Saturday 16th January 2021

My Stories About Ageing: My New Blogging Category Is Here! 5/2021.

My Stories About Ageing: My New Blogging Category Is Here! 5/2021.

This image of me: Left: Jan 2006. Right: July 2020. Same person loving the elements. But ageing is definitely showing!

Why this?

Why Now?

It’s time.

I have been considering writing stories about ageing from my perspective and experience for a while.

Back Story.

I am now 71. I still find that hard to believe! It could be because my Dad, at 97 is still well and I am ‘still his daughter’. But…no, it cannot be that I am a kid and he is the adult. He, my friends, is elderly, I am ageing. Oh, who am I kidding!

The catalyst may have been this: a photo of us aged 21 on our Wedding Day in 1971 and a re-creation image in 2015 when we were 65 (me) and 66 (B)….as we ready ourselves aged 71 to share our Golden Wedding Anniversary (50 years of marriage) on 23 January 2021.

Or, it may have been this past year because events took hold of me health-wise in a big and somewhat confronting (for me) way:

  1. I found I had to dig deep into my emotional capacity, and remember how I managed my inner emotional health recovering from head and neck cancer, to do this.
  2. I also found the ‘reasons’ for my rectal prolapse surgery very hard to accept and share.
  3. I now know, of course, I am better without the physical problem and that whilst I waited a long time to admit to needing the surgery, it was a lack of shared knowledge from other women that was part of my resistance.

 

Onto the reasons why I will post about Ageing and Stories About It from Me.

From my perspective: Denyse at 71!

On my 71st Birthday, 30 November last year, I posted this collage of me at 68,69,70 & 71,  and in fun, a ‘this is 71’ photo was taken by my husband (at my request) too.

Groups. People On and Off Social Media. For Me? Not For Me?

  • I love to be social on-line. It is easier for me to be on-line and meet up virtually with a range of people than it is to go out and find a group.

 

  • Before I go on. I did have a social group of sorts when I was in education.However, these were often work-based and even though friendships stayed firm at work, they tend to peter out at retirement time and when moving schools.

 

  • When I first retired I became a volunteer and was engaged in some interesting but mundane work and felt my skills could be better used in a leadership role.

 

  • I found one of those easily and was welcomed with open arms. It was not, however, long lasting as the intent of the volunteer group clashed with my educator’s values.

 

  • I started a small group for colouring mindfully. There was a lot of interest initially until it came time to attend. Very few did. It stopped. Sad to say, the same thing happened just 3 years ago too.

 

  • I am not a sport player nor hobby-mad really and do what I can at home to get my creative ‘fix’ now. I joined a group learning crochet but left as no-one had any idea how to teach an ambidextrous person how to crochet.

 

  • I even joined, not for long sadly, a local community group for women only. It spoke of meeting for coffee and brunches. I liked that idea. I went, I joined in but alas the ages were not close to mine, and again, sadly, the cohort was almost all local to the area whereas we are ‘newish’ here.

My Observations as an Over 70s Person.

Getting older is, for many of us, a privilege we do not always appreciate.

I admit having a cancer diagnosis out of the blue in mid 2017 sure was a wake-up call to thinking “we are immortal” but I whilst never thought I was dying it gave me a new appreciation for health and recovery from cancer.

I know that I am very grateful now to receive a part-aged pension income, which added to my husband’s pensions gives us a reasonable life here as a couple who are renting.

I don’t mind even feeling somewhat invisible as an over 70s woman because it gives me a chance to be an observer and I like that!

What I notice, particularly now, is that on social media: groups on Facebook, communities and twitter and instagram, that I do not see (nor hear of ) people who are close to my age.

Even the groups geared to seniors, older Australians, retirees, generally cater for those from age 50 to say 65.

And, as I found out in COVID 19 times, now that my husband and I are 0ver 70 we are classed as:

  • elderly
  • vulnerable

Why Blog About It?

I feel somewhat left out!

  • By groups even for seniors and older people.
  • The starting age is now 21 years younger than I am.
  • I want to have a voice that matters to others who might want to hear/read stories of ageing….
  • ones that keep ageing  reality-checked to counter balance with the “promises of using certain products to stave off….”

I will continue to write more here.

  • I want to be included but I sense that in my particular social media setting I am definitely older or the oldest of a group’s cohort.
  • In fact many people I love to chat with and catch up with are indeed closer to my daughter’s age and she is turning 50 this year.

But, that is good for me too as I am flexible in how I interact….

Yet, I want to be the voice (here) of reality in ageing as I wish I had known more!

What Do You Think?

Have I gone too far?

Do you every imagine yourself actually ageing with significance?

Every decade I see people bemoaning the zero coming up.

Really?

OK, for some I imagine it is scary.

The unknown perhaps but since the internet is here, maybe “I” can be a better heard voice of wisdom, failures and experiences for turning:

40

50

60

70.

Am I opening up too much?

Would you like to know more about my experience of ageing?

How could my story help you, perhaps?

Maybe you might share your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne and friends here for Lovin’ Life Linky.

 

 

 

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Calm Days And Calm Nights. 2/2021.

Calm Days And Calm Nights. 2/2021.

Yes I now have these: days and nights of calm.

I have found the secret to inner peace…forever and ever.

Actually that is so not true …..do read on!

Waaaay back in 2015 I was in transition. From my former to life to the life we had chosen. From work, family near by, security of home (until end of 2014) to retirement, no family nearby and no home other than a house to rent. It was not great YET it was the life we chose to have after turning 65.

 

My husband, above, who is of a much different disposition to me, was fine. In fact, he LOVED the change, except for the awful house we selected to rent, and was busy studying counselling on-line, doing volunteer work with Lifeline and building projects at his brother’s.

Me? I missed company, some work,  friends, going out for coffee and yet…..I knew that I could not get my old life back.

We HAD moved on.

When I get to write Chapter  Twenty One of Telling My Story for 2015 there will be much more revealed but right now, I am leading up to what started to make a difference for me….

Meditation.

I first found it in person, at a Buddhist Centre, in the first months of 2015, and then via an app called Headspace. This helped me from 2015 until into 2018 when I changed my meditation app to Calm. Now I am a life time subscriber and what a difference it makes for me:

EVERY

SINGLE

DAY

& NIGHT.

In 2019 I shared more about Calm and its help for me over here.

These thoughts and views are formed by me, over time, as I changed and grew to understand what I was doing….I was practising meditation. I was practising being still and I was/am continuing to do this every day and each night. It’s called Meditation Practice for a good reason.

What Meditation Is Not.

  • a clearing out of your thoughts
  • a way to get to inner peace easily
  • a place & way of being seated to best meditate
  • perfection found
  • silence

What Meditation Is.

  • a regular 10-12 minutes in my morning, and then in my evening which is just for this.
  • lying in my bed…yes, not sitting nor kneeling, because I can still concentrate, relax and take in what I need to being comfortable on my back with my hands by my sides.
  • a gift to my inner health
  • a space & time which I value that is MINE
  • something I can come back to over and over again
  • being curious about myself
  • learning something a new and refreshing my previous learnings.

How Did I Get Here?

Even before 2015 I was seeking help and information on how to help me calm myself inside and accept more readily what “life” is about. As a teacher and always a lifetime learner I sought much information, learning and help and got it via CDs, courses on-line and podcasts. I have added some images of some of my kept resources.

The first real introduction I had to becoming mindful and helping with the sadness I was feeling, even though I was not clinically depressed was this book and I still listen to it from time to time. These two men, Mark Williams and Danny Penman, are pioneers (after Jon Kabat-Zinn) of Mindfulness for Wellness and Using Mindful Practices for Stress Release.

Some were purchased on-line directly from Sounds True, others via my (then) favourite book selling site, Book Depository. Others I found directly on-line or at my local books sellers.

Some of the authors who helped me “get me” are:- are found here and in my messy but lovely photos of my books and CDs. On display for easy reading….for you, the reader.

