Monday 21st June 2021

Who’s A Volunteer? 34/2021.

Who’s a Volunteer? 34/2021.

It’s said, by many, that when you get to retire from paid work you might like to consider being a volunteer. I agreed with that notion.

Are you a volunteer?

Maybe you are not even retired but still a volunteer.

Here’s something about what this has been for me, and with a few notes about my husband’s experiences.

Retired Couple. 2015.

From this Australian government organisation in 2015 here is this.

           Definition: Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.

The following areas are not considered to meet each of the core requirements of volunteering (‘without financial gain’, ‘willingly given’ and ‘for the common good’) and hence are not included in this definition of volunteering. It is acknowledged that many of these have a constructive, positive and vital role in society and may exist alongside volunteering and / or provide a pathway into volunteering.

• Direct family responsibilities are excluded. It is recognised that direct familial relationships vary for different people and social groups and so this is open to individual interpretation. In addition, foster carers have many similarities with volunteers, but because of the family relationship, these are outside this definition of volunteering.

• A number of programs are highly structured, with fixed requirements and provide options of volunteering type activities but with limited choice and/or varying types of in-built financial or reward outcomes. These vary widely and are excluded from this definition. Examples include:  Compulsory educational service learning (where students are required to volunteer as part of a course) Mandated court orders including community service and fines  Internships  Formal work experience / vocational placements  Mandatory government programs  Limited choice labour market government programs

• Volunteering requires a donation of time. Other types of donating such as giving money or materials and donating blood are not considered volunteering, although it is acknowledged there is a time element required in these forms of donating

My Experiences.

These started around the time I was in partial retirement from around 52. Later, they were when I was over 65.

  • With caring for our grandchildren, over time, for no financial reward ever but the joy of memories made. However, see above, ‘not about volunteering.’

 

  • teaching English in women’s homes in the community. A one-to-one experience, for which I had to do some training, at no cost to me, and also provide materials for the women. I enjoyed it and I think the two women became more confident over time of having an English speaker helping them I found it a bit too one-sided as the women, who were at home because of child-rearing were not completing even the smallest of ‘between times’ work. 

 

  • helping in Smith Family Parramatta  office prior to Christmas one year taking phone calls from people who wanted to register for the Smith Family Christmas hampers. This meant I had to drive into Parramatta, park my car, and attend the office for about 4 hours. I took down details and recorded them so families could be included by Christmas. It was quite boring for someone who had only recently ran a school but I also needed “not” to have responsibility to assist my mental health recovery. That role finished abruptly when I managed to break my ankle getting out of the car at home after a shift there. No, I did not pursue work related claim.

 

  • becoming a volunteer at local art gallery did not even reach training stage. Once we arrived on the Central Coast, I wanted to settle in (as I thought then) with some busy activities. Trouble was that emotionally I was not up to this role’s training requirements (I.B.S. would strike any time) and I also add that by the time I decided to step away from this, I realised how ‘cliquey’ the other volunteers were and felt excluded anyway. I was new to the area and ‘felt’ I was an outsider.

 

  • looking after ethics program in local area when we first moved to the  Central Coast seemed like a win/win for me as I needed some work of a productive kind while my husband already had his weeks in retirement sorted. I liked the people I met at the schools and was already helping get new people on board to be teachers when I felt something that did not seem quite right. You see, I felt conflict. I am, NSW teacher/principal at heart, and this program was independent to schools and I could see a conflict of interest  that I could not brush off. I sensed, and heard for good reason that it was an Us vs Them issue and I could not continue. I tried to let them have this feedback but it was a political hot potato and I left.

 

  • teaching mindful colouring was something I was passionate about in the midst of my first year of doing my best to settle to a new way of life. The local independent bookshop was happy to support my plan where I would supply all materials and I just needed a space. A local cafe owner said yes to that as we would be buying coffees. And off we went. We had 4 the first week. Then down to 3. Sadly, I was not prepared to continue because of this. I really did think this would work. No it did not. 

 

  • creating bookmarks for the charity The Big Hug Box. This was a passion for me as I was using my distraction activities of art, designs and more to create bookmarks as part of my post-cancer treatments. I’d be helping this new 2018 charity with my donations of goods and time. I also donated more than 300 bookmarks over time and took part in a packing day. Still on call if needed but I stopped the bookmarks.

 

  • teaching mindful mandala making and colouring because I wanted to share the ways in which this is helpful for our emotional health. I instigated this idea through my local library. Honestly, just as well I have determination because so many stumbling blocks were put in my way… no personal indemnity insurance ( and no, I was not going to pay for it) and then, oh, you would have to do our volunteer course to do this here, and no we don’t have any training coming up. I was ready to give up, when the local librarian – all part of the huge council area – said, you can have the space and I will say I am the organiser. Truly. Anyway, it went well over 4 weeks. I provided everything. I did offer it again, and waited in the empty room on two occasions and after that, I did not return.

 

  • I also offered to a women’s shelter that I could do this course in mindful colouring if they thought there was a need. They said yes, but without my person indemnity insurance, I could not start. So, another loss.

 

  • I also supplied Chris O’Brien Lifehouse with books of my designs and many pieces of media for in-patient art and visitors’ mindful colouring as it was a practical contribution I could make as I lived 2 hours away.

 

  • I am an ‘unofficial’ supporter  of Public Education via my social media and other presence and it’s one way I like to stay supportive and connected. 

