Thursday 20th January 2022

Self Care Stories #7. 47/51 #LifeThisWeek. 127/2021.

Self Care Stories #7. 47/51 #LifeThisWeek. 127/2021.

The Last Of These 2021.

With images and some a lot of words, I will bring you, my readers, up to date with self care!
Here we go.
Mental Health
I got to do this after lockdown ended on 11 October for us here on Central Coast N.S.W….and second day in a row made it even better.
Celebrating wellness, and cafes being open..and sitting to have a coffee (double shot small latte) was a joy.
 
Had my final visit to psychologist too- had 2 in total this time round – as I had already been implementing quite a bit I had learned via my first psychologist (2016-17) and “life” experiences, reading & listening, AND having a trained counsellor husband for some “tips” and listening…
 
My own words as takeaways for me:
 
Allow time to pass. I learned this over & over again between head and neck cancer treatments…
 
Some voices and messages from so-called authority figures in my past told me information that was not helpful and fed the shame I carried about parts of my life….
 
I have the tools I need in my toolbox of strategies
 
My time in Covid was made ‘easier’ because of what I learned as a head and neck cancer patient
 
Allowing myself to feel the feelings…acknowledging them and letting them go is good practice for me
 
My self-awareness and understanding of what can be holding me back is improving as I acknowledge it too
 
That’s about it.
 
Oh and there is no shame in seeking psychological help at any time. I did this via a GP Mental Health Care Plan.
Making slow and minimal changes for me (no-one else!) re weight and activity.
And How Life Went for Us in Photos!
We used to have morning tea dates way back, now, each fortnight, we are trying out mini excursions. The one overlooking M1 is from a back road which wends from Ourimbah through rainforest! This is less than 25 mins from home. We continued to explore last week, driving to Terrigal (about 45 mins from home) to experience the new Boardwalk from the Haven to Terrigal Beach. Lovely! Not crowded as a school/work day and drizzly.

Self care is not selfish. We know that, right?

I would like to admit how much I feel the benefits of cutting back my blogging and my commitment to some of the social media groups and more that I think I felt far too much pressure (me, internal) to continue. As stated in last week’s blog post, I am making changes to 2022 plans for blogging and and thanks to you, the readers and sharers of your blogs, for understanding my ‘why’.

The Ageing Thing. 

It’s true for me, and my husband, that turning 70 and beyond has brought new issues to deal with in terms of physical health.

Ones that need check ups, some that need (different/new) medication and other test and referrals. We have a fantastic GP team where we have been going since April 2017 and in the very unlikely event that we ever had to move, the worst part would be if we could not continue to see this group. Mind you, no plans to move AND hope to continue renting here for as long as the owner allow.

Recently I’ve had an opthalmologist changeover as the person Mr W and I had been seeing since our 40s, finally said “I’m retiring”. Fortunately the practice we go to remains at Morriset, about 30 minutes drive away and they have all our records. I had some reassurance when I thought I was having a sight problem. Dad has macular degeneration so I keep up to date with how my eyes are going. The new Doctor told me there was a little bit of tissue behind the right eye that had its cataract replaced in March 2020 (left eye too) and he lasered it away in the surgery, and whilst I had some reactions with light sensitivity and still some blurring, I know my eyes and sight are in good order.

Annual Bloods and Other Tests. I always wonder how these will be as low iron has been a problem till the iron infusion in February 2021. Results are in: marvellous in all areas of health. I am incredibly grateful for wellness and, even with my cancer, to have good health. My iron, was 11 before infusion in February, rising to 200+ in March 2021, and now at 170 ish.

Feet! The podiatrist sees me every 6 weeks and things are going well with no dramas. I have had to accept the fact that the skeleton and muscles and tendons in my feet are ‘in pretty poor’ shape so shoes/walking wise I must always wear something, even around the house. Barefeet, my previous practice, can over time, and walking on hard floors cause plantar fascitis.

Hair. Well, now that I knew it was back to good health and thick (or so thick!) before I had it cut, I am relieved my hair health is back to good.

