Sunday 5th April 2020

Women of Courage Series. #26. Maureen Jansen.10/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #26. Maureen Jansen. 10/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

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 am so pleased to introduce Maureen Jansen who is 73. We have ‘only’  met via social media thanks to us living on opposite sides of the Tasman Sea. Maureen is a New Zealander. We ‘met’ in mid 2018 via our common connection: Head and Neck Cancer. I suspect, even without this between us, the teaching and ‘grandmothering’ along with outdoor photography would also connect us!  Maureen tells her story. It is one of amazing resilience and testament to her strength of character and will. The best bit…is that in June 2020 we have plans to meet! More on that another time. 

Thanks Maureen for sharing your story today as a Woman of Courage: 2020.

 

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

I’ve had to dig deep four times after receiving cancer diagnoses. My first diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer was in 1996 and I decided to be brave to protect my children who were then 13, 17 and 19. The youngest was living at home and I was more scared of traumatizing him than of anything else. I’ll always remember a fellow patient in my ward saying that the first thing she said when the doctor told her she had cancer was “My kids”, as tears poured down her cheeks.  I now think that my reaction was too stoic and not open enough with my youngest son. And by the way, that advanced cancer diagnosis proved to be of a type of ovarian cancer which usually responds well to treatment. I was well and truly cured but the repression of emotions initially, followed by a complete turnaround in prognosis later, led to a very mixed up and depressed me when I returned to work after it was all over. The vagaries of the human heart!

 

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

The ovarian cancer diagnosis and later the head and neck cancer diagnoses changed me a lot. I had counselling and anti-depressants which both helped me deal a little bit better with my former anxieties, funnily enough. I have had to make a conscious decision to get over fear of needles and other painful procedures because I know that they will be part of my life now although I am currently very well. I’m not as scared of physical pain as I was, and even had two fillings the other day without an anaesthetic. I’ve learnt to chant a little rhyme in my head when needles and drills do their thing. It’s usually only for a short time. My proudest moment was when I had some clips out in a wrist wound five years ago. The nurse was struggling and each time she used the clip removing device, there was a surge of pain. I did my deep breathing and we talked and laughed as we went through each one. It was a strangely uplifting moment.

 

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

I really think that learning some specific coping strategies from a psychologist is invaluable. I have found many mindfulness tools excellent. Mindfulness, walking, taking photographs of nature and posting them online … These things have helped me as well as trying to live a productive life with plenty of service to others. I’m not good at self care but we should all do it!

 

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

In terms of my health I think I will be braver but other situations like dealing with conflict and communicating with others are situations I find take the most courage, honesty and wisdom. I’m still learning.

 

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

It can well up in you when you least expect it. Often things are not as bad when you are IN them as they look to an outsider. When your back is against the wall, some sort of survival instinct seems to kick in. If it doesn’t and you feel frightened, you have every right to be. Psychological help makes a huge difference when fear and anxiety become too much to bear. Seek help!

 

Thank you so much Maureen. For sharing and for being here to tell the story. What a story! I have so much admiration for you. Looking forward to catching up “in real life” as they say. Meanwhile, I am adding below something about the facebook group.

Denyse.

Social Media: follow Maureen here.

Blog/Website: hncmaureen.com

Twitter: @HNCMaureen

Instagram: @birdlikeme

 

 

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

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.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

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Women Of Courage Series 2020. Accidental Feminists’ Author: Jane Caro AM. 8/2020.

Women Of Courage Series 2020. Accidental Feminists Author: Jane Caro AM. 8/2020.

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.

The posts are returning each Wednesday from now…and I have posts waiting ‘in drafts’ for publication until April 2020. Do tell me in the comments if you would like to be part of this series. Already 27 women (including  Jane and I ) have shared their stories.

 

 

In April 2019 I attended Newcastle Writers’ Festival and got to hear, amongst others, Author and Public Education Advocate, Jane Caro speak. Jane’s been known to me for a long time via social media, her other books and her involvement in promoting public education. She spoke at length of the roles we women have played and often at great loss or expense to our health, welfare and future financial security in her book Accidental Feminists.

 

Her written and spoken words really made me think.

Women do so much unsung, not necessarily because of not wanting people to know, but because we “just do get on.” I know that my life has taken some not great twists and turns and I realised I drew on resources of courage to do so.

This led me to finding out more about courage from others.

Introducing Jane Caro A.M.

