Monday 25th May 2020

21/51.#LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Chapter Fifteen. 2003. 42/2020.

21/51.#LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Chapter Fifteen. 2003. 42/2020.

Background…from Telling My Story: Chapter Fourteen published in February 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. I also shared this as My Woman of Courage story here.

 

Where was I?

OK. I know. I was a K-6  school principal.

It was in September 2002 when I could not return to my school.

I was sad, ashamed and very tired as there were different outcomes for me personally and us financially.

But I also had some good things happening in my personal life. I will get to them too.

Life is LIKE that!

Cancer. Leaving My Role as a Principal.

Doctors, Psychologists, WorkCover, Staff Welfare, Dept of Education, Psychiatrists…..

When the school principal is told by her G.P. “you are not to return to that school, nor to be in that role again”, it felt both comforting and helpful.

I had been a patient of my G.P. for decades and she had been doctor to our growing family including my husband and me so knew what else had probably impacted my life as well as school and its responsibilities.

But even before that…the night before, I was left to try to tell my acting boss – who was known then as a District Superintendent, that I would not be going into school the next day…and for sometime after that but he did not understand.

Eventually I must have made inroads into his understanding, after seeing my G.P. who immediately saw this as a work overload matter making me both depressed and anxious. The employer had not taken steps to see me better supported in my school. I told that story in the last chapter.

 

Days into Weeks into Months.

What started as ‘sick leave’ did become workers compensation leave over the next month as I took myself to appointments and interviews.

I had to share my story (see the recent two chapters here & here) and my employer’s representative agreed that yes, there was a case for me to be compensated under Work Cover. In other words, I was paid via that scheme and did not lose sick leave.

But….

I could not and would not attend a school.

It was suggested at meetings that I could transition back to schools but did nothing to improve my mental wellbeing. In fact they made me even more anxious. Then I was offered, later in the year, the chance to ‘work in district office.’ Noooo. I felt such shame and was so anxious about seeing any of my colleagues that I could not envisage any kind of “return to work.”

And…it did not let up.

My mental illness, as it was defined later by a treating psychiatrist, was a reactionary one based on my personality and my role in the school.

It would, over time, resolve but there was medical agreement with my G.P., the employer’s rep and that of work cover, that I could return to “a school” for some days a week but never in the role of a school executive.

In 2003 all that felt like for me was:

F A I L U R E.

 

How I Was Affected By Schools.

Before I continue.

I lived about (then) 40 minutes from the school. I love schools! It had been my life…as a kid and then becoming a teacher and of course, having our children and grandchildren attend schools.

But, I was so scared, worried, ashamed and threatened by “schools” I could not even drive on the road (Windsor Road) that would have been my way to my school without feeling ill.

I was a proud (still am) Grandma but my first foray into the grounds of the school where our daughter was a teacher and our granddaughter in an Infants’ class made me highly alert.

I still felt I was the principal within that school, watching children running everywhere and wanting to tell them to stop. It was not fun. At all.

But, I was also not a victim….and I refuse to play that role any time.

I did know though that I was ill from the stress of my role in a school and so I took the chance to get the help of professionals and did a lot of work for myself. This involved seeing a friend each week for a coffee and over time, driving on the road that went to my school…and one holiday time, I went back and drove around the perimeter. I was sad and it felt wrong that I had to leave it as I did but I also know my health was paramount.

3 amazing grandkids who love me unconditionally and their presence in my lives helped me in this awful time.

 

Giving Up The Role For the Greater Good. 

Despite the urging of my bosses, the meetings with the work cover people and my professionals who agreed I would choose to do what I had to, I could not return to school. Or any school.

What then?

To ensure the school was able to progress into 2003 from my day of departure in September 2002 I relinquished my role.

It could then be advertised for a replacement principal. I was visited at home sometime after that by my then school office assistant who had brought me any personal items from my office and some cards and I recall getting flowers.

I was a sad but relieved person that not everyone ‘hated me’ there.

Photos remind me of my literal ups and downs re weight. Far right, 2003,I was ‘looking good’ but feeling awful inside.

 

But, How Will We Survive Financially?

At this stage of our lives as a couple, we had a mortgage on the house, my husband was in part-time work and I brought in a good salary as a school principal. Work cover continued to pay that but over time, as I stood my ground about not returning to the Department of Education  because of my health things got tricky for us financially.

 

Don’t Give Up Your Superannuation People!

I married my husband (teacher in NSW Dept of Education) in 1971 and in 1972, as I returned to work after maternity leave we made a short-term financial decision that would (still does!) affect us negatively. Back then as both of us was paying into the then BEST ever Super Fund “I” could opt out and save us some much needed dollars. We spoke to my accountant father about this who, it seems, saw this as a win….and over time, agrees “NOT right”.

The reason is this. None of us knew then that  by 1980 my husband’s health would deteriorate to the point that he was medically retired and was placed on a pension from the Super Fund. I was working then and continued to do so, but still had no super. At all.

It was in around 1985 again, my father who advised I try to get back into superannuation. Made sense but nope, I could not.

Once opted out, I was not allowed in….but wait “we have a new fund and you can join that”.

I did. The new fund was different but I did pay into it. I had a sizeable lump sum there in 2003 when I was making up my mind how to access it. Aged 52.

 

Getting Paid Out. Not Easy. At All.

By the beginning of 2003 and into the first few months, I was being harrassed strongly encouraged by my employer and work cover to ‘get back to work’.

Let me tell you now, it was worse in some ways than how I had to leave my job.

Phone calls, meetings…doctors’ appointments, psychological testing…so, with the agreement of my G.P. I decided to “medically retire”.

