Taking Some Time Out

Taking Some Time Out

After some time out from my blog, I feel I need to write about the current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic and how it is affecting people in my local area.

Technical Issues With My Blog

I have been having some time out from my blog.  Basically I ghosted Midlifestylist.  There were several reasons for this, one of which is that I “broke” my website.  I have been trying to fix it but to no avail.  I put a new plugin on my website which does automatic backups.  One of the plugin’s features is that it tidies up your photo gallery.  I thought that would be a good idea because I know I have a few images on the website that I don’t use.  I thought it was going to delete 10 images but it deleted almost everything.  

Images are a vital part of my website because I use them to illustrate statistics and as part of my guides.  I have spent a lot of time creating them.  It is devastating to lose so much from my website.  I attempted to restore an older version of my website from a backup file but have not been able to do it.  The technical aspects of running a website have always been challenging for me because I am self taught and really have no idea what I’m doing half the time.  It was the last straw for me and I had to step away from it or I would have exploded!

Tough Subject Matter

Prior to that I had been writing and recording episodes for my podcast.  The subject material was always going to be tough because it is about my BRCA2 genetic mutation.  The last episode was about prostate cancer, which has impacted my family in a huge way.  Writing about the cancers that have affected my family, and the ones that I have a high risk of getting like melanoma and pancreatic cancer, caused a lot of emotion.  That also was a deciding factor for me taking a break from my blog.

Readjusting to Work

I increased my hours at work and have been struggling with fatigue from the shift work.  Because I still have frequent medical appointments to attend, and chronic health issues, I have struggled at times.  I love my job and I’m so glad to be back at work.  I feel very blessed to have such a supportive boss and I will never take my job for granted again.  I just know that I need to maintain a good work/life balance.  I am currently doing five shifts a fortnight and aim for six.  I know that getting back to seven shifts is almost definitely out of the question because I was struggling with that many prior to my time off last year.  I’m just happy to be back and I know it was a huge achievement to get there.

All of these factors combined lead me to taking a break from blogging.  I didn’t want to just churn out anything and I felt that at times that is what I was doing.  I wasn’t happy with what I was writing.  I would rather write less often and with passion for the subject matter.  Having a break has been good for me.  I won’t be writing as often as I did before as publishing a blog piece weekly is just too difficult for me.

Border Closures Due to the Pandemic

The thing that made me decide to write again today is the current situation with Covid-19.  There are some issues that I am not happy with that I would like to write about.  Australia is divided in a way I never thought I’d see happen.  I live in Queensland which is a lucky state to live in.  Our Covid-19 numbers have always been low compared to the rest of the country and any outbreaks are quickly staunched by short sharp lock-downs.  We have never seen the high numbers here, meanwhile New South Wales and Victoria to the south of us have struggled with high numbers and lengthy lock-downs.

As a result we are isolated behind an impenetrable border at the moment, not allowing anyone to enter our state at the current time.  The problem with this is that, in their effort to keep Covid-19 out, our leaders have created other issues.  The worst problem is that they now will not allow medical staff to cross the border.  Many of the staff in hospitals, nursing homes, medical centres etc. come from Northern New South Wales.  The Queensland government has deemed them to be non-essential so they are not allowing them through.  

Media Coverage Does Not Reflect The Truth

The media has not picked up on the fact that they are not allowing doctors and nurses who are fully immunised through, even with a letter from management to say they are essential.  The result of that is that staff are doing double shifts and overtime to cover them.  Meanwhile these perfectly capable Fully Immunised staff are on full pay at home.  You won’t see that on mainstream media because they are too busy covering protests and people sneaking through the border and getting caught.

I have a major issue with the media’s coverage of this pandemic.  They have been the cause of the distrust that the public has towards the Covid-19 vaccines.  If they hadn’t made such a big deal out of the small number of people getting reactions from the vaccines, there wouldn’t have been so much fear in the community and our vaccination rates would have been much higher.  The truth is that every vaccination causes side effects to a certain number of people.  The risk of getting a blood clot from the Covid-19 virus is much higher than from the vaccine.  The public is given a skewed picture of the risks. 

Vaccination Rates 

In Australia the vaccination rollout started with nursing home patients and people who already had medical issues.  The rate of vaccination complications is always going to be higher in these people than in the rest of the community.  The media sensationalised the number of people having reactions which has negatively impacted the public’s view of it.  The Delta variant is a huge threat to our unvaccinated population.  It changed the whole picture of the pandemic.  If we want to control this pandemic we need to get at least 70% of the population vaccinated ASAP.

The Pandemic Has Caused Housing Shortages

Because of our low numbers in Queensland, we have seen a huge influx of people moving here.  This has impacted the supply of housing in a massive way.  It is now almost impossible to rent a property in Southeast Queensland and the value of housing has risen in line with the demand.  Locals are being pushed out of the market because we can’t compete with the amount that people from NSW and Victoria are able to pay.  My son is moving back home because it is almost impossible to rent a property in his price range.

