Tuesday 3rd August 2021

Women of Courage Series. #62 Juliette O’Brien. 83/2021.

In July 2021 The Women of Courage posts will be connected in some way to World Head and Neck Cancer Month (July) and the #WHNCD Day on 27 July 2021. Those who have followed my blog since 2017 know I was diagnosed with a rare Head and Neck Cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. More here. And below, as I introduce Woman of Courage, Juliette, I will expand more on our connection.

Women of Courage Series #62 Juliette O’Brien. 83/2021.

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

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

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

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

I was honoured and delighted when Juliette O’Brien, aged 37 agreed to share her story as a woman of courage. We have yet to meet in person, but we have connected on social media (where she is @juliette_io on twitter) and one day, we will catch up over coffee at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Now, if that name seems familiar, then you might be correct in making the connection that Juliette is the late Professor Chris O’Brien AO’s  daughter.

I feel so privileged and glad to have been referred to my head and neck surgeon, Professor Jonathan Clark AM that day back in May 2017. He learned much in his training days from the Head and Neck surgeon we all knew from the long-running show about a Sydney Teaching Hospital,  R.P.A. on Channel 9, Dr Chris O’Brien.

Thank you to Juliette so very much for this. You are a gifted woman in so many ways and a quiet but steady achiever too.

 

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

I lost my dad and elder brother to separate unexpected illnesses when I was in my 20s. I did – and continue to do – my best to support my mum and younger brother, to honour my dad’s and brother’s memories, and to continue to find joy and meaning in the world.

I don’t think any of this is courageous, but it has taken effort and perseverance.

 

How did this change you in any way?

These losses changed me profoundly.

They drove me to question our most common assumptions about what it means to live a ‘good life’, especially external signals like attaining status, hoarding wealth and meeting social expectations.

Living in way that subordinates these to your own principles means pushing through discomfort, fear and disapproval.

I suppose this takes ‘courage’ that I doubt I would have had otherwise.

 

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

 

Sometimes we use the adjective ‘courageous’ as though it is a constant state of being or personality trait.

In fact, I think courage, or at least the possibility of it, presents itself moment to moment through the countless decisions we make, and requires renewed interrogation and commitment every day.

 

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

 

I would like to share a poem by the wonderful John O’Donohue (poet, philosopher, former priest).

It is called ‘For Courage’.

I especially love these phrases: “this darkness has purpose”; and “Close your eyes, Gather all the kindling, About your heart, To create one spark …”.

 

When the light around lessens
And your thoughts darken until
Your body feels fear turn
Cold as a stone inside,

When you find yourself bereft
Of any belief in yourself
And all you unknowingly
Leaned on has fallen,

When one voice commands
Your whole heart,
And it is raven dark,

Steady yourself and see
That it is your own thinking
That darkens your world.

Search and you will find
A diamond-thought of light,

Know that you are not alone,
And that this darkness has purpose;
Gradually it will school your eyes,
To find the one gift your life requires
Hidden within this night-corner.

Invoke the learning
Of every suffering
You have suffered.

Close your eyes.
Gather all the kindling
About your heart
To create one spark
That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark
Of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive
To urge you towards higher ground
Where your imagination
will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!

Thank you so much Juliette. Not only for your story but for the added words of John O’Donohue.

His words, narrated before his death, are part of a series of his that I listened to a great deal as I struggled with some challenges in my life’s transitions before cancer.

I cannot and will not compare one person’s story to another, however to know that we can share resources of hope, love, wisdom and courage is to be connected. We need to stay connected.

Looking forward to “that coffee” as soon as Covid is settling!

Denyse.

Note About Head and Neck Cancer Support on-line.

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

This is a link to Head and Neck Cancer Australia too. This is where I found information initially after my 2017 diagnosis and where I am now an Ambassador.

 

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

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

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

Thank you for sharing P.M.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Current diagnosis – language processing disorder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

This whole experience has changed me forever.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Living a lie helps no one in the end.

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

It takes courage to do all those things.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I send my best to you all.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Places for help

Autism and girls – want to know more?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Autism and mental health – want to know more?

 

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

 

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

 

Mental health supports

 

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

 

https://headspace.org.au/

 

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

 

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

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

 

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

 

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

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

― William Faulkner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Yes.

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

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

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

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

I had exceptional role models.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

It was life changing.

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

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

This has been work/life balance changing for me.

 

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

Yes.

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

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

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

This is the best point in courage.

