Sunday 5th July 2020

Life Stories #2. On Being a Grandmother Pt. 2. 23/51. #LifeThisWeek. 46/2020.

Life Stories #2. On Being a Grandmother Pt. 2. 23/51. #LifeThisWeek. 46/2020.

On Being a Grandmother. Part Two.

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

Debbie and I wrote posts on the topic of becoming a grandmother. The links are above. As readers “may” have guessed we do enjoy our roles and we knew we would want to add more to our stories.

Mine is a bit lot longer than hers (not a competition!) because I started at age 47 and celebrated our last granddaughter’s arrival when I was 65. Here I am cuddling Miss back then in 2015. She is our youngest grandchild and granddaughter. Miss M has had ‘less contact’ with me as we had already moved to the Central Coast at the time of her impending arrival, but of course, she is no less loved nor cared about! Her siblings (3) and her cousins (4)  just happened to get a lot more “Grandma and Papa” time whilst we lived close by…from 1996 to 2014.

 

More About Grandmothering.

As Life Moves on In Families. 

Tell the story of how your name was chosen, by whom, and has that ‘stuck?’

I wanted a traditional grandmother’s name and I chose Grandma. When we knew grandchild #1 was coming, in 1996, 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!

How many grandchildren do you have? 

We are very fortunate to have eight grandchildren. There are six girls and two boys. No idea how that kind of mix works out but in our daughter’s family she has 3 daughters and a son, and that is the same for our son.

Here they are:

our daughter’s family: 1 girl, J, 1996, 1 girl, S, 1999, 1 boy, B, 2001 and 1 girl, E, 2012.

our son’s family: 1 boy, H, 2007, 1 girl, R, 2009, 1 girl, E, 2013, 1 girl, M, 2015.

The Fam! All together. Back: S, J, B. Son & Daughter. Front: E, R, E, M & H with Grandma and Papa!

Did you share in any of the pre-birth care of siblings or afterwards to help the family. How did this occur?

Yes and there is much more to write!

The first 3 grandchildren. 1996-2007.

1996 our first grandchild, J, was born and we (I) cared for her at our house 3 days a week for her first 6 months and then she went to a wonderful family day care. We did mind her on some weekends and when her sibling, S, was coming even more. I went to her parents’ house as they left for the hospital in the middle of the night. Then in 1999 into 2001 when B came along, even though I was working full-time as a school principal, being Grandma was also very important and we had beds, cots, toys, blankies and much more at our house so the three grandchildren could have sleep-overs, a play afternoon and spend time with us in school holidays. We had one bedroom that was ‘theirs’ with double bunk, their own bedding and a cot. In fact, we took the grandchildren on holidays with us too from time to time. This was to help out their parents but we also enjoyed it….and we were much younger than we are now!!

Then there were more! 2007-2014.

In 2007 our son’s first was born. With a pretty big gap between our kids there was a similar gap between grandchildren. However, it all came back to me…the baby parts I mean. There was talk of caring for the baby once he (H) arrived, and by early 2008 we were doing that a few days each week. I was no longer working full-time and was a part-time teacher. However, the 3 days of care were very full-on because he was not with us in ‘school hours’ as our daughter’s children were but around 8-5pm. We adapted to him giving him a bath some nights and dressing him for bed so when he was picked up, all he needed was dinner, cuddles, stories and bed. We did, ahem, re-fit the house with MORE play and baby paraphanalia including car seats. Yes, we bought many car seats and boosters over the years. In fact, my car back then could, in theory, take most of the grandkids. I had strollers too. We often walked around the block each day…sleep, child, sleep!

From 2009 when R was born we then were able to help her parents out the next year and what fun we had for a few days each week with both. Beds and cots were ready and they too had the quilts, blankies, pillows and toys. In 2012, their cousin E, joined us for a day or so a week as her Mum had to return to teaching. She was not a happy child to leave her Mum and we did all we could to distract her to have her see the fun the others were having. She later went to a family day care that her Mum found the best for her. The other two (H &R) also attended some other care during those years.

And in 2013, E, joined H & R in her family and she came to us the next year up to 3 days a week. She was such a different child. She observed everything but resisted any of my offered bottles…even if they were Mummy’s milk. I admit I did buy a ‘play centre’ to put her in as I was caring for her alone once she was on the move. She started exploring eating and drinking from a cup and talked a lot once she could. She and I would go out for a drive and enjoy morning tea out some days.

I admit now, that I grew physically weary and was already a bit sad about how my work life in education needed to end and that, to make our lives work better for us in the future, we would need to sell the house..and say goodbye to these 7 grandchildren. As the ink dried on the contract to sell, we were told grandchild #8 was coming but that the family did not need us to care for this one. Whilst that seemed a bit sad it was, for us, the right choice too. I was now 65 and had been caring for little people since I was 47.

 

How different is your relationship with your grandchildren to that with your children?

It is more relaxed and loving without much of the hard work of being a parent.  This for me, is because in having and raising children, we do so much to help them be citizens of the world and find their ways and it can feel relentless at times. The old adage of “I get to send the grandchildren home” at the end of the day resonates with me.

I will add now though, with 3 adult grandchildren, I feel incredibly proud of them and know that they care for me and their grandfather. Their messages to us, hugs and chats when we do get to see them tells us we have made an ever-lasting bond with them.

 

How would you like your grandchildren to think of you/describe you, either now or in the future?

