Tuesday 22nd June 2021

Women Of Courage Series. #59. Tribute To My Relatives. 74/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #59. Tribute To My Relatives. 74/2021.

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

This is a different take.

I wanted to show my appreciation for the Women of Courage in my life. All of them are no longer living. I know I  am applying my judgement through my lens as a:

  • granddaughter
  • niece
  • daughter

To these women:

  • my paternal grandmother: known in this as Etta.

Henrietta Season (nee Earl) Simpson

  • my maternal grandmother: known in this as Vera.

Vera May (nee Bailey) Chapple.

  • my aunt (Mum’s sister) known in this (and to me) as Poppy

Thora Doris Chapple.

  • my mother known in this as Noreen

Noreen (Chapple) Simpson.

I know this is a very lengthy post and some may not wish to read it all. I wrote their stories of courage for me to remember. I hope you get to read some parts. I found it a process which helped me get more insight into who came before me, and what qualities I may have inherited or learned as behaviours.

About Etta.

I knew Etta as Gran. When we lived in Wollongong too, we saw her more often. Dad shares that it was always by obligation. She visited us in Sydney, coming up by train and she attended our wedding and got to see her great grandchildren from both me and my brother before dying in her late 80s in 1985.

Etta displayed enormous courage in 1920, to follow her then fiance, a soldier from Australia, back to his hometown Wollongong. She left everyone and everything she knew back in, as she called it, “home”.

Nevertheless, love won. She married, and despite some England vs Scotland prejudice (Andy, her husband was of Scottish descent) she went on the have her first two children, one of whom is my Dad. Over time, though, I can guess her courage waned, as during the Great Depression years, her husband was out of work, and by then two more children came along.

A family of 4 small mouths to feed, and to find work for her husband, she courageously left the family home with them all. It was owned by  her mother –  a widow who had migrated shortly after her daughter. My father tells me the stories of them driving up to Auburn in Sydney, to live temporarily for his Dad to have work. It did not last, and they, like many, relied on some work, handouts and more.

How do I imagine this was for Etta? I think, given she was a middle class woman from England it must have taken an enormous amount of courage to live in a new country with new ways, and to deal with society in that city where she lived. You see, I know that her husband was banished in some ways from his family due to underlying secrets about money and jobs. Sigh. She had to deal with those disappointments and a lack of what she might have thought was coming to her and her new husband when she arrived in Australia.

Yet…..there was more to come. In 1935 her love and husband died. From an injury sustained in the work he got back into at the Steelworks. She was widowed with 4 kids, the youngest was aged 2. From my then 11 year old father’s recollection she remained sad, and unable to offer her children some of the love and discipline they might have  needed. Instead, as he tells it, that came from her mother, Edith.

What Have I Learned About Myself From This Woman of Courage?

I have learned compassion. I am also far less likely to quickly make a judgement about other people’s decisions. I do not judge Etta at all now. I have tried to share with Dad (in our recent chats) just how hard it must have been for this woman he called Mum. She had no idea that being courageous would lead her to a life of poverty and being shunned socially in the town where they lived.

Etta did ‘classy’ for special occasions like my christening and her Mum did too!

About Vera.

When I remember Vera, Nanny to me, I remember her care for me but it was edged with a pretty strict regime. She died when I was about 8, my mum losing her Mum in her 30s. I stayed with her and my Papa and their extended family quite a bit as a child and always felt loved and cared for. However, in the latter years of her pretty short life I recall her severely affected by a stroke and that my grandfather cared for her at home for sometime. I have a strong memory too, of an Ambulance taking her to Wollongong hospital, and that later my mum was very sad because her mother had died.

