Friday 28th January 2022

Taking Stock.#5. 48/51. #LifeThisWeek. 128/2021.

Taking Stock.#5. 48/51. #LifeThisWeek. 128/2021.

This is the last taking stock  in 2021 and may not be another when in 2022.

So, as this could be the “last one” I am going to share here about my life as it is on the eve of my 72nd birthday.

And as Pema Chodron says here…..

I am grateful for all who have made a difference in my life. Not all people are represented here because I may not have had an image. So, here goes, using images to ‘match’ a word. And using my alphabetical list.

 

Admiring: those people who are the trained professionals in all allied health, surgery and more, and have cared for my health.

Becoming: a part of a family, grateful for the love, care and kindness of parents and grandparents since 1949!

Curious: about life and learning….always! 

Delighted: to meet up with on-line friends when I can.

Excited: that we will get to celebrate my birthday…..out for morning tea! It suits us both to do this…here’s a memory from 2018. If the rain stays away we will be going here again: a local nursery.

 

Feeling: that time is moving way too fast….that seems to happen after 70!

Goingto my Dad’s sometime in December to share some meals and treats. He’s certainly been the constant in my life…known me for more than 72 years!! This from my 71st birthday when I am not sure who was helping who stay on their feet. 

Helping: Head and Neck Cancer Australia as an Ambassador. I have held this volunteer role for 3 years and as I said to the CEO recently, “you got me for life“.

Imploring: people to keep an eye on anything (related to Head and Neck cancer* symptoms)  that might be not healing or increasing in pain. size and so on…and ensuring if a GP or dentist, doesn’t take it seriously, to seek out another option. *all cancers of course,  but these ones have no diagnostic tools.

Joking: No idea what was funny at Oxley lookout last year but this bloke is quite the joker….and this wife, is not always ready for his sense of humour! 

Keeping: this blog going into its 12th year is testament to my commitment but to the engagement of this blogging community even more! 

Loving: the freedom of days’ activities choice when retired. Sure, there is a routine of sorts, and yes, we get up by a certain time (not tellin’) …but no bosses!

Making: memories for me and others! By cards, photos and little albums. I love doing it too.

Next: I am too easily wanting to plan what is next yet, at the same time trying to stay in the present. The one thing for me is knowing where we will be living next year, and so far, the owners have agreed to us staying on. HOWEVER, the way real estate prices have risen here, houses in our street up by $200-300K in less than 4 years, we suspect we will get a rent rise. Sigh.

Observing: the places where I lived as a teen and older and having a deep appreciation for that time. 

 

Pleasing: to notice that I can continue to change some health habits slightly to be more health-aware in my ageing years.

Reading: the many and varied posts that YOU, my blogging friends, share here for Life This Week. We are, today, at #268 of the link up. And how I met some of my blogging friends two years ago.

Staying: on track with meditation. It will be 2 years without missing a session by end of 2021. I now do Daily Calm in the morning and another track in the evening. It still counts as one day! 

Trying: to remember all I am grateful for more than ever…not everyone gets the chance to continue living as I have post-cancer.

 

Understanding: that life is not static. Der. But sometimes when I don’t want things to change, I then remember that they change anyway so grasping to keep things are they are is not on. I have learned much about this thanks to meditation, and listening to a range of CDs from teachers of Buddhism and more. Very wise people..and we are all human. 

Viewing: old photos for this post and feeling the warmth of nostalgia but also heeding the point above! 

Welcoming: changes to Covid restrictions here in N.S.W. soon, with reduction of places where you need to sign in with QR code, and having the choice to wear a mask. We think, for now, we will continue to mask up if in a crowded shop or doctors’ surgery. Definitely needed recently at a Big Hug Box packing day. NB: hope with new strain variant, we will remain vigilent.

X- “X-tra grateful” to all of the women who shared their stories of courage. In the 3 years, more than 72 women shared their stories. Wow. I have included images of all who continue to blog and link up here fairly regularly. I “hope” I have you all in this group. Let me know, if I have missed you. 

Yes: to more plans to do ‘less’….and that sounds like a contradiction. In the meantime, here I am over decades of my life ‘doing’ what I most enjoy: connecting with those I care for and who love me. Perhaps a bit of a stretch re Former PM Julia Gillard, but she did thank me for my education roles. 

Z – Is there anyone else I need to show my gratitude and admiration for their part of my life? Yes, it’s an old image but the LOVE from this Papa to his only grandchildren cannot be surpassed. And the love we had for him is exemplified in my brother now being Papa to his 2 grandkids and that B became Papa when his eldest granddaughter couldn’t get her mouth around Grandpa, and out came “Pa-Pa” and it sure stuck.

Thank you all for reading, commenting and sharing your blog post today.

Take care,

Denyse.

 

Started Life This Week Link Up. Sept 2016.

Life This Week. #268

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Young. 44/51. #LifeThisWeek. Mr W. Happiness Myth. 124/2021.

Young. 44/51. #LifeThisWeek. Mr W. Happiness Myth. 124/2021.

Welcoming back my husband for his final contribution in 2021. And, for your info: there are “only” 7 more weeks of Life This Week in 2021!!

 

Content Warning: Mental Health, Self Harm, Suicide, Addiction. Information at the end of this post.

 

THE HAPPINESS MYTH


I’m always amused by the overwhelming focus our society has on happiness as members scramble like hell to acquire material possessions. How many times has the question, “What do you want in life?” been asked with the response, “Oh, I just want to be happy!”

The entrepreneurs have swooped on this pointless wish and produced enough books and programs on how we can be happy to fill the state library a couple of times and then some.

Do this or do that and you’ll be happy as if ‘happiness’ is a constant state that we all ought to be aspiring to. It’s bunkum! It’s a myth and it can be a dangerous trap!

Life today is more treacherous than it was for our tribal ancestors who were cave dwellers. Their sabre-toothed tiger can be likened to our internet that crawls with users, claws out and ready to pounce on some prey. Life today is painful, often disheartening and seemingly without hope. Bureaus of Statistics universally share some scary statistics in relation to its manifestations.

  • About 264 million of the global population are clinically depressed. Generally, people who are depressed also have an anxiety disorder.
  • 20% of us will go through a period of depression.
  • A quarter of us have, has had or will have an addiction.
  • 3 adults in 10 have a recognised psychological disorder (bi-polar, borderline personality disorder, autism, schizophrenia, etc.).
  • Of all the people you know over half will give thought to suicide. 1 in 10 will attempt to take their own life.

Don’t be alarmed by these statistics.