They would describe me are:

  • talkative
  • art & creativity -oriented
  • photo taking
  • cake making
  • iphone app collector of stories to get grandkids to sleep
  • books…oh so much reading encouraged by me
  • toy (and fad) buyer: Night Garden, Teletubbies, Bob the Builder, Fairies, Fisher Price Dolls House…..
  • video and DVD watcher
  • provider of fun
  • sharing of morning tea out somewhere
  • family-history sharer
  • sometimes (a bit)  cranky….toys away, please!!
  • a wonderful hugger
  • thoughtful gift giver
  • always sharing and caring of us
  • Christmas memory maker
  • Diarising and photographing our lives and handing them books and cards filled with memories

What words describe what being a grandmother means to you?

  • I am Grandma.
  • Simple title with enormous privileges of fun, love and sharing
  • Being lovingly connected to a generation one removed from me
  • An experience I have made my own, learned from others in my family who were grandparents and adapted for me
  • Day to day care was a big effort but so enjoyed and am glad I got to be part of their growing lives
  • That I leave with my grandchildren some memories of me, my time of life that they did not experience and a link to carry on

How do you think being a  grandmother has changed you, if at all?

Being a grandmother has changed me in the nicest possible ways. I could never have imagined how it would feel to first gaze upon a wee person, less than a day old, and think “you are from my heritage, and I am your grandmother.” Wow. Still blows my mind. I got to meet EVERY single one of my grandchildren within HOURS of their births.

One memory that stays is meeting B, aged a few minutes. It was after the hottest day in January in 2001 and the storm broke through and unleashed enormous damage outside the hospital as his mum laboured with no epidural as hoped because “too late”…I went for a brief walk along the hospital corridor and when I returned there he was. I got to hold him straight away after his dad passed him over and he engaged me with his eyes. It was amazing. Always remember this.

What, if anything, would you change about your grandmothering experiences?

Nothing at all…other than I would have liked to give Miss M, the ‘8th’ grandchild some one-on-one care as we did for all of the other grandchildren. I feel both we and she missed something special there but I can only say, we do what we can to continue to connect now and know she and her siblings talk of Grandma )(and Papa)

Why was it important to share about becoming and being a grandmother for you?

It was important for me to do this to ensure my family knows how much being a grandmother means to me. I hope, as I know my eldest granddaughter did, that some may choose to read my posts. I know I am more likely to be demonstrative of my love and care for them than I was with their parents.

Maybe that comes with a softening in ageing. I also am a writer who blogs and a sharer of stories and mine is one.

I did get permission for publishing from my family.

What three words describe you as a grandmother?

Loving,

Kind & Caring

Sentimental:

I wear a 3 Uberkate Circle necklace just about every day. You can see it in most of my photos. It has  our names in smallest circle, our kids’ next, and each of the 8 grandchildren’s initials in the largest circles. I also have next to my study two framed collages: one for each family with a photo of every grandchild of the day they were born. There is another place too, in a small house, where each of their individual ‘birth or close to birthday’ photos are displayed. I would show them here but they have identifiers so I won’t.

Thanks to my family for contributing to help me be the person I am, known as

G R A N D M A….one of the nicest words ever….

This was the BEST ever gift Grandma could have been given. For my 70th all of them took part in a great photo shoot. I was blown away by the book, the canvas and as one said “Grandma, you always made us photo books!”

Thanks for reading and do share your words about being a grandmother, a grandchild or what every comes to mind.

Denyse.

 

Debbie and I thought that supplying the questions we came up with  for the two posts might be useful should anyone else want to write about their experiences of grandmothering too. Do copy them and of course adapt as you wish.

Being a Grandmother. Part One.

The First Experience of Becoming a Grandmother.

  • 1.What do you remember about your grandmother(s)?
  • 2.What struck you initially about the news you were going to be a grandmother for the first time?
  • 3. Did you make any choices/decisions about being a grandmother when you found out this was going to happen?
  • 4. And, in your case, was the news from your son or your daughter?
  • 5.How did you find out?
  • 6. Were there any conditions/limitations set by the parents-to-be for you, the new grandmother in the making?
  • 7. Did/does the ‘role’ work its way out for all?
  • 8. About My Name.
  • 9. Are/were there hiccups?
  • 10.Share the highlights of the birth and after of your first grandchild.
  • 11. What, if any, were any ‘lowlights?’
  • 12. Special Memories of the First Weeks.

 

More About Grandmothering.

As Life Moves on In Families. Part Two.

  1. Tell the story of how your name was chosen, by whom, and has that ‘stuck?’
  2. How many grandchildren do you have? (Names used up to you , but initials are OK & year of birth (not date)
  3. Did you share in any of the pre-birth care of siblings or afterwards to help the family. How did this occur?
  4. How different is your relationship with your grandchildren to that with your children?
  5. How would you like your grandchildren to think of you/describe you, either now or in the future?
  6. What words describe what being a grandmother means to you?
  7. How do you think being a  grandmother has changed you, if at all?
  8. What, if anything, would you change about your grandmothering experiences?
  9. Why was it important to share about becoming and being a grandmother for you?
  10. What three words describe you as a grandmother?

Link Up #192.

Life This Week. Link Up #192.

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The Value Of A Smile. 46.1./2020.

The Value Of A Smile. 46.1./2020.

I’ve been contemplating the ways in which smiling can improve my/our health.

Maybe too, because of being socially isolated and  when being out keeping our distance, I have noted that when engaging with people a smile cuts through any communication to be gain a positive response often with a smile back!

Have you noticed this too?

Regular readers here will know I lost my smile for a long time when the top half of my mouth (and some of my top lip too) was removed because of head and neck cancer, and that I really, really missed my smile!

