Saturday 16th January 2021

Telling My Story. Chapter Seventeen. 2007. Part Two. 81/2020.

Telling My Story. 2007. Part Two. Chapter Seventeen. 81/2020.

2007 was a very full year of significant events which is why I have made it a two-parter! 

So, 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…drum roll… Chapter Seventeen. Part One from last week is here.

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

My Mum Has Died. 

Whilst her life in the last 2 or so years were not great, Mum did have a story to tell which I, along with my father and brother were happy to write as part of her soon-to-happen funeral.I admit, some of the days prior were a bit tense but when a family comes together and they wish to do what the remaining partner (Dad) wishes, then so be it. With help and support from extended family, a private funeral service and a wake back at (Mum) and Dad’s house family set about getting organised. Mum and Dad’s early years together are part of this Telling My Story Chapter here:

My daughter – Mum’s first grandchild – and I put together the small orders of service and we reminisced about a lot. My brother and his wife were helping Dad – they lived a lot closer and things like Mum’s clothes and the food and drink back at the wake were organised. Our contingent, travelled in a couple of cars from our area of Sydney and we met at the family home. I had an idea that if each of the women and girls wanted to wear something of Mum’s jewellery to her service, that would be nice. Everyone did and kept that.

I know my reaction to the event was both sad and also of relief. I actually wanted to give the eulogy but Dad refused. He gave that job to the minister who had never met Mum and only knew Dad from arranging the service at a church that he felt Mum would have wanted. Nevertheless he did a reasonable job and there were smiles and tears at the words. Dad, again, his idea, decided that no-one would accompany Mum’s body to the crematorium. Sadly she left alone. Our son, called out to her in farewell as her casket was taken.

Back to Dad’s house – not Mum’s anymore and we all mingled, with some of the close  friends Dad invited and gave her a farewell with champers and food. Sigh. Dad collected Mum’s ashes some weeks later, offered some to his family, and we said “no, thanks, keep Mum together!”. Dad planted 3 new favourite plants of hers (pretty sure, they are in this background) and added her ashes. When he sold the house and went to the independent living unit, he took one remaining pot with him.

Dad, Me & His (then) 3 Great Grandkids: front garden.

How Did I Manage?

Given that I had to start at a new school and a new job at a college just as we received the news that Mum had brain tumours, my mind was in overdrive. However, the income was needed but over the 2 weeks or so as she was hospitalised in palliative care, my wise GP told me I was far better acknowledging the grief and distraction and to take time off now and into the time following Mum’s death. I agreed and it helped greatly to know that I could get over to see her and help Dad as needed.

Never think a job is more important than these very significant times in family life.

There Will Be A New Grandchild In Our Lives in 2007.

This news was unexpected, welcomed and a big surprise. The mother-to-be and her partner, our son, were expecting. This gave me a very different and welcomed focus. I sure love being Grandma…and had 3 gorgeous grandkids already, but it had been 6 years since any were babies. I admit I went into Grandma-Must-Get “this for them and this for our house” and more….because having passed the grandbaby part of our lives, I had given quite a bit away. I was told that I needed to pull back a bit from this and I admit I needed this big time…looking at it now, I did, ahem over do it and yes, it was probably a great way to overcome the sadness of Mum’s death.

School. Work. Back To It. Grief.

It’s always hard to return to a job after a significant event like this one, my mother’s grave illness then death, but routine and work can help. I admit to some overwhelm and sadness and I think this was more about me trying to keep it all together. I have mentioned before that Mum and I were never that close yet it did surprise me that I felt the  tears prick at times, and as Mother’s Day 2007 beckoned, I recall thinking “no need for a card any more” and that sure did cement the finality. As the years have gone on, I have had some regrets about my relationship with Mum and have, in some ways, made some peace with her in the ways in which I bring up her name in family conversations and talk to Dad about her. He saw a grief counsellor after Mum died and the idea put to him that he write letters to Mum gelled. He filled folders and folders of these, only finishing a few years back. Every family event, anything of significance, Dad wrote to Mum about it. He would say it was very helpful.

Yes, back to work. I maintained the face of not minding where I was teaching but when an offer came that I could return to my former and preferred school I jumped at it. Sure it wasn’t as it used to be there as a new teacher had been appointed but I knew the school, the kids and the staff…and was 10 minutes from home. 3 days a week. Done. Did not go back to the College once the first term was over. Yay.

Moments, Days And Times To Enjoy.

Dad is a very practical person and he had run the house he and Mum lived in for at least 2 years before she died. Mum, who was incredibly energetic and liked to socialise had changed greatly over the years and this had taken a toll on Dad but he also needed to get stuff done. He stayed in their large family home for the next few years. More on that in chapters to come. He was the one who, on Mum’s death, disposed of her clothing and more once any of of us had a chance to speak up for what we might like. I took some scarves (never was my Mum’s small size anyway) and I was given all of her jewellery after others had a chance to select something for themselves. I have these in safe keeping now. Dad had a good set of friends and one part of his  family were not too far away. He got on with some days well, and at other times he craved company and went next door or to his local club to catch up.

I was busy back at the school I loved, and wrote the school’s English as a Second Language policy. The person who replaced me (ha!) got the job based on seniority on a waiting list. Her skills in administration were not, ahem, those of a former school principal. Fortunately for me, I was able to choose my work path and we only needed to connect from time to time. I was also getting closer to becoming Grandma to a little one again. Joyous times awaited.

HE is here.

The first son (and child for his parents) arrived…not as his mother had hoped…on a different day to her birthday but, yes, ON her birthday. Ah well, they will never forget each other’s birthdays! This young baby boy was a bit big. OK. A lot big..in the head. We do have big heads in our family. And, whilst his birth was a trauma for him, as he had to be delivered by forceps, his Mum and his Dad – along with their Obstetrician were champions. We got to meet this second grandson for us a little while after his arrival. Because of his rocky entry to the world, he could not be held by anyone other than his Mum (and Dad, I think) whilst in hospital.

My tradition has been to secure some tiny wee cloth/soft toy for the baby and I managed to get him a little bear for inside his hospital bed. His parents had a double bed in the room, and our son stayed too, in between I think Uni and work. I do know that I kept up snack and drinks supplies to the new parents.

And then they came home. I was invited to take photos of their arrival home. Luckily it was school holidays but knowing me, I would have taken the day off.

Firsts.

In 2007 we remembered these firsts:

  • first Mother’s Day without Mum
  • first time I worked in an adult English as a Second Language setting
  • first time I learned our son and his then partner were having a child
  • first time Dad spent Christmas with us, and without Mum
  • first car I owned which would be the one I helped with being a regular carer of  grandchildren because: 7 seater. Lots of room for carseats to fit “all” sizes.
  • first time our family spent time together at my parents’ house but without Mum’s presence
  • first time I held a baby boy who is the son of my son
  • first time I knew that I wanted to have time to teach for only 2-3 days a week…because:
  • in 2008 I would, for the first time, be caring for a young grandson when his Mum went back to work, and Dad too, along with Uni for up to 3 days a week.

That’s a wrap for a big year. So big it was written in two parts.

Thank you for reading…and commenting too.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne and friends on Thursdays.

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Seventeen. 2007. Part One. 79/2020.

Telling My Story. 2007. Part One. Chapter Seventeen. 79/2020.

2007 was a very full year of significant events which is why I have made it a two-parter! 

So, 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…drum roll… Chapter Seventeen. I know it’s been a while since I last posted. All the posts are here if you would like to check them out.

 

We Did Not Know What 2007 Would Bring.

