Wednesday 3rd March 2021

Calm Days And Calm Nights. 2/2021.

Calm Days And Calm Nights. 2/2021.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

We HAD moved on.

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

Meditation.

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

EVERY

SINGLE

DAY

& NIGHT.

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

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

What Meditation Is Not.

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

What Meditation Is.

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

How Did I Get Here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

there is only one moment: now

that we can only control one person, us

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

AND, that it’s human to be like this.

This image is my iphone locked screen.

Calm Days And Calm Nights. What Is This About?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And may you never stop learning!

Denyse.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Word Of The Year. 1/51 #LifeThisWeek. 1/2021.

Word Of The Year. 1/51 #LifeThisWeek. 1/2021.

W  E  L  C  O  M     E    V   E   R   Y   O   N  E    2   0   2   1

Welcome to Life This Week in 2021. I am so glad you are joining us. Every Monday for 51 weeks this is the place to connect, to share, to add, to comment and to meet-up virtually with many! Love this community. Thank you for being one very important part. If you are new here, extra big welcome. The optional prompts for the weeks ahead are found on the home page. Denyse.

 

For the past three years I set a word of the year for me to live by. I admit I found this both a blessing and a curse. Ha! It was more the former than the latter. I did say to myself in November:I think I will leave trying to live with a word of the year in 2021′

Then on 30th November for my 71st Birthday my dear husband wrote this to me on the card’s envelope:

There it was. A word to live with and by, and as many who read here know I do love having my smile. So now you know!

 

Why “SMILE”?

  • A smile is a valuable form of communication and connection.
  • I know for some people smiles can be hard to manage depending on the time and circumstances and not everyone is a ‘smiler’. That is what makes the world go round, we are all different.
  • I too do not like being told “smile!!”. Umm. No, unless I have the emotions that warrant a smile, I may be able to slightly fake it but truly I prefer the genuine smile.
  • I know there are many more muscles used in the face to frown and far fewer to smile and that can be a suggestion as a mood lifter.
  • In fact, the old adage of ‘fake it till you make it’ can work as a psychological tool at times. Try it.

Some Thoughts on Smiling.

“A simple smile. That’s the start of opening your heart and being compassionate to others.”

– Dalai Lama

– Thich Nhat Hanh

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

– Dr. Seuss

“The greatest self is a peaceful smile, that always sees the world smiling back.” – Bryant H. McGill

“https://www.keepinspiring.me/quotes-about-smiling/ecause of your smile, you make life more beautiful.”

My Friends Shared Here About Smiles and Smiling After This Request From Me.

  • Reading random acts of kindness
  • My dog Lucky makes me smile all the time
  • You make me smile. Especially now with your beautiful new smile x
  • At this moment in time, seeing (and hearing) the delight as my 2 year old granddaughter experiences the beach. It starts as we prepare, then as she sees the water in the distance and then peaks as she plays in the water. Her pure happiness and joy at life in general makes me smile.
  • My adult kids, watching them live their lives makes me smile x
  • Snowflakes Music Ice cream Love Energy
  • Babies laughing
  • My garden

 

The Story of My Smile.

It’s said we often don’t know how much we appreciate something until it’s gone. I agree.

Regular readers here will know that I was diagnosed with a form of head and neck cancer in the top area of my mouth and this page tells the whole story.

The loss of what I counted on as something unique to me and special, oh so special, my smile was something that I came to terms with over time. I had to.

However, the length of time it took for me to get my smile back was fourteen long, arduous, surgery and treatment filled months.

The day I got to see what  my new  smile would look like nearly brought me to tears. It was like being reunited with an old but changed new friend.

Under each of the photos here I have added some commentary connecting the word S M I L E to:

  • why I smile(d)
  • the story behind the smile
  • what can make me smile
  • appreciation for my team who gave me back my smile

 

That’s the story of my smile and why I chose the word for 2021. Actually I now think the word chose me. In a way, it was from my husband’s compliment and then this. I found a letter he never sent but he sure did proudly share with me and I have permission to share now here.