Recovering from Cancer Surgery 2017. Smiling as Best I Could.

Interesting to get to know my needs for social inclusion were/are based on my ability to connect with my smile.

I think it is fascinating that of the three things I lost for a while after the July 2017 surgery: ability to eat & drink, talking clearly and smiling…that I found

S M I L I N G was what I needed to do most.

There is science in this too!

Recently I read this:

We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do. Peace begins with a smile.

Mother Theresa.

Years ago, I was seeing a psychiatrist for some issues and he talked of the fake it till you make it smile. It seemed silly to me then, but apparently there IS something to this.

I can share this practice , from my experiences of meditation and being mindful, of not allowing myself to retreat or resist what I am not liking. I still need to remember this. In fact, I ask myself ‘what am I afraid to admit, or do or be’?

I need to be in the moment. The only moment as that’s all I have.

Yet, the physical act of helping my body make a smile, works. It’s like a circuit breaker. I can look in the mirror and smile. Not always genuinely but it changes things.

Further advice in troubled times:

  • life the corners of your mouth with your fingers, literally putting a smile on your face.

  • let the smile remind you that acceptance is more powerful than resistance.

  • breathe deeply, then exhale slowly

  • invite yourself to be curious about whatever set of circumstances initiated your resistance.

           Ashley Davis Bush: The Little Book of Inner Peace.

I do engage as much as I can with feeling gratitude each day (and made a promise to do this every day in 2020). Smiling reminds me of how grateful I am for my health, and that even though my top lip is shrinking back somewhat, smiling is one very sound exercise as is connecting with the people around me.

I made my first vlog…I am not sure that is what I call it…but I now have the ability to make mini-videos at home and sorted my channel on You Tube to be able to do so. Yes, the ending is a bit unproffesh but the message is mine!

Take care, people….and do remember to smile.

Denyse.

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Women Of Courage Series. #42. Ann. 45/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #42. Ann. 45/2020.

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

This woman of courage, Ann who is 70, has known me longer than anyone who would be reading this blog….unless my brother or father do ….and I suspect not.

Ann and I met aged 10 when our family moved from Wollongong to the northern beaches Sydney suburb of Balgowlah Heights. I was placed in 4th class in December 1959 as Dad decided my brother and I should start school before the long summer holidays. I then went into 5th and 6th class with Ann, who had been at the school since Kindergarten. She and her family also lived in the same street as the school and I remember visiting their amazing house.

Sadly, like my parents’ house it no longer looks as it did in those years.

Ann and I also travelled by bus to Manly Girls High School as the foundation students for the 6 years of the education now known so well and we did both the School (Year 10 1965) and Higher School Certificates (Year 12 1967). By the time the senior years came we had different subject choices, friendship groups and futures planned that were tertiary education-based. I went to teaching and she went to architecture.

We lost any connections until the latter years when we found each other via facebook or maybe one of those school groups. I can’t recall. However, before we left Sydney we caught up for those decades having a morning tea together…and discovering for all those preceding years, she and I had probably passed each other quite a few times as Castle Hill’s “Towers” as she and her family, like ours, settled in the north-west of Sydney, not the northern beaches!

 

 

 

 

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

I have never considered myself as a particularly courageous person and found myself wondering how to respond to Denyse’s request to take part in her mission, so my first reaction was to look up the meaning of courage. 

“Courage: the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery”, “strength in the face of pain or grief”.

After deliberating, I can look back at times during my 70 years of life on Planet Earth where that “ability to do something that frightens” certainly played into action, although I was oblivious of my strength of courage to work through these events at the time. 

My first need to find strength was during 3rd Grade at school, as we had a most terribly strict female teacher who delighted in the use of harsh military tactics and corporal punishment to maintain discipline. The entire class was petrified, scared stiff and united in our fear of this sadistic woman, to the point that her behaviour was a major talking point amongst us when we were out of the classroom.

I remember waking every Monday morning with dread, then thinking to myself that I made it through last week, so I would get through the coming week.

Courage? Yes, and incredibly, I now realise that I have recalled and drawn on this singular experience of that brave little eight-year old girl many, many times.

 

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

I was raised by parents who drew no gender barrier in our household of six females and two males, and due to my love and abilities in the artistic and mathematical arenas, selected a career in architecture.

This was a field dominated by men back in the 1960s, but of which I was rather naively oblivious.

After graduation, I had a struggle finding employment as I had to scan the “Positions Vacant, Men and Boys” columns of the daily newspaper and often did not get beyond the receptionist, who was quick to remind me that I was “a girl”.

However, I persevered over months of unsuccessful interviews and finally did find employment with a delightful partnership of three “liberated” young men.

I still faced the difficulties of a young woman dealing with foremen and labourers on building sites and men in local councils who decided I was the receptionist, but that little girl was always there in the back of my head, pushing me to rise above them and whispering “you’ll get through this”.

I am the mother of four children, born six and a half years apart, and when the youngest was just under three years of age, I found it necessary to end my marriage.

I had since moved my design career sideways, running my own business in stage and costume design, which enabled me to work from home.

But…raising my four children, running the home and working my business, all entirely on my own, was hard, hard work.

There was no time out, apart from the school holidays when my wonderful parents and equally wonderful mother-in-law would take two each of the children for a few days, then swap.

There were times of total exhaustion, but I always remembered my 3rd Grade experience, and how I had managed, as an eight-year old, to “make it through” each week.

Over the last eight years, I have dealt with lung cancer on two occasions four years apart, occurring in each lung and requiring radical surgery both times.

