Saturday 18th September 2021

Women of Courage Series. #71 Joanne. 110/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #71 Joanne. 110/2021.

Two years ago… I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday into September 2021 when it will conclude.

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

 

Joanne, in her mid 40’s, is a blogger from the United States. I have not met her but as in blogging communities we tend to get to know more about each other through reading blog posts over time and connecting via our comments. Joanne has been quite a regular visitor here to Life This Week, my Monday Link Up, and after getting more interested in her words and photos (brilliant ones they are!) I asked if she would consider sharing her story as a woman of courage. And like some who have gone before her in the series, her initial “no thank you” turned into a “yes, I do have a story”. This is my introduction to Joanne and I am thankful for her change of mind.

 


 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I have had a generalized anxiety disorder most of my life.

When I was in grade school and even up through high school, I can remember getting sick nearly every day over school (whether at home, on the bus, or just arriving at school, sometimes something might trigger me to panic during my normal school day).

I struggled with a bunch of fears that I often couldn’t even name or pin point.

Things like field trips, assemblies, and any break from the normal routine made me anxious.

It was never formally diagnosed and I never saw anyone beyond our elementary school counsellor as these things weren’t really known about back then.

As I got older and my confidence grew my anxiety began to subside.  I knew that my upset stomach was caused by my head and began to be able to talk myself out of getting sick to where I would just feel nauseous.

It still rears up now and then but years and years of learning coping mechanisms have helped me manage it really well without the use of medication or therapy.

 

Nothing has ever made me face my fears more than parenthood though. 

Sick and injured boys have forced me to be courageous in ways I honestly didn’t think I could be.

I always knew I had to hold it together and reassure them that all was going to be OK no matter how sick or injured they were.

When my oldest son was just a toddler, we were referred to a neurologist because he had had a series of febrile seizures.

Fast forward to kindergarten when he was undergoing an MRI to find out if there were other underlying issues and weeks upon weeks of waiting for results.

Our paediatrician tried to help out because our neurologist was on vacation and all he could tell us was that there was something that showed up on the test but since that wasn’t his field of expertise, he couldn’t tell me more than that.

He felt so bad; he had been trying to relieve my fears and assumed that all would be normal with the MRI results.  Instead, I stood there in my yard on the phone with the doctor with a smile on my face and my sunglasses hiding my tears, hoping and praying that whatever this was would be no big deal.

I knew I couldn’t fall to pieces in front of my boys.

Thankfully, once we got hold of our neurologist, he explained that it was most likely scar tissue deep in the brain from something that must have happened in utero during development and he assured us that our son’s brain had compensated and that no further anything needed to be done—ever.

 

We also had our youngest son hospitalized when he was just a few months old and was suffering from RSV lung infection.

He was put on oxygen and fluids and thankfully recovered well; though we did end up in the ER at least once a winter for the next few years with him fighting off pneumonia.

There is nothing quite like watching your little babies’ lips turn blue and hearing him gasping for breath.  We had been proactive though and sought treatment out early before he had to be intubated or put into ICU.

We’ve had fractured wrists, “standard” procedures like tonsillectomy & adenoid removal (which seem like anything but when you’re waiting outside the OR to hear how the surgery went), and more than a few ER visits and ambulance rides.

 

It seemed like after all that I had endured with my boys through the years, I was more than prepared to face my own mini health crisis.

In just the past two years alone I have had several ultrasounds, an x ray, a D&C, and a hysterectomy.

Normally any kind of medical appointment or procedure would have made me so anxious but I was pretty surprised over just how calm I was through the whole ordeal.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I think we are all a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

It’s not easy to think of being courageous but often when the need arises those stores of courage are there.

Even when it feels like that courage is deserting us somehow the human spirit seems to keep pushing us onward.

I find that looking to family, friends, and beyond the current moment helps remind me what I’m fighting for.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Maybe?! That’s a hard one to answer as I almost always think that there are so many things I could never handle, or do, or walk through and yet deep down I know that I probably could.

Even if I would never want to know just how courageous I could be.

I think I’m at a point in my life where I just know that I would battle anything for my family and my boys.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

First and foremost—breathe.  Just breathe.

Then take that one next step.

Often, we get overwhelmed when we’re looking at the big picture or we start worry about all the what if scenarios.

I do that all the time and have never once found it to be all that helpful.

Deep, mindful, almost meditative breathing, and focusing only on that one next small step helps.

Also don’t be afraid to ask for help; even if it’s just a should to learn or cry on.

We all need help from time to time, it doesn’t make us weak; it makes us human.

 

Thank you so much Joanne for your frank and honest story where I was in awe of how you could manage your own anxieties and worries to be able to help your sons through their illnesses. And your advice to breathe…yes, and to breathe again. Little steps that keep us going and helps reduce some of inner feelings that are stirring. I remember that well from my days of anxiety and fear. Your words are very true and oh so helpful.

Denyse.

Joanne’s blog can be found here:  https://www.myslicesoflife.com/

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Women of Courage Series. #69 Bianca Hewes. 104/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #69 Bianca Hewes. 104/2021.

Two years ago… I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday into September 2021 when it will conclude.