They simply serve to demonstrate that contemporary living is bloody hard and that those happy spikes have a more random occurrence than the sad troughs. This is not helped by our naturally occurring negative bias evolved to help us survive the hungry rage of that sabre-toothed tiger. Unhappily, it has left contemporary us in that state of alert which, when triggered ignites distorted thinking and has us going down the catastrophic slippery slope of fear and uncertainty.

Hence the need to live in the now!

Happiness is a temporary state of emotion in response to a specific stimulus.

On the lower or negative side of the continuum is sadness, also a temporary feeling but a more prolonged state. Above the centre continuum is happiness, its peaks less prolonged than its counterpart’s. Think about the screen of an oscilloscope as it depicts sound waves.

The peaks represent the happy moments and the troughs the sad. What you may notice is that neither remain around for long. What you may also notice is that, over a period of time, they tend to even themselves out.

That happy spike you felt last Sunday when you and your partner engaged in the most joyful of intimate moments will spike with maximum height and intensity. While you might want the feeling at its peak to go on and on, we would simply be unable to psychosomatically sustain it.

Even continued happiness at a lower level is unsustainable. The greater the ‘up’ feeling the more they offset the down times. The resultant flattening out will, with a number of other effects, leave us in a state of CONTENTMENT!  That’s what we need to aspire to!

Contentment – What’s That?

“Man’s happiness really lies in contentment.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Contentment is the state of peaceful well-being resulting from taking what life is offering ‘now’ and working with it. It is attending to and respecting the reality of the present in order to live a rich, full and meaningful life. In so doing, those happy moments integrate with the sad times leaving us in a pleasant state of contentment.

So, What Are Its Characteristics?

The person who is truly content will demonstrate the following attributes:

 

  • a kindness and compassion to him/herself and to others;
  • a general satisfaction with life that finds joy in what we have;
  • an understanding that all feelings are temporary;
  • a lack of envy for what others have;
  • a satisfaction with our possessions, status and situation;
  • humility that recognises the temporary nature of life and its material things (sic transit gloriae mundae – Latin for ‘thus passes worldly goods’);
  • doesn’t measure success in terms of material acquisitions;
  • doesn’t try to find fulfilment through the acquisition of more material possessions – how much of anything do we really need;
  • self-discipline in managing one’s life and affairs; and,
  • an abhorrence of greed and the thirst for power recognising the destructive capabilities of both;
  • lives a rich, full and meaningful life.

 

Can You Show Me a Picture?

 Sorry, I can’t show you a picture. But I can do the next best and show you a simplified graphic representation.

The following sine wave provides a general idea of what happens with our emotions during the course of a time interval. The blue line represents our happy and sad moments that peak and trough.

Its frequency is much less even and varied than in the representation. However, it’s a very good illustration of how our emotions jump around randomly in response to thoughts, memories, urges, etc.

The most important line is black centre line. It is our line of contentment. The blue feeds the black so the more positive and rewarding our experiences are, the thicker the line of contentment.

 

How Do I Enrich My Line of Contentment?

 Life for the contemporary citizen is based around ‘doing’. This is not unexpected because the updated brain is always in the ‘doing’ mode ready to solve your next problem for you. The big problem with that is that the brain cannot solve a problem of the heart.

So, when the next feeling dilemma arises, the brain tries to think its way to happiness or instructs you to resist that feeling. Both are not solutions.The first because it’s impossible as the brain seeks only rational solutions and the second because the undesirable feeling will persist and even grow hungrier.

Hence the need to have our minds override the brain and allow us to just BE.

We are, after all, human BEINGS!

In the BEING mode,

  • We allow all feelings, even welcoming the more painful ones. They belong to us and are therefore our responsibility. We name them and neutralise them by recognising their temporary state. They will pass.

 

  • We are being MINDFUL of all that’s going on in the ‘now’ – just ask Leo Tolstoy, he’ll tell you that it’s very important to pay attention to the ‘now’. After all, there’s more than enough going on in the ‘now’ to keep us busy without looking for trouble from the past or future. So, it’s important to be aware, open, attentive and curious in the ‘now’ in order to capture all moments.

 

  • Reflect on your values. They have formed the basis for doing what matters to you. If you’ve hit a roadblock or are in a roundabout with no exit, be willing to change what’s not working for you. Maybe you are basing your behaviour on the expectations of others. Check your own rulebook. Our lives become more content when we operate on our values-driven rules. If something is not working for you, do what does by changing the dynamics of the pesky rule!

 

  • Give yourself a grading on self-compassion. Being kind to, and caring of yourself is as important as being compassionate to others. Think of it as a two-way street.

 

  • When in doubt about how to defuse a critical thought – sing! Here’s a little exercise to try. Think of a thought that’s causing you pain, e.g. “I’m not good enough” or “I’m a loser!” Sing that song to a familiar ditty such as ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and observe what happens. You’ll discover that you’re not who you thinks you are.

 

  • Contentment relies on authenticity – being true to who you are. This is defined by your values that also inform what really matters to you. The transgression of your values, by yourself or others, creates pain.

 

  • Contentment loves gratitude. Reflect each day on what you are genuinely grateful for. The question, “what am I grateful for”, triggers a release of chemicals that our body loves and feeds our feelings of inner peace and contentment.

 

  • Both Denyse and I get great joy and feelings of contentment viewing this rose that has been growing in the front garden for years now.

As a final thought I offer you the following based on the AA prayer.

“ Give me the courage to solve those problems that can be solved, the serenity to accept those problems that can’t be solved and,

The wisdom to know the difference.”

“Happiness is self-contentedness.” – Aristotle

Thanks to Bernard for his final post for 2021. We have some great conversations about how I add the posts to the blog. All good!! Photo collage above expresses my gratitude for his love and presence in my life since October 1970. We’ve had our ups, downs and in betweens through a marriage of over 50 years but I know that “I” am feeling more contentment with my life as it is now because of my experiences and some of the teachings Bernard has helped me learn. Denyse. 

For those who may need to reach out to organisations based on this story’s content these are Australian-based sources for help.
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

 

Link Up #264.

Life This Week. Link Up #264.

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Women Of Courage Series. #61 P.M. 80/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #61. P.M. 80/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

I have met P.M. who is in her 50s and know of her story of courage from some sharing with friends. I applaud her decision to come forward and share this story of hers which, out of respect for others’ privacy, will be anonymous. P.M.  will come to read your comments which I hope you will make after reading to support this woman and her family member. And will be adding her comments for which I am very grateful.

I have  added some contact details below for helplines in New South Wales and Australia.