I suffered greatly due to a surgical mishap during the first surgery, so when it was necessary to repeat the operation four years later, I was most fearful of the outcome.

Again, that little girl and my years of experience helped me to remain strong, particularly around my now adult children, who were as fearful of possible outcomes as me.

 

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

I live by the “one day at a time” adage, and it is now obvious to me that my eight-year old self survived her 3rd Grade schooling by taking one day at a time.

Yoga, yoga breathing and meditation follow on from this and both can be done anytime, anywhere.

 

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

As an Elder now, I feel that I now have the advantage of many life experiences to fall back on. 

Strange, though, as I had not realised how important a landmark the courage and determination of that little 8-year old girl had become in my life, until I began to ponder upon Denyse’s questions. Thanks, Denyse!

 

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

This is a crazy hectic world that we live in, and it is difficult, at times, to not become overwhelmed and fearful.

However, this is your life and you have permission to be selfish about inner peace.

Take time out during times of stress to wind down. 

Relax, breathe slowly and deeply to calm the mind, as it only takes a few minutes to realign.

 

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

I give permission to anyone who reads this to use that little voice my that whispered to my 8-year old self: 

“You made it through last week, you’ll make it through this week…”

 

 

Thank you Ann. This was a big one for you to respond to and I am most grateful that you did ponder the questions and let your memory and voice through. Getting to 70 and being well is a great outcome. Let’s continue to connect and one day we will be sharing a cuppa again too! 

Denyse.

Here’s a little trip down memory lane which Ann and I shared. Thanks again, Ann!

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

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends.

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

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I Saw. 22/51. #LifeThisWeek. 44/2020.

I Saw. 22/51. #LifeThisWeek. 44/2020.

I was very wordy last week, so this week, as fewer words as possible as I describe ‘what I saw’.

Those of you who follow me on other social media may see a repeat or three…but here are some photos of what I saw: from late May as I compiled this  post.

Photo prepping for Beyond Five’s Soup for The Soul.

 

Wamberal lagoon, coffee in the car. Rain about.

 

Choc Chips and Flaked Almonds in a Biscuit. Local GPs Office & Dr LOVED them

 

Patterns: my neocolour crayons getting in practice before #ICAD2020

 

I can not resist a lonely flower which is perfect.

 

Slowing my mind to concentrate on “one thing as a time”. A 4000+ Group I am in, used this image for its banner for a few days.

 

Celebrating LOVE of coffee in a glass and sitting to enjoy it.

 

Glassy and still lake in the afternoon.

 

Large mindfulness drawing and colouring.

 

Looking west: The Entrance Bridge.

 

New (and expensive) coloured pencils.

 

Clouds and sky and reflections on water. Love this.

 

And the next day: flying seagulls over waves on the lake.

 

Haircut (tick) new cheap readers on (tick) admitting I need these (tick) Not for driving though!

 

Delicate & beautiful pansy I am growing. After rain.

 

Where does the seagull start and end?

 

On the last day of remote learning: I made this.

 

Windy and cold…at Soldiers Beach to view the sea.

 

 

That’s a sample of what I saw!
I hope you enjoyed the snapshots via my eyes!

Next week, Debbie from here and I will be writing our second posts in our 2-part series on being Grandmothers in Life Stories. My first one is here.

Take care everyone,

Denyse.

Link Up #191.

Life This Week. Link Up #191.

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: 23/51 Life Stories 2.  8.6.2020. (changed prompt: do choose your own if it does not suit this week)

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Women Of Courage Series. #41 Johanna Castro. 43/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #41 Johanna Castro. 43/2020.

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

So good to welcome Johanna (I know her as Jo!)  to share her story here this week. Jo, who is 62, is a regular blogger and writer who has been part of the international and Australian travel and writing scene for a long time. I am pretty sure Jo and I met (or at least saw each other in passing!) at Digital Parents Conference for Bloggers in Melbourne in 2012. So many people at that one and so many are no longer blogging but I have made many on-line and off-line friends thanks to occasions such as those – sadly none like them anymore- conferences and am always grateful for those connections made. Now it’s Jo who is sharing her story today.

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

 

Courage is a funny thing.

  • As the ability to do something that frightens you, I think it presents itself in both big life changing ways and in small everyday incidents.
  • For some people it’s finding the courage to face life in the most warrior-like way when halted by heartbreaking or frightening setbacks.
  • For others it’s being able to summon up courage at points in their lives when if they didn’t they would surely spiral downwards and not recover from the problem.

And for some, courage has to be summonsed every day just to keep living.

 

Have I been courageous?  I would say no, not really.

Although in the overall scheme of things perhaps some people might disagree.

  • Was I courageous when I set off from England for the Continent aged 18 with a rucksack on my back and a guitar slung over my shoulder, waving the White Cliffs of Dover goodbye knowing not what to expect as I headed off to be a groom for a showjumping family in Belgium?

Was this in itself courageous?

  • Well, yes because I was young and shy and emotionally insecure and I was acting out of character and defying the status quo of what was expected of me.
  • But also, no not really, because many young people have set off on similar Dick Whittington quests to travel and see the world.
  • I was also deep down reaching for a new life to escape a situation that was beyond my control because domestic abuse tainted an otherwise idyllic childhood.
  • And this leap of faith into the unknown leaving privilege and fear behind, set the course for the rest of my life when moving countries became the status quo, through necessity rather than choice.

 

 

Some years later I met a geologist from South Africa when we were both backpacking in South East Asia.