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

 

Thanks to the world of school education being big as well as small in New South Wales, where I used to be employed, I am fortunate to say I have met Bianca Hewes, who is 41 on a couple of occasions at Teach Meets! In fact, one of them was in August 2015, held at where “I” attended high school in the 1960s, and also where Bianca did….much, much later!  She, was at the time of meeting, working locally at a selective High School and introducing new and exciting subjects, along with her philosophy of education I found very refreshing. She and her husband impress me greatly and education is richer for their presence. But today, it’s Bianca’s story, and I am delighted to share because saying “yes” was not initially Bianca’s response! Thank you, B.

 

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

 

I find this question very hard to answer, as I’ve never really viewed myself as a courageous person.

In fact, since I have anxiety (the diagnosed sort stemming from childhood trauma, not the trendy kind) I’d say that I’m almost the opposite of courageous.

But, after some prompting from Denyse and a bit of reflection, I think something that could be classified by others as being courageous was my decision to continue with my university studies whilst I had a newborn son.

Luckily he was born in mid-semester break so I had a few weeks to give birth and learn how to be a mum before I strapped him to my chest and headed back into the lecture hall.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

 

I suppose it just made me more determined to work hard and prove everyone wrong.

I got used to people staring at me on the bus and around campus – even though I was 21 I looked like I was 15 – and this defiance of judgement is something I have cultivated as a key personality trait and a value I’ve passed onto my sons.

I learnt quickly to stand up for myself when I needed to and to assert my rights as a woman and a mother. It also made me realise that I can do anything I want to – which sounds really cliche but has proven (mostly) true.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

 

I think the biggest thing is to not listen to the negative opinions of others and to embrace those who support and celebrate you for who you are and the decisions you make.

I remember that second semester with my tiny two week old son I was doing two philosophy courses.

One lecturer was so supportive of me, but the other came up to me after class once and told me he didn’t agree with me being at university with a child.

It hurt being confronted that way, but I knew my rights and I stood my ground.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

 

Like I said at the start, I don’t think I’m a particularly courageous person, but having my children when I was also studying and then later working meant that I developed resilience and determination.

I definitely draw on both of those qualities a lot in life.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

 

Just don’t listen to society.

Be true to yourself.

Trust your own judgement and your own capacity.

I knew I could care for a baby whilst completing my studies even if other people lacked faith in me – and I was right.

So, I suppose just trusting yourself and enjoy proving others wrong is my message.

 

Thank you Bianca, I “knew” you would share a great story of courage and that it would help others to see what can be done despite the ‘judgements’ of some. How awful was that comment from a Uni so-called professional!

Bianca has some social media sites where she shares about education and more.

She has written and co-authored many texts and other books for teachers and schools.

Denyse.

 

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website biancahewes.wordpress.com

Twitter @biancah80

Facebook Page:  Australian Project Based Learning Network

Instagram: @jimmy_reads_books

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Women of Courage Series. #68 Gloria Hill. 101/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #68 Gloria Hill. 101/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

 

I may not have (yet) met Gloria Hill, aged 48, but I already am very aware of her role and input as a parent into the very newest public school which opened in 2019. This is North Kellyville Public School, and I am a proud retired principal who continues to support public education in N.S.W. Our daughter is the teacher/librarian there, becoming foundation year staff member, and I recall seeing the many positive and amazing projects which the foundation year Parents and Citizens group (P&C) initiated. To that end, Gloria, as the 2019 P&C Secretary and later as the 2020 P&C President was nominated for the 2020 NSW P&C Federation Volunteer of the Year Award, and was one of 16 Finalists after winning the North West Sydney Electorate. Thank you Gloria for sharing your story with us. At the foot of this post is information from Gloria.

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

In 2012, my son Sean was diagnosed with a genetic disease at the age of 12 months.

  • The disease is called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and people born with this disease are effectively born without an immune system.
  • Most undiagnosed cases do not survive infancy.
  • I was not aware I was a carrier of this glitchy gene, nor that I had passed it on to my son.

As a first-time mum, I did not know why my little man would take weeks to get over a cold, or why a small nappy rash would leave his entire bottom a red raw open weeping wound for days on end.

That first year was spent advocating for my son with various medical professionals – we got to know our GP and our early childhood nurses very well, to the point where one medical professional noted the frequency with which we were visiting the doctors’ surgery and flippantly told us we should be earning frequent flyer points for all of our visits.

For his many ailments, Sean was prescribed every potion and lotion available from our local pharmacy, but there would still be extended periods of ill health between the bright and happy days.

After many months of bashing down the doors of various doctors, a chance meeting with an early childhood nurse fast tracked the diagnosis when she insisted that Sean be seen by a paediatrician immediately.

  • In the space of 2 hours, we went from being just a number in a queue to Patient #1 at the Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick.
  • The diagnosis came quickly, and the treatment plan followed – we would have to consent to chemotherapy and a bone marrow/stem cells transplant to save Sean’s life.
  •  He was 13 months old, my first and only child, and my husband and I sat through all the medical scenarios and diseases Sean may develop post transplant, all of the scenarios ended with “if this disease developed, then Sean may die”.
  • The bone crunching, soul destroying scenario was presented last – if we did not consent to the transplant, then Sean will die.