 

  • In 2017 I was diagnosed with a head and neck cancer, and in a way to help me understand more about my cancer (there are many types of head and neck cancer) my two surgeons directed me to what was then called Beyond Five. Over time, I learned more about Beyond Five and the almost 100% volunteer support it requires the website going, changing and being of use. About a year into my recovery, I shared my story with Beyond Five, and then following my head and neck team’s assurance I seemed to be doing the right thing with my social media and other messages, I was invited to become an  Ambassador for what is now called Head and Neck Cancer Australia.

 

  • Being a member of the local Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer support group which meets monthly and being a contributor to sharing knowledge and awareness to others affected as patients or carers or family members.

 

  • I was very pleased to know I could be a mentor for Public Education via another way, supporting a student with a funded scholarship. However, over the time of being accepted, and then getting ready to help this person, I was not confident of the ways in which the program was run. I wanted to feel I could find support as I was learning the program via on-line systems but with little to no communication, I have declined their offer. Sadly, with some organisations this can be what happens.

 

  • My blog has been a voluntary activity. I have been able to write, share, find friends from this amazing medium. I do it all on my time, when I can, and it’s a great volunteer role because “I” am in charge of this one. My blog is over 10 years old now and brings me a great deal of personal reward.

My Husband’s Experiences: not all as a retiree! The last 3 were.

  • P&C President at our local primary school for 7 years our son was there.
  • Scouts President whilst our son was part of cubs.
  • Volunteer Teacher of Children in The Westmead Kids’ Hospital.
  • Safety House Co-ordinator in our neighbourhood in the 1980s -1990s- remember those?
  • Local Community Progress Association President.
  • President Local Drama Society in a Country Town.
  • Musical Director of performances over 3 years in that town.
  • President Ecumenical Council at local Church in the country town
  • National Charity Telephone Crisis Support.
  • National Charity  Face to Face Counsellor.
  • Driver: Cancer Patients To Appointments.

Some feedback we would LOVE to give to organisations where we no longer volunteer. Do not, please, take our service or time for granted. In my husband’s case, he PAID hundreds of dollars towards his training to be National Charity TSC…and as he was also doing a University course to become a trained counsellor, there were costs there. However, he was pleased to be able to help and learn via his supervisors how he was proceeding. This is when it becomes tricky. Those ‘people’ in charge of volunteers are paid and for some, the power of the position became a lack of respect in dealings over time. It does not take too much guessing to know why volunteers may leave. In my husband’s case, he did leave to become my carer as I had just had my cancer diagnosis. In another instance, the driving role, the system was so poorly organised on some days he would leave our place at 8.00 a.m. and not return till 6.00 p.m. because of poor planning for patients’ needing being collected, taken to the hospital and then collected.

He no longer performs any volunteer roles. 

 

Some further comments about volunteering here.

https://www.oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/retirement-life/5-amazing-benefits-of-volunteering-in-retirement

1. Stay active and engaged with life

2. Helping others makes you feel happy

3. Make new social connections

4. Have new experiences and learn new skills

5. Change someone’s life – change your own

 

My husband and I also ask each other, is it because we have both been leaders in our work places that we find it hard(er) to be a volunteer….or maybe that is not the reason. We can also see that organisations who need volunteers  to assist their services must go through quite a bit themselves in judging suitability and more. It’s perhaps the reason why I wrote this post. I was so sad to relinquish the mentor role but I also knew, that understanding my need to clarity and certainty in doing this role well, I could not, if I had not a great deal of faith in the organisation’s representative. 

This post comes under a few of my topics, including stories about ageing which I write about from time to time. I know you do not have to be a retiree to volunteer but most of my activities were then. 

Are you a volunteer?

Tell us more.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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My Stories About Ageing: My New Blogging Category Is Here! 5/2021.

My Stories About Ageing: My New Blogging Category Is Here! 5/2021.

This image of me: Left: Jan 2006. Right: July 2020. Same person loving the elements. But ageing is definitely showing!

Why this?

Why Now?

It’s time.

I have been considering writing stories about ageing from my perspective and experience for a while.

Back Story.

I am now 71. I still find that hard to believe! It could be because my Dad, at 97 is still well and I am ‘still his daughter’. But…no, it cannot be that I am a kid and he is the adult. He, my friends, is elderly, I am ageing. Oh, who am I kidding!

The catalyst may have been this: a photo of us aged 21 on our Wedding Day in 1971 and a re-creation image in 2015 when we were 65 (me) and 66 (B)….as we ready ourselves aged 71 to share our Golden Wedding Anniversary (50 years of marriage) on 23 January 2021.

Or, it may have been this past year because events took hold of me health-wise in a big and somewhat confronting (for me) way:

  1. I found I had to dig deep into my emotional capacity, and remember how I managed my inner emotional health recovering from head and neck cancer, to do this.
  2. I also found the ‘reasons’ for my rectal prolapse surgery very hard to accept and share.
  3. I now know, of course, I am better without the physical problem and that whilst I waited a long time to admit to needing the surgery, it was a lack of shared knowledge from other women that was part of my resistance.

 

Onto the reasons why I will post about Ageing and Stories About It from Me.

From my perspective: Denyse at 71!

On my 71st Birthday, 30 November last year, I posted this collage of me at 68,69,70 & 71,  and in fun, a ‘this is 71’ photo was taken by my husband (at my request) too.

Groups. People On and Off Social Media. For Me? Not For Me?