From B about my smile: written in 2018.

ABC Recording Studio, William St., SYDNEY.

I would dearly love to record a song for my wife of 48 years. I first encountered her at the Tamworth RSL Club where we were attending a Teacher’s Conference. Seated at the same table that evening, I was immediately struck by her smile. Since then, we have combined to produce two great children and eight adorable grandchildren.

Two years ago that smile was seriously threatened by a most unusually rare squamous cell cancer in her mouth. However, thanks to the brilliant intervention of an unusually rare surgeon at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Camperdown, Prof Jonathan Clark, she now has a new palate hewn from leg flesh and bone. Now that unusually rare smile has returned even more vibrant than before.

So, the song I would like, with your wonderful help, to dedicate to her is the Carpenters’ “Sweet Sweet Smile”!

 

Of course, smiling is contagious and I do this as much as I can when I am out and about to show my appreciation for others.

It is made harder by the addition of the mask thanks (no thanks) to COVID19 but I will still smile with my eyes and use words of appreciation where I can.

I hope your year has begun well.

Do you choose a word for the year?

I will review the word I had for 2020 in a future post.

Thanks for being here!

Denyse.

Link Up 221.

Life This Week. Link Up #221

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 Optional Prompt is Announcement. 11/1/2021

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Twenty One (2015),

Chapter Twenty Two (2016- mid May 2017),

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

Chapter Twenty Four (2019)

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

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

 

Part Two of Three. Chapter 25. 2020.

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

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

MAY 2020.

Family.

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

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

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

 

My Self Care In May.

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

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

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

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

Health Matters. May, June, July and August.

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

MAY:

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

JUNE:

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

JULY:

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

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

AUGUST:

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

 

What a Four Months That Was! 

But wait, there is MORE.

Daily Life with COVID19.

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

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

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

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

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

Head and Neck Cancer Awareness and Support.

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

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

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

More from COVID Year 2020 for Me To Remember!

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

Grateful for Family Visits.

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

Denyse.

Link Up 220

Life This Week. Link Up #220

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

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

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

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Mindful Art Helps To Heal Me. 91/2020.

Mindful Art Helps To Heal Me. 91/2020.

Since way before my cancer diagnosis in May 2017, I used art – my generic term for all things visually & kinaesthetically creative – as a distraction and mindful way to help me focus on ‘just one thing’ and to reduce levels of anxiety and stress. I have written quite a few posts about this and some can be found here.

What I have been doing lately.

I always have a few different sizes in art/display books to work on. I tend to use different sizes for mandalas, patterns and for drawing. However, this is no rule to this. I like a variety of choices.

Choices in books, materials and media. The following three photos are from my post-2017 recovery from surgery times.

And now here’s more: Self-Care is first.

This from a small book I carry with me right now about Kindness. I read and reflect on its words when I have my solo coffee time.

Why Art?

For me, it’s tactile and as a visually-oriented person it appeals greatly and I can get lost in it. That is my version of calming down and becoming mindful. In fact, when I may be waiting on news – health or otherwise- I will often make up something very intricate to work with, and leave it on my art desk to return to over and over. It sure does focus me on JUST ONE THING.

Some examples here of projects which have helped me focus and in doing so I have been taken away from the worries and fears and into this world that helps keep me on a greater emotional even keel.

Update of what it’s been like for the past year or so.

 

  • In recent years I have tried to emulate others’ works by using their materials such as stamps and stencils and cut out figures.
  • What I found is that this kind of trying to be like another’s work was both frustrating and limiting.
  • I found some of the physical materials: paints, stamps and more very expensive to buy and then not using them as I had hoped.
  • I admit stamping is not my forte. In some ways I can stamp but not in the complicated ways of specialists.
  • There are some creatives too who only enjoy seeing their work reflected back to them.
  • I learned I am not that kind of artist. In fact, I gave some of my items away and stopped following those pages.
  • I know I enjoy the annual Index Card a Day Challenge from the US. It’s for 61 days of June and July. Here are this year’s completed cards.