Desperate people are offering six months’ rent in advance, or $50 more per week on the asking price, to be able to get a house.  My house has risen in value by about $300,000 in the last year.  People from interstate are buying houses sight unseen so that they can move here.  Lock-downs mean that people are unable to run their business – especially on the border between Queensland and New South Wales.  

The Effects of the Pandemic on Business

My brother lives in northern New South Wales and he is in strict lock-down.  He can’t run his business because he’s not able to travel more than 5km from home and customers can’t come to him.  The Government is propping up many businesses like his with funds but many of them will still go bust.  The most heartbreaking image we see on our nightly news is that of families forced to hug each other over the border barriers between our states.  

A Glimmer of Hope

We had some good news today, that Northern New South Wales is ending it’s lock-down which means that there will be more freedom to cross the border.  This is just for essential workers and students, which means that medical staff should be able to come to work.

There is light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic.  We are seeing other countries getting back to normal once their vaccination rates are high enough.  Meanwhile, I hope all who are reading this are in good health.  I would love to hear what life looks like in your part of the world, so feel free to comment below.

Shared on #Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan’s blog

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Feeling Nostalgic Watching The Tokyo Olympic Games

The Tokyo Olympics has me feeling very nostalgic.  

Sydney Olympic Games 2000

21 years ago Sydney hosted arguably the best Olympic Games the world has ever seen.  My sons were aged 6 and 9 in 2000.  We’re not normally  sports fans, but the atmosphere and fun around hosting this event turned us into fans of sports such as swimming, athletics and even wrestling.

Who could forget that iconic moment when Cathy Freeman won the 400m sprint in her full body suit?  Watching it still brings a tear to my eye.  Our National pride was at an all-time high as we cheered on our sporting heroes.

Attending Olympic Games Events

We lived in the Gold Coast and couldn’t afford to take our sons to Sydney.  We were keen to experience some of the Olympic spirit, and were lucky enough to win tickets to two soccer games in Brisbane.  It didn’t matter who was playing – we just wanted to experience it.  That is how we ended up being in the audience of very rowdy soccer fans – especially the Brazilians!

We watched every minute of the Games on TV, and joined the crowds to see the torch relay when it passed through the Gold Coast.  Some of you may remember the comedians Roy and HG – their TV show was an hilarious send-up of the Games.  My sons videoed themselves doing a send-up of the show which was so cute and funny.

Brisbane Olympics 2032

I was so excited to hear that Brisbane will host the Games in 2032.  We held the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast a couple of years ago.  My husband and I went to the opening ceremony, and my son and I went to watch the lawn bowls.  I think the Olympics will be our chance to showcase Southeast Queensland to the world, and will bring many benefits to our cities.

Memories of Our Holiday to Japan

Watching the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics triggered memories of our holiday to Japan.  We visited in September 2019 while the country was preparing for the Games.  Some of the special effects in the opening ceremony were reminiscent of some of the unique places in Japan.  There was one part in particular that may have been designed by the same company behind the Digital Art Museum in Tokyo.

Japan is a beautiful country, one which I hope to return to one day.  They have the perfect combination of history and culture, and modern technology.  We spent three weeks there, traveling only on public transport and shopping in local markets.  The language barrier was the only problem we encountered and I blame myself for not learning at least basic Japanese.

I am disappointed for the Japanese people, that they won’t get the benefit of hosting large crowds.  I doubt if it will be economically beneficial because they aren’t able to have a boost from ticket sales and tourism.  Such a shame considering all the preparation they put into it.

How About You?

Do you have any memories of the Olympics?  Maybe your city/country hosted it?  Have you visited Japan?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Shared on Weekend Coffee Share Linkup on Natalie the Explorer’s blog and Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan’s Blog

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Spring Cleaning in Winter

The love of Spring cleaning

Does anyone else love Spring cleaning?  My husband and I have started our Spring cleaning a bit early this year.  By the time Spring comes it’s too hot here to do it.  Hence doing it in Winter.

I was out of action for the better part of a year so a lot of our housework became very neglected.  I’ve been looking at my windows for months and itching to clean them as they were filthy.  We’re working our way around the house cleaning windows, blinds and curtains, ceiling fans, skirting boards, fly-screens, furniture and floors.  It’s a huge job but oh, so satisfying.

I’m a Domestic Goddess!

I’m a bit of a control freak with cleaning.  I have never paid anyone to do it, even though at times my health has meant that I can’t do it myself.  No-one else could do it to my satisfaction!  I enjoy really getting in there and scrubbing thoroughly.  My husband doesn’t quite do it the way I like, but I bite my tongue most of the time because I need his help with the heavier work.