Many of you may have seen Jane speak and give commentary on TV shows like The Drum and on Morning T.V. Jane’s voice, particularly in terms of Public Education has been remarkable. She went to a N.S.W. Public High School – Forest High and I went to another local Northern Beaches public high school too. Jane is younger than I but we share some common elements in our upbringing in new-ish suburbs that now command million dollar prices. I knew of Jane’s career in advertising (she has appeared on Gruen) from her first book and she has written others. Find them here. Jane generously took time to complete the same questions I asked others, and like others who I call “Women of Courage” she does not see herself that way. Enough from me, thank you Jane Caro.

 

 

 

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

People often say they admire my courage, but I don’t really feel that I am courageous. Reason being, I am not afraid. Courage, to me, means doing something you are genuinely afraid to do and – th thing that most people see as courageous – speaking my mind – privately or publicly – is not something I am afraid of. It seems it is something many others are afraid to do – hence they mistakenly ascribe courage to me. I find this terribly sad. We ought to live in a society and at a time where being straightforward and candid is applauded, not punished. For many, especially many women, the opposite seems to be true.

Sure, many people (usually men) try to shut me down by insults, sneers, mockery, threats and general nastiness but I long ago realized they only have the power to hurt me if I give them that power, otherwise their weapons shrivel and die because I will not respond the way they want me to. No doubt being forthright has cost me work, promotion and opportunities, but it has also delivered all of those (well, except promotion, we only want lily-livered leaders apparently) and, best of all, it has delivered self-respect.

Was I born this way? Certainly not. I was hyper-sensitive as a child and young person about what people thought of me and I knew they did not think well of me. What is bearable in an old lady is unbearable in a young one, I think, which is why so many of my younger feminist friends cop so much more abuse than I do. I suffered from an anxiety neurosis as a young woman and it was in overcoming that that I feel I did something that required actual courage.

 

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

The neurosis was so debilitating and intense that it forced me to seek help via a variety of therapists, some more helpful than others. I learnt an enormous amount about myself and about people in general in the process of that therapy that has served me well ever since. Not least how to hang on to my own power in the face of criticism, abuse and bullying.

I think women are trained to seek approval and that is why we so fear conflict or unpleasantness or find it so hard to express ourselves without fear. This training makes sense when you are a member of a subordinate group. It can be dangerous not to be approved of and to be excluded. As a result of my therapy, I gave up seeking approval. All I try to do now is be as much myself as I can.

 

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

After about 15 years of mental tribulation – I functioned fine, I just felt like shit – I finally overcame my anxiety neurosis (some may feel I have over-corrected). It didn’t disappear in a puff of smoke, just dwindled away slowly until I no longer suffered from anxiety at all. The dwindling began after I faced real danger (I have lived a very protected life) when my first child was born premature, caught an infection, stopped breathing in my arms and almost died.

She was so sick she got the last available neo-natal intensive care bed available that night in NSW. She eventually stopped breathing at least 4 times and had to be intubated. The next morning, I asked for help (as going to therapy had taught me to do) and spoke to neo-natologist and grief counsellor Dr Peter Barr. He said these three sentences to me that began to crack the carapace of anxiety I had been living behind. “There’s nothing special about you, there’s nothing special about Polly (my daughter). Terrible things can happen, and they can happen to anyone. Safety is an illusion, danger is reality.”

Sounds brutal but it was just what I needed. What he was saying to me was that I could not control what happened which, as it turns out, was what my anxiety neurosis was all about. I was both thinking of all the terrible things that might happen as a sort of spell to stop them happening, while at the same time fearing that by thinking about them, I was conjuring them up. Of course, I had no such power – none of us do. As a result of Polly’s near death (she survived with no ill effects) I began to let go of the illusion of control and with it came a loss of fear. If I can’t control my own or anyone else’s safety – no matter how much I love them – no point worrying about danger until it happens.

If I can’t control how you will react to what I say, to what you think of me on TV or when I give a speech, I shall just put my energy into controlling what I can – my research and preparation for the task and let your reaction be yours. I shall not worry about whether you like or approve of me because doing so makes no difference to whether you do or not. I finally learnt the truth and power of what we call ‘boundaries’ – simply where I stop and you start. Once you know what you can control (inputs) and what you can’t (outcomes) life gets much easier and you don’t actually need courage.

 

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

I don’t know and -with respect – I don’t really care.

For the situations that may await me I will do no preparation or worrying. I will deal with them as they appear and I will deal with them as I need to which may be with courage or may be with full on weeping, whining and falling apart. I have learnt to trust my emotions rather than fear them or try to control them. Sometimes the strongest thing to be is not strong – but honestly vulnerable and needy. I don’t need to be better, nicer, smarter or more courageous than I am. I just need to be as I am.