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

I am at all times the calm and consistent adult.

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

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

 

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

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

Be the best person.

Walk away when needed.

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

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

 

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

 

Thank you so much again for sharing.

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

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

Denyse.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Enter Twitter! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From UON / Open Foundation:

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

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

 

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

Thank you!

Denyse.

Tracey Lee’s  Social Media:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tracey_ArtTx

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

This series continues over the next months.

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

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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School Education Advice From Denyse. Retired K- 6 Principal. 99/2020.

School Education Advice From Denyse. Retired K- 6 Principal. 99/2020.

Back in 2016 I published this post after questions from other bloggers.

Given we are at the end of the school and pre-school year 2020…a most extraordinary year thanks to COVID19 and many challenging experiences for children at pre-school and school, along with the parents and carers, I decided to re-fresh this post…and it may just go some way to helping as Christmas holidays beckon.

 

How you can best help develop your kids social skills and confidence?

  • The socialisation of school is such a rich part of the journey of learning and the new separation from the family once starting school. It is a HUGE leap forward in terms of change and we can recall what it is like to start a new job, or a new course or even…maybe school..so we have more than an inkling!

 

  • I believe that children will be, in many instances, influenced by their genes, their parents’ and siblings’ modelling and their age of readiness for school’s more formal learning and socialising ways. This influence can be one of encouragement, maybe of ‘fake it till you make it’ and of over-empathising too. Children will often mirror the emotional resilience in many ways of what & who they know and what they have been like since they were born.

 

  • Before starting school is the place to begin to build the social skills and confidence with encouraging extended time away from parents. By this I mean things like play dates at others’ houses, staying overnight with trusted people such as grandparents and joining in activities such as at playgroup, pre-school, sport/gymnastics/dancing. I do not recommend it all and certainly not at once. This can start occurring at around 3 years I believe if the children have not been used to out of home care at any time.

 

  • Look to yourself with the confidence about this too. I see that kids can take on board parents’ emotions so very easily and we, the adults, need to be extra careful of our words and non-verbal actions.

 

  • I have to add one of the things I like to ‘ban’ parents saying to their children when they start school is “I will miss you so much”. Why? I have known kids who would have settled well be unable to do so because they were worried about Mummy/Daddy/Grandma is  missing them!

 

Kids in the early days and terms of school will, ideally, know how to:

  • separate from their parent(s) with relative ease after starting school.
  • look after their own physical needs – toileting, caring for belongings, getting lunch and recess food out and being able to eat independently
  • know how to listen to and respond to an adult who is not familiar to them but in a position of respect at the school
  • be able to accept some disappointments and learn how to wait for attention
  • be a confident responder to questions posed by other children and teachers
  • make eye contact ( as culturally relevant, it is not always deemed respectful) and to ensure they can engage in a conversation at an age-appropriate level
  • join in with peer and group activities at the level at which they feel confident. Not everyone is a leader but some are very quiet and active participants!

Once they are at school it is great if parents can link up with like-minded families for more socialising after school, for birthdays and more as when the parents begin to engage socially with the peers’ parents this becomes a win/win in ideal cases. Much of this has changed with COVID restrictions in force and some states are different to others.

I do not say it always works..so pick your groups or friends with care but I do know that for some families, those friendships started when their kids started school have continued!

dreamstime_l_1262950-little-scared-one-100x100

Moving from being a bit concerned, worried and little shy….

 

dreamstime_l_3437894-1st-day-sch-boy-150x150

to becoming more confident over time…

How have you managed your children’s social skills as they started school and now they are at school?

What has worked for you and the children?

Denyse.

Interesting to read the comments from 2016. I have left them there. And, opened comments for this post.

Linking up here with Leanne and friends. Probably the last Thursday link up for 2020?

 

 

 

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Self-Care Stories #7 48/51. #LifeThisWeek. 96/2020.

Self-Care Stories #7 48/51. #LifeThisWeek. 96/2020.

The seventh optional prompt for #lifethisweek: Self Care Stories. Sometimes with a hyphen and sometimes not. New image though!

Every 7th Week

Today I am 71.

And yet it seems like just a few months since I was getting myself prepared for 70. In fact, I had a lovely series of gatherings for my 70th and this one brings back smiles…and gratitude for friends made via social media and blogging!

