Sunday 18th August 2019

Women Of Courage. #13. Alicia O’Brien. 86/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #13. Alicia O’Brien. 86/2019.

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

I have known Alicia who is 46, for many years thanks to ‘the old world of Australian blogging’ where I was first a reluctant entry into ‘link ups.’ This blogger friend has had a link up called Open Slather for years. It was on Mondays and now she has moved it to Friday. Do join in! Alicia impressed me from the beginning with her images: photos of her cooking and outdoors where she captures nature in her part of Australia so well. I welcome Alicia to share her story today, and love this image, captured by one of her young daughters! 

 

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

 

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometime courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’. – Mary Anne Radmacher

 

There have many times in my life I have had to call on my courage stores. Plenty of times come to mind when I hadn’t been courageous.

My earliest memory was crossing the rail lines to get to school in the morning. Scared the crap out of me. I may have been a cautious, anxious kid, because it used to frustrate the hell out of mum that I’d turn around and walk back home than to cross the lines.

When I talked to her about it, a true story of courage arose. That of my mum. Twenty four years old with five kids in a small country town, a working husband, no car. She’d walk me half way to school, torn, wanting to take me all the way, but four kids at home on their own. We as women are all courageous, in the way we are responsible for, we struggle and care for our loved ones.

Another time is when Mum asked me get out the car and herd the sheep from behind along the roadside. I would NOT get out of the car. My three-year-old sister did the deed. Gee did mum give me a serve about that. My little sister was the courageous one.

My biggest regret in not being courageous is when as a young mum, I stood in line at the checkout while an older man spewed racist hate at an Asian man who was holding up the line. I could not believe what was coming out of this man’s mouth. My regret was that I never stood forward and said something. No one did. I was angry that my daughters had to listen to such racist filth in this current age. I wish I had of been courageous enough to tell him to stop. Life teaches us many lessons and I will never ever hold back in the same situation again. The Asian man was the one who was courageous.

Most of my calls for courage, I guess anxiety and self-doubt have played a part. I have noticed that calling on my courage stores was easier when I was going through more confident stages of my life.

Meeting new people, taking the step of starting a new job, getting through tough things like my sons’ diagnosis of schizophrenia and the crap that was involved before and after that. It takes courage to keep pushing on in the face of uncertainty.

Even to this day, I must occasionally talk myself into making phone calls or walking into the school gates and be social! I know it’s easy and doesn’t take that much courage, but I let my brain convince me it’s a difficult task!

 

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I am not sure if it has changed me in any way. I guess it’s made me more aware that I can get through things that maybe my brain was telling me were going to be hard. The funny thing is when it’s all over, it really isn’t that bad. It has given me the tools to face adversity the next time and made me realise I am capable and worthy of confidence in myself that I can do the hard stuff.

I feel I am more persistent and resilient in my approach to tasks.

I am often amazed at how well I cope in a crisis. My brain then seems to snap into survival mode, and I push through under pressure. My brain doesn’t have time to talk me out of it. This ability would come after some experience too. It’s the time after that I need a break to re-centre myself.

 

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I learned that no matter how tough you think something is going to be, the courage to get through it is already inside of you. It is not something you have to make, it’s there. Don’t overthink the situation and only cross bridges once you come to them. In most situations, your brain can be your worst enemy, the key is to listen to the positive more often than you listen to your negative talk. Tell yourself, “I can do this!”.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

The more I put myself out of my comfort zone, the more confident I become in facing life’s hurdles. The hurdles are bloody inconvenient, and I often question the universe if it thinks I’ve had my fair share already. They say practice makes perfect!

I am however aware that my problems are dwarfed by others, there are so many who are doing it way tougher than me and I am amazed at how courageous they are. They provide inspiration for me to draw on.

The courage of others always inspires me. I have learned that some of those courageous things are just everyday ordinary things and some life changing. Everyone is challenged by something, no matter how big or small.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

The more steps you take everyday out of your comfort zone and facing your fears, the more able and confident you become in facing fears. Life is hard. I think having supportive people around you to help is important and not being afraid to accept that help. I think it is also helpful to have someone who knows what you’re going through at any time to talk to, so you don’t feel so alone in your struggles.

Oh wow. Lots of messages there for me to learn too. Thank you so much Alicia. I loved that we have been on-line friends for ages. Maybe one day we will actually meet!

Denyse.

Blog/Website: https://onemotherhen.blogspot.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alleychook

Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/One-Mother-Hen-243699915749847/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aliciaonemotherhen/

 

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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Women Of Courage Series. #12 Megan Daley. 84/2019.

Women Of Courage Series. #12 Megan Daley. 84/2019.

