Friday 10th April 2020

My Neighbourhood. 11/51. #LifeThisWeek. 22/2020.

My Neighbourhood. 11/51. #LifeThisWeek. 22/2020.

My observations are personal. They are about my thoughts and experiences of living where we do now. I have used some photos but because  I try not to give out too much personal information on the blog they have few identifiers. Nevertheless I am mentioning areas that may be familiar to some readers.

We first thought of moving to the Central Coast in 2014. As the need to change how and where we were living in Sydney became evident through my uneasy health status (sad and a bit anxious) and my husband’s disenchantment with Sydney’s traffic, we sold up and with thoughts of Central Coast holidays here we went to find a place to rent. We moved to and lived at the southern end of the Central Coast. January 2015 – November 2015.

I Live Here.

 

This is a quiet and relatively new part of suburban blocks and community developments in the northern part of the N.S.W. Central Coast region. On a map, it is around here. Just north of Wyong and about 10 minutes drive from the M1 at Sparks Road exit.

When we moved to what I describe as the quieter end of the coast, at the end of 2015, it was for a few reasons.

  • Our first choice, post-Sydney life, was the southern end of the Central Coast.
  • We thought we knew the area better.
  • Turns out we knew some physical aspects but not some of the in-built social ones.
  • In short, we were relatively poorer (i.e. paying far too much in rent) and more disappointed by the closed-off community which often wrote about ‘Western Sydney refugees’ arriving to spoil their places. Hmmmm. Not great attitude is it?

We settled easily into our next rental house that it felt like one we had sold. It was a  bit older but we made it home. From November 2015 until April 2018. Here’s some of the story from living in THIS neighbourhood. We were made very welcome by the property management too. It makes such a difference.

We would have stayed at this house but the owners wanted to move into it. Turned out sometime things work out well. Our real estate property management did all they could to help us secure a new rental place. Our two priorities: on one level and ducted air. They found it. Yes it was more expensive to rent but still way under the atrocious rent in 2015.

Here we still are: from early April 2018….and have already got another year till 2021 sorted as tenants here.

Some of the reasons we like living here.

  • not far from a big shopping centre
  • less than an hour from Newcastle where I have attended some recent events
  • close to a Westfield Shopping Centre
  • about one hour’s drive to Wahroonga…end of the M1. Then if it is a visit to my dad on the northern beaches, it’s another 45 minutes, similarly to the city for head and neck cancer checks and also to Westmead for my prosthodontist checks, and around the same to see family where we used to live.

Our medical needs are catered for very well. We both like our GP and find the service at the centre is excellent. Wyong hospital is literally up the road and less than 5 minutes away. We are bulk-billed and can make appointments. I have a local dentist (many stories about him in the head and neck sections) who has seen me before head and neck cancer in my mouth and since. Bunnings is about 10 minutes up the road for my husband. And I have found more than twenty places where I enjoy my daily coffee.

Our street is a bit busy but we have excellent neighbours and even though the yard is small, the only time it is really noticeable is when the grandkids come up and a soccer ball easily flies over the fence.

BUT…whilst we do love being here, the sad news is that whenever we do get to buy a place of our own, this area is already out of our league. Many people here commute to Sydney. And houses in our estate are selling for well over $600K up to $900K. We will, as they say, cross that bridge when we come to it.

So, that’s my neighbourhood story in words and pics!

Did you write about that today too?

Tell me if your neighbourhood is where you want to stay forever…

Denyse.

Link Up #180.

Life This Week. Link Up #180.

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Telling My Story. Chapter 14. 2001-2002. 8/51 Life This Week. 16/2020.

Dear Bloggers: I have made some changes to the link-up rules based on some recent experiences. For most of my regular linkers, this is not an issue but as I am getting some newer people come on board, I have added some rules. Thank you. Denyse Whelan.

Telling My Story. Chapter 14. 2001-2002. 8/51 Life This Week. 16/2020.

The story behind Telling My Story is this: I began in May 2017 and then was diagnosed with cancer. I had a lengthy break and returned to the plan to keep on documenting my life, one blog post at a time. Here is the link to the page where they all are now. This too, like the post 2 weeks ago has been a mix of what I wrote back in 2018 over 4 weeks about the challenges and more of being a principal from 1998 – 2003. Today’s post has much of the second two years in it, and the next one, in a few weeks, will outline how challenging (read: hard and stressful) it was to leave the role I had loved. I also shared this as My Woman of Courage story here.

Onward: New Decade and Century. 2001.

This year started in a wonderful way. After one of the hottest, awful January days in Sydney in 2001 this young man became our 3rd grandchild and our first grandson. I wrote something about his birth here and this is a recent photo of US.

My year as a grandmother was very full-on and combined with my role as a principal somewhat precariously – only because I wanted to do both well. Sometime into 2001 I took leave every Wednesday to do a “grandma-daycare” at our place for this young man and his older sister because “I” felt like I needed to help with this kind of care as I had with granddaughter number one. I was trying “not to let school” into my life on those days but it was inevitable with phone calls and catching up the next day with the assistant principal that I acknowledged I could not do both well. Lucky for me my family understood and as already explained they had a great family day care setting to go to.

We were living at Glenwood. My husband was reasonably well but still faced health challenges after his second neck surgery to fuse his spine. He was now working in a high school full-time. Our adult son was living at home. Life was BUSY and my life was full-on. I do recall some minor socialisation happened for me when I might meet a friend for coffee. My educational leadership role was, for a conscientious and practical person like me, all consuming. Very hard to switch off.