Of course no-one can predict a year and what it might hold….case in point 2020…but this one sure did challenge me and those I love. Where to start? I guess, of course right at the beginning of 2007. And as I began to write, I realised I would need to make this a Part One and a Part Two year. Next week, I will conclude Telling My Story 2007.

My teaching role: changes. Not happy, but at least I have some paid work.

I am a practical and resourceful person who love(s/d) her teaching role. After gaining my Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in 2006 I heard the disappointing  news that I could not stay at the school where I had started (again) in 2004. There was now a permanent person appointed. What to do? I sent emails to a few former principal colleagues  about my availability as an E.S.L. teacher 3 days a week and within a few days, was able to say “YES thank you” to Sue at H.P.S. I would add to the staff she said, not only my E.S.L. expertise but my leadership skills. OK. Flattered of course. I readied to leave the school I loved and my dear husband was my courier of all things teaching to the new school to a very old half a portable building in the back of the school grounds. But wait, there is more before I even start at school.

Mum becomes much more seriously ill. 

At the end of Chapter Sixteen I wrote that Mum and Dad celebrated their 60th (Diamond) Wedding Anniversary with the family and a few friends but Mum’s health had been declining for more than a year. Dad says over 2 years. He of course, noticed far more than we did. Mum made it, with Dad’s help to celebrate Christmas 2006 at my brother’s and we all joined them. That was probably the last time we did have Mum with us all. Early January 2007 after an incident where Mum had a ‘bump’ into a door and hurt her head, Dad was reluctant to let us know as we had taken a few days to have a break on the south coast. His birthday was celebrated very simply with my daughter, some of her kids and my niece, joining my parents for a simple morning tea. The last photo of Mum is at that small event. It would have been important for Mum to have a cake for him. She did not make this cake though as had been her tradition.

We returned from our holiday and I was surprised to be asked to help Dad out, because they lived an hour from us and I wondered why. I guess, he had downplayed Mum’s condition for “protective measures” and also because Mum was exceedingly private about anything medical. Oh, and worrier to the nth degree. I drove to their place, as requested, on a very warm mid -January afternoon to be the chauffeur to take Dad and Mum to a much needed catch up appointment with her specialist Neurologist. Back story: Mum had, for some time, exhibited symptoms which could have been Parkinson-based or maybe not. This man was a kindly person and whilst Mum found it hard to hear (deaf most of her adult life) he tried to ease her anguish. I did not go into this appointment with them but when Mum came out, I assisted her to the ladies and for the first time, saw her need to guided help as she walked. A wake-up call for me.

I drove Mum and Dad home. The specialist was going to organise for Mum to have an MRI (I think) within the next weeks. Time did not allow for that to occur on his watch, as that weekend, Mum became confused somewhat by pain and Dad made the call to take her to the ED at the local hospital. She was seen by a couple of people that Sunday and Dad tried to let them know what the history was, but with a couple of tests and a CT (I think) they said “take her home.”

Dad was appalled but did as they said. The next day, Monday, he was onto the specialist Neurologist immediately who was sorry he had not given Dad his mobile number but said, I will arrange for her to be admitted to the private hospital now. But then, Dad took another call, from the local public hospital. “Oh, could you bring your wife in please, we have seen tumours in her brain”. Umm. No thank you.

Meanwhile, I started a new adult teaching role.

Gosh, way to add complications to my life. However, I needed an income and found work on a day when I was not going to be in a school, at Chatswood helping older people learn English to function. I admit, it did last for only 10 weeks but it was not a role I loved. More later. The one thing that was a bit convenient on one of the days, was that after teaching, I was close to the hospital where Mum was.

Term One. School, Adult Education and a New Vehicle.

Before returning to teaching at the end of January 2007, I sold my sedan and became the proud owner of a Grandma-suitable vehicle called an Avensis. It could seat seven and even though we had only 3 grandchildren then, I felt this vehicle was more appropriate for my travels to school as well as across Sydney. I did not, dear reader, anticipate the number of grandchildren would change. This news…later.

I kind of settled into the new (to me) primary school where I was a part-time E.S.L. teacher for 3 days a week. I found it a hard role in some ways as at my previous school I was able to make it my own but, ever resourceful, I was able to find I could contribute to this school’s teaching and made some kind friends. It was though, at the back of my mind all through February that Mum was seriously ill. Not quite fully cognisant of what would lie ahead, I did make meals for Dad and did what I could on my days off to help. The role at the adult education college was not my ‘cup of tea’ because of the lack of relationship I was able to foster with the ‘students’. They all turned up with electronic dictionaries and really paid no heed to my teaching much at all. I will admit I sighed with relief when I said I was not able to return. Schools (and Uni teaching) were much more my style.

Knowing Mum Was Going To Die Soon.

By late January 2007, the decision NOT to operate on Mum’s secondary brain tumours (primary cancer never determined) was made by Mum. After the diagnostic MRI showed the reasons for her loss of sight and more, it was Mum who said “no more”. Dad asked us kids (my brother and me) and of course we agreed. So did her then team. What next? It was a confusing and not great time for us, mostly Mum.

  • She was allowed home with no support added at this stage, just Dad. My sister-in-law got in touch with some home care people and that was arranged for the next week
  • Mum became almost mute. We will never know how much she understood about her condition. Dad has told me since that “she was just not the woman I knew for the 2 years before this”. Of course, we have talked a lot about this and reckon it was a lot to do with Mum’s reticence along with her distaste of anything to do with hospitals.
  • Dad managed by himself initially and with a couple of aides who came to help Mum shower…and who Mum said ‘I don’t like this’ So that stopped.
  • I recall my s-i-l and I trying to wash Mum’s hair and dry it. Mum was soooo particular about her hair and in the previous months had no salon visits and would not allow her hairdresser to call in to help. We did not do a great job.
  • Mum needed attention through the night and Dad would help her to the toilet etc. This became very hard.
  • Dad had to really consider his own physical health and with some discussion with us (even though his mind was made up) and in consultation with Mum and Dad’s GP, it was time for Mum to go into a local private hospital for so-called palliative care.

It Seemed Very Sudden But It Seemed To Take Forever. 

Mum actually brought up the fact that Dad’s full-time care of her was very hard on him. I like that she was compassionate enough to see that. However, the next stage was very challenging. For them both. Even hearing about how it transpired still makes me both sad and a little mad. Dad too, as I now know.

The Regrets.

  • Dad and Mum’s GP was able to get Mum a bed at the local private hospital. Dad was reassured by that.
  • He sat with Mum on the lounge to explain what was going to happen on that same day. A Friday.
  • I am not sure who else was there. I know I heard about it after it happened.
  • An ambulance arrived for Mum’s transfer and that, my dear readers, was the last time she saw her home of 49 years. 1959-2007.
  • Dad had not realised, of course, that putting Mum in hospital prior to a weekend would mean no particular treatment or care would start till the Monday.
  • Mum was placed in a shared room. Her loss of hearing made that a huge challenge, along with her somewhat confused mind about “where and why”.

The Reality.

  • Dad did need this respite from care 24/7. There was no other option. Having said that, we have talked about it a lot. He would have waited till the Monday in hindsight.
  • We visited Mum around lunchtime Saturday and it was HOT. Her room, with a view of the harbour (at Manly) was nice but it was overpoweringly warm too. We lived an hour away. Dad lived within 15 minutes drive and my brother and family about 20 minutes away.
  • My husband offered to help Mum with the food that had been left for her. As he fed her, she said, heartbreakingly, “If I eat this, I will be allowed to go home.” Neither of us will forget that.
  • Mum who was a very private person found it awful to be sharing a room and I am pretty sure, told anyone in the family who visited.
  • We did try to organise visits to Mum was not burdened by too many even though she communicated very little.