Some stories here need a trigger warning: this one is for: sudden death.

 

Women of Courage is 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 Megan’s story.  She is 43. I have connected with Megan via social media initially through her #childrensbooksdaily and being both a teacher AND librarian I knew she was someone I would like to meet. Whilst we have not yet done that, her story is one that is such a BIG hug would be in order if we did meet but I hear Megan may not be a hugger. 

Here’s her story.

  

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

Those of you who know my blog and website Children’s Books Daily will be well aware that I have experienced overwhelming grief. My brother, my favourite aunt and my beloved husband all died in the space of a few short years, all very unexpectedly, and a number of very dear friends also died in this same period. I feel like my family have been utterly battered by life and death over the last few years and sometimes we do not know which way is up and which way is down. In the very early days of grief if took courage to merely face each day…and not consume all of the chocolate and carbs in the world. Having just passed the second anniversary of my husbands death, courage now looks different. Now it takes courage (and oh so much emotional and physical energy) to solo parent our beautiful daughters and to accept help in doing this and it also takes courage to walk my own path without Dan by my side – in my career and in my personal life.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

The biggest change that I have had to make is to learn to accept help. I grew up with a beautiful community of family friends and we all helped each other and worked tirelessly in the community (technically I watched my parents and their friends work tirelessly in the community  – #samesame). As a young adult I threw myself into volunteer work in the children’s literature community and I’ve always baked for friends or causes in the community such as ‘Baked Relief’ and been ‘that parent’ who ends up on the committees at kindy and school. I absolutely love being with others and being the one to ‘do’. But grief and the realities of solo parenting – the lack of second income and the relentless nature of parenting (I adore parenting but let’s face it, it can be relentless at times!) have meant I have had to accept help, something I have struggled with and continue to wrestle with. I have lost so much sleep over having to accept help – it turns my brain inside out and to mush like nothing else – and I still often just say ‘thank you so much but I’m okay, I’ve got it!’ rather than ‘actually you know what? That would be just so wonderful right now’.

The girls and I have been surrounded by love, care and immense kindness since Dan’s death but, as it should, life does need to return to normal for all involved. There are a few key friends, neighbours and family members who have absolutely not stopped TELLING ME that they are going to do A, B and C for me and they will not take no for an answer – I cannot believe the love they have shown us (without hugging me – I really don’t like hugs). I am really well supported, and yet, some days (many days) life is still incredibly overwhelming. I continue to think that ‘soon I’ll have it together’ and yet I still seem to need so much help just to keep our family unit going. It’s taken courage to accept help…and ‘asking for help’ is a work in progress!

One of changes I did not expect was just how motivated I would be about ensuring that the girls and I still have a great life. Dan’s death and the death of my brother, aunt and close friends has been life altering but I am determined that my grief (which is ever present and will be with me always) will not define me, my children or my family. I just said to my mother last weekend at a family lunch that I am so proud of our extended family. Despite all the loss and sadness we have experienced, we still laugh a lot, are incredibly close and genuinely enjoy each others company. We know that even though we may disagree (even fight – siblings never really grow up!), we are all deeply loved. I am also really fortunate to have good friends. I am very comfortable with being single and enjoying the company of my friends and, in many cases, my relationships with my friends are far richer and deeper.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

This is such a hard question to answer as each persons journey is unique to them. A dear friend lost her husband (a great mate of Dan’s) a year after I lost Dan and I remember feeling at a complete loss as to how to help her and what to say to her. I don’t feel courageous at all. I feel like all I do is put one foot in front of the other, and yet I have become aware that other people use words like ‘resilient’ and ‘courageous’ about me. I feel like I have to summon courage but I don’t feel like I am courageous. I do however, feel like I’ve picked up some ‘Helpful Tips and Tricks for Surviving Grief’ (tips for baking the perfect sponge cake would have been better) and as a teacher librarian, I have spent my career curating information for others, which I think is part of the reason I have blogged about grief so often. I did a post recently about ‘what I have learnt’ and I hope that this is something I can use in the future when people ask me ‘how do I cope with such loss’. You can find it here https://childrensbooksdaily.com/two-years-is-such-a-very-short-time/

 

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Another hard question! You do not know what you can face until you face it. When my brother died I felt that this would be the very worst time I would ever experience…fast forward to two more family deaths and I know now that courage just takes over your being and pulls you through the hottest of flames. Courage for the big things in life is not really something I want to draw upon anytime soon; quite frankly, I worry my lifetime quota of courage may be running low! I would like to now live a really non-eventful life and I would dearly love to know what it is like to feel bored, even just for a short time. I hope to feel courage in the everyday things – like trying something new, breaking a bad habits sampling a new reading genre or learning how one parents tweens and teens (oh my glory).