 

On 27 March 2012, a specialist team performed a miracle by transfusing 30mL of precious stem cells into Sean’s little body.

  • Over the next 5 weeks, we watched Sean’s condition worsen before he got better.
  • In a comparatively short period of time time, Sean’s body recovered from the treatments as the stem cells grafted in his body and he grew stronger by the day.
  • We were discharged from the hospital in May 2012 when the real fun awaited: a lengthy period of self-isolation with an inquisitive toddler quarantined in a small house while trying to manage weekly hospital check ups, the complicated medication schedule, the new diet (both liquid and solid), and the upkeep of his medical accessories (nasogastric tube and central line) tested my patience.

 

By the end of 2012, all the hard work paid off.

Sean was weaned off all medication, and all of his medical accessories were removed.  Sean’s appetite returned and he was thriving again hitting all of the growth milestones with ease.  The weekly clinics at hospital turned into monthly visits, and by the end of 2013, the visits would become an annual check up.

Today, 9 years since the transplant, Sean is a healthy 10 year old who loves to swim, ride his bike, and read, with a healthy appetite and an even brighter outlook on life.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I learned to trust my gut instincts and not back down, especially when I am advocating for my family and my loved ones.

I learned to look for silver linings, because the alternative was too sad.

I learned to show my vulnerability and accept help in all the different ways that were offered to us.

I learned to take a deep breath and push on – sometimes, it just IS what it is, and I have to get on with it, because there is no other option available.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Lean on those you trust.

Some friendships will grow and transform to the next level.

Expect to lose friends and see friendships shift – you may be surprised by who “slip away” and bow out of your life, but don’t begrudge their departure.

They are not bad people; they just don’t know how to support you.

You are not alone.

AND you don’t have to do this alone.

There is help and support available, everywhere.

Never be afraid to reach out for help.

And if help comes to you, accept it.

You are not weaker by seeking or accepting help – in fact, you are the stronger and more courageous one for seeking or accepting help.

Specifically to a medical condition: listen to the professionals – if they tell you not to Google the disease, then don’t Google the disease, especially at 3am when you can’t sleep.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I don’t think I could be more courageous now than I was then.

In 2012, just after diagnosis, we found ourselves “shedding friends” – people who called to check in on us, but then picked fights with us over trivial matters.

The drama that some of these former friends created at the time distracted us from the real focus at hand – the life and health of our critically ill little boy.

In hindsight, I came to realise that these people may not have been strong enough to support us, nor knew how to support, nor knew how to react to the news.

Whilst it was disappointing at the time, the loss of these relationships was actually to our benefit.

At the same time, our true friends stepped up and found innovative ways to support us.

Financial donations flooded in from well meaning friends who wanted to make sure my husband and I were fed during our hospital stay and we had money for petrol to get to and from the hospital.

Friends cooked us meals, took us out for quick meals (just so we would leave the hospital room and get some fresh air), and called and messaged us to get up to date news on Sean.

We still have the same loving network of family and friends who rallied around me then, so if I had to face the situation now, I know I have the support and love to get through it.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

You are not alone.

You don’t have to do this alone.

And asking for help is not a failure.

To ask for help is a sign of strength, so reach out to family and friends, and lean on them.

 

Thank you Gloria. I feel it is such an hnour for people like, and all the women who decide to share their stories, that this is a place here on my blog to do so. I am in awe of your strength as you were learning to be a mum too. I do hope all continues to go well for you and your family.

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Oh_Glorious_One

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/oh_glorious_one/

Information supplied by Gloria which I am very pleased to be able to share…awareness is always an important factor in any health conditions. Thank you.

Since Sean’s diagnosis, I have discovered the Immune Deficiency Foundation Australia’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ImmuneDeficiencyFoundationAustralia/) and their private group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/217875418231666).  IDFA have provided a fantastic platform for people with Primary Immune Diseases to share knowledge and information and to provide support to each other.
As a point of interest – if anyone is keen to find out more about our involvement with Inner Wheel Australia.  The treatment plan devised by our Oncology and Immunology teams at the Sydney Children’s Hospital involved a stem cell transplant.  Sean received the transplant using stem cells extracted from cord blood, and in the ensuing years, we have been involved with Inner Wheel Australia as Ambassadors for their National Project in Cord Blood Research (https://www.innerwheelaustralia.org.au/national-project).  I have been a keynote speaker at various conferences, and Sean is the face of their national fundraising campaign called “Sean’s Two For Ten”.  The annual campaign was launched this year, and we have agreed to be the face of the campaign for the next 6 years (until Sean is 16).

 

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

 

 

 

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Women of Courage Series. #66 Jacqui. 95/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #66 Jacqui. 95/2021.

 

Content/Trigger Warning: I have been requested to add this. Information for readers is at the end of this post. Thank you.

 

Two years ago….I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

Welcome to Jacqui’s story as a woman of courage. Jacqui and I have similar career background and have met via twitter..often! I was so pleased when she put her hand up pretty fast to say “yes” and got her story back to me. We have chatted about her story more, and in keeping with others’ privacy have kept some identifiers deliberately hidden.

Thanks so much Jacqui. Oh, and Jacqui has included some great links for us at the end of her story.