Breasts. I had an unexpected mammogram and ultrasound because of some pain but all clear, and strangely enough, pain went too. Now next one is in 2 years.

Any Follow Up For Rectopexi? Nope. Best decision ever to have that long-delayed surgery and to never be worried about bowel incontinence again. IBS has basically disappeared in the nasty diarrhoa form I used to get so very pleased with change in life style this brought.

Ears. I probably have some hearing loss but not needing testing at all…yet.

Heart, kidneys, lungs etc. All good via my GP’s test.

Cancer! Oh that. Mouth goes well. I hope to see my prosthodontist in the new year as he hasn’t seen inside my mouth for 7 months. Pretty sure my care is fine. And, my “last” (sob!) head and neck cancer check will be in September 2022. Why sob? Love my Prof and Nurse. Will Miss Them!!

Teeth. Yes, the remaining 8 on the bottom are going well thanks to me and my dentist up here.

Emotional Health.

My cup is already full of love for and love of our family.

Our daughter, solo mum, relieving Assistant Principal, turned 50 this year and just keeps on going. Very caring person and her three adult children benefit from her love every day. Miss E, aged 9 does too of course..when not asking a million questions!

Our son, solo dad, and psychologist, doing all he can to work on his new business helping Dads, maintaining a terrific physical health program via his local gym, and being the best dad to his four kiddoes aged 14 to 6.

We missed seeing them all, as did all people with loved ones in covid, and so our daughter and her youngest visited the first weekend of freedom, our eldest granddaughter the following weekend, and then we drove to Sydney to see our son and his four at his place.

This is how hearts are filled with joy, wonder and love…..

Minding H & R in 2011

 

Now here they are…R is off to HS in 2022, her brother into Yr 9.

And it was, as always good to see my father even though his sight is not great and he is weary, he can still enjoy a chat (it’s inherited by me) and we enjoyed some reminiscing and some morning tea. Afterwards, I drove to Manly to enjoy the views from the Wharf end. Growing up here was not even seen as anything special back in 1950s and 60s but as time has passed, I know I am grateful to have this as part of my life’s history.

And I will leave, with this… a great horizon shot!

How’s your self care coming along?

Share in the comments.

Thank you for reading and commenting!

Denyse.

Link Up #267.

Life This Week. Link Up #267.

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Soup For The Soul Fundraiser. Head&NeckCancerAustralia. #WHNCD2021 88.1/2021.

Soup For The Soul Fundraiser. Head&NeckCancerAustralia. #WHNCD2021 88.1/2021.

 

What I had planned for Soup For The Soul 2021 with My local Cafe BluJs at Toukley on #WorldHeadandNeckCancerDay 27 July 2021 Cannot Happen Because of Covid19.

Just look at the soups from the kitchen at BluJs. Thank you for sharing! Great images of soup made by Mick

With the spirit and kindness and generosity still in mind, to share the #headandneckcancer #awareness BluJ’s will help promote my #S4TS event…

a Virtual One!

My suggestion is a donation from friends, family and those who wish to support the good work of Head and Neck Cancer Australia (HANCA) which helps many through the tough times of a head and cancer diagnosis.

Donate what you might pay for a soup..or what a meal might cost for you…Perhaps take my lead and donate $10. That would be fantastic.

BluJs WILL be back for sure, but as it’s unlikely to be during this time of fundraising, they too are sharing virtual soups via social media for this cause.

 

Here is the DONATION  link for the VIRTUAL SOUP for the SOUL:

I would be very grateful if you could donate to this.

Thank you all.

Denyse.

 

 

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Gratitude. A Word & A Feeling. #Head&NeckCancer #Recovery. 82.1/2021.

Gratitude. A Word & A Feeling. #Head&NeckCancer #Recovery. 82.1/2021.

I occasionally add a post in between planned ones as I am doing today, 6th July 2021.

The reason is how grateful I am feeling and wanted to express this on the blog as I have already shared via my social media updates.

Today is a special day in my life.

6th July 2021.