Um. No. There is no such thing now.

The new and subsequent super funds that took the money from  NSW Dept of Education teaching staff only ever paid out a lump sum IF you were declared NOT FIT TO WORK and you have to RESIGN first.

No pension…and YOU need to prove you are not fit for work.

  1. For someone like me, a dedicated and loyal employee from 27.1.1970 to HAVE to resign was C for crazy but we were P for poor when my salary was being slowly stopped
  2. I filled out the form. It was awful. I also added, though, that I wanted “approval to teach”. I did not want any issues in case I wanted to ever have a day as a casual teacher. I would be pleased I did.
  3. It was accepted. Leave paid out.
  4. I was now free of the dreaded work cover requirements
  5. Got all the forms from the State Super People and completed them…along with the documentation from my G.P. and others.
  6. Attended one of the most stressful appointments ever with a psychologist from State Super and was obliged to complete a 500 question survey to assess my mental health and ability to work.
  7. Found out my application to access my funds  was “Rejected” after that horrid experience.
  8. You are still fit to work according to our rules.
  9. “Dejected” and now time, finally, for me to get some legal help.
  10. My union, N.S.W. Teachers Federation, were wonderful once I got to outline to a welfare officer what had happened.
  11. She arranged a meeting (free) with their lawyers and they heard the rejection story and saw the documentation from the State Super Board.
  12. The lawyer took my information, along with the State Super letters and my reports and so on and sent off the missives that….eventually allowed me to:
  13. Access all of the funds as a lump sum
  14. And retain my right to return to part-time teaching work if I chose.

We paid off this house….

 

Relieved. Getting Better. Breaking My Ankle. Retirement Means This. 

From paying out the mortgage there was a big sigh of relief.

There was also a relatively good amount of money from leave entitlements and by June we decided to “splurge” on a Far North Queensland holiday for 2. We even got a car to drive us to the airport. That was cool. But I must say, for my poor husband whose spine is very damaged from surgeries and more, the flight in economy for over 3 hours was not a good one at all. I was OK but he was not. We picked up the hire car and I drove via the Captain Cook Highway on that most beautiful trip: from Cairns to Port Douglass. Disappointingly though the apartment was accessed by a series of flights of stairs and by the time we got inside, my husband admitted “I cannot fly back like that”. My pain is too much. I agreed. So, the luxury of a return trip by business class meant comfort but took a huge amount of money to obtain so the holiday’s effect was negated! His health was worsening from the load of high school teaching which he took on after the business was liquidated in 1996 so, retirement was his plan too.

We were OK financially without a mortgage but by the time I had a few months at home I sought an art class (it was great) and became a volunteer with the Smith Family. It was around November after I had been answering the phones for them for people requesting Christmas Hampers that I had an accident. At home.

It was a rainy afternoon, I parked on the sloping driveway and as I got out of the car, one foot slipped, and the rest of me came with it, twisting my right ankle badly. I tried to call to my husband – from the letterbox…on the driveway and he did not hear, so I crawled up and made it inside.

Not wanting to over-dramatise it..but I should have actually…I waited for my husband to have a cuppa and we drove to the local medical centre.

Rooky error. I literally had to hop from the car with my good foot as the very sore foot could not weight bear. Oh. The G.P. agreed that X-rays were needed and they had that facility there. After the X-ray showed broken bones, it was “off to local private hospital” because this needs specialist attention.

Long story short: back slab applied, in-hospital stay, saw preferred orthopaedic specialist, “we will operate tomorrow and pin the fibula and tibia”. He did. I came home needing a wheelchair around the house as I couldn’t use crutches (hands needed surgeries for carpal tunnel etc) and I was stuck. The best part was shortly before Christmas at a check up I got a fibreglass cast and then could shower and even get in our pool but getting out was too hard.

Oh, and about that fibula of mine…I did get the screws out sometime in 2004 and in 2017…guess where that fibula went….HERE: The upside down U shape. My fibula cut into 3 with abutments added.

New Jaw is seen here

This sure was a year, 2003.

We did have a lot on our plate between us. But we also had a great family supporting us with care and love and three grandchildren to bring joy. The next year 2004 would prove to be significant too but with some great stories that helped re-build me in many ways.

Grandkids helping me, newly without plaster, to stand up!

Just after my cast came off, a celebration for my Dad’s 80th birthday.

Let’s see what Chapter Sixteen will bring!

Thank you for reading my story started over 3 years ago.

I do print the blog pages out and have them in a folder for future readers.

What were you doing in 2003?

It seems not that long ago, but of course it is 17 years ago!

Denyse.

 

Link Up #190.

Life This Week. Link Up #190.

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Share Your Snaps. #4. 20/51 #LifeThisWeek. 40/2020.

Share Your Snaps. #4. 20/51 #LifeThisWeek. 40/2020.

Every 5th Week, We Share Our Snaps!

My recent weeks in photos and one retro photo too.

Three collages from examples of my ‘draw’ something every day challenge: 2nd lot of 30 days under COVID-19 life restriction. Started 9 March with  30 flowers (1 a day from 9 March) and began this one: inside same sized circles each day till 8 May)

Out into nature somewhere is my goal most days.

Then there is this….

Celebrating via facetime….Happy 21st to our second granddaughter…

What is next?

I wanted more colour in pots so spent a bit of time at Bunnings and now have this vista outside the back door.

 

Our street: night after supermoon. Just opened up my iphone 11 Max pro and it did the work.

 

LONGING….to be back at a table, enjoying a coffee, writing in my art journal...Come on Gladys… Hopefully I will have found a fave cafe open by the time this post is live! YES…I had my first double shot small latte in a glass in a cafe I had not visited for 8 week. I was so welcomed back!

