Saturday 21st May 2022

Telling My Story. Christmas Memories Edition. #FestiveBonBon. 130/2021.

Telling My Story. Christmas Memories Edition. #FestiveBonBon. 130/2021.

When I read that my friends from blogging, Debbie from here, Sue from here, Jo from here and Donna from here too, had a plan for a one-off Christmas related link up, I could not resist.

I am definitely a Christmas ‘Kid’ with memories galore.

Team #FestiveBonBon even has a cute photo and questions. And link up icon IN CHOCOLATE colours. Nice one!

I will do my best to respond, and as I am not only a Christmas sentimentalist, but also have a LOT of photos as memories, then I think I have some ideas.

 

Christmas Tree – do you have one, when does it go up, who decorates it, is there a theme or is it miss-matched?

YES.

  • Traditionally (my traditions) ours went up the weekend before my birthday (30 November) because after that it was close to my Mum’s birthday and we didn’t want to take over her date. BUT more importantly….sorry Mum, is WHO decorates/d the tree?

 

  • EVERY grandchild does. At least those I can corral. Back in the first years/decades of being grandparents I admit I hyped the whole “Christmas at Grandma’s and Papa’s” decorating Sunday (mostly) and asked the parents to leave…or at least help Mr W with the myriad of lights, outside decorations and more to be adoring the house.

 

  • IT WAS FUN…frantic and the best.

Christmas music was played: Holly Jolly Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and occasionally more traditional music – see next question. I still have many CDs and playlists and they are now my car accompaniment during December.

I digress. Not a chronological post. Sorry. Not sorry.

  • Grandkids started happening for us in 1996 – the first born 2 days before Christmas that year. She got to add the star to the tree in 1997. My rule? Youngest puts star on tree. (Sadly, this year in our house, it was 71 year old me!)

 

  • I bought a new decoration for each grandchild each year…so 1996 one had many more than say 2013 born on. We have grandkids born in 1996, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2015. I labelled each one with date too. Some had photos in them. Before we moved house, and downsized the Christmas tree, giving our 1994 one to our daughter and her 4, I gave each grandchild their tree decorations from our house in a special box for the family Christmases ahead.

 

Christmas carols & songs.

I have enjoyed singing both the carols of Christmas (traditional and Australian themed ones) since I was in a church choir – I think I went to be social and I loved the singing, and got to learn some teaching skills helping little kids at Sunday School- aged 12 t0 14. Dad always had music playing in house at Christmas but can’t specifically recall Christmas songs.

  • I love to sing and in a group or teaching some kids and I may not have been a keen musician nor able to read music but I could hold a tune and loved teaching songs at Assembly and for Christmas concerts.
  • I particularly enjoy the Australian carols: The North Wind, The Silver Stars are In the Sky and more.
  • Remember for us, teaching in outback NSW was a very hot time as school ends and yet, we still put on traditional Christmas plays, songs and Santa always visited.

I have, as mentioned earlier, a huge number of CDs and even great songs from Hi Five and The Wiggles (all part of grandparenting back then) bring me joy. Santa Wear Your Shorts is one I recall kids singing at school carols too.

In a Rusty Holden Ute is one I remember a class doing back at RPS when I was principal.

I have very eclectic taste. Obvs.

 

Christmas books.

My favourites are always those I read to my kids, then their kids and to some classes. Way back I used to share a golden type book about the story of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus. I had a collection of various Father Christmas story books, and Santa Claus ones too. They are now all in other people’s houses, and I hope still being enjoyed.

I loved reading them to little ones and seeing the sense of awe and wonder.

I don’t have any that are mine nor am I really interested. However, I recall a series of short stories, Maeve Binchy perhaps, about coming home and Christmas. Long gone like my memory.

 

Christmas movies.

As mum and then,  Grandma I would watch movie length cartoons on TV as we had broken up for the year, and it was a nice distraction to have on a hot day inside while I probably made Christmas gifts.

And here’s on oldie. Back in the early 1960s Mum and Dad entertained neighbours and friends on Christmas Eve, and Dad would drop me and bro up to local Cinema in Balgowlah to watch White Christmas or something similar. I liked it. I must ask my brother if he recalls. We must have been collected by someone, and with no RBT, and within 2 kms of home anyway maybe having a festive driver do that didn’t matter.

And then in mid 2000 teens, I found Its a Wonderful Life. I like it so much it IS my go-to each Christmas to remember ‘why we each are important to each other’

Christmas cake.