Grateful for art and creativity

 

What might I be planning now?

  • I admit that whilst I love going back to enjoy some of the more familiar art activities like mandalas and patterns, I still need a challenge or two.
  • I learned above that my skills lie in other fields.
  • I know I am far more tactile than I realised but I also do not like messes on my hands. Mmmmm.
  • This for me then means cutting out and using glue sticks. I don’t like getting paint on my hands. Maybe too it’s because of where I have my art activities and this house is not ours. Nevertheless it’s good to know my limitations.
  • In my recent clear up and clean out of my art area I found many more blank books of differing sizes and this is exciting as our budget is limited. Actually it probably was limited when I bought these. Yikes.
  • Quality of materials means I do not get frustrated with what I am working with so I have, ahem, spent a lot of money over the past 18 months and I am well-stashed!!

Working with words and more.

  • I enjoy finding quotes that appeal to me and printing them to use in a page
  • I am very fortunate that most days the Daily Calm quote from my daily morning meditation has a great quotation I believe in and learn from so am saving them as photos for future use.
  • I have a series of small books like these below. They are the idea size for me to take in my little art kit and re-read and reflect.
  • I have bought most via book depository (free postage) but they may also be in smaller bookstores.

These books are really helpful.

About the healing part.

Whilst my cancer recovery has been excellent, I have also had several surgeries both minor and major in 2020. In times of needing to be at home…much more in COVID times of course, and to remain physically rested, then to distract myself from any feelings of deprivation (coffee, driving, getting out!) I used (and use) my art space.

From what I know of my physical recoveries which have been for the main part, excellent, I know that my emotional and mental outlook play a great role too.

Coming to my space for art and play is a way of winding back from many thoughts and just focussing on what is in front of me. This strategy has helped me more than I ever might have thought.

Since 6 October I have been released from all of my treatments and surgeries..by that I mean, no more regular visits to the GP for dressing changes and wound care from the second abdominal surgery. My prosthodontist saw me briefly when I had some mouth pain recently but he doesn’t want to to come back till around May 2021 and my head and neck surgeon said ” see you in September 2021″.

THAT is an awesome feeling...and in its own way sets me a new challenge.

How to enjoy myself even more creatively!

What do you do to help you heal?

Do you have any creative outlets?

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne and friends here for Lovin Life Linky.

 

 

 

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Healthy. 39/51. #LifeThisWeek. 78/2020.

Healthy. 39/51. #LifeThisWeek. 78/2020.

When I was blogging more frequently, health and mindfulness were a category for blog posts. These days, like many, my posts are limited to twice a week.

This is good for my health in some ways as I am not feeling too much pressure to perform, aka write posts, and can enjoy the writing of the two I do more.

About Me.

  • Being healthy is a relatively new idea for me…I was raised to be healthy and was…I am talking about lifestyle & choices
  • For many years I balanced my life …in a not so good way…with eating for comfort and doing less as I was quite worn out by life
  • I knew limited ways in which to care for myself because…as many do…I was too busy caring for others: at work, and in my family life.
  • I do much much better now in the self-care and health stakes as I have learned much in my years living following head and neck cancer.

Then I Was Diagnosed With Cancer.

Those who have followed me before and since this diagnosis know that I found out I had a head and neck cancer, specifically squamous cell carcinoma of the top gums (maxilla) and under the top lip. All about that, and many more posts outlining the years of surgeries and more are here: Head and Neck Cancer.

But Before Then.