Moved To a Better Room And Palliative Care Finally Happened.

  • Close to 3 weeks after Mum was admitted to this multi-purpose private hospital, Mum died peacefully late on a Monday night just before midnight. Dad was at home, and when he knew, he rang each of his kids.
  • But in the weeks in between Mum struggled. She spoke little. We knew she was in pain but it was unclear what would actually happen to help.
  • We know, some 13 years later, that advanced care plans are enacted and with the right medical people on side, comfort levels can be achieved.
  • It was only with some words from my sister-in-law, to those who were in charge, that she was given the amount of medication which should have happened much earlier. 
  • She was no longer on any kind of hydration nor offered nourishment.
  • However, hindsight is a thing. None of us wanted Mum to suffer needlessly.
  • Dad was with her every single day for part of the day. She was given care. Family visited on a planned basis.
  • I admit it became really, really hard to wait for the inevitable news, and with my husband present we sat beside Mum, talking softly and saying farewells along with handholding, and my husband saying the Lord’s Prayer….this was something my Dad asked him to do.
  • We did not return after that Friday visit.  I was very sad leaving her for the last time.
  • We waited at home and I began the inevitable task (lovingly sought) of writing up some words about her and making an order of service.

Life Goes On. In a Most Interesting and Unexpected Way. 

  • On the weekend before Mum died, our son and his partner told my father they were expecting a child. This was something completely unexpected by them as well as us.
  • We had been told too.
  • My son, particularly close to his grandmother, wanted to share the news with her. His grandfather, my dad, decided that it might be best left to him. Unsure why…but that IS my Dad.
  • Our son and his partner visited Mum too on that last  weekend of her life.
  • On hearing the news, my traditional mother reacted in a sweet and typically conservative way, asking if a wedding would also happen. Made me smile that did, that she could rally in that way!!

Gratitude for My Mum.

Whilst I would admit we were not close, as the years go by and I am ageing, I also find I am more like her than I realise.

Thank you Mum….

Love, Denyse.

 

Part Two: Next Wednesday. 

Joining Leanne and friends here on Thursdays for Lovin’ Life Linky.

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26/51#LifeThisWeek.Telling My Story. Chapter Sixteen. 2004-06.52/2020.

26/51#LifeThisWeek.Telling My Story.2004-2006.Chapter Sixteen.52/2020.

So, 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…drum roll… Chapter Sixteen.

With yet another photo of me because I keep changing my appearance…thanks to head and neck cancer, then cataract surgeries.

The most recent chapter, finalised how my first and significant career in New South Wales Department of Education ended. Sadly but there was a need for my health to improve and that it did.

L: NSW Teachers’ Federation Badge. R: N.S.W. Primary Principals Ass. Membership Badge.

Why was 2004 memorable?

I went back to school! As a teacher. But first, there is MORE!

I spent quite a bit of summer 2004 recovering from the broken right leg and receiving physiotherapy to get me walking again. We were a two-person household as our adult son had moved in with a friend. I had S P A C E to call mine, and claimed his old room for an art-craft one for me. It also doubled as a grandchild-sleepover space where we installed double bunks and these were in regular use.

My husband, whilst not in the best of health, started to enjoy his music and had a space in the house for that and part  all of the garage eventually morphed into a workshop. We had two vehicles but we were soon to add some home improvements but wait, I am getting ahead of myself.

Around the middle of what would be Term One in schools, I started to feel a restlessness within and to be honest a NEED to do something related to teaching. Having over a year away from schools to try my hand at volunteering and to get better health-wise, the thoughts grew that I probably needed to get my casual teaching availability sorted and out there to my principal friends.

“Would You Like Two Days a Week From Next Term?”

We lived in Glenwood, a suburb on former dairy land in Sydney’s northwest. My friend, D, and I had been colleagues for many years and I heard that the brand new school at a brand new suburb just 10 minutes drive away was where she was the foundation principal. I rang and she said ” come over and have a look at it, love to see you”. I did, with a version of a casual teacher resume in my bag.

After a tour in a modern, private/public built school we sat in her office and I began speaking about wanting to come back to teaching. She knew of what had happened to me at R.P.S. and in fact was one who stayed in touch initially. Before I could say much more, I received an offer, to start Term 2, doing 2 days a week Release From Face To Face Teaching for all of the SEVEN classes (K-6) the school then comprised. By the time I left the school in 2010 the student population had exploded from our original 156 to around 700…and since went close to 1000…if you know the now-densely populated North West area of Sydney, this will not surprise you.

Yes, thank you…that would be great. I asked what I should teach in that time. Her reply was ‘up to me’ and in a complete switch for me, I chose Creative Arts: art, drama and music.

Back to School. As a teacher.

On the first day of Term Two 2004,  the day after our second granddaughter turned 5 (huge party with jumping castle and I did face painting) I presented myself to the school…and the first group I would be teaching. Year 6. Now, this was still a very small school and the teachers were incredibly welcoming and friendly. I remain friends with many today. However, Year 6, first up took some courage but I did it. The thing about a brand new school is that the kids in the upper grades have come from different schools with different expectations. I did have some kids who tried me (behavioural and attitude) but we managed. After that baptism, I had the rest of the day…and I think I returned on the Tuesday as my 2nd day. I do recall being on Cross Country duty too as the kids ran around the then spacious grounds.

When a new school opens in a new neighbourhood there are children presenting to enrol every week and over time, this position grew to 3 days a week. By the end of that year however, I got a different role and loved this one even more.

Before I move on. The school had its official opening and that was a privilege to be part of. Some of the work I had done as the R.F.F. teacher in Art and Craft also involved Aboriginal Education (I had some expertise from my previous schools) and the Year 6 group performed at the opening using clapping sticks made by my husband.

The principal now had someone on her staff who she could confide in and even offload on but she did not do this much at all. However from time to time she would ask me “how come you are always so happy?” My answer was, she had seen my need to be back teaching and I was loving it as well as being a mentor of sorts to some …but I no longer had the full responsibility which weighed heavily when I was a principal.

The English as A Second Language Teacher. Me! 2005 & 2006.

I was always a teacher of literacy at heart, and loved working with children at the entry level of school. It made sense then for me to turn what I loved to do into a role I could deepen for myself and the school when there was growing student population of students whose second language was English.

I was able to set up the program, a space for the students and to develop the school’s programs. This was an important part of my role and being a former principal something I knew a lot about. What I did need to learn more about was the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of teaching English to a range of learners. Some were literally just stepping ‘off the plane’ as we used to say, and others had been in Australia speaking and learning English at previous schools.

The ‘language’ of teaching in this field has changed in the past 5+ years so I will use what I remember. The students were assessed, if needed, by me upon enrolment in whichever year they were entering. For example a student coming into Kindergarten and one coming into Year 5 might still be classed as ‘new arrivals’ if they had no understanding of English and would need, at separate times to being in class, some one-on-one or very small group learning.

To that end, I enrolled in a Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Charles Sturt University. Part-time and on-line with lots of practical work I could do with the students. This was a great way for me to add to my qualifications and hopefully, as time passed, get appointed to the school in 2007 as the substantive E.S.L. teacher. In the next chapter, I will share what happened.

Flexibility and a program that helped teachers integrate the students into their classes was important and I did all I could on the 3 days allocated to the program – always by student numbers – that year. The school’s population grew and grew, in 2006 there was a need to employ another person like me on a temporary basis. I was not permanently appointed, even though, over time, I hoped that might occur. More on that in the next chapter. 2007 was a big year for me. In many ways.

Family Times, House with ‘New’Mortgage & My First Trip O.S.