When we married I half expected to always be adorned with pretty and priceless pieces of rock that he picked up during the course of his geological hammerings, and that we would be safely settled in England by the age of 40.

How wrong I was. The reality was that we would always be on the move. Project to project. Internationally. And geologists often go in at ground zero level when nothing, not even the houses to live in, have been built.

We’ve lived in the most remote situations.

  • A tiny caravan trawled to a spot high in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho next to a river which soon came down in flood. Here the mountain road was termed as ‘the road to hell and back’, the big wigs were helicoptered in, we drove.
  • I almost got away with swapping the outdoor Porta Loo they gave us for a palomino pony that a Basutho horseman brought by one day. At least until Dave and the village chief intervened.
  • On another occasion we went from the wide open spaces of South Africa, and a house with a large garden, to a flat the size of a postage stamp on the 22d floor of a high rise building in Hong Kong where I home schooled our children for a year because there were there was a two year waiting list for a place in schools on Lantau Island where we lived.
  • My wild African toddlers were not impressed with the tiny balcony or our tiny flat, but we learnt to love Hong Kong with a vengeance.

In the very early years of our marriage Dave was offered a job as a geologist in the foothills of the Himalayas and I was pregnant with our first child. Six months pregnant and we had an auction on the lawn. All our worldly possessions and furniture went up for sale – bar what we could fit in our suitcases.

Sam was just 5 weeks old when we set off to live at a remote project site between Kathmandu and Pokhara, reached along treacherous roads, where we were without a phone, 3 hours from the nearest Doctor, and where food supplies were scarce. We had to put water through a 5 point purification process in our tiny kitchen before it was drinkable, and our diet consisted mostly of dhal, bhat, tarkari (lentil, rice and vegetable curry.)

I ended up breastfeeding Sam for 21 months, Dave became very sick from combined dysentery and hepatitis, and I was desperately tired, worried and home sick most of the time – though baby Sam thankfully survived in a robust way!

So I guess I have been courageous, and although people might say I’m lucky (of course) I have also had to sacrifice geographical safety and family stability for a life of constant change. We’ve moved 21 times, 11 times internationally. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and I can definitely vouch for that.

 

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

Having the courage to leave your roots, your family and friends and continuously jump off a proverbial cliff into the unknown has changed me because in time I realised that I didn’t have to live constrained by the limitations of other people’s expectations, or the chains that society places on us.

I also learnt that leaping into the unknown with courage and energy will always throw up fantastic opportunities and exciting new horizons along with lovely new friendships.

 

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

Don’t be afraid to change direction.

There is no wrong direction.

Go boldly and you will find pots of gold that you never even expected.

You have to remember that your heart and your head can put up all sorts of obstructions if you dare to reach beyond your comfort zone, but sometimes you just can’t look at the possible problems that lie ahead, you just have to go for it – don’t question – just go with it.

“I can do this. I’ve got this. Let’s do it.”

It might be a fleeting thought, you might not even believe it when it first appears, but you have to hang onto it, expand it, and nurture it without putting up tons of obstacles.

 

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

Yes, definitely. And I hope so! But I guess it also depends on the sort of courage that’s required in the future.

When I had a melanoma on my back I fainted before the surgeon had even made his first cut, and blood tests of any sort always send my heart straight to my boots, and my head longing to reach down between my knees!

 

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

You are stronger and more resourceful than you imagine.

 

Wow. What a traveller and story-teller from real life living you are Jo! I thought we had lived in some remote teaching spots in New South Wales but your experiences are winners “hands down”. What a ride you have had…and come up for air and can see the courage within too. As for procedures involving nasties like melanomas…you are entitled to deal with that in the way you did. Thank you so much for sharing an amazing story of LIFE lived by you.

Jo has a number of social media connections and they are all listed below for your investigation and following.

Denyse.

Social Media:

Blog/Website: https://lifestylefifty.com and https://zigazag.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/johannaAcastro

Facebook Page (not personal account): https://facebook.com/lifestylefifty and https://facebook.com/thezigazagmag

Instagram: https://instagram.com/lifestylefifty

 

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

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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!

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* 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.

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* THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 22/51 I Saw 1.6.2020

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

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Head & Neck Cancer: My Life Now: 3 Years On. 41.1/2020.

Head & Neck Cancer: My Life Now: 3 Years On. 41.1/2020.

In April 2017, after much searching for “why” my upper gums and palate were so sore, swollen and inflamed, I insisted that my dentist “take the bridge and teeth out, please as…I need to know what is under it.” That was done after almost 3 years of “wondering why” and being told many different reasons by dentists that it was most likely candida and “you are not keeping under the bridge clean enough. Sigh. This story can be found here along with many as I have journaled the Head and Neck Cancer story here on the blog.

On 17 May 2017, after the removal of bridge and teeth, with worsening gum conditions, I received what was, in many ways, the answer I feared or at least had considered over the past year or  more before. Yes, it is CANCER and it is called Squamous Cell Carcinoma and off I was sent to the BEST place and people ever for more diagnosis, subsequent surgeries and much much more.

 

Summing up each year as a head and neck cancer patient with a rare diagnosis. 

2017.

May & June: Meeting my surgeons at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Examinations, testing and discussion on maxillectomy and using part of my leg. Visits to Westmead Oral Sciences for future mouth reconstruction preparation. Waiting. Testing. Being very concerned but at least I had the answer!

July: 7 weeks after diagnosis the major surgery of 11 hours. ICU and then recovery in single room at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. This was for 10 days. Learned that I recover well and that I could speak (hallelujah) and eventually swallow water with no problems. Home. Learning to live much differently. Back for checkups: particularly of my leg which had donated skin and flesh.