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

I’m not going to tell you to ‘take care of yourself’ or ‘find time for you’ because I’ve wanted the punch in the noses of people who have said this to me. My message is a little more realistic, in my mind anyway!

As much as possible, steer your own path and be in control of decision making and navigating the journey from tough times to ‘being okay’ times. Sometimes life takes over and all you can do is carefully and consciously walk the tightrope through the darkness. But I promise you, that in darkness there are always moments of light – even if they only start out as tiny pinpricks of light.

 

Thank you Megan. I am in awe of your strength to carry on even though I know many times, that IS the last thing you want to do.

Denyse.

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 

 

 

Social Media:

www.childrensbooksdaily.com

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/ChildrensBooksDaily

Twitter URL: https://twitter.com/daleyreads

Instagram URL: http://instagram.com/childrensbooksdaily

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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Gratitude. 31/51. #LifeThisWeek. 83/2019.

Gratitude. 31/51. #LifeThisWeek. 83/2019.

If you’ve read here for a while, then you will know I have posted about gratitude a few times, there are two here and here.

I truly have to remember gratitude more…especially at times which begin to ensnare themselves into my default negative. So, without further ado is more….

in photos and some words about:

 

G R A T I T U D E. 

  1. spaces in nature to go for contemplation
  2. family: our daughter  & her 3 adult kids
  3. us with our daughter (HB to her for tomorrow)
  4. my health professionals keeping me well after head and neck cancer
  5. double shot latte, small: daily treat (and need!)
  6. wed since Jan 1971. love is all we need.
  7. mandalas & my creative arts
  8. family: our son’s 4 kids.
  9. the ocean. always.

 

More about gratitude:

Family. Nothing better. Daughter’s youngest in this one!

 

Two years of amazing, though challenging, recovery from head and neck cancer.

 

 

I know when I need to go here more…and that starts this week!

 

 

Recently I found this small book at Big W and it has bite-sized very useful sections to read and consider. This from ‘gratitude’

I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened. Mark Twain.

The mind is like a torch, shining on either the sorrows or the joys, the problems or solutions in our life. Fortunately we hold the  torch and get to choose where to shine it. Gratitude is not just a state of being. It’s a habit. And like any habit, it requires training. When we train our mind to dwell in gratitude regularly we will also dwell in peace.

 

I do need to express gratitude more regularly but this was a start last week.

 

 

This is my home screen locked. I may not remember to write 3 things I am grateful for but it is a reminder to be grateful.

 

 

Message on the sand from me to me and others who pass by.

 

 

28 women have shared or are yet to share their stories! How grateful I am for them. Thank you all.

 

Many of us who are bloggers and on social media are always up for a catch-up in real life when possible and on the weekend I was delighted to do this for the third time with the amazing and friendly Sanch who blogs here. Thank you for a great morning!

 

Do you practise gratitude?

How do you do this?

Share in comments if you are up for it!

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 link up: 32/51 What Makes You Laugh? 12/8/19

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Women of Courage Series. #11. Kirsten. 82/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #11. Kirsten. 82/2019.

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 Kirsten’s story. She is 46. Kirsten first connected with me via her generosity when I was sent a gift pack from a group of friends after my big cancer surgery. Kirsten has continued to be a great social media friend too. Here’s her story.

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

In 2015 I was diagnosed with a rare condition called idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) It’s a condition I’d never heard of before and it’s one that mimics a brain tumour in terms of symptoms. I was losing my eye sight, suffering from facial numbness, balance issues and migraines prior to my diagnose. I had no idea when I was diagnosed just how courageous I would need to be to fight it.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

It changed me – and my family – completely. I had no idea I was such a determined person prior to my diagnosis. It took me two years to shove my symptoms into remission and the medication I had to take to help make this happen knocked me flat for the first year. But I was determined to beat it. I was also determined to keep life as ‘normal’ as possible for our two kids. I got up every morning, made lunches, took them to school, came home and slept or rested until it was time to pick them up from school in the afternoon. Some afternoons I was so nauseous I’d take a bucket with me in the car – I had a lovely decorative tin bucket in our pantry (I used to use it as an ice bucket when if we had a party) and that was the bucket I’d use. When the kids saw it in the car, I would just tell them I’d lent it to someone for a party and keep forgetting to take it out of the car. It makes me laugh now, thinking of that tin bucket rolling around in the front seat of the car just in case I needed to use it!