My emotional health was at an all time low from 2013 into early 2017 for a number of reasons:

  • ageing and becoming somewhat disenchanted by some of its effects
  • retirement from all of my meaningful and paid work over this time
  • my weight was the highest it had been and with encouragement from my GP and my own determination, I lost some kilos over a year with greater awareness of why I ate, and ensuring I moved more
  • finishing up grandparent care at our house and actually being glad because I was finally tiring and becoming worn out by it
  • making a move from all I knew: Sydney, our family, friends….to the Central Coast
  • this move was one I thought I wanted (and still agree it was the right move) but my emotional health brought me down into spirals of anxiety and fear along with the dreaded Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • the health professionals I saw then all said it was reactive depression and anxiety was part of the transitioning. Not a diagnosis of either. I do take a low dose anti-depressant now to help with IBS more than anything and getting off to sleep
  • I admit I am one of what is known as the “worried well”.

SO….in some ways I was not surprised that I had cancer diagnosed in May 2017 …I can see that others may have felt stress was a cause. That it is not a direct link, but from what I know about cancer, it is random.  Some people thought my immune system was down due to the appearance of my mouth. THAT,  was actually the beginning of cancer…but no-one thought that till April 2017 when I insister my dentist remove the bridge from my upper gums.

This quote sums cancer up. From an Australian surgeon:

Head and Neck Cancer Requires Frequent Checks.

From the diagnosis on May 18 2017, to the big reconstruction surgery on July 6 2017, through to further surgeries for skin grafts and checking inside my mouth, glands in neck area and many visits to the prosthodontist, I had:

  • post-surgery checks after a few days to a few weeks to see my head and neck surgeon and his surgical assistant, nurse specialist
  • three monthly checks for the first year
  • any time where I may have seen/felt an issue, such as additional skin forming, and my surgeon saw me within weeks
  • four monthly checks for the next year
  • weekly and fortnightly visits to the prosthodontist as he continued to work on the making of the upper prosthesis
  • then monthly to two monthly visits to him, until COVID. Last time I saw him was February 2020 and I am returning in mid October as he is now doing regular checks again
  • this year, the visits to Sydney’s Chris O’Brien Lifehouse were at 6 month intervals.
  • THEN, at my recent early September visit, after clear CT scans of my head, neck and chest, and after visual examination and more, I am now on:
  • a 12 month check up..so will not be back until September 2021.

“MY” Prof…as I call him, Professor Jonathan Clark AM recently became chair of a new program at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Sydney University where this grant will enable him and his team create software and 3D models for head and neck surgery on the spot. My surgery, over 3 years ago, meant a delay as my team here in Australia  and the software developers in Europe made the program for my surgery and the model for my  mouth which had to be flown in from Belgium. Here’s the announcement of the donation for the funding so this program goes ahead.

ALWAYS happy to have a photo….

How I Manage My Health Now.

Interestingly with greater ease, thanks to a limited ability to eat a lot and to a better attitude to moving more.

Photos tell that story too. It is a way of keeping myself accountable too.

However, I never feel that I am missing out either. I have a better understanding of my need to nourish this body and to also enjoy the treats when I can.

And Then I Had to Do These Things.

Have both of my eyes’ cataracts removed and lens replaced. This happened on the cusp of COVID restrictions and I was glad to be done. In Sydney, over 3 days. Then of course, I had recovery but my opthalmologist has rooms up here so visits for checks were OK. I was quite shocked that from one annual visit to the next, it was cataracts time. This turning 70 was not quite what I thought. Now 6 months on, I use readers of a lower strength and no glasses for driving. Love the clearer views everywhere.

Left Eye Cataract Done

After hiding FROM myself and my problems with rectal prolapse* and the ways in which it impacted my day to day life, in May 2020, I was forced to face the matter as I could no longer live in pretend land. I look at it this way though, in managing my recoveries – physical and emotional – from those years of head and neck cancer I could not face more investigations into what is wrong. But dear readers, there was a lot wrong. Google rectal prolapse and what it means. Let’s just say, I paid a small fortune for incontinence aids, and suffered a great deal from shame about this condition.

Grateful to be ‘out of’ another surgery.

Getting One of the Things* Above Fixed…and Added Complications. 