 

Introduction from Jacqui.

It’s taken me a while to think about the times when I’ve most needed courage and decide which story to focus on.

Throughout my career or 20+ years of teaching I have pushed myself to show courage- to stand up for what’s right, challenge pedagogy, take on new experiences and chase promotion.

There was even a time where I was so broken I thought I would quit teaching altogether.

I had to work very hard to find my passion again.

As it turns out I have shown  enormous amounts of courage in my professional life.

So, instead, I am going to focus on courage in my personal life. And, it’s happening now.

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

6 months ago my life stood still for a moment.

  • My 11yr old daughter was having suicidal thoughts.
  • How can this be possible? She’s only 11.
  • I can’t ever remember being aware of death/suicide at that age, let alone thinking that I didn’t fit in this world.

My heart was breaking.

Her psychologist urgently needed to meet with me and of course I went.

She was tangled in a web of depression and anxiety.

To move forward, I need to go back a bit.

This is my third child, my husband’s sixth. Our last.

She had complications after delivery and spent the first 3 weeks in the neonatal clinic.

At 5-6 years old she was showing signs of puberty.

I insisted on investigations and at about 7yrs we found out that she has a genetic condition known as non-classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia (NCCAH).

This was a whole bundle of changes including 3x daily medication and an emergency action plan for the rest of her life.

You would think that was enough to deal with, but there’s more.

  • It was around about this time that I discovered I was no longer in love with my husband.
  • After lots of fighting, tears and deep discussions we agreed to stay together without being intimate.
  • We thought this was the best option as our eldest was sitting the HSC.
  • Little did we know that our astute little girl picked up on all of this, causing her great confusion and a deep worry about me.
  • She pushed her father away and became extremely clingy and attached to me.
  • It was suffocating but I was unaware of the damage it was causing her.
  • She could not work out the ‘reality’ of our family or where she fit in (her closest sibling is 8 years older). So it was at this psychologist appointment that I found the courage to do what I needed to do for me. For her. I went home and told my husband that I needed to move out.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I released all of the pain anger hurt and disappointment from the last 4 years and slipped into my own silent world of depression.

I needed to find the deepest courage to be vulnerable, be honest, be real.

I needed to be strong enough to share this with my daughter to a certain extent so she can see that  it is possible to make changes and heal ourselves (with support).

I started seeing a psychologist of my own.

I spoke up and stood up to my husband for the first time – I bought a house and moved in with my 2 daughters.

I also started to discover myself. I’d lost so much of who I was throughout my almost 30yrs relationship.

 

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

That the comfortable or easiest pathway isn’t always the one we are meant to travel.

That sometimes even the best intentions cause the most pain to ourselves and to others.

That it’s ok to ask others for help.

That it’s ok to put yourself first.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Absolutely.

I have had 6mths of ongoing courage.

It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Courage has got me through all the other parts that come with separation- financial separation, setting up a new house, co-parenting plans and decision making.

It’s still hard.

The grief and sorrow is enormous.

Making my own decisions is a strange novelty.

The regret and guilt of the impact on my daughter is always there.

But, I know that I have the skills, the strength, the determination, the love and the courage to get through it all and to help my daughter find her courage.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Even the highest mountain can be climbed if you take that first step.

We are stronger than we think.

And Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead and her TED talks were very helpful for me. I was reading it for professional purposes but I found it was helpful in my personal life also.
Thank you so much for your story Jacqui. Courage requires vulnerability and more and you have, in the sharing, as well as the living of this, demonstrated the qualities you have in so many areas. One day, it would be good to finally catch up. As always, we wait for those times and areas around N.S.W.  to open once we are declared “covid-safe”…if there is such a declaration!
Denyse.
For those who may need to reach out to organisations based on this story’s content these are Australian-based sources for help.
Your Family G.P. can be a helpful person to listen and make referrals.

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24 hour assessment, referral, advice, and hospital and community health centre contact details

Qualified Psychologists can be found by visiting https://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/

Australian Counselling Association is on 1300 784 333 to find a counsellor

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Women Of Courage Series. #61 P.M. 80/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #61. P.M. 80/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

I have met P.M. who is in her 50s and know of her story of courage from some sharing with friends. I applaud her decision to come forward and share this story of hers which, out of respect for others’ privacy, will be anonymous. P.M.  will come to read your comments which I hope you will make after reading to support this woman and her family member. And will be adding her comments for which I am very grateful.

I have  added some contact details below for helplines in New South Wales and Australia.

Thank you for sharing P.M.

This image was taken by P.M.’s daughter, then aged 14.

I thought it fitting to use today and have had permission to share. The same is for the collage: drawing by P.M.’s daughter aged 12.

 What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

 

I, and my husband, have needed to be courageous for our daughter who has experienced multiple challenges over the course of her lifetime. I have, and continue to be her advocate to ensure that she has the life she deserves.

At the age of eighteen, she was finally diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Level 2.