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I’ve learned that when it comes to your health – and life in general – you are your only advocate. You can have all the specialists in the world looking after you, but you are the only one who can actually help you. I followed my neurologist, opthalmologist and endocrinologists advice to the letter. I went to every six weekly appointment with each of them for 2 years and did exactly what they told me I needed to do to beat this thing. But I also questioned them when I wasn’t happy with how things were progressing. I asked for more information, I wanted to understand. I tackled this thing head on.

And honestly?At the time I didn’t even know that’s what I was doing. It wasn’t until I was given the great news that I was in remission that I really thought about what I’d done to get to that point. And I guess that’s what courage is to me – pushing through the darkness until you’ve achieved what needs to be done.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I think I’m really good at slipping into old habits! Sometimes old thoughts of self doubt surface and I feel anything but courageous. But I’m definitely more aware of how capable I actually am.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

There’s always a silver lining to every situation. Good, bad, happy sad – the silver lining is always there. Sometimes it just takes a while for it to show up. But when it does, you’ll feel so grateful for not being where or who you were.

 

Thank you Kirsten for such an amazing story of recovery. You inspire me to continue to keep plugging away as part of my own recovery in becoming more active!

Denyse.

 

 

Blog/Website: https://bettyquette.com.au and https://kirstenandco.com

Facebook Page (not personal account): facebook.com/bettyquette

 facebook.com/kirstenandco

Instagram: instagram.com/bettyquette    instagram.com/kirstenandco

It is so good to see Kirsten doing well. Something I am adding now is that there is a great line of oils that she and her husband have developed and now sell. I was fortunate to be given some and latterly I have bought the body oil and lip balm. First known as Skin Boss, it is now Bettyquette. Here’s what some of the products look like….I love her generosity of spirit!

 

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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Women Of Courage Series. #10. Tegan Churchill. 80/2019.

Trigger Warning: Self-Harm, Mental Illness.

 

 

Women of Courage Series. #10. Tegan Churchill. 80/2019.

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

I have known Tegan who is 31, for many years thanks to ‘the old world of Australian blogging’ where I was first incredibly impressed with her education focus for her son as he entered formal schooling. I continue to be in awe of the time as a volunteer Tegan now gives to her son’s primary school. Her school is fortunate to have her support in many ways. I welcome Tegan to share her story today. 


What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

Becoming a parent is still the most courageous thing I have faced in my life. Before I became a parent, I was hellbent on destroying myself. Having a child gave me a purpose and something other than myself to care for. For the first time in my life, I felt that I had a purpose.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

Before I fell pregnant I spent more time in psychiatric wards than I did out. My treatment team were preparing my family for when I would take my own life, not if. I was sent to prison after attempting to rob a chemist. I was seeking drugs to overdose on. I had no intention of hurting anyone but myself.

Finding out I was pregnant was a shock. Children were never on my radar. I didn’t want to be a parent. Yet, this small person changed my life in ways that I could never have imagined. He changed my life for the better. He gave me a purpose and a reason to be alive. How could I hurt myself and leave him behind?

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Having a child isn’t the answer. A child isn’t a possession. I know that I was lucky that it was the catalyst that I needed. For many people it isn’t. I wouldn’t change having my child for all the money in the world but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t also the hardest thing I have ever done.

I also learned that courage isn’t doing everything on your own. Courage can also be learning when to ask for help. I learned that courage doesn’t mean you have to be a martyr. It really does take a village to raise a child.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Having a small person to fight for has given me the courage to fight for myself. I realised that in order to give him the parent that he needed and deserved, I needed to help myself too. Fighting for treatment for my son gave me the courage to fight for my own treatment. For many years I had simply accepted the treatment I was given, convinced that it was what I deserved. Being the carer for a child with additional needs allowed me to learn to fight for myself. I realised that I couldn’t give from an empty cup.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Break down any challenge into easy to complete tasks. Give yourself rewards for getting through and be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to admit that you are scared, anxious or that you simply can’t do something yet. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to accept help that is offered. Sometimes our courage is borrowed and that’s perfectly fine too.

Thank you so much Tegan for your courageous account in this post. I am so pleased you decided to share your story.

Denyse.

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 

 

Social Media. 

Blog/Website: http://www.musingsofthemisguided.com

 

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/misguidedmuser

 

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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#LifeThisWeek. 29/51. Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987. 79/2019.

#LifeThisWeek. 29/51. Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987. 79/2019.

In keeping with the prompts here being optional, I am writing on a different topic to “Winter: Like/Loathe” as suggested for Life This Week 29/51. I am writing a new chapter in Telling My Story as I have neglected this part of my writing for some months.

Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987.