Pema Chodron  Tara Brach    Jack Kornfield    Brene Brown  Sharon Salzberg  Clare Bowditch     

Elizabeth Gilbert   Andy Puddicombe  John O’Donohue   Jeff Foster  Judson Brewer

Megan Devine    Martin Seligman     Steve Peters    Andrew Fuller   Kristin Neff    Glennon Doyle

Rick Hanson   Christopher Germer    Lori Deschene    Paul Gilbert  Claire Weekes  Anne Lamott 

Yes, that IS a list and yet, not the end of it. The reason each of these people helped ME and form part of many meditation practices that I know of is that they mention common ideas:

there is only one moment: now

that we can only control one person, us

that we forget the above two often so we need to practise

AND, that it’s human to be like this.

This image is my iphone locked screen.

Calm Days And Calm Nights. What Is This About?

Regular readers of this blog know I was diagnosed with a form of head and neck cancer back in 2017. Full series of blog posts here. I learned so much about myself then, about what I could cope with, about how I could, with support and practise, learn to deal with hard things. I wrote a post or two about exposure therapy as I learned I HAD to do after seeing a psychologist back in 2016.

Changing from Headspace Meditation to Calm Meditation for me was about just that…change. It did turn out to go well for me in 2018 I was offered a great price for a lifetime subscription and being on a pretty fixed and low income that helps a lot.

I liked and still do the ways in which I can pick and choose the meditation for a particular reason*, for example, if  I sense I am being overly self-critical I will choose to do the series on that to learn and learn again (practise remember) the various ways in which I can pull myself up in terms of self-talk and gently guide myself forward.

Each day now, at the time of waking…and in retirement days this can vary from 8.00 am to 9.00 am and I LOVE that luxury, I open the Calm App and settle back in bed (loo stop first) for my morning Daily Calm. Following it, I reflect via the suggestions and may choose to keep and share the quote and image of the day. Then I get on with my day.

Oh, I do not write about Calm because I was asked to or I was paid to do so. I just like to share what works for me.

At the end of the day, again in bed, when I am ready to settle for the night, I select a meditation via need*. It does not matter if I have done this one before, there is always something new to learn and focus on.

If by the end of this one, I am still wide awake – not often – I may choose a Sleep Story. They are awesome and have great narrators and stories to share. It’s much better for me than music.

As we know and admit, we are all “works in progress” and I decided to share my thoughts in this first week of blogging 2021 with you and in joining a couple of link ups.

  • May you find peace.
  • May you be content.
  • May you be well.

When I am here…I am the most mindful I can be outside of practising meditation!

And may you never stop learning!

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne and friends here for link up called Lovin Life.

Now on the weekend I am joining here with Natalie and friends for a Coffee Catch Up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.3/3. 103/2020.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.3/3. 103/2020.

Well over a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at...Chapter Twenty Five*. Part Three of Three.

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members.

To read the earlier two parts of this Chapter go here for Part One (January, February, March & April) and here for Part Two (May, June, July & August).

 

WHAT A YEAR! 

Let’s get on with the final part of Telling My Story….2020.

SEPTEMBER.

But first, here’s to the Dads in my life:

Father’s Day Collage

I did not expect to be continuing to be recovering from surgery but yes, that is so. I was treated at home for 3 weeks by a Wound Nurse who took care of checking the wound, changing the VAC machine that helped heal me and then, as I did so well, signed off so I could visit my GP’s Nurse three times a week. Gosh people. Life is good…hey!

I could not drive (again) because of the machine and its attachment to me, so my dear husband (yet again!) drove me to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for my 6 month head and neck cancer check with my surgeon.

It was the first time my husband had been back with me here since early 2018. Certainly COVID had made some differences in protocol but not to the great ambience we both felt with my head and neck surgeon Jonathan and his surgical assistant, Cate.

Here’s the story of that visit!

It’s always good to see my team. I love them! And the best part of that visit was when Jonathan said “See you in a year!” WHAT? Blown away. I am doing well!!

Mind you they had some fun at my expense with the VAC system I was carrying! Thanks to social media Cate knew about my surgeries. I was advised that my CT scan of chest and neck was fine and to go see my prosthodontist when I could. I did.

 

With My Prosthodontist: I was back in a few days with mouth pain, but with some anti-biotic treatment it went away!

SPRING WEATHER & MEMORIES!

OCTOBER.
What a special month!

October is special because we have a grandson’s birthday and my husband and I celebrate the anniversary of our meeting each October. Just sneaking into October, I was able to say “bye bye” to all wound care. On 6th October I was F R E E. The body, the doctors and  nurses, the VAC system and I had healed me. Hallelujah!

We had a school holiday trip to our son’s place on the outskirts of Sydney to celebrate an early birthday with H and listen to the stories and share much with R, E and M. We loved it.

OUR HOLIDAY!

On 17th October 2020 we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary of meeting. Now, for the first time in over 5 years we planned a short trip to the north western city of Tamworth where we met. We set off on the Monday, venturing into the country roads we remembered so well and with shared driving the trip was most enjoyable.

The next day we went to the top of Oxley Lookout to take in the view of Tamworth and then drove the hour or so to my first school at Barraba. We had morning tea and did a small tour of the spots important to me. They were the house where I lived in 1970 and to the school where I taught.

The town itself was less active and we could understand that. Both of us were worn out too by some of the emotional memories that flooded back.

One was of where I gave birth to our daughter in 1971 and we realised that we had seen and done enough of the memory lane and came back to our most comfy house. Glad to have done this trip.

And back into our retired lives here on the Central Coast of NSW.

PHOTOS, FLOWERS, RIVER & MORE.

OCTOBER into NOVEMBER. 

My improved physical health, fewer restrictions in NSW thanks to good COVID numbers meant I could be out and about more and enjoying what IS retirement now, post my head and neck cancer surgeries and treatments. But first, Beyond Five changed their name to Head and Neck Cancer Australia. Congratulations to them and I remain a very committed volunteer Ambassador into 2021.

 

I was also delighted to have these kind words written about me by Nadia Rosin CEO of Head and Neck Cancer Australia on the occasion of my great outcome at my September visit to my surgeon, Professor Jonathan Clark AM who is the Chair of Head and Neck Cancer Australia.

SNIPPETS & MEMORIES

Time To Renew My Photo Collage for the Blog and On Facebook.

NOVEMBER

  • I remembered my parents’ wedding anniversary: they last celebrated together in 2006 for their Diamond (60th) Wedding Anniversary
  • It got me thinking about “our” up coming Golden (50th) Wedding Anniversary in January 2021.
  • So, then my thinking got me…interested in lots of Etsy, convincing my husband to go along with my plans (he said yes!) and then lots of in-person visits to so-called cheap shops – buying up golden type decorations as there was a bit about for Christmas…
  • And finding places on Etsy which made amazing posters. I am going to save sharing these till the actual anniversary but let me tell you, there are clever people out there and how well they can make items for display for a special occasion
  • My husband and I had fun too ‘getting the info’ we wanted to share: how many places we had lived in, how many cars…and the like.
  • I also started getting more memories out that could prove useful for my version of the day when we celebrate.
  • We settled on a family lunch here because the actual date IS  Saturday 23rd January and we will welcome our two adult kids, their kids and one partner of a grandchild. We will be a lunch party of 13. Our daughter is making the cake (to her dad’s likes) and we will put on a pretty easy cold lunch.
  • Dad lent me the Golden Wedding Anniversary Scrapbook I made for him and Mum for 1996 to read over too. And the 60th one as well.
  • After seeing Dad one time this month, I visited Uberkate Jewels and left my precious Ubercircles chain to have a very small circle added. I have it now and it is very special.
  • Our 2 eldest granddaughters visited for a photo shoot of us for our 50th. What fun we had.
  • I recalled the lovely day a year ago when I met my blogging friends to celebrate my 70th.
  • On my birthday this year, my husband drove us both to see my Dad as he had not done so for a while, and we had a lovely morning tea for me. I brought it but that is fine!

The two of us.

Sometimes something surprising happens when you look outside. This was that! From our glass kitchen splashback one morning.

 

DECEMBER

Could we believe that we might be able to celebrate Christmas “with” COVID still hanging around? Yes, we could.#perhaps not. See below.