Despite the fact that we were now mortgage-free, see chapter fifteen, we became tempted to use the house as collateral for home improvements. Yes, people, we not only were tempted, we went ahead. The house benefitted with the enclosure of the outdoor room and adding air conditioning to it so it was a useable space, a carport, added driveways and landscaping out the front and back. This all helped at the time for our enjoyment. Much later in terms of selling, we had added value but the outstanding mortgage was paid out at the time of sale in 2015, bought new cars (much needed, old ones were literally ‘dying’)  but we did not have enough after that to buy a house on the Central Coast. This has, as it turns out, not been too bad as we have found a couple of options where we may wish, one day, to buy a house. For now, we are, like many, more comfortable as renters in the lovely, modern house we are in now.

Family times in those years became busier in some ways as the first group of grandchildren were changing in terms of ‘growing up’ and starting school. We attended Open Days, School Assemblies, Musicals and other events when possible. We took our two eldest granddaughters on a family holiday to Ballina which was fun and they got to meet some of their extended family and see where Papa grew up and went to school.

We welcomed partners into the family and life continued getting to know extended family members, and share in occasions, as well as support new ventures such as a return to study for one of our kids, with eventually University degree completed and more to come. One adult child continued in teaching part-time and we offered weekend/evening/afternoon respite for the kids in her busy times of responsibilities at school and beyond.

For some time I guess I did consider travelling overseas but never really got the chance. Then my plan was hatched and by crikey, I love a plan. To organise, the research and to find out more..blah blah. It was always going to be a solo trip. The plane ride for my husband of just on 3 hours in 2003 was the deal breaker for him as I wrote last chapter. He couldn’t accompany me. However, I was actually OK to give solo travel a go in a bigger way. I had already done some shorter trips and small breaks away within Australia so I looked at what I thought I could manage flight time wise, and where I was interested in visiting. It was to the U.S.of A.’s west coast but mainly the state of Hawaii I wanted to see. Dad and Mum had been there many times following Dad’s first visit when he was part of Harvard Business Summer School for 6 weeks in 1966.

With meticulous care and with the help of Flight Centre I booked 15 days away from 1 January 2006 to 15 January. Flights on Hawaiian Air, were marvellous and I joined their Premier Club to get preferential seating, extra luggage allowance and use of Lounges at LAX and Oahu. Brilliant. But, I almost went home from Mascot (our airport) before I left.

New Year’s Day in Sydney 2006 the temperature was 45deg. There was no air con working at the airport. My flight was not leaving till 10 pm. I was dropped off at the airport by my daughter…allowing plenty of time and it was actually ‘too much’ time. I was SO hot and over it..but stayed until check in could start…and when as a priority boarder I got to my window seat (then the aeroplane was 2,3,2 in economy)and sat, the aloha music and air con working….I sighed with relief. I probably need to expand this story separately but it went like this: Syd:Oahu, 3 nights. Oahu to Kona 2 nights. Kona to Oahu & onto LAX 2 nights, LAX to Las Vegas 2 nights, LV to SanFran 2 nights. SF to LAX back to Oahu 3 nights…and H O M E.

My Parents. 

In the latter part of 2006 my parents celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary (60 years wed) with a couple of small at-home celebrations with friends, and a family lunch in a local restaurant with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the following weekend.

I went to their house on the actual day with 60 yellow roses from the local Dural Rose Growers, and Dad already had the cards I had organised from Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor-General, the Premier of N.S.W. and…for Mum especially, my brother organised a ‘congratulations to long time listeners, N & A,’ message on 2GB from Alan Jones. Mum loved it. And he was kind.

Mum had not been well for a couple of years and with an aversion to doctors and investigations, Dad did the best he could to keep her health under check. Mum had some symptoms that appeared to be Parkinson’s related and also a lot of pain in some areas that was put down to be ‘post shingles’ neuralgia.

Mum had a great smile. And she made a lot of effort to do the best she could to look well and co-ordinated, with hairdresser appointments weekly and a pretty regular wardrobe updates. She started to not want to go out much in a lot of 2006 and it became harder to convince her to do so.

Previously Mum had been quite social, independent with her own car and social groups and interests including tennis and cards. But no more. Even their much enjoyed June-July winter stays on the Gold Coast stopped in 2005. But, there were reasons which would not be evident until next chapter: a big one. 2007.

Mum and Dad, taken by me, at the family celebrations for their 60th Wedding Anniversary. November 2006.

 

That is all…that I remember and CAN write about…with confidence of telling my story without giving away too much. It does get tricky with privacy but I have permissions and try to stay within boundaries set by myself and what is reasonable.

For all of the stories to date, please visit this part of the blog. Telling My Story.

I print each post out and have it stored in a folder for family if they wish to read it.

Thanks for reading.

Denyse.

List of Optional Prompts: July & August 2020. On home page too.

27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

28/51 Self-Care Stories. #4. 13.7.2020

29/51 Your Choice. Mine is: World Head & Neck Cancer Day. 20.7.2020

30/51 Share Your Snaps #6 27.7.2020

31/51 Food. 3.8.2020

32/51 Why Did I? 10.8.2020

33/51 I Want. 17.8.2020

34/51 Self-Care Stories. #5. 24.8.2020

35/51 Share Your Snaps #7 31.8.2020

Link Up #195.

Life This Week. Link Up #195.

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

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

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

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next week’s optional prompt.27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

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

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

On Being a Grandmother. Part Two.

Recently in Australia, a book was published and both Debbie Harris from here and I were taken by its contents and messages about “being a grandmother”.

Debbie’s post is found here. 

Grandmothers: Essays by 21st-Century Grandmothers.

Helen Elliott

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

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

 

More About Grandmothering.

As Life Moves on In Families. 

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

I wanted a traditional grandmother’s name and I chose Grandma. When we knew grandchild #1 was coming, in 1996, I spoke to my son-in-law’s Mum and she was happy to be Granny. Sorted! My name did change a bit over the years as the first G.D. started to speak. I have been known as: “Gummy” “Brandma” “Grandma” and “G-Ma”. All fine!

How many grandchildren do you have? 

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

Here they are:

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

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

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

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

Yes and there is much more to write!

The first 3 grandchildren. 1996-2007.

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

Then there were more! 2007-2014.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

They would describe me are:

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

What words describe what being a grandmother means to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did get permission for publishing from my family.

What three words describe you as a grandmother?

Loving,

Kind & Caring

Sentimental:

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

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

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

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

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

Denyse.

 

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

Being a Grandmother. Part One.

The First Experience of Becoming a Grandmother.

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

 

More About Grandmothering.

As Life Moves on In Families. Part Two.

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

Link Up #192.

Life This Week. Link Up #192.

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

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

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

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

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 24/51 Kindness 15.6.2020

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Life Stories #1. On Being A Grandmother. Pt1.17/51 #LifeThisWeek. 34/2020.

Life Stories #1. On Being a Grandmother. Pt 1.17/51 #LifeThisWeek. 34/2020.

On Being a Grandmother. Part One.

Recently in Australia, a book was published and both Debbie Harris from here and I were taken by its contents and messages about “being a grandmother”.

Debbie’s post is found here. 

GRANDMOTHERS: ESSAYS BY 21ST-CENTURY GRANDMOTHERS

Helen Elliott

PaperBack

March 31, 2020

An anthology of essays by twenty-four Australian women, edited by Helen Elliott, about the many aspects of being a grandmother in the 21st century. It seems so different from the experience we had of our grandmothers. Although perhaps the human essential, love, hasn’t shifted much? In thoughtful, provoking, uncompromising writing, a broad range of women reflect on vastly diverse experiences. This period of a woman’s life, a continuation and culmination, is as defining as any other and the words ‘grand’ and ‘mother’ rearrange and realign themselves into bright focus.