Again COVID changed a few things but from my GP’s referral to a colorectal surgeon who insisted on a colonoscopy “no cancer or polyps but def need rectal prolapse repair”…and then needed surgery I became resigned to what needed to be done. From early May to late July I waited for the  surgery called rectopexi. The surgeon did a great job, especially complicated by my inners where he also found (surprise) a hernia needing repair. This necessitated a horizontal incision AND, the best (not) news, a vertical incision. Meeting in an upside down T at the bottom of my abdomen. The surgery, has worked. He took the slack inner workings of my rectum and has stitched them to a bone low in my back. I have no prolapse and normal (for me) bowel movements for the….first time in perhaps a decade…and…

My recovery in hospital and at home was slow as expected but at my first post-op appointment he told me I was a star for recovering in exactly the way it was best. I liked that. Especially as I did not quite hit it off with him at my initial consult…I was scared.

Three weeks into post-surgery recovery I noticed a section of the upside T section of the wound was kind of not staying together. I showed my GP and he thought it would be OK. But take this anti-biotic and apply this cream…and let’s hope it resolves.

It did not.

Within 2 weeks of seeing my GP, I was ‘astonished to see and feel liquid forming over my nightie as I got up out of my chair. Eeek. Got an urgent appointment to the GP, who was ‘so sorry, Denyse’ but…It was called wound dehiscence and sometimes a wound will not stay together. My colorectal surgeon saw me the next day, and pronounced “can fix, back into hospital for wound debridement and we will put a VAC system on to help heal the wound over less time.”

Wound Debridement and the VAC. 

One month post first surgery for rectopexi I was back in the same hospital and cared for very well. Surgery was less than an hour. I stayed overnight so the surgeon and wound nurse could see I understood how to live with the VAC system. The best part of having paid for our private health insurance since the late 1960s it means either of us can get the best care, when and where we can. I know this is a two-part health system in Australia but I am very grateful.

Each week I was visited two days a week by the Wound Nurse. This was all covered under ‘Hospital at Home” care from our Teachers Health Program. A machine was supplied, each of the changes of dressings and the costs of visits from the Wound Nurse. This lasted just over 3 weeks.

Since then, our GP and his practice nurse is taking care of my wound dressing. The progress is amazing on the wound. I have so many photos, none of which I will add here but they give me and my husband (the photographer) updates. The medical and surgical teams appreciate my dated photo collages.

Is that IT?

I don’t know but I sure would like to be free of appointments for  the above. This is likely to occur in the next two weeks or so. At least I have no VAC on me and have full independence.

I am back to my prosthodontist in October but I am pretty sure my mouth care will be praised.

Emotionally I am getting there. I know I have gained a great deal of resilience through much of these past 3+ years but am looking forward to a some respite from health professionals for a while,

THANK you…if you got this far.

I hope you are healthy and well.

Stay that way!

Denyse.

Link Up 208

Life This Week. Link Up #208

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.

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COVID-19 Test Experience For Me. 33.1/2020.

COVID-19 Test Experience For Me. 33.1/2020.

It sure is a topical “event” around the world and now I am outlining my recent experience as a potential* COVID19 patient.

*no spoiler alert: the good news before you read any further is that I tested NEGATIVE and that’s great.

Friday 24 April 2020.

Morning

I woke with a sore throat that is not unusual for me to have.

I knew I had been a bit ‘hayfever-ish’ the day before as my eyes were a bit runny and when I saw my G.P. on Wednesday before, he thought it was an allergy type of thing with my eyes and use the drops I have.

I was determined to visit the beach for a walk as the weather was (still is!) amazing and felt up for it. Despite bit of a sore throat.

Loved my walk and on way back home bought some betadine throat gargle in case it worsened. I know it is not always helpful but I felt better for having it.

Afternoon.

Later in the afternoon as I was doing some art, I noticed that I felt a bit warmer than normal and so, took my temperature. It was over what is normal for me. It was then I recalled the earlier messages from the N.S.W. Premier and N.S.W. Health about getting a COVID-19 test even with the mildest of symptoms.

