Tuesday 28th June 2022

Back to Newcastle! #LifesStories.#LinkUp. 24/2022.

Welcome (back) to Life’s Stories.

A Fortnightly Link Up here. The dates for the year are here and I hope you can keep on linking up too.

Back to Newcastle! #LifesStories.#LinkUp. 24/2022.

Since moving from Sydney to the New South Wales Central Coast, Newcastle is a big city closer to us than ever before.

It has changed immensely in the decades of this and last century. Going from a fully industrially-centred place (coal, steel making and more) to a renewed up-market place with inner city Sydney vibes, and harbour views along with beaches.

I’ve been to “Newy” (Newcastle) most years we have been up this way. Newy, by the way, is an affectionate term we Aussies seem to do with cities, places and people’s names: we shorten them affectionately.

About an hour from our place, along the M1 to the city centre makes it a pretty easy trip. With some help from google maps of course.

I was off to the Newcastle Writers Festival 2022 and made sure I had a car space booked. I am a planner and I do not apologise for that!

But first, I had a small crisis of confidence about appearance so needed a mirror check and selfie…and look what else happened after days & days of rain…the sky had changed at 7.45 a.m. to make it a sunny & dry day!

Arrived in plenty of time to notice a lot on the walk from the carpark to City Hall: green spaces, trees, and more…SUNshine gave everyone an extras spring in their step!

I loved attending Sydney Writers Festivals back in the years we lived in Sydney. They are a great chance to listen to the authors sharing THEIR stories about their books.

Newcastle Writers Festival in 2019 was a great occasion for me…and in fact, it was from hearing Jane Caro AM speak about Accidental Feminists (her non fiction book at that time) that I came up with the plan for the Women of Courage series. Here’s more about that.

And as a great fan of Trent Dalton and Rick Morton, it was awesome to meet Trent and catch up with Rick.

Then this happened…Covid. It stopped all events that were live so there was no Writers Festival (other than an on-line event) in 2020 and 2021.

But in 2022 It was BACK! With much fanfare, an amazing group of authors and for me, a ‘cheap’ way to be part of it when our NSW Discover Vouchers could help defray costs.

Where the arrow is pointing from is my grey head, as I am in the front row, and listening to (and loving) Trent’s talk with Rosemarie Milsom the Festival director. Debbie from Debs World was watching live from her lounge room and we tweeted a  bit too. Fun to connect!

I got to hear Kate McClymont speak about her journalist and author career looking into crime in our state of N.S.W. She has had death threats (!) and has spoken with many from the world of organised (and other) crime that is a part of our state’s history.

I listened to Jane Caro speak about her book The Mother, and another author too. They spoke of their writing processes and where some of their ideas had arisen. Sadly both topics within their words are pretty common these days.

I was tired (but happy!) after the events and took a drive over to the water to check out the big seas that had taken away walls from beaches and sand, along with stopping a surfing event.

Still, it was great to be there on a dry weather day, enjoy some of the sights, and to drive leisurely home via the old Pacific Hwy to our place at the northern end of the Central Coast.

It is still a bit strange to be getting out and about like this as the limitations of Covid (and lately, weather events that were dire) have made us hesitant. Maybe us? We are still part of a dwindling group of people wearing masks at the shops. We were asked to wear masks at Newcastle Writers Festival.

And by the way, there were many more author and writers I would have loved to heard but…time. I could only manage one day away from home. That’s life as a post oral cancer person. Some of the writers I missed included Helen Garner, Clementine Ford, Julia Baird, and more. Sadly my friend Rick wasn’t there…he told me he thought he was but no..bit busy as well with a new book out that he edited: Growing Up In the Country:  Australia.

I’m pleased to add that my interest in reading is refreshed now and I am actually browsing fiction as well as non-fiction books. I will more than likely have a post for the What’s On Your Bookshelf too.

I also hope to attend the Words on the Waves Writers Festival at the southern end of the Central Coast in early June. Waiting for the program to be released. It had its first year in 2021 and I missed that it even happened. Not this time, I am signed up for updates. Here is more info. 

