence in my life on the Central Coast! I am sure we will catch up again though!!

Excellent Self-Care on 18 November with Sanch!

Self-caring and sharing with my blogging & social media friends recently for my 70th Birthday! 

L-R. Me, Sam, Veronica, Grace & Kimba

 

I hope your self-care is going well!

Tell me more in the comments.

Denyse.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not. * Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do! * Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s optional prompt is: 49/51 Taking Stock #5 9/12/19

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Five Years Ago.116/2019.

Five Years Ago.116/2019.

In late 2014 so much happened to me: as an individual, a partner, mother and grandmother.

It’s timely to remember it and note parts of it.

You see, dear reader, I am an emotional person but also a very practical and organised one too. So when we decided mid 2014 that it was time for me to be able to quit all paid work as I was stressed and weary, and to finish up grandchild caring (we had been doing this lovingly since 2008) and that meant:

selling the house

paying out the mortgage

finding a place to rent on the Central Coast

buy a new vehicle each (the two we had were very much on their last legs so to speak)

and “then all would be better”.

True from one perspective: the practical but not from the emotional one for me and as regular readers know things did not go well for me. For quite some time.

Posts about the years 2015-early 2017 and how my life was affected may be found here (2015) and here (2016) and here (early 2017)

 

To give me some perspective now and to provide a photographic account of “this time 5 years ago” I offer:

 

House went on market & we accepted best offer on same day. Waiting for this sign to go up took a bit longer.

 

In the meantime, it was summer and as Papa tended the pool these grandkids made the most of what would no longer be ours in a few weeks.

 

We found a house to rent (unsuitable as we found later!) before Christmas that worked in with our settlement of mid Jan 2015 so we enlisted the family and up we travelled with some of our ‘stuff’. We had removalists on the day though.

 

 

The ‘last’ NSW Dept of Education School Spec for us (at the Entertainment Centre) made more special by our Yr 12 Drama Ensemble Member and Granddaughter playing the Nurse in a re-enactment based on the commemoration of WW1 A.N.Z.A.C. Centenary. I was in the audience watching with 2 of her siblings and her cousin.

 

And here she is, our dear GD, who was awarded top 10% in Drama for the HSC and is now, 5 years down the track, a graduate in Film Making from Australian Film Television and Radio School. She has her own film-making biz, so ask me if you want to know more!

 

 

 

I cannot leave this one out of my memories. Australian cricketer lost his life in a game when a ball hit him as he batted. In a tribute to Philip Hughes, we “put out our bats”. This is my husband’s from the 1960s. At the School Spectacular 2014 above, there was a segment added about his death as he was a public high school graduate and there was not a dry eye in the house as we sang “Come on Aussie Come on” in tribute to Philip.

 

 

I took a break from packing to drive to Mona Vale one evening and hear the funny and modest William McInnes talk about his (then) latest book Holidays. It was a joy to meet him and he is a very laidback and generous author. I used to listen to his A Man’s Got To Have a Hobby as a ‘comfort’ listen when I was stressed in those years. Lovely man with great family life stories to share.

 

It was hard, but I did it. Christmas decorating for the last time WITH the grandchildren. Practical me did not put a tree up nor did we do much inside the house but for the last time at Glenwood, the wooden decorations were up and some lights. Knowing it was last was hard but like I have said, I am still practical. This advent calendar was always filled with little chocolates for visiting grandchildren. We also had a tradition of “grandkids” only helping me do the tree sometime near the end of November. The older ones tell me they remember it well, so that makes me happy!

 

Then I was 65. Our daughter and her kids hosted us for a little afternoon tea with our son and his family. It was special of course and we took some pics to remember the occasion. We had Christmas Day together with both our kids and their kids for the last time hosted by our daughter and that was a little tinged with sadness but also knowing what was ahead was for us now.

That’s it for me.

Except for this: This photo (from instagram yesterday)  representing ‘then’ and ‘now’ of me visually but more words which helped make sense for the long and hard transition this has been for me. As transitions often are: getting married, moving from home,  becoming parents, starting new jobs, and so on. Mine happened to have three pretty big items: retirement, leaving Sydney, and moving from our family and all that was known.

 

What was life like for you 5 years ago?

Denyse.

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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Zero Birthdays. 47/51 #LifeThisWeek. 115/2019.

Zero Birthdays. 47/51 #LifeThisWeek. 115/2019.

I am pretty sure I made this prompt waaaaay before my zero birthday was due.

In fact, I often use a date as in inspiration for my prompts for Life This Week.