Along with:

  • remembering social distancing: 1.5 metres between people
  • limits of numbers at gatherings (mind you, this keeps shifting like the proverbial goal posts!)
  • use of masks where social distancing cannot be practised…except basically no-one but a handful at my local shops are doing this..and that includes me.

However….that said, Australia is grateful to be an island surrounded by sea as is our next-door neighbour New Zealand as it’s because of that, and the closing of our respective countries’ borders early that we have done reasonably well. But even that sounds crass and not empathetic and many people lost their lives in COVID times, with the state of Victoria having the most. I truly send my condolences to all here and around the world where you have been personally affected.

At the time of writing, the first vaccines are being administered in the hardest hit country (to date, my thinking) U.S.A.

It is also the place where the current President whose names rhymes with rump will not accept he lost the November 2020 election to Joe Biden. Mr Biden will be sworn in on 20 January 2021.

FAMILY. 

When I was at Dad’s place on 30 November, I did a walk around the walls where he has many of the family photos and some of them are large collages made by me for him to have memories on his walls. It was interesting for me to re-visit them to regain a renewed sense of gratitude for my life, the lives of those who went before me and to my parents. In fact my very first post for Telling My Story is this one: About Mum (Noreen) and Dad (Andrew).

L:Mum’s parents. Dad & Mum. 1946. R: Dad’s parents.

CHRISTMAS MEMORIES & MORE.

As I write it is mid December with just under 10 days till Christmas Day. This year we are driving to Sydney to enjoy Christmas lunch with our daughter and son and some of our grandchildren. Back in our days living closer we often entertained on Christmas Day and I was pleased to do so. Before I took over the reins for our side of the family Mum and Dad hosted. This is how it works for us. Not doing too much (although I used to..of course) and it really IS about getting together.

UPDATE: Covid…..

If anything was going to change our year, it was “this” quiet and unseen danger.

 

The trouble with COVID19 is that it is:

#invisible

#most places

#highly contagious

#can be asymptomatic

In the time I want to  publish this on Wednesday 23 December, 2020, it could be that life with COVID in Australia, particularly NSW where I live, could have changed what our plans might be…again.

I also got to see some of the family who live in Sydney when I visited my prosthodontist for a sore mouth check on 22 December. My mouth’s skin is sometimes irritated by a tooth of the prosthesis but I can see why more and know, as he said my management inside my mouth is great. Phew.

What I will do, however is UPDATE this post over the days till the end of 2020 if needed.

I do wish you all the very best time ahead. It IS meant to be fun, festive and family and friends time and I hope that works out for you too.

And be kind…..to yourselves first.

Denyse.

To my twitter friends: this was lovely to make. The first circle apparently people I tweet with most and so on to the outer circle. I love my twitter friends.

 

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.2/3. 51/51. #LifeThisWeek.102/2020.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.2/3. 51/51. #LifeThisWeek.102/2020.

Well over a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at...Chapter Twenty Five*. Part Two of Three.

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members.

 

*Rightio…how DID I jump from my last chapter..Telling My Story which was Chapter Twenty to here?

No, I did not secretly write the posts and then not publish them.

But I did have a brainwave…do 2020’s chapter while it is fresh in my mind.

So, here I am with the second four months of “THAT” year we won’t forget in a hurry: 2020. Last Wednesday I published the first four months here.

This is the last post of #LifeThisWeek I will publish the final one of Telling My Story 2020 on Wednesday 23rd December.

Then, over time in the first months of 2021 I will write:

Chapter Twenty One (2015),

Chapter Twenty Two (2016- mid May 2017),

Chapter Twenty Three (later in May 2017 – 2018),

Chapter Twenty Four (2019)

In this, the last post for Life This Week, I want to thank each of you who has linked up, read and commented this year. You are very much valued as a part of this community. I am posting again this Wednesday to conclude this series (the Chapter for 2020 I mean!) and will be back on board for:

MONDAY 4 January 2021. 1/51 Word of The Year. Optional Prompt.

 

Part Two of Three. Chapter 25. 2020.

Now, on with the months of May, June, July and August of 2020.

I have to warn you whilst there are no gory photos there may be some details of the ailments I had that are not pleasant to read. Nor, of course, were they pleasant to have!

MAY 2020.

Family.

Our second granddaughter turned 21 in the early days of May. On the same weekend when the Premier of NSW announced, during a COVID update,  that families could visit each other in their houses, S had her ‘lockdown ISO’ party which she shared with us,  around 2 hours away, via facetime. Her Mum, boyfriend and siblings made it a special night and I am told, she got the cake cooked by her mum as was requested! Congratulations, S!

We actually saw her and the family the very next weekend as it was Mother’s Day and my daughter invited us to her house for Morning Tea. That was the first time we had ventured to Sydney since March. It felt strange being on the M1 and it was not too crowded. Delighted of course to see our family. It was lovely.

On the Tuesday afterwards I drove back down again, in a different direction, to see my Dad on the northern beaches. I had not seen him for at least 3 months as we were being very cautious in making contact with such an older person in an independent retirement place. I took all precautions and they had strict protocols for me and paperwork. I admit, I did give Dad a few hugs. He had missed human  contact other than generally on the phone.

 

My Self Care In May.

My emotional health took a bit of a battering as COVID struck with all its limitations, rules, changes and moving of goal posts. I am not great with change but do accept it’s needed and so I offer myself more kindness, easier inner talk and times out (if possible) by myself in the car and to possibly enjoy a coffee. I was delighted to find a takeaway stall on one of my Sunday drives, and then over time, with limitations some of my fave coffee places which had stayed open, could have a small number of people sit for coffee.

I kept up my art and craft practices and set myself small goals and got immersed in fulfilling those. With the Index Card a Day Challenge starting in June I was ready for that. I did some treat cooking for me and for my local GP practice as the doctors and front office staff went through a LOT in terms of dealing with the regulations and patients!

I continued with drives over to the water once COVID regulations about exercise meant you could walk where you went. I did. Sort of. To take photos. Noticing things in nature always helps me and I really needed it because I had health matters to deal with that were significant.

I also acknowledged that it was 3 years on 17 May 2020 since my oral cancer diagnosis. Important to remember, reflect and be grateful.

Health Matters. May, June, July and August.

I will do my best to use short and helpful sentences..and as my husband suggested: dot points.

MAY:

  • I needed to finally, and actually rather urgently see my female G.P. about the bothersome rectal issues. When I saw her, it was “do this, go here, see him” and “YOU have your whole life ahead of you” Get this sorted. She “IS” that kind of doctor and I love her for it but that day I got a bit scared.
  • She sent me to the Colo Rectal Surgeon and to my embarrassment (not his) I was very reluctant to go through with what he suggested first. A colonoscopy. Why? Rectal bleeding and obvious (he saw, not me, I just knew) rectal prolapse.
  • THIS was a condition I had lived with, tried to anyway for well over 2+ years, and I KNEW it was not good. I blamed IBS for my sometimes incontinence and ageing..but as I have found out no, it was the rectum being very lax and ‘falling out’. Sorry to write that.
  • Off home with the news, and the Colonoscopy pack. It was mid COVID restrictions at private hospitals and I opted for mine at the place 5 minutes up the road. No can do. Till June.
  • Waaahh. That is me who does not like to wait.

JUNE:

  • OK, people, with me it was nerves and more that put me off the colonoscopy but I also knew that without doing that nothing would change.
  • Facing up to it, hating the preparation and the aftermath at home, my dear husband took me to the private hospital up the road and left me.
  • The nurses were kind, the prep sure had done its work and….
  • The outcome, as told to me by the surgeon, was no cancer..but a pretty awful rectal prolapse which he strongly suggested needed repair and to come see him very soon.
  • We did, it was very helpful to have my husband there. The surgeon explained how he would perform an abdominal rectopexi. He would go in via my very old hysterectomy scar, pull up the rectum and sew it onto bone low on my spine near the coccyx.
  • Recovery would be in hospital for at least 4 nights and he predicted success. I was ready to trust him.

JULY:

This post tells something of what was to come for me.