We did try, when we could to attend events at school or pre-school for our grandchildren. I recall, taking a day’s half long service leave to attend this young one’s first Athletics Carnival.

My Day as a Principal Started and Ended Like This. Mostly.

I attempted to have a relaxed morning at home, eating my breakfast along with reading the front page of the paper before setting off for school. It was about 30-40 minutes drive and I had a ‘cut off’ point where I could ‘leave home’ behind and the reverse happened on my way home! I was usually the 2nd to arrive at school and generally the last to leave. I did try to leave before the cleaners locked up at 5.30 as much as I could.

I admit I did not self-care well. Sometimes because of the day itself I would not have eaten anything until on my way home. That is the way to ill-health so I took myself in hand, and with the office staff, we had lunch before the school lunch times and that ensured I “ate” better.

I cannot recall specifics of this year at the school as I guess one change lead to another. I do know I dealt with some major difficulties in terms of one parent who berated and threatened me because (I found out later) he hated women and teachers. He was going through a difficult separation from his teacher wife. Sadly my office and the school became the butt of his anger and I had to get an order for him not to enter school grounds. These things are not great for anyone.

As the only non-teaching executive staff member I often had to do much alone in terms of policy making and decisions based on the current school’s needs and demands. This does not mean I was not a team player! However, I was conscious of the fact that teaching executive had dual roles. Therefore I made fewer meeting times and hoped that would suffice for my care of their needs. It did not always play out that way and by the time I got to 2002 the challenges I faced to lead the school well increased.

What Was Different in 2002 School Year?

It was my fourth year as principal. There were many changes within the education system, via the NSW government policies of the day, and in schools themselves. Families may move on due to work changes, sometimes those families are not replaced by new ones so a school population can begin heading downwards.

School staff (teacher and executive staff) may need to take leave for reasons of: family needs, maternity and long service leave as well as sick leave.

The other change heralding 2002 was the need to upgrades of maintenance (big cost jobs) to the school as it was one that was first occupied in the 1940s. Back in 2002 it was up to the principal to make the contacts with contracted companies to get in suppliers who could quote for major works. Then the principal, with enough funds in the school account, could give a project a green light.

I was trained to teach but there I was, like all principals still, being a site manager and a financial manager as well as HR manager. Sigh.

Systemic Changes.

More and more, I noted, as did my principal colleagues that schools were being expected (rightly too) to ensure that Codes of Conduct for staff were not only understood and agreed upon by them but if behavioural issues arose, then the principal would be the first person to begin making an action plan when the code was violated.

There always had been the mandatory notification to the Department back then called Family and Community Services where if a child was deemed by a mandatory reporter (all school staff are) to be ‘at risk’ then a first notification was to be made by telephone. This saw me, often waiting for a person to answer, locked into a phone call because of issues which may look trivial on the outside but may be clues to more.

One such event could be repeatedly coming to school with no food. Other times it could be the child letting her/his teacher know that a parent may be unwell or even violent and it was never our role to investigate but we did need to reassure the child, then make the reports. Over the years I have sat in with a child in my role as a support person (if the child requested that from me) and it is heart-aching to be witness.

Our system, the N.S.W. Department of Education, was updating its role in terms of staff compliance and behaviour. This was nothing new and in fact teachers have had annual reviews in a conversation form for decades. Since I left teaching, this has become a joint venture between the schools and the overseeing body of school governance.

Returning to my principal days.

IF there was a reported incident told to me by a student, parent or staff member where a staff member’s behaviour (spoken, actions or in written form) was not within the Code of Conduct (signed off annually as part of mandatory training) then the principal had to act upon it.

I dealt with the Officers from the Conduct Unit first who listened to what had been reported to me and then I was given advice that it could be managed at school level (guess by whom?) or it could be escalated, with the staff member’s knowledge to a higher authority.

I had to do this on one occasion and the fallout for me came later. The temporary staff member who brought along a permanent staff member as a support person as the complaint was told to her from my account given to me was aghast at the inference.

In fact, there was nothing I had done wrong at all….but remember way back “your role will be to bring this school into the next century” comment by MY boss…this matter was a prime example of how staff thought they could still behave but it was not compliant with the Code of Conduct.

Executive Members of Staff  Were All On Leave.

Not at all related to the above in were two instances where my school staff allocation of experienced executive became diminished’. Apart from me, there were 3 other executive staff at the school by 2002: 2 Assistant Principals and 1 Executive Teacher. They all taught classes too.

The executive teacher was to have a baby and so went on maternity leave, the other, an assistant principal took extended long service leave both for the remainder of 2002 from early in the year.

But wait, there was one more. Yes, this one person who was an assistant principal ‘broke me’ in so many subtle then obvious ways.

And whilst I cannot say much, the continued leave based on medical certificates over and over did cause alarm for the parents of that class as it did me because the year had started well. As it was expected of him by me, this Assistant Principal would perform other executive duties (as do all teaching executive) this person refused and did not return after many months.

Oh, yes, one day there was a return, after hours to access my office and computer telling the only person on site, the cleaner, that “I” had given him permission. Following that, he was disciplined and placed in a different school.

How Did That Affect Me?

In some ways it was a relief but in many more, as we geared up for the mid-year reports, parent-teacher interviews and then Education  Week along with concerts and fund raisers, it was the beginning of my end.

Sadly I did not see it for some time.

I kept on working even harder.

Yes. I was doing the roles of the appointed executive who were on leave.