I have done some family history research as has my daughter and with Dad still having an excellent memory I ask him about his late mother-in-law  and her life. She lived a hard physical life. It was in a rural/small town area of the south coast of N.S.W. Interestingly she and her brother (Don) married a brother and a sister (Ettie). So there was a closer blood relationship between the families. My grandmother worked at home, and kept the home fires burning even after having 3 children because her husband had been blinded in one eye in an accident at the local coal mine. In fact, he was in Sydney Eye Hospital having surgery on his eye socket and to have a glass eye added when my Mum (Noreen) was born in Dapto.

From that time, of course, there were hardships relating to one person unwell and unable to work full time again, even though he did what he could. Vera lived by Christian convictions (she was Presbyterian) and her strictness around the family life and upbringing may have contributed to her courage. I do know she tried to have me read the bible from a very young age. I still have it.

Then, tragedy struck.

In a way that no-one could envisage but would in some ways become a life saver of sorts. Vera’s sister-in-law, her husband’s sister and married to her brother, died giving birth to her third child – a daughter. This was in mid 1920s. Neither survived. Nor did her husband and father of 2 sons, ever recover. Vera, whose own situation was pretty dire, agreed for the family’s sake that she, her husband and 3 children – Poppy, a son, and Noreen, would move to the house that was being paid off by her brother. This allayed fears of being evicted from their rental as work was thin on the ground during the Great Depression.

Now I add what I know is hearsay. From my Dad, telling me Mum’s memories. That house was full. It had 3 bedrooms. Your Nanny and Papa slept in one room, Uncle Don & his son, another, and your mother & Poppy in the other one. Bobby (son of Uncle Don) slept on one part of the verandah as did your Uncle Keith. This pattern continued even as I recalled as a child. Over time, the children became adults who could work. And they did. It was the start of WW2. Your grandmother had not only a house full of family but made the house available for soldiers stationed near by and of course was encouraged to give back due to her Christian upbringing. She worked. As did those other woman, your mother and aunty, just to keep the household fed. Her brother contributed nothing other than the shelter. He sunk into a deep, life lasting depression, only emerging on days when his beloved greyhounds needed training and then to catch up with other trainers. 

What Have I Learned About Myself From This Woman of Courage?

I have learned that despite life’s biggest and hardest challenges we can survive. However, sadly, that did not help Vera live. Her life stopped. Prematurely. In 1957 Vera died. She had been unwell with blood pressure causing a stroke and then another one ending her life. I remember my Mum’s sadness the most. I learned that I have strong women in my mother’s family but that their health frailty and anxiety about health is something I have been given. I am more resilient as a result of recent life events like my cancer but I also am wary of my health because of my lineage. I do take medication for high blood pressure and it is controlled well.

I hope Vera was happy on her wedding day.

About Poppy.

As I prepare this post, it is Poppy’s birthday and she would have been 98.  Dear woman she was to me and my brother and to our kids as well.  Born Thora Doris, that was shortened to Poppy by one of the relatives and that’s who she was to us. She was the middle of 3 with Mum, Noreen, the younger. These two shared a bed in one room until Mum left home to marry Dad. They were a  sporting and community minded family even with the hardships at home and little money. Poppy’s intelligence was good enough to get her from the local primary school into the selective  Wollongong  H.S. in the late 1930s and funnily enough she was in 2 years up from my father! But she still had to leave school, as Dad did, aged 15.

Poppy and Noreen played competition sport: Hockey to be exact. They played at representative level and  it was a great way to meet others socially too.  They travelled around N.S.W. and to Sydney.  This was mostly by train. I have included both of their Hockey photos in this post. I am the least sporting person ever but I did inherit a love of competition from someone!

I only ever heard dribs and drabs about Poppy’s life as a young adult. I know she was shy. I know too, that she trained to be a telephonist. Those were the women who sat at large banks of phone lines and plugged in calls.  First with the Post Office in her local area on  the South Coast, and then after the war, she went to the Steelworks to work  in their section. Before that, I understand she may have had a boyfriend but that he  was  killed in the war. My mum seemed to attract more male attention  but I don’t think my aunt  was ever jealous. She was already friends with my dad before mum met him.

But what about her courage?