August: September: October: at home recovery, lots of community nurse visits, learning how for eat differently and prepare food for myself. Independent walking then became driving the car again Back for a post-op check and to hear what was next.

November: On the day the same sex marriage result was announced I went into surgery for more skin to be added inside my mouth: taken from my thigh. It was all part of hopefully allowing my mouth to eventually settle to take a prosthesis of teeth.

It was announced I would become a Community Ambassador for Beyond Five.

December: watching progress of mouth and sending photos of the inside to my lovely Professor Clark for him to see it was going OK. Always relieved to hear back ‘yes.’

2018.

January: continue as for December.

February: third surgery. Adding a stent into the top part of my mouth to allow skin to stretch and eventually be able to fit in the prosthesis of teeth. Alas, this failed as the stent was removed too fast by my prosthodontic team much to my professor’s dismay and…..

March: I got the news a fourth surgery would be happening. Initially not happy at all, but realised it was inevitable…and my mouth was particularly challenging as they try so hard to work with ‘what is’ to have me look as much as possible as I did post any head and neck surgeries.

April: more time for me to see the prosthodontist to check the healing mouth and for my team to consider what would be next.

May: almost 12 months from diagnosis, back to COBLH as I call it for short….and a much bigger stent added in another 2+ hour surgery. Wow. Thigh gave up more skin for inside my upper lip.

June. July: So many drives back and forth to Sydney for prosthodontic work: measuring, practising with models of prosthesis with the eventual promise of teeth up top…..

World Head & Neck Cancer Day: July 2018. Held a virtual Soup for the Soul a fundraiser for Beyond Five and met the Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support Group at Gosford and became a member of this group.

21 August; Yes. Upper prosthesis fixed into the abutments and I had a smile back (a good one too, thank you team) after 14 months.

From then until next year, 2019, I had a considerable number of visits back to Westmead with adjustments and I learned ‘how to eat’ with teeth that were nothing like how my mouth had been post-cancer. More on the page as linked before.

2019.

January. An unexpected visit to COBLH for my head and neck surgeon to examine ‘extra skin’ which had begin to grow near the abutments on one side. This visit, as I found out directly was to ensure “cancer had not returned”. OH. It had not but it threw me a bit because I had not even given that a thought. This was when I realised CANCER is never far away from our thoughts.

February, March, April: some visits to both professionals in my team. Making adjustments and checking progress of skin inside my mouth. I admit I was often nervous of outcomes as my mouth was pretty sore most of the time. No-one could tell me ‘how long’ that would last but I continued to be reassured by my prosthodontist in particular “everything looks OK” “you are doing a good job keeping the area clean.”

May: 2 years since diagnosis and I was proud to have made it. I was incredibly grateful to my body for healing well and to all who cared for me and in particular to my patient and good listener husband.

End May: CT scan showed “all clear”

June: Visits became more spread out to the surgeon and prosthodontist and I navigated using these teeth to eat. It was and is a challenge. My right leg had some changes from the loss of the fibula as my right foot became affected with gait. But all OK really.

July: Continued visits to Westmead and put my energies into blogging about Head and Neck Cancer, interviewing a patient for Beyond Five and being part of World Head and Neck Cancer Day at Gosford Cancer Centre.

August, September, October, November, December. Regular check ups and visits to COBLH and Westmead but longer intervals. In October it was raised by my surgeon that a possible fifth surgery could be planned if mouth needed it but he had no real plans for it at that stage. Continuing to help raise awareness of head and neck cancer in various forms via social media. In November I celebrated my 70th Birthday!

 

2020.

January: continuing own care and progress at home.

February: visit to the prosthodontist where he was pleased with how upper gums were looking. I admitted to him my concern there may be need for further surgery as outlined by my surgeon and he took photos and would confer with him as needed. Took part in filming for Beyond Five series of nutrition videos for head and neck patients, carers and professionals.

Early March: Saw my head and neck surgeon who was delighted with my progress, no surgery needed and I remain “his poster girl for recovery”…see you in 6 months!! I was a guest speaker at a Charity Ball held by 4 doctors at Avoca to raise awareness of head and neck cancer and aid the work of Beyond Five with a generous donation.

And then COVID-19 stopped us all in our tracks for quite some time.

End May: as I write. My prosthodontist should have seen me for a check this coming week but Westmead is not open for regular visits yet. I am not concerned as my mouth is OK. I am not due to see my head and neck surgeon till September. I am going to my dentist here (the one where we got the diagnosis sorted!) in early June as he ensures the 8 teeth I have remain in good order.

Record Keeping: For Me!
Visits to Prof Jonathan Clark: Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. 2 hours each way by car. M1.
2017
Diagnosis: 17.5.17.
18.5.17 (diagnosis: surgery plan w A/Prof too)
6.7.17 (surgery #1 in COBLH)
27.717 (post op: A/Prof)

10.10.17 (cancer check)
15.11.17 (surgery #2: day. Down & home same day)
20.11.17 (post op)
5.12.17 (post op St George)

2018
7.2.18 (surgery #3: day. Stayed night before)
14.2.18 (post op St George)
1.5.18 (pre surgery #4)
16.5.18 (surgery #4 day. Stayed n/b)
2.10.18 (cancer check & upper prosthesis)
– long time between checks as I was seeing Prosthodontist a lot!