  • I love to be social on-line. It is easier for me to be on-line and meet up virtually with a range of people than it is to go out and find a group.

 

  • Before I go on. I did have a social group of sorts when I was in education.However, these were often work-based and even though friendships stayed firm at work, they tend to peter out at retirement time and when moving schools.

 

  • When I first retired I became a volunteer and was engaged in some interesting but mundane work and felt my skills could be better used in a leadership role.

 

  • I found one of those easily and was welcomed with open arms. It was not, however, long lasting as the intent of the volunteer group clashed with my educator’s values.

 

  • I started a small group for colouring mindfully. There was a lot of interest initially until it came time to attend. Very few did. It stopped. Sad to say, the same thing happened just 3 years ago too.

 

  • I am not a sport player nor hobby-mad really and do what I can at home to get my creative ‘fix’ now. I joined a group learning crochet but left as no-one had any idea how to teach an ambidextrous person how to crochet.

 

  • I even joined, not for long sadly, a local community group for women only. It spoke of meeting for coffee and brunches. I liked that idea. I went, I joined in but alas the ages were not close to mine, and again, sadly, the cohort was almost all local to the area whereas we are ‘newish’ here.

My Observations as an Over 70s Person.

Getting older is, for many of us, a privilege we do not always appreciate.

I admit having a cancer diagnosis out of the blue in mid 2017 sure was a wake-up call to thinking “we are immortal” but I whilst never thought I was dying it gave me a new appreciation for health and recovery from cancer.

I know that I am very grateful now to receive a part-aged pension income, which added to my husband’s pensions gives us a reasonable life here as a couple who are renting.

I don’t mind even feeling somewhat invisible as an over 70s woman because it gives me a chance to be an observer and I like that!

What I notice, particularly now, is that on social media: groups on Facebook, communities and twitter and instagram, that I do not see (nor hear of ) people who are close to my age.

Even the groups geared to seniors, older Australians, retirees, generally cater for those from age 50 to say 65.

And, as I found out in COVID 19 times, now that my husband and I are 0ver 70 we are classed as:

  • elderly
  • vulnerable

Why Blog About It?

I feel somewhat left out!

  • By groups even for seniors and older people.
  • The starting age is now 21 years younger than I am.
  • I want to have a voice that matters to others who might want to hear/read stories of ageing….
  • ones that keep ageing  reality-checked to counter balance with the “promises of using certain products to stave off….”

I will continue to write more here.

  • I want to be included but I sense that in my particular social media setting I am definitely older or the oldest of a group’s cohort.
  • In fact many people I love to chat with and catch up with are indeed closer to my daughter’s age and she is turning 50 this year.

But, that is good for me too as I am flexible in how I interact….

Yet, I want to be the voice (here) of reality in ageing as I wish I had known more!

What Do You Think?

Have I gone too far?

Do you every imagine yourself actually ageing with significance?

Every decade I see people bemoaning the zero coming up.

Really?

OK, for some I imagine it is scary.

The unknown perhaps but since the internet is here, maybe “I” can be a better heard voice of wisdom, failures and experiences for turning:

40

50

60

70.

Am I opening up too much?

Would you like to know more about my experience of ageing?

How could my story help you, perhaps?

Maybe you might share your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne and friends here for Lovin’ Life Linky.

 

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Eighteen. 2008-2009. 89/2020.

Telling My Story. 2008-2009. Chapter Eighteen. 89/2020.

About 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 Eighteen. I admit it is getting harder in some ways to blog about the more recent times. I think it is because without particular markers (i.e. deaths, births, engagements, marriages, break ups…) then it can be hard to recall.

This couple of years actually did cover getting over Mum’s death, the joy of a first child for our son and his fiancee in the year that Mum died…and there would be a marriage planned. More of that in the next chapter!

I know it’s been a while since I last posted. All the posts are here if you would like to check them out.

School and “Work At Home”.

By the time the beginning of the school year of  2008 came around we (my husband and I) had begun to care for the dear little grandson who had been born late in the previous year. When we began his daily care, from around 8 a.m. to around 5 p.m. up to 3 days a week we knew what we were up for…of course we did! But we were older than the last time we had grandchildren in our care AND the Mum in that case worked till around 3-3.30 so we knew that her baby would be going home around then.

My husband was not well enough to do paid work outside the home so he was very good at telling stories, reading books and taking slow walks around the house with a small baby who preferred another’s arms than bed!

I was still working in a school for 2 or 3 days a week, as an English as a Second Language teacher too. So, there were only weekends off for me so to speak. But I loved the “work at home” and I do think I was probably wearying of the role at school. But, “we” needed me to keep working for income so I did.

 

Some of My Memories of 2008.

  • getting areas of the house baby-ready.
  • making the former grandkids’ room (there were already beds for them) into something that could also occupy a baby boy.
  • buying…yes buying a LOT of new toys, books and some items of spare clothing, including bibs, washers and little towels. It had been a long time since the last baby who had been at our house. That baby boy was now 7.
  • enjoying the stroller walks around the neighbourhood so that ‘he’ might get some sleep.
  • loving the daily routine and making up little reports with words for his Mum and Dad to keep.
  • continuous reams of photos being printed at the local photo service centre: I was still using film. Yet to have the iphone.
  • proudly seeing the hard work of this young baby’s parents working for them as it was our son working in retail full time, studying almost full-time while his fiancee managed a physio practice
  • watching for one of the parents’ cars by close to 5 p.m. as we were very tired by then!