  • Testing, testing. Bloods needing for the major abdominal surgery coming up.
  • Then to the private hospital in COVID times for booking in. In actual fact, it was a phone pre-op consultation but I needed to attend the hospital some 45 minutes away for ECG and pick up pre-operation info and prep. No not the awful prep. Phew.
  • I admit the nerves did play up a bit but I have dealt with 4 cancer surgeries AND I trusted this doctor and his goal for me and my GP too.
  • On a freezing late July morning my husband drove me – bag packed with nighties, all I needed for entertainment i.e. phone & ipad, and loose pants – because coming home my abdomen would be swollen & tender.
  • I was literally dropped off because of COVID.
  • Interestingly the prep I had to take at home before surgery was a drink of electrolytes and I had to have an all over shower body wash with their particular sterilising skin liquid.
  • The worst part for me …is always the waiting before going into theatre but this time was made worse as my surgeon insisted on a series of enemas. OMG. Not happy, in fact I got teary with the kindly nurse. She understood but the back and forth in a gown to the loo…made little better by being on a bed close to it. Sigh.
  • Anaesthetist was very thorough with his questions and also had to give me a spinal. Not impressed by the anaesthetic nurse who was very stressed about my veins. Shout out to him: not good to show frustration in front of patient who is already nervous.
  • Then I was GONE. Out like the proverbial.
  • Recovery: very aware of the pressure boots keeping my legs active, the fact that I could not feel from my waist down, catheter in and to be honest, felt well because “it’s over”.
  • Hiccup in communication between staff in recovery – it was busy – COVID restrictions were easing for capacity – meant I stayed in recovery about 2 hours longer than needed…grrr. Could have been in my room.
  • Something unexpected as my surgeon told me the morning after: he did the horizontal cut as planned but when opening me up, there was a hernia which would need repairing. It required a vertical cut to access it, from the first cut to my bellybutton. All stitching was internal with tape holding the outside wounds. I literally had an upside down T wound area.
  • Fast forwarding: I had an OK time recovering but not comfortable at all. My eating was hampered by my mouth and whilst I could have anything to eat, I was worried about …diarrheoa. Trust me, it didn’t happen but I needed reassurance and my surgeon was prepared to let me go home a day early even before bowel movement because I was needing home. He was lovely. Still is!
  • Saw him at a check up about a week or so later and he told me I was a star patient. Oh, I needed to hear that.
  • No driving, but that was OK. I was just so relieved that all was well  and miracle of miracles, no incontinence. Yay. Unreal.

AUGUST:

  • But. It was not to continue as a star recovery.
  • Around 2 to 3 weeks post-recovery, and I was still not able to drive, there was some redness appearing on the surface near my bellybutton. Husband took me to GP who advised ‘could be a ‘haematoma’ …we’ll keep an eye on it. I did, with photos. BUT….the area of the upside down T was needing greater cleaning by me. At shower time. Sigh. OK.
  • Whilst I am not great with complications, I also understand they occur. Even with ‘me’ doing everything right. I wrote here about what happened.
  • Then I wrote in detail here of the timeline, the circumstances and why it took me till October 2020 to be fully recovered!

 

What a Four Months That Was! 

But wait, there is MORE.

Daily Life with COVID19.

No, we did not have it..phew and all that. But we had to, like everyone, live around its restrictions and rules, and to be safe. For us, who are pretty conservative and intelligent people in their every day lives, it was fine. Really. You see, due to our health matters and not much income, it was never on our agenda to have overseas holidays, or even interstate ones so, unlike many, being home-bound in some ways did not bother us.

I made it work for me, the person who enjoyed her daily outings, by varying what I did at home and combined with my cooking/baking mojo returning, I found I could enjoy a coffee and treat at home some days. I also re-discovered reading the women’s mags. I did! Some got ditched soon after buying, but I have been reasonably surprised by the quality reading in the Australian Women’s Weekly so I buy that now. We gave up our physical paper delivery ages ago and get the Sydney Morning Herald as a digital subscription. All the local newspapers, which I used to love, are gone to digital land…except for one free community paper each week. I still enjoy something physical to read.

I continue my audible subscription each month and listen to some books in the car, and others at night in bed. I have taken to reading along in some cases with the physical book when accents become too hard for me to fathom which character is who!

My art is always here for me. I have, as many know, a dedicated area near my computer for all things creative. Making designs and mindful mandalas is the g0-to for me when I need to ‘concentrate’ or be mindful on just one thing!

Cooking now has a rhythm for a meals each week and we tend to use our batch-cooked meals a couple of times a week, and eat meals made from scratch on others. My dad is the recipient of some of the frozen home cooked meals.

Head and Neck Cancer Awareness and Support.

In the weirdest year ever…. COVID …to date…all things meeting-wise and catch ups were off the table. Therefore the organisation for which I volunteer had to re-think what it did to get messages and support out there for patients, families, carers and professionals.

The June Patient forum at which I was to speak was cancelled and morphed into an on-line program over many days and weeks. My part, on line as recorded by me here, was to respond to my psychological reactions to and management of having head and neck cancer.

The usual fundraising event for Beyond Five was Soup for the Soul and the physical events were not happening, nor were there any of our local Central Coast meet ups. Nevertheless, we worked on getting messages out there via You Tube, and of course, Zoom Meetings. I was not great at zoom so not that involved but as mentioned last time, my interview was on line about nutrition.

More from COVID Year 2020 for Me To Remember!

Apart from hospital homecomings… THIS was a big day and much needed..our son and his four kids came for lunch. Ahhh that’s better!

Grateful for Family Visits.

Thank you for reading..if you got this far. I am incredibly grateful to my readers and commenters.

Denyse.

Link Up 220

Life This Week. Link Up #220

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.

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* THANK you for linking up today! Have a great break from now till the New Year. May You Be Well! 
The next link up will be Monday 4th January 2021. Optional Prompt: Word of The Year.

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.1/3. 101/2020.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt. 1/3. 101/2020.

Well over a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at...Chapter Twenty Five*. Part One of Three.

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members.

My 7th image for Telling My Story.

 

*Rightio…how DID I jump from my last chapter..Telling My Story which was Chapter Twenty to here?

No, I did not secretly write the posts and then not publish them.

But I did have a brainwave…do 2020’s chapter while it is fresh in my mind.

So, here I am with the first four months of “THAT” year we won’t forget in a hurry: 2020.

Posts to date are here.

Next Monday for the last post of #LifeThisWeek I will publish the next part & then probably the final one on Wednesday 23rd December.

Then, over time in the first months of 2021 I will write:

Chapter Twenty One (2015),

Chapter Twenty Two (2016- mid May 2017),

Chapter Twenty Three (later in May 2017 – 2018),

Chapter Twenty Four (2019)

JANUARY 2020.

On the gratitude path. I chose ‘gratitude’ as my word of the year. I love the idea and have a small bracelet I wear, glancing at it most days where is said ‘gratitude’ on one side, and ‘for life’ on another. I do follow through with what I say and writing this now in mid December I can tell you some days it was harder to find and feel gratitude but I managed it.

The Weather.

From October 2019 most of Australia was already in Bushfire Season. So much of the Eastern side, where we live, was as they say, tinder-dry and ready to start a bush fire. Over the time from then well into January 2020, we (Australians) lived with the actual or almost threat of fire taking property nearby or being affected in some ways. The temperatures outside were high. It was very unpleasant to go outside due to smoke which had arrived thanks to the winds also bringing black, fire-damaged leaves.

We did not see clear skies for many weeks. Fortunately, the amazing work of rural fire services, and of those who live in the communities affected went OK for those of us locally. Other places, including rural & coastal South Coast NSW and parts of Victoria did not with massive evacuations of crowds of holiday makers needing to get safely out of there. Some went literally into the water, others stayed to fight fires and some, in long carparks on single lane highways made their way home. It was awful.

Late January. No blue skies to be seen.

Family.

We have 3 January birthdays in the family. All male from my father who turned 96 on the 11th to our son and his nephew our grandson on the same days later in the month. We did not catch up to celebrate but as is usual sent greetings. I know I would have visited Dad sometime that month for sure. We had a grandson start high school, and other grandchildren go back to school or work as applicable.

Dad is 96. OLD…he agrees

Health.