It’s in sharing this story that I acknowledge one of mental  ill-health, sadness and grief. She lost her Mum  (Vera) at an early age. Work at home fell to her, even though she was a full-time  working woman. I was a  young kid and my brother and I were spoiled a lot by her: lollies, taking us to the Dapto Show and more. She loved to read and I devoured her women’s magazines when I stayed with her.

Life  challenges took a big toll.

As I understand it, she had what was called a nervous breakdown based on her workload and went into a Sydney private hospital  for electro convulsive shock  treatment. I was about 11. I remember visiting her but not much else. She was able to return home and was given modified duties with her employer away from the switchboard. That continued until she turned 60. She was well-respected. An ardent follower of sport – Rugby League in particular- and a kinder and more caring Aunty and Great Aunty I am yet to  know.

What Have I Learned About Myself From This Woman of Courage?

I have learned selflessness is something that needs to be balanced with self care. I saw Poppy taking care of everyone else first…and then, over time, herself last. She used to eat for comfort too but was incredibly lonely as well. Her latter years of life were spent in a new-to-her house, which was almost hers along with her older brother who was severely unwell due to depression, and excessive alcohol intake and more. She rarely saw people once she stopped work and so that was something I, along with my parents would try to rectify with visits and encouraging her to come and stay with us. She was the kindest hearted person and totally devoted to her family. I have learned that overdoing it via work can cause issues with our health (yes, I know I too suffered) and that seeking treatment and continuing life afterwards is not to be discounted. In fact that IS an act of courage right there.

Poppy is next to little girl in pink hat, and to my Dad in blue shirt. I think this might have been her last Christmas with us.

About Noreen.

It’s only been in the recent 5 or so years that I have been interested in, and talking more to Dad about, Mum’s history. Dad and I are the talkers. Mum sure could talk but she also had an impediment for as long as I can recall. Mum was left very deaf in one ear in particular, which her specialists back in the mid 50s attributed to having children. In fact she and Dad were told not to have more. Before I go back to earlier times, even before she met Dad, I remember her being upset because she couldn’t hear. I know Dad always came to us kids in the night because when Mum was lying on one side, she heard nothing. But what I want to recall is her immense courage in doing something to help her hearing. She was a shy woman from the South Coast but it would be an operation of big magnitude that her ENT specialist in Sydney said would help restore some hearing….and she went through with it.

We were under 10s then and I remember feeling sad about Mum’s absence. Dad took us up to RPA one time. Interesting fact, when I was in Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, my room overlooked Gloucester House where Mum had that surgery. And it helped her for some time but in her latter years, she needed more hearing aids. It frustrated her so much when we would talk and she wouldn’t know what we were saying, and in a group setting, or people around a table it was more annoying too. Sigh. I am wondering about compassion here. My husband tells me I talk loudly and it is true and it is always clear (OK, bit rough since my mouth reconstruction) but we used to have to do that at home.

Mum was the baby in her family. However that did not coming spoiling as I wrote in Vera’s story, Noreen and Poppy had home duties even when high school and work called. Mum did enjoy fashion. She worked locally in a store and eventually, for her, got the job of her dreams selling shoes. Honestly, I am so not like that. Mum had the best collection but was a small size, frustratingly for her granddaughters. She became someone who loved her competitive sport and I have seen that in her as a tennis player (it was a way to become friends in Sydney, when she joined a club). She was lithe, fast moving and skilled. Hockey made her very competitive.

About the courage she had. I talked to Dad about this not long ago. As a woman who had met the man to become her husband through the Scouting Movement, she became friends with his friends, and her sister often accompanied them on picnics and overnight stays. All above board. They were wed, he continued study to be an accountant whilst building their first home, and Mum worked each week…and I was eventually born. Just into the new house too and Dad was transferred to the Melbourne office, very unwillingly. He made it a deal, that he had to be home for his daughter’s first birthday and he did. However, in the midst of that year, Mum very courageously took us both by plane (1950 people!) to Melbourne from Sydney. I cannot fathom how much courage that took but love won!