No better place than with Papa listening to HUG!

From baby to toddler: 2008-2009

 

The dearest little boy! Now a teen…

 

School.

I was almost 60. I was, I admit, getting over many of the changes that were coming about in education and whilst I saw they may have been necessary, I was beginning to become ‘bored and disinterested.’ I know that I was working for an income, but over the next couple of years, we did hope I could stop work. I did try though to be as positive an influence on other teachers at the school and to mentor those who were interested in promotion and the like. I still have many of those people in my life today.

My Dad.

Dad is a resilient person. He did seek grief counselling after Mum’s death in March 2007 and his self-organised plan of writing Mum letters seemed to help him over the many years he continued this. He even drove to Queensland by himself, stopping over, to have the ‘usual’ holiday he and Mum would have around July each year. He found the journey too much in the end and decided that was the last time. But, never say never and his goal to go and visit a friend on the Gold Coast – for the last time in 2008 –  was to fly up for a few days and he asked me to accompany him. I was OK to do that (pretty sure I would have had the time off school but may be not from grandchild care!)

Dad would still drive over to see us and on a few occasions, especially around Christmas, would stay a couple of nights to catch up with the other members of our family. I admit though, it was a bit of a strain on me having him stay because we clash(ed). Much much less of that these days but back then, it could be tense. Nevertheless he got some fun out of seeing little people and he was always invited to birthdays. He has, now in 2020, lost all interest in anything like that, except with immediate to him close family. At nearly 97 he is just doing what he can to get by!

My Dad with our two grandsons. Some years back now.

2009 Notched Up The Busy Life For Me.

Just as Christmas holidays were over, and the awful fires of Black Saturday burned in Victoria that February, we received news that a new grandchild was on the way. A sibling to the little fellow who was now 1 and very active and interested in the world around him. That was great news. It meant more work for his mum as she struggled (valiantly) with all-day morning sickness and for our son, the dad, as he readied himself for more study towards his future career goals as a mature age student having graduated with his Bachelors Degree.

Such a big and busy time alright and I admit, when my husband turned 60 in the February, retirement of some kind for me was looking good. That was not really possible as we had our mortgage and I was still liking aspects of my part-time teaching role.

Other family members were at High School and Primary School and our daughter was in a relationship and keeping her part-time role in a school happening. The townhouse we had helped her purchase was sold and she and her then partner had plans for building and more. Whilst this did happen down the track, I am not including any more about that time in their lives. It is not my story. At all.

Around 3/4 of the way through 2019, Miss R arrived

She made a dramatic entrance to the world. Her Dad literally caught her! That was amazing. He sure was shocked but perhaps not as much as the midwife when she heard him shout out!! The hospital was a few minutes away and once we knew of his little sister’s arrival, we drove the big brother down to meet her! It was just the best.

And Then I Stopped. I Was 60.

In Term 4 of 2009 I would turn 60. Suddenly, it seemed, I did not want to go to school any more to work. I had felt a real pull to be back at home more and with the prospect of having two grandchildren coming to us in 2010 the time seemed right. The money would be tight, but we would try to make it work.

I had a special birthday celebration. I had a lovely weekend High Tea at a local hotel with female family and friends. It was just lovely. I was spoiled and I have many happy memories. I was also given a lunch by my Dad, husband and my kids and their partners. Miss R above, a breastfed baby was there by necessity.

And I got the retirement farewell I had not had from my time as a principal. My friend, the principal where I was about to stop teaching, organised a morning tea, I got to say a few words, our family came to listen and see, and I was re-presented with the Retirement Medal with the errors on the back. It did not matter. I felt appreciated and cared for and I was ready to be at home. Full-time it seemed!

 

Miss R with one of her cousins.

 

Some 9 years after the ‘first’ retirement, the NSW Dept of Education put on a special morning tea and presented me with the correct medal and the Deputy Secretary made a speech about my career.

What I Cannot Add and Why.

We often see the words “not my story to tell” and I even used them in this post. I could add more but choose not to as some of the times were both sad and based on ill-health issues. What I can say is that I was affected but that is because of the person I was then and that I did find aspects of life in the coming years quite stressful. I know the whys. I am much wiser now some 10 years later but we do have to go through much to learn don’t we?

That has been the case for me. I also know I could add many more photos but I choose not to try to find them…they are in albums and again, they do not necessarily add anything to this public post.

Next time: 2010 – 2012. Not sure how that will be. May be more words than photos. I shall see!

Thank you for being part of the audience who reads Telling My Story.

Denyse.

Linking up with Leanne and friends here on Thursdays.

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21/51.#LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Chapter Fifteen. 2003. 42/2020.

21/51.#LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Chapter Fifteen. 2003. 42/2020.

 

Background…from Telling My Story: Chapter Fourteen published in February 2020.

The story behind Telling My Story is this: I began in May 2017 and then was diagnosed with cancer. I had a lengthy break and returned to the plan to keep on documenting my life, one blog post at a time. Here is the link to the page where they all are now. I also shared this as My Woman of Courage story here.

Where was I?

OK. I know. I was a K-6  school principal.

It was in September 2002 when I could not return to my school.

I was sad, ashamed and very tired as there were different outcomes for me personally and us financially.

But I also had some good things happening in my personal life. I will get to them too.

Life is LIKE that!

Cancer. Leaving My Role as a Principal.

Doctors, Psychologists, WorkCover, Staff Welfare, Dept of Education, Psychiatrists…..