I love(d) eating small amounts of home made Christmas cake. Made my own for a few years back in the 1980s and certainly enjoyed those my mum made back in the day. I liked the tradition of making them when the kids helped stir the cake mix. For photo purposes only. Neither like(d) Fruit Cake!

I also recall Christmas puddings made by Mum and wrapped in pudding cloth. Back in the day  1950s I recall the threepence and sixpence you might find in a slice of pudding…and not break your teeth. My paternal grandmother kept pudding coins I recall. Mum’s recipe here…and no I have never made it but it’s in Mum’s handwriting so treasured as a memory.

Chocolate nuts or fruit.

Now I can physically barely eat any, but cherries (black more than red) are part of Christmas, lychees  and so are mangoes.  And watermelon. We always had fruit and a variety of fresh nuts on the table. With a nutcracker. Seriously. Only ever used at Christmas.

Christmas traditions

See above…

However, there were some when our kids were young.

  • Christmas Eve I was always tired out – school had just broken up, and husband was finishing off whatever jobs he was doing around the place, so I took the kids to Christmas Eve Mass. I know! I did it because…tradition (and I became a catholic to be same as husband and kids, none of us are no longer practising) and I loved the music and the nativity…and then we got Maccas for tea. Still a novelty in 1980s.

 

  • Home with takeaway & after eating,  and some last minute preparations by kids for carrots out for reindeer, one of my orange biscuits or piece of shortbread for Santa, and quite possibly a can of Coke. Honestly I can’t recall but B liked drinking Coke then.

 

  • Kids laid out their Santa Bag (pillowcases) and Santa Stockings under the tree…and then off to bed. We watched/listened to Carols from Melbourne whilst trying to equalise sizes and presents for kids. Not wrapped ever. But if son seemed to get more (volume wise) I would remove for his birthday in 3 weeks.

 

  • We then waited…and bit the carrots and poured out the water, ate the treats, drank the drink…and hopefully kids were asleep and we left sack at bottom of their beds. Tired out.
  • When they woke in the morning, I was there with the trusty camera and it was a very special start to the day. As the kids got older (7 years difference, so one was 14, other 7) I sometimes actually ‘woke’ them because we often had a busy day ahead.

 

  • I used to make gifts for family, friends and even our doctors…(still do, actually) and one recipe honed by me back in 1990s I call “orange biscuits”. These are still much loved by my daughter and as she was turning 50 in covid lockdown, I made a batch and sent them to her. I “will” make some for her Christmas too. I also used to make Almond Bread. Yum. But not anymore as my mouth couldn’t bear it.

 

What’s on the table?

So many memories here.

  • However, musts for us were Christmas Bonbons to pull open, wear the silly hat, and share the silly jokes. I made placemats some years. Even a Christmas Trivia Quiz.

 

  • There were always festive treats on the table before any food was served! Cherries, lollies (and liquorish allsorts were a must, along with chocolate almonds), something savoury maybe like home made cheesy biscuits and some prawns in mayo on jatz, and some smoked salmon on rye bread would have been served before lunch.

 

  • I used to drink Mimosas too,  Orange juice and champers…As a wee kid though, MY Papa would have cold little bottles of Cherry Cheer for his 2 grandkids

 

  • Then there was LUNCH.

 

  • A mix of hot meal and cold too. So much food.

 

  • Always (back then) hot chickens, leg of pork  and many roast veggies, gravy, and some cold ham, turkey,  and salads with bread rolls. And later, slices of pudding for those who liked it, with home made brandy butter (yum), cream & ice cream and for others, something from the freezer ice cream selections.

 

  • On a hot day we were always grateful for air conditioning if available! And a pool too….

This was at LUNCHtime…and then, by about 6 p.m. we might serve up some leftovers too before, hopefully, all went home (with leftovers) ….sigh. Food coma.

Before & after head & neck cancer & adapting to no family at Christmas time.

 

One of the BIG Christmas Days…where Mum – see waving hand would have cooked a lot at home and brought it with her and Dad. Happy & sad memories here as my Aunty, back, second from right, would not be with us the next year.

Christmas memories.

  • They started at Dapto in 1950s for me, with the old fashioned Christmas lunch and all the spoiling that grandkids (me and bro) get. Then to dad’s Mum in Wollongong  for Christmas dinner/afternoon tea. Not as enjoyable though.

 

  • By the time we moved to Sydney however, and in early 1960s, my parents agreed we no longer wanted to spend Christmas day in the car, so Christmas would be at our place, and relatives were welcome to our place.

