Sunday 31st May 2020

Women Of Courage Series. #41 Johanna Castro. 43/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #41 Johanna Castro. 43/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

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.

So good to welcome Johanna (I know her as Jo!)  to share her story here this week. Jo, who is 62, is a regular blogger and writer who has been part of the international and Australian travel and writing scene for a long time. I am pretty sure Jo and I met (or at least saw each other in passing!) at Digital Parents Conference for Bloggers in Melbourne in 2012. So many people at that one and so many are no longer blogging but I have made many on-line and off-line friends thanks to occasions such as those – sadly none like them anymore- conferences and am always grateful for those connections made. Now it’s Jo who is sharing her story today.

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

 

Courage is a funny thing.

  • As the ability to do something that frightens you, I think it presents itself in both big life changing ways and in small everyday incidents.
  • For some people it’s finding the courage to face life in the most warrior-like way when halted by heartbreaking or frightening setbacks.
  • For others it’s being able to summon up courage at points in their lives when if they didn’t they would surely spiral downwards and not recover from the problem.

And for some, courage has to be summonsed every day just to keep living.

 

Have I been courageous?  I would say no, not really.

Although in the overall scheme of things perhaps some people might disagree.

  • Was I courageous when I set off from England for the Continent aged 18 with a rucksack on my back and a guitar slung over my shoulder, waving the White Cliffs of Dover goodbye knowing not what to expect as I headed off to be a groom for a showjumping family in Belgium?

Was this in itself courageous?

  • Well, yes because I was young and shy and emotionally insecure and I was acting out of character and defying the status quo of what was expected of me.
  • But also, no not really, because many young people have set off on similar Dick Whittington quests to travel and see the world.
  • I was also deep down reaching for a new life to escape a situation that was beyond my control because domestic abuse tainted an otherwise idyllic childhood.
  • And this leap of faith into the unknown leaving privilege and fear behind, set the course for the rest of my life when moving countries became the status quo, through necessity rather than choice.

 

 

Some years later I met a geologist from South Africa when we were both backpacking in South East Asia.

When we married I half expected to always be adorned with pretty and priceless pieces of rock that he picked up during the course of his geological hammerings, and that we would be safely settled in England by the age of 40.

How wrong I was. The reality was that we would always be on the move. Project to project. Internationally. And geologists often go in at ground zero level when nothing, not even the houses to live in, have been built.

We’ve lived in the most remote situations.

  • A tiny caravan trawled to a spot high in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho next to a river which soon came down in flood. Here the mountain road was termed as ‘the road to hell and back’, the big wigs were helicoptered in, we drove.
  • I almost got away with swapping the outdoor Porta Loo they gave us for a palomino pony that a Basutho horseman brought by one day. At least until Dave and the village chief intervened.
  • On another occasion we went from the wide open spaces of South Africa, and a house with a large garden, to a flat the size of a postage stamp on the 22d floor of a high rise building in Hong Kong where I home schooled our children for a year because there were there was a two year waiting list for a place in schools on Lantau Island where we lived.
  • My wild African toddlers were not impressed with the tiny balcony or our tiny flat, but we learnt to love Hong Kong with a vengeance.

In the very early years of our marriage Dave was offered a job as a geologist in the foothills of the Himalayas and I was pregnant with our first child. Six months pregnant and we had an auction on the lawn. All our worldly possessions and furniture went up for sale – bar what we could fit in our suitcases.

Sam was just 5 weeks old when we set off to live at a remote project site between Kathmandu and Pokhara, reached along treacherous roads, where we were without a phone, 3 hours from the nearest Doctor, and where food supplies were scarce. We had to put water through a 5 point purification process in our tiny kitchen before it was drinkable, and our diet consisted mostly of dhal, bhat, tarkari (lentil, rice and vegetable curry.)

I ended up breastfeeding Sam for 21 months, Dave became very sick from combined dysentery and hepatitis, and I was desperately tired, worried and home sick most of the time – though baby Sam thankfully survived in a robust way!

So I guess I have been courageous, and although people might say I’m lucky (of course) I have also had to sacrifice geographical safety and family stability for a life of constant change. We’ve moved 21 times, 11 times internationally. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and I can definitely vouch for that.