It was time for my annual eye examination and that occurred pretty early at the local OPSM where the ‘on the ball’ optometrist picked up changes that were likely cataract-based and that his recommendation was to see my opthalmologist I see annually as well. This visit to Castle Hill, where we used to see her, also took me in Castle Towers shops some 5 years after my last visit, and like any stranger in town, I was gobsmacked at the changes, many made because of the light rail. Met my daughter and two granddaughters for lunch before the opthalmologist.

Well. That was a bit of news. Yes, I needed the surgery for cataract removal. Both eyes. Yes my husband was right, health stuff happens more after turning 70…And, yes, she would kindly bulk bill us but we would need to come to Parramatta Day Surgery. Check. Booked. Early March 2020.

Finances.

Without going into details, finances are always tricky in January for us and it is not related to spending from Christmas nor birthdays…it’s CARS! When we sold the house in Sydney in January 2015, we immediately bought new vehicles…the other ones were literally falling apart…and so, that means now annually the cost of CTP insurances x 2. Still, we are safe in our two vehicles and we are both independent having two.

Love my Nissan XTrail

And as always when January draws to a close this happens:

1. We celebrate our Wedding Anniversary. 49 years in 2020.
2. Australia Day happens.
3. Teachers and Kids in the family return to school & one grandson started high school.

The end of January is ALWAYS like this and I often feel it should be me too! Old habits and all that.

FEBRUARY 2020. 

This of course, made 2020 different!

After the awfulness of the fires and the altered ways in which families were forced to find housing, let alone anything they owned, there was on the news something about a virus from China called then CoronaVirus. There were half-hearted jokes relating the beer brand and to be honest, not much attention was paid other than..”oh, that seems pretty awful”…and “hope it stays away from us”. Of course, we hoped that.

The Weather Changed.

After the drought…comes the flooding. Of course. Massive rain fronts and more saved some of the land and its inhabitants from the awful threat of the fires. Still, it did not help the many, many animal casualties and deaths. So much was lost. There is a lot of bush regeneration happening. And we saw blue skies again, eventually, after the rain.

Birthdays.

A most important person has his birthday this month and he is my husband. He does not go all out to celebrate so I do that for us both! He did not do anything at all for his 70th last year so this year, we had a small family get together and his wish for a chiming clock came true.

 

Head and Neck Cancer Support Group Meeting.

2020 is my third year of being part of this group of head and neck cancer patients, their carers and sometime guest speakers. I attend in a dual capacity. I am a patient and the Ambassador for Beyond Five. More about ‘that role’ further on in my memoir.

It’s always good to gather with this crew. We are located here on the Central Coast and our commonality is having a head and neck cancer or being a carer/family member. It’s an open type of meeting and all sure are welcome. We usually share our stories and health updates and at times we have a guest speaker as we did at the first meeting for year in February.

Self-Care Rules. 

My routine for self-care has been mentioned in my regular posts via the Life This Week link up, and I note here what continued into 2020.

Most days I dress with purpose and go somewhere for a coffee. I do this too after I have been to the meetings in Erina, often taking time to drive around the Terrigal area as we now live much further up the coast. I was glad I did this on that February afternoon, and stopped for a coffee and cake at Long Jetty because none of us knew what was coming.

Getting Confident Again.

The persona that was Denyse some years back…way back into say the early 2000s to around 2013…loved to get out and about. To go to the theatre, the movies, meet up with friends. Have lunch, have a coffee. Getting together with friends and family was really important to me. BUT, over time, in this memoir of mine you will see the start of how my mood and other issues affected me. It started here. There will be more to come about the not-great-years-for-me of 2015, into 2016 and the early parts of 2017 in 2021. However, this is me recounting 2020 and I became more inclined to say YES to ideas like this…instead of usually NO, thank you.

Tickets to a Show and Driving to Newcastle and Back – Evening Time.

I have found that with my declining confidence what I needed to do was to challenge myself. In fact, that IS the essence of the theory called Exposure Therapy which I reluctantly took on board in 2016. More about that in posts here and here. Yes, some of it was related to potential IBS and some to ‘I cannot eat outside the home’ because of my mouth’s limitations but more than anything I HAD to give things a go.

I did.

I drove to Newcastle, about 45 minutes away, late afternoon in February, found a secure park in the street near the Civic Theatre (I already knew the place from 2019 attendance at Newcastle Writers Festival) and wandered over, then inside to be part of the audience for Chat 10 Looks 3 with Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales. It was great. I talked to people next to me. I found the car safely in the night time streets, and drove home the coast road way in the rain. So pleased with myself too!

 

Head & Neck Cancer News.

I had an excellent visit to my prosthodontist in February and he declared all was well with my upper prosthesis and that was it. See you in May he said. Sure thing said I. Neither of us know of course..what was to come! OK..we know it was COVID but let’s  not get ahead of ourselves.

Ambassador Role.

As a patient of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and of Professor Jonathan Clark AM, Head and Neck Surgeon, it is always a privilege to ‘give back’ in a way to help others. I was invited to be part of a new video series that would be made at “my hospital” as I call it, and I would be interviewed about nutrition following head and neck cancer diagnosis and surgeries. I was initially reluctant but when encouraged by the CEO of then Beyond Five, I said yes. It meant a day at Chris O’Brien, and lots of waiting around for film segments to be completed. However, I got to meet some special people, including two other head and neck patients, and dietitians too. My interview went well after an initial  false start. It can now be found here.

MARCH. 2020. A huge month!

The very next week I was back at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for my then 6 month check up with my surgeon. I took the chance to do quite a tour of the place as I was not in a rush. In fact, it was the first time, in a formal setting, I saw pamphlets about COVID 19 and restrictions of entry into the hospital and of course, that made sense. Those signs had not been there the WEEK before. Things were moving faster. There were sanitisers at the door as well.

My visit was awesome. See you in 6 months! I got to say good bye to Deb who was leaving the art program I had supported, and I drove home. I did not know I would be back in 6 months but under far stricter protocols….that needs to wait till part 3/3.!

Remember the Confidence Growth?

I was invited to be the guest speaker at a fund raiser for head and neck cancer, hosted by young doctors in training on the Central Coast. One doctor, Caity, knew of me from my Beyond Five story and she too had a story there. Her father, only in his 40s, had died from a head and neck cancer. Knowing the importance of awareness raising and the importance of sharing the messages via the Beyond Five site, there was an evening function – a charity ball they called it- on a delightful, balmy evening at Avoca Beach. I was happy to share my story and to help share my information at my little table where I was talking to various attendees about head and neck cancer.

Little did any of us know, on this first weekend in March, that this would be the end of events such as these, thanks no thanks COVID. Feel really fortunate this went ahead and they raised some thousands of dollars. I remain in touch with Caity and colleagues too.

It was a big boost for my confidence. I used to speak off the cuff as a principal many times, and once I had that mic in my hand it was fine. I did have to find something suitable to wear and I did…and to drive myself from one end of the coast to the other. I did.

Eating remains an issue. But I am OK with that.

What I couldn’t do…was actually eat anything there. I did not pay to attend. I could drink water and that was it. You see, despite my normal appearance eating anything other than some cake with coffee, eating anywhere other than home is problematic.

And Now…Cataract Surgeries. Yes, x two in 3 days!

As a couple we had a rhythm for driving together to Sydney for my cancer treatments initially and then I became Ms Independent and as kids say “I can do it myself.” But not for this.

Monday 9 March 2020.

My dear husband drove us to Parramatta for my midday arrival at the Day Surgery. We were booked to stay just down the road at a new to us Meriton apartment. Fortunately he could access the room, and bring up our food supplies and clothes. Meanwhile I had a LONG wait as many people were there for similar types of eye surgeries. On this day it was my right eye. There were some COVID type precautions including questions about where I had been. No restrictions on other people being with waiting patients.

It is a LONG wait with weird stuff in your eyes but eventually I was ushered in to the next room, given a shower cap, no change of clothes, and onto a trolley. Saw the anaesthetist and his nurse. All checked out OK. His wife is my opthalmologist. I don’t know what he gave me but I have no memory of seeing her or the surgery but waking up, cover over my eye and for some reason I took a lot of selfies. Husband collected me, back into the apartment. Rested up and finally ate something and slept until the next morning when we needed to go back to the Day Surgery for check and drops. Then off home! Yay. Thank goodness for sunglasses (as recommended) because EVERYTHING was bright.