So, yes, later this week I will be “this many”

70

that is seventy….which means…. going into my 8th decade of life. 

I look(ed) like this two weeks before said birthday.

Decked out in my fave colours….which happen to also represent Beyond Five. Off on my morning tea date with my dear husband…who is already 70.

About Zero Birthdays.

I guess, like some (or many) I would prefer not to make too much of a fuss of me on any of my birthdays…BUT….not to forget it either! I have been better at organising and hosting birthday celebrations of the zero kind for my parents. They also did this themselves. Whilst Mum and Dad grew up in the Depression years where birthdays (let alone parties) were quietly noted, Dad especially has enjoyed marking the occasions. Mum not so much but she was the best BIRTHDAY cake maker. From scratch and sometimes even doing designs from the Womens Weekly Birthday Cake book for her grandchildren. In fact, for our daughter’s 10th (zero!) birthday I recall it was the Tennis Racquet cake.

We don’t seem to place much emphasis at all on zero birthdays until our 30th. Is that because we might think we are getting old(er). Interesting.

My 30th.

There are no photos from 40 years ago but i remember what we did. My best friend from teaching and her husband and son had their second child around the same time we had ours..with a similar gap of nearly 7 years so we did a Maccas birthday party. Just a meal at Maccas but it felt right and fun – I don’t think there were party rooms then. In fact, it’s the Maccas where I stop for a coffee and loo break on my way to Westmead!

My 40th.

Nothing to recall. However, I do remember my husband having a lovely cake made by a lady whose son came to him for tutoring and we had a family dinner.

My 50th.

It was at the end of the first year as a principal. We’d also become grandparents for the second time. My ‘wish’ was for my mum to cook a baked lamb dinner for my birthday which she did and our daughter hosted the evening. It was very pleasant and Mum even made me the cake. At that birthday I was given the same present my husband got for his 50th. Personalised number plates for the upcoming Sydney Olympics! 20 years ago next year everyone!! Those plates are still on our cars.

Mum’s 80th.

Mum had some sayings. Like this one: “don’t wait till a funeral to tell  people what you liked about them”…words to that effect anyway. She HAD a point. It may be just our family but I reckon people are very circumspect in tell others of their kindness, memories and how that person has played a part in their life. So, Mum..we listened and for your 80th you got it in spades!

Actually very glad we did as poor Mum was not well for the next two years (no-one really knew exactly what except it could have been partly neurological) and died a few months after her 82nd birthday.

What did we do?

It was family meal at our place and attended by my parents, brother, his wife and grown children. Our children.  along with three grandchildren, were present in late 2004. I did the main entertaining space up with photos and words on pages from Mum’s life – a timeline – which later became a memory book. There were streamers and balloons (der!) as I am a party-kid and of course the grandkids who were around 7, 5 and 3 loved that too. Before the party evening (everyone contributed to catering, and I think we had a cake made) each person who wanted to, wrote a tribute to Mum or what memories they had of her. Before the meal, we all shared those words with Mum and it was wonderful. I recall photos and maybe a mini  movie. Goodness knows where that ended up. Technology has changed in so many ways in 15 years.

My 60th.

Turned out I really was keen to mark this occasion. I turned 60 at the end of the year that was my FINAL one as a teacher (principal era finished 6 years before) and wanted a celebration. My family and friends (all female) were guests at a High Tea at a local Hotel at Bella Vista. The guests were my youngest granddaughter of only a few months (and her Mum!) , my older granddaughters, my daughter, friends from teaching and it was lovely. The following day my husband, kids and partners (and said 3 month old baby) along with my Dad had lunch at a restaurant in Castle Hill and ON the actual day, in the afternoon, the littlest grandkids threw me a little at home party. My cup of appreciation, love and celebration was FULL!

My husband’s 70th.

Definitely not one for celebrating loudly …at all but of course, some recognition for his birthdays have been acceptable especially where grandkids and cake are involved. It was his choice this year to be low-key. There was going to be a family lunch here but he was unwell that weekend, so we caught up much later. On the actual day “we” celebrated with a card – and I am guessing, from his expression some kind and loving (maybe funny too) words.

 

Dad’s 90th.

At the beginning of 2014, Dad turned 90. He had been a resident (very happily and independently) in a lovely retirement unit complex at Dee Why for almost 3 years. He had been widowed for 7. He was keen to celebrate new friendships (from the place at Dee Why) and be joined by old friends (Golf) as well as us, his family, which was then my brother & his wife, and me, our  respective kids and everyone’s partners. My husband was not well enough to attend so he recorded a message for Dad. There were 7 great grandchildren and four grandchildren present.