I know that I did have three teachers put their hands up to do the relieving roles but without the experience and knowledge beyond their classroom teaching, I was giving more and more of myself to duties that were not mine.

I was even writing reports for a class teacher with little experience. I will say now that I know I was over-doing things but I could see no way out. I was under pressure to perform well for the school’s sake and also to answer to my ‘bosses.’

My lovely boss actually retired at the end of Term One (sadly) and he was replaced by someone I knew well but was nothing like the people-person my old boss was.

 

Schools have a culture of their own.

I can now walk into a school and get a feeling of how things are. In my school, as Winter took hold I know that my mood was also one of worry and concern. That was for the school and its staffing into the next year.

When school populations decrease in the NSW public system, the principal will be asked to nominate a teacher to leave. In the majority of cases, teachers are very comfortable in their current school and rarely does anyone volunteer. So then it becomes a matter of ‘asking’ and ‘hoping’.

The staff were getting the idea that with the school’s drop in population, which occurred when the Special Needs unit was disbanded and there was a reduction of families moving to the area, that “I” had something to do with the reduction.

I was told this by telephone on the night (4th September 2002) I heard staff were arranging a delegation to my office the next day. They were going to tell me it was my manner with parents that was the cause.

This may have had one essence of truth after I was threatened by a violent father who I had to get removed from the grounds, but generally I had a supportive P&C and was a principal who was active and even did playground duty. But people like someone to blame. Of course, and that was me.

The Night Which Wounded My Career.

Before I go on, I was feeling emotions of overwhelm from the role. I remember with clarity coming back from yet another principals’ meeting where they was MORE that we needed to take responsibility for. I wondered how I could possibly manage more.

In the meantime, I became probably hyper vigilant after another meeting about my responsibilities for Work Health and Safety.

The school was OLD in many parts and I knew that there was much that did not comply, so I contacted my properties’ manager (the centralised one, not a personal one!) and for a fee, he came out and condemned or ok-ed parts I was concerned about. One such area was deemed so risky I had to tape it off before demolition and in doing so, incurred the wrath of the teachers who had been there forever. I could not take a trick.

I stood for what was right because that is who I am. I knew I needed to have a timeout but it happened to be an official one to attend a meeting for a day and then a personal one to accompany my husband to a vital medical appointment.

Schools: I love them. But I Could Not Return To Mine.

Two days away from school…..then I was rung the night before I was to return. Wednesday 4th September. One of my relieving Executive who I always thought was both compassionate and brave to rang to tell me that some staff were getting a delegation ready along with a Teachers Federation Organiser to meet with me to discuss their issues.

Initially I listened with interest and then with surprise/shock at what was apparently my fault: declining numbers, meaning one of them would be asked to transfer. Once I had talked (and been upset a bit) with her, I had successive phone calls from the remaining two relieving executive and it was then I said “I will be speaking to…(my boss) in the morning and will not be returning to school until I have”. They implored me not to but I had the sense not to act upon a threat like this.

I broke.

I broke down. I was ill. I couldn’t contact my boss: left a message that I would be going to my GP in the morning.

That would be the start of pretty horrible days but also some days of relief and release. Yet, nothing ever has helped me get over the fact that I loved being a principal but one day I never went back.

There was so much shame in me for that and it has almost all faded now some 17 years later. Lifeline: 13 11 14

It’s been hard to learn THIS….

Thank you for reading. At least I hope you did.

Denyse.

 

Next Chapter Will Be About The Outcome for Me Personally and Us Financially.

Life This Week #177

Link Up #177. Life This Week.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* 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: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today!

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Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

 

Welcome to the first in the series for 2020.

This optional prompt pops up every 7 weeks or so.

Today here’s mine!

Before kicking off: I have made two changes to my daily routine which is helping me:

One is to consider what I am grateful for each day. I tend to think about something or someone through the day and by even thinking that way I notice a change within. I blogged about it here. I am doing an instagram post each day here: @denysewhelan_blogs and no longer have my account private. I still have @denysewhelan going and no longer private...look at me taking a risk

Two is I am listening to Calm meditation app twice a day. One session, the Daily Calm, before I get up from bed and last thing at night a session of whatever I need at the moment. I have just listened to 10 or so day of “relationship with self.”. Calm is free initially and then you can decided to buy. I got a lifetime price as a bargain in 2018 and am never sick of it. Sleep stories are ace too on nights when I am less than sleep-ready.

What Have I Been Doing?

  1. remembering to follow my daily routine: get up, have breakfast, get dressed and go somewhere for a coffee….come home, blog, read, relax, cook, sleep…
  2. this was, for the most part, pretty well kept.
  3. however and it may have been something that affected others too, I became more anxious than usual when we had extremes of threats:
  • Bushfires
  • More fires
  • High temperatures
  • Continued fires
  • And then it rained.
  • Rainfall was excessive in some places and caused:
  • Flooding
  • Electricity to be cut
  • And NONE of this directly affected me.
  • Mmmmmm.
  • so I was most fortunate to have an in-house counsellor (aka my husband) but also that my previous years of learning how to self-care via means at my disposal actually helped..a great deal.
  • but being an avid follower of social media there were signs that my emotional health was being impacted when I stayed on news and updates for fires/disaster sites for long periods.
  • I realised even before I was “told” by my husband to stop. That was a good self-care measure in itself.

 

Why Have I Needed to Do This?