 

  • We became adults, and after marrying B & I  had a child by 1971, so Christmas and having the lunch at Mum and Dad’s was great as we were staying on school holidays and then over time, we moved to sharing some of Christmas Day with B’s family.

 

  • We bought a house, had teaching roles  and stayed in Sydney from 1978, with a second child added, and we still trekked to my parents most times until one day, Mum tired of it all, 1985 when her sister died suddenly, and I was given the family gig. It was fine, even though the reason my mum stopped was borne of grief and the need to pass the baton.

 

  • I probably did this closer to 2010s ish in our family if they wanted to do Christmas. Sometimes it became very complicated with extended families so we might share present opening instead on Christmas morning.

 

  • Over the next decade, we would have hosted, or gone to my brother’s and sometimes to my husband’s family. It becomes complicated for sure as families grow, change and move away.

 

  • Early 1990s we had a brand new  (big!) house and wanted to share the new space, and did Christmas then.

 

  • Grandchildren’s arrival changed so much for Christmas traditions, see above, but none more memorable than 1996, when the parents of newborn J, had ‘day leave’ from the hospital to have Christmas Lunch.

 

  • Grandkids, families changing and more meant that there were MANY more variations to Christmas Days until 2014 when, as we had sold our house in Sydney (and all those Christmas memories 1997-2013) our daughter did family Christmas.

Now?

The stories are as above.

And with no further ado, I am going to use this post for a Special One-Off Edition of Telling My Story!

The Christmas Memories One for the LAST #LifeThisWeek “Wishing”

I hadn’t thought of that till now. Thank you ladies!!

 

 

All I want for Christmas is…

The writing of this post has given me a better and greater appreciation of my Christmas memories as a 72 year old, and for that I am

G

R

A

T

E

F

U

L

May your dreams and hopes for Christmas and the Holiday season come true.

May you all go well.

May you be happy.

May the new year hold good health for you and yours.

I am very grateful for the blogging community always.

And for my continued good health post head & neck cancer!

Denyse.

On Monday 13 December 2021, @HeadandNeckCancerAustralia’s Virtual Choir for Christmas will be launched.

A first for Australia! I am in it too.

 

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It’s Great To Be Outdoors. #SundayStills. 78/2021.

It’s Great To Be Outdoors. #SundayStills. 78/2021.

Terri here has now  moved into her new abode and I will share this post soon as ‘my’ Sunday becomes Monday here. Terri is in the northern hemisphere. I do enjoy sharing and am happy to wait till Monday.

I would not have said I was an outdoorsy sort of person in my past as I enjoyed cosying up, reading and more at home.

But that has changed BIG time since I retired from teaching over 10 years ago.

I love to be outside….and enjoying the various sensory experiences as I walk, notice and take photos.

Here are some photos from my past life as a Sydney sider,  and some from when we first moved to the Central Coast of NSW, doing exactly that.

Back in 2008, I has the privilege of introducing my grandson to the sand, the water and the experience of being “at the beach” at Manly N.S.W.

And here he is again, before he started school, having a ferry ride around Sydney Harbour. He is enjoying the view at Circular Quay before we started.

 

Then, below, I had my own solo excursion before we left Sydney for good. Making memories is very important to me.

Back to early years of caring for grandchildren at Glenwood.

We had some great times with Miss R who is featured here:

And when we first moved to the Central Coast we even had three grandkids for short holiday. Quite tiring but memories made!

What a privilege it was to witness this little one’s exploration of a rock pool.

 

And this is me now, at my happy and meditative place: the great outdoors:

And to wrap this post up, the headland in the distance is that very same place where Miss 2 discovered the rock pools, some 5 years earlier.

Do you enjoy the great outdoors?

I liked getting the chance to share about this too, thanks Terri.

Do follow #SundayStills. Terri’s blog is linked above, it’s fun place to post and share.

Denyse.

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Women of Courage Series. #17. Lydia C. Lee. 94/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #17. Lydia C. Lee. 94/2019.

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

I have ‘known’ Lydia for more years than I can recall. She remains, however, a woman of some mystery, as this image is the only one I have seen. I am guessing it is Lydia. I also know though, that she is one very caring and helpful individual in my on-line world of friendships. She has offered me some good advice and in fact, some it relates to the person she references in her post. Thanks Lydia for sharing your words. One day, we WILL catch up in person!