The contributors- Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer, Judith Brett, Jane Caro, Elizabeth Cheung, Cresside Collette, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Helen Garner, Anastasia Gonis, Glenda Guest, Katherine Hattam, Celestine Hitiura Vaite, Yvette Holt, Cheryl Kernot, Ramona Koval, Alison Lester, Joan London, Jenny Macklin, Auntie Daphnie Milward, Mona Mobarek, Carol Raye and Gillian Triggs.

We ‘chatted’ on-line as bloggers do and both thought, what about a post or two on this topic. Knowing not everyone who blogs is not a grandmother/parent nor has the experience to draw on, we set out to go like this…publish in Life This Week under #Life Stories #1 and then in a few more weeks, #Life Stories #2.

This first post is based on  a series of questions devised by Denyse Whelan, in conjunction with Debbie Harris, to be the start of a blog post about

Being a Grandmother.

THIS image captures all 8 of our grandchildren so beautifully. Photographed by our daughter, in conjunction with our son to be my 70th Birthday gift as an album. 2019. The first grandchild is in the white dress.

 

The First Experience of Becoming a Grandmother.

 

What do you remember about your grandmother(s)?

I had a loving but strict maternal grandmother, Nanny, and I was the first grandchild. I was loved and cared for but when she became incapacitated by a stroke which eventually claimed her life in 1957, her husband, my “Papa” tended to be the one who spoiled me as life went on.

My paternal grandmother, Gran, was a formidable, strict and somewhat sad grandmother. This was, as we tend to think now, as a result of her becoming a widow in 1935 and raising 4 children (my Dad was 11) alone, other than help from her mother who had come from England to give the family a secure house to live in. Gran would at times, share some of her ‘life stories’ with me as a teen as I asked more questions about her life in England then as a War Bride post WW1 but most times, she would sink back into nostalgia and sadness.

 

What struck you initially about the news you were going to be a grandmother for the first time?

How happy I was…because, the news came in a year that was plagued with money worries,  health fears and more….so this news was the B E S T.

It was, however, not greeted as universally ‘happy’ as we, in a business that we owned, were not doing well at all and I admit my husband’s reactions did not mirror mine for good reason. Very concerned with what else was happening at the time.

We found out in about April, May and the child was due late December. By then, we had liquidated the business and we were very much on the ‘back foot’ with what would be happening to us, house and income-wise (I was still employed) so I did have to “calm” myself. However, big distraction for me and will always remember the time like that. 

 

Did you make any choices/decisions about being a grandmother when you found out this was going to happen?

I recall, being young…at what would be 47 when I became a grandmother but I did not let that phase me. I remember feeling the delight and angst and all the in between feelings because “I” had given birth but my daughter had not..yet. I was, I am pretty sure, deciding to be the most helpful grandmother I could be to allow the parents to ‘parent their child’ in the ways they wanted to and planned. This is always good in theory. Practice not so much initially. See further on.

 

And, in your case, was the news from your son or your daughter?

The news was from our daughter and eventually her husband. 

 

How did you find out?

THIS is a good story! My daughter had been married for just on two years and in that time had completed her Uni degree and was a trained K-6 teacher. She sought casual work and was soon snapped up by the school where I was Deputy Principal. I was not part of her ‘getting the job’ as I wanted (as did she) for this to be the school’s choice. 

She was part of a large group of relatively young female teachers and I, the D.P. was given the role of sharing the news that there had been a case of Rubella in the student population. This was something I passed on privately to each teacher as applicable, including our daughter.

At Recess that day, she came to my office door and asked for a private chat. Closing the door, she shared that “I think I am pregnant.”

Oh. Wow. My goodness, what a way to find out and yes, I was excited but of course tempered by the news of her vulnerability at this stage. The NSW Health Dept advice, which I shared with her, was to go to your doctor and tell him/her. That afternoon she did. The pregnancy was confirmed and she did some blood test for anti-bodies. I can’t quite remember the result but she had Rubella as a child, so was deemed, as best it could be proven, to be OK.

Again. Wow. I remember telling my husband of the news and he did not share my intense enthusiasm but not because of that….he was managing a very tricky time in his business and work life.

Nevertheless, I hugged my secret until our daughter and then son-in-law shared the news with family and friends.

And, recently. Love you J.R.

Were there any conditions/limitations set by the parents-to-be for you, the new grandmother in the making?

I cannot recall but I remember being able to share some of my excitement with them and the extended family which included my son-in-law’s parents and my parents and my husband’s parents. This child would be the first great-grandchild too. I also tried ‘not to overdo’ my enthusiasm as I did not want to over-shadow the parents at any time.

I did, for my sake, and to honour  the future grandchild (our first one, and that of my son-in-law) start a grandmother’s memory book. Oh my goodness, I did have some fun and I admit, the scrapbooking and photography as a journal  probably started then as I added newspaper clippings too. At age 5, this BIG book, was finished ( I remember crying that it was done…as she was off to school!) and eventually it was handed over to my granddaughter some years after. I did keep it at our house for years as she enjoyed looking at it too.

It was not until she was quite a few months old, that I was told by my daughter to reduce my ‘oversight’ of their child..as “I am her mother”.

Lesson learned…Big time. Not always remembered but I took it all on board.

 

Did/does the ‘role’ work its way out for all?

The role as the grandchild grew changed as she did. However, even now, we have a close and loving bond without being ‘in each others’ pockets’. I am so proud to be her Grandma always. But as I said above, I did need to take more of a back seat. 

About My Name.

My parents were known by their first names – their choice – by their grandkids. I wanted a traditional grandmother’s name and I chose Grandma. I spoke to my son-in-law’s Mum and she was happy to be Granny. Sorted! My name did change a bit over the years as the first G.D. started to speak. I have been known as: “Gummy” “Brandma” “Grandma” and “G-Ma”. All fine!

Are/were there hiccups?

Like any relationship there are ups and downs but thanks to wisdom gleaned over time by me observing others and of course, remembering “I am not her mother” and that I also got to drop this child back home after caring for her. A completely different way of child-care…. all fun, some responsibility but not 100%.

Share the highlights of the birth and after of your first grandchild.

For the last month or so before the baby’s due date of close to Christmas Day my daughter developed some symptoms which meant she had to leave her teaching role early, get advice from her obstetrician and continue to see him. In that time, I was also on  leave as I had a whiplash injury from a rear-end car accident on my way to work…thank goodness for work cover paying my salary back in those days.

Whilst we had never really talked about when my daughter would return to teaching in detail, I was already planning a grandchild care package at home! This came about with little or no expense when our next door neighbour donated all of the young girl’s bedding, cot and so on to us. My parents had always had room for our children to stay over for holidays and weekends and we (ok, mostly me!) wanted to do similarly. And yes, my husband did eventually come around to it all.

But she (we never knew the sex) was yet to arrive!

My daughter had 2 or 3 visits to labour ward at the San for testing for ‘leaks’ and was told, no you are OK on most occasions until very close to Christmas. It was a Saturday evening, my son-in-law was at a band gig on the other side of Sydney, and I went to their house to get takeaway tea and keep my daughter company. She told me on arrival, I am still leaking….and rang labour ward (again!) and they said “come in.” We grabbed the food first and I am pretty sure she drove us to the San. Up we went (with hospital bag this time) and after the check and a call to her doctor, she was admitted.

Rightio.

Mobile phones were ‘in’ but in their early days but we managed to let her husband know and then, from memory, I took their car home and collected mine and waited. The next day, a very hot Sunday in December, labour was kind of happening….and I was asked to bring some things over to her. I did.