2019
8.1.19 extra cancer check: skin growing ok
19.2.19 cancer check
21.5.19 cancer check & CT done. All clear.
24.9.19 cancer check

2020
3.3.20 cancer check.

17 total to date.

Next due: September 2020.

Visits to Westmead Prosthodontist. 2 hours each way by car. M1.

2017  24.5.17 (pre surgery #1)30.5.17 6.11.17 (pre surgery #2)

2018  23.2.18 (post surgery #3) 1.3.18  7.3.18  15.3.18

22.3.18 28.3.18 12.4.18  28.5.18 (post surgery #4) 31.5.18

12.6.18  15.6.18  18.6.18  25.6.1  3.7.18   10.7.18   16.7.18

23.7.18   6.8.18   9.8.18

21.8.18: Upper Prosthesis Issued

28.8.18  10.9.18   25.9.18 8.10.18 (lower denture prep)  25.10.18

5.11.18  15.11.18  19.11.18  27.11.18   11.12.18

2019  21.1.19 (unscrewed UP)  4.3.19

13.5.19  16.7.19  5.8.19

17.9.19    25.11.19

2020 17.2.20  41 to date  Due: 25.5.20 (postponed due to COVID

What is life like for me now as a head and neck cancer patient…over 3 years later?

  • I think about my cancer less
  • I maintain my cleaning of the mouth more willingly and never miss it because I would hate the spoil all that hard work!
  • I accept that whilst I have ‘teeth’ on top that look fine, they do not function nearly as well as natural teeth.
  • I know how to allow for that more these days in terms of food choices.
  • I am more grateful than ever to have had such a cancer experience so that I can share, help and be part of a community which may need assistance from a patient like me
  • I am less fearful of cancer’s return but I am never complacent
  • I do my best to help others who may find my story helpful
  • I blog less than those initial 2 years but maintain the updates about head and neck cancer as it is for me
  • I connect with others on-line to encourage, share and offer support where it may be needed
  • I like to help where I can to keep the messages of head and neck cancer current
  • I do this via my social media and re-sharing words, links and information from Beyond Five
  • I maintain social media connections via a facebook group from New Zealand for head and neck cancer patients, carers and families
  • I am willing to share my story for others: meeting them, making a speech and connecting via emails and on-line

However, I am less the ‘head and neck cancer patient’ these days.

I am more Denyse, who is a retired K-6 principal and teacher, wife to B, mother to K & M, and Grandma to eight wonderful grandchildren. I remain passionate about education: of the self, and of kids…and support on-going education at any age. I love to connect via my blog, meet up for a coffee and cake, take photos to share on instagram, make art in all kinds of ways….and get outside to be “oh so thankful” to be here…to be well….and to share!

Denyse.

23 May 2020.

Written, in part,  in readiness for World Head and Neck Cancer Day in July 2020. Events this year will be virtual and I am sure, I will be sharing more as time goes on. For now:

 

 

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Women Of Courage Series. #40 Anonymous. 41/2020.

Women of Courage Series.

How did it start? Read here!

Who was the first Woman of Courage to share her story? It was Sam.

Thank you all…today might be an anonymous post, as have several others been, to protect the identities of those whose stories form part of the post.

ONE YEAR ON…here we are…..in May 2020 with the fortieth person to share her story.

2020 Image For the Series.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

 

Trigger warning: Family Breakdown, Grief, Terminal Illness.

 

Women Of Courage Series. #40 Anonymous. 41/2020.

“THEY SAY WE WALKED AWAY”

When Denyse asked me to join this incredible group of women in her Women of Courage series I wondered where to focus.

How do I do my spot on your screen justice?

How should I make this worth your while?

 

Today I am going to hold my husband’s hand and tell you about the day we had to find more courage than we ever thought we’d have to find in our lifetime.

Today I’m going to talk about the day we chose to walk away.

 

The Back Story

Once upon a time two people met and fell in love. They got married with his young daughter standing beside them.

His daughter was ingrained in their marriage and became the much-loved big sister to the children born from their union.

Fast forward to when his daughter got married, fell pregnant and moved interstate.

The daughter and her husband needed financial assistance to buy a home which the two people offered as guarantors.

Then the daughter got cancer.

Her husband walked out of the family home leaving her, their child, the cancer and the debt.

The two people don’t know why he did this.

They never asked.

Instead, the two people and the extended village supported the daughter as best they could and fell deeply in love with their grandchild.

Over the next five years the daughter cried often. As she fought the cancer she was also fighting for custody of her child.

She gratefully won the second battle.  She could not beat the first.

 

The cancer was aggressive.  The husband returned.

All money, court cases and his hurtful emails were forgotten as a united front was created for peace in her final year.

The daughter passed away surrounded by love.

 

The two people reached out to the husband offering meals, cleaning, baby sitting and support for the mini-me born from their daughter’s womb.

Then one day the husband declared the two people were no longer grandparent worthy.

Despite their best efforts in trying to understand his aggression, access to their daughter’s mini-me was taken from them via a text message.

Just like her mamma who’d passed away 6 months prior, they would not see their grandchild again.

 

The Pursuit For Peace

The above story is a very quick and overly simplified look at the twenty-five years I personally had the pleasure of being a stepmother and the 6 years I got to be a step-grandmother.

Of course, we didn’t just walk away then and there.

We chose to seek peace.

This was a very weird turn of events given the unity and open-door policy we’d extended.

We waited.

 

Then we gently texted, called and visited the house of the husband awaiting the day it would be business as usual.

We assumed he was going through a phase that required distance and fewer interactions in his life.

Alas, he ignored all contact and rejected all visits.