Wednesday 11 March 2020.

Despite having a successful outcome on Monday, for this day trip I was anxious. Maybe my mind is remembering what surgeries are about. Nevertheless with a confidence boost chat to my GP and a wee bit of valium on board, we went. This time the only place my husband could ‘hang out’ was at Westfield Parramatta as I was going home the same day. On arrival, only 2 days post the first surgery, the protocol was already ramped up thanks to COVID. More questions on arrival and a temperature check. Settled down to wait “after the drops in the eyes” and then BOOM..OK, what is that? Oh. A Fire Alarm and no it’s not a practice. Evacuate the building.

Down some 3 flights of stairs, in single file, I admit I started to remember what 9/11 people had done only SO much worse. Outside on the street, we were guided away from the building and waited. The firies came. In an engine and we waited. I was pre-op and whilst the anaesthetists was already there, his wife, my surgeon, arrived just as we were all coming onto the driveway near the Ferry Terminal. So, all we could do was wait. Eventually, thanks to my phone I texted my husband from a concrete set of steps where I sat and we waited. Probably about 45 minutes. Then, all clear. A faulty something or other and we traipsed up the stairs again. Lift was out for a time. The wait was not too bad and I was called in, and this time, saw my surgeon and even “saw some of the coloured lights” as she was inserting the lens. Wow I said. She said “no talking”. So I didn’t. No silly selfies, husband got me and off back up the M1 we went. The next day checks were at rooms closer to our house.

Updates on my eyes. As of December 2020. I see very well for distance and no longer need glasses for driving. Yay. I use a much weaker script in glasses for reading. At the shops I use a $2 plastic pair with 2 vision. I have had a recent check and despite some issues that annoyed me as I already have itchy eyes at times my opthalmologist says all is looking good and these should last me 10 to 15 years. Grateful too that she bulkbilled for these surgeries.

COVID19  GETS SERIOUS. 

On the weekend after my two surgeries above, there were a number of changes to how we here in Australia, and in our state, would now lead our lives. The Prime Minister, used Sunday 15th March to announce a raft of new rules on how we would live and interact day to day and why. He was often flanked with the then Federal Health Person,  and in our state, Premier with her Health head honco, Minister for Health and Police.

It began very seriously from Monday 16 March.

I am using some calendar reminders here!

  • I know that I needed to have both food supplies in for us and I admit it, toilet paper was a high priority.
  • I think I went, as carefully as I could, probably wearing a mask and gloves – whatever we had here at the time – to local supermarkets
  • I could not always get what I sought nor what we wanted
  • I remember feelings of insecurity in me that I may not be able to cook all the meals – for us and the freezer – to have on hand.
  • I know I felt the weight of responsibility

Meanwhile my husband was negotiating seeing his GP and going through medication changes and it was not easy. In fact, it was tough. Even though he could talk to the GP on the phone, some things are far better managed in person.

Our eldest granddaughter has come to stay indefinitely with her other grandparents who also live on the Coast as she has an autoimmune condition so did not want to be at her Mum’s. Mum is a teacher and going to school at that point each day was a risk that she, and her youngest had to take. It got a bit worrying. She popped up to see us…and for a much needed hug…just because she needed to as did we to see her.

Of course, we know now that schools did an amazing job of being flexible and eventually on-line learning worked..hard as it was…and teachers need congratulating along with their leaders.

So we did OK really I guess. I found it hard initially that my practice of going out each day for a coffee was curtailed but I found alternative solutions at home with a strong coffee and my ISObaking  took off!!

Dear Miss Five. 

Our youngest granddaughter, born five years ago at almost the end of March spent her fifth birthday….having her broken arm re-set. It was one of those small accidents but when it’s a little person it is always hard. Staying with her Dad, along with her siblings, when it happened, she was driven to the local public hospital where, as our son said, they could not have been kinder. Her Mum met up with them there. They stabilised her arm, she came back to her Dad’s to open the presents from us and share a facetime even though it was pretty hard…and then next morning, her actual birthday, she went back in to find the nurses had remembered her birthday and she was treated very well indeed. She was fine, and is fine. And as her Dad told her, you just wanted to be the same as me when I was four. True!

April 2020.

We became accustomed to daily updates on COVID numbers of cases in our state and country. NSW was not doing well. Sadly it was where older people lived such as in Nursing Homes that things went downhill rapidly. Each day seemed to bring worse news and added restrictions. Already we knew there would be no Royal Easter Show. Definitely no-one going anywhere on the roads except for essential reasons: work, medical or supermarket.

I find change hard but did my best with this one because we had to do the right thing. Even going for a casual drive to nowhere..or the beach was BANNED and police could pull you up to ask where you were going.

I did immerse myself in busy stuff for my mind, like blogging, art, craft and cooking. I had my cooking/baking mojo back. In general too I was able to source ingredients and do my best to cook for us to have a meal stash in the freezer. Toilet paper was OK. We celebrated Miss 8’s birthday via facetime. I was able to attend some ancillary medical appointments in person. That was a relief…my feet needed it.

Eventually too, my hairdresser was back in a very limited way when they got the OK to do so and my usual 4 weekly hair cut had blown out to 8 weeks but I lasted and I was very relieved to have my back to normal look.

And then on a Friday at the end of the month…oh, there were no ANZAC days services or ceremonies anywhere either…I got slight sore throat and a mild temperature so rang the COVID hotline and my GP and both said, report to local COVID test centre. It was in local hospital grounds 5 minutes away. Not much of a wait. Test was OK. Mask on from the get go….and back home to self isolate. I got my test Friday afternoon and result in wee hours of Sunday morning.

COVID COLLAGE.

And that is that.

2020. Part One of Three.

Denyse.

Did you read it all? Wow. Thank you.

Joining here with Leanne and friends for what I guess will be the last Lovin Life Linky in 2020.

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty. 2013-2014.97/2020.

Telling My Story. 2013-2014. Chapter Twenty. 97/2020.

About a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at...Chapter Twenty.

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members.

In saying that, these two years, 2013-2014  are presenting me, the memory writer and ‘rememberer’ with some internal challenges. You see, I look at my images back then and see the very overweight Denyse smiling (as she does) for the camera and sharing what she did professionally in her work well, along with caring for her family…but as I know now (and did then) I was:

  • very unhappy
  • using some foods for comfort
  • confused in some ways about what was best for me going forward
  • hiding how I felt mostly from myself I guess
  • acting out: angrily, tearily and more

In saying this, I hope to share honestly for my sake and to keep the story telling real even though to re-hash some of the memories and to see again those self-images makes me sad. I am somewhat ashamed of the me then. However, I need to let that go…over time, I guess I do. More about my weight issues here.

I have a goal to continue to present a one more of these chapters, after this one, as a snapshot of 2020…that year that was… have a break and be back in 2021.

All the posts are here if you would like to check them out.

Mixing Up The Years 2013-2014.

Changing Priorities.

By the time the end of 2014 arrived, we knew we were to become grandparents of an 8th grandchild due in 2015. This would be our son’s 4th child. He had a 3rd child with his then wife in 2013 and we cared for her and her older sister for much of 2014. In 2013 we did some care for our daughter’s 4th child along with our son’s 2nd.

We did enjoy these days very much but they were tiring as we aged.

We did this mostly together but as 2014 changed my husband’s focus to some personal and professional learning in counselling as well as becoming a trained telephone support person for Lifeline, I was left alone with one under 1 year old and I admit, I was liking that less and less. So, the compromise was made to having her 2 days a week.

The House Needed These Improvements.

My husband had a business for some years when he was 100% well and it was in kitchen cabinet making. He had to let the business go (see Chapter12 ) but his interest in maintaining our then house inside and out, grew in the years from 2012 onwards.

Whilst we never really discussed it, the house (ours since 1997), with its significant mortgage: thanks to us (ok, me) wanting to borrow to help our two adult kids get into housing, and then making more home improvements for our comfort, was going to need to be sold one day.