 

While I was flattered Denyse asked me to be part of this series, I feel a little bit of a fraud, as I’m not sure I’ve done much with courage. However, as it would be a lack of courage not to accept, I will try my best to offer something useful. Courage is not just bravery, it also has the definition below:

Courage: Strength in the face of pain or grief.

When my father was dying, it was a long and drawn out painful affair. I had to drive two and a half hours every second day to visit him in the hospital. I was working myself into a tired and emotional state on the drive over there, and finding the visits understandably distressing. By chance, to quash my irritability in the traffic, I started listening to audio books. This found me at least on arrival, refreshed and in a good mood, as all my stream of consciousness had been hushed with the external focus.

By chance I listened to This is How by Augusten Burroughs.

This book was a life changer for me. He has a chapter on how to let someone die, and it really altered my understanding of what I could give my family at this most devastating time. The tips I express are his but they worked 100% for me and the by product from doing the small things is the courage defined above.

The first thing he called out is that you will want to find ways to avoid visiting. And it’s true. I kept thinking ‘I need to do this for the kids’ or ‘I have to get this work done’ and so on. The minute I heard his words, I realised it was all unimportant for now, and the visits were the only thing I would really regret not doing.

Secondly, he points out what matters. The special moments you will share that seem insignificant or even mildly unpleasant at the time become something you treasure. One of my favourite memories with Dad was when I took cake for my birthday and we ate it on his hospital bed and laughed at our gluttony and how much better it was than the hospital food. There was such a strong connection that day. In our shared lifetime, this was not one of the ‘big moments’ but it is something I often think about fondly now, and it brings me much comfort.

Thirdly, I’m the youngest in my family. My mother and sister were dealing with it differently to me, and that’s okay – I honestly believe there is not ‘right way’, only what is right for you, and most importantly, for the dying person. It gave me the job of making sure Mum was coping, and would not grieve the difficult decisions she had to make over the myriad of medical options and how to process the conflicting information from the many specialists involved. That job made me busy and feel productive and helpful in a situation where we were really all helpless to ultimately fix anything.

 

In a very strange turn of events, I had a number of concerts already booked, and I kept going to them, even if I didn’t feel like it or as happened one time, I cried in the taxi on the way to the venue. What I discovered was the dancing and energy of the audience was transformative. The endorphins from the exercise and joyous high I’d get would reset my emotions for the next day, so I was recharged to visit again and bring the little gifts of being truly present to share with him.

Our natural instinct is to shut down when facing grief but it’s actually the worst thing in my opinion. I became an expert at compartmentalising my emotions. It’s important to grieve and feel that loss and sadness, but it’s equally important to energise yourself so you’re ready for the next day’s emotional battle.  If worse comes to worse, just leave and go home early if it’s all too hard. I told myself that a few times but it never did pan out that way.

 

One of the benefits of this compartmentalisation was that I became very good at focusing on one step at a time. I could encourage Mum to stop the ‘what if’s’ and just make decisions on the information we had at hand, and make one decision at a time, not trying to second guess ahead. It reduces the enormity of what is happening and the overwhelming responsibility.

 “We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it as not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

In all things medical, one step at a time is all you can cope with.

Eat well. I ate my emotions – usually in the car on the way home from the hospital. It was not good for my weight or my energy. But long time readers will know I’m far from perfect so this one is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Had I not eaten junk daily, I might have felt better about things in those down moments. But as Augusten Burroughs says “Eat the brownie”. Sometimes food is the only happiness you’ll have that day. I’d probably do the same again so I’m not going to judge anyone on this.

If you can, during this time, exercise instead of drinking. Both will take the edge off, but one is better for the next day (and your waistline if you are eating a junkfest to feel good).

It is never a good time, but you can make it better for all involved, and for yourself so you don’t regret choices you made when it’s too late to change anything. Most of all, you are making it as best you can for that loved one who is finding their own courage when you aren’t there.

“Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

This is not medical advice, it is just what worked for me. If you are under stress and feeling it is too much, please see a doctor. Grief causes stress and disorientation and can lead to anxiety. Always seek medical help if you feel overwhelmed.

Wow, Thank you so much Lydia. Your recommendation of Augusten Burrough’s book was just what I needed to listen to last year. I am sure there will be readers here who will be nodding along with some of your insights gained personally and learning of others.

Denyse.

 

Social Media: https://www.instagram.com/lydiaclee/

Blog/Website: https://pandoraandmax.blogspot.com/

And Travel Blog https://holidazeandhellidaze.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @LydiaCLee

Facebook Page (not personal account): https://www.facebook.com/lydiac.lee.9

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

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

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

 

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