It marks the 4th Anniversary of the first, and very complex, surgery for the cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip to be removed, along with ALL of my upper jaw and palate.

Yes, what an occasion. Oh, and in case you did not know, I also had a reconstruction in that same 11 hour surgery which harvested my right fibula, flesh and skin from my right leg and added those to make me an upper mouth. Much more to it than that, but I am here to tell the story that it did, for me go well.

I had no idea really how I would go in recovery but the fact that I had complete trust in my team and their planning and their work, and could see that I was in the best place possible for this to happen all helped. Greatly. I am a worrier by nature but over time, learned that with that my job was to keep the healing going, taking care of my emotional health and doing all I could physically to recover. There are many blog posts and they are all here.

Today though is a sharing of my updates from yesterday and today.

5th July Memories.

The day of pre-admission to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for my head & neck cancer surgery & reconstruction the next day. Never forget how it was. A relief in many ways. It had been 7 weeks of waiting. For planning, software & 3D model for my mouth. Not much sleep that night. 4 years ago. I already felt I was going to the best place for what was to happen. That instilled so much confidence in me and my husband having been here for the discussion of my surgery with my Professor and team.

Before AND After Images: 4 years apart.

One very special place I have visited over the 5 years we have lived here is the Bridge over Budgewoi Creek at MacKenzie Reserve.

The first image of of the hair-prepped for long time between haircuts, late June as I contemplated and considered what was ahead. Yes, I was scared but I also knew there was nothing else but to be putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward!

The second image, is from today (I do go here quite often but made a special trip today) to give my thanks for how my recovery and wellness is. I did not smile deliberately as I wanted to show my top lip for how it really is. Smiling of course is better…but I acknowledge that cancer took quite a bit of under that lip and 2x skin grafts have helped.

Today I shared this collage first.

It’s made up of four progress images from July 2017, July 2018, July 2019 and July 2020. Don’t my surgeons do an amazing job? And of course, my prosthodontist and my own body in recovery. Very, very grateful.

Selfies are great for monitoring progress for a visual person like me who needs evidence, as I waited… learning that TIME does indeed heal but patience is also necessary!

This impatient person learned, mostly to be a patient patient over the many months, trips back & forth to Sydney: Westmead Oral Sciences & Chris O’Brien Lifehouse

The person who helped me through these trying times… to learn patience is my husband!

 

Thank you Bernard for your patience & time given to me for “selfies”💙

 

Today we marked my 4th anniversary with some pics & a gratitude letter to my HNC surgeon & nurse… then I drove to Budgewoi to “exercise” but to mostly give thanks. This bridge at Mackenzie Reserve is a special place for me.❤️

 

About gratitude. Again!

I have posted many times about gratitude. I have found it a practice that when I use it, I am helped greatly by finding at least one thing to be grateful for in a not-so-good situation. Today though I feel full. In a good way. Emotionally. I feel well, and I really could not ask for me. It’s a feeling for me. My husband knows I remember days and dates and he wanted to know where today stood in terms of day, birthdays, Christmas etc and I said…after some thought:

Today is on top.

It is the best.

I am so grateful and I am sharing this gratitude in my way here by blogging, telling people I love and sharing as best as I can. From my post back in early 2020.

 

My 2020 Word of the Year. I Still Have It in 2021!

Thank you dear blog readers and commenters too, you all make a contribution to my healing and wellness.

Denyse.

 

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Reflections On Mother’s Day 2021. 56.1/2021.

Reflections On Mother’s Day 2021. 56.1/2021.

 

Content Warning: Should any post about Mother’s Day be a concern for you, please don’t read…I am sorry for your situation whatever it is.

 

After a long period of reflection (years) I chose to write about Mother’s Day to be published on Mother’s Day, 2021.

My mother told me Mother’s Day flowers were chrysanthemums and were always white. She recalls her mother being given a white flower at church on Mother’s Day. I remember these things. But cannot find any pics of chrysanthemums.

Here it IS Mother’s Day 2021.

I cannot help but do a trip down memory lane to try to understand my mother and my mothering…OK. Not all of it, because much cannot be put into words.