That day when I had a tearful conversation with my husband came around as a first discussion point in July 2014 when I was flailing at any kind of paid work pressures. They were not huge but as someone who was now quite unwell emotionally (did not realise it in reality) and longed to be free of paid work obligations this idea filled me with relief. Much to do before putting it on the market, but it all happened. See more below.

But First….there was a lot more happening! 

  • My business: Denyse Whelan Education Specialist (I dislike Expert!) and I had a newspaper article, column for a short time (local papers), a consultancy that saw me work with a local and reputable Early Childhood chain of centres in the Hills District. I helped their staff and parents navigate the world that is “after pre-school and before school”.

 

  • The blog saw me have 3 separate ones: education, schools and teachers. I had hoped, via my role as an educator/tutor for Masters of Teaching at a local University there may have been more interest on-line but my ‘at the chalkface’ role continued as a practicum supervisor and tutor at Uni (marking too!) until I asked to stop…in time for second semester 2014. I did enjoy it, but I was ready to leave the world of accountability!!

 

  • However, I continued to be an ‘as needed’ person in then NSW Institute of Teachers to visit schools as an External Observer from as far away at Cobar (went there in one day thanks to a small passenger place) to local Western Sydney schools. I enjoyed that I got to see parts of N.S.W. as a tourist and educator. Parts of my trips were paid by me if I wanted to extend the times. I did that when visiting Cobargo PS (scenes of the awful fires in 2019-2020) as I flew into and stayed at Merimbula. I did that for a Woolgoolga trip staying at Coffs Harbour and in Tamworth for my first visit to Kootingal.

 

  • The educator role also saw me invited a couple of times to appear on television in discussions and as a so-called expert. I admit “one” was enough and luckily I already knew Kerri Sackville and the appearance went well. I “needed” a new wardrobe of course, and I enjoyed being pampered in the make-up chair and saying ‘g’day to Jane Caro as she left from her segment.

Still The Grandmother AND Educator! 

In early 2014 Rick Morton (top journalist and writer) asked me some questions for a story he was writing for the Australian. He now works for The Saturday Paper. One of the images from the day is first below.

We did have lots of fun making memories, grandchildren and grandparents. Some were at times like Easter, others ‘just hanging out’ at our place where there was always paint AND playdoh! Never mix the colours, kids!

Making Memories : for Me! 

I admitted to myself there would be much I would miss about living in Sydney and being closer to the family. So, I made sure I had some special occasions to look back on. My formative years aged 10-20 were spent living near Manly and the Harbour so this was an even more special place to make memories. Mum and Dad had continued to live at Balgowlah Heights till 2011. Mum’s death in 2007 saw Dad stay for as long as he wishes but eventually, he was ready for independent retirement living at Dee Why. That’s is where I visit him now.

Few More Memorable Occasions. 2013 into 2014. 

The Changes Becoming Realities.

At the end of 2013 my organisation energies were applied to my father’s 90th Birthday luncheon. He gave me and my brother his wish list of ideas and people, and then, we, the family sorted it for him. It was held next door to his retirement place, at Dee Why R.S.L. where he hired a room and they supplied lunch for us all. We, the kids and grandkids, sorted the presentations, the decor, the name tags and more. He, was, and continues to be, overwhelmed by it. Nearly 7 years later. Anyway, it goes without saying, he enjoyed it.

Time To Make Reality Happen. Mid 2014 onwards.

In order for us to be mortgage-free the house had to be sold.

We were both keen to do that. My husband has never really been a city person and was keen to leave for the less busy areas on the Central Coast. I agreed at the time that this was the right move. It still is. However, I knew nothing about the emotional effect the changes would have on me. I will be writing about that in 2015.

What happened though was that there was a LOT of physical work to be done to ready a house for selling. We interviewed agents. Eventually we agreed on one. We half-jokingly took him up on an offer to pay him a smaller personal percentage if the house sold for over (what we though was unreachable) $800K. Late 2014, people. Western area of Sydney.

Before then, my husband finished off the outside areas, made and painted new side gates, made the pool area extra comfy and of course added fence protection to a side garden as we realised the raised grass area made the pool fence climbable. We planted a great deal and did all we could to make the outside areas of the house private as Blacktown Council had extended their community centre to our side fence.

I started detaching from the possessions that had made our space for grandchildren. We gave away a lot, sold some things and each grandchild got their own box of Christmas decorations to use in their future. Part of my tradition since becoming grandparents in 1996 was a new tree decoration for each grandchild each year. There were a LOT for our daughter’s first 3 kids!

At the same time, in late 2014,  we were trying to find somewhere to rent on the Central Coast.

We thought we would try before buying…and now, some 6 years later we are less close to buying than ever thanks to using our sum left after sale and increasing house prices here. However, we are reasonably content with renting now.

I spent a lot of time on-line and some Saturdays up and down the M1 with little success. Our wish list then was air conditioning and the southern end of the coast..closer to returning to Sydney – my idea. The house we eventually took was because of desperation. Our place had sold, we needed to be “in” somewhere around mid January 2015 so with haste, we signed up for a too expensive and too uncomfortable house with limited air conditioning.

Then It All Came To This. End of 2014. 

  • The house sold. We accepted $825,000 on the night of the first open home. We never thought it would get to that but we had a very volatile Sydney housing market and an exceptional agent.
  • The relief was palpable but there were still hurdles to overcome including the usual inspections, delays from buyers but it did all come together on 15 January 2015. We had already moved but were assured all would be fine. And it was. But it’s nail biting. And we had almost zero in our accounts!
  • We celebrated our eldest granddaughter’s 18th birthday, success in HSC thanks to first 10% of state in Drama, her solo performance at the School Spectacular with the NSW Group of Talented Drama Students.
  • We knew we had a new grandchild arriving in the following year.
  • Our daughter kindly offered (accepted!) to have our last Christmas in Sydney at her place and both of our kids and their kids attended. It began hitting home for me…these were lasts!
  • We had a few more occasions to have grandchildren over to swim and to stay…and then…that was it.

2015 Awaited Us. 

I am glad to have written this chapter. It took some doing but it’s done. I hope that you, the reader, find it of interest.

Thanks for being here.

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne and friends here for Lovin Life Linky.

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Telling My Story. Chapter Eighteen. 2008-2009. 89/2020.

Telling My Story. 2008-2009. Chapter Eighteen. 89/2020.

About a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at…Chapter Eighteen. I admit it is getting harder in some ways to blog about the more recent times. I think it is because without particular markers (i.e. deaths, births, engagements, marriages, break ups…) then it can be hard to recall.

This couple of years actually did cover getting over Mum’s death, the joy of a first child for our son and his fiancee in the year that Mum died…and there would be a marriage planned. More of that in the next chapter!

I know it’s been a while since I last posted. All the posts are here if you would like to check them out.

School and “Work At Home”.

By the time the beginning of the school year of  2008 came around we (my husband and I) had begun to care for the dear little grandson who had been born late in the previous year. When we began his daily care, from around 8 a.m. to around 5 p.m. up to 3 days a week we knew what we were up for…of course we did! But we were older than the last time we had grandchildren in our care AND the Mum in that case worked till around 3-3.30 so we knew that her baby would be going home around then.

My husband was not well enough to do paid work outside the home so he was very good at telling stories, reading books and taking slow walks around the house with a small baby who preferred another’s arms than bed!

I was still working in a school for 2 or 3 days a week, as an English as a Second Language teacher too. So, there were only weekends off for me so to speak. But I loved the “work at home” and I do think I was probably wearying of the role at school. But, “we” needed me to keep working for income so I did.

 

Some of My Memories of 2008.

  • getting areas of the house baby-ready.
  • making the former grandkids’ room (there were already beds for them) into something that could also occupy a baby boy.
  • buying…yes buying a LOT of new toys, books and some items of spare clothing, including bibs, washers and little towels. It had been a long time since the last baby who had been at our house. That baby boy was now 7.
  • enjoying the stroller walks around the neighbourhood so that ‘he’ might get some sleep.
  • loving the daily routine and making up little reports with words for his Mum and Dad to keep.
  • continuous reams of photos being printed at the local photo service centre: I was still using film. Yet to have the iphone.
  • proudly seeing the hard work of this young baby’s parents working for them as it was our son working in retail full time, studying almost full-time while his fiancee managed a physio practice
  • watching for one of the parents’ cars by close to 5 p.m. as we were very tired by then!