 

Autumn arrived

Good News…on the eyes. 

It’s well over 2 months since I had both eyes’ cataracts removed and I got the go-ahead to get some reading glasses. I admit I am still getting used to ‘no glasses’ outside, driving etc (sunglasses back on my head as they used to be in my teens and 20s!) ….reading glasses to keep in my bag $5 at the cheap shop, but I am getting prescription ones for computer use and general reading. Glad OPSM opened up and should be good by end of May. Got them: one pair for the computer and one for general reading..so far OK!

Then this is an important one for me.

My way of marking 2 years of cancer diagnosis, surgeries x 4, treatments x 30+ at the prosthodontist and a LOT of driving up and down the M1 and time…patience required for healing.

3 years since my cancer diagnosis 17 May...wrote more last week…..and on Mother’s Day 2020, with the kind co-operation of my daughter and granddaughters, I got to re-create this:

Mother’s Day 2017: waiting for results from gum biopsy

Mother’s Day 2020: I am well…and relieved to be!

And then there was this. I drove to Dee Why to see Dad after almost 3 months. He is well but missing some of his usual routines which are slowly returning such as scoring at darts. He was happy for a hug on arrival….and asked for another before I left. Touch is what someone misses out on when they are left solo after many years of marriage. He was 94 in top pic: taken when I had just had 4th surgery inside my mouth. The stent pushing my lips out stayed for another 3 months. Dad is 96 and I am 70 now in bottom pic!

Onward….thanking my favourite nurses on International Nurse Appreciation Day.

Left: Lisa: head and neck & lung nurse & friend: Central Coast.

Right: Cate my head and neck surgery’s assistant & all-round awesome woman

Now counting the days till Index Card a Day (I.C.A.D.) starts on 1 June. This is my 7th year as a participant. Details here: 

How is your week shaping up?

Are you out and about more?

Is there a favourite place where you hope to sit for a meal/coffee/chat?

Tell me more!

Denyse.

Link Up #189.

Life This Week. Link Up #189.

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

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* THANK you for linking up today! 21/51 Self-Care Stories. #3. 25.5.2020. 

I will be sharing another chapter in Telling My Story instead of self-care this coming week.

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Special Anniversaries.19/51.#LifeThisWeek. 38/2020.

Special Anniversaries.19/51.#LifeThisWeek. 38/2020.

May is a month of memories for me and that is the theme for my ‘special anniversaries’.

In my life, and my family, I have tended to be the one who remembers. Dates, places, weather, occasions and more. Sometimes not perfectly well. I give my age as an excuse now, but I tend to be pretty much sensitive to time of year, weather and place. So, this is my reason for picking May….because:

May, in my instagram feed, is a time I am using memories of people, occasions and time for mark the occasion. For example, without giving years away, 3 women who are very special in my life have their birthdays in May. My 2nd granddaughter on 6th, my niece on the 22nd and my late and cherished Aunty, on 31st. It was in May 2006 we celebrated what we did not know was my mother’s last Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day was an occasion for her but as the years have passed, we (the family) do not make a fuss…because, I found it was a bit of a pressure to be honest..on me! So, that my friends is how I feel. Further on I explain more.

More about May. THIS is probably the reason I chose May for this as my post. It was in early May 2017 that the investigations began in earnest for ‘what the heck was happening in my mouth’….and yes, this has been recorded here in detail. However, just before I made the news of my cancer diagnosis public, I was honoured to have my story published in Celebrating Women. It was a great distraction too. I blogged about it here.

And then I knew what was under those teeth and the bridge that covered them…squamous cell carcinoma AND it had spread to under my top lip too. That knowledge –  shocking that it was cancer but not surprising either – given how long I had been putting up such pain, aggravation and limited ways to eat for over a year!  And I got this news via the phone call from the oral surgeon, at home, alone on Wednesday 17 May. Read more here if you would like to.

The biggest challenge though for scared me (of IBS and travelling not cancer!) was that I would have to be driven by my husband to Sydney’s Chris OBrien Lifehouse on Thursday 18 May 2017 where I would have my first (very long as it turned out) consultation re my head and neck cancer and what would happen to eradicate it. All, we hoped! I have written about the courage it took for me to test my exposure therapy is a big, big way in other place, here for example. And, we set off and became better informed – BIG time – about what was next.

What on earth did I do then? Oh, I was OK…after some time to gather myself emotionally, and my husband and I drove the long drive home in the dark with a feeling of confidence that where I was to be treated and by whom meant the confidence of knowing it was right for my cancer. Both of the head and neck cancer surgeons – the A/Prof Ebrahimi and then Prof Clark ‘felt’ then after the pretty rigorous examination that surgery only would be required but until that time, and lymph nodes’ samples etc were taken for pathology they could hope for no radiation.

But wait, there is more. Always more it seemed to test me that May!

24 May and 30 May were “back to Sydney” appointments but this time to Westmead in Sydney’s west. We knew this area well as we had lived in the region for many years. It was, however, the first visit to Oral Sciences…aka the dental hospital where I/we would meet the man and his assistant we got to know very, very well over the ensuing years. I admit I needed my husband there with me and the tears on that first visit came pretty frequently as I did not compute/understand well as all what would be happening but when chatting with my husband he was very confident of the prosthodontist’s role and skill in the area where I was to have surgery. He also accompanied us to radiography to get exacting scans done and to test blood flow in my legs. It was later that I found as I had better blood flow in my right leg, then that would be where the fibula and flesh/skin would be harvested not the left as originally planned.

Other May Memories!