So after briefly chatting with my husband about doing this, I first called our G.P. I thought there was a protocol for testing. I wanted to be sure. It turns out, I could have (and did) call the Health Hotline: 1800 022 222 where that person entering my details and symptoms said “go get the test”. There is also a National Coronavirus Health Information Hotline 1800 020 080

Before rocking up to Wyong Hospital’s COVID-19 Centre, I rang first: 4394 9200 and they said come on down now and by 4.15 p.m. there I was.

I admit to a wee bit of trepidation knowing once I had started this information sharing…and agreeing to the testing I would now be part of the system and information shared between health professionals but I also had a better feeling that I needed to find out.

The hospital is literally up the road from us and the signage made it easy to find the clinic.

Here’s what happened next:

  • Waited outside the door until it was opened by a person fully covered in what I now know is par for health and safety of personnel: gown, gloves, mask
  • I was asked to clean my hands with sanitiser
  • I was given a mask to put on
  • The nurse then took my temperature (which has reverted to normal of course) and my pulse
  • I was asked a series of questions about risks/exposure: all of which were a negative from me
  • Then I was directed to person behind a screen who completed my contact details (which did need updating as Wyong Hospital community nursing staff were those who attended me at Gorokan after my cancer surgery in 2017)
  • Following that, I was given my plastic folder and asked to walk around the side of the room – a very large one, with arrows for directions and exit
  • I was greeted kindly (again, everyone was lovely and relaxed and helpful!) by a Registered Nurse who asked me to sit in a chair.
  • There were groups of chairs, all empty, set out in rows and columns with correct distancing between them.
  • The questions I was asked now were repeats of earlier ones (verifications) and then more including current health status and the only one I answered ‘yes’ to was about having cancer.
  • We chatted a bit about their day (it had been much busier than now where I was the only one) and about ‘back to school’ as she has one HS student
  • The test would be one taken from inside my nose reaching down to my throat and I mentioned the better nostril for me, post head and neck cancer reconstructions would be the left.
  • I was then asked to go to a partitioned room where another nurse greeted me in a kind and relaxed manner, indicating her preference for that nostril too as she was left-handed. Lefties unite I said.
  • Yes, the test is a tiny bit uncomfortable and it was over in a tick. No sneezing or tears…as an auto reaction, just “glad that’s done”.
  • I’d been given two sheets of information earlier and told, when I got home, to register for text results.
  • I was also told by the nurse earlier that as of now, I was to consider I have COVID19 and to self-isolate at home.
  • I followed the exit signs, clutching my 2 pieces of paper and drove home.

Self-Isolation At Home: Friday to Sunday 26 April.

This took a bit of a think on how to do it without impacting on my husband and me too much. Here’s what worked for us in a large house.

  • We literally stayed distant from each other physically.
  • We already have separate bedrooms
  • I have a space in the house where he does not enter and that is where my computer and art spaces are
  • The shared bathroom was now his, and I moved my things to the other bathroom. We use only one normally as who wants to clean 2?
  • In terms of food preparation and kitchen use, I wiped over every surface such as door and drawer handles etc then left the kitchen so my husband coulr get his dinner.
  • When he was done, I donned my disposable gloves and prepared my simple tea.
  • We sit in different rooms for TV and by 7.30 p.m. were back in our bedrooms.

The Next Day: A.N.Z.A.C. Day. More Self-Isolation. 

  • This became a repeat of the day before.
  • I also needed to have some time to think about how to manage this mindfully
  • Because of my cancer diagnosis (and long spells at home) and the recent weeks of staying home unless needing to go out for essential reasons I was able to come around to managing it well.
  • The small shopping needs we had we sought by my husband.
  • I did some art, I completed the blog post for tomorrow, I talked to Dad on the phone but did not mention this, I loved seeing the various way sA.N.Z.A.C. Day was commemorated in COVID-19 ways, and I went outside. I looked at nature and marvelled at my phone’s camera results….