Do you know the city of Newcastle?

Are you a “fan” of Writers Festivals?

Do you have a favourite author you would like to meet?

Let me know if you get a chance in the comments.

Denyse.

It’s the Monday before Easter & the weather seems fine for driving to Dee Why to see Dad, so that’s my plan.

I will catch up with you here later.

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Women of Courage Series. #74. Ness. 119/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #74. Ness. 119/2021.

Two years & five months 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 conclude today: Thursday 30 September 2021.

Over a couple of weeks soon, I will publish a round-up series of posts  of the women who contributed: not all shared their names and some used initials only but all shared their story and I thank them over and over for their courage to do so. 

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

 

Trigger warning: Miscarriage and infant death. Breast cancer. Information may be found at the end of the post.

 

 

Welcoming Vanessa or Ness for short to this series. Interestingly we have known each other via blogging for probably around 10 years and she turned 50 this year just as my daughter did. We lived within about 8 kms of each other too for a along time, and most likely crossed paths in the local big shopping centre! But we have not yet met IRL (in real life) as they say. So, my words about Ness will likely make her blush a bit but I am not sorry. And we share a love of Downton Abbey!!

I have seen this woman’s life as she describes some of it here via her updates on social media platforms we both were part of when Australian blogging was a much bigger ‘thing’. I remember health news. Cancer news I mean. I also recall the ways in which she had to get on with what was very anxiety producing in treatment and recovery. We are both fans of the work based on Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) and there is a link at the end of the post.

May I add too, how proud I am to have seen Ness become trained in her work to be able to work in a library and even in Covid I see that she continues to make a contribution…and best of all, she has returned to blogging. Welcome back Ness. You were missed!

 

 

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

Over the years I’ve had an ongoing struggle with anxiety which eventually led to me figuring out that I’m on the autistic spectrum. I was officially diagnosed ten years ago at age 40.

In 2004 my husband was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Thankfully he is a survivor and going strong. It was a difficult period dealing with his treatment while we also had a toddler and a baby.

In 2007 I was expecting again but had a late miscarriage and had to give birth to my deceased baby which was very traumatic and devastating. Luckily I subsequently had another baby in 2008 and completed our family.

In late 2015 I was diagnosed with early stage triple negative breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy plus chemotherapy and radiation.

 

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

I spent many years as a stay at home parent but a year or two after my cancer treatment I began volunteer work for St. Vincent De Paul Society Service Centre .

Eventually I went back to TAFE and achieved a Diploma of Library and Information Services.

I originally worked in libraries and had always thought I’d eventually get back into it.

I got a casual job with a council library in January and also  work for a library shelf ready service.

So I guess the change was I stopped putting things off.

 

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

Don’t be afraid to admit it if you’re struggling and need help.

I would not have gotten through any of the above without taking medication and seeing a psychologist .

 

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

I must admit that I’m currently struggling again so I’m not sure how to answer the question.

I guess I can be scared and struggling yet still take action however small whereas before I avoided things.

 

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

Try to be kind to yourself the same way you would to a friend or family member in the same situation.

Remind yourself it’s not weakness to seek any help you may need including medication if appropriate.

Take things one day at a time and when you’re going through hell, just keep going.

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

The book The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris and the techniques used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy were helpful for me.

 

 

Thank you Ness, how pleased I am you have contributed to the series. And it is fitting that a fellow blogger’s story concluded not only Series 3 but Women of Courage Stories.

I so hope we can finally meet up in person too with cakies and coffee!!

Take care,

Denyse.

 

 

Social Media for Ness here:

Blog/Website

https://nessiville.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Nessofnessville/

Instagram:

http://www.instagram.com/ness_nessville

 

Resources That May Help: 

These sites are Australian-based. 

https://www.panda.org.au/

https://www.sands.org.au/stillbirth-and-newborn-death

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14 – Crisis Support and Suicide …

Russ Harris: Acceptance Commitment Therapy Information is here. The Happiness Trap is also another resource from Russ.

Breast Cancer resources: from Veronica’s  Women of Courage post found here. 