In my recollections of May, I found Mother’s Day to be more of a day of obligation rather than a day to celebrate mothers. My mother in particular. I have often thought it a sad thing though because it is my father’s voice of judgement I hear re mother’s day not Mum’s. Ever.

It’s a complicated thing this life and traditions isn’t it! He (Dad, now 96) was brought up in a single parent childhood following his Dad’s untimely death in 1935 and Dad’s mother grieved her whole life after that and I am pretty sure nothing that was ever said nor done for her was appreciated wholly.

For whatever reason, then Dad made sure “we” celebrated our Mum. I have memories of breakfast in bed for her.,…and she did not enjoy that! I do recall her appreciation of cards and flowers. We, as then grown up children, might try to combine a mother’s day morning or lunch or even dinner.

To me, also a mother, it felt like “I” missed out. And I dislike that I even thought that.

So, despite my now-knowledge of where all this probably emanated…I still thought similarly in ‘shoulds’ around Mother’s day. So, I often got disappointed…and I am embarrassed about that. I vowed sometime back never to do ‘that’ to my adult kids so celebrated without any fanfare at all nor expectation until we left Sydney.

The first year I heard from no-one.

Yes, I was sad…and on subsequent Mother’s Day I may have had a card or a phone call or both from one or either of our adult offspring. In 2017 not knowing of my cancer investigations I had a visit to our place. Nice. We put on lunch. See photo above.

Then in 2019 I met my daughter and we had morning tea out together. No kids. Just us.

This year, as this is posted, we will have had our first visit in COVID-19 back to her house for a mother’s day morning tea.

Making New May Memories. 

  • Mum taught me quite a bit about cooking and often have her in my mind as I try to replicate her recipes. To that end, as I am visiting Dad this week I have made Mum’s recipe of lemon butter just for him. Food is such a powerful memory!
  • Mum also advised me about colours and planting of colourful flowers and I use this knowledge in picking and placing plants.
  • Mum’s smile was one I inherited….and a liking for brightly coloured clothes.
  • I make May a time for reminiscing but also for celebrating…..how far I have come, post head and neck cancer!

ONE Year ago in May I got my “end of two years” of cancer surgeries and treatment Apple Watch and it is worn with pride every day and continues to motivate me to move more!

My reward for 2 years post cancer: apple watch

TWO Years ago in May I became more resilient than I knew I could be as I faced a 4th (the last, I hope) reconstuctive surgery because my mouth and skin had not recovered well enough for the upper prosthesis to be fitted.

Post surgery #4 was a shock!

THREE Years ago in May I found how many people in my life cared for and about me and it was humbling. Many of those are reading this post now. Thank you all so much for being who you are.

That’s my special anniversary….May!

What special anniversaries are part of your life?

Did you celebrate Mother’s Day yesterday?

Thanks also for your kind words last week AND 100% of bloggers who linked up, commented on my post.

That IS a win/win!

Denyse.

Link Up #188.

Life This Week. Link Up #188.

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!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 20/51 Share Your Snaps #4 18.5.2020

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Taking Stock #2. COVID-19. 18/51. #LifeThisWeek. 36/2020.

Taking Stock #2. COVID-19. 18/51. #LifeThisWeek. 36/2020.

This Monday link-up is a favourite time of the week for me, every week. In fact, it’s the measure of Why I Blog. To connect and share the stories from life.

Life, recently, has impacted all of us in one way or another. We are needing to be “at work” or “on-line” a great deal whilst COVID-19 restrictions are in place…all  via computers  & other devices and so on.

Sending  a BIG thank you for supporting my blog and its link up AND for taking the time to comment on my Monday post.

I appreciate this more than you know.

My happy time is Mondays and Tuesdays seeing your comments and then I get to respond!

Thank you all for linking up…and visiting others’ blogs too when you can.

Stay well…and safe…and I hope you continue to find a place here, at Life This Week each Monday.

Can you believe it? Today is 187th LINK UP!! Denyse.

 

Taking Stock #2. 2020.

What a blast (not) the past 9 weeks have been since I wrote the first Taking Stock in 2020. Here it is. I also did it in photos and as that appealed to my readers and was fun to do, I will be doing this again. With a twist.

The Coronavirus or COVID-19 Version.

How is the COVID-19 ‘life’ going for you?

Has it changed for work?

How is it affecting your family and friends?

I wrote about why I had a COVID-19 test here. 

We two were already retired and with a regular income. We are quite used to being ‘us two’ in this house and have plenty of space for our individual needs and for coming together for meals and some TV too. I have been the main one going to the shops for food, prescriptions and so on. My husband has  been out far less and his trips have been to the doctors…and of course, Bunnings. We have had flu shots and probably both need to be more frequent handwashers after going out. However, I generally wear disposable gloves, and apply hand sanitisers on offer where I go, and apply my own back in the car.

Take care everyone,

Denyse.

BIG appreciation to my friend Tanya, who made my original blog avatars and more back in January 2016. Since then with a “few” changes of appearance, Tanya has kindly updated as I need. Gratis. Because she is a friend. Love that kindness.

 

 

 

This is the list of optional prompts I use for my taking stock posts. Feel free to copy them from here if you wish. I note always my appreciation for Pip Lincoln’s Taking Stock prompts. Her blog and website is here as is more about her latest book. See my photo.

Making
Cooking
Drinking
Reading
Wanting
Looking
Playing
Wasting
Wishing
Enjoying
Waiting
Liking
Wondering
Loving 
Hoping

Marvelling
Needing
Smelling
Wearing
Following
Noticing
Knowing
Thinking
Feeling
Bookmarking
Opening
Smiling

 

Link Up #187.

Life This Week. Link Up #187.