  1. I know I thrive on being informed and also caring about and for others….BUT there has to be a limit placed.
  2. I do this now by asking myself “what is it I can do that will help this person/those people etc?” If there is nothing really, I do send out a message of empathy where it’s appropriate and I might even do this.
  3. The loving kindness messages are always a way for me to feel a greater connection with others.
  4. I recalled with some hyped and stressed memories of the 5 days of the 2015 East Coast Low when we first moved to the Central Coast and I needed to talk a few of those memories through.
  5. Once I had done that I also knew I am in (and still am in) a much better headspace some 5 years later thanks to all the work I have done to achieve greater emotional health.

Loving Kindness (Metta) can be said silently for yourself, for another or for many. These words above are just one group.

How Do I Integrate This Into My Life?

  1. I continue to follow my routine as much as possible allowing for days (there were a couple!) where to go out of the house meant to be on unsafe roads in flooding rains so I stayed home
  2. I managed to fill in those particular days with little and varied projects of mine.
  3. I automatically come to my art desk when I need to zone out and concentrate on ONE thing and that worked well. In fact it has been something I have done before as well.
  4. I love the variety of activities I now have at my disposal and made use of exploring more of the media too.
  5. My husband was well-occupied with his in-house hobbies and some cabinet making in the garage so with no power lost, we really did well!

 

Afterwards. Onwards.

  1. Self-care is on-going and it can change in its focus for me, depending on how I am.
  2. This week (in fact today!) I am at Westmead seeing my prosthodontist for an update on my upper mouth. I used to get quite stressed about these visits “what will he see that I cannot” and last week I said “STOP”.
  3. I had been living in fear that had no justification.
  4. It was shifting the relaxed mood in our house (and relationship) to tense because I was experiencing some mouth pain (it IS always there, it just seemed worse)
  5. I changed how I approached the pain. I stopped focussing on it by not mentioning it. I also took panadol as instructed.
  6. Self-care is pretty well an on-going matter and recently on Bev Aisbett’s Facebook page (Living with “IT” Anxiety) she posted this, with permission to share:

Recently I took this selfie looking back to  Norah Head Lighthouse in the background, the huge seas reaching the shore…to remind me of how well I am, grateful for all in my life and how far I have come. More to come too, of course!

How is your self-care going?

What do you notice if you are not keeping up your self-care practices?

I look forward to catching up with the comments after I am back from Westmead!

Denyse.

Link Up 176.

Link Up #176. Life This Week.

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* 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, or on your sidebar.

*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 weekly optional prompt is: 8/51 Unusual 23/2/2020

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Telling My Story. Chapter 13. 1999-2000. 6/51 #LifeThisWeek 11/2020.

Telling My Story. Chapter 13. 1999-2000. 6/51 #LifeThisWeek 11/2020.

The story behind Telling My Story is this: I began in May 2017 and then was diagnosed with cancer. I had a lengthy break and returned to the plan to keep on documenting my life, one blog post at a time. Here is the link to the page where they all are now. It’s been a while since my last one. This one, I admit, is not a brand new one. In fact I wrote back in 2018 over 4 weeks about the challenges and more of being a principal from 1998 – 2003. This post has much of the first two years in it, and the next one, which I will post for Life This Week 8/51 will conclude that part of my professional education leadership life. 

1998.

I really enjoyed being a K-6 School Principal. I had waited till my late 40s to decide to ‘take the plunge’ and actively seek a principal’s role in a K-6 school in Sydney’s west. Having been a relieving Principal in a school where I had been a Deputy Principal I knew that I did not want to apply for that role as I had been at that school for almost 10 years. This was a much longer period than I usually stayed in one school and family reasons were part of this but I knew that to lead that school was fraught with trying to placate factions and being in conflict ethically with the old-fashioned and out-moded forms of discipline.

My Primary School. Attended 1960-61 is where I decided I wanted to be a teacher.

In the lead up to the end of the 1990s I was asked to relieve as a Principal is a larger school within the Western Sydney environment I knew well. This school already had a leadership team including Deputy Principals but it was the wish of the out-going (Long Service Leave first!) Principal that someone from out of the school be appointed. That was me.

What a baptism of fire this was!

Whilst I knew the general area, I was not knowledgable at all about the make-up of the student population – which was well into the 600s. I was to lead that school for Terms 3 and 4 when a principal would be appointed. There were special needs classes, there were children of high needs (intellectual and behavioural) in mainstream classes. Fortunately, it came with a non-teaching Deputy, who helped bring me up to speed with every new challenge including:

  • chasing a boy who was ready to jump the low fence and run onto the road. He stopped. In the playground.
  • finding another boy climbing to the roof of a building to escape the problem he had being in class.
  • having a mother of a girl scream at me over the desk “what are YOU going to DO ABOUT this, YOU”RE the PRINCIPAL”

“I really do not want to be a Principal” I said after a very hectic Term 3 leading into Term 4…but then again..

” the old death bed regret” popped into my mind.

“Did I want to think I should have given the principalship a go but I did not?”

Answer: NO.and this…

As the last Term of 1998 progressed, unless I did decide to start applying for Principal’s roles, I had this ultimatum delivered.

As a Deputy Principal who had needed to leave her original school (the 10 year one) because the school student population  was slowing and there was no longer a DP position, I had to accept any position as a DP and guess where I was appointed: to the school where I was currently Relieving Principal. 

Oh. No, I thought that was untenable and also once I knew who the new boss would be in the following year my hand was forced – in a way. So it was out with the application templates and late nights writing and honing these to match K-6 School Principals roles that I might fit.

It All Takes Time.