Thank you for sharing P.M.

This image was taken by P.M.’s daughter, then aged 14.

I thought it fitting to use today and have had permission to share. The same is for the collage: drawing by P.M.’s daughter aged 12.

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

 

I, and my husband, have needed to be courageous for our daughter who has experienced multiple challenges over the course of her lifetime. I have, and continue to be her advocate to ensure that she has the life she deserves.

At the age of eighteen, she was finally diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Level 2.

  • The sadly tragic thing about this was not the diagnosis but that it took so many years to get to that diagnosis.
  • If she had been diagnosed as a baby or toddler she might not have struggled with eating (due to sensory issues that were never identified). Maybe she wouldn’t have screamed every time I tried to feed her or in the middle of the night for hours on end. Initial diagnoses – silent reflux and failure to thrive.
  • I had to be courageous then with all the guilt at not being able to give my daughter the most of basic of needs – nourishment. I had to be courageous when I was perceived to be nothing more than an over anxious older mum to keep seeking support because I just knew things weren’t right.

 

If she had been diagnosed when she started school, instead of being tested for hearing loss, she might have gotten the early support she needed to be able to focus amongst all the noise.

If she had been diagnosed at seven, she might have had help with social skills so that she made and kept friends rather than being seen as attention seeking.

Current diagnosis – language processing disorder.

If she had been diagnosed at 13, she might not have experienced significant dissociative events that took her out of school, and me away from my job, and be given another diagnosis – conversion disorder.

If any of the doctors and psychiatrists who treated her then had connected the dots, saw the value in further investigation into why this had happened then maybe she wouldn’t have missed a full term of school, lost three months of her life.

  • I had to be courageous for her then – flying with her to John Hunter Hospital when we thought she was experiencing multiple epileptic seizures and not knowing what was going to happen.
  • I had to be courageous when dealing with all the doctors who sent us home saying she needed psychological help but wouldn’t actually direct us to any supports.

If she had been diagnosed at 14 or even 15, even after all that time off school, she would have been able to achieve the grades that reflected her ability and not felt dumb as well as “odd or psycho”.

  • Maybe she wouldn’t have been bullied so mercilessly that she had a meltdown in the playground surround by students screaming and laughing at her while she ripped at her face and her hair.
  • Maybe she wouldn’t have started self-harming including the first attempt at suicide. Maybe we wouldn’t have had to pull her out of school again for her own wellbeing. More diagnoses added – depression and generalized anxiety.
  • We had to be courageous when again pleading with psychologists and psychiatrists to help her, help us help her, from believing she was worthless and broken.

We had to be courageous when we decided to leave our lives behind and head north to pull her away from the toxic hell she was in and just be a kid again, even if would mean that we would need to go back eventually.

If she had been diagnosed at 16 or even 17, after moving schools, she might have had a better chance of steering clear of the drugs and other risky behavior in an effort to fit in, to find someone, anyone who would be her friend.

  • Maybe she wouldn’t have been sexually and physically assaulted by one of her “boyfriends”. Maybe she wouldn’t have left school after one term of Year 11 or lost her traineeship because of her “odd” behaviours and perceived inability to follow instructions.
  • We had to be courageous when advocating for my daughter’s right to be safe and respected in her work place.
  • To drop everything to get to her when she was having a panic attack in the middle of street, to call 000 when she overdosed because she was done. And worse, having to be courageous in the ER to insist on further treatment when they thought it best, again, to send her home only 8 hours later.

Even after the diagnosis at 18, we have had to continue to be courageous.

  • By that time she was set in a cycle of self-destruction – drugs, risky behaviour, abusers and users, and more suicide attempts.
  • There were days we feared we would lose her for good and we felt alone and helpless. The hospital system didn’t want to admit her until she was almost 19, mental health services in our town were ill-equipped to give her the intensive sustained support she needed and there were few services that could support a complex mix of autism and mental health.

At almost 21, we can finally see that there is hope.

  • Thanks to NDIS funding and some amazing supports who believe in our daughter as much as we do, she has started to see that she has a future.
  • She has found a welcoming and understanding workplace and is training to be a chef.
  • She has found her passion – to make art on a plate. She has distanced herself, most of the time, from the bad influences and is trying to make better choices.
  • As we say, life is a work in progress and there are always dips and turns on the road to the future.

Finally, I want to call out my daughter who is the most courageous of all of us.

  • She has had to live this and I am in awe of her resilience.
  • She has survived everything that life has thrown at her and kept going despite everything.
  • Her diagnosis of autism has helped her realise that she is not broken, she is not a mistake. She is exactly who she should be – a pun loving, true crime and space obsessed, artistic young lady who deserves a happy future.

Her autism is and never was the problem – it was the misdiagnoses, the lack of understanding of how autism presents in females, and over stretched medical systems that created the hell she lived through.

 

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

This whole experience has changed me forever.

This fight to save our daughter, quite literally at times, has made me outspoken about the woefully underfunded mental health system, the lack of psychiatrists particularly in regional areas and the lack of supports for autistic young adults, again particularly in regional areas.

I have discovered that I never give up, particularly on my daughter, and that I will just keep pushing when things are not going well.

I have learned the value of speaking up and speaking out.

Before all this I was quite a private person who kept everything inside but I learnt early that it is not healthy or helpful to keep things bottled up, to keep the truth from the village that surrounds you.

How can we change the stigma of mental health, of autism, if we never speak openly about what we are going through? I have developed strengths I never believed I had.

 

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

When struggling with challenges it is important to learn as much as you can.

It is harder to fight what you don’t understand the facts.

I learned early that often the medical profession did not have all the answers or the time to dedicate to one patient so that became my job after years of blindly trusting that they knew what they were doing.

I have also learned that it is important to speak up, to not hold things in and pretend everything is okay.

Living a lie helps no one in the end.

You also need to learn to accept help, to willingly ask for it when you need it so that you have strength to survive the long game.

It takes courage to do all those things.

 

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

I am definitely more capable of being courageous when life calls for it – especially when it is to be courageous for my family.

While it doesn’t necessarily change the experiences, the challenges, being courageous gives you the determination and positivity needed to not give up, and to fight for a better outcome.

We know our advocacy for our daughter, to ensure she has a bright future even after we are gone, will not stop, cannot stop but will change as she grows and blossoms.

 

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

No-one knows how courageous they can be until the situation arises for you to step up, step in and work through the challenges presented to you.

It won’t necessarily change the challenges you face but it allows you to keep going, to keep fighting, keep finding hope in the darkness.