Reflections.

  • I grew up in a 1950s-60s  household where Mother’s Day was remembered….by my father whose domineering and controlling manner meant I have had his words about this occasion rattling around my head since I could remember. Maybe 6 till my recent old(er) age.
  • It was a day where of course we gave Mum a card, probably some flowers and may be a gift. But I never thought of the occasion without ‘obligation’. This is who I am. Long memory.
  • Mum was a kind, sharing and shy woman whose care of her husband and us two kids was exemplary. She loved that she could care for us that way. In fact, it carried on to the ways in which our kids and my brother’s would remember “Noreen” for, and her three great-grandchildren who knew her before her death in 2007.
  • Dad….where will I start? Here at the point of the conversation I had with him only 3 weeks ago when I spoke of the courage his mother had coming to Australia to marry her fiance. His comments? “She was alway cranky and complaining and wanted to know, when we arrived to visit, when we were returning” OK. I understand but as I said, Gran having been widowed with 4 kids probably had a lot of grief.
  • So why did I begin to resent the forced nature of Mother’s Day? Probably for that reason. It did not come from my heart and then, as I had kids (strange but true) I believe I began to feel the old family history repeating itself.
  • Sigh.
  • I became entangled in the “event” that should be happening as I am a mother. Oh how embarrassed I am now about that. I did not demand anything (not my Dad) but I felt sad and disappointed if I was forgotten on Mother’s Day.
  • Cringe.

What Has Changed?

  • My mature thinking, a big dose of cancer and an obligation-free mindset
  • I honour MY adult kids as they make me so proud to be their Mum.
  • I actually asked my kids, a few years back,  to allow for my imperfections (there are many) as their Mum as I was, at the time, doing the best I knew.
  • I expect nothing back. At long last. Not anything. Thanks Dad…by the way, I have told him this but his memory is…dim.
  • I know that I am loved but I do not need to see evidence or whatever based on the ‘have to’ mindset we see far too often.

Two Posts: 1971 and 1979.

These two posts are about my mothering years, in particular giving birth to our daughter, and then after a long gap where we thought that we could not have any more children, we had our son.

My Mother’s Day 2021.

  • It’s a Sunday.
  • We will be cleaning the house on our fortnightly roster.
  • I will go out for my Sunday coffee.
  • I will reflect on my gratitude for a change of mind and heart and send my love to our kids and their kids…and Dad.
  • Forgiveness is powerful as is My Loving Kindness practice.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Denyse.

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Sunrise on 25 April 2021. 50.1/2021.

Sunrise on 25 April 2021. 50.1/2021.

A quick post on the same day, Sunday 25 April, when I rose at 5.00 a.m. to drive the 20 minutes or so from home to the Soldiers Beach carpark to view the sunrise on A.N.Z.A.C. Day 2021.

A couple of things I need to add. I have talked about getting over to the see the sun rise for most of the 5 years we have lived here…and a few things put me off but mostly it was the hour in which I would need to get out of bed!

A.N.Z.A.C. Day 2021 seemed like the best reason ever. I wrote a post for Sunday Stills here.

Firstly, the troops who (so sadly were unsuccessful) in their quest at Gallipoli in 1915 went over the top at dawn.

Secondly, it was a way to show it is a better time where we could commemorate the day again after the Covid year.

Thirdly, having done a couple of sunrise shoots at Manly Beach and Avoca Beach I knew I wanted to experience that again.

Fourthly

On with the photos.

I used my Iphone Pro Max 11.

I set the shot, it did the legwork in the darker times.

I sat on a sandstone rock for the hour or so…yes I was cold but when I am in photo-mode…I am good to go.

Set One.

High Tide. Looking towards Norah Head Lighthouse. Lights in distance are tanker ships anchored off shore. Watch the wave!

Set Two.

Dawn Is Lightening The Sky & The Small Group Is  Joined By More People.

Set Three.

Here Comes The Sun. Yes I Was Singing It – silently! It was A.N.Z.A.C. Day and everyone was pretty reflective. At 6.20 a.m.