Back then, applications for Principal  were sent into the District Office for the Superintendent to look over with his/her panel of selectors. These were a parent from the school which was seeking a new principal, a staff member from that school, a principal of similar status as the role on offer and the Superintendent. If the application met with the panel’s approval, professional referees (nominated on the application) were called, and then if the panel thought they wanted to know more, then the applicant was invited to a formal interview.

I went through this process over some weeks for a total of four times and got to interview but not the role. I was also still leading a school! I did get positive and helpful feedback particularly by one District Superintendent By the second last week of Term 4 I thought I was not going to get a Principal’s job but that was not true and within 2 days of school ending for Term 4, I was offered and I accepted the role of K-6 Principal in my own right.

Appointed As Principal.

The District Superintendent rang me to offer the position and of course I accepted it. Being so close to the end of the year, I could not visit the school until close to the end of the January holidays.

The words that rang in my ear, and were written to me by the District Superintendent echoed…and not nearly as much as in future years.

“Denyse, you have to bring this school into the next century and I know you are the one to do it. It won’t be easy and it will have challenges but you are the right fit for this”.

And of course, Life Goes On, in the family! We were looking forward to the birth of Grandchild #2 in the May of 1999 and by this appointment, I remember telling my daughter “I don’t think I will be able to have part-weeks off to care for him/her”. My daughter understood, and already had an amazing family day care arrangement. I admit my “Grandma” hat was firmly back on my head – with the blessing of my boss, the one who had appointed me and my staff when she, new GD was literally on the way, I was able to have the week off school to help out and BE Grandma. That time meant a great deal.

With my GD some years later!

1999 First Year as a Principal.

The first months.

Hot, No Plan, Making Plans, Learning About the School.

I was busy learning about the school and the fact that the person I replaced had actually died the previous term without anyone at the school having access to school keys, passwords and the like made it more difficult. The school was a medium sized (around 450 kids from K-6) one with added Unit for Students with Special Learning Needs and an Autism Satellite class. Within the stream of classes there were two “OC” groups: Year 5 of 30 students and Year 6. These students gained their place at the school via competitive examinations the year before.

The school culture was, as my boss told me, one I would need to lead into the 21st century and I knew that but I also knew to hasten slowly on some changes whilst making some practical ones quickly. The previous principal, sadly departed, had been there for quite some time, shared very little in terms of financial goals for the school but, as a local which I was not, whatever he had done was acceptable. One big ticket item that happened under his leadership was a sports area which catered for a number of court-based sports.

One of my first spends was blinds. In a school with a second storey and in a very hot/cold place in outer Sydney, some respite from the sun and to make activities such as work via a whiteboard or screen effective this was vital. Once done it gave the school, from the inside and out, a better appearance for the community.

The school was fully staffed with each role filled: 2 Assistant Principals (teaching) 2 Executive Teachers (teaching). There was a group of speciality teachers: for Gifted and Talented students, Special Needs – Intellectual, English as a Second Language, Computer and Technology, Special Learning in Mainstream. I had been familiar with leading each of those roles in my previous schools with three  ‘new’ to me

  • having the O.C. classes
  • overseeing the use of the school’s facilities with an outside the NSW Dept of Ed jurisdiction
  • supervising a Special Needs Unit of 3 staff within the school

I like to think, looking back from now, that I did all I could to both understand, accept and get up-skilled quickly to enable me, the educational leader of the school, to best meet the needs of those students, also considering the skills of their teachers and to see that the parents of the students knew the children’s needs were paramount.

That of course, was also integral to my oversight and management of the remainder of the school in the mainstream classes.

There were computers for my work and communication via emails did not arrive for a few years. It was a telephone, fax and mail school and being on the outskirts of Sydney the communication and responses were not as frequent as the suburbs of Sydney.

The year went well with ME being the major learner of course. I was the ONLY new staff member but I also had to ensure that MY leadership goals were part of the new school’s as well. There was a lot of policy discussion which was mostly related to why there were none where I was used to having these done. Like I have said before, I was there to make change but I also needed to handle matters carefully.

This year I turned 50 and on the staff was another person my age and I recall a joint celebration with two cakes. We did socialise somewhat during the school term with a restaurant meal or something similar with staff. We had regular morning teas and I promoted collegiality and support for all staff.

My executive staff were good but two of them sought promotion – one to a country school, the other to a city school and of course I was pleased for them professionally when their  work was rewarded with what they sought. I recall an incident which was a critical one as it demonstrated a lack of foresight, organisation and care from one of the senior staff. This related to a student being announced at the final year assembly as Vice-Captain, when in fact, she was to be a prefect, and another student was the Vice-Captain. In an embarrassing time for the student, her family and the senior staff I had to interrupt the announcement with the correct person’s name. From that time, I was aware of more loopholes within the school’s management. Policies for example. In a first for this executive staff, there needed to be a written policy on the how, what and why of student leadership nominations, voting and results. From my side, it looked quite poorly scrutinised and certainly that family of the student who was incorrectly announced as vice-captain continued to let me know of their upset long after that incident. No apology in the world was good enough.

Onward into 2000 & beyond.

There were some staff changes into this year of the Sydney Olympics and I had to call panels of parent representative, school representative and one other teacher to enable me to interview, by merit selection, 2 people to replace those who had been promoted. More on this in the third post next week.

The education communities in and near Sydney loved the fact that this was the year of the Sydney Olympics and we even had an extra week off school in September 2000 for all of the available transport (buses mostly) to be geared to getting people to and from Olympic venues. A person who had carried a torch in part of the area near the school brought it to us and we all got to hold it. We had special days and the vibe was good. We even made our Staff Photo that year based on Sports and the Olympics.