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!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 19/51 Special Anniversaries 11.5.2020

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Life Stories #1. 17/51 #LifeThisWeek. 34/2020.

Life Stories #1. 17/51 #LifeThisWeek. 34/2020.

On Being a Grandmother. Part One.

Recently in Australia, a book was published and both Debbie Harris from here and I were taken by its contents and messages about “being a grandmother”.

Debbie’s post is found here. 

GRANDMOTHERS: ESSAYS BY 21ST-CENTURY GRANDMOTHERS

Helen Elliott

PaperBack

March 31, 2020

An anthology of essays by twenty-four Australian women, edited by Helen Elliott, about the many aspects of being a grandmother in the 21st century. It seems so different from the experience we had of our grandmothers. Although perhaps the human essential, love, hasn’t shifted much? In thoughtful, provoking, uncompromising writing, a broad range of women reflect on vastly diverse experiences. This period of a woman’s life, a continuation and culmination, is as defining as any other and the words ‘grand’ and ‘mother’ rearrange and realign themselves into bright focus.

The contributors- Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer, Judith Brett, Jane Caro, Elizabeth Cheung, Cresside Collette, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Helen Garner, Anastasia Gonis, Glenda Guest, Katherine Hattam, Celestine Hitiura Vaite, Yvette Holt, Cheryl Kernot, Ramona Koval, Alison Lester, Joan London, Jenny Macklin, Auntie Daphnie Milward, Mona Mobarek, Carol Raye and Gillian Triggs.

We ‘chatted’ on-line as bloggers do and both thought, what about a post or two on this topic. Knowing not everyone who blogs is not a grandmother/parent nor has the experience to draw on, we set out to go like this…publish in Life This Week under #Life Stories #1 and then in a few more weeks, #Life Stories #2.

This first post is based on  a series of questions devised by Denyse Whelan, in conjunction with Debbie Harris, to be the start of a blog post about

Being a Grandmother.

THIS image captures all 8 of our grandchildren so beautifully. Photographed by our daughter, in conjunction with our son to be my 70th Birthday gift as an album. 2019. The first grandchild is in the white dress.

 

The First Experience of Becoming a Grandmother.

 

What do you remember about your grandmother(s)?

I had a loving but strict maternal grandmother, Nanny, and I was the first grandchild. I was loved and cared for but when she became incapacitated by a stroke which eventually claimed her life in 1957, her husband, my “Papa” tended to be the one who spoiled me as life went on.

My paternal grandmother, Gran, was a formidable, strict and somewhat sad grandmother. This was, as we tend to think now, as a result of her becoming a widow in 1935 and raising 4 children (my Dad was 11) alone, other than help from her mother who had come from England to give the family a secure house to live in. Gran would at times, share some of her ‘life stories’ with me as a teen as I asked more questions about her life in England then as a War Bride post WW1 but most times, she would sink back into nostalgia and sadness.

 

What struck you initially about the news you were going to be a grandmother for the first time?

How happy I was…because, the news came in a year that was plagued with money worries,  health fears and more….so this news was the B E S T.

It was, however, not greeted as universally ‘happy’ as we, in a business that we owned, were not doing well at all and I admit my husband’s reactions did not mirror mine for good reason. Very concerned with what else was happening at the time.

We found out in about April, May and the child was due late December. By then, we had liquidated the business and we were very much on the ‘back foot’ with what would be happening to us, house and income-wise (I was still employed) so I did have to “calm” myself. However, big distraction for me and will always remember the time like that. 

 

Did you make any choices/decisions about being a grandmother when you found out this was going to happen?

I recall, being young…at what would be 47 when I became a grandmother but I did not let that phase me. I remember feeling the delight and angst and all the in between feelings because “I” had given birth but my daughter had not..yet. I was, I am pretty sure, deciding to be the most helpful grandmother I could be to allow the parents to ‘parent their child’ in the ways they wanted to and planned. This is always good in theory. Practice not so much initially. See further on.

 

And, in your case, was the news from your son or your daughter?

The news was from our daughter and eventually her husband. 

 

How did you find out?

THIS is a good story! My daughter had been married for just on two years and in that time had completed her Uni degree and was a trained K-6 teacher. She sought casual work and was soon snapped up by the school where I was Deputy Principal. I was not part of her ‘getting the job’ as I wanted (as did she) for this to be the school’s choice. 

She was part of a large group of relatively young female teachers and I, the D.P. was given the role of sharing the news that there had been a case of Rubella in the student population. This was something I passed on privately to each teacher as applicable, including our daughter.

At Recess that day, she came to my office door and asked for a private chat. Closing the door, she shared that “I think I am pregnant.”

Oh. Wow. My goodness, what a way to find out and yes, I was excited but of course tempered by the news of her vulnerability at this stage. The NSW Health Dept advice, which I shared with her, was to go to your doctor and tell him/her. That afternoon she did. The pregnancy was confirmed and she did some blood test for anti-bodies. I can’t quite remember the result but she had Rubella as a child, so was deemed, as best it could be proven, to be OK.

Again. Wow. I remember telling my husband of the news and he did not share my intense enthusiasm but not because of that….he was managing a very tricky time in his business and work life.

Nevertheless, I hugged my secret until our daughter and then son-in-law shared the news with family and friends.

And, recently. Love you J.R.

Where there any conditions/limitations set by the parents-to-be for you, the new grandmother in the making?

I cannot recall but I remember being able to share some of my excitement with them and the extended family which included my son-in-law’s parents and my parents and my husband’s parents. This child would be the first great-grandchild too. I also tried ‘not to overdo’ my enthusiasm as I did not want to over-shadow the parents at any time.