This time, with the image for Telling My Story, I am honouring what has happened to me in the time when I first started writing my story, which was abruptly interrupted by cancer. I then became well enough to continue the story, along with the continuation of my changing appearance thanks to oral cancer, and 4 surgeries and many trips to get me some teeth..over time! 

1983.

  • It was a rough first half- year for our family, particularly my husband who became very unwell and required surgery mid year. We had a young family, he was medically-retired, and I was working (teaching) full-time.
  • We (he!) got through thanks to his own strength and courage and it opened up some new parts of family life that we had not experienced for some time. Family holidays at the beach were back on the agenda as was a new-to-him backyard project of building some furniture for our daughter’s bedroom. More on that later.
  • My father retired from his work and whilst that did not directly affect us, it provided him and my mother with more time to enjoy their family, particularly their now four grandchildren. They also made the Gold Coast their ‘winter home’ for July and August, catching up with friends who had moved their permanently and enjoying the lifestyle away from the cold of Sydney. Each of the grandkids got to spend some time with them over the next few years, some even flying to join their grandparents.
  • I was back into teaching and eyeing off promotions into the next roles where I could put my hand up. I did, and was given a relieving role in a nearby school which then ended up being the first substantive role: Executive Teacher at Walters Rd P.S.

Dad and Mum: retired life: On the Gold Coast each winter.

1984.

  • Happy and busy family life. Whilst I was out to teach and lead part of the K-2 section of the school, my husband was the one at home, ably helping our daughter  settle into her first year at high school and our son into Kindergarten at the local public school. With his experience as a teacher and school leader, though medically-retired, my husband became P&C president for the years ahead and this was a great way to become involved again in education.
  • I was busy at my school and recall asking (and it happened) the NRL’s Parramatta Eels’ star, Peter Sterling, to come and read to the children for Book Week, showing them how “even footballers read” and he was delighted to do so.
  • Remember Wham? It was their season in the sun! We also started Morning Fitness at school with the K-2 kids and “I” taught a dance to “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”. Still think of that fun time!
  • But, time to move on! Why? Well, there was a new job, and at the second list level that I had earned and it was for me to become the substantive Assistant Principal at Seven Hills West P.S. Yes. I had already been there in an acting capacity for part of 1982 and now I was returning.

1985.

  • Assistant Principal roles are full-on! With full-time teaching responsibility and managing and leading a group of staff. In this case, an Infants Department of 7 classes and with an executive teacher to assist in the leadership. Located in a busy and relatively low socio-economic area of Sydney there were many challenges and rewards.
  • I worked for a very demanding principal who encouraged my leadership. I also ‘put my hand up’ for external roles to help gain a better understanding of how the then Metropolitan West area of Sydney was managed and to make a contribution. I became a member of the K-6 English committee and through involvement there was convinced by a senior educator that “now” was all about getting more qualifications to go further in our careers.
  • What she meant was, that as we were still two-year trained teachers, when the new and different promotion means would come in, then a person with a degree (Bachelor of Education) would have more training academically. I agreed. After soul-seatching and a decent discussion at home, it was agreed even with the kids that I would start my B.Ed. by distance ed. It was called by “correspondence” in those days.
  • On top of the three terms at school, I had two semesters at Uni. It was then via notes by mail, assignments sent back that way and it all happened out of the old Wagga Teachers College which became the Riverina Murray Institute of Higher Education.
  • I recall weekends which were me away from the kids, head down reading the reams of notes for the subjects, coming up with a draft and then TYPING it all on an electric typewriter and if all was well, it was posted.
  • They were tough times holding down the full-time job and studying and my husband had started his new at-home business tutoring children with learning needs.
  • Yet we managed. We did have a cleaner and at least Uni wasn’t 365 days a year.
  • Each January we took ourselves to a beach unit on the N.S.W, coast.
  • A somewhat sad year in our family too. My beloved Aunt died very suddenly after surgery went wrong. Mum was in shock for sometime after that. Dad’s mum had died from a stroke in her 80s earlier that year.
  • I remember too, that with a small legacy from my Aunt’s will, we got enough money to add a ‘toilet and washbasin’ to the now-study that was our double garage. Two loos! Luxury.

Our first home, did not have the addition until the late 1980s. The addition is above the garage which was always a play/work space of some kind.

1986.