Just remember, that you never have to be courageous on your own.

Having someone there who will fight with you, take the lead when your batteries are flat, to give your other perspectives makes the challenge easier and allows you to keep being courageous for as long as is needed.

I thank P.M. and her daughter for this courageous sharing of their story. I suspect, from my knowledge, that it IS indeed much harder for girls and women to be accurately diagnosed. Yes to the fact that many of us have indeed trusted the medical and helping professions and now, as we see from your sharing, there can be an inability for ‘the connecting of the dots’ as you put it in terms of diagnosis. Thank you too for the included list of places for accessing help and knowledge.

I send my best to you all.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Places for help

Autism and girls – want to know more?

https://childmind.org/article/autistic-girls-overlooked-undiagnosed-autism/

 

https://www.autismawareness.com.au/could-it-be-autism/autism-and-girls/

 

https://www.yellowladybugs.com.au/

 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-13/how-easily-girls-can-mask-the-autism-warning-signs/10701928

 

Autism and mental health – want to know more?

 

https://raisingchildren.net.au/autism/health-wellbeing/mental-health/depression-teens-with-asd

 

https://www.spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/the-deep-emotional-ties-between-depression-and-autism/

 

Mental health supports

 

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

 

https://headspace.org.au/

 

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

 

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/mentalhealth/Pages/mental-health-line.aspx

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women Of Courage Series. #60. Tracey Breese. 77/2021.

Women Of Courage Series.  #60. Tracey Breese. 77/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

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

 

Introducing Tracey Breese, who  is 49, and known to me via our social media connections relating to schools and public education in New South Wales. Tracey is an innovator and a highly competent high school principal who has recently left one school where she was leader learner as school principal ….to become principal of a different type of high school, called Hunter School Of The  Performing Arts found via this link….and the students range from Year 3 to Year 12. What an interesting school and so good to read of Tracey’s updates on-line. I do hope to visit one day as well. Find Tracey here on Twitter.

 

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

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”

― William Faulkner

Courage is a funny thing. In the moment, you don’t particularly recognise it as ‘courage’ per se.

As a school leader I see many of the ‘moments’ in my career now, on reflection, have involved courage.

Many of them have evolved from my strong beliefs and convictions.

So, that idea of courage through conviction rings true for me.

The integrity of my convictions and not lying down when I need to speak up, have been pivotal to my personality and growth, as a mum, as a teacher, as a leader and as a community member.

Many of the pivotal moments of my career have changed me.

Sadly, many of the challenges harden the resolve that you have.

I have had to work harder to get some roles in my career, where, at times, simply being ‘male’ appeared to be the criteria.

When I first became a principal, I had a head teacher come to my door and say; ‘What we really needed was a strong man in this role, it’s a tough place.’ This was not in 1960: but 2016. I was speechless.

This stayed with me and drove me to be the best principal I could be.

 

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

Yes.

I found it really difficult to believe that I have got to this point, and was still fighting some old cultural misogyny.

Even though it was only one person’s opinion, it is amazing how these things stick like velcro to your armour.

I was able to move from the moment, but I was always striving to make sure that everything achieved for students was at the level of excellence and innovation.

I was warm to all, but ferocious in my resolve to be the best person I could be.

I had exceptional role models.

Christine Cawsey has been an amazing mentor in my entire career.

It is the women in leadership like this that have forged the path and created amazing opportunities- created through their courageous and fearless watershed moments.

 

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

Stick to your convictions and don’t let others drag you under.

Michelle Obama’s quote is up in my office: ‘When they go low, you go high.’

It’s not everyday that you need the power of resilience, but when you do: go to the mantras.

I did a mindfulness course with Gillian Coutts (you’ll want to get her on the blog!) Thank you for your recommendation, she is going to share too! 

It was life changing.

The strategies were about putting the gaps in between the work.

Knowing that you need to re-centre and revive yourself between the moments.

This has been work/life balance changing for me.

 

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

Yes.

I feel that the emotional intelligence you gain in leadership is so important and changes all the time as you experience different situations.

Courage is also about calling in your resources and knowing the right resources you need in the moment.

This includes the fact that in all situations, you do have the power of your own response.

This is the best point in courage.

The courage to know yourself and not be forced into responses by others.

I am at all times the calm and consistent adult.

I do not have to respond in a stereotypical way to any situation.

Walking away, in some instances can save others from themselves.

 

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

Courage is standing strong to your conviction, not the overwhelming and all powerful emotions that sometimes take over others.

Be the best person.

Walk away when needed.

Don’t get in the ring if you don’t have to.

Sometimes, doing what’s right is more important that doing what is easy- that is to be truly courageous.

 

As a now-retired K-6 principal I read your story with heightened interest and even used red and italyics to show how we women in leadership roles have had to manage some people’s comments, attitudes and ignorance. I am in awe of your daily work with the many students, staff and families who are part of your new school community. What a thrill it must be to be also part of a large student population with huge talent in many area. Mind you, as I would understand from having two “OC” classes at RPS, giftedness has its many challenges too.

 

Thank you so much again for sharing.

I am sure others who read will also take something from your work, your heart and your mind as you lead your school onward.

And I wish you and your colleagues some respite from school life as you lead up to the mid-year Winter School holidays.

Denyse.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Women Of Courage Series. #58 Tracey Lee. 71/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #58 Tracey Lee. 71/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

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

In counting back the years, I realised that I met Tracey Lee, aged 55 via twitter first…back in what we affectionately call ‘the good old days of twitter: 2010-2012’. Then I also got to meet her in real life at a mutual friend’s book launch. Over the next few years we chatted and caught up, in that social media way, on both facebook and twitter. When we moved from Sydney to the Central Coast of N.S.W. I knew that I had a friend I could meet up with again, and we did and have for coffee and chat. Love those connections. But in recent times, I was also delighted to be both an encourager and cheerleader in Tracey Lee’s ventures which she writes of here. I will let her share the story. Thank you!

 

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

Is there anything more terrifying than your “baby” starting high school? Is there anything more potent to ring the alarm bells of what will you “do” for the rest of your life!

  • Let’s take it back a decade, to when I was made redundant from my permanent part-time graphic design job, secretly 8 weeks pregnant with my second child and knowing I had no chance of finding another position that would fit me and my childcare needs.
  • With support from also-redundant colleagues and bereft clients, I set up a computer and dial-up modem in my dining room, establishing my freelance business.
  • While I never “made a living”, it was enough to keep our nose above water and pay for family holidays.
  • It gave me flexibility to be at school: helping in the classroom, canteen, P&C, and cobbling together costumes for the dreaded Book Week.
  • And extra time to spend with my Mum, who lived alone since we lost Dad, and who was showing early signs of dementia.