Pink Hope – Know Your Risk, Change Your Future

http://pinkhope.org.au

Be Dense Aware (Did you know dense breast tissue can make diagnosis more challenging?)

https://www.bedenseaware.com/

iPrevent – Breast Cancer Prevention Through Risk Assessment

https://nbcf.org.au/19/prevention-through-precision-medicine/

Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation – The 3 Step Breast Check

https://www.sbcf.org.au/resources/

National Breast Cancer Foundation – Zero Deaths from Breast Cancer by 2030 campaign

https://nbcf.org.au/

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Women of Courage Series. #73. Gillian Coutts. 116/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #73. Gillian Coutts. 116/2021.

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

Introducing Gillian Coutts who told me she is ‘just 50’ so I am guessing she was born in that year which was one I know well, having become a first time Mum then too. It was recommended to me by fellow educator and Woman of Courage Tracey here that I ask Gillian to do this story for us. And here she is. Mind you, we had the odd messaging conversation before the story landed. Something very familiar to many of us. On-line learning and also working on-line. From home. I am very glad she did commit her story to email, and with her images, I know the story ahead will be of interest to many. Thank you Gillian.

 

 

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

Until I was in my late 30s, I’d been relatively lucky in life.

I’d had an interesting corporate career, come from a great family, I’d married a good man and become an instant step mum.

I became a bio-mum when I was 38, and a year later was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Lots of people at that time would have said I was courageous about the treatment and balancing work and family, but to me I was just doing what you had to do.

There was no other choice.

But what I did next was – in hindsight – more courageous.

There’s something about those experiences that helps you see life is short, and there’s not much point in living the life others expect you to, but rather, taking the path that you want to.

This for me was about finding an alternative career.

I’d been a typical corporate ladder climber, and while I’d started out with a big heart for people and social justice, I’d ended up managing divisions of consumer goods companies which seemed to be more about making profit from people buying things that they didn’t really need.

My heart was definitely not in that.

So when my role was made redundant a few years later, I decided not to take another “job” for two years.

It was risky as I’m the primary bread winner for our family, but I knew there had to be another way.

So I stitched together a “portfolio” of things – consulting, becoming a partner in Potential Project here in Australia, board roles.

The only criteria was that I had to work with people I loved doing things I enjoyed.

I also had to say yes to opportunities if I felt scared (but not if I didn’t want to do them).  So that took courage.

The thing that really took courage though was when my friend and I started to join a folk rock band.  That was really pushing the boat out there!

 

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

Joining the band is a great example of the challenges I felt all the way through the last ten years, in all the things I’ve tried.

It takes courage to dream of doing something that you’re not good at… yet.

It takes more courage to book the venue, show up and play when you know you’re still not that good… yet.

The funny thing was that when I joined the band, I thought maybe I could be one of the lead singers.

It turns out that my voice wasn’t that good.  I was relegated to be one of the back-up singers and played the keyboard, while two great young singers took the lead.

Then I wasn’t that great at the piano, and the bass player decided he’d be better at keys, so I learnt to play the bass too.

Then the lead singers left, and my friend and I looked at each other and decided we had to go for it.

So we got some singing lessons and have slowly worked our way to the front.  We all take it turns to lead now, and have great harmonies too.

It’s been a lesson for me in continuing to turn up, even if you’re not perfect.

It’s taught me an enormous amount about performing in all aspects of life.

If you are content in yourself, and not too precious about how others see you, you can help other people have a really great time.

Even if you’re not the next person likely to win Australia’s Got Talent!

 

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

Letting go of the need to be perfect is so liberating!

It is also infectious.

People have loved coming to see us perform because they can feel free to sing along and just have a good time.

Many have come to tell us that they’ve also been inspired to pursue their own “not yet perfect…” kind of project and share their pride with us.

 

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

I think I’ve realised that what is most entertaining and engaging is when you as a performer are engaged, present and having fun yourself.

Sure, you need a base level of talent to not completely embarrass yourself, but fully committing to the present moment is a joyful feat in itself.

It’s rare and people appreciate it.