  • This year was full-on and busy too as I continued the University work part-time, had a class and of course, led a department of teachers caring for the needs of the students which were many and varied.
  • It was time, I decided to “go for third list”. Not this year but the next. Back then, a long lead was highly recommended as the candidate for promotion not only had to be visited over some days in the school but had to hand in quite a series of folders with: my initiatives and programs, policies I had devised and how they were working, evidence of my professional learning and reading (here was where doing the degree was the best thing!)
  • I was incredibly fortunate to have the time to do this. I am aware that having my husband at home who worked on his small cabinet making projects at home & elsewhere during the day was available for our kids if need be, along with us living not too far from the school meant that I could be back home in the late afternoons for family dinners (I cooked) as he was often busy coaching young people.
  • There is much to be grateful for as I was living this life but I do recall how fraught I might get and I also know it was hard to deal with some issues both at school level which impacted me health wise. I know I had a great GP who listened to me and for a time I got some help from professionals. My irritable bowel syndrome kicked in around this stage of my life, and after all the tests it was deemed to be part of me. Sigh.
  • Passed Uni again this year as I did the year before. It was also the year (I think) I had to go to Wagga campus for a residential school. THAT for this girl was quite an experience and I was glad to drive home!

Assistant Principal

1987.

  • We got the family Christmas present of a Commodore 64 so after the games fun (Bomb Jack for the boys) I found I could type assignments…and print them out to send via the mail to Wagga. Still didn’t get the idea of how to make a draft so I was still copying my handwritten assignments.
  • Back to school also meant back to a new Boss, the principal who I had started with got a promotion and now, in the year I was going to ‘go for my third list’ I had a new female principal to work with. This is quite a big deal. “Back then” the Department of Education was changing big time as the governments of the day were shaking up their previously independent Depts of Education, Health and so on.
  • Merit selection, along with ensuring a fair mix of women in the workforce, at principal level was a major shift. Previously people like me who were in K-2 roles could not go for a K-6 principal role. The world in education in N.S.W. was ….gobsmacked if you were a man, and applauded if you were female (ok that may be some exaggeration but it was H U G E).
  • Lists are very hard to explain but ‘back then’ there were levels of promotion in N.S.W. public education called Lists. They really were actual lists because your name, if you were successful in your inspection, got added to a DATED list and there you stayed until you got a school position where there was no-one more senior to you. The actual lists came out published each year (it was called the stud book – male oriented much?)
  • Women like me could only go as far as 3rd list this time round and even if I had wanted to go for 4th list by the time I was at my next school, the whole process changed to: merit, equal opportunity…you know the rest.
  • In preparation for List Three inspection I had full on classroom responsibilities to have made ‘perfect’, to record all I had made via policies and planning written up and the staff understanding of it along with enacting it, could lead subject (English was mine) based learning for teachers to improve student outcomes and much much more. I also had to be up to date with all of the N.S.W. Department of Education policies and be prepared to answer questions on their implementation at our school. My staff also needed to know what we had done together for improving learning and they were expected, if asked, to be ‘inspected too’ so the inspector could see evidence of my leadership.
  • I was also continuing to do University work….and attend district meetings and so on.
  • I recall being very stressed about it but also wanting it to happen. I was really, really ready.
  • The process was over 3 full days. The District Inspector watched me teach, asked the children, questions, read their books, looked through my documentation, observed me leading a staff meeting, visited other classes and more. Full-on alright!
  • Mum and Dad came over and cooked us a baked dinner somewhere in the middle. It was so lovely of them to do that but my gut was not happy.
  • Nevertheless, the final day came and “Denyse I am prepared to put your name forward to be placed on the third list, congratulations.”
  • I think I was very happy…but oh so tired and relieved. Thank you I said. Then….
  • Some weeks later the Assistant Area Director had to spend a day with me doing similar inspection to confirm that, “Yes, I was eligible to be place on the third promotions list”.
  • But what did I want to do next?

Latter part of 1987.

  • The part-time degree was nearing its end and whilst I did not go to the graduation for this one, I was very proud to receive the testamur in 1989.
  • Our daughter was now in Year 10 and just as term 4 started (I think we just went from three terms to four, if anyone remembers, let me know in the comments) and she caught glandular fever. She was so very unwell she had liver complications and basically stayed on the couch. It did however lift enough for her to attend the Year 10 Formal but I will never forget how tiny she was and that GF stayed with her for a very long time.
  • N.S.W. schools also started the new Foundation style of handwriting. I thought it would be hard for me as a left-hander but it went well.
  • Before we knew it we were inundated by Handwriting books at the shops and from then on, every parent who ‘wanted their child to excel’ would pick up one of those books…which are still around. Everywhere.
  • So, on the way to promotion…where was I? Right at the cusp of all the changes. I could choose to be a principal if I wanted to seek merit selection to that position or I could go down the path of non-teaching deputy principal in a large K-6 school and that’s where I wanted to be.
  • How I got there was this: fill in the many forms, list ALL of the schools I would want to be appointed to, and attend a six person interview at Regional Office to answer generic questions for either principal or deputy positions and then wait. To see if I passed.
  • I did. Late November, I found I had been appointed Deputy Principal to a large Mt Druitt K-6 School called Shalvey.
  • I was on my way. Off class, and I admit I was glad after 18 years and onto leadership.