But after marriage, and having one child, when she saw Dad not only get his driver’s licence and a family car, she decided that was for her too. She got that licence soon after my brother’s birth and had independence not many 1050s women enjoyed. Yet, she loved her house, her neigbourhood and more. And then all that came undone.

She had already dealt with the death of her mother. But her husband had some news she did not like. He was being promoted to head office in Sydney and he really could not turn that offer down. She did not want to go. Everything was unknown. Dad eventually convinced her it was the right move but he was challenged by the circumstances too because of the time between when he had to start and when he could move us up after selling the ‘first home’ built together.

My views on Noreen’s courage from there:

  • she accepted the move, despite her anxiety and loss of family and friend support
  • she ended up, as parents often do, making friends with a woman whose son was in the same class as hers and from then on, it was great..over time of course. But she had met many people close in age, interests and more. That remained the case until her death!
  • she joined P&C, Scouts & Guides parent groups, tennis clubs, card clubs, was part of the first V.I.E.W. Club formed to raise funds for The Smith Family, she did Meals of Wheels and more
  • she became more of the sole parent at times, being independent with a car helped, as Dad travelled interstate and then…the big one:
  • 1966 he was flown by the company he worked for, around the world, ending in Hawaii for 6 weeks at Harvard Management of Business Summer School. It changed his life. Mum cried at the kitchen sink after he left. I had never seen that before.
  • But, as in all things, she rallied and we were teens at school, and she even drove us with friends to Port Macquarie
  • Over time I saw Mum grow in her personal strength indicating a change for the good in terms of courage
  • She did not do well however, with her own illness. Who does?
  • Well, she became so unwell at the end of her life because she lost her confidence, her ability to manage her body well and I believe that in keeping Mum as safe as he could, Dad was right but it was at the expense of ever knowing what had happened inside her to cause her death.

What Have I Learned About Myself From This Woman of Courage?

It’s taken me till the past few years to realise that I could learn to “talk less” as they say and listen more. Noreen used to say I rushed my kids too much in the mornings, getting them to school and pre school, and I agree but I also had to….and I liked work outside the home. In fact I needed it. But I also look back now at Mum and admire her quiet courage…especially when she did not want to “be” or “do” what she was. In the end, and it was her almost end, it was her words “no more test, nothing” that set the path for her once it was discovered she had secondary brain tumours. That’s courage done confidently and quietly but firmly.

We all agreed, as did her team.

Thanks Noreen, for my life, and for me making better inroads into understanding you and your life way past the time when I could tell you so. I had to get to now to know this, aged 71. You died when I was 58.

Such a favourite. Noreen, with her first granddaughter, at the front of 61, with Andrew, Dad.

Thank you to readers who came this far. I really appreciate it.

Denyse.

 

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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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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Women of Courage Third Series Is Here in 2021. 59/2021.

Women of Courage Third Series is Here in 2021. 59/2021.

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.

Many of you know I have had the experience of a cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery and I am aware I had to garner a lot of courage to come through much of what has happened. However in my  courage post  you will read something different where I believe I was courageous.

For those like me, who are interested in attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in 2021, here is the link to the website. I was fortunate to attend the first LIVE event earlier this year when Festival Director (and Woman of Courage #49 found here) Rosemarie interviewed former PM Julia Gillard.

 

All the women’s stories from Series One (2019) and Series Two (2020) are here. 

In the 2019 group, there were 24 women who used their names and one who was published anonymously at her request.

In the 2020 group, there were 25 women who went public with their stories and four who chose anonymity.

Total: 56 women’s stories shared! Jane’s and mine did not carry a number.

First post in 2021 will be Woman of Courage #54.

I am excited, interested and curious about these stories from real life…and  now so grateful to be sharing women in a third series.