THIS was when I knew I could not be a help at all. I saw her husband helping gently and she was doing all she had to…and I could not help. At all. So, I quietly took my leave and we waited….until much later on Sunday night. We got a call that labour was in progress fully and could we please bring her husband a Coke…caffeine and sugar needed!! We laugh now, but when presented with what my husband found at home: a diet Pepsi, it was not going to do the trick!

We came home…settled into bed, to see Sunday turn into Monday AND……

12.13 a.m. You have a granddaughter and her name is J.R.

Stunned and stoked and all those words, I “think” we slept and the next morning I was off to buy all things pink and more….

Meeting J.R. 

I entered the single room where my daughter and granddaughter were. My son-in-law had to be at work on the busy pre-Christmas retail day. I looked at this dark haired child in a crib…and thought “how did you arrive to be in our family?”. Both of our kids had been blonde/bald!

After that, it was chatting with my daughter who was still in that post-birth shock and she shared how it all happened rather fast after a ‘threat’ from the Obstetrician about a ‘caesar or forceps’…I eventually took my leave…and went to the shops! This baby girl had arrived 2 days before Christmas and no way was Santa not going to visit.

When I returned the next day with Santa bag and little tree, it meant Christmas was going to happen for the birthday baby.

What, if any, were any ‘lowlights?’

Interestingly the lowlights were in some way related to my disappointment in how many people “turned up” to visit the new Mum and baby…the room was chockers….and people just wanted to chat…with each other and my daughter. I was glad to see what was happening, and as most took their leave, and J.R. was crying, I asked the last couple to please leave…and they did. I think first night after birth should be up to the parents who comes…and I know now this is better managed.

Our wee GD with dark hair.

Special Memories of the First Weeks.

The hospital allowed our daughter and husband home to our place for Christmas lunch and they ‘minded’ J.R. in the nursery. They went back in the afternoon and we visited in the evening to allow the parents to go for a walk and we got to do our first ‘babysitting.’

I made J.R. a little cardigan. I am so NOT a knitter but was determined to “make my first grandchild” something. She wore it home. Lovely. Then it became a cardi for her bear I think!

The new family joined us for the first evening meal at our place and we got to go on a walk around the park. My neighbour over the road offered me a free ticket to a show in the city and I turned it down because “first meal” at our place.

On Australia Day, when she was just one month, we hosted a Welcome To Your Family event with the extended family and it was lovely. No christening etc. Just this.

Then, just after this, my daughter got a phone call from the principal at the school where we both worked, offering her full-time teaching, starting the next week. She accepted after he was fine for me to take part-time leave 3 days a week. Her Granny would drive down from the Central Coast to do the other 2 days and so began a long, tiring, rewarding, learning, and loving experience of “Grandparent Care At Home”: for 6 months!

 

There will be another post in the series in June. I will share the questions then too as Debbie and I devised. If you too are a grandmother it may be something you would like to share.

Thank you for reading…It ended up being a longer post than I thought.

Biggest thanks to J.R. for being the subject…the first…the only…one who could get away with calling me “Gummy” and I would answer to it!

This captures her so much too…totally biased Grandma!

Denyse.

Link Up #186.

Life This Week. Link Up #186.

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.

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twelve. 1988-1998. 114/2019.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twelve. 1988-1998. 114/2019.

Denyse’s Memoir: Telling My Story.

In early 2017 I finally decided it was “time to tell my story”. I have been employed  in education for decades and lived in different areas of New South Wales with my family and then went on to marry and become even more familiar with other parts of N.S.W. beyond the Great Dividing Range. There are stories to tell. However, as time goes on, to keep aspects of the writing and photos private details are likely to be fewer.

For first time readers: These images are of me but taken at different times due to my oral cancer diagnosis around the same time I published the first part of my memoir. Nevertheless, I did continue a long time after that….and here is the link to chapters 1-11. I start this chapter in 1988 and ending in 1998. A LONG time, with a lot on but come on along!

1988. Appointed as Deputy Principal (non-teaching) in a Mt Druitt K-6 School.

We drove to the school to check it out before my appointment began the following January.

 

The hard work of Lists One, Two, Three, doing a degree part-time, teaching full-time, leading a K-2 Department AND applying for roles now on Merit Selection paid off. I had an offer to become a DP at a large school where I would be non-teaching. This meant a “load off” after 18 years of teaching, learning and leading but I was to be thrown in somewhat in a deep end in a huge time of change within NSW Department of Education systems and schools.

At home one child was still in primary school and one was in the last years of high school. My husband was well and had some work where he was flexible as he was a home-based tutor and a cabinet maker with his own small workshop. Not only could I feel ‘free’ to keep on with my career challenges but also to have flexibility at home was vital as I was learning a whole new role, school culture and working with a largely traditionally minded staff and senior executive including the principal.

Two things I was glad about: no smoking in school grounds came in that year AND the smokers on the staff (the principal was one) had to go outside the grounds to do so (not, phew, in his office as it would have been the year before) AND there was a great new executive staff who had arrived with me for the K-2 part of the school and we hit it off.

Of course, the year might remind those who can remember that it kicked off in Australia in January as the year of the Bicentenary. 1788-1988. Nothing much in our ‘middle-class’ world then mentioned about the way in which Australia was settled by white  Europeans….nor about the original Australians. There were ferry races on Sydney Harbour and much to celebrate with the green and gold.

One of my new colleagues suggested we begin our Masters of Education via Distance Ed as our Dept of Education was supplying scholarships where our fees would be paid. So, yep, signed up for that too. I appear to LIKE being busy.

I need to add, I loved working in this community which was different to any others of my career to that point and I learned a lot from colleagues, families and the children.

I stayed in that one school for TEN years. There were a few reasons why!

Highlights of My Story: 1988-1998.

Health.

I was 38 when I became a D.P. and had already had signs of being not well in terms of my ‘womens’  health. I’d missed days of work due to pain and more so my GP sent me to a Specialist who on testing determined, if I wanted it, that a hysterectomy would not only alleviate the fibroids and other parts that were challenging my health but would give me a quality of life better than I had now. So, mid my first year, I had the full abdominal surgery as it was done then and needed 8 weeks off school to recover well enough to return to school. Best decision for my on-going health ever. I tapered to menopause pretty naturally over the next decades as the doctor left my ovaries intact.

Tertiary Study.

I won’t lie that doing an M.Ed and working full-time was easy but it was better after the five years of part-time study for the Bachelor of Education AND being a teaching A.P. The learning I did in terms of tertiary writing gave me experience that could be transferred into my work like as I could do submissions and applications for funding well. I learned the lingo and we had success. My M.Ed. assignments were still sent in by mail but I used a Commodore 64 at home. My colleague and I had to attend a Residential School in Wagga at Charles Sturt University for a week and it was paid for by the Dept of Education. Very fortunate and we got to engage in tutes and discussions. The year we graduated we both went with our families and for me, it was my first and only time at a Graduation Ceremony and it was very special. I highly recommend at least one if you do tertiary study. And in terms of technology, it was at this school I became a convert to Apple Mac. It’s stayed! Even though in my other school where I was principal it was all P.C.

Family Matters.

I can barely remember specifics but those late 1980s and early 1990s were huge ones for our children. Without writing too much as I have to be careful of personal matters and privacy. One went off to high school, one did the H.S.C. and got into University. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but elected teaching after a B.A. and has indeed used her degree. The younger one found school a challenge as he neared the senior years, and whist very gifted, school did not work for him, so he left and started manual labour jobs (which he loved) at the end of Year 11. Our daughter worked through Uni, still lived at home but by 21 moved out to make a home with her then boyfriend of some years. And some years later, became engaged. And, planned a wedding. Yes. Before Uni finished. Hosted our daughter’s wedding. It was a great day and evening in 1994.