 

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

Having the courage to leave your roots, your family and friends and continuously jump off a proverbial cliff into the unknown has changed me because in time I realised that I didn’t have to live constrained by the limitations of other people’s expectations, or the chains that society places on us.

I also learnt that leaping into the unknown with courage and energy will always throw up fantastic opportunities and exciting new horizons along with lovely new friendships.

 

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

Don’t be afraid to change direction.

There is no wrong direction.

Go boldly and you will find pots of gold that you never even expected.

You have to remember that your heart and your head can put up all sorts of obstructions if you dare to reach beyond your comfort zone, but sometimes you just can’t look at the possible problems that lie ahead, you just have to go for it – don’t question – just go with it.

“I can do this. I’ve got this. Let’s do it.”

It might be a fleeting thought, you might not even believe it when it first appears, but you have to hang onto it, expand it, and nurture it without putting up tons of obstacles.

 

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

Yes, definitely. And I hope so! But I guess it also depends on the sort of courage that’s required in the future.

When I had a melanoma on my back I fainted before the surgeon had even made his first cut, and blood tests of any sort always send my heart straight to my boots, and my head longing to reach down between my knees!

 

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

You are stronger and more resourceful than you imagine.

 

Wow. What a traveller and story-teller from real life living you are Jo! I thought we had lived in some remote teaching spots in New South Wales but your experiences are winners “hands down”. What a ride you have had…and come up for air and can see the courage within too. As for procedures involving nasties like melanomas…you are entitled to deal with that in the way you did. Thank you so much for sharing an amazing story of LIFE lived by you.

Jo has a number of social media connections and they are all listed below for your investigation and following.

Denyse.

Social Media:

Blog/Website: https://lifestylefifty.com and https://zigazag.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/johannaAcastro

Facebook Page (not personal account): https://facebook.com/lifestylefifty and https://facebook.com/thezigazagmag

Instagram: https://instagram.com/lifestylefifty

 

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Women of Courage Series.#39 Natalie. 39/2020.

Women of Courage Series.#39 Natalie. 39/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

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 welcome Natalie to share her story here this week. Natalie is a regular and very keen blogger who joins up on my Monday Link Up called Life This Week. Her presence is valued for her continued support of the world of blogging both here and elsewhere in this world of ours. Over to you Natalie.

 

 

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

I’m sharing three of my life experiences where I have had to be courageous:

  • My first experience with courage came when I was in elementary school. Two students who were older and bigger than me had been bullying my younger sister. One day I caught them doing it in the playground. I felt scared but stood up for my sister and told them to stop. I didn’t know what the outcomes would be but felt I had to say something right at that moment. Fortunately, whatever I said worked and those students never bothered us again.

 

  • I had a near death health-related experience when I was about nine years old. I was misdiagnosed at first. By the time I was taken to the hospital, I was at a critical stage. I remember the sensation of life leaving my body when I was in the emergency room. I ended up in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with complications that required an operation, a lengthy hospital stay, a second surgery, and follow-up rehab. I had to be brave to survive the entire ordeal as I was very sick and in a lot of pain.

 

  • On a more positive note, I’ve travelled solo to many foreign countries where I don’t know the language. The first solo trip took more courage than subsequent trips. However, every trip is unique so even now, I still feel some butterflies when I go on my own.

 

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

  • From the first experience, I learned to be assertive. Like Maggie Kuhn once said: “Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.”

 

  • From the second experience, I learned life is fragile and one health emergency can quickly end it. I learned to always take good care of my health and to enjoy life as much as I can.

 

  • From the third experience, I learned a lot about world cultures, adapting to changes, and opening myself to new human connections. I’m grateful to have made a few long lasting friendships through my travels.

 

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

  • I think we all have courage within ourselves and just need to dig deep when we need it

 

  • What’s important is for the person to choose an action for a better future or to accomplish something personal.

 

  • Inaction or inertia would lead to regrets.

 

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

  • Yes, I think my life experiences and resilience will help me overcome any new crisis.

 

  • Once I survived a near death experience and thrive, everything else seems less critical.

 

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

  • Do self-care and practice positive thinking every day so you feel strong mentally and physically.

 

  • Follow your heart and use your head to get you there.

 

  • Ask for help as needed.

 

Thank you Natalie  for taking the opportunity to share your story of courage, containing three and incredible examples from your life. I sure can understand that you are living a life now that is full and rich based on your experiences and that in itself is testament to your courage.