I hope you are too. I have asked over 20 women to date  who said yes, and have five responses so far which go live each Thursday after today….

There is always room for more, so if you would like to share, email me! denyse@ozemail.com.au or tell me in the comments.

 

I asked the first Woman of Courage, Sam if she wished to share any updates for her first post, found here,

And she replied “happy to leave it as is”….but “I have a new photo” and this, dear readers, is Teddy Roosevelt, who is already a STAR on Sam’s Blog found here. Thank you both!

 

And again from my first post…these words from Brene Brown.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognise the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.” 

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” 

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.” 

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” 

Last year I began listening to Brene Brown here on her podcasts. She has two. I have checked out both from time to time, learning more and being inspired by other women of courage and some of  her guests are also from all genders and walks of life.

Next Thursday, 20th May, I welcome Woman of Courage #54 to this blog community for her to share her story.

See you all then too, I hope.

Denyse.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

 

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

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Self Care Stories #2. 14/51 #LifeThisWeek. 42/2021.

Self Care Stories #2. 14/51 #LifeThisWeek. 42/2021.

Every 7th Week on Mondays.

Who is the 71 year old woman behind this smile?

She is Denyse.

She is ageing.

She is also a thinker, a doer and someone who likes to learn.

She is seeking answers to her age-old question about HER. Her relationship with herself. Her belief in herself. In fact, yes, it’s about Denyse exploring what she is learning via self care and more.

Why the third person?

In learning to place some distance between me and my thoughts, I now know using my own name draws my attention to what I want to do but doesn’t suck me in as much as using the personal pronoun. I learned this, and have put it into action recently, via the book I highlight below called Chatter.

https://www.ethankross.com/chatter/

In Chatter, acclaimed psychologist Ethan Kross explores the silent conversations we have with ourselves. Interweaving groundbreaking behavioral and brain research from his own lab with real-world case studies—from a pitcher who forgets how to pitch, to a Harvard undergrad negotiating her double life as a spy—Kross explains how these conversations shape our lives, work, and relationships. He warns that giving in to negative and disorienting self-talk—what he calls “chatter”—can tank our health, sink our moods, strain our social connections, and cause us to fold under pressure.

Loss of Confidence in Myself. Recently.

Life is not linear although that might appear to be the case. I have found since late January 2021 that some of my usual confidence has waned. I could feel it and as yet another medical test came up, I began to identify with it as

fear of something else going wrong for me

What Happened?

I needed a gastroscopy and iron infusion in early February. They went well. Iron levels from 11 to 225! Who knew.

But any little twinge, ache or whatever had me seeking medical advice. Always assured and re-assured.

Still not that convinced.

Body Image And  What I Saw Not Being True.

Long time readers here would know that way before my cancer was diagnosed, I was on a long journey to losing weight but in a not healthy way. It was via anxiety and I.B.S. However, one by-product was that I was over 30kg less in weight than my heaviest back in 2013. I tried to convince myself that right now, I seemed to look OK but of course I remain overweight but….

I

am

healthy.

I listened to this book, website below, in some parts and found it of interest. I stopped hating my body (and me) as much because I could acknowledge what it had done for me and that being overweight (technically I am) was not a sin, nor something I needed to be ashamed of…and actually for me , it meant I was healthier post cancer than most times of my life.

https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/

The Body Is Not An Apology is an international movement committed to cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment. We believe that discrimination, social inequality, and injustice are manifestations of our inability to make peace with the body, our own and others. Through information dissemination, personal and social transformation projects and and community building, The Body is Not An Apology fosters global, radical, unapologetic self love which translates to radical human love and action in service toward a more just, equitable and compassionate world.

The Evidence Was In. Need to Believe.

Just recently I spoke to my main G.P. and my other one, along with my husband, about how I was viewing myself. I had begun to worry about the numbers on the scales. I saw this as a pattern from my past and felt helpless to let it go. I needed and asked for confirmation from others that I was OK, at this weight, and doing well. I had to see myself as a well person. I was to stop weighing myself.