  • The sadly tragic thing about this was not the diagnosis but that it took so many years to get to that diagnosis.
  • If she had been diagnosed as a baby or toddler she might not have struggled with eating (due to sensory issues that were never identified). Maybe she wouldn’t have screamed every time I tried to feed her or in the middle of the night for hours on end. Initial diagnoses – silent reflux and failure to thrive.
  • I had to be courageous then with all the guilt at not being able to give my daughter the most of basic of needs – nourishment. I had to be courageous when I was perceived to be nothing more than an over anxious older mum to keep seeking support because I just knew things weren’t right.

 

If she had been diagnosed when she started school, instead of being tested for hearing loss, she might have gotten the early support she needed to be able to focus amongst all the noise.

If she had been diagnosed at seven, she might have had help with social skills so that she made and kept friends rather than being seen as attention seeking.

Current diagnosis – language processing disorder.

If she had been diagnosed at 13, she might not have experienced significant dissociative events that took her out of school, and me away from my job, and be given another diagnosis – conversion disorder.

If any of the doctors and psychiatrists who treated her then had connected the dots, saw the value in further investigation into why this had happened then maybe she wouldn’t have missed a full term of school, lost three months of her life.

  • I had to be courageous for her then – flying with her to John Hunter Hospital when we thought she was experiencing multiple epileptic seizures and not knowing what was going to happen.
  • I had to be courageous when dealing with all the doctors who sent us home saying she needed psychological help but wouldn’t actually direct us to any supports.

If she had been diagnosed at 14 or even 15, even after all that time off school, she would have been able to achieve the grades that reflected her ability and not felt dumb as well as “odd or psycho”.

  • Maybe she wouldn’t have been bullied so mercilessly that she had a meltdown in the playground surround by students screaming and laughing at her while she ripped at her face and her hair.
  • Maybe she wouldn’t have started self-harming including the first attempt at suicide. Maybe we wouldn’t have had to pull her out of school again for her own wellbeing. More diagnoses added – depression and generalized anxiety.
  • We had to be courageous when again pleading with psychologists and psychiatrists to help her, help us help her, from believing she was worthless and broken.

We had to be courageous when we decided to leave our lives behind and head north to pull her away from the toxic hell she was in and just be a kid again, even if would mean that we would need to go back eventually.

If she had been diagnosed at 16 or even 17, after moving schools, she might have had a better chance of steering clear of the drugs and other risky behavior in an effort to fit in, to find someone, anyone who would be her friend.

  • Maybe she wouldn’t have been sexually and physically assaulted by one of her “boyfriends”. Maybe she wouldn’t have left school after one term of Year 11 or lost her traineeship because of her “odd” behaviours and perceived inability to follow instructions.
  • We had to be courageous when advocating for my daughter’s right to be safe and respected in her work place.
  • To drop everything to get to her when she was having a panic attack in the middle of street, to call 000 when she overdosed because she was done. And worse, having to be courageous in the ER to insist on further treatment when they thought it best, again, to send her home only 8 hours later.

Even after the diagnosis at 18, we have had to continue to be courageous.

  • By that time she was set in a cycle of self-destruction – drugs, risky behaviour, abusers and users, and more suicide attempts.
  • There were days we feared we would lose her for good and we felt alone and helpless. The hospital system didn’t want to admit her until she was almost 19, mental health services in our town were ill-equipped to give her the intensive sustained support she needed and there were few services that could support a complex mix of autism and mental health.

At almost 21, we can finally see that there is hope.

  • Thanks to NDIS funding and some amazing supports who believe in our daughter as much as we do, she has started to see that she has a future.
  • She has found a welcoming and understanding workplace and is training to be a chef.
  • She has found her passion – to make art on a plate. She has distanced herself, most of the time, from the bad influences and is trying to make better choices.
  • As we say, life is a work in progress and there are always dips and turns on the road to the future.

Finally, I want to call out my daughter who is the most courageous of all of us.

  • She has had to live this and I am in awe of her resilience.
  • She has survived everything that life has thrown at her and kept going despite everything.
  • Her diagnosis of autism has helped her realise that she is not broken, she is not a mistake. She is exactly who she should be – a pun loving, true crime and space obsessed, artistic young lady who deserves a happy future.

Her autism is and never was the problem – it was the misdiagnoses, the lack of understanding of how autism presents in females, and over stretched medical systems that created the hell she lived through.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

This whole experience has changed me forever.

This fight to save our daughter, quite literally at times, has made me outspoken about the woefully underfunded mental health system, the lack of psychiatrists particularly in regional areas and the lack of supports for autistic young adults, again particularly in regional areas.

I have discovered that I never give up, particularly on my daughter, and that I will just keep pushing when things are not going well.

I have learned the value of speaking up and speaking out.

Before all this I was quite a private person who kept everything inside but I learnt early that it is not healthy or helpful to keep things bottled up, to keep the truth from the village that surrounds you.

How can we change the stigma of mental health, of autism, if we never speak openly about what we are going through? I have developed strengths I never believed I had.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

When struggling with challenges it is important to learn as much as you can.

It is harder to fight what you don’t understand the facts.

I learned early that often the medical profession did not have all the answers or the time to dedicate to one patient so that became my job after years of blindly trusting that they knew what they were doing.

I have also learned that it is important to speak up, to not hold things in and pretend everything is okay.

Living a lie helps no one in the end.

You also need to learn to accept help, to willingly ask for it when you need it so that you have strength to survive the long game.