I had some lovely people working at the school in administration and I know my mantra (from my boss) of keeping on heading into this famous 21st century was embraced but it remained a load on me as the school leader both administratively and educationally. There were courses in finance and human resources to attend and of course ones to train us further in Child Protection.

This became even more important as time went on, and I recall sitting at yet another training course thinking “I am responsible for all of this yet I have no control over it”. It was quite a  watershed moment for me.

I loved the role even so. I felt I brought action and innovation to the school and lifted its place in educational areas. I may not have been a local in a very conservative area but I did my best to keep open and good relationships with the local community, my Parent groups and the community of schools nearby.

At home, I know I really never switched off. The laptop came home with me. Newsletters written by me on the weekend. There was no email or other communications like that until 2002 so everything was done and then printed off for the families each fortnight. I improved more of the external appearance with signage and keeping areas safer by removal of damaged play equipment. I had a General Assistant 3 days a week and because of the size of the school grounds, he spent most of his time on a mower.

I had to organise school repairs and more via private contractors and be savvy enough to know how to ask for quotes and then to see how the school might benefit and when to get those happening in a child-free time. I would be phoned at home in school holidays about staffing and maintenance and there was/is not a time-off for school principals.

In re-reading this I recall much of it. It has stayed as a very strong memory, being principal of R.P.S. I did have some amazing opportunities and one was being a community member for the local (new then) gaol in the area and contributing to ideas and supporting the warden in his role. I was the district principal  representative for Stewart House, the N.S.W. Public Schools charity supporting needy children to have a break from home by the sea. I do know I missed a lot of ‘family time’ because of the nature of the role and my school was about 40 minutes from home but I was (still am) a passionate educator!

Stewart House: South Curl Curl.

Next time: 2001 and 2002. The Way My Career as a N.S.W. School Principal Ended.

I know there is a lot that’s been said (and I hope read) but it’s such a pivotal part of my life (then) and even now. I needed to share it as I have.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Link Up #175

 

Link Up #175. Life This Week.

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, or on your sidebar.

*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 weekly optional prompt is: 7/51 Self-Care Stories 17.2.2020

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Try This: Gratitude: 5, 10, 15. 4/2020.

Try This: Gratitude: 5, 10, 15. 4/2020.

Here’s something to complement and build on the Good News post from Monday!

I thought that there have been so many positive reactions to the Good News here that it was timely to add an idea about:

G R A T I T U D E

and how making a connection with yourself, the world and your inner being, you can indeed seek good news in your life from the use of gratitude as a marker.

Being 15 January when this post goes live, I chose to make a challenge based on:

5

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!

10

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!
  6. To be able to find food in my supermarket that is affordable
  7. To enjoy making meals and snacks that work for me
  8. To use technology that connects me with people I may never meet but are already friends
  9. To be able to breathe with ease since much of the bushfire smoke has gone
  10. To take myself out for coffee most days

 

15

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!
  6. To be able to find food in my supermarket that is affordable
  7. To enjoy making meals and snacks that work for me
  8. To use technology that connects me with people I may never meet but are already friends
  9. To be able to breathe with ease since much of the bushfire smoke has gone
  10. To take myself out for coffee most days
  11. To find that I can bring myself calm inside as I do some art
  12. To have the best head and neck professional team caring for me since May 2017
  13. To hear the bellbirds as I drive on the Pacific Highway near the small waterways
  14. To know that I am loved by my husband
  15. To find gratitude in more and more as time goes on

 

This is something for readers to consider.

Maybe 5 is doable.

Maybe 10 is…

or you could s   t   r   e   t  c   h   to 15.

Whatever is what you can decide to do, will, I can guarantee bring a shift to your inner self.

Trust me! I was late to this but now I cannot NOT find gratitude around me.

Come on, give it a go.

Share the word on gratitude too.

Tell me in the comments, what are you grateful for right now!

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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Word of Year: Gratitude. 1/51 #LifeThisWeek 1/2020.

Word of Year: Gratitude 1/51 #LifeThisWeek1/2020.

This Link Up Has Been Part of Each Monday Since September 2016….almost every Monday: summer holidays & my cancer surgery July 2017 excepted.

This is #LifeThisWeek 170. I appreciate each and every blogger who links up. Thank you. Onward in 2020! 

Welcome to 2020 and Life This Week! I hope you are doing well. The past months in Australia have been very challenging with excessive heat and many fires which have caused enormous damage and loss. I send my commiserations to those affected.

In the last post for 2019, I did give a hint in the form of the beginning letter of each of the ten new optional prompts for 2020.

    R    A    T     I    T     U    D     E

I admit I have been somewhat late to the understanding of the purpose of gratitude….and then I saw this quote:

In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.

Br. David Steindl-Rast. Network for Grateful Living.

That made sense to me even more as I have learned much about gratitude and me since doing the 30 days of gratitude in the lead up to my 70th Birthday.

Over the past few years my husband’s words to me often included “what have you been grateful for today?” or “what went well for you today?”. Yes, I could answer him mostly in a positive way but until I had a shift in the form of my own revelations I guess I was paying lip service to gratitude. From time to time, I would think about what I was grateful for and write things down then I would leave it.