Denyse.

Social Media: 

Blog/Website:  https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

 

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.

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

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Special Anniversaries.19/51.#LifeThisWeek. 38/2020.

Special Anniversaries.19/51.#LifeThisWeek. 38/2020.

May is a month of memories for me and that is the theme for my ‘special anniversaries’.

In my life, and my family, I have tended to be the one who remembers. Dates, places, weather, occasions and more. Sometimes not perfectly well. I give my age as an excuse now, but I tend to be pretty much sensitive to time of year, weather and place. So, this is my reason for picking May….because:

May, in my instagram feed, is a time I am using memories of people, occasions and time for mark the occasion. For example, without giving years away, 3 women who are very special in my life have their birthdays in May. My 2nd granddaughter on 6th, my niece on the 22nd and my late and cherished Aunty, on 31st. It was in May 2006 we celebrated what we did not know was my mother’s last Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day was an occasion for her but as the years have passed, we (the family) do not make a fuss…because, I found it was a bit of a pressure to be honest..on me! So, that my friends is how I feel. Further on I explain more.

More about May. THIS is probably the reason I chose May for this as my post. It was in early May 2017 that the investigations began in earnest for ‘what the heck was happening in my mouth’….and yes, this has been recorded here in detail. However, just before I made the news of my cancer diagnosis public, I was honoured to have my story published in Celebrating Women. It was a great distraction too. I blogged about it here.

And then I knew what was under those teeth and the bridge that covered them…squamous cell carcinoma AND it had spread to under my top lip too. That knowledge –  shocking that it was cancer but not surprising either – given how long I had been putting up such pain, aggravation and limited ways to eat for over a year!  And I got this news via the phone call from the oral surgeon, at home, alone on Wednesday 17 May. Read more here if you would like to.

The biggest challenge though for scared me (of IBS and travelling not cancer!) was that I would have to be driven by my husband to Sydney’s Chris OBrien Lifehouse on Thursday 18 May 2017 where I would have my first (very long as it turned out) consultation re my head and neck cancer and what would happen to eradicate it. All, we hoped! I have written about the courage it took for me to test my exposure therapy is a big, big way in other place, here for example. And, we set off and became better informed – BIG time – about what was next.

What on earth did I do then? Oh, I was OK…after some time to gather myself emotionally, and my husband and I drove the long drive home in the dark with a feeling of confidence that where I was to be treated and by whom meant the confidence of knowing it was right for my cancer. Both of the head and neck cancer surgeons – the A/Prof Ebrahimi and then Prof Clark ‘felt’ then after the pretty rigorous examination that surgery only would be required but until that time, and lymph nodes’ samples etc were taken for pathology they could hope for no radiation.

But wait, there is more. Always more it seemed to test me that May!

24 May and 30 May were “back to Sydney” appointments but this time to Westmead in Sydney’s west. We knew this area well as we had lived in the region for many years. It was, however, the first visit to Oral Sciences…aka the dental hospital where I/we would meet the man and his assistant we got to know very, very well over the ensuing years. I admit I needed my husband there with me and the tears on that first visit came pretty frequently as I did not compute/understand well as all what would be happening but when chatting with my husband he was very confident of the prosthodontist’s role and skill in the area where I was to have surgery. He also accompanied us to radiography to get exacting scans done and to test blood flow in my legs. It was later that I found as I had better blood flow in my right leg, then that would be where the fibula and flesh/skin would be harvested not the left as originally planned.

Other May Memories!

In my recollections of May, I found Mother’s Day to be more of a day of obligation rather than a day to celebrate mothers. My mother in particular. I have often thought it a sad thing though because it is my father’s voice of judgement I hear re mother’s day not Mum’s. Ever.

It’s a complicated thing this life and traditions isn’t it! He (Dad, now 96) was brought up in a single parent childhood following his Dad’s untimely death in 1935 and Dad’s mother grieved her whole life after that and I am pretty sure nothing that was ever said nor done for her was appreciated wholly.

For whatever reason, then Dad made sure “we” celebrated our Mum. I have memories of breakfast in bed for her.,…and she did not enjoy that! I do recall her appreciation of cards and flowers. We, as then grown up children, might try to combine a mother’s day morning or lunch or even dinner.

To me, also a mother, it felt like “I” missed out. And I dislike that I even thought that.