I am on my way to better self-belief and acceptance of this is both who I am now and how well I am.

In fact my female G.P. stressed just a week ago “Denyse, you are WELL, enjoy yourself”.

Truth in that. I think, given that I overcame my head and neck cancer, and then endured a pretty stressful and traumatic series of tests & surgeries in 2020 too, I have only just now, realised this too.

Thankful, indeed!

More Help For Handling Emotions. 

I remain dedicated to my Daily Calm: meditation both day and night.

I go outside every day.

I seek to interact with others somewhere in my day.

I am seeing a psychologist for a few sessions just to re-calibrate!

I saw one, last week who asked, amongst her listening to my stories, “when do you rest?”. Umm. Not much at all. Made me think.

I have a loving husband.

I am well physically.

I know how to care for my eating via nutrition and food enjoyment.

This: Written at my most “difficult & searching for peace within” time of my recent life:

Early February 2017 TRYING to show confidence.

What Do I Really want My Life to Look like Now?

  1. I act with ease & no trouble at all
  2. I smile, I exude joy & peace
  3. People want to be around me
  4. I want to be around them
  5. I want old barriers of ‘excessive & always there’ fear to be reduced so it only surfaces for “real” reasons
  6. I will be comfortable in my skin
  7. I will be happy to be the age & stage I am in
  8. My contentment & ease will continue to bring me closer to my husband & family
  9. I will seek new & other social networks & people when I want to connect
  10. I will be energised & confident to go anywhere & with anyone

I see so much of the above is how I am living my best life now. Who’d a thought that’s what cancer would bring.

Four Years Later. Confidence is there…believing it a challenge at times

 

Emotional Agility.

https://www.susandavid.com/

Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility. A talk to share.

Susan David’s Ted Talk: Emotional Agility

What does your self-care consist of?

Do you get enough rest?

Can you think of yourself with kindness?

Share how things are for you.

Denyse.

Link Up #234

Life This Week. Link Up #234

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: 15/51 Share Your Snaps #3. 12 Apr.

 

 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


 

 

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Will You Share Your Woman of Courage Story? 29/2020.

Will You Share Your Woman of Courage Story? 29/2020.

 

 

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: most weeks.

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

 

The ‘why’ behind my decision to begin inviting women to share their stories of courage.

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

Her written and spoken words really made me think.

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

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

I did get some instant responses after my initial invitations went out to women I knew personally or on-line:

  • Almost everyone said, “Thank you for asking, yes I will share.” “Not everyone” did return the responses because “life” it gets in the way and of course I get that.
  • Some surprised me with a flat “no, I am not a woman of courage” and yes, even though I may have seen something of courage in them, no remained as was that person’s wish.
  • Some took a middle road. Maybe…can I get back to you? Sure I would say. I admit, I never wanted anyone to miss out if they wanted to share but sometimes it took a few more communications from me to get the definitive Yes or No…or another date to be determined.

The first person asked was the lovely Sam, The Annoyed Thyroid , her post can be found here. I admit I wrote one about an instance of courage of mine as well but Sam was #1 in the series.

I also know that perhaps my dates of publication did not work well for those who had shared their stories. This meant the interactivity I may have envisioned by comments to readers did not occur. But, as always, I understood the why. Life. Again.

Not everyone shared their name and that was for a reason. I also understand though, from comments returned to me privately, that those people found the writing of the story helpful AND the comments and support from readers gave them quite a life.

Thank you all for sharing!

Now, who is up for sharing their story now? Many who read and link up already have but there are plenty I see who may like to contribute but have been a bit shy. Here are the questions that I ask….there are 5.

Questions from Denyse:

  • What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?
  • How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.
  • Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?
  • Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?
  • Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

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

I also ask, if you wish to share, for any social media you would like to promote that is a link to you and a photo if you are prepared to share one.