It takes courage to do all those things.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I am definitely more capable of being courageous when life calls for it – especially when it is to be courageous for my family.

While it doesn’t necessarily change the experiences, the challenges, being courageous gives you the determination and positivity needed to not give up, and to fight for a better outcome.

We know our advocacy for our daughter, to ensure she has a bright future even after we are gone, will not stop, cannot stop but will change as she grows and blossoms.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

No-one knows how courageous they can be until the situation arises for you to step up, step in and work through the challenges presented to you.

It won’t necessarily change the challenges you face but it allows you to keep going, to keep fighting, keep finding hope in the darkness.

Just remember, that you never have to be courageous on your own.

Having someone there who will fight with you, take the lead when your batteries are flat, to give your other perspectives makes the challenge easier and allows you to keep being courageous for as long as is needed.

I thank P.M. and her daughter for this courageous sharing of their story. I suspect, from my knowledge, that it IS indeed much harder for girls and women to be accurately diagnosed. Yes to the fact that many of us have indeed trusted the medical and helping professions and now, as we see from your sharing, there can be an inability for ‘the connecting of the dots’ as you put it in terms of diagnosis. Thank you too for the included list of places for accessing help and knowledge.

I send my best to you all.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Places for help

Autism and girls – want to know more?

https://childmind.org/article/autistic-girls-overlooked-undiagnosed-autism/

 

https://www.autismawareness.com.au/could-it-be-autism/autism-and-girls/

 

https://www.yellowladybugs.com.au/

 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-13/how-easily-girls-can-mask-the-autism-warning-signs/10701928

 

Autism and mental health – want to know more?

 

https://raisingchildren.net.au/autism/health-wellbeing/mental-health/depression-teens-with-asd

 

https://www.spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/the-deep-emotional-ties-between-depression-and-autism/

 

Mental health supports

 

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

 

https://headspace.org.au/

 

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

 

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/mentalhealth/Pages/mental-health-line.aspx

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Women Of Courage Series. #60. Tracey Breese. 77/2021.

Women Of Courage Series.  #60. Tracey Breese. 77/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

 

Introducing Tracey Breese, who  is 49, and known to me via our social media connections relating to schools and public education in New South Wales. Tracey is an innovator and a highly competent high school principal who has recently left one school where she was leader learner as school principal ….to become principal of a different type of high school, called Hunter School Of The  Performing Arts found via this link….and the students range from Year 3 to Year 12. What an interesting school and so good to read of Tracey’s updates on-line. I do hope to visit one day as well. Find Tracey here on Twitter.

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”

― William Faulkner

Courage is a funny thing. In the moment, you don’t particularly recognise it as ‘courage’ per se.

As a school leader I see many of the ‘moments’ in my career now, on reflection, have involved courage.

Many of them have evolved from my strong beliefs and convictions.

So, that idea of courage through conviction rings true for me.

The integrity of my convictions and not lying down when I need to speak up, have been pivotal to my personality and growth, as a mum, as a teacher, as a leader and as a community member.

Many of the pivotal moments of my career have changed me.

Sadly, many of the challenges harden the resolve that you have.

I have had to work harder to get some roles in my career, where, at times, simply being ‘male’ appeared to be the criteria.

When I first became a principal, I had a head teacher come to my door and say; ‘What we really needed was a strong man in this role, it’s a tough place.’ This was not in 1960: but 2016. I was speechless.

This stayed with me and drove me to be the best principal I could be.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

Yes.

I found it really difficult to believe that I have got to this point, and was still fighting some old cultural misogyny.

Even though it was only one person’s opinion, it is amazing how these things stick like velcro to your armour.

I was able to move from the moment, but I was always striving to make sure that everything achieved for students was at the level of excellence and innovation.

I was warm to all, but ferocious in my resolve to be the best person I could be.

I had exceptional role models.

Christine Cawsey has been an amazing mentor in my entire career.

It is the women in leadership like this that have forged the path and created amazing opportunities- created through their courageous and fearless watershed moments.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Stick to your convictions and don’t let others drag you under.

Michelle Obama’s quote is up in my office: ‘When they go low, you go high.’

It’s not everyday that you need the power of resilience, but when you do: go to the mantras.

I did a mindfulness course with Gillian Coutts (you’ll want to get her on the blog!) Thank you for your recommendation, she is going to share too! 

It was life changing.

The strategies were about putting the gaps in between the work.

Knowing that you need to re-centre and revive yourself between the moments.

This has been work/life balance changing for me.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Yes.

I feel that the emotional intelligence you gain in leadership is so important and changes all the time as you experience different situations.

Courage is also about calling in your resources and knowing the right resources you need in the moment.

This includes the fact that in all situations, you do have the power of your own response.

This is the best point in courage.

The courage to know yourself and not be forced into responses by others.

I am at all times the calm and consistent adult.

I do not have to respond in a stereotypical way to any situation.

Walking away, in some instances can save others from themselves.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Courage is standing strong to your conviction, not the overwhelming and all powerful emotions that sometimes take over others.

Be the best person.

Walk away when needed.

Don’t get in the ring if you don’t have to.

Sometimes, doing what’s right is more important that doing what is easy- that is to be truly courageous.