Homes and Houses.

Somewhere in the mid 1990s when banks were bending over backwards to lend people money for houses we got caught up in the ‘hype’. We were earning well and living in a house that was in need (we thought then) of more space, even though it was only us two and our son. We had already added a pool, a second storey, and converted the garage but…instead of doing more there (and over-capitalising as they say) we bit that bullet of trust and all things future centred and sold the original home …..to build in a totally new area of north western Sydney. Now me wishes past me had not done this.

But we did. Full-on. BUILT a one-0ff three level mansion in an exclusive suburb and moved in early 1994. What a beautiful house it was (still is!). In fact it looked great as the Bride-to-Be left it. However, this house really was not quite a home. Hard to explain but looking back, we over-stepped the mark financially and in terms of what we needed as a house. But wait, there’s more….

Fast forwarding somewhat we did not stay long in the ‘house we built’ as my husband who had since begun a business as a cabinet-maker was somewhat burdened by the nature of the building industry and its demands…of the builders he worked with and eventually ill-health took a terrible toll and he had to close the business and to repay debts, we had to sell the house. Sigh.

Our first home, somewhat changed but still how we left it in 1993 when we sold.

We built this home & my husband did all the internal fitouts. Alas, we sold within 4 years.

Becoming Grandparents. 

Life with two children (ours) was interesting as they are almost a generation apart. So, while one was still at high school – the other was married, a graduate of University and ready to become a mother. Life is rarely predictable of course. In fact, I would hasten to add, 1996 was for me, one of my worst years to live through until “this happened”. Our little Christmas gift of a beautiful baby granddaughter was balm on the sores of a year of not-great news for my husband’s health and business, a car accident for me where I was rear-ended, a broken bone finally discovered a few months too late in my left foot after a slip in a shop….and deciding that the role of principal at the school where I had been relieving principal was not one I wanted.

Christmas “Baby” grandchild…then and still! 22 years later.

Life’s Ups and Downs.

We knew we were in financial straits and the only way out was to sell the house we upgraded to in 1994 and we were, in some ways, grateful this was an answer. However, it was a decision I did not find I could manage easily and growing resentment and sadness about the how and what was also added to when my husband required major surgery again. I was never great when this was on – worrier me. Before this, we had liquidated the business and for anyone who has done that it means you pay off and out anyone you owe money to. Whilst I was not an active partner in the business I was there as a signatory and we had a lot of money called in. Selling the house and returning cars and vehicles on lease, repaying those we owed for short loan terms (family) meant, over the course that we were left with substantially less money to even consider purchasing another house.

Health Matters. 

Health is paramount of course and the years above, particularly towards the end of this era took a toll mentally and physically on me. I needed a time-out from work and funnily enough, my daughter had the offer to return to school for full-time teaching when her baby was 6 weeks old and I put my hand up because I was able to work part-time for a while. This respite from school matters helped me recover, even though it is very tiring caring for a baby I had amazing memories. My husband, ever the one to re-emerge from challenges, went back to teaching. It was a big ask but he found work in various schools casually, then permanently and our life settled enough for us to consider starting again. In a new house, in a new suburb. Always together in the good and not so good times, I needed to get on board with enthusiasm. I didn’t like where we were going but I did understand it was where we could afford. Life hey!

Moving On. 

Selling the lovely house, moving into a rental house (with no real air-con in the midst of summer) was almost cruel but we did it. I must say my husband’s courage, as he recovered from surgery and putting up with me (moody much?) is to be commended. I went back to full-time work as the non-teaching D.P. until, surprise….in early 1998 the school’s student population had dropped and after a long time out of the classroom, I would be back there for Day One 1998. I took this as a challenge and it sure did get me familiar with kids, class organisation and programming but it was short-lived and I was non-teaching again. With the ups and downs of student numbers, I felt I needed to take a look at my career path. I was in my late 40s and maybe I needed to move on. But to where?

I was appointed for the second half of 1998 to a new-to-me school as their Relieving Principal. It was a baptism of fire…as are many new roles but in this case, I had some good people to work with, even though I had a lot to learn. I was given a lovely farewell from my school of almost 10 years AND there I was. On the cusp of ‘where do I go’ in 1999.

But first.

A New House.

With employment for us both, and a reasonable deposit for 1998, we found a house/land package in North Western Sydney and chose our add-ons and hoped we could include a pool one day. We were back to a single storey, 4 bedroom house, 2 bathrooms (our son was still at home) but it was not quite the house we had left. Never mind, I had to get over that. We made some adjustments to the basic house and moved in at the end of Winter 1998.

What’s Next?

Oh gosh. 1999 proved to be big! But I will leave it here. The next chapter will be about the end of 1998 and into 1999.

Next Chapter: My first (and as it turned out only) role as a substantive principal and how health matters more than wealth.

Denyse.

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

For the first time, I have linked here too: GoodRandomFun

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

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#LifeThisWeek. 29/51. Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987. 79/2019.

#LifeThisWeek. 29/51. Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987. 79/2019.

In keeping with the prompts here being optional, I am writing on a different topic to “Winter: Like/Loathe” as suggested for Life This Week 29/51. I am writing a new chapter in Telling My Story as I have neglected this part of my writing for some months.

Telling My Story. Chapter Eleven.1983-1987.

This time, with the image for Telling My Story, I am honouring what has happened to me in the time when I first started writing my story, which was abruptly interrupted by cancer. I then became well enough to continue the story, along with the continuation of my changing appearance thanks to oral cancer, and 4 surgeries and many trips to get me some teeth..over time! 

1983.

  • It was a rough first half- year for our family, particularly my husband who became very unwell and required surgery mid year. We had a young family, he was medically-retired, and I was working (teaching) full-time.
  • We (he!) got through thanks to his own strength and courage and it opened up some new parts of family life that we had not experienced for some time. Family holidays at the beach were back on the agenda as was a new-to-him backyard project of building some furniture for our daughter’s bedroom. More on that later.
  • My father retired from his work and whilst that did not directly affect us, it provided him and my mother with more time to enjoy their family, particularly their now four grandchildren. They also made the Gold Coast their ‘winter home’ for July and August, catching up with friends who had moved their permanently and enjoying the lifestyle away from the cold of Sydney. Each of the grandkids got to spend some time with them over the next few years, some even flying to join their grandparents.
  • I was back into teaching and eyeing off promotions into the next roles where I could put my hand up. I did, and was given a relieving role in a nearby school which then ended up being the first substantive role: Executive Teacher at Walters Rd P.S.

Dad and Mum: retired life: On the Gold Coast each winter.

1984.

  • Happy and busy family life. Whilst I was out to teach and lead part of the K-2 section of the school, my husband was the one at home, ably helping our daughter  settle into her first year at high school and our son into Kindergarten at the local public school. With his experience as a teacher and school leader, though medically-retired, my husband became P&C president for the years ahead and this was a great way to become involved again in education.
  • I was busy at my school and recall asking (and it happened) the NRL’s Parramatta Eels’ star, Peter Sterling, to come and read to the children for Book Week, showing them how “even footballers read” and he was delighted to do so.
  • Remember Wham? It was their season in the sun! We also started Morning Fitness at school with the K-2 kids and “I” taught a dance to “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”. Still think of that fun time!
  • But, time to move on! Why? Well, there was a new job, and at the second list level that I had earned and it was for me to become the substantive Assistant Principal at Seven Hills West P.S. Yes. I had already been there in an acting capacity for part of 1982 and now I was returning.