Dad thought he had it all organised and under control and he did from a physical sense: room at Dee Why RSL booked and paid for, a special menu, family to decorate the room, photographs organised and a plan for celebration and commemoration of the occasion with speeches and, of course, a powerpoint. Our daughter made all the labels, I did place settings with thank yous and the day progressed well.

Until after everyone had spoken and Dad had seen (and heard) the “this is your life” I made via powerpoint…and he could not speak without breaking down.

It truly overwhelmed him and he even forgot to thank us. He talked about and reflected on that occasion for the next…um..year!

So, that IS it for zero birthdays for now… Dad is 96 in early January 2020 and he is reasonably well. It still feels weird for me to be turning 70 and having my Dad around. I can’t feel OLD while he is still alive, right??

 

How do you celebrate zero birthdays?

I want to pay tribute to Lydia from here for her words which encouraged me to celebrate my 70th! Thank you. Looking forward to my birthday  as a result: with a small morning tea on Thursday and a family lunch on the actual day, Saturday…and seeing my Dad and brother the following week.

Denyse.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not. * Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do! * Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twelve. 1988-1998. 114/2019.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twelve. 1988-1998. 114/2019.

Denyse’s Memoir: Telling My Story.

In early 2017 I finally decided it was “time to tell my story”. I have been employed  in education for decades and lived in different areas of New South Wales with my family and then went on to marry and become even more familiar with other parts of N.S.W. beyond the Great Dividing Range. There are stories to tell. However, as time goes on, to keep aspects of the writing and photos private details are likely to be fewer.

For first time readers: These images are of me but taken at different times due to my oral cancer diagnosis around the same time I published the first part of my memoir. Nevertheless, I did continue a long time after that….and here is the link to chapters 1-11. I start this chapter in 1988 and ending in 1998. A LONG time, with a lot on but come on along!

1988. Appointed as Deputy Principal (non-teaching) in a Mt Druitt K-6 School.

We drove to the school to check it out before my appointment began the following January.

 

The hard work of Lists One, Two, Three, doing a degree part-time, teaching full-time, leading a K-2 Department AND applying for roles now on Merit Selection paid off. I had an offer to become a DP at a large school where I would be non-teaching. This meant a “load off” after 18 years of teaching, learning and leading but I was to be thrown in somewhat in a deep end in a huge time of change within NSW Department of Education systems and schools.

At home one child was still in primary school and one was in the last years of high school. My husband was well and had some work where he was flexible as he was a home-based tutor and a cabinet maker with his own small workshop. Not only could I feel ‘free’ to keep on with my career challenges but also to have flexibility at home was vital as I was learning a whole new role, school culture and working with a largely traditionally minded staff and senior executive including the principal.

Two things I was glad about: no smoking in school grounds came in that year AND the smokers on the staff (the principal was one) had to go outside the grounds to do so (not, phew, in his office as it would have been the year before) AND there was a great new executive staff who had arrived with me for the K-2 part of the school and we hit it off.

Of course, the year might remind those who can remember that it kicked off in Australia in January as the year of the Bicentenary. 1788-1988. Nothing much in our ‘middle-class’ world then mentioned about the way in which Australia was settled by white  Europeans….nor about the original Australians. There were ferry races on Sydney Harbour and much to celebrate with the green and gold.

One of my new colleagues suggested we begin our Masters of Education via Distance Ed as our Dept of Education was supplying scholarships where our fees would be paid. So, yep, signed up for that too. I appear to LIKE being busy.

I need to add, I loved working in this community which was different to any others of my career to that point and I learned a lot from colleagues, families and the children.

I stayed in that one school for TEN years. There were a few reasons why!

Highlights of My Story: 1988-1998.

Health.

I was 38 when I became a D.P. and had already had signs of being not well in terms of my ‘womens’  health. I’d missed days of work due to pain and more so my GP sent me to a Specialist who on testing determined, if I wanted it, that a hysterectomy would not only alleviate the fibroids and other parts that were challenging my health but would give me a quality of life better than I had now. So, mid my first year, I had the full abdominal surgery as it was done then and needed 8 weeks off school to recover well enough to return to school. Best decision for my on-going health ever. I tapered to menopause pretty naturally over the next decades as the doctor left my ovaries intact.

Tertiary Study.