I did, for my sake, and to honour  the future grandchild (our first one, and that of my son-in-law) start a grandmother’s memory book. Oh my goodness, I did have some fun and I admit, the scrapbooking and photography as a journal  probably started then as I added newspaper clippings too. At age 5, this BIG book, was finished ( I remember crying that it was done…as she was off to school!) and eventually it was handed over to my granddaughter some years after. I did keep it at our house for years as she enjoyed looking at it too.

It was not until she was quite a few months old, that I was told by my daughter to reduce my ‘oversight’ of their child..as “I am her mother”.

Lesson learned…Big time. Not always remembered but I took it all on board.

 

Did/does the ‘role’ work its way out for all?

The role as the grandchild grew changed as she did. However, even now, we have a close and loving bond without being ‘in each others’ pockets’. I am so proud to be her Grandma always. But as I said above, I did need to take more of a back seat. 

About My Name.

My parents were known by their first names – their choice – by their grandkids. I wanted a traditional grandmother’s name and I chose Grandma. I spoke to my son-in-law’s Mum and she was happy to be Granny. Sorted! My name did change a bit over the years as the first G.D. started to speak. I have been known as: “Gummy” “Brandma” “Grandma” and “G-Ma”. All fine!

Are/were there hiccups?

Like any relationship there are ups and downs but thanks to wisdom gleaned over time by me observing others and of course, remembering “I am not her mother” and that I also got to drop this child back home after caring for her. A completely different way of child-care…. all fun, some responsibility but not 100%.

Share the highlights of the birth and after of your first grandchild.

For the last month or so before the baby’s due date of close to Christmas Day my daughter developed some symptoms which meant she had to leave her teaching role early, get advice from her obstetrician and continue to see him. In that time, I was also on  leave as I had a whiplash injury from a rear-end car accident on my way to work…thank goodness for work cover paying my salary back in those days.

Whilst we had never really talked about when my daughter would return to teaching in detail, I was already planning a grandchild care package at home! This came about with little or no expense when our next door neighbour donated all of the young girl’s bedding, cot and so on to us. My parents had always had room for our children to stay over for holidays and weekends and we (ok, mostly me!) wanted to do similarly. And yes, my husband did eventually come around to it all.

But she (we never knew the sex) was yet to arrive!

My daughter had 2 or 3 visits to labour ward at the San for testing for ‘leaks’ and was told, no you are OK on most occasions until very close to Christmas. It was a Saturday evening, my son-in-law was at a band gig on the other side of Sydney, and I went to their house to get takeaway tea and keep my daughter company. She told me on arrival, I am still leaking….and rang labour ward (again!) and they said “come in.” We grabbed the food first and I am pretty sure she drove us to the San. Up we went (with hospital bag this time) and after the check and a call to her doctor, she was admitted.

Rightio.

Mobile phones were ‘in’ but in their early days but we managed to let her husband know and then, from memory, I took their car home and collected mine and waited. The next day, a very hot Sunday in December, labour was kind of happening….and I was asked to bring some things over to her. I did.

THIS was when I knew I could not be a help at all. I saw her husband helping gently and she was doing all she had to…and I could not help. At all. So, I quietly took my leave and we waited….until much later on Sunday night. We got a call that labour was in progress fully and could we please bring her husband a Coke…caffeine and sugar needed!! We laugh now, but when presented with what my husband found at home: a diet Pepsi, it was not going to do the trick!

We came home…settled into bed, to see Sunday turn into Monday AND……

12.13 a.m. You have a granddaughter and her name is J.R.

Stunned and stoked and all those words, I “think” we slept and the next morning I was off to buy all things pink and more….

Meeting J.R. 

I entered the single room where my daughter and granddaughter were. My son-in-law had to be at work on the busy pre-Christmas retail day. I looked at this dark haired child in a crib…and thought “how did you arrive to be in our family?”. Both of our kids had been blonde/bald!

After that, it was chatting with my daughter who was still in that post-birth shock and she shared how it all happened rather fast after a ‘threat’ from the Obstetrician about a ‘caesar or forceps’…I eventually took my leave…and went to the shops! This baby girl had arrived 2 days before Christmas and no way was Santa not going to visit.

When I returned the next day with Santa bag and little tree, it meant Christmas was going to happen for the birthday baby.

What, if any, were any ‘lowlights?’

Interestingly the lowlights were in some way related to my disappointment in how many people “turned up” to visit the new Mum and baby…the room was chockers….and people just wanted to chat…with each other and my daughter. I was glad to see what was happening, and as most took their leave, and J.R. was crying, I asked the last couple to please leave…and they did. I think first night after birth should be up to the parents who comes…and I know now this is better managed.

Our wee GD with dark hair.

Special Memories of the First Weeks.

The hospital allowed our daughter and husband home to our place for Christmas lunch and they ‘minded’ J.R. in the nursery. They went back in the afternoon and we visited in the evening to allow the parents to go for a walk and we got to do our first ‘babysitting.’

I made J.R. a little cardigan. I am so NOT a knitter but was determined to “make my first grandchild” something. She wore it home. Lovely. Then it became a cardi for her bear I think!

The new family joined us for the first evening meal at our place and we got to go on a walk around the park. My neighbour over the road offered me a free ticket to a show in the city and I turned it down because “first meal” at our place.

On Australia Day, when she was just one month, we hosted a Welcome To Your Family event with the extended family and it was lovely. No christening etc. Just this.

Then, just after this, my daughter got a phone call from the principal at the school where we both worked, offering her full-time teaching, starting the next week. She accepted after he was fine for me to take part-time leave 3 days a week. Her Granny would drive down from the Central Coast to do the other 2 days and so began a long, tiring, rewarding, learning, and loving experience of “Grandparent Care At Home”: for 6 months!