 

 

What a story comes next…..

I do need a break! This was quite some post to recall as much as I could and I admit, checking with my husband a few times.

It’s the bi-centenary next time…and more!

I do hope you got to the end and did not feel too tired. They were busy years.

Denyse.

 

 

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Women of Courage Series. #9. Min. 78/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #9. Min. 78/2019.

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 Min’s story.  She is 55. I have connected with Min via blogging and on social media. Min has been a long-time supporter of this blog and I thank her for that! Here’s her story.

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I think there are many people who have faced far more challenging adversities in their lives than me but there have been a few occasions during my life where I have had to be courageous.  The most courageous I have ever had to be though was with the recent loss of my father and so that is what comes to mind straight away when asked on this occasion when I’ve had to be courageous.

I was with him at 1:15am on 2 December 2017 when he passed from this life to wherever it is that we go to next.  He was hospitalised for six weeks before he passed away.  In the beginning there was lots of hope that he would improve and get home again.  Then there was hope for him to stabilise and be transferred to a care facility.  Then there was the realisation that his time on earth was coming to an end and so with that came the need for me to brace and prepare myself for when that time came.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I had to face one of my lifelong fears – the death of a parent.  It has changed me immensely.  I’ve learnt how the flip side to love feels – incredibly deep and raw pain, a huge hole of loss.  I’ve felt the depth and breadth of the love I have for my Dad, and he is worth every bit of the corresponding depth and breadth of pain I feel now.  It’s brought home the fact that none of us are immune.  All of us have to face this loss one day, and none of us get out of here alive.  We all will die one day.  It’s intensified my understanding of how precious our time is and how we should be spending our lives exactly how we want to and in a way that makes us happy.  It’s highlighted what’s important in life and what is not.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I’ve learned that we are capable of more than we think we are.  I’ve always feared the loss of a parent and I never thought I would be able to cope with it or even survive it.  However, here I am – coping and surviving.  There is something within us that protects us and helps us through.  You still cry and grieve and hurt, but there is some kind of primal preservation ability within us that comes out to help us when we need it.  I can’t explain it but I can say that it surprised me, it’s real, and I welcomed it.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

To be honest, I’m not sure.  I think each situation that calls for courage is a new one, with different components, and therefore a completely new experience. The difference now is that I know that there is this primal preservation ability (PPA) within us that will help us when we need it and that does provide some reassurance.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

I guess I would firstly like to wrap my arms around them and let them know that I care and I wish them strength and love and support.  Then I’d like to remind them that though it might seem impossible to believe at first, and very little comfort, the truth of life is that from adversity strength is born and lessons are learned, so these hard times are in fact a part of our growth as humans, and life’s learning process.  I’d also say – just do it your way, not how you think it ‘should’ be done, and trust that you will be helped along by that PPA within you that I’ve spoken of.

 

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

I think it’s important to realise that some things that happen to us are with us for life. I lost my Dad. I don’t think I will ever ‘recover’ from that, nor will my grief ‘end’.  These things will be a part of me for the rest of my life, but as I’ve heard and read from others that have been through this, I believe that with time they will soften, becoming less of the deep wrenching pain.

I believe the most courageous thing we can do in the face of adversity (and after) is to look after ourselves.  After losing my Dad, in addition to grieving, I was actually suffering ‘shock’ and displayed many of those symptoms, particularly weakness, fatigue, and concentration & memory issues.  It’s important to realise that we’ve been through a trauma and to take care of ourselves.

“True courage is being able to smile in the face of adversity while embracing one’s own vulnerability.” ~ author unknown

 

Thank you Min for sharing your story and one that will resonate with many. Denyse.

Social Media: Follow Min here:

Blog/Website:  https://www.writeofthemiddle.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/riteofthemiddle

 Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/writeofthemiddle/

 Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/writeofthemiddle/

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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Women Of Courage Series. #8 Leanne. 76/2019.

Women Of Courage Series. #8 Leanne. 76/2019.

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

This week we meet Leanne who is 57. I first ‘met’ Leanne via blogging and we clicked for a few reasons. One being we both worked in remote parts of our respective states when young and two being we are happily married grandparents! Here’s Leanne telling her story of courage.

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I feel like a bit of a fraud answering these questions because I’ve never faced a life threatening illness or event. Maybe the closest reference to living bravely for me would be in the area of our finances.