Waiting for The Results.

I admit that waiting for this result was somewhat like waiting for cancer results so I guess I have had practice. However, I was hoping I would get the results before the Monday as we are hosting a visit from our granddaughter.

At the hospital I was told it could be anywhere from 3 days to 5 days. I understand erring on the longest possibilities.

I used the system from the NSW Health Pathology to receive my results by text and enrolled in that on the Friday evening.

I started feeling better from the sore throat as Saturday evening came and some of my tiredness had dissipated.

Nevertheless, until a negative result was received, I did have to act AS IF I was positive.

The Result: Sunday 26 April 2020.

Waking just after 8.00 a.m. I noticed a message on my phone.

It was from N.S.W. Health Health Pathology COVID-19 SMS Results Service.

Once I had located my unique pin, I received this:

Because none of those conditions applied to me, I was able to cease the self-isolation precautions.

I am not being anything other than grateful. I also know this COVID-19 can be anywhere and we all need to be vigilent.

But how amazing is the time between taking my test to receiving my result (it came in much earlier than I saw it) was: 36 hours. 

This is why I blogged about it.

To share my experience and to connect with anyone who may wish to know more.

I am sending my best wishes and appreciation to all who will continue to help those of us in the community taking risks of exposure as they work to help eradicate this virus.

I also send my best to those who will be returning to the unknown of schools and teaching in Term 2 in Australia and elsewhere.

This is just my experience, for my records too.

Have you been tested? How was the experience for you?

I do hope you are well.

Stay Safe.

Stay Well

Take Care.

Denyse.

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Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

 

Welcome to the first in the series for 2020.

This optional prompt pops up every 7 weeks or so.

Today here’s mine!

Before kicking off: I have made two changes to my daily routine which is helping me:

One is to consider what I am grateful for each day. I tend to think about something or someone through the day and by even thinking that way I notice a change within. I blogged about it here. I am doing an instagram post each day here: @denysewhelan_blogs and no longer have my account private. I still have @denysewhelan going and no longer private...look at me taking a risk

Two is I am listening to Calm meditation app twice a day. One session, the Daily Calm, before I get up from bed and last thing at night a session of whatever I need at the moment. I have just listened to 10 or so day of “relationship with self.”. Calm is free initially and then you can decided to buy. I got a lifetime price as a bargain in 2018 and am never sick of it. Sleep stories are ace too on nights when I am less than sleep-ready.

What Have I Been Doing?

  1. remembering to follow my daily routine: get up, have breakfast, get dressed and go somewhere for a coffee….come home, blog, read, relax, cook, sleep…
  2. this was, for the most part, pretty well kept.
  3. however and it may have been something that affected others too, I became more anxious than usual when we had extremes of threats:
  • Bushfires
  • More fires
  • High temperatures
  • Continued fires
  • And then it rained.
  • Rainfall was excessive in some places and caused:
  • Flooding
  • Electricity to be cut
  • And NONE of this directly affected me.
  • Mmmmmm.
  • so I was most fortunate to have an in-house counsellor (aka my husband) but also that my previous years of learning how to self-care via means at my disposal actually helped..a great deal.
  • but being an avid follower of social media there were signs that my emotional health was being impacted when I stayed on news and updates for fires/disaster sites for long periods.
  • I realised even before I was “told” by my husband to stop. That was a good self-care measure in itself.

 

Why Have I Needed to Do This?

  1. I know I thrive on being informed and also caring about and for others….BUT there has to be a limit placed.
  2. I do this now by asking myself “what is it I can do that will help this person/those people etc?” If there is nothing really, I do send out a message of empathy where it’s appropriate and I might even do this.
  3. The loving kindness messages are always a way for me to feel a greater connection with others.
  4. I recalled with some hyped and stressed memories of the 5 days of the 2015 East Coast Low when we first moved to the Central Coast and I needed to talk a few of those memories through.
  5. Once I had done that I also knew I am in (and still am in) a much better headspace some 5 years later thanks to all the work I have done to achieve greater emotional health.