So, despite my now-knowledge of where all this probably emanated…I still thought similarly in ‘shoulds’ around Mother’s day. So, I often got disappointed…and I am embarrassed about that. I vowed sometime back never to do ‘that’ to my adult kids so celebrated without any fanfare at all nor expectation until we left Sydney.

The first year I heard from no-one.

Yes, I was sad…and on subsequent Mother’s Day I may have had a card or a phone call or both from one or either of our adult offspring. In 2017 not knowing of my cancer investigations I had a visit to our place. Nice. We put on lunch. See photo above.

Then in 2019 I met my daughter and we had morning tea out together. No kids. Just us.

This year, as this is posted, we will have had our first visit in COVID-19 back to her house for a mother’s day morning tea.

Making New May Memories. 

  • Mum taught me quite a bit about cooking and often have her in my mind as I try to replicate her recipes. To that end, as I am visiting Dad this week I have made Mum’s recipe of lemon butter just for him. Food is such a powerful memory!
  • Mum also advised me about colours and planting of colourful flowers and I use this knowledge in picking and placing plants.
  • Mum’s smile was one I inherited….and a liking for brightly coloured clothes.
  • I make May a time for reminiscing but also for celebrating…..how far I have come, post head and neck cancer!

ONE Year ago in May I got my “end of two years” of cancer surgeries and treatment Apple Watch and it is worn with pride every day and continues to motivate me to move more!

My reward for 2 years post cancer: apple watch

TWO Years ago in May I became more resilient than I knew I could be as I faced a 4th (the last, I hope) reconstuctive surgery because my mouth and skin had not recovered well enough for the upper prosthesis to be fitted.

Post surgery #4 was a shock!

THREE Years ago in May I found how many people in my life cared for and about me and it was humbling. Many of those are reading this post now. Thank you all so much for being who you are.

That’s my special anniversary….May!

What special anniversaries are part of your life?

Did you celebrate Mother’s Day yesterday?

Thanks also for your kind words last week AND 100% of bloggers who linked up, commented on my post.

That IS a win/win!

Denyse.

Link Up #188.

Life This Week. Link Up #188.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 20/51 Share Your Snaps #4 18.5.2020

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


 

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What Is This Series Women Of Courage About? 104/2019.

What Is This Series Women Of Courage About? 104/2019.

In April 2019 I attended Newcastle Writers’ Festival and got to hear, amongst others, Author and Public Education Advocate, Jane Caro speak. Jane’s been known to me for a long time via social media, her other books and her involvement in promoting public education. She spoke at length of the roles we women have played and often at great loss or expense to our health, welfare and future financial security in her book Accidental Feminists.

 

Her written and spoken words really made me think.

Women do so much unsung, not necessarily because of not wanting people to know, but because we “just do get on.” I know that my life has taken some not great twists and turns and I realised I drew on resources of courage to do so.

This led me to finding out more about courage from others.

 

The words of Brene Brown helped inspire me in recent years.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognise the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.” 

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” 

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.” 

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” 

Her program, on courage, is on Netflix here:

https://www.netflix.com/au/title/81010166

 

My germ of an idea grew and initially I wrote to a few on-line and ‘in real life’ friends (although those of us on the interwebs count many as one and the same) and asked, after in introduction to the ‘why’ of the series, if they would become involved with a contribution.

My great joy was the response. Not everyone said yes, but many more said it and sent me back their responses. That was back in May when I started here with my post then one from Sam.

Not every person is a blogger, for instance here is Tracey’s story recently as was Margaret’s here.

Honestly, each and every post makes me think about courage. Every day courage. The kind that you don’t even react to, but do it anyway. Then there is the slow build up to courage, which takes us along to change.

Here on this page: Women of Courage are the twenty one (21!) women who have already shared. Do check them out if you haven’t. I am so grateful for their courage and responses.

Next week and until mid November there will be five more stories shared.

After that Women of Courage series is having a break for the lead up to Christmas and into January as I need to do some posts relating to Telling My Story (homework!) and more.

From February 2020 I have eight more women’s stories ready to go.

Wow.

Here are the women who have shared their  stories to date! 

If you would like to share your story as a Woman of Courage, please let me know in the comments and I will email you the five questions!

Very much appreciate the stories I have been entrusted with for the blog series. Thank you all.

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

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