We’ve been married for 37 years and for a lot of that time we’ve had a pretty basic income. My husband tends to enjoy a more flexible work style than your standard 9-5 and that has entailed a lot of times when we have lived on a part-time income. He has worked for himself freelancing with the resultant ups and downs, and also returned to study for 3 years to change professions in his 50’s.

When you’re a planner and an orderly person, having an uncertain and fluctuating (or non-existent) income when you’re raising a family, paying a mortgage, covering bills, buying food etc can be very stressful. It puts strain on your marriage, it puts pressure on the person who pays those bills, and it means that you have to step up and do more than you might have chosen to in different circumstances. For me it meant returning to work earlier than I planned to after having both our children – but managing to juggle time so that we never needed to use childcare (something I’m very proud of as that was a real priority for me).

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

Having an uncertain income has changed me in a lot of ways. My visions of being married to a career driven person and staying home and being a housewife when my kids were younger got tossed out the window fairly early in our marriage. I had to come to terms with the fact that the husband isn’t always the primary breadwinner – sometimes it’s a shared responsibility. I’ve needed to step up and share the workload and income earning for all our married life, but the plus side is that in the process we’ve also shared the child raising, school parenting, housekeeping etc roles too. It meant that I kept my skills current and didn’t ever have problems finding a job or taking on the challenge of learning a new position due to being away from the workforce for any length of time.

I’ve also needed to change my way of looking at what is truly needed for a happy and satisfying life. We’ve learned to manage our finances over the years and live frugally (but not in an impoverished way), to prioritize paying the mortgage and other bills first and making sure we had savings to fall back on when the leaner times arrived. Money is certainly not as important as I thought it would be – you can get by on a lot less than you imagine if you’re prepared to make compromises and be a little bit creative in how you view the essentials of life.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I’ve learned that our society focuses too much on material wealth and the idea that you can’t live a fulfilled and happy life unless you have it all. What my experience has proved is that you can live well by living within your means. If you haven’t got the money then you don’t buy it on credit – you wait until you have the money before you spend it, you don’t aspire to keep up with the Joneses, and you don’t spend randomly and thoughtlessly. Finding a second-hand bargain, or buying when something is on sale can be more rewarding than instant gratification.

Often when finances are precarious it’s easy to panic, but if you’re willing to make compromises – both of you going out to work, or both working part-time, or doing a job you might not normally consider (I sold Tupperware for a year when our kids were too little for me to have a 9-5 type job) you can always make ends meet. You might not have a brand new car, or an overseas trip, meals in expensive restaurants, or the most expensive clothes and shoes, but you will have plenty of food to eat, the bills paid, a roof over your head, and a sense of pride in what you’ve achieved.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I’m definitely less worried about what life will throw at me these days. I’ve seen our marriage weather the storms of financial strain (many marriages fail when money gets tight). We’ve learned to pull together and to adjust to each other’s differences. My husband has learned to be careful with money (he was more of a spender in his pre-marriage days) and I’ve learned to be more flexible in my expectations of who the breadwinner should be and how much money you need to be “well off”.

I’ve also seen what you can achieve with discipline and care – we were debt free by the time we reached our 50’s. We own our home, two cars, enjoy modest holidays, have plenty in our savings, and are in line for a fairly comfortable retirement. I used to joke that we’d be living under a bridge eating catfood when we reached 65, but that’s far from the case (thank goodness!) In fact, having managed things as well as we have means that I’ve actually had the courage to leave my toxic workplace and not feel the pressure to find another job – all that hard work has paid off!

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

As I said at the beginning, I can’t imagine giving advice to people who are facing cancer or the death of a loved one, or any other life changing event. All I can say is that life has no guarantees, we aren’t automatically dealt a hand of cards that gives us health, wealth and happiness. Instead, we take what life gives us and work with that to the best of our ability. We put ourselves out there and work hard, we don’t look for handouts, we don’t throw our hands in the air and give up, we don’t look to be rescued – we just get on with it and push through the barriers.

Life is truly wonderful, we are so blessed to live in a country that is safe and where we have a standard of living (and health care) that other countries envy. We need to appreciate all that we’ve been given and make the most of it. Tough times are guaranteed – there’s no free ride for the majority of us – and it’s having the courage to look for a way through and then getting on with it that ultimately makes all the difference.

 

Thank you so much for sharing your story Leanne. I am always appreciative of your blog, the opportunity to be a guest poster and to join the link up you have (see below) each Wednesday with Sue called MidLife Share The Love. This post, in fact, will be on that link up!

Denyse.

Social Media :

Blog/Website: https://www.crestingthehill.com.au

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/crestingthehill/

 

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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