When the school principal is told by her G.P. “you are not to return to that school, nor to be in that role again”, it felt both comforting and helpful.

I had been a patient of my G.P. for decades and she had been doctor to our growing family including my husband and me so knew what else had probably impacted my life as well as school and its responsibilities.

But even before that…the night before, I was left to try to tell my acting boss – who was known then as a District Superintendent, that I would not be going into school the next day…and for sometime after that but he did not understand.

Eventually I must have made inroads into his understanding, after seeing my G.P. who immediately saw this as a work overload matter making me both depressed and anxious. The employer had not taken steps to see me better supported in my school. I told that story in the last chapter.

 

Days into Weeks into Months.

What started as ‘sick leave’ did become workers compensation leave over the next month as I took myself to appointments and interviews.

I had to share my story (see the recent two chapters here & here) and my employer’s representative agreed that yes, there was a case for me to be compensated under Work Cover. In other words, I was paid via that scheme and did not lose sick leave.

But….

I could not and would not attend a school.

It was suggested at meetings that I could transition back to schools but did nothing to improve my mental wellbeing. In fact they made me even more anxious. Then I was offered, later in the year, the chance to ‘work in district office.’ Noooo. I felt such shame and was so anxious about seeing any of my colleagues that I could not envisage any kind of “return to work.”

And…it did not let up.

My mental illness, as it was defined later by a treating psychiatrist, was a reactionary one based on my personality and my role in the school.

It would, over time, resolve but there was medical agreement with my G.P., the employer’s rep and that of work cover, that I could return to “a school” for some days a week but never in the role of a school executive.

In 2003 all that felt like for me was:

F A I L U R E.

 

How I Was Affected By Schools.

Before I continue.

I lived about (then) 40 minutes from the school. I love schools! It had been my life…as a kid and then becoming a teacher and of course, having our children and grandchildren attend schools.

But, I was so scared, worried, ashamed and threatened by “schools” I could not even drive on the road (Windsor Road) that would have been my way to my school without feeling ill.

I was a proud (still am) Grandma but my first foray into the grounds of the school where our daughter was a teacher and our granddaughter in an Infants’ class made me highly alert.

I still felt I was the principal within that school, watching children running everywhere and wanting to tell them to stop. It was not fun. At all.

But, I was also not a victim….and I refuse to play that role any time.

I did know though that I was ill from the stress of my role in a school and so I took the chance to get the help of professionals and did a lot of work for myself. This involved seeing a friend each week for a coffee and over time, driving on the road that went to my school…and one holiday time, I went back and drove around the perimeter. I was sad and it felt wrong that I had to leave it as I did but I also know my health was paramount.

3 amazing grandkids who love me unconditionally and their presence in my lives helped me in this awful time.

 

Giving Up The Role For the Greater Good. 

Despite the urging of my bosses, the meetings with the work cover people and my professionals who agreed I would choose to do what I had to, I could not return to school. Or any school.

What then?

To ensure the school was able to progress into 2003 from my day of departure in September 2002 I relinquished my role.

It could then be advertised for a replacement principal. I was visited at home sometime after that by my then school office assistant who had brought me any personal items from my office and some cards and I recall getting flowers.

I was a sad but relieved person that not everyone ‘hated me’ there.

Photos remind me of my literal ups and downs re weight. Far right, 2003,I was ‘looking good’ but feeling awful inside.

 

But, How Will We Survive Financially?

At this stage of our lives as a couple, we had a mortgage on the house, my husband was in part-time work and I brought in a good salary as a school principal. Work cover continued to pay that but over time, as I stood my ground about not returning to the Department of Education  because of my health things got tricky for us financially.

 

Don’t Give Up Your Superannuation People!

I married my husband (teacher in NSW Dept of Education) in 1971 and in 1972, as I returned to work after maternity leave we made a short-term financial decision that would (still does!) affect us negatively. Back then as both of us was paying into the then BEST ever Super Fund “I” could opt out and save us some much needed dollars. We spoke to my accountant father about this who, it seems, saw this as a win….and over time, agrees “NOT right”.

The reason is this. None of us knew then that  by 1980 my husband’s health would deteriorate to the point that he was medically retired and was placed on a pension from the Super Fund. I was working then and continued to do so, but still had no super. At all.

It was in around 1985 again, my father who advised I try to get back into superannuation. Made sense but nope, I could not.

Once opted out, I was not allowed in….but wait “we have a new fund and you can join that”.

I did. The new fund was different but I did pay into it. I had a sizeable lump sum there in 2003 when I was making up my mind how to access it. Aged 52.

 

Getting Paid Out. Not Easy. At All.

By the beginning of 2003 and into the first few months, I was being harrassed strongly encouraged by my employer and work cover to ‘get back to work’.

Let me tell you now, it was worse in some ways than how I had to leave my job.

Phone calls, meetings…doctors’ appointments, psychological testing…so, with the agreement of my G.P. I decided to “medically retire”.

Um. No. There is no such thing now.

The new and subsequent super funds that took the money from  NSW Dept of Education teaching staff only ever paid out a lump sum IF you were declared NOT FIT TO WORK and you have to RESIGN first.

No pension…and YOU need to prove you are not fit for work.