That is it. I have received short and to the point responses, some which are prose set by the person not actually answering the questions directly and others are long. And for a good reason.

Please consider sending me an email here: denyse@ozemail.com.au and tell me you would like to share your story. Thank you in advance!

And, to the over 45 women who have shared already: not all are live till later in the next few months..I am very thankful for you too. Just some of the women here who have shared their stories. Catch up here for more.

In this awful period around the world as COVID19 pandemic continues, I send you all my healing thoughts and that you all stay well and connected on-line while we are all self-isolating.

Easter will be different of course. However, it is still happening. May yours be peaceful and may the Easter bunny find you.

Denyse.

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

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

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

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What Is This Series Women Of Courage About? 104/2019.

What Is This Series Women Of Courage About? 104/2019.

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

 

Her written and spoken words really made me think.

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

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

 

The words of Brene Brown helped inspire me in recent years.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognise the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.” 

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” 

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.” 

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” 

Her program, on courage, is on Netflix here:

https://www.netflix.com/au/title/81010166

 

My germ of an idea grew and initially I wrote to a few on-line and ‘in real life’ friends (although those of us on the interwebs count many as one and the same) and asked, after in introduction to the ‘why’ of the series, if they would become involved with a contribution.

My great joy was the response. Not everyone said yes, but many more said it and sent me back their responses. That was back in May when I started here with my post then one from Sam.

Not every person is a blogger, for instance here is Tracey’s story recently as was Margaret’s here.

Honestly, each and every post makes me think about courage. Every day courage. The kind that you don’t even react to, but do it anyway. Then there is the slow build up to courage, which takes us along to change.

Here on this page: Women of Courage are the twenty one (21!) women who have already shared. Do check them out if you haven’t. I am so grateful for their courage and responses.

Next week and until mid November there will be five more stories shared.

After that Women of Courage series is having a break for the lead up to Christmas and into January as I need to do some posts relating to Telling My Story (homework!) and more.

From February 2020 I have eight more women’s stories ready to go.

Wow.

Here are the women who have shared their  stories to date! 

If you would like to share your story as a Woman of Courage, please let me know in the comments and I will email you the five questions!

Very much appreciate the stories I have been entrusted with for the blog series. Thank you all.

Denyse.

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

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

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

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Courage Is. 48/2019.

Courage Is. 48/2019.

I guess that when it comes down to it, courage is whatever it means to you.

I know I have had to draw on courage in recent years since having cancer and also being anxious during the time of retirement transition.

Each time I did something, as they say, out of my comfort zone, then I was being courageous.

When I reviewed some of my posts and photos I came up with these examples of courage.

 

That’s me….In the prosthodontist chair at Westmead. Having a 1-4 hour session.

 

2015. We left the house we sold and all that was familiar to move to the Central Coast. My courage may have been hiding on many days but “we did it.”

 

In Winter 2017 before my first surgery for cancer, I visited here to connect with the elements and rejoice in what I saw, felt and heard. This was enhancing my mood to add courage to the mix.

 

I love a wave. I used to dive into waves like these. I am now older and some of my courage has been replaced by commonsense. You see, I am wise enough to know, that this beach has rips and ‘older’ people like me can easily be knocked over.

 

After knowing I had cancer and what the surgery would mean I took this pic to represent: one step at a time. This was one of my first examples of courage to help me manage my inner fears.

 

Nothing like a hand to hold when needing more courage. Perhaps also offering a hand to another to garner their courage.

 

2016 Poppy Project in Terrigal NSW for A.N.Z.A.C. Day reminded me over and over of the courage of so many who left Australia to fight wars in other lands. Some to never return, others to return with wounded bodies and souls.

And yet, sometimes we resist. We hold back. We fall into old habits. We know what we have to do but cannot.

Pema Chodron’s words come to mind:

In terms of courage, I think I also learn from meditation, stilling my outer self and paying attention to my inner self.

Of course, I cannot stop the thoughts from coming, but I can now let them go.