I had fallen into graphic design when I dropped out of law school (a terrible choice!) because I had always been “good at art”.

  • I enjoyed design, and it certainly honed my skills as a communicator, and I loved working in publishing (because books!), but it was never a goal that set me alight.
  • Into the presumption of stability known as “mid life”, little ideas crept into my head, of how I would resurrect my creative practice beyond on a computer, to find that part of me that the responsibilities of adult life and parenthood had driven out.

Enter Twitter! 

At the (since lamented) suggestion of my husband, I started an account.

As a SAHM/WFH (Stay At Home Mum/Working from Home) freelancer, I was thrilled to expand what had become a narrow social circle. I started with old friends from publishing, then followed the bread crumbs, gathering a group of individuals whose interests mirrored mine.

It did not occur to me until later that I had created a virtual curriculum vitae for future ambitions.

I followed parents and teachers, artisans and creatives … and a cluster of allied health professionals working in mental health.

I remembered the psychology I enjoyed as a part of my abandoned law studies, and the kindling started to smoulder.

If only I could resurrect my art practice and, through the joy I knew it could invoke, help people heal from self-doubt and hardships in their lives: art … and, therapy? That’s a job!

Putting aside qualms from my flawed experiences, I spent the rest of that year secretly searching qualifications and university degrees. I discovered mature-aged admissions pathways. I applied. I was accepted. Dear God!

 

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

I was used to work schedules and deadlines, but now I needed to factor in the unexpected, to learn how to drop the ball and catch it on the bounce when a child became ill or a paid freelance job turned up without warning.

I learned to focus my research and to “kill my darlings”, the factual nuggets or personal theories that just would not fit in under the word limit. (My worst effort was the 6000 word “draft” for the 1500 word assignment).

And then there was the dreaded Group Assignment: how to get my work done and learn to trust everyone else to do their own work … or to let go when it was obvious it was never going to happen.

I needed to allow myself to hand in work that I was not 100% happy with for the sake of getting it out of the way, ready to start on the next project.

Being the anxious type, that did not sit well with me!

And then there were the results that were disappointing, especially on assignments I felt I had “nailed”, to learn that there is more than one way to interpret an assignment, and that I would not always be “right”.

 

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

But the hardest thing to learn was to be self-centred, not in a selfish way, but in a way that allowed me to believe what I was doing, my aims and ambitions, were important.

  • Even more so than parenting demands, reasonable when my children were younger, which I had let persist because what I was previously doing was “not so important”.
  • I would like to say we blossomed graciously as a family, but it was a lot bumpier than that.
  • My new priorities were resented, and I had days when I struggled with guilt.

Yet, oddly, no one died. No one got injured or even particularly hungry, although a few dirty uniforms might have been shaken out at 8am and quickly sprayed with deodorant.

I learned that when I centred myself, others would fall in around me.

As a primary caregiver it can be confronting to be the instigator of one’s own obsolescence. It can be frightening to peel off the cocoon of parenting to see if what emerges will have beautiful wings, or be incomplete and damaged, unable to fly.

 

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

While this is about my year of Open Foundation, the next chapter was the four years of ups and downs it took to complete my three-year Bachelor’s degree (with Distinction!), with Mum leaving us in my final year.

By then I knew I was not cut out for the post-graduate Master’s as I had planned, so I looked for smaller certificate courses, finding one I could mostly complete online. And then …

And then COVID-19 spat its contagion, hungrily eating its way through freedoms I took so for granted.

I was used to WFH, but now my husband was WFH, my oldest had TAFE shut down and my youngest was studying “FH” as well. I was happy we could be safe and not suffer financially, but as someone who requires a quiet space, I shelved my plans for the year.

Sometimes courage means knowing your limits and when to say no.

Sometimes courage is an understanding that life will throw sharp sticks, and you need to protect yourself and regather for when it is safe to start again.

 

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

If years as a mature-aged student — forging a pathway to my first ever burning passion — taught me anything, it is that by creating a clear image of who you are, you can hold steady.

If who you wish to be is not possible right now, do not believe it can never happen or that your efforts have been wasted.

Such intrinsic courage does not fail at the first, or even fifth, hurdle.

I once read that direction, not speed, is pivotal when finding your way through life.

With a few pressing family issues and my youngest attempting the HSC in 2021, I’m still not quite ready to spring ahead, but I know my pathway when I am.

And hey, 60 is the new 40, am I right?

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post. For example a website or help line.

From UON / Open Foundation:

“Open Foundation is a free pathway program offered at the University of Newcastle for people who do not have the qualifications required for direct entry into an undergraduate degree program.’

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/study/pathways/open-foundation

 

Gosh I loved reading this from Tracey Lee because I remember a lot of what was happening as she plunged in…and see the top photo? A proud artist. Lately I have been loving her instagram pics where she includes art and art via nature. I was incredibly pleased to know of her graduation. However, like everything in 2020, the graduation could not happen in person. The photo here is from her graduation from the pathways’ program. Lots to be proud of here and perhaps for others to find encouragement in their tertiary study ventures.

Thank you!

Denyse.

Tracey Lee’s  Social Media:

Business Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/LPFdesign

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tracey_ArtTx

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

This series continues over the next months.

If you have  story to share, please leave me a message in the comments.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Leaving 22/51 #LifeThisWeek. 67/2021.

Leaving 22/51 #LifeThisWeek. 67/2021.

When I saw this optional prompt, my mind went to writing more about “leaving my role as a school principal” and then I thought, I have already written about that here and here.

Sometimes we can leave without knowing it will be the last time we do that.
I find that a challenge in some ways. Sad, but true.

This is my late mother on Dad’s 83rd birthday making sure there was a cake for celebration. She could no longer make one but a store bought one sufficed and my daughter and her kids, along with my niece were there…11 January 2007.

We did not know how unwell Mum actually was until the following couple of weeks which were a quick succession of trips to ED, back home, admission to private hospital, MRIs & more and then….a diagnosis. My mother had secondary brain tumours with within 2 months of this photo she died. She, along with Dad and her family and her treating doctors agreed ‘no surgery nor treatment’. We never did know the primary source.

Whilst we, her family, did expect that her health would deteriorate rather rapidly, it was always her wish to “stay at home” but she admitted to Dad, that she knew this was all too much for him as she became bed ridden  and incontinent and she agreed with his decision, made with her long-time G.P. that some kind of palliative care at a local private hospital would be the best for her.