  1. For someone like me, a dedicated and loyal employee from 27.1.1970 to HAVE to resign was C for crazy but we were P for poor when my salary was being slowly stopped
  2. I filled out the form. It was awful. I also added, though, that I wanted “approval to teach”. I did not want any issues in case I wanted to ever have a day as a casual teacher. I would be pleased I did.
  3. It was accepted. Leave paid out.
  4. I was now free of the dreaded work cover requirements
  5. Got all the forms from the State Super People and completed them…along with the documentation from my G.P. and others.
  6. Attended one of the most stressful appointments ever with a psychologist from State Super and was obliged to complete a 500 question survey to assess my mental health and ability to work.
  7. Found out my application to access my funds  was “Rejected” after that horrid experience.
  8. You are still fit to work according to our rules.
  9. “Dejected” and now time, finally, for me to get some legal help.
  10. My union, N.S.W. Teachers Federation, were wonderful once I got to outline to a welfare officer what had happened.
  11. She arranged a meeting (free) with their lawyers and they heard the rejection story and saw the documentation from the State Super Board.
  12. The lawyer took my information, along with the State Super letters and my reports and so on and sent off the missives that….eventually allowed me to:
  13. Access all of the funds as a lump sum
  14. And retain my right to return to part-time teaching work if I chose.

We paid off this house….

 

Relieved. Getting Better. Breaking My Ankle. Retirement Means This. 

From paying out the mortgage there was a big sigh of relief.

There was also a relatively good amount of money from leave entitlements and by June we decided to “splurge” on a Far North Queensland holiday for 2. We even got a car to drive us to the airport. That was cool. But I must say, for my poor husband whose spine is very damaged from surgeries and more, the flight in economy for over 3 hours was not a good one at all. I was OK but he was not. We picked up the hire car and I drove via the Captain Cook Highway on that most beautiful trip: from Cairns to Port Douglass. Disappointingly though the apartment was accessed by a series of flights of stairs and by the time we got inside, my husband admitted “I cannot fly back like that”. My pain is too much. I agreed. So, the luxury of a return trip by business class meant comfort but took a huge amount of money to obtain so the holiday’s effect was negated! His health was worsening from the load of high school teaching which he took on after the business was liquidated in 1996 so, retirement was his plan too.

We were OK financially without a mortgage but by the time I had a few months at home I sought an art class (it was great) and became a volunteer with the Smith Family. It was around November after I had been answering the phones for them for people requesting Christmas Hampers that I had an accident. At home.

It was a rainy afternoon, I parked on the sloping driveway and as I got out of the car, one foot slipped, and the rest of me came with it, twisting my right ankle badly. I tried to call to my husband – from the letterbox…on the driveway and he did not hear, so I crawled up and made it inside.

Not wanting to over-dramatise it..but I should have actually…I waited for my husband to have a cuppa and we drove to the local medical centre.

Rooky error. I literally had to hop from the car with my good foot as the very sore foot could not weight bear. Oh. The G.P. agreed that X-rays were needed and they had that facility there. After the X-ray showed broken bones, it was “off to local private hospital” because this needs specialist attention.

Long story short: back slab applied, in-hospital stay, saw preferred orthopaedic specialist, “we will operate tomorrow and pin the fibula and tibia”. He did. I came home needing a wheelchair around the house as I couldn’t use crutches (hands needed surgeries for carpal tunnel etc) and I was stuck. The best part was shortly before Christmas at a check up I got a fibreglass cast and then could shower and even get in our pool but getting out was too hard.

Oh, and about that fibula of mine…I did get the screws out sometime in 2004 and in 2017…guess where that fibula went….HERE: The upside down U shape. My fibula cut into 3 with abutments added.

New Jaw is seen here

This sure was a year, 2003.

We did have a lot on our plate between us. But we also had a great family supporting us with care and love and three grandchildren to bring joy. The next year 2004 would prove to be significant too but with some great stories that helped re-build me in many ways.

Grandkids helping me, newly without plaster, to stand up!

Just after my cast came off, a celebration for my Dad’s 80th birthday.

Let’s see what Chapter Sixteen will bring!

Thank you for reading my story started over 3 years ago.

I do print the blog pages out and have them in a folder for future readers.

What were you doing in 2003?

It seems not that long ago, but of course it is 17 years ago!

Denyse.

 

Link Up #190.

Life This Week. Link Up #190.

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Five Years Ago.116/2019.

Five Years Ago.116/2019.

In late 2014 so much happened to me: as an individual, a partner, mother and grandmother.

It’s timely to remember it and note parts of it.

You see, dear reader, I am an emotional person but also a very practical and organised one too. So when we decided mid 2014 that it was time for me to be able to quit all paid work as I was stressed and weary, and to finish up grandchild caring (we had been doing this lovingly since 2008) and that meant:

selling the house

paying out the mortgage

finding a place to rent on the Central Coast

buy a new vehicle each (the two we had were very much on their last legs so to speak)

and “then all would be better”.

True from one perspective: the practical but not from the emotional one for me and as regular readers know things did not go well for me. For quite some time.

Posts about the years 2015-early 2017 and how my life was affected may be found here (2015) and here (2016) and here (early 2017)

 

To give me some perspective now and to provide a photographic account of “this time 5 years ago” I offer:

 

House went on market & we accepted best offer on same day. Waiting for this sign to go up took a bit longer.

 

In the meantime, it was summer and as Papa tended the pool these grandkids made the most of what would no longer be ours in a few weeks.

 

We found a house to rent (unsuitable as we found later!) before Christmas that worked in with our settlement of mid Jan 2015 so we enlisted the family and up we travelled with some of our ‘stuff’. We had removalists on the day though.