 

There will be another post in the series in June. I will share the questions then too as Debbie and I devised. If you too are a grandmother it may be something you would like to share.

Thank you for reading…It ended up being a longer post than I thought.

Biggest thanks to J.R. for being the subject…the first…the only…one who could get away with calling me “Gummy” and I would answer to it!

This captures her so much too…totally biased Grandma!

Denyse.

Link Up #186.

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I Heard. 16/51 #LifeThisWeek. 32/2020.

I Heard. 16/51 #LifeThisWeek. 32/2020.

In this period around the world because of the pandemic known as COVID-19 much of what we, the citizens of Australia and so many other countries, can do has been taken from us….to:

  • keep us safe at home
  • keep us coronavirus-free
  • stop the spread of the virus
  • enable some control over the spread of the virus
  • and more, I am sure!

So, what does this have to do with what I heard?

I am writing about a snapshot day: Easter Sunday. There is not much to say I heard except this:

  • the noise emanating from the lawnmower as my husband mowed the back lawn
  • the noise the whipper snipper makes too
  • the sound coming from the Dyson stick vacuum as I did my share of the house cleaning
  • our conversations once we were together to and from our activities
  • my audiobook playing in the car, as I am listening to the last of Tom Hanks’ narration of the Dutch House
  • the oh-so quiet large shopping centre still playing some musak
  • the conversation I had with the person as I collected my book: The Dutch House (obsessed now!)
  • the quietness inside the Woolworths store as I quickly sourced what I needed….and then, WIN…the bonus purchase I had not expected
  • the somewhat ‘annoying’ overheard words between a couple as I attempted the 1.5m between us and they were choosing chocolate. Oh. It was Easter Sunday
  • from the open door to our backyard, I heard the noises of a person attempting some garden renovation. It sounded pretty big and busy
  • the talking, briefly, over a quick Facetime chat with our daughter and two of our grandkids
  • the whirring of the mixer as I decided the only way to beat COVID boredom was more to eat
  • the hum of the oven’s fan as it cooked the biscuits
  • the satisfying crunch of the biscuit and slurp of my cup of tea.
  • the music from Downtown Abbey as we watched a 20 minute segment of the Movie
  • the tip tap tapping as I write this.

I had not intended to go here: local Westfield but for click & collect I did. Hand sanitiser out at both Big W & Woolies.

Before we got ‘locked down’ I knew I would enjoy seeing something bright each day and here it is…on the back verandah.

The recipe is one of my late Mum’s.

Peanut Biscuits.

  • 125gm butter or marg. (I used butter, and slightly melted it first, sorry Mum!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 cups SR flour (yes, I had some!)
  • 3/4 cup raw peanuts
  • I added a teaspoon of vanilla

(I threw in all the slightly salted peanuts I had left in packet…and I also doubled the recipe)

To make the chocolate version, I halved the double mix and added 2 tablespoons of cocoa.

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and beat well. Mixed in flour and peanuts .

It’s quite a wet mix so I used a spoon to drop amounts on a baking paper covered tray, the slightly flattened with a fork.

Cook in a fan forced oven at about 160-165C. Mum’s was in Fahrenheit 325-375.

I did keep an eye on the tray and turned them once, Probably took around 10-15 mins (everyone’s oven is different)

Cooled them on a rack and ate some for afternoon tea. As I doubled it, made at least 48 biscuits.

What have you heard lately?

Did you find Easter was very quiet where you were?

Are you missing being able to go where you want to?

Tell me in the comments!

Denyse.

And,  the next series of optional prompts is here and on the Home Page.

22/51 I Saw 1.6.2020

23/51 Life Stories #2. 8.6.2020

24/51 Kindness 15.6.2020

25/51 Share Your Snaps #5 22.6.2020

26/51 Best Time Of Day. 29.6.2020

27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

28/51 Self-Care Stories. #4. 13.7.2020

29/51 Your Choice. (World Head & Neck Cancer Prompt for Me) 20.7.2020

30/51 Share Your Snaps #6 27.7.2020

 

Link Up #185.

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Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 17/51. Life. 27.4.2020.

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Self-Care Stories #2 14/51 #LifeThisWeek. 28/2020.

Self-Care Stories #2 14/51 #LifeThisWeek. 28/2020.

What a time! It’s been not “that long” since the first post of Self-Care stories yet, the world as we (I) knew it has changed irrevocably. Thanks to a C-word that can be said and written about but I prefer to leave that to the media. Corona virus. COVID-19.

Self-Care Stories #2 is likely to be the first of more in #covid time and I know for me, whilst it bring changes to what I thought was helpful in my self-care emotionally and physically I have to counter that with:

  • am I able to do this now i.e. go out for a stroll at the shops….NO
  • can I go out where I please…NO
  • can I see my family and friends in person….NO
  • do I need to change how I think about what I need to do with my self-care…YES
  •  is this becoming easier over time…YES(ish)

In words and pictures here’s how I am self-caring…in the way I know how. This suits me. It may not for you. I know I am feeling better for a plan.