 

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

Be yourself. Accept and celebrate your messy, needy, unwieldy bits – they’re the best and most genuine part of you.

Don’t pretend, especially don’t pretend to yourself.

Don’t strive, just be.

Have fun and never,ever,ever feel guilty about that.

Know where you stop and others start.

And stop seeking approval. You are fine just the way you are, you just need to believe it.

 

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

Life is short, stop trying so hard.

 

I have read Jane’s words over and over and wish to take many of her messages on-board. The quote from the neo-natologist still blows me away. I too need to remember this.

With much gratitude Jane, for your time and advice. Love that you could share here too.

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Jane Caro  on 26 January 2020 is found here.

Twitter: @janecaro

Bio: AM. Walkley award winner. Novelist (Just a Girl, Just a Queen, Just Flesh & Blood), author (Plain Speaking Jane, Stupid Country, F Word, Accidental Feminists)

 

 

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 © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Birth Stories. #1. An Occasional Series. 6/2020.

Birth Stories. #1. An Occasional Series. 6/2020.

Who doesn’t enjoy a birth story?

Oh, maybe that should read…would you enjoy reading some birth stories?

If YES… read on.

If NO…Thank you for reading so far. I will catch you back here soon I hope!!

Images of the most of the babies are photos from their first day/night of life. I have a framed photo collage of each of the 2 groups of 4 grandchildren. Very special memories.

The ‘last’ grandchild’s BIRTHday.

This (bad) photo taken at sunrise was when I drove to Sydney – around 90 minutes from our new place of residence on the Central Coast. I had been on “Grandma-standby” for a few days but with the birth now not expected till the following week, I got quite a shock/surprise to get the news that our son and his wife were on their way to the hospital and a neighbour was in the house while the siblings slept. That dear ‘breech’ baby wanted out of there and she was delivered naturally and both mother and baby were well. I waited at our son’s house with his sister (who had also been called to relieve the neighbour) till he arrived home with the news for us all…and with great relief, we left the family and went for a much-needed breakfast.

Here she is: 

Our daughter’s arrival. LONG time ago. 

So, this young, married, and pregnant teacher (me!) soon learned the hard way about being pregnant. I was going well. We lived outside a country town in north west N.S.W. in 1971. I saw the local G.P. for my check-ups and then… BOOM! “No, you won’t be having your baby here as you need specialist attention and that is urgent.”

Yikes. Way to scare a mother-to-be and the father too… yet he is not really scared of anything. So, chastened, worried (because I had gained a LOT of weight in a short space of time) we arrived at Tamworth, two hours from home,  to meet the Ob/Gyn. His examination ended up with me getting a diagnosis of then toxaemia, (pre-eclampsia) and taken straight to the hospital for bed rest and diuretics and keeping me and baby well. It was a LONG week I was there, confined and scared…because I knew nothing really. The treatment worked and my now Doctor let me home with the promise of returning in 2 weeks for induction AND (I never understood this, but obeyed) eat lots of lollies.

Dutifully, we returned one Wednesday evening and after admission, some induction strategies began. Pills and pessaries I think. Husband went home (2 hours away) as he had to teach at his one teacher school. No progress towards labour that night. All day Thursday still nothing much. Was transferred to labour ward that night and the Ob/Gyn visited and broke my waters. He was surprised to see some blood and explained it was likely to be a placenta previa partly covering the cervix that had been noted in a pelvic Xray (yes, of my baby and me)  but he showed no real concern. In this time nothing happened. Boring. Waiting. Boring but wait. It was Friday. Off to delivery suite. No idea why. BUT I did have some pains like periods. Nothing much given for pain other than some gas (mask). My husband called around 1 p.m. to be told “no she is not in labour don’t come down in this awful weather.”

Meanwhile, this pain which grew was in the back and more. A wonderful midwife was so kind. But still….I had no idea UNTIL around 4-4.30 I wanted to be sick (not like me ever) and I wanted to leave. Those who have given birth will know this is called transition. I did not but the pain escalated, as did my tightening of the poor midwife’s hand…and around 5-5.30 they called in the Ob/Gyn…he arrived in his whites. His squash gear! And by 6.35 p.m. I had delivered our little ray of sunshine. There were no pain meds. I was on a high. He even managed to stitch me and tell me 9/10. I thought it was my performance …later I found it was the baby’s APGAR.