 

 

The ‘last’ NSW Dept of Education School Spec for us (at the Entertainment Centre) made more special by our Yr 12 Drama Ensemble Member and Granddaughter playing the Nurse in a re-enactment based on the commemoration of WW1 A.N.Z.A.C. Centenary. I was in the audience watching with 2 of her siblings and her cousin.

 

And here she is, our dear GD, who was awarded top 10% in Drama for the HSC and is now, 5 years down the track, a graduate in Film Making from Australian Film Television and Radio School. She has her own film-making biz, so ask me if you want to know more!

 

 

 

I cannot leave this one out of my memories. Australian cricketer lost his life in a game when a ball hit him as he batted. In a tribute to Philip Hughes, we “put out our bats”. This is my husband’s from the 1960s. At the School Spectacular 2014 above, there was a segment added about his death as he was a public high school graduate and there was not a dry eye in the house as we sang “Come on Aussie Come on” in tribute to Philip.

 

 

I took a break from packing to drive to Mona Vale one evening and hear the funny and modest William McInnes talk about his (then) latest book Holidays. It was a joy to meet him and he is a very laidback and generous author. I used to listen to his A Man’s Got To Have a Hobby as a ‘comfort’ listen when I was stressed in those years. Lovely man with great family life stories to share.

 

It was hard, but I did it. Christmas decorating for the last time WITH the grandchildren. Practical me did not put a tree up nor did we do much inside the house but for the last time at Glenwood, the wooden decorations were up and some lights. Knowing it was last was hard but like I have said, I am still practical. This advent calendar was always filled with little chocolates for visiting grandchildren. We also had a tradition of “grandkids” only helping me do the tree sometime near the end of November. The older ones tell me they remember it well, so that makes me happy!

 

Then I was 65. Our daughter and her kids hosted us for a little afternoon tea with our son and his family. It was special of course and we took some pics to remember the occasion. We had Christmas Day together with both our kids and their kids for the last time hosted by our daughter and that was a little tinged with sadness but also knowing what was ahead was for us now.

That’s it for me.

Except for this: This photo (from instagram yesterday)  representing ‘then’ and ‘now’ of me visually but more words which helped make sense for the long and hard transition this has been for me. As transitions often are: getting married, moving from home,  becoming parents, starting new jobs, and so on. Mine happened to have three pretty big items: retirement, leaving Sydney, and moving from our family and all that was known.

 

What was life like for you 5 years ago?

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.

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What Is ‘Dress With Purpose’? 41/51. #LifeThisWeek. 103/2019.

What Is ‘Dress With Purpose’? 41/51. #LifeThisWeek. 103/2019.

Thank you Maria: Linky Is Open again!!

When you have a reason to get up each day, for example, going to work, then you dress with purpose. Whatever your employment conditions require.

This is likely to be less so  of course on holidays and weekends when you determine this for yourself. And yes, it could be PJs all day!But, when you retire then what happens? It takes an adjustment for you that is for sure.

One such adjustment can be about what to wear when there is no longer a job or career calling you.

PJs all day? For me, no. But then again, I did get caught up as a somewhat sad soul (and then cancer arrived) in actually not caring about my physical appearance for some time.

This was 30.11.2016. My 67th Birthday. I MADE myself dress in something bright & wear makeup and a smile.

For more of the back story, I lost a lot of weight thanks to anxiety and IBS. It was over time and no-one was concerned about the effect of it except me. I actually thought it might mean I had cancer. Oh, wait. I did..eventually found that out. It’s a bit more complex than weight/size issues this post of mine. Firstly I had to change my belief system of being worthy of dressing well. And then, over time as I did, I knew I literally needed new clothes. The old and baggy ones did nothing for my morale nor my outside appearance.

My Head and Neck Cancer diagnosis took precedence of “everything” really, although I recall needing to accept I literally had to buy lots of night attire and underwear that actually fitted even though my appearance was the last thing I considered in those months from May 2017 until July 2017. Once I was back home, for the months of July, August and September I was getting dressed each day but it was usually a tee shirt & comfy beach-pants (I had my leg in a boot for weeks and it still needed treatments from a community Nurse for 3 months.

My initial reasons for “Dressing with Purpose”.

  • By October 2017 I was far more independent physically after the gruelling time since diagnosis and major reconstructive surgery so decided I needed a challenge of sorts.
  • I’d been following “outfit of the day” for sometime and various aged friends took part in this on Instagram daily. I got the bug…to show what I looked like and to be proud (as I could anyway with no top teeth) of my appearance from now.
  • I thought I would do this every day till I turned 68. I didn’t. It lasted a lot longer than that.
  • It truly was fun but it was more than that, I MADE myself do this because I NEEDED to have a routine and dressing with purpose and going out solo for a coffee (with my art journal) became it.
  • My husband was happy to see me well and agreed to be my Instagram photographer.
  • There are stories about it here, here and here.

Now Here’s Why I Continue to “Dress with Purpose”.