Set Four.

It just felt like an amazing and original sight to view. How amazing is the sun. What a great start to the day. Just a few more…I will leave others for another time.

Excuse the selfies! Mind you, it was awesome…and that little lighthouse in the background and the rock area below is where I photographed these shots for Beckys Bright Squares!

Denyse.

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How This Trip To The Dentist Changed Me. 43/2021.

How This Trip To The Dentist Changed Me. 43/2021.

ABOUT Head and Neck Cancer Australia First! 

Before I proceed, I ended up, after a long time. finding out I had cancer in my gums and under one lip. No dentist nor G.P. had even thought of this as being the case. This was not, in many ways, a fault or failing of them and their knowledge and skill set.

I have a “rare of rare” cancer as my Professor told me. I am now an Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia and continue to share the ways in which this rare cancer can manifest itself. This link, to Head and Neck Cancer Australia, formerly Beyond Five, will take you to the page about diagnosis. This is a highly reputable and facts-based and checked website. Its content undergoes regular and thorough reviews by professionals in the field.

One of whom is Professor Jonathan Clark AM – my head and neck surgeon who is also Chair & Founder of Head and Neck Cancer Australia.

Visual inspection by Jonathan  as Surgical Assistant and HNC Nurse Cate records my visit.

Back to my post.

Going to the dentist had been a regular thing for me from the age of 3.

I am now 71.

Going every 6 months as suggested.

Going in between when issues arising in my mouth needed fixing.

In some of my blog posts about head and neck cancer, I have outlined the role played by my now (and he was then) dentist in the discovery of oral cancer in my gums.

Before My Upper Prosthesis Went In: July 2018. My Dentist and My Dental Nurse.

I also wrote with detail last week for Part 2 of 2 about the time 2016 to 16 May 2017.

Allow me, here though, to outline exactly how that one trip, on 6 April 2017 changed me FOR the BETTER.

When I was learning about how to deal with areas of my life where I felt fearful…travelling and getting to see people were distinctly challenging because my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I.B.S) was so unpredictable I just stayed anchored to home. Safe. My then Psychologist who knew I really wanted to overcome this suggested I learn about Exposure Therapy and over time, she taught me that it could be done in stages.

Yet: I still couldn’t see HOW I could do the hard things like drive to the dentist, and see other professionals when I needed to…etc.

Until I literally HAD to!

Message to me before my first surgery

Backstory.

Reading through my blog posts, as some of you have, you will note that my anxiety about I.B.S. and being anxious about travel in particular escalated. This was NOT me being the me I knew and wanted to be …..until I had enough.

Enough of trying to find out what the heck was going on in my very sore mouth

Enough of thinking I was the cause of all the issues because that was how sometimes I was made to feel

Enough of waiting for things to get better

ENOUGH….but first, this is what had to happen.

  • A scaffolding of how I might get to the dentist to have the all the teeth that were part of my bridge removed
  • A new G.P. who offered me a drug (endep) to help slow my gut and prevent some I.B.S. issues
  • A determination within me to get this done…

No Matter What! Self-care helped!

 

On Wed 5 April 2017 I was nervous about the upcoming dentist trip I did go out & do things but the “enormity” of what was ahead overwhelmed me

  • I broke down & just couldn’t see how I could deal with it
  • B was good at listening but I knew that despite the dread & worry & fear IF I didn’t go through with it it would be :
  1. Avoiding
  2. Would make it worse
  3. I’d not get my mouth fixed

So I took steps to make sure I got there:

  1. 1/4 Valium in arvo & then at night helped reduce the internal rumblings
  2. I told myself it was a positive to be getting it done as it’s troubled me for so long I couldn’t let it go on & on
  3. I needed to tell myself the outcome & process had to happen. I stopped thinking there was doubt or other I needed to own this
  4. I ate small because I was scared of IBS but that’s not
  5. I knew I could take imodium if there was a reason
  6. I used the hypnosis from audible in a big way
  7. I had B taking me & he agreed to do it anything to make it work

Straight after the removal of the bridge, I had this denture put in. It was a very painful time and over time, did not improve…

 

How Did It All Work Out?