I won’t lie that doing an M.Ed and working full-time was easy but it was better after the five years of part-time study for the Bachelor of Education AND being a teaching A.P. The learning I did in terms of tertiary writing gave me experience that could be transferred into my work like as I could do submissions and applications for funding well. I learned the lingo and we had success. My M.Ed. assignments were still sent in by mail but I used a Commodore 64 at home. My colleague and I had to attend a Residential School in Wagga at Charles Sturt University for a week and it was paid for by the Dept of Education. Very fortunate and we got to engage in tutes and discussions. The year we graduated we both went with our families and for me, it was my first and only time at a Graduation Ceremony and it was very special. I highly recommend at least one if you do tertiary study. And in terms of technology, it was at this school I became a convert to Apple Mac. It’s stayed! Even though in my other school where I was principal it was all P.C.

Family Matters.

I can barely remember specifics but those late 1980s and early 1990s were huge ones for our children. Without writing too much as I have to be careful of personal matters and privacy. One went off to high school, one did the H.S.C. and got into University. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but elected teaching after a B.A. and has indeed used her degree. The younger one found school a challenge as he neared the senior years, and whist very gifted, school did not work for him, so he left and started manual labour jobs (which he loved) at the end of Year 11. Our daughter worked through Uni, still lived at home but by 21 moved out to make a home with her then boyfriend of some years. And some years later, became engaged. And, planned a wedding. Yes. Before Uni finished. Hosted our daughter’s wedding. It was a great day and evening in 1994.

Homes and Houses.

Somewhere in the mid 1990s when banks were bending over backwards to lend people money for houses we got caught up in the ‘hype’. We were earning well and living in a house that was in need (we thought then) of more space, even though it was only us two and our son. We had already added a pool, a second storey, and converted the garage but…instead of doing more there (and over-capitalising as they say) we bit that bullet of trust and all things future centred and sold the original home …..to build in a totally new area of north western Sydney. Now me wishes past me had not done this.

But we did. Full-on. BUILT a one-0ff three level mansion in an exclusive suburb and moved in early 1994. What a beautiful house it was (still is!). In fact it looked great as the Bride-to-Be left it. However, this house really was not quite a home. Hard to explain but looking back, we over-stepped the mark financially and in terms of what we needed as a house. But wait, there’s more….

Fast forwarding somewhat we did not stay long in the ‘house we built’ as my husband who had since begun a business as a cabinet-maker was somewhat burdened by the nature of the building industry and its demands…of the builders he worked with and eventually ill-health took a terrible toll and he had to close the business and to repay debts, we had to sell the house. Sigh.

Our first home, somewhat changed but still how we left it in 1993 when we sold.

We built this home & my husband did all the internal fitouts. Alas, we sold within 4 years.

Becoming Grandparents. 

Life with two children (ours) was interesting as they are almost a generation apart. So, while one was still at high school – the other was married, a graduate of University and ready to become a mother. Life is rarely predictable of course. In fact, I would hasten to add, 1996 was for me, one of my worst years to live through until “this happened”. Our little Christmas gift of a beautiful baby granddaughter was balm on the sores of a year of not-great news for my husband’s health and business, a car accident for me where I was rear-ended, a broken bone finally discovered a few months too late in my left foot after a slip in a shop….and deciding that the role of principal at the school where I had been relieving principal was not one I wanted.

Christmas “Baby” grandchild…then and still! 22 years later.

Life’s Ups and Downs.

We knew we were in financial straits and the only way out was to sell the house we upgraded to in 1994 and we were, in some ways, grateful this was an answer. However, it was a decision I did not find I could manage easily and growing resentment and sadness about the how and what was also added to when my husband required major surgery again. I was never great when this was on – worrier me. Before this, we had liquidated the business and for anyone who has done that it means you pay off and out anyone you owe money to. Whilst I was not an active partner in the business I was there as a signatory and we had a lot of money called in. Selling the house and returning cars and vehicles on lease, repaying those we owed for short loan terms (family) meant, over the course that we were left with substantially less money to even consider purchasing another house.

Health Matters. 

Health is paramount of course and the years above, particularly towards the end of this era took a toll mentally and physically on me. I needed a time-out from work and funnily enough, my daughter had the offer to return to school for full-time teaching when her baby was 6 weeks old and I put my hand up because I was able to work part-time for a while. This respite from school matters helped me recover, even though it is very tiring caring for a baby I had amazing memories. My husband, ever the one to re-emerge from challenges, went back to teaching. It was a big ask but he found work in various schools casually, then permanently and our life settled enough for us to consider starting again. In a new house, in a new suburb. Always together in the good and not so good times, I needed to get on board with enthusiasm. I didn’t like where we were going but I did understand it was where we could afford. Life hey!