The lovely Ob/Gyn then left the room but I could hear him on the phone “Mr Whelan you have a beautiful daughter”……and with that, my husband and his mate (my principal) got in the car and began the drive in the rotten winter night to meet his daughter.

But he could only see her through the glass. She was held to the glass for him to ‘meet’. Then he came to see me. “She has your fat cheeks and a dimple and my long fingers”. True. Back in those days no-one got to hold the baby except for the mother and nurses and it was not until we were discharged 6 days later that he got to hold his daughter and meet her properly.

Here she is in 1972 with “our bags” ready for me to go to school and her to daycare with my boss’ wife in the residence next door to school. So grateful for this!

Our first grandson’s arrival.

If you remember hot and stormy weather (oh yes, we have quite a bit of that lately!) then I can vouch for it early in the 2000s too. One very hot (up to 40s) Monday in mid January, our daughter was admitted to hospital for an induction for the birth of her 3rd child. She and her then husband were all for me being around  (this is the last Mum, so it’s fine if you want to be there). Once we knew that she was in her delivery suite, and the 2 siblings (then 4 and almost 2) were OK with my husband, Papa, I set off with camera(s) and ready to be there. But….I can now tell you truthfully, it was not the space for me.

Back then, despite thinking I could do this, my anxiety was quite high – because I was certainly not able to help in any way and it became confronting to be in the room where I was no help – my words. So, as my daughter laboured….and continued to resist epidural notion, I needed to be elsewhere…so went out for a walk around the wards. I passed an anaesthetist moving fast towards my daughter’s room as I had heard “get me the epidural” words….but alas, not to be. I then heard what was for me “loud noises” and tried to compose myself as I re-entered the room….and it turned out, that it was my grandson’s birth that had been the source of the sounds and there he was!!

He was so attentive I will never forget his engagement with me. The eyes! There was a bit of a kerfuffle I will call it though when her Ob/Gyn arrived, as the midwife had safely delivered B. He was asking why she hadn’t called him earlier. I remember her trying and it being constantly engaged. He was about 15 minutes drive from the hospital and it was school holidays. Before our grandson arrived and I heard the midwife trying to make these calls, we concluded it was probably not going through as back then only one phone line did the internet too. We reckoned it was his daughters!

Nevertheless the issue  settled.

But the weather did not that night. Around the time of B’s birth one of those raging southerlies arrived and with a hospital on top of a rise in Sydney’s north shore, we could feel its impact. When I left to drive home, around 8 p.m. everything outside the San at Wahroonga was dark. I wended my way through a tree-branch strewn carpark and drove slowly home via blacked out traffic lights and rain. We had tried calling my husband with the news but did not then know the phones were out too. My excited arrival home, in the dark, was chastened by “shush, I just got the girls to sleep, it’s been very scary”….and “oh” from me…then I told him of the news. I am afraid his tiredness meant a less enthusiastic response but the next day, we loaded up the brand new sisters and went to meet Mr Now Firelite DJ when he was one day old.

Here he is.

 

There are more stories to tell.

Like it says, this will be an occasional series.

I have deliberately kept all details as private as I can for those here.

Do you like to share stories like these?

I hope so but I do know that they do not appeal to all.

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 © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Last 51/51 #LifeThisWeek 2019. Thanks To All! New Prompts for 2020. 123/2019.

Last 51/51 #LifeThisWeek 2019. Thanks To All. New Prompts for 2020. 123/2019.

Life This Week.

This has been another great year for me as each of you kind and generous bloggers have linked up, on or off prompt. I haven’t got a best of or anything like that for numbers as I am about the stories we share, the connections we make and being here.

This is why I comment on each person’s post.

I am chuffed when you comment on mine and if  you too have the time to visit others’ posts to comment that IS being connected. Not everyone can and I don’t believe “If I link up I have to visit everyone.” No, that’s my role as host, so please link up when you can and share the news of this link up going into its 4th year.

After the link up closes each week and I have visited to comment,  I tweet so everyone sees who’s linked up.

The fact that you, and others return here to link up each Monday is something I really value.

T        H       A      N       K                 Y      O      U

 

It’s Nearly Christmas Day 2019.

Have you seen Santa yet? I started doing this in 2017 and this is my 2019 version. Santa Claus is getting younger! OK, I am getting older too.

Some of my recent Christmas related art.