 

As a now-retired K-6 principal I read your story with heightened interest and even used red and italyics to show how we women in leadership roles have had to manage some people’s comments, attitudes and ignorance. I am in awe of your daily work with the many students, staff and families who are part of your new school community. What a thrill it must be to be also part of a large student population with huge talent in many area. Mind you, as I would understand from having two “OC” classes at RPS, giftedness has its many challenges too.

 

Thank you so much again for sharing.

I am sure others who read will also take something from your work, your heart and your mind as you lead your school onward.

And I wish you and your colleagues some respite from school life as you lead up to the mid-year Winter School holidays.

Denyse.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Women Of Courage Series. #58 Tracey Lee. 71/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #58 Tracey Lee. 71/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

In counting back the years, I realised that I met Tracey Lee, aged 55 via twitter first…back in what we affectionately call ‘the good old days of twitter: 2010-2012’. Then I also got to meet her in real life at a mutual friend’s book launch. Over the next few years we chatted and caught up, in that social media way, on both facebook and twitter. When we moved from Sydney to the Central Coast of N.S.W. I knew that I had a friend I could meet up with again, and we did and have for coffee and chat. Love those connections. But in recent times, I was also delighted to be both an encourager and cheerleader in Tracey Lee’s ventures which she writes of here. I will let her share the story. Thank you!

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

Is there anything more terrifying than your “baby” starting high school? Is there anything more potent to ring the alarm bells of what will you “do” for the rest of your life!

  • Let’s take it back a decade, to when I was made redundant from my permanent part-time graphic design job, secretly 8 weeks pregnant with my second child and knowing I had no chance of finding another position that would fit me and my childcare needs.
  • With support from also-redundant colleagues and bereft clients, I set up a computer and dial-up modem in my dining room, establishing my freelance business.
  • While I never “made a living”, it was enough to keep our nose above water and pay for family holidays.
  • It gave me flexibility to be at school: helping in the classroom, canteen, P&C, and cobbling together costumes for the dreaded Book Week.
  • And extra time to spend with my Mum, who lived alone since we lost Dad, and who was showing early signs of dementia.

I had fallen into graphic design when I dropped out of law school (a terrible choice!) because I had always been “good at art”.

  • I enjoyed design, and it certainly honed my skills as a communicator, and I loved working in publishing (because books!), but it was never a goal that set me alight.
  • Into the presumption of stability known as “mid life”, little ideas crept into my head, of how I would resurrect my creative practice beyond on a computer, to find that part of me that the responsibilities of adult life and parenthood had driven out.

Enter Twitter! 

At the (since lamented) suggestion of my husband, I started an account.

As a SAHM/WFH (Stay At Home Mum/Working from Home) freelancer, I was thrilled to expand what had become a narrow social circle. I started with old friends from publishing, then followed the bread crumbs, gathering a group of individuals whose interests mirrored mine.

It did not occur to me until later that I had created a virtual curriculum vitae for future ambitions.

I followed parents and teachers, artisans and creatives … and a cluster of allied health professionals working in mental health.

I remembered the psychology I enjoyed as a part of my abandoned law studies, and the kindling started to smoulder.

If only I could resurrect my art practice and, through the joy I knew it could invoke, help people heal from self-doubt and hardships in their lives: art … and, therapy? That’s a job!

Putting aside qualms from my flawed experiences, I spent the rest of that year secretly searching qualifications and university degrees. I discovered mature-aged admissions pathways. I applied. I was accepted. Dear God!

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I was used to work schedules and deadlines, but now I needed to factor in the unexpected, to learn how to drop the ball and catch it on the bounce when a child became ill or a paid freelance job turned up without warning.

I learned to focus my research and to “kill my darlings”, the factual nuggets or personal theories that just would not fit in under the word limit. (My worst effort was the 6000 word “draft” for the 1500 word assignment).

And then there was the dreaded Group Assignment: how to get my work done and learn to trust everyone else to do their own work … or to let go when it was obvious it was never going to happen.

I needed to allow myself to hand in work that I was not 100% happy with for the sake of getting it out of the way, ready to start on the next project.

Being the anxious type, that did not sit well with me!

And then there were the results that were disappointing, especially on assignments I felt I had “nailed”, to learn that there is more than one way to interpret an assignment, and that I would not always be “right”.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

But the hardest thing to learn was to be self-centred, not in a selfish way, but in a way that allowed me to believe what I was doing, my aims and ambitions, were important.

  • Even more so than parenting demands, reasonable when my children were younger, which I had let persist because what I was previously doing was “not so important”.
  • I would like to say we blossomed graciously as a family, but it was a lot bumpier than that.
  • My new priorities were resented, and I had days when I struggled with guilt.

Yet, oddly, no one died. No one got injured or even particularly hungry, although a few dirty uniforms might have been shaken out at 8am and quickly sprayed with deodorant.

I learned that when I centred myself, others would fall in around me.

As a primary caregiver it can be confronting to be the instigator of one’s own obsolescence. It can be frightening to peel off the cocoon of parenting to see if what emerges will have beautiful wings, or be incomplete and damaged, unable to fly.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

While this is about my year of Open Foundation, the next chapter was the four years of ups and downs it took to complete my three-year Bachelor’s degree (with Distinction!), with Mum leaving us in my final year.