So, Mum left, in an ambulance that Friday morning and was admitted. Dad and I agree NOW  that the Friday was a poor choice – no proper staff who could make decisions about her room and her care until Monday – but he too was exhausted.

She left here:

Then when she died it was from a room here: I can actually guess which one, but I won’t point it out. She died in the latter hours of Monday 5th March and Dad had been told to go home. She waited till then.

 

Leaving to meet a new sibling! As grandparents, back when we lived close to our family and were caring for the grandchildren we had no more privileged role on a special day in 2013 than to collect a grandson (from school) and granddaughter (from pre-school) to take them to meet their parents…and their new sibling…

 

And preparing to leave Sydney took a lot of doing.

The house we lived in had been ours brand new from 1998 onwards. It did though date itself over time, and as we had decorated and changed room configurations. Because my husband is one very talented renovator, he began the process in 2013 even though we were yet to firm up that decision…which in its own way had to be made at the right time…and it was in 2014..more on that here.

 

I wish I had known just how much leaving our home of many years,  our family, friends, my career ….and so on, would affect me emotionally. But…I know now that leaving as we did, affected me later, as my psychologist in 2016 told me ” emotions/feelings take longer than the events and decisions” to catch up with us. More about that in this post. and here too.

Fast forward to leaving hospital after my BIG cancer removal and mouth reconstruction in July 2017. What a happy day to be leaving…surgery done, lots of recovery to come and time….but LEAVING!!

And I cannot finish a post for 31 May with leaving a small tribute of love to my Aunty as it was her birthday. She would be 98 today.

Known as Poppy. Much loved aunt and great aunt. She gave us “the world”…even though she did not have much, it was always with love.

Have you found leaving is hard or is it a pleasure?

Denyse.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

Link Up #242

Life This Week. Link Up #242

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. It’s a kind connection I value as a blogger! 

* 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.

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Knowing.19/51. #LifeThisWeek. 58/2021.

Knowing.19/51. #LifeThisWeek. 58/2021.

From time to time, bloggers will invite a guest to write a post for their blog. I have done just that. I asked the man I married if he would  like to be the one who wrote on this optional prompt of ‘knowing’…his response was a resounding yes and so I emailed him (we do that, do you?) the questions.

Now, he is a considered and very well-read person with impeccable manners. He took his time to write this post and I said, the only thing I will do is ‘spell-check’. And that is exactly what happened.

Oh and he got to OK the photos I chose to use.

One thing before I hand over, living with and loving the man for over 50 years is a comfort and a challenge. And between us, we continue to learn about ourselves too. Not bored. Ever.

Thank you B.

 

Knowing. A blog post with Bernard responding to questions about his work, life and counselling.

 

What would you like the readers to know about you?

  • I am white, male, middle-class and therefore, harbour biases that I need to be alert to when interacting with others.
  • I am a contemporary phenomenon coming from a rare and unique background as the fifth child in a family of 13 children! Yes, that’s correct, THIRTEEN kids all sired by the same good Catholic parents! I have no doubt there are many other males who could lay claim to having fathered more than thirteen children. They probably are just not aware of many of them!
  • I have been married to the same super woman for more than fifty years and have never felt any desire to change that status; nor have I ever done anything that may threaten it.
  • The accomplishment that swells my soul with the greatest pride and joy has been to contribute to the reproduction of two excellent children and eight glorious grandchildren. These ten human beings, I am very proud to boast, are all examples of mum nature’s finest achievements. While they sometimes bring tears of despair to their humble parents/grandparents, the joy they return is incalculable!

 

How did you know that you would like to help others?

 Given my DNA, I think it may have been a pre-determined role that I was locked into from the moment I crashed to earth. Growing up with so many siblings provided very limited opportunity for putting self first. So, it was incumbent on each member to be a good listener and ‘helper’ or suffer the consequences! So, I acquired the answer to that question at a very early age.

 

What specific knowledge was required for your training?

  • Teaching: Combined College and University training. The prime value of this “time to join the real world” came from the exciting discoveries that socialising brings to the young and naïve adult. The ‘how to effectively teach and manage a school’ began the moment I first set foot in the playground of my first appointment. At the ripe old age of 18 I found myself as Teacher- in-Charge of a one-teacher school out of Narrabri. The school had an enrolment of 41, 10 of whom were secondary students. Fortunately, the kids loved music almost as much as I did!

Wow! What a steep – almost perpendicular – learning curve!!

But, I loved the challenge and managed to survive!!!

  • Cabinet-making: On-the-job training. Cabinet-making was the outcome of medical retirement from teaching as a result of chronic pain from spinal disease. It was good therapy!
  • Counselling: Combined university and Lifeline training. I found working with clients to help them become unstuck and return to greater contentment in their lives, greatly rewarding, it was marred by incompetent supervision. What a shame!

 

 Were there skills that you needed to learn?

 There was a myriad of skills that needed to be learned in all three of these pursuits.

  • Firstly, it should be said, there must be a willingness and openness to learning whatever skills are needed to fully enhance delivery of the service. Some of these already existed as a result of previous life experience and some were mutually beneficial between services. I refer to basic social skills built out of desirable human values such as kindness and compassion, empathy, tolerance, understanding, generosity of spirit, etc. Many more needed to be learned, especially manual skills relevant to building.

 

  • So, all three services rely heavily on the development of effective oracy (especially active listening) and literacy skills. Obviously, the ability to communicate effectively is a skill that is of paramount relevance to all, especially counselling and teaching. Contemporary society would also demand a desirable level of knowledge and skill in the new world of Information Technology. Fortunately, I was largely untouched by this beast!

 

  • Then, there are the many skills that are of specific relevance. For example, apart from being able to communicate well, running a cabinet-making business requires a broad range of business and management skills, to say nothing of the manual skills, that underpin the effective delivery of such a service.

 

  • All these skills I am very grateful for, as they have contributed greatly to the quality of life that I now enjoy.

 

 How has being a counsellor impacted your life?

 

Of all the above career pursuits, counselling has had the greatest impact on my life – a strange outcome when it was the pursuit that I spent least time pursuing.

  • However, counselling, through its skills, provided the opportunity to offer other human beings the love of listening and of taking them seriously – a rarity for some, especially women. It was a real honour to be permitted to engage in an intimate experience in which I was given open access to the secrets of clients’ tortured souls as we worked together to free them from the manacles that had them chained to an unpleasant time in their lives.