My plan, so far,

  • is experiencing slower days
  • not ‘having’ to be anywhere
  • taking the chance to explore some art/craft I haven’t for a while
  • actually reading a magazine- I have bought the Women’s Weekly twice!
  • limiting news items on social media to reputable sources
  • contributing to some groups I belong to on Facebook but not staying on “scrolling and scrolling”
  • making sure I have my instagram feed ready as it is from the Ipad now
  • having not only enough food in the house  but more so we can eat from a variety of sources
  • taking time outside, even if it is the backyard, and looking up, and down
  • limiting car trips to every second day and minimising these just to local supermarket
  • ensuring that I do get some steps up each day but no longer being self-critical if I don’t. In fact, I adjusted the goal to allow for it.
  • installing Netflix and Stan on my bedroom TV and actually watching an episode of something from the past. Currently Pride and Prejudice
  • swapping my daily coffee from a shop to one at home, and even having a cup of tea these days as well
  • taking a drive, while it is still OK, to a local beach or waterway and walking beside the water
  • recognising when my fear becomes heightened. It has and I know what it means and can deal with it better these days
  • adding a Daily Calm to my meditation practice before I get out of bed, and finishing my day with another practice session from Calm.

Now, this is just what I, as a retiree, who has recovered well from cancer can do and be…and I am fully aware there is a whole lot of deprivation and job losses, threatened security of home and more, along with worries and fears if you and/or loved ones work in essential services and maybe you are unwell or you cannot be the carer you might want to be….so I say…

I hope, that with support of words here, those from friends and family you may find some peace right now. Yes, it is a very strange place we are all finding ourselves. Author and all-round good egg, Pip Lincolne for example is one. She has  released her new book “When Life Is Not Peachy” ..see the photo above, and just into the excitement of this, she (and her family) all lost their jobs. Gob-smacked, like so many. Queueing on-line or in real life at Centrelink. Not fun. But, as she has reached out to others to help, she has been supported too. That is the best part.

Help others if  you can..but put on your own lifejacket first!

I am listening to a brand-new podcast from Brene Brown: and here is the info. The fact we are all, world-wide, “in this together” seems to help me.

Three learnings that have been life-shifting for me:

1. Anxiety is one of the most contagious emotions – that’s why it always takes down groups of people, not just individuals.

2. Calm is also contagious, but it’s a daily intention and practice.

3. We all have patterned ways of dealing with anxiety that are often set up in our first families. Understanding how and why can set us free.

Listen to the entire episode on Unlocking Us at https://bit.ly/3aBJrDH

And if you miss contact with friends and family and can get into face time and zoom (and all the others) do so. We have had chats with our daughter and grandkids this way and I had my first zoom with 2 friendly and lovely bloggers. Yay for technology for friendships..not just for work

Share o self-care tip that works best for you right now in the comments.
Take care everyone.

Denyse.

Link Up #183.

Life This Week. Link Up #183.

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.

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Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 15/51 Share Your Snaps #3 13.4.2020

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Chocolate. 13/51. Life This Week. 26/2020.

Chocolate. 13/51. Life This Week. 26/2020.

Life This Week is at the quarter-way mark of the year. 2020. What a ride. None of us saw what was coming, I guess, in terms of a pandemic called COVID-19. Many around Australia, the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and New Zealand along with Other Countries are at various stages of this “new to all of us” virus. The world changed. We have had to change many of our routines and habits and some (even many) have lost their livelihoods as citizens in each country are asked to “stay at home” to reduce the spread. By the time this post goes live, things will have changed again. However, without wanting to centre the post today “on” COVID-19, I did want to send my best wellness wishes to all.

Stay Safe

Stay Home

Look After Each Other

Practise Physical Distancing

Continue Social Contacts in new ways. Blogging is one!

Denyse.

Sending my congratulations and appreciation to teachers last Friday. And getting myself used to photos with “no specs”.

 

C H O C O L A T E.

I am confessing something now. I am not a fan of Easter Chocolate. I know many, including my own adult children, are. They LOVE their Red Tulip Easter Rabbits and used to enjoy the Humpty Dumpty eggs from Coles as kids and I believe Caramello Easter Eggs are a fave.

Way back in 2014 at Easter we must have had an inkling it was to be our last in Sydney with the family so true to form, my husband (Papa) and I put on an Easter Egg Eggstravaganza in our back yard. A few memories here: They took a little bag outside and then collected plastic eggs (I think) and came back and selected a ‘prize’ from here…

There may be shortages of toilet paper, self-raising flour and other ‘staples’ but at my local Coles there was definitely NO shortage of chocolate: Easter or not.

At the store entrance:

Then I perused the chocolate aisle. I love some  plain Cadbury’s chocolate. I cannot eat any now with additions such as nuts. I used to love Lindt blocks but now find them too rich. I also find them far too expensive…but yes, I do eat “some” chocolate. At the moment I enjoy a few smarties and freckles. I know. Why? Actually it is the texture.

For all those months without top teeth I really missed crunching. So, they are a current fave and I have some at night.

Not many. Just enough.

I don’t know who I am these days but whatever has happened to my previous habits of having much more comforting chocolate than I do now I am glad I have overcome it. Feeling a bit sick afterwards is a good one to restrain my old ways. Happy to have that now as a limiter.

What is your favourite chocolate?

Do you have many?

I believe white chocolate is not chocolate at all. I hear that some people disagree. You?

Oh, and before I say goodbye, it has “only” been 3 weeks since my right eye had its cataract removed (on Wednesday, 3 weeks for the left eye) and how about this…I am now out and about driving with NO spectacles needed (licence changed after I saw my opthalmologist) and I am getting used to the face (more wrinkled than I knew) in the mirror that does not need specs!

Happy One Quarter of the Year 2020 to you…and

Daylight Saving In Australia finishes NEXT Sunday morning: 5 April.

Let the clocks time FALL back by 1 hour…unless you are in Queensland and now we will all be on the same time. Sigh.

Denyse.

Link Up #182.

Life This Week. Link Up #182.

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!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 14/51 Self-Care Stories #2. 6.4.2020

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