In 2014 this sad but resigned woman (me!) knew she was experiencing the last of the family Christmases as she knew it. In fact, she was not even hosting as the house of almost 18 years residence was being packed up for the move to the Central Coast in early 2015. I tried to enjoy and take in every moment and memory to savour it.

We had said, too, that because of the distance from Sydney and needing to use the M1 we would not travel back to Sydney. It was practical. It made sense but emotionally it was, as I knew, much harder. Then, on Christmas Day 2015 my 3 older grandchildren dropped in! One had her licence and car and the secret was kept with my husband too. Oh. That was awesome. So appreciated. And our son and his family called in a day or two later on their way home from Christmas further north. In 2016 it was again a lovely  drop-in visit from the older kids (and later the younger GD and her Mum – our daughter) and we talked to the others by phone. In 2017 I was recovering from two surgeries and of course “wanted to celebrate” but it was challenging so we sent off cards and some money to all.

Then in 2018 “We” hosted Christmas here for our daughter and her four. That was great fun, me getting back into my Christmas mode.

What’s on this year? Never say never…we are driving to Sydney – I have overcome so much of my fear of this kind of thing…as people who have read here for years – dropping into our son’s to see his four kids (we have sent gifts via Aust Post earlier) and then to our daughter’s for Lunch. And, ahem, I have been doing some Christmas shopping after a few years. Just for the “kids” and for the traditions to stay alive! They will love it too.

Christmas Cupcakes for all!

Back in 1999, we had two granddaughters….and I talked their grandfather into getting into more outside Christmas decorations. This board – of Santa and his reindeer (with 2 teddies – one for each girl here) is still going strong: at their mum’s house.

Here’s a recent photo of our two eldest granddaughters: thanks for being the best and most fun ever girls…See you Chrissy Day!

In her Papa’s arms is GD on left…and birthday girl (today) is the person who made us “Grandma and Papa”.

Next Year. Life This Week Optional Prompts.

The first week back in 2020 is Monday 6 January and the title for that post is below.

Then, in an effort to be clever…(ha) I have added the next 9 prompts.

There is a message in the prompts somewhere indicating what my word for 2020 is.

1/51 Word/Intention for 2020 6.1.2020

2/51 Good News 13.1.2020

3/51 Remember This 20.1.2020

4/51 Australia 27.1.2020

5/51 T: Time to Share Your Snaps #1. 3.2.2020

6/51 Interesting 10.2.2020

7/51 T: Telling Self-Care Stories #1. 17.2.2020

8/51 Unusual 24.2.2020

9/51 D: Day for Taking Stock #1. 2.3.2020

10/51 Excited To Share Your Snaps #2. 9.3.2020

Onward and into 2020.

I will continue to be blogging on Wednesdays too.

The Women of Courage series will resume on  Wednesday 5th February 2020…with a new photo: here it is!

I will be linking my Wednesday post to MidLife Share the Love Linky and on Thursdays Lovin Life Linky as well as Open Slather on Fridays..so I do hope all three return in 2020.

Looking forward to catching up with you all again next year. I hope whatever this holiday season is for you and yours that it is relaxing, fun and enjoyable. If it’s not, then it becomes a blog post…for telling later!

Cheers to you all.

Denyse.

Added: I do hope that you and yours stay safe and well over this Australian holiday period where temperature records are being broken and for most of Eastern Australia, especially my state of New South Wales, bush fires are exacting a huge toll.  Loss of pasture, forests, wildlife, over 800 dwellings and so sadly, as the time of writing, two lives of volunteer firefighters were lost in a vehicle accident on Thursday night after the truck collided with a fallen tree. For anyone wanting to donate to the NSW Rural Fire Service and/or to the funds being raised for these two men’s families, the link is here.

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 Year’s first weekly optional prompt is: 1/51 Word/Intention  6/01/20

 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


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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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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.

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Women Of Courage Series. #25. Anonymous. 112/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #25. Anonymous. 112/2019.

Trigger warning: Domestic Violence, Family Violence, Mental Illness.

 

 

Woman of Courage #25  has chosen to be anonymous.

There will be no replies from this poster.

She will, however, be reading and I will be responding as I always do to readers’ comments.

Thank you for your understanding.

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 do know the person who has chosen to be anonymous.

I am in awe of her courage and was honoured when she decided to share this in this on-line space.

 

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

In the recent past, I was a victim of family violence. (Not of the intimate partner variety, but of the extended family variety – I’ve learnt a lot since it happened, and one of the things that I’ve learnt is that if you’re related in any way, it’s still classified as family violence.)