 

  • Relationship dysfunction demands the most attention. This might include a cry for help to improve emotional regulation that may have expressed itself as an inability to manage anger that is violently disrupting domestic equanimity or dysfunction resulting from the loss of loved ones. Complex trauma emanating from abuse or exposure to traumatic experience needs help to resolve as does the very broad problems associated with depression and anxiety.

 

  • The needs range is extensive but rarely does the dysfunction not affect relationships, especially the relationship we have with ourselves. Whatever the reason for seeking help, the initial offering of a loving ear and non-judgmental acceptance coupled with empathetic treatment are critical to effective outcomes.

 

  • I’m happy to award counselling the prize for greatest impact as the purpose and meaning it offered has contributed most to my feeling of inner peace and contentment.

If readers wanted to know more about how to help themselves to learn more about ‘life, living and all that’ what would you suggest?

 

Well, my immediate question to that question is, “how long have you got”?

But, as I think you would like something a little more practical and hopefully helpful, here are a few suggestions.

 

  • Give yourself a break! Our most severe judgy-judgy (my wife assures me that this is the contemporary version of judgmental) critics are ourselves. We’ve got that voice or voices in our heads telling us what not to do, how not to do it, what we should be doing, etc. Whatever the thought bubble, try not to empower it by reacting emotionally. Don’t resist it for whatever we resist, persists, remembering that it is very temporary and will pass. Allow it in let your mind move from inside the thought bubble to an observer position. Then thank it but suggest you’d like to proceed the way you want to. Remember, this voice is only trying to protect us. Practise offering yourself kindness and compassion rather than harsh criticism!

 

  • Be grateful and feel it. When we genuinely feel gratitude our bodies experience a chemical release that enhances feelings of well-being. Each day practise asking, “What am I grateful for?”

 

  • Live mindfully in the present. Give the right hemisphere of the brain the opportunity to be as active as the left. We human beings, especially in Western Society where we are constantly striving for materialistic gain, are very left brain oriented. This has us flat out DOING and solving related problems. We really need to give the more reserved, quietly-spoken right hemisphere a chance to become more active and JUST BE. Right brain loves us when we live in the present with curiosity and creativity. Music that we get lost in is a great BEING activity. It’s like slumping into your favourite chair after a hard day on your feet! Practise eating your next meal mindfully, i.e. with the curiosity of a scientist allowing your sense to actively engage with the process. Observe what you smell, taste, touch, hear, etc. No digital devices permitted at the dining table!

 

  • As difficult as it is, times of hardship and pain such as illness, relationship dysfunction, etc. need to be thought about as wonderful opportunities to learn about life and enhance one’s quality of it. The more difficult and/or painful the experience the more opportunity for learning about ourselves. Practise writing about these times.

 

  • Be a good listener. How many times have you heard, “you’re not listening to me!”? If you’re like most of us when having a conversation with your partner or a friend or involved in a group talk interaction, you’re probably mentally preparing what you want to say rather than listening intently. Practise being an active listener.

 

  • Be careful not to become a digital addict. This is a very real problem for some people. It impacts our sociability as we retreat further and further into the world of social media coming to see this world as the real world. While social media is a valuable asset giving people a sense of connection that they may not have otherwise had, that connection lacks a personal dimension that nourishes our souls. It’s like the unique value breast milk has for an infant. Certainly, use your device/s as tool/s or learning aids only. Practise going out without your phone – like we used to do only a few years back!

These provide just a snapshot of possibilities

 

How did you find writing these responses?

 Refreshing, heartening and stimulating. I miss all three of my life’s career choices, especially the last!

 

Thank you Bernard. I appreciate your skills,  talents and considerably well-used active listening skills… Always! Going out without your phone? Sorry, probably can’t do that. But I hear you!! My tribute in images here.

Thank you B, for your thoughtful words in response.

I know I have benefitted from your wisdom over the years and maybe there are some pieces of information shared here for readers and bloggers to find helpful.

Denyse.

Link Up #239

Life This Week. Link Up #239

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 Optional Prompt: Share Your Snaps #4. 17 May 2021

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Click here to enter


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Who’s A Volunteer? 34/2021.

Who’s a Volunteer? 34/2021.

It’s said, by many, that when you get to retire from paid work you might like to consider being a volunteer. I agreed with that notion.

Are you a volunteer?

Maybe you are not even retired but still a volunteer.

Here’s something about what this has been for me, and with a few notes about my husband’s experiences.

Retired Couple. 2015.

From this Australian government organisation in 2015 here is this.

           Definition: Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.

The following areas are not considered to meet each of the core requirements of volunteering (‘without financial gain’, ‘willingly given’ and ‘for the common good’) and hence are not included in this definition of volunteering. It is acknowledged that many of these have a constructive, positive and vital role in society and may exist alongside volunteering and / or provide a pathway into volunteering.

• Direct family responsibilities are excluded. It is recognised that direct familial relationships vary for different people and social groups and so this is open to individual interpretation. In addition, foster carers have many similarities with volunteers, but because of the family relationship, these are outside this definition of volunteering.

• A number of programs are highly structured, with fixed requirements and provide options of volunteering type activities but with limited choice and/or varying types of in-built financial or reward outcomes. These vary widely and are excluded from this definition. Examples include:  Compulsory educational service learning (where students are required to volunteer as part of a course) Mandated court orders including community service and fines  Internships  Formal work experience / vocational placements  Mandatory government programs  Limited choice labour market government programs

• Volunteering requires a donation of time. Other types of donating such as giving money or materials and donating blood are not considered volunteering, although it is acknowledged there is a time element required in these forms of donating

My Experiences.

These started around the time I was in partial retirement from around 52. Later, they were when I was over 65.

  • With caring for our grandchildren, over time, for no financial reward ever but the joy of memories made. However, see above, ‘not about volunteering.’

 

  • teaching English in women’s homes in the community. A one-to-one experience, for which I had to do some training, at no cost to me, and also provide materials for the women. I enjoyed it and I think the two women became more confident over time of having an English speaker helping them I found it a bit too one-sided as the women, who were at home because of child-rearing were not completing even the smallest of ‘between times’ work. 

 

  • helping in Smith Family Parramatta  office prior to Christmas one year taking phone calls from people who wanted to register for the Smith Family Christmas hampers. This meant I had to drive into Parramatta, park my car, and attend the office for about 4 hours. I took down details and recorded them so families could be included by Christmas. It was quite boring for someone who had only recently ran a school but I also needed “not” to have responsibility to assist my mental health recovery. That role finished abruptly when I managed to break my ankle getting out of the car at home after a shift there. No, I did not pursue work related claim.