Loving Kindness (Metta) can be said silently for yourself, for another or for many. These words above are just one group.

How Do I Integrate This Into My Life?

  1. I continue to follow my routine as much as possible allowing for days (there were a couple!) where to go out of the house meant to be on unsafe roads in flooding rains so I stayed home
  2. I managed to fill in those particular days with little and varied projects of mine.
  3. I automatically come to my art desk when I need to zone out and concentrate on ONE thing and that worked well. In fact it has been something I have done before as well.
  4. I love the variety of activities I now have at my disposal and made use of exploring more of the media too.
  5. My husband was well-occupied with his in-house hobbies and some cabinet making in the garage so with no power lost, we really did well!

 

Afterwards. Onwards.

  1. Self-care is on-going and it can change in its focus for me, depending on how I am.
  2. This week (in fact today!) I am at Westmead seeing my prosthodontist for an update on my upper mouth. I used to get quite stressed about these visits “what will he see that I cannot” and last week I said “STOP”.
  3. I had been living in fear that had no justification.
  4. It was shifting the relaxed mood in our house (and relationship) to tense because I was experiencing some mouth pain (it IS always there, it just seemed worse)
  5. I changed how I approached the pain. I stopped focussing on it by not mentioning it. I also took panadol as instructed.
  6. Self-care is pretty well an on-going matter and recently on Bev Aisbett’s Facebook page (Living with “IT” Anxiety) she posted this, with permission to share:

Recently I took this selfie looking back to  Norah Head Lighthouse in the background, the huge seas reaching the shore…to remind me of how well I am, grateful for all in my life and how far I have come. More to come too, of course!

How is your self-care going?

What do you notice if you are not keeping up your self-care practices?

I look forward to catching up with the comments after I am back from Westmead!

Denyse.

Link Up 176.

Link Up #176. Life This Week.

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

* Please add just ONE post each week!

* 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 by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice.

* THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 8/51 Unusual 23/2/2020

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Try This: Gratitude: 5, 10, 15. 4/2020.

Try This: Gratitude: 5, 10, 15. 4/2020.

Here’s something to complement and build on the Good News post from Monday!

I thought that there have been so many positive reactions to the Good News here that it was timely to add an idea about:

G R A T I T U D E

and how making a connection with yourself, the world and your inner being, you can indeed seek good news in your life from the use of gratitude as a marker.

Being 15 January when this post goes live, I chose to make a challenge based on:

5

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!

10

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!
  6. To be able to find food in my supermarket that is affordable
  7. To enjoy making meals and snacks that work for me
  8. To use technology that connects me with people I may never meet but are already friends
  9. To be able to breathe with ease since much of the bushfire smoke has gone
  10. To take myself out for coffee most days

 

15

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!
  6. To be able to find food in my supermarket that is affordable
  7. To enjoy making meals and snacks that work for me
  8. To use technology that connects me with people I may never meet but are already friends
  9. To be able to breathe with ease since much of the bushfire smoke has gone
  10. To take myself out for coffee most days
  11. To find that I can bring myself calm inside as I do some art
  12. To have the best head and neck professional team caring for me since May 2017
  13. To hear the bellbirds as I drive on the Pacific Highway near the small waterways
  14. To know that I am loved by my husband
  15. To find gratitude in more and more as time goes on

 

This is something for readers to consider.

Maybe 5 is doable.

Maybe 10 is…

or you could s   t   r   e   t  c   h   to 15.

Whatever is what you can decide to do, will, I can guarantee bring a shift to your inner self.

Trust me! I was late to this but now I cannot NOT find gratitude around me.

Come on, give it a go.

Share the word on gratitude too.

Tell me in the comments, what are you grateful for right now!

Denyse.

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 © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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