No better place than with Papa listening to HUG!

From baby to toddler: 2008-2009

 

The dearest little boy! Now a teen…

 

School.

I was almost 60. I was, I admit, getting over many of the changes that were coming about in education and whilst I saw they may have been necessary, I was beginning to become ‘bored and disinterested.’ I know that I was working for an income, but over the next couple of years, we did hope I could stop work. I did try though to be as positive an influence on other teachers at the school and to mentor those who were interested in promotion and the like. I still have many of those people in my life today.

My Dad.

Dad is a resilient person. He did seek grief counselling after Mum’s death in March 2007 and his self-organised plan of writing Mum letters seemed to help him over the many years he continued this. He even drove to Queensland by himself, stopping over, to have the ‘usual’ holiday he and Mum would have around July each year. He found the journey too much in the end and decided that was the last time. But, never say never and his goal to go and visit a friend on the Gold Coast – for the last time in 2008 –  was to fly up for a few days and he asked me to accompany him. I was OK to do that (pretty sure I would have had the time off school but may be not from grandchild care!)

Dad would still drive over to see us and on a few occasions, especially around Christmas, would stay a couple of nights to catch up with the other members of our family. I admit though, it was a bit of a strain on me having him stay because we clash(ed). Much much less of that these days but back then, it could be tense. Nevertheless he got some fun out of seeing little people and he was always invited to birthdays. He has, now in 2020, lost all interest in anything like that, except with immediate to him close family. At nearly 97 he is just doing what he can to get by!

My Dad with our two grandsons. Some years back now.

2009 Notched Up The Busy Life For Me.

Just as Christmas holidays were over, and the awful fires of Black Saturday burned in Victoria that February, we received news that a new grandchild was on the way. A sibling to the little fellow who was now 1 and very active and interested in the world around him. That was great news. It meant more work for his mum as she struggled (valiantly) with all-day morning sickness and for our son, the dad, as he readied himself for more study towards his future career goals as a mature age student having graduated with his Bachelors Degree.

Such a big and busy time alright and I admit, when my husband turned 60 in the February, retirement of some kind for me was looking good. That was not really possible as we had our mortgage and I was still liking aspects of my part-time teaching role.

Other family members were at High School and Primary School and our daughter was in a relationship and keeping her part-time role in a school happening. The townhouse we had helped her purchase was sold and she and her then partner had plans for building and more. Whilst this did happen down the track, I am not including any more about that time in their lives. It is not my story. At all.

Around 3/4 of the way through 2019, Miss R arrived

She made a dramatic entrance to the world. Her Dad literally caught her! That was amazing. He sure was shocked but perhaps not as much as the midwife when she heard him shout out!! The hospital was a few minutes away and once we knew of his little sister’s arrival, we drove the big brother down to meet her! It was just the best.

And Then I Stopped. I Was 60.

In Term 4 of 2009 I would turn 60. Suddenly, it seemed, I did not want to go to school any more to work. I had felt a real pull to be back at home more and with the prospect of having two grandchildren coming to us in 2010 the time seemed right. The money would be tight, but we would try to make it work.

I had a special birthday celebration. I had a lovely weekend High Tea at a local hotel with female family and friends. It was just lovely. I was spoiled and I have many happy memories. I was also given a lunch by my Dad, husband and my kids and their partners. Miss R above, a breastfed baby was there by necessity.

And I got the retirement farewell I had not had from my time as a principal. My friend, the principal where I was about to stop teaching, organised a morning tea, I got to say a few words, our family came to listen and see, and I was re-presented with the Retirement Medal with the errors on the back. It did not matter. I felt appreciated and cared for and I was ready to be at home. Full-time it seemed!

 

Miss R with one of her cousins.

 

Some 9 years after the ‘first’ retirement, the NSW Dept of Education put on a special morning tea and presented me with the correct medal and the Deputy Secretary made a speech about my career.

What I Cannot Add and Why.

We often see the words “not my story to tell” and I even used them in this post. I could add more but choose not to as some of the times were both sad and based on ill-health issues. What I can say is that I was affected but that is because of the person I was then and that I did find aspects of life in the coming years quite stressful. I know the whys. I am much wiser now some 10 years later but we do have to go through much to learn don’t we?

That has been the case for me. I also know I could add many more photos but I choose not to try to find them…they are in albums and again, they do not necessarily add anything to this public post.

Next time: 2010 – 2012. Not sure how that will be. May be more words than photos. I shall see!

Thank you for being part of the audience who reads Telling My Story.

Denyse.

Linking up with Leanne and friends here on Thursdays.

 

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Outside. 44/51. #LifeThisWeek. 88/2020.

Outside. 44/51. #LifeThisWeek. 88/2020.

We promised ourselves a NSW country mini holiday once I was well and  COVID was not a really big issue so away we went, on Monday 19 October 2020 on a trek to where we had met, exactly 50 years earlier.

We had literally had no trips away other than for my surgeries for well over 5 years so we both looked forward to a different scene from the coast and to be away just for us.

The laws in NSW do not allow for phone use inside a car. I found that a challenge as I wanted to record scenes from the car, so….on the wide and open roads…with me checking for cars…I did a few pics. No harm was done. I say anyway!

New England Hwy. North West N.S.W.

The trip from our home on the northern end of the N.S.W. Central Coast to our main destination of the major inland north-western centre of Tamworth took us 4 hours. This included comfort and coffee stops. Thank you Maccas. We shared the driving.

From the car, on the move, in the passenger’s seat. Loved seeing effects of some recent rains.

Where We Met. Literally!

On Saturday 17th October 1970, we met at a N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation Conference at a club in Tamworth. We found it, actually my husband did because he had lived around Tamworth for some years before we met. Outside for a selfie. No, we did not go inside.

Up To The LookOut: the view is spectacular.

 

Then we went to Barraba. My first school. Appointed in 1970. My husband, even though we were born in the same year, had already been teaching in his small (one teacher) school since 1968. His High School years ended with the Leaving Certificate in 1965 whereas “I” was part of the new 6 years at High School cohort. But to get to Barraba from Tamworth, it’s a one hour drive via Manilla. We stopped there for a photo – to Boggabri the sign says – and it was along that road my then boyfriend would drive wearily home after seeing me in Barraba. Ah love….

An addition to the entrance to Barraba: these silos have been painted. How amazing! Great tribute to the rural area that makes Barraba the town it is.

 

We stopped in town, which sadly, remained depleted of many shops. Sad because even before COVID, many country towns had suffered. The drought being for one reason. Nevertheless we found a cafe, and enjoyed some morning tea. Such a quiet main street.

I remember in 1970 there was a public holiday to celebrate 200 years since Captain Cook ‘found’ Australia. The school made a float and we were part of the celebrations. I cringe now, because I am not aware that back then we made any references to the Aboriginal community in the area. Now, as I saw when we visited the outside of the school where I taught, there was evidence of traditional owners and tributes to them. I am pretty sure there would be quite a number of indigenous students at the school too.

It was, and is, Barraba Central School. The High School section is now on a different site but when I was there, it was a K-12 school campus. Wonderful social experience at that school. The teachers and all of the staff were invited by my parents to my 21st in Tamworth late in that year. Still somewhat embarrassed  by that, and as I had already met B, “we” knew there would be a wedding coming up in the New Year!

For a visit to a special place for us both in Tamworth we went here: it is called Tamworth Base Hospital but we couldn’t find a sign which said that. However, this one was close to the carpark where we both remembered my husband meeting our then week old daughter for the first time. That’s how it was back then.

There are a few chapters in Telling My Story related to our years of meeting, marrying and having our first child.

Here they are:

Telling My Story. Chapter Four. 1970. 2018.68.

Telling My Story: Chapter Five. 1971.2018. 79.

Telling My Story. Chapter Six. Becoming Mum. 1971. 2018.100.

Thanks for joining me OUTSIDE today!

Denyse.

Link Up 213

Life This Week. Link Up #213

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