 

  • becoming a volunteer at local art gallery did not even reach training stage. Once we arrived on the Central Coast, I wanted to settle in (as I thought then) with some busy activities. Trouble was that emotionally I was not up to this role’s training requirements (I.B.S. would strike any time) and I also add that by the time I decided to step away from this, I realised how ‘cliquey’ the other volunteers were and felt excluded anyway. I was new to the area and ‘felt’ I was an outsider.

 

  • looking after ethics program in local area when we first moved to the  Central Coast seemed like a win/win for me as I needed some work of a productive kind while my husband already had his weeks in retirement sorted. I liked the people I met at the schools and was already helping get new people on board to be teachers when I felt something that did not seem quite right. You see, I felt conflict. I am, NSW teacher/principal at heart, and this program was independent to schools and I could see a conflict of interest  that I could not brush off. I sensed, and heard for good reason that it was an Us vs Them issue and I could not continue. I tried to let them have this feedback but it was a political hot potato and I left.

 

  • teaching mindful colouring was something I was passionate about in the midst of my first year of doing my best to settle to a new way of life. The local independent bookshop was happy to support my plan where I would supply all materials and I just needed a space. A local cafe owner said yes to that as we would be buying coffees. And off we went. We had 4 the first week. Then down to 3. Sadly, I was not prepared to continue because of this. I really did think this would work. No it did not. 

 

  • creating bookmarks for the charity The Big Hug Box. This was a passion for me as I was using my distraction activities of art, designs and more to create bookmarks as part of my post-cancer treatments. I’d be helping this new 2018 charity with my donations of goods and time. I also donated more than 300 bookmarks over time and took part in a packing day. Still on call if needed but I stopped the bookmarks.

 

  • teaching mindful mandala making and colouring because I wanted to share the ways in which this is helpful for our emotional health. I instigated this idea through my local library. Honestly, just as well I have determination because so many stumbling blocks were put in my way… no personal indemnity insurance ( and no, I was not going to pay for it) and then, oh, you would have to do our volunteer course to do this here, and no we don’t have any training coming up. I was ready to give up, when the local librarian – all part of the huge council area – said, you can have the space and I will say I am the organiser. Truly. Anyway, it went well over 4 weeks. I provided everything. I did offer it again, and waited in the empty room on two occasions and after that, I did not return.

 

  • I also offered to a women’s shelter that I could do this course in mindful colouring if they thought there was a need. They said yes, but without my person indemnity insurance, I could not start. So, another loss.

 

  • I also supplied Chris O’Brien Lifehouse with books of my designs and many pieces of media for in-patient art and visitors’ mindful colouring as it was a practical contribution I could make as I lived 2 hours away.

 

  • I am an ‘unofficial’ supporter  of Public Education via my social media and other presence and it’s one way I like to stay supportive and connected. 

 

  • In 2017 I was diagnosed with a head and neck cancer, and in a way to help me understand more about my cancer (there are many types of head and neck cancer) my two surgeons directed me to what was then called Beyond Five. Over time, I learned more about Beyond Five and the almost 100% volunteer support it requires the website going, changing and being of use. About a year into my recovery, I shared my story with Beyond Five, and then following my head and neck team’s assurance I seemed to be doing the right thing with my social media and other messages, I was invited to become an  Ambassador for what is now called Head and Neck Cancer Australia.

 

  • Being a member of the local Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer support group which meets monthly and being a contributor to sharing knowledge and awareness to others affected as patients or carers or family members.

 

  • I was very pleased to know I could be a mentor for Public Education via another way, supporting a student with a funded scholarship. However, over the time of being accepted, and then getting ready to help this person, I was not confident of the ways in which the program was run. I wanted to feel I could find support as I was learning the program via on-line systems but with little to no communication, I have declined their offer. Sadly, with some organisations this can be what happens.

 

  • My blog has been a voluntary activity. I have been able to write, share, find friends from this amazing medium. I do it all on my time, when I can, and it’s a great volunteer role because “I” am in charge of this one. My blog is over 10 years old now and brings me a great deal of personal reward.

My Husband’s Experiences: not all as a retiree! The last 3 were.

  • P&C President at our local primary school for 7 years our son was there.
  • Scouts President whilst our son was part of cubs.
  • Volunteer Teacher of Children in The Westmead Kids’ Hospital.
  • Safety House Co-ordinator in our neighbourhood in the 1980s -1990s- remember those?
  • Local Community Progress Association President.
  • President Local Drama Society in a Country Town.
  • Musical Director of performances over 3 years in that town.
  • President Ecumenical Council at local Church in the country town
  • National Charity Telephone Crisis Support.
  • National Charity  Face to Face Counsellor.
  • Driver: Cancer Patients To Appointments.

Some feedback we would LOVE to give to organisations where we no longer volunteer. Do not, please, take our service or time for granted. In my husband’s case, he PAID hundreds of dollars towards his training to be National Charity TSC…and as he was also doing a University course to become a trained counsellor, there were costs there. However, he was pleased to be able to help and learn via his supervisors how he was proceeding. This is when it becomes tricky. Those ‘people’ in charge of volunteers are paid and for some, the power of the position became a lack of respect in dealings over time. It does not take too much guessing to know why volunteers may leave. In my husband’s case, he did leave to become my carer as I had just had my cancer diagnosis. In another instance, the driving role, the system was so poorly organised on some days he would leave our place at 8.00 a.m. and not return till 6.00 p.m. because of poor planning for patients’ needing being collected, taken to the hospital and then collected.

He no longer performs any volunteer roles. 

 

Some further comments about volunteering here.

https://www.oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/retirement-life/5-amazing-benefits-of-volunteering-in-retirement

1. Stay active and engaged with life

2. Helping others makes you feel happy

3. Make new social connections

4. Have new experiences and learn new skills

5. Change someone’s life – change your own

 

My husband and I also ask each other, is it because we have both been leaders in our work places that we find it hard(er) to be a volunteer….or maybe that is not the reason. We can also see that organisations who need volunteers  to assist their services must go through quite a bit themselves in judging suitability and more. It’s perhaps the reason why I wrote this post. I was so sad to relinquish the mentor role but I also knew, that understanding my need to clarity and certainty in doing this role well, I could not, if I had not a great deal of faith in the organisation’s representative. 

This post comes under a few of my topics, including stories about ageing which I write about from time to time. I know you do not have to be a retiree to volunteer but most of my activities were then. 

Are you a volunteer?

Tell us more.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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