Moving On. 

Selling the lovely house, moving into a rental house (with no real air-con in the midst of summer) was almost cruel but we did it. I must say my husband’s courage, as he recovered from surgery and putting up with me (moody much?) is to be commended. I went back to full-time work as the non-teaching D.P. until, surprise….in early 1998 the school’s student population had dropped and after a long time out of the classroom, I would be back there for Day One 1998. I took this as a challenge and it sure did get me familiar with kids, class organisation and programming but it was short-lived and I was non-teaching again. With the ups and downs of student numbers, I felt I needed to take a look at my career path. I was in my late 40s and maybe I needed to move on. But to where?

I was appointed for the second half of 1998 to a new-to-me school as their Relieving Principal. It was a baptism of fire…as are many new roles but in this case, I had some good people to work with, even though I had a lot to learn. I was given a lovely farewell from my school of almost 10 years AND there I was. On the cusp of ‘where do I go’ in 1999.

But first.

A New House.

With employment for us both, and a reasonable deposit for 1998, we found a house/land package in North Western Sydney and chose our add-ons and hoped we could include a pool one day. We were back to a single storey, 4 bedroom house, 2 bathrooms (our son was still at home) but it was not quite the house we had left. Never mind, I had to get over that. We made some adjustments to the basic house and moved in at the end of Winter 1998.

What’s Next?

Oh gosh. 1999 proved to be big! But I will leave it here. The next chapter will be about the end of 1998 and into 1999.

Next Chapter: My first (and as it turned out only) role as a substantive principal and how health matters more than wealth.

Denyse.

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

For the first time, I have linked here too: GoodRandomFun

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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Gifts For Teachers. 46/51.#LifeTheWeek. 113/2019.

Gifts For Teachers. 46/51.#LifeTheWeek. 113/2019.

The end of the school year is nigh. Can I hear a YAY?

 

*teachers are exhausted…ask me how I know

*kids have had enough

*parents and carers….you tell me!

Some states have already commenced end of year holidays. Other still remain at school or at least the public schools are still operating.

Are you looking forward to:

  • No more early mornings.
  • No school lunches to pack.
  • No searching for a lost shoe/library book/hat/jacket/….despite the NAME being added

But wait, you also thought about getting a present for the class teacher or teachers didn’t you?

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I know there have been gift guides galore but if you want something directly from teachers..I have some here.

  • card or note is a great way to show appreciation
  • it is never “expected” to give a teacher a gift
  • Parents and children may decide that there is no reason for a gift or message & that’s fine too
  • Teachers who are parents had these thoughts about chocolate..some loved this, others said no thanks!

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  • personal notes, cards from parents and child ALWAYS a hit
  • gift vouchers up to $50 – NOT expected to be, UP to! There are limits for gifts under the Code of Conduct in NSW public schools. Check your school’s/system’s limits.
  • Popular ones include Myer, Target, Officeworks, Big W, Dymocks, ITunes, JB-HiFi…and more
  • homemade biscuits &  yummy treats.
  • stationery – many teachers are stationery-fans
  • A cup. A keep cup. Teachers are notorious cup-users. Maybe personalise it, but a lovely idea that gives and gives…

 

So, do you have some ideas or have you already sorted out what you are doing..if indeed you are!

I wrote parts of this post 3 years ago and not much has changed.

What I do see as a trend is that “wine” is the default gift. My view as someone who is not interested in “wine” per se is to leave alcohol out of the gift giving. Yet, more I see, I am in the minority. Maybe don’t assume wine or alcohol is liked or appreciated by all.

My go-to was always, if I could something I baked/made and a heartfelt card of appreciation. Always better too, if your child adds something that is a note of appreciation.

AND…

If you cannot afford a gift, do not stress. Please. Getting caught up in comparison at the school gate is not pleasant. No-one needs to know.

And, if your child’s teacher has not been one you wish to share a present with, do not.

No teacher expects a gift. Well, that was how it was when I was still in schools.

It’s almost a year since I received my ‘correct’ retirement medal from NSW Dept of Education. THAT was a gift and presentation I so appreciated.

Teacher and writer Polly Dunning wrote this on Sunday …food for thought about appreciation!

Back to you…did you make or buy a present for your teacher, your child’s teacher or maybe if you are a teacher, what did you receive?

Denyse.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not. * Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do! * Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s optional prompt is: 47/51 Do You Celebrate “zero” Birthdays? 25/11/19

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