By then I knew I was not cut out for the post-graduate Master’s as I had planned, so I looked for smaller certificate courses, finding one I could mostly complete online. And then …

And then COVID-19 spat its contagion, hungrily eating its way through freedoms I took so for granted.

I was used to WFH, but now my husband was WFH, my oldest had TAFE shut down and my youngest was studying “FH” as well. I was happy we could be safe and not suffer financially, but as someone who requires a quiet space, I shelved my plans for the year.

Sometimes courage means knowing your limits and when to say no.

Sometimes courage is an understanding that life will throw sharp sticks, and you need to protect yourself and regather for when it is safe to start again.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

If years as a mature-aged student — forging a pathway to my first ever burning passion — taught me anything, it is that by creating a clear image of who you are, you can hold steady.

If who you wish to be is not possible right now, do not believe it can never happen or that your efforts have been wasted.

Such intrinsic courage does not fail at the first, or even fifth, hurdle.

I once read that direction, not speed, is pivotal when finding your way through life.

With a few pressing family issues and my youngest attempting the HSC in 2021, I’m still not quite ready to spring ahead, but I know my pathway when I am.

And hey, 60 is the new 40, am I right?

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post. For example a website or help line.

From UON / Open Foundation:

“Open Foundation is a free pathway program offered at the University of Newcastle for people who do not have the qualifications required for direct entry into an undergraduate degree program.’

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/study/pathways/open-foundation

 

Gosh I loved reading this from Tracey Lee because I remember a lot of what was happening as she plunged in…and see the top photo? A proud artist. Lately I have been loving her instagram pics where she includes art and art via nature. I was incredibly pleased to know of her graduation. However, like everything in 2020, the graduation could not happen in person. The photo here is from her graduation from the pathways’ program. Lots to be proud of here and perhaps for others to find encouragement in their tertiary study ventures.

Thank you!

Denyse.

Tracey Lee’s  Social Media:

Business Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/LPFdesign

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tracey_ArtTx

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tracey_arttx/

This series continues over the next months.

If you have  story to share, please leave me a message in the comments.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Leaving 22/51 #LifeThisWeek. 67/2021.

Leaving 22/51 #LifeThisWeek. 67/2021.

When I saw this optional prompt, my mind went to writing more about “leaving my role as a school principal” and then I thought, I have already written about that here and here.

Sometimes we can leave without knowing it will be the last time we do that.
I find that a challenge in some ways. Sad, but true.

This is my late mother on Dad’s 83rd birthday making sure there was a cake for celebration. She could no longer make one but a store bought one sufficed and my daughter and her kids, along with my niece were there…11 January 2007.

We did not know how unwell Mum actually was until the following couple of weeks which were a quick succession of trips to ED, back home, admission to private hospital, MRIs & more and then….a diagnosis. My mother had secondary brain tumours with within 2 months of this photo she died. She, along with Dad and her family and her treating doctors agreed ‘no surgery nor treatment’. We never did know the primary source.

Whilst we, her family, did expect that her health would deteriorate rather rapidly, it was always her wish to “stay at home” but she admitted to Dad, that she knew this was all too much for him as she became bed ridden  and incontinent and she agreed with his decision, made with her long-time G.P. that some kind of palliative care at a local private hospital would be the best for her.

So, Mum left, in an ambulance that Friday morning and was admitted. Dad and I agree NOW  that the Friday was a poor choice – no proper staff who could make decisions about her room and her care until Monday – but he too was exhausted.

She left here:

Then when she died it was from a room here: I can actually guess which one, but I won’t point it out. She died in the latter hours of Monday 5th March and Dad had been told to go home. She waited till then.

 

Leaving to meet a new sibling! As grandparents, back when we lived close to our family and were caring for the grandchildren we had no more privileged role on a special day in 2013 than to collect a grandson (from school) and granddaughter (from pre-school) to take them to meet their parents…and their new sibling…

 

And preparing to leave Sydney took a lot of doing.

The house we lived in had been ours brand new from 1998 onwards. It did though date itself over time, and as we had decorated and changed room configurations. Because my husband is one very talented renovator, he began the process in 2013 even though we were yet to firm up that decision…which in its own way had to be made at the right time…and it was in 2014..more on that here.

 

I wish I had known just how much leaving our home of many years,  our family, friends, my career ….and so on, would affect me emotionally. But…I know now that leaving as we did, affected me later, as my psychologist in 2016 told me ” emotions/feelings take longer than the events and decisions” to catch up with us. More about that in this post. and here too.

Fast forward to leaving hospital after my BIG cancer removal and mouth reconstruction in July 2017. What a happy day to be leaving…surgery done, lots of recovery to come and time….but LEAVING!!

And I cannot finish a post for 31 May with leaving a small tribute of love to my Aunty as it was her birthday. She would be 98 today.

Known as Poppy. Much loved aunt and great aunt. She gave us “the world”…even though she did not have much, it was always with love.

Have you found leaving is hard or is it a pleasure?

Denyse.

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

Link Up #242

Life This Week. Link Up #242

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. It’s a kind connection I value as a blogger! 

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

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