  • I need to do this.
  • Recently I was feeling a bit concerned about ‘my cancer returning’ and sad…but past me who would have cried and stayed home said “NO”. I am telling myself this is what I do and off I went to the local shops, dressed with purpose, had my coffee, and wrote about it in my art journal.
  • I have a routine that is not really strict but I need some structure in my day.
  • I no longer want to ‘show off my new clothes’ because there are not many these days. This does not mean empty wardrobes people. Full!
  • I do want to show me (and anyone who remains interested) that my appearance is OK.
  • know that I have gained weight since I got my upper prosthesis in Aug 2018 but also that this has been healthy for me
  • I strive to remember that…above: It is for my health. As a long-time body critic this is taking reminders to me every day!
  • I feel better for getting out each day, even if it is just to get the paper, have a coffee, people watch and play in my art journal
  • I enjoy moving my body more in the clothes and good sneakers I have so it is not an effort to do around the recommended for me steps: 6K-7K
  • I like looking at me in the mirror and liking her more than ever.
  • I do have a photo taken from time to time but have stopped the daily one ages ago.

 

 

 

This post is also a reminder to me of how far I have come post cancer.

Go me. As they say.

I do try to encourage myself as well as others! Someone told me the other day I am an ‘encourager’ and I liked that.

So, do you dress with purpose?

Denyse.

 

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. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *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!

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What Is Love? 37/51 #LifeThisWeek. 95/2019.

What Is Love? 37/51 #LifeThisWeek. 95/2019.

This is about love.

Not all lovey-dovey love.

But love when it matters, how it lasts and the constant re-calibrating a long, long relationship thanks to:

L O V E

Whilst I grew up in a family which went to church on occasion, and I heard this verse a few times at weddings, I am quoting it today from the bible as I have always felt an affinity to these words:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13 (New International Version)

Here’s what love is and looks like, in more recent times in our life together. 49 years in October since we met. Been together ever since!

Keeping our love for each other bright…is quite the journey.

Fortunately we enjoy very similar senses of humour, a love of kids, teaching and a zest for learning more. Always learning.

Whilst my husband endured more than anyone’s fair share of illness and medical conditions which saw him having to medically retire young, he got on with life. Changing his work, over time, to be a kitchen and cabinet maker as well as an educational tutor. In his latter years he too studied at tertiary level and used his qualifications to counsel others. Always a fantastic support to me during my career, his wisdom helped me through some challenging years.

We have parented two children: a girl and a boy. We are so blessed (yes we are) to have eight loving grandchildren, 6 girls and 2 boys. But more than anything…we have each other.

We are loving this post working, post child-rearing, post grandchild-caring life of ours very much. It will be more enhance with a house of our own again one day but for now, we love each other’ company but also do quite a bit separately based on our interests.

Here’s to love…and what it’s been more recently: Recently is from my cancer diagnosis in May 2017 (see here for first time readers)  until now. The amount of time he has given to take me to appointments in Sydney (I now do them alone and have since April 2018) and elsewhere, to ‘find’ a chocolate paddlepop if he could when I was first home from hospital, to be as patient as he could with ‘this patient’ and then to let me know (if I hadn’t already) it was time to get outside, go out and stop whingeing…. I do/did. Mostly. But he also understands I need to get the words out.

And here’s what some recent examples of love look like for us.

And I may not have photos for these but lastly:

  • He surprised me with my new apple watch to ‘celebrate’ two years since cancer
  • He got a new banjo. Just because. Not really, he loves playing his piano and guitars and regretted selling his old banjo, so now he has one!
  • He likes Bunnings. I don’t but I understand shopping!
  • I like arts and crafts. I kind of know how to spend a little less…even though he is very understanding
  • We have date morning tea once a week
  • We watch a session of recorded tv (The Block for now) each afternoon together. We have very different tastes in viewing. He is a Netflix fan, and a sports fan but I tend to just use social media.
  • We disagree. A lot. But we accept, generally, our differences.
  • We annoy each other. A bit. But we move on.
  • We are good for each other. I reckon ‘opposites’ attract. He is tall, I am not. He is ‘big picture’ I am ‘details’. He is…a bloke. I am not.

AND… one thing we always say we remember …even at our worst…is seeing each other for the first time on 17 October 1970, sitting at the opposite ends of a table, and we

S M I L E D…and that dear readers, was that!

I am grateful to have a long-lasting loving relationship.

Denyse.

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. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *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!

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So, What Do You Do? 2018.88.

So, What Do You Do? 2018.88.

I first posted this in 2016, and now today modified as I believe this is even more pertinent in years of retirement or semi-retirement which some of my readers would agree it can take a bit of thought to come up with the answer! I have also removed the original comments.

This is often a question when getting to know more about someone.

What is your answer?

Mine is…or used to be…”I’m a teacher.”

I find that there is a response of interest mostly and also I then sense that there may be another response that can be a negative one.

The ‘other’ response that teachers may get when they disclose their career can be, in my theory, based on the questionner’s experience with teachers.

IMG_0318

I am interested as recently I heard of a situation where someone was given a very hard time in an adult learning setting because that person knew he had a teaching background. The adult teacher/trainer displayed a bias that was not only felt by the person who told me, but the group’s learning was impeded apparently.

So, what is your response to knowing a person is a teacher?

 

Are you aware of any intended or unintended bias? Interesting isn’t it?

Now, away from the teaching background, how might I describe myself? I find I use a few more words that I might have even 2 years ago to help clarify….

I am fully retired from a career in education. I blog and that keeps me connected to a wide range of people. I also like to create and do art and take time each day to be outside and also to get dressed with purpose and go out for a coffee. Oh, and over a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer in my gums but that is going well after surgeries and treatments.

As for your career, profession or current employment or life status…what do you say when people ask:

“So, what do you do?”

Denyse.

education 150

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