As a peace-loving family, we’ve never been involved in this sort of animosity.

My husband and I have backgrounds which are in synch.

We don’t do drama.

Our families don’t do war.

As an extended bunch, we choose to accept people for who they are and focus on strengths.

We choose peace and we choose happiness.

We don’t know why he rejected us so firmly and completely.

The people around us suggest it was his own guilt driving the decisions rather than anything we had personally done.

Counsellors advised likewise.

 

My husband – father and maternal grandfather – he knew.

He knew the day his daughter passed away it was only a matter of time he’d lose his granddaughter.

He knew the husband well enough to predict the future. He was just waiting for whatever excuse the husband would use to “justify” it.

 

When it became clear the husband was serious about taking our grandchild away, we sought the advice of lawyers and organized mediation.

 

We sat and listened to all the things he hated about us.  I personally spent the entire session in tears. I so badly wanted to explode. I so badly wanted to speak my truth.  I so badly just wanted to remind him of his cowardly departure from our daughter five years prior. His cowardly departure from her cancer and the $500,000 mortgage he left us with in a town where industry has disappeared, and houses have halved in value.

 

Do you know how hard it was to welcome someone into our home after wiping away our daughter’s chemo tainted tears caused by her husband’s emails, texts and profanities from the other end of a phone? Words I can’t utter because they are too disgusting to repeat.

 

Do you know how hard it was to watch him spend his newly found wealth gained from her death?

But my husband and I didn’t shout.  We didn’t say the things we wanted to say.  Why? Because we choose peace.

That afternoon the husband told us if ever our granddaughter asked to see us, he would consider it.

Then he said, “but quite frankly, she’s never mentioned your names”.

Then he walked out the door.

 

When you love someone, truly love someone, all you want for them is peace.

So, for the sake of our daughter’s memory and the sake of our granddaughter, we made the ultimate decision when he left that mediation session.

As I pressed my face into my husband’s tear soaked suit, we both agreed to walk away in the belief that when she’s old enough and no longer under the influence of her father, our granddaughter will come looking for her Mamma’s other family.

 

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

In all honesty, I would never wish this heartbreak on anyone.

The feeling is so overwhelming it’s unfathomable.

Since that day in the mediator’s office we’ve had to dig deep just to go about our daily activities.

But there is always a lesson worth sharing:

 

  1. When you love something, set it free: The greatest courage comes from being selfless. To continue fighting may have put our granddaughter under stress.  While our hearts will be broken forever, her heart will mend.
  2. Nobody can take away our true selves, unless we let them: I am still a stepmother. I am still a grandmother.  I can’t see either of our girls anymore, but they are still in my heart, in my head and in my soul.  They remain ingrained in who I am as a person, who we are as a couple and who we are as a family.  I continue to talk to our daughter every day, and I write letters to our granddaughter which I keep in a box for the day she comes back to us.  Plus, I have her mother’s voice recordings to give her when she’s of age and a book her mamma half wrote for her in her final days.  I will finish that book and put it in her box of “we love you”.  Nobody can take away the person I became when I married into that father/daughter dynamic.
  3. Behind every challenge is an opportunity: Walking away that day with our hearts heavy and our souls severely damaged, gave us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and try new things. I had given myself to be available as a caregiver for several years.  I was offered long-term contracts but never took them so I could be available for our daughter and then our granddaughter.  Finding myself in a new career has been an amazing up-side. And yes, there is an upside. Nothing will replace what we had, but without it we can still thrive.  Lie in a heap in a corner or get up and bloody well get on with life.  That’s the decision we must make in these situations.

 

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

Absolutely. In this uncertain world filled with bushfires, hailstorms, floods and pandemics, my resilience is high.

My courage is at an all time high.

We have gone through stuff and experienced such loss and not only survived it but walked away from it hand in hand.

The most courageous thing we ever had to do was turn and walk away.  Everything else is a piece of cake to be honest.

 

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

Believe.

  • Believe in your ability to get through the challenges
  • Believe that while ever you are being the best version of yourself, your courage will far outshine the rubbish that surrounds you.
  • Believe in the fact this too shall pass.
  • Believe that with each new situation you are faced you will come out wiser, stronger, braver and more resilient.
  • Believe in who you are and the value you add to this world.

 

Was it hard to tell this story?

Yes, it’s hard.  It’s hard because by putting it out there I am opening the wounds.  I am also potentially opening a door for more explosive behaviour from the husband and his extended village.  But you know what? This series is about courage.  For years I tip toed around being the diplomatic corps for the sake of my stepdaughter.  Always the insurer of peace in the blended family dynamic.  My post today … these words you are reading … are coming from a place of courage.

 

Any final words?

If anybody reads my story and feels lost in a similar situation, please do reach out to Denyse.  I am a strong believer that the power within us, extends beyond us.  I am lucky that I have a hand to hold.  Not everybody has that.  I can be that hand for you if you need it.

A powerful story and one of which some has been shared with me personally. I thank this person for her literal courage to share.

While the author of this post would like to reveal herself, for the sake of her daughter’s memory and her grandchild’s privacy she has chosen to remain anonymous. 

There will be no replies from this poster.

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

Thank you for your understanding.

Denyse.

 

The following information may be helpful to you or another. These are Australian-based.

  • Your Family G.P. can be a helpful person to listen and make referrals.
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
  • Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24 hour assessment, referral, advice, and hospital and community health centre contact details
  • Qualified Psychologists can be found by visiting https://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/
  • Australian Counselling Association is on 1300 784 333 to find a counsellor

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.

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