1985.

  • Assistant Principal roles are full-on! With full-time teaching responsibility and managing and leading a group of staff. In this case, an Infants Department of 7 classes and with an executive teacher to assist in the leadership. Located in a busy and relatively low socio-economic area of Sydney there were many challenges and rewards.
  • I worked for a very demanding principal who encouraged my leadership. I also ‘put my hand up’ for external roles to help gain a better understanding of how the then Metropolitan West area of Sydney was managed and to make a contribution. I became a member of the K-6 English committee and through involvement there was convinced by a senior educator that “now” was all about getting more qualifications to go further in our careers.
  • What she meant was, that as we were still two-year trained teachers, when the new and different promotion means would come in, then a person with a degree (Bachelor of Education) would have more training academically. I agreed. After soul-seatching and a decent discussion at home, it was agreed even with the kids that I would start my B.Ed. by distance ed. It was called by “correspondence” in those days.
  • On top of the three terms at school, I had two semesters at Uni. It was then via notes by mail, assignments sent back that way and it all happened out of the old Wagga Teachers College which became the Riverina Murray Institute of Higher Education.
  • I recall weekends which were me away from the kids, head down reading the reams of notes for the subjects, coming up with a draft and then TYPING it all on an electric typewriter and if all was well, it was posted.
  • They were tough times holding down the full-time job and studying and my husband had started his new at-home business tutoring children with learning needs.
  • Yet we managed. We did have a cleaner and at least Uni wasn’t 365 days a year.
  • Each January we took ourselves to a beach unit on the N.S.W, coast.
  • A somewhat sad year in our family too. My beloved Aunt died very suddenly after surgery went wrong. Mum was in shock for sometime after that. Dad’s mum had died from a stroke in her 80s earlier that year.
  • I remember too, that with a small legacy from my Aunt’s will, we got enough money to add a ‘toilet and washbasin’ to the now-study that was our double garage. Two loos! Luxury.

Our first home, did not have the addition until the late 1980s. The addition is above the garage which was always a play/work space of some kind.

1986.

  • This year was full-on and busy too as I continued the University work part-time, had a class and of course, led a department of teachers caring for the needs of the students which were many and varied.
  • It was time, I decided to “go for third list”. Not this year but the next. Back then, a long lead was highly recommended as the candidate for promotion not only had to be visited over some days in the school but had to hand in quite a series of folders with: my initiatives and programs, policies I had devised and how they were working, evidence of my professional learning and reading (here was where doing the degree was the best thing!)
  • I was incredibly fortunate to have the time to do this. I am aware that having my husband at home who worked on his small cabinet making projects at home & elsewhere during the day was available for our kids if need be, along with us living not too far from the school meant that I could be back home in the late afternoons for family dinners (I cooked) as he was often busy coaching young people.
  • There is much to be grateful for as I was living this life but I do recall how fraught I might get and I also know it was hard to deal with some issues both at school level which impacted me health wise. I know I had a great GP who listened to me and for a time I got some help from professionals. My irritable bowel syndrome kicked in around this stage of my life, and after all the tests it was deemed to be part of me. Sigh.
  • Passed Uni again this year as I did the year before. It was also the year (I think) I had to go to Wagga campus for a residential school. THAT for this girl was quite an experience and I was glad to drive home!

Assistant Principal

1987.

  • We got the family Christmas present of a Commodore 64 so after the games fun (Bomb Jack for the boys) I found I could type assignments…and print them out to send via the mail to Wagga. Still didn’t get the idea of how to make a draft so I was still copying my handwritten assignments.
  • Back to school also meant back to a new Boss, the principal who I had started with got a promotion and now, in the year I was going to ‘go for my third list’ I had a new female principal to work with. This is quite a big deal. “Back then” the Department of Education was changing big time as the governments of the day were shaking up their previously independent Depts of Education, Health and so on.
  • Merit selection, along with ensuring a fair mix of women in the workforce, at principal level was a major shift. Previously people like me who were in K-2 roles could not go for a K-6 principal role. The world in education in N.S.W. was ….gobsmacked if you were a man, and applauded if you were female (ok that may be some exaggeration but it was H U G E).
  • Lists are very hard to explain but ‘back then’ there were levels of promotion in N.S.W. public education called Lists. They really were actual lists because your name, if you were successful in your inspection, got added to a DATED list and there you stayed until you got a school position where there was no-one more senior to you. The actual lists came out published each year (it was called the stud book – male oriented much?)
  • Women like me could only go as far as 3rd list this time round and even if I had wanted to go for 4th list by the time I was at my next school, the whole process changed to: merit, equal opportunity…you know the rest.
  • In preparation for List Three inspection I had full on classroom responsibilities to have made ‘perfect’, to record all I had made via policies and planning written up and the staff understanding of it along with enacting it, could lead subject (English was mine) based learning for teachers to improve student outcomes and much much more. I also had to be up to date with all of the N.S.W. Department of Education policies and be prepared to answer questions on their implementation at our school. My staff also needed to know what we had done together for improving learning and they were expected, if asked, to be ‘inspected too’ so the inspector could see evidence of my leadership.
  • I was also continuing to do University work….and attend district meetings and so on.
  • I recall being very stressed about it but also wanting it to happen. I was really, really ready.
  • The process was over 3 full days. The District Inspector watched me teach, asked the children, questions, read their books, looked through my documentation, observed me leading a staff meeting, visited other classes and more. Full-on alright!
  • Mum and Dad came over and cooked us a baked dinner somewhere in the middle. It was so lovely of them to do that but my gut was not happy.
  • Nevertheless, the final day came and “Denyse I am prepared to put your name forward to be placed on the third list, congratulations.”
  • I think I was very happy…but oh so tired and relieved. Thank you I said. Then….
  • Some weeks later the Assistant Area Director had to spend a day with me doing similar inspection to confirm that, “Yes, I was eligible to be place on the third promotions list”.
  • But what did I want to do next?

Latter part of 1987.

  • The part-time degree was nearing its end and whilst I did not go to the graduation for this one, I was very proud to receive the testamur in 1989.
  • Our daughter was now in Year 10 and just as term 4 started (I think we just went from three terms to four, if anyone remembers, let me know in the comments) and she caught glandular fever. She was so very unwell she had liver complications and basically stayed on the couch. It did however lift enough for her to attend the Year 10 Formal but I will never forget how tiny she was and that GF stayed with her for a very long time.
  • N.S.W. schools also started the new Foundation style of handwriting. I thought it would be hard for me as a left-hander but it went well.
  • Before we knew it we were inundated by Handwriting books at the shops and from then on, every parent who ‘wanted their child to excel’ would pick up one of those books…which are still around. Everywhere.
  • So, on the way to promotion…where was I? Right at the cusp of all the changes. I could choose to be a principal if I wanted to seek merit selection to that position or I could go down the path of non-teaching deputy principal in a large K-6 school and that’s where I wanted to be.
  • How I got there was this: fill in the many forms, list ALL of the schools I would want to be appointed to, and attend a six person interview at Regional Office to answer generic questions for either principal or deputy positions and then wait. To see if I passed.
  • I did. Late November, I found I had been appointed Deputy Principal to a large Mt Druitt K-6 School called Shalvey.
  • I was on my way. Off class, and I admit I was glad after 18 years and onto leadership.

 

 

What a story comes next…..

I do need a break! This was quite some post to recall as much as I could and I admit, checking with my husband a few times.

It’s the bi-centenary next time…and more!

I do hope you got to the end and did not feel too tired. They were busy years.

Denyse.

 

 

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