Today, as you may be reading this, I am driving to Sydney with my husband to visit my Dad. Dad is getting more physically frail but very much mentally ‘on the ball’ and I thought it might be a way to brighten his day, share some of my home made cakes and for him to chat with my husband in person as I tend to visit solo. After that we are popping into Uberkate at Willoughby to collect my chain with an added mini-ubercircle which I won’t wear until it’s our Golden Wedding Anniversary in January.

The original 3 Ubercircles I have worn since 2013.

What I Have Done To Continue Better and More Effective Self Care Practices Recently.

  • limiting time spent at my computer in a physical way as I had advice that my sore right shoulder was the effect of too much use of the trackpad and sitting for too long. I have a sign above my screen which says “Ready…Set 15 mins…Go” and oops, I best do that now on my watch. It is a break time which reminds me to move away, and change my posture.
  • using social media feeds of instagram, twitter and facebook ‘just to scroll.’ I now tend to use any one of them for a purpose. For example, twitter is ‘news based’ for my education and health needs, instagram to see if my two posts are actually live and sharing my likes for others, and facebook – personal and the page – to check in on groups where I am a member.
  • I now do not stay for long. If I feel my emotions change i.e. getting cranky with politicians and the like, I am more prone to leaving or retweeting than to respond. Not always but I am getting better!

Self-Talk is SO Much Better.

I do not give myself too hard a time about anything any more and this is a huge shift. Of course, I will say something like ‘oh that was silly’ but I get over it. I no longer dwell, berate or use much negative talk at all. How come? Well, more than anything becoming AWARE. This is my way…I notice much much more what I do/say and I pull myself up on it and move on. I have done so much of this thanks to my previous years’ learning, wanting to know more and via my Calm meditation and reading over 2 years.

Kindness Is King. 

I used to say the words “be kind” and “kindness makes the world a better place” but I did not really believe it nor practise consistently it until this past year. I think, adding to my learning about the benefits of gratitude and needing to cope with all the COVID threw at us earlier in the year, I have had to deliberately step back when managing my emotions and with another person where I may be challenged…and think “kindness.”

  • I took our real estate property manager and team a card of appreciation for their five years of caring for us along with some treats to eat.
  • I also thanked the lovely cafe owner who has cared for me for all of my time getting over cancer surgeries and treatments.
  • I had my 6 months check with my dentist – the one who helped me find the cancer – and he kindly charges me no gap fees at check ups
  • The huge donut story. I sometimes feel deprived of some foods and this local place has been hammering social media so I visited and bought a creme brulee donut home. Ahhh. No good for me. It was delightfully crunchy toffee on top and with MY mouth and teeth no way would I risk it. Boo. So, I had some of the custard with some of the dough and then threw it away. I learned that I cannot have treats like these and wondered, now my appetite has changed how anyone actually eats one or more!
  • My Sunday coffee is always perfect and here is where I catch up on my Kindness book and its snippets of wisdom.

 

Realisation that Choosing  Gratitude as My Word of the Year Helped Me. 

I just reviewed my January post about my selection  of the word gratitude and why. I set myself a goal of posting an image each day (366!) of 2020. Little did any of us know what lay ahead. Days and weeks (months even) of uncertainty thanks to COVID. In fact, I remember a few times thinking to myself ‘sure picked a good word for 2020…not’. And then I turned it around. Often.

  • I became grateful for small things.
  • Learned that I could cope with restrictions better than I may have imagined
  • Found gratitude in a daily coffee AT home rather than going out.

So much to be grateful for.

I had health challenges and a recovery that went a bit pear-shaped but I was grateful for the technology to aid healing, our private health insurance and my body for being a good healer.

So, yes it IS possible to be grateful. 100%.

And to Keep Me More Mindful These Help:

Each morning after my Daily Calm Meditation practice, an image pops up connected to that day. Some I like, others not so much. Here is a range of one whioch not only resonate but are beginning to be embedded in me! I like that.

How Self Care Helps Me Gain Confidence and Strength.

It may surprise some readers but for quite some time my confidence was low. It was, in some ways, to do with my focus on physical and emotional health before cancer was diagnosed. More about that when I do more chapters in Telling My Story next year.

One very special day recently I drove to our son’s house in Sydney after asking if I could spend some time with his youngest before she starts school. He was fine with that and last week, I loved being with her, chatting, drawing and sharing. Being with her, helped my self-care as I watched her totally absorbed in this little Christmas counting book I gave her.

And that is my self-care catch up for now.

How are you self caring these days?

Denyse.

Link Up 217

Life This Week. Link Up #217

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today! Next week’s optional prompt: 49/51 Lucky 7.12.2020 & I will share the first optional prompts for 2021. 