It was a single terrifying incident, although with the benefit of hindsight I can see the years of conditioning and gaslighting that preceded it. There were two perpetrators, and my children and I were the targets. I had to be courageous in the moment, even as my mind refused to believe what was happening. And I have had to be courageous since, making decisions to protect us and taking actions that I knew might lose us other family members and friends who refused to hear about what happened.

 

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

In the moment, I learnt that the fight, flight or freeze response isn’t an either/or scenario. My initial response was to freeze. My mind could not accept what my eyes, ears and skin were telling me. A scream from my children flicked the switch to fight (though not of a physical variety – I instead said what I thought the perpetrators wanted to hear) until I could create a path to my children and then onwards with them to flight.

In terms of diagnoses, this incident changed me by bringing the terms anxiety, adjustment disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into my life. It also brought imposter syndrome back into my life. In the past, it had usually been related to career success; this time, it was feeling that my one little incident wasn’t ‘worthy’ of PTSD. How dare I compare myself and my itty-bitty incident to a returned soldier’s experiences of combat?

In terms of practicalities, well… I’m still working through it all. I went through the stages of grief, which is to be expected. But I spent so long in denial that I did not accept the truth and depth of the incident and its effect on me for months. It took me a long time to accept my experience as traumatic. It took me longer still to recognise and accept that there was no shame in the experience, and no shame in the label of traumatic.

The incident broke my trust. With the perpetrators, of course, but also with others. With everyone, at first. I’d been conditioned to doubt myself around the perpetrators, and that continued. My brain constantly told me everyone was on their side, everyone thought I was overreacting, everyone was going to set up another ambush, everyone was against me, and wasn’t that fair enough? Wasn’t I overreacting? Did I really remember everything correctly? I had to rebuild my trust in people who had never done anything to deserve losing it in the first place.

Other changes? Fundamental beliefs and truths I held – such as my belief in the inherent goodness in all people – were shattered. (I’m working toward believing it again one day. I’m just not there yet.) Meanwhile, my belief that everyone has a right to freedom and safety has been strengthened. It might be truer to say it was created: I had simply taken it for granted previously.

 

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

The things I’ve learnt are not fun, so I apologise to anyone not ready to hear these things. But here are the main things I’ve learnt (or things I knew that are now cemented):

  • ‘Family’ is not an excuse for violent behaviour. (In fact, it should be a promise for good.)
  • You don’t owe violent people anything. Your time, your regrets, mediation, compromise, placation, forgiveness. Anything.
  • There is no such thing as neutrality in violence. If someone says they want to remain neutral, or don’t want to get involved or pick sides, it’s too late. Whether consciously or not, they’ve already picked a side. And it’s not the victim’s.
  • You can’t control what people think about you. If people want to believe the worst of you without even speaking to you, based on nothing more than the lies of the perpetrators, that’s on them, not you. It still hurts, but you’re better off without such people in your life.
  • Anyone who expects you to compromise your safety for them isn’t worth it.
  • There is no excuse for violence.

These don’t sound like tips for courage, but knowing these things – not just logically knowing these things, but truly believing these things deep in my bones – are what eventually gave me the courage to take legal action.

One other thing I’ve learnt: lean on your support network. (You might have to wait until you’ve relearnt to trust your support network.) Many see the development of courage as a solo endeavour, but in my case it was a team sport. With my wonderful husband as captain and coach.

 

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

I don’t think it’s a case of being more courageous. It’s a case of knowing what otherwise dormant courage I already have, knowing what I will and won’t stand for, and recognising it sooner. Violence toward or in front of me and my children grants you an instant dismissal from our lives, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. And when I say violence, I now mean violence in all of its forms, including manipulative, controlling and coercive behaviour.

I do think I’d have the courage to take legal action sooner if something like this happened again. Courage borne from knowing that seeing the perpetrators in court a few times is preferable to not knowing if they’ll pop up anytime, anywhere and constantly living with the fear of that happening.

 

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

Courage isn’t a steely resolve. Courage isn’t determination or steadfastness. Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

I felt the fear. I felt the anxiety, the panic attacks, the self-doubt. And, eventually, with great support and understanding from the people I love and had relearnt to trust, I did it anyway.

And if I ever have to, I’ll do it again.

 

 

I so appreciate the thought and decision that went into this post from Anonymous.

Thank you for sharing this.

Please note: these numbers:

https://www.respect.gov.au/services/ Emergency: 000 or 1800 RESPECT

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 

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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