I did it.

Together with my dear husband, and the team above in the first photo.

I recovered slowly as it was quite a shock to my system, physically and emotionally

I learned that my determination was a quality I had and could call on again (again and again as it panned out!)

I knew too, that I OWNED my actions and thoughts and that I could, over time, even with fears and reservations deal with anything else that was to come.

And I have and do.

On 6 April 2021 I posted this…with pride and gratitude for all I could do…and need to do now when faced with challenges. 

Always Grateful For My Courage.

And, some three and a half years later, getting a check up of how my upper prosthesis was going (great) as in covid times I couldn’t see my prosthodontist and my dentist also looks after my 8 actual and remaining teeth with a regular check and clean every six months. And I am no longer scared about going to the dentist and thanks to my rectopexy surgery and meds, I have not had (touch wood) I.B.S. for over 6 months.

 

How do you feel about going to the dentist?

I admit, that before I had the bridge extracted my dentist already know how anxious I was about all that was going on in my mouth and between him and his lovely nurse I was very well cared for. Now, he and I have a lot of laughs more than anything and he is as grateful as I am that my cancer was found and has been treated as well and my care for my upper prosthesis is excellent.

Do go to the dentist…and do tell him/her if you are worried or anxious. It is always better to do rather than avoid.

And please, check the symptom list at the beginning of the story….and come back to it anytime.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Good. 12/51.#LifeThisWeek. 36/2021.

Good. 12/51.#LifeThisWeek. 36/2021.

A GOOD shot of the STORM at the beach where I went to feel GOOD after a few days of illness.

GOOD.

What comes to mind for you?

It’s a subjective word for me. I have used it that way many a time myself as a teacher, a mother, and a grandmother:

  •  “be a good boy and stand over there while we get the car”…..
  • “come on, who’s being good today? I will be finding people for a special reward”
  • “if everyone is good by the time we get to lunch today, there will be a special time in the afternoon for free play”

You get the picture?

But just in case.

Here’s another form, that was often used on me. I was the “GOOD” girl, in the family. Meaning what? Apparently my father tells me because I slept better than my younger brother.

Then as life went on, as a girl, into teen and becoming a woman, I was told to be good, behave, and given my “eldest child” nature, of course I did.

Sigh.

But is that what good is?

Sometimes it can be far more general, and less likely for me to get heated about the oft used term…to me, to flatter….“you are such a good girl”.

In my head NO I AM not…and anyway, that’s a story for my memoir….oh right, yes, so it seems I have already started. A long time ago.

Back in early 2017 I took the words of this woman, Maya Angelou and found the courage to start my memoir, Telling My Story.

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/maya_angelou_133956

I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good. Maya Angelou.

 

Quotes on GOOD.

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/william_shakespeare_109527?src=t_good

 

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/marcel_marceau_101346

 

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/anne_frank_109060?src=t_good

 

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/martin_luther_king_jr_390143?src=t_good

Good as a description.

I have always considered it pretty bland. Somewhere between excellent and not.

I admit, I would not have liked it as a comment teachers wrote on reports on their students back in the day…because “what does good mean?”

Mediocre.

Somewhere in the middle.

Is my inner cynic showing?

Do you know how many movies there are with the word “good” in them? I do not have a total because I got bored but for example:

A Few Good Men

And then there are songs:

Good Golly Miss Molly

And TV series:

The Good Place

And shops:

The Good Guys

Is there anything else I might add?

No. Thank you.

That’s GOOD then because I have finished.

Good to go?

Yes.

Press Publish.

Thanks, Denyse, it’s been good working with you.

Ha!

Who thinks up these optional prompts?

Ooops. Sorry, it’s Denyse.

Good Night.

Good Day.

Good Bye!

P.S. Was there any good from this post for you? Anything at all?

Maybe this: My GOOD mantra:

Link Up #232

Life This Week. Link Up #232

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

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

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

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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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