I need to add these words that are for me, similar to gratitude and will see me using them:

  • thankful
  • blessed (yes, not a joke)
  • content
  • grateful
  • fortunate

As someone who needs evidence I did my research and continue to read more on gratitude. This article, mentions many of those I have come to know from my reading and listening which is why I am including much of the article. It is from a US source.

 

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. In fact over the years I’ve come to realize that gratitude is perhaps our most powerful and profound emotion. And that’s the only problem with Thanksgiving — by giving gratitude its one big day a year, do we run the risk of not giving it enough of our time and attention the other 364 days?

That would be a shame, because gratitude isn’t just a courtesy, or amatter of good manners. It’s our gateway to grace. It’s no coincidence that gratitude shares the same Latin root — gratus — as the word grace. So in addition to a day of gratitude, we can choose to live in a state of gratitude — and thus in a state of grace.

We live in a stress-filled, sleep-deprived, burned out world. In fact, for many, Thanksgiving itself is one of the most stressful days of the year. And that’s ironic, because the answer to Thanksgiving stress is right there in the word itself. Whenever we find ourselves in that stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off mindset — including this week — gratitude is the brake lever. It gives us perspective and allows us to reset and recharge.

Though they didn’t have Thanksgiving, the ancients certainly knew the value of giving thanks. Cicero wrote that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.” It took a few thousand years, but this wisdom has since been validated by a mountain of science. And we still haven’t reached the end of the list of what gratitude can do.

Robert Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough, of the University of Miami, are two of the foremost gratitude researchers. In one study, for several weeks, one group of participants wrote down things they were thankful for. A second group noted things that had annoyed them. The first group ended up feeling more optimistic and happy about their lives. And they even exercised more and slept better. But it wasn’t because the first group had more things to be thankful for — it was the act of thinking about what they were grateful forthat gave them such a tangible boost in well-being. We’re grateful not for the things we expect, but just the opposite.

“At the cornerstone of gratitude is the notion of undeserved merit,” Emmons and McCullough write in their book, The Psychology of Gratitude. “The grateful person recognizes that he or she did nothing to deserve the gift or benefit; it was freely bestowed.” It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger and resignation — a small miracle that produces a lingering moment of grace. And as they conclude in their study, when we choose to continue creating these moments, the consequences are powerful. “A life oriented around gratefulness is the panacea for insatiable yearnings and life’s ills,” they write.

Martin Seligman, of the University of Pennsylvania — and one of the founders of the field of positive psychology — has shown that the benefits of a single gratitude exercise — in one study, writing and delivering a thank you letter — can last for an entire month. Gratitude has also been found to lower levels of stress and depression, and improve sleep. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that gratitude exercises can lower levels of inflammation, which improves heart health. In adolescents, gratitude has been found to reduce materialism and increase generosity, and lead to healthier eating. At the other end of life, gratitude has been found to reduce loneliness in the elderly.

And before I go to sleep, I’ll quickly write down a few things I’m grateful for. It focuses my mind on all the many blessings in my life, big and small — and shrinks the list of unresolved problems. Of course, we all have a mix of both in our lives, but it’s up to us to choose which frames our outlook and our daily lives. As Charles Dickens wrote, “reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

And it’s not just our present blessings. The power of gratitude can also extend to what hasn’t happened — all those close shaves with “disaster” of some kind or another, all the bad things that could happen to us and just… don’t. That distance between them happening and not happening is grace. It’s summed up in one of my favorite quotes (attributed to the eighth-century Muslim jurist Imam Al-Shafi’i): “My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.”

And then there are the disasters that do happen, that leave us broken and in pain. For me, such a moment was losing my first baby when I was 36. Losing a baby brings up so many unspoken fears and worst-case scenarios: Will I ever be able to carry a baby to term? Will I ever be able to become a mother? Everything felt broken inside. My mother had once shown me a quote from Aeschylus that spoke to me in those hours: “And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.” And there it is again: grace. Gratus. Gratitude. It wasn’t a magic bullet. It didn’t erase my grief. I wouldn’t have wanted it to. But it told me I could get through it, and that I was strong enough to take this, carry it with me and keep going.

There are, of course, countless ways to bring the power of gratitude into your life. Mark Williams, of the University ofOxford, suggests a daily “10-finger gratitude exercise,” in which you list 10 things you’re grateful for and count them out on your fingers. Coming up with 10 won’t always be easy. But that’s the point — it’s about, as he puts it in his book Mindfulness, “intentionally bringing into awareness the tiny, previously unnoticed elements of the day.”

Laurie Santos taught Yale’s most popular class, “Psychology and the Good Life,” also known as the “happiness course.” To get the full effect of gratitude, “you have to take time to feel it,” she says. “It’s a moment to really reflect on, ‘What would my life be like without this thing?’”

That’s why gratitude has been at the core of every tradition that focuses on what it means to live a good life. “Our minds are terrible at accurately predicting what will make us happy,” she says. “I think that’s why humans have historically needed religion and faith. Those traditions push us in the direction of doing acts of charity, having gratitude, being in communities where we connect with people — all things that give us a boost. Luckily, nonbelievers can get a boost from those habits, too.”

You can even work gratitude into your life through habit stacking, creating a healthy new habit by “stacking” it onto an existing habit.

For instance: Think of three things you’re grateful for while brushing your teeth or during some other part of your morning or nighttime routine. It doesn’t have to be about something big or life-changing. It can be gratitude for your morning coffee, or a random interaction with someone who made us smile that day, or a piece of nature on the way to work. Or it can be simply gratitude for being alive.