I’ve had to give a lot of talks and run programs for leaders all over the world now where I would have previously (and still sometimes do) have a massive imposter syndrome moment.

And then I remember that’s human, I know my stuff well enough and just commit to the moment.  And 99% of the time that’s more than enough.

 

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

When it comes to pursuing your dreams, think less about how others will see you, and more about what you want to do for others.

Compassion is an amazing catalyst for courage.

 

Thank you so much. Living life to the fullest with all its ups and downs yet finding a balance between work and family AND being yourself.

Denyse.

Social Media Connections for Gillian.

Blog/Website: www.potentialproject.com/Australia, www.vegasnerve.com.au

 Twitter: @GillianTPP

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gillian.coutts.7

LInkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gilliancoutts/

 

Book: One Second Ahead – Enhance your performance at work with mindfulness

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Women Of Courage Series. #72. Alice Leung. 113/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #72. Alice Leung. 113/2021.

 

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

Trigger warning: miscarriage and infant death. Information may be found at the end of the post.

 

To introduce Alice Leung properly I will say she is someone I admire greatly professionally and personally. We have met, so many years back now , at a Teach Meet when I was living in Sydney. Being on twitter, as a supporter of all matters education,  I see Alice’s tweets and know how much she puts into her education thoughts, and actions. In her late 30s now, when I asked Alice to share her story, I was not surprised when I read her response. I do, like many of her friends and family remember these experiences well. Alice and I determined that we include a trigger warning for this post, and information at the end of the story. Thank you Alice.

 

 

 

 

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

There has been two times when I had to be particularly courageous. The first time was when I lost my second child due to a miscarriage and the second time was when I gave birth to my third child at home (I didn’t plan for her to be born at home; she came too quickly!).

 

The miscarriage was a very early miscarriage. As a science teacher, I am very aware of embryo growth and understood that the baby was lost a very early stage when he/she was a bundle of cells.

I didn’t expect to feel the great sense of loss that I ended up feeling for “a bundle of cells”.

It was hard to deal with the internal dialogue of what felt like logic versus emotions.

I chose not to take leave from work and pushed through it.

It was not an easy time and my first experience of living through what I felt as a tragic loss while the world just kept going and I had to eventually also just keep going.

 

The birth at home was a very different courageous experience.

I didn’t plan for my third child to be born at home.

I just couldn’t make it to the hospital in time.

An ambulance was called and paramedics came right at the moment she was born.

Birthing a child away from a hospital setting and without health professionals carries high risk and that went through my head throughout the birth.

However, I carried on remembering everything the midwives told me with my first child, the advice that was over the phone from the triple 0 operator and just do what needed to be done.

 

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

I think both experiences have made me stronger as a person.

Whenever I have to do things that make me nervous like presenting to a large audience, I often joke that I’m not nervous because this is nothing compared to birthing a child at home yourself.

If I’ve done that, I can do anything.

 

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

Courage comes in many forms.

Courage doesn’t have to be a highly visible and theatrical event.

It can be something that is very personal, private and simple like continuing to carry on when it seems to be impossible.

 

 

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

Yes, because I’ve done it before and know that I can get past challenges.

So even though the situations that require courage may now be different and will be different in the future, I have more confidence and belief that I can get through it.

 

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

One step at a time. And there will be steps back. But just keep moving forward and eventually it becomes easier.

 

Oh yes I remember the events you describe Alice and I am so sorry for your  the loss of your second baby. I do remember, like many who are your friends…and via twitter, hearing the news about your third child. It was an amazing feat for sure. Thank you so much for sharing. I like the way you compare what you did back then to when you are speaking in public, and via media. You are doing an exceedingly good job in your role supporting the NSW  Teaching Profession. Thank you for all you do there too.

 

Denyse.

 

 

 

These sites are Australian-based. 

https://www.panda.org.au/

https://www.sands.org.au/stillbirth-and-newborn-death

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14 – Crisis Support and Suicide …

 

 

Alice’s social media.

Blog/Website:  aliceleung.net

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/aliceleung

 

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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