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Self-Care Stories #6. 42/51. #LifeThisWeek. 84/2020.

Self-Care Stories #6. 42/51. #LifeThisWeek. 84/2020.

Last time I wrote about self-care, I was about to have some more surgery. It was a success and it was wound debridement then application of a VAC system to help health both faster and cleaner. More about this as the post goes on.

Self Care: the Mental Story.

I cannot lie. Knowing that I needed more surgery on August 24th to fix the wound from the first abdominal surgery some 5 weeks before did not make me a happy camper.

It also was a messy situation. Literally. I had no idea that a wound could ‘dehisce’. I had also never heard of the word. My GP mentioned it as I anxiously awaited the result of her examination of my very messy & leaking wound area the Wednesday before. I literally could not see it as it was at the junction underneath my tummy where the upside-down T incisions met.

To better explain: from my search:

Dehiscence is a partial or total separation of previously approximated wound edges, due to a failure of proper wound healing. This scenario typically occurs 5 to 8 days following surgery when healing is still in the early stages.

Wound dehiscence is a distressing but common occurrence among patients who have received sutures. The condition involves the wound opening up either partially or completely along the sutures – basically, the wound reopens to create a new wound.

 

Our urgent appointment to my colorectal surgeon the next day confirmed that whilst the wound (stitched internally) was opening up, it was NOT exposing the inside of my abdomen nor impacting on the surgeries I had just had. Phew. I guess.

Trust. I had to have trust in both the surgeon and his work (along with the support of the specialist wound nurse) to come through this second surgery. I had to have an additional surgery post head and neck cancer and I remembered the disappointment very strongly. I also remembered that “if it had to be done, I needed to accept that”.

Relieved patient and doctor!

This time, it was a shorter surgery where he cleaned out the wound area (debridement) as I was under a general anaesthetic, leaving an area of 8cm long x 3cm deep and 3cm wide to be covered with the VAC system dressing, tube and ‘me attached’ to the VAC machine itself. I woke with all that done and by the next day, had the lessons in how to care for it before I would have my first ‘at home’ nursing. This was new to me and I was incredibly grateful. Our private health insurance paid for the equipment (each wound change used a new section of the VAC and was approx $80 each in value). Her travel and services for 7 visits (as was needed  by me) were paid by Teachers Health who would have paid for 10 but by 7 my wound did not need the VAC system anymore.

About the VAC system: Mine was on me, next to me as I slept, 24/7 from 24 August until 17 September. No showers but I could wash myself in a limited way.

Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), also called vacuum-assisted wound closure, refers to wound dressing systems that continuously or intermittently apply subatmospheric pressure to the system, which provides a positive pressure to the surface of a wound.Jul 22, 2020

Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) is a method of drawing out fluid and infection from a wound to help it heal. A special dressing (bandage) is sealed over the wound and a gentle vacuum pump is attached.

I Found It Quite Confronting. 

I admit all of this physical attention by professionals for a part of my body rarely shared with anyone other than my spouse, was hard on me. I knew the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of the reasons. The confrontation I guess for me was about not only the wound itself – not good with them at the best of times – but that my husband or the nurse took photos of me. My body, there, where it is fat and bits of it have weathered a lot – big surgeries for example AND child-bearing. The photos were valuable because they were the proof everything was healing. I just found it hard to ‘see myself’ from this angle. I still have the photos as do my doctors as it is an important record. I have shown a couple of progress shots to family but they are not something I can nor would share publically.

 

Self-Care: the Physical Story.

In the normal scheme of things I can say that I should have been well on my way to full recovery at about the 6-8 weeks mark post first surgery. This would not be the case with the second surgery. It put me back another 4-6 weeks. I had to learn (again!) to live with:

  • physical restrictions with a tube attached to my wound, which was then wound around the bag, which I had to wear on my shoulder. It was quite heavy too, so I could leave it on the desk while I blogged or did some art. I did have to remember to take it with me though…I did have a couple of times over the 3+ weeks where I almost forgot but the dragging of the tube on my wound soon let me know
  • pain. Not much from the wound itself as it was covered and pretty numb from 2x surgeries. The skin around the wound – and some hair in the area – got itchy and a bit painful but managed with cream. Interestingly I was warned I might have needed a very strong pain killer for dressing changes initially but fortunately panadol was enough
  • recovery from wounds from surgery #1 inside and outside made for (and still does as I write) so stinging, aching and pulling sensations from my belly button area and down and across
  • I need to get some help via an arm from my husband or nurse to easily rise from lying down (when wound was being changed) as stomach area feels like I have overdone sit ups. I haven’t. Apparently it can take another 4 months for this to be better after all the cutting and stitching that went on inside
  • less resilience for staying on my feet and walking. I turned down my Apple Watch walking goals initially and over the past 4 weeks have been increasing them slowly
  • being able to drive again took about 3 weeks post first surgery…and I had just become used to that independence when the 2nd surgery happened. By 2-3 weeks post that one I had the OK to drive again. My husband has been and continues to be the main grocery shopper now and I am loving that!
  • getting more distracted by art, some reading, magazine browsing has helped while away the time during a COVID recovery
  • still doing my best to dress with purpose each day and going out for a walk somewhere or a coffee.
  • now that I have NO MORE visits to the GP for wound care – that ended last week as the wound healed fully, I have been able to drive to Sydney to see my Dad.

Self-Care Lessons.

  • I can do this
  • I have done this before
  • I have strategies I can draw on
  • I have a loving and supportive husband
  • I know this is temporary
  • I will learn more about myself by coming through this.

That’s it. A much longer self-care post than usual, but I did think it worth sharing.

Getting over anything health-wise always brings up more than we are perhaps prepared for.

I hope you are doing well.

Denyse.

And a lovely P.S. from me!

On Saturday 17th October it was 50 years since we met. As this post goes live, we will be travelling to the north west of N.S.W. to the city of Tamworth where we met, and then to have a couple of days going to towns that were of great significance in our early single, then married lives. There WILL be a post about that you can guarantee it. I may not be on-line to comment or write on your blog until I am back home. 

 

Link Up 211

Life This Week. Link Up #211

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today! Next week’s optional prompt: 43/51 Inside. 26.10.2020

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Click here to enter


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How Am I Grateful? 2/2020.

How Am I Grateful? 2/2020.

It’s an interesting question!

One I find hard to answer in summary except that I will do what I can here now!

In the first blog post of 2020 I wrote this:

It was a long read…which I did intersperse with photos to illustrate my message – teacher-me!

However, I know that for some gratitude seems ‘oh so on trend’ and what might be next.

Well, I am going to say whilst I do not mind being up with the trends, gratitude has been around for far longer than I have…and any other influencer..(joke).

And gratitude, just like any mindful practice does need to be practised and noticed and felt. Every Day.

 

But what about this? 

As I write this post, it’s Saturday 4 January 2020 when it seems more than I can imagine of Australia is burning. Fires are consuming towns, rainforests, fields, mountains, grassy slopes and all in its path. That path has included a number of people (some not yet accounted for), hundreds of dwellings, millions of animals and more. It is 43 degrees outside here and around 3 streets away the power is out. So far our house is not affected and the air-con is running.

I do not find this a comfortable place to be in my mind and in my body. I made this meme ages ago to remind me that this is what I have to do. If I cannot, then I am fighting an unwinnable fight.

How on earth do I ‘sit with this?’

  • I noticed that my mind was starting to go down the path of ‘what ifs’ and ‘o. m. g.’ and my body started to tighten.
  • I felt teary and a little out of control of my emotions.
  • I knew that I could cry, tell my husband, seek answers to the unanswerable….but what then?

So, I took notice of my mind and body’s signals and did a few things I know that can help.

  • I am better when I am just painting some lines or strokes…on a page…it seems that in itself for me that is calming
  • I did just that on a large page
  • I came here, to share some of my words. The blog is good for that!
  • I told myself that it is OK to feel scared as these times are frightening
  • However, I also told myself that the evidence is here that I am safe, well and cool.

Strategies which work(ed). For me.

I have just told my husband – the one who would have had to help me through in the past – and of course he is pleased I can see life and its challenges better these days. I am grateful that he was patient enough in the past years to help me see/feel/be grateful even when I had no real idea.

Now, I feel better physically.

I will do some more art.

In fact, I used some of that energy I needed to dissipate and cooked some meals for me, my husband and dad.

And I will realised that I can send out loving kindness messages to people who really are doing it tough today, no matter where they are.

I am grateful that I know this practice and it works for me too.

For you! And you too….sending loving kindness.

I now know, it is not about ‘the actual words’ but the intent. The sharing of our messages of well-being, hope and love for each other.

The human connections.

What are you grateful for today…and every day?

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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