Subscribe here for my Weekly Thoughts Newsletter, where you’ll find my take on the week’s news, my favourite pieces on how we can thrive even in our stressful world, and some fun and inspiring extras.

This word, and those like it, along with more will be the subject of further explanation in my post on Wednesday.

I hope, that you may find some reasons to be grateful in your life today….

Thank you for being part of Life This Week 2020.

Denyse.

 

Link Up #170. Life This Week.

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, or on your sidebar.

*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 weekly optional prompt is: 2/51 Good News 13.1.2020.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


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Update: Two Years Since My ‘Weight’ Post.122/2019.

Update:Two Years Since My ‘Weight’ Post.122/2019.

Looking back to the last post I wrote here for 2017 I decided it was time for an update.

Firstly, two years!!

Secondly: Am I brave enough to do this?

Y. E. S.

Some background information. I would urge you to read the post I wrote back in December 2017 as it was the most honest I have been publically about the challenges of being overweight, obese and all the years I did not speak of it.

Two years ago, I was the lightest I had been since…early my  20s (we are talking over 48 years ago).

I was that weight for a few reasons…the major one being oral cancer in my upper mouth requiring everything to be removed and a reconstruction process begun. My ability to eat was severely challenged.

At my ‘weightiest’ 2013, and ‘lowest’ November 2017.

But…from the image of me at my heaviest in 2013 I did start to lose some weight (not by dieting) but by a couple of years of anxiety and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (diarrheoa) from 2014 onwards.

In fact, without trying, as they say, it did come off. I admit, I could not eat much (without having to find a toilet very fast afterwards)….but, in 2015 into 2016 the weight loss whilst gradual did worry me but I was assured by my GP that it was OK. It was my body and the fact I could not eat much.

Interestingly, and I have only recently formed this view, I was on a long-term anti-depressant for at least 10 years before coming off it slowly probably in 2012 -2013 so I may never know if that too played a part in my body holding onto fat.

I also come from a family line of overweight people from both Mum’s and Dad’s relatives.

Why Am I Writing About This Now?

Well. The woman who always saw herself as F A T (and tried to L I K E herself too) is having to come to terms with:

  • how I am,
  • how I may proceed knowing weight has been an issue in my life for a L O N G time…
  • and to see if sharing my update helps not only me but others.

I am pretty sure THIS is a topic that is often OFF-LIMITS.

What’s Happened In The Two Years Since The Last Story?

  • I continue to be a work-in-progress as far as my relationship with my appearance is concerned.
  • I admit it is getting better as I compare the ‘health’ of me now, to the ‘ill-health’ of me as I was recovering from surgeries July 2017 until I got my upper prosthesis in August 2018.
  • I went up a size in some clothes in the past year. I also added around 6 kg in 12-15 months.
  • I refuse to get worn down by the weight I am story again so I am doing my best to look well and feel good too.
  • Since May 2019, the Apple Watch helps keep me honest with myself, via the daily steps and movements records. I do around 6000 most days, sometimes around 5, 500 and other days well into the 7000.
  • The thing is, even with the upper prosthesis, it is still a challenge to find foods that work for me outside the home. 
  • In this collage you will see a plate of baked vegetables. That was all I could see that was suitable on the menu at a local club at a Christmas lunch.
  • This time, when I attend, I am having cake and coffee…because I know I can eat that in public and I will not fill up and I can eat a better meal at home.
  • It really is trial and error. Sometimes the size of a meal stops me. This is OK at home as I can have the other half the next day. Many restaurants do not allow take home bags. I learned that I cannot rely on take-away or restaurant food when I had my first overnight stay in Sydney in June. It surprised me.
  • I want to remain well, comfortable and confident in myself which is why I continue some photos every few days/weeks.
  • These help me SEE that perhaps what I FEEL is wrong…as I often am surprised by my image.
  • I do admit now, that the photos I see of me post-cancer surgeries are not those of a healthy woman (albeit thinner than I had been for decades) so to want to be her again is not to be well.

More musings….

As I said above, I remain a work-in-progress. I was/can still be a comfort eater but this is what has changed.

  • I know about my cravings.
  • I know that cravings can go, given the chance, just like feelings change too.
  • I understand myself so much better now when I start thinking about food I might want because I ask myself “what is it that is troubling me?”

In the past, I would not have even gone that far. I would have scoffed the chips, bitten into the crunchy foods and allowed the smooth chocolate to melt in my mouth. I do not eat much at all like this any more. I do still eat something for texture or taste but my full limits have changed as has my mouth so far less is consumed.

Dealing with what is troubling me is the big shift.

  • I can speak to my husband about it,
  • write in my journal,
  • go outside,
  • blog,
  • do some art…
  • anything to change the situation and thoughts…and guess what happens most often..the craving has moved on.

This knowledge for me has been life-changing.

Here is where I learned about it and still continue to learn. Of course, my self-talk is probably one of my better teachers…as long as I remember the newer approaches..and yes, I mostly do. In fact, I even ask myself questions to check.

  • Is this what I really want now?
  • Am I actually needing to…(insert what I might do other than soothe with food.

I am glad I decided to write this up. I wasn’t sure. However honest me could not let the story of what’s happened just sit from where it was 2 years ago. An update was the way to go as so much has changed for me in terms of understanding my insides (brain) and the outsides (body) and the connections.

How about you?

How are you at understanding yourself in terms of appearance?

It’s a tricky thing. I get that too.

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.

This is the ‘last post’ on a Wednesday in 2019…and will be returning on 8 January 2020.. See you then. Happy Festive Season everyone:

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

 

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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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