Take your time, and get into some times of self-care via a meditation app or just sitting quietly with your hands in your lap and your eyes closed.

Listen…..feel….and take your time.

Each time you do this, you are helping settle an anxious body and mind. It is courageous to actually STOP . Being courageous is not all action-based.

Only you know what is courage for you!

Tomorrow, I will outline my new Wednesday series of posts called Women of Courage.

Please call in again and see what this is about.

Denyse.

Today I am linking with Min for Zen Tips Tuesday here.

On Wednesdays you will find the posts about Women of Courage here and on Thursdays here.

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Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Pt 4. 46/2019.

Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Pt 4. 46/2019.

I am heading for ‘crunch time’ now. It is almost the 2 years since I heard the words over the telephone:

“Denyse, squamous cell carcinoma was found in your gums after further investigation by the pathologist”

In the last week of April 2017 I did something very courageous…for the Denyse I was back then.

I drove to Sydney to see my father.

My anxiety and fear of IBS episodes had so built up in my mind, that I could not even fathom this trip from the Central Coast, down the M1 to Dee Why. It bothered me big time that I could not but it made me so scared just thinking about it.

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”  Brene Brown.

 

Then as readers from earlier posts know, I HAD to find the courage and it was via this: exposure therapy which over time, has become my way of managing the hard things. This is discussed in a post here. And here in part two.

Remember this is not an advice post, merely my story. Wikipedia has also provided a quote.

Exposure therapy is a technique in behaviour therapy thought to help treat anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy involves exposing the target patient to the anxiety source or its context without the intention to cause any danger. Doing so is thought to help them overcome their anxiety or distress.

From my post here:

My psychologist brought up exposure therapy as part of her helping me learn what I had to do next after getting myself more confident about some social things I had previously resisted. These included driving to Sydney and going to the Dentist. However, I was resistant to learning how it could help me conquer my fear about IBS and getting ‘caught’ short.

She outlined a list of 1 -10 and then asked me to tell her hardest (the 10 end) and easiest (the 1 end) activities I would be prepared to try and then to do them before the next session and report back. Exposure therapy continued to be resisted by me even though I had the knowledge, and a counselling-trained husband encouraging me. What to do? Nothing was improving, so I did some of the challenges at the easier end:

  • go out in the car about 15 minutes and not go to the toilet just to check I am ok,
  • go out again and not take an immodium in my bag just in case
  • go out for a longer time and not race home because it is too hard not to be sure about my IBS.

What does any of this have to do with my remembering the time two years ago?

It is a reminder for me, via the words and pictures, of how long it took for me to get my cancer diagnosis AND how hard it was for me emotionally to manage much of my day-to-day life BEFORE cancer came along.

What I see now, is how I did garner the strength and the courage, over time, via the help of so many:

  • People who had been through their own life challenges and as a result trained in psychology and mindfulness – these people are part of my “inner team” now as I did so much work with them on-line, via CD and streaming their podcasts and videos. I mention them here.
  • My husband, on-site caring and most knowledgeable person, who was not only training in counselling via a degree prior to me becoming very unwell but already had managed his own health issues over decades to the point of self-responsibility for his well-being and care.
  • My GPs and a psychologist who enabled me to see I “had this within me” but also gave me guidance and some appropriate medication to make my path a smoother one.
  • My friends on-line via blogging and other social media who supported my blog and the link ups, made connections via following and keeping me engaged at times I may not have wanted to but did anyway
  • Family and friends who understood this was a big transition I was going through – probably more than I would admit to – from 2014 to early 2017 and with added worries/issues I could not discuss, that worsened my reactions and ill-health for some time.

Thank you for your interest as I have found compiling this helpful for me to judge how far I have come!

There will be a final one in this series…sometime in early May 2019.

Denyse.

Joining  With Leanne on Thursday for Lovin Life link up here

AND with Alicia on Fridays for Open Slather here.

Thank you all for your link ups.

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