Girl with a silly grin cartoon.  Caption:  When Your man helps clean but your idea of clean and his idea of clean are totally different and you're trying not to be an ungrateful b***h
Cleaning meme – Source: Boredpanda.com

He’s a perfectionist in the garden though.  At times I’ve suggested we pay for someone to do our lawns or do some of the other outside chores.  He would rather do it himself though, for the same reason I like to do my own cleaning.  We’re our own worst enemies!  I guess we like the satisfaction that comes from doing a job properly, and seeing the results of our hard work.

The Love of a Clean House

Spring cleaning will take us the good part of a month to six weeks to do this year.  Phil works very long hours and I’m back doing shift work, so we only get one day a week to do it.  We’re about half way through.  It’s so nice to see the sun streaming through sparkling clean windows!  It’s a constant battle to keep on top of it because we have three cats and a dog which means lots of fur and dirty paw prints.

Women’s Work / Men’s Work

My family growing up was very traditional,  with a tradesman dad and stay at home mum.  There were jobs for the girls and jobs for the boys.  I didn’t mind helping mum out with the housework because I learned a lot of useful skills from her.

My first marriage was quite traditional too.  The difference was that I worked and also had to do the majority of the housework.  My ex-husband  did a minimum of housework.  He did look after the swimming pool and yard though, so when we separated I had to figure out how to do those chores.  

I remember being overwhelmed by having to look after the pool and yard.  I eventually became proficient with those tasks and learned how to do many tasks that were traditionally men’s work.  I bought a tool kit and tackled many jobs around the house.  I didn’t want my sons to lack basic skills so I taught them how to sew, cook, clean, do laundry, iron and many other skills.

Man Tip #42 meme:  A man cleaning the exhaust fan in the kitchen.  Caption:  No woman has started an argument with a man while he was dusting, vacuuming or washing the dishes
Man Tip #42 Meme – Source: Boredpanda.com

Second Time’s a Charm

When I met my second husband we realised pretty quickly that we enjoyed doing tasks together.  We renovated my house and landscaped the yard together.   Being with someone who you can rely on to be supportive like that is such a good foundation for marriage. 

I’m curious to know how many of my readers love Spring cleaning, or whether you would rather outsource it?  What jobs around the house do you pay someone to do?

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Shared on Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan’s blog.

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July Update on Resilience, my Word of the Year

Cloudy beach on the Gold Coast

Resilience is my Word of the Year 2021.  I chose this word because last year I had complications from surgery that meant that I couldn’t work.  I was needing every bit of courage, inner strength and persistence to work towards that goal, after suffering many setbacks.  Now that it is six months into the year, I thought I would revisit my word of the year to see how I was progressing.

Gaining Strength and Cardiovascular Fitness

I reached my goal of returning to work in early April.  To be able to return to work I had to be 100% capable of fulfilling my duties as a Registered Nurse.  I had been seeing an Exercise Physiologist weekly since November in order to build up my upper body strength.  My progress was slow because of the pain.  I was deconditioned from not being able to exercise for six months so it took a long time to build my strength back up again.

I’m proud to say I have kept up my exercise program, by doing the regime three times a week.  There is no way I want to lose my fitness after working so hard to achieve it.  I do two different programmes which take an hour each.  On the third workout I do yoga or another low impact routine.  I also walk my dog for 3km per day.

Working on my strength and cardiovascular fitness has had many benefits including being able to work without lower back pain.  This has meant that my job doesn’t cause pain, and is easier to do.  The lower back pain I lived with for years is so much better now.  

Returning to Work – Goal Met!

I started back just doing two shifts per week.  At first I was really tired but my stamina has improved greatly.  Next week I’m increasing my shifts to five per fortnight.  Previously I did seven shifts per fortnight but I doubt if I’ll ever get back to that.  I used to be permanently exhausted and get a lot of migraines, and my insomnia was terrible.  I work all shifts and it changes week to week so the lack of consistency has always played havoc with my sleeping patterns.  While I was off work I was in a regular sleeping pattern but that’s gone out the window now.  

I’m very mindful of the need to have a better work-life balance.  I don’t want my job to impact my life like it used to.  The best lesson I had while I was not working was that I don’t want to work like that anymore. I may increase to six shifts per fortnight, but no more than that.  I learned to be much more careful with my money so I know I can live off less income.

I am absolutely loving being back at work.  I did not realise it meant so much to me until I couldn’t do it!  Being a nurse is part of my DNA!  It’s all I know after doing it for 35 years, with only a few months off to have my sons.  I’m loving the mental stimulation, the sense of purpose, and the satisfaction I get from helping people.  I hope I have another 10 or so years left in me until I’m retirement age!

Inspiration - I prioritise what is important to me, and let the rest go
Inspiration – I prioritise what is important to me, and let the rest go

Starting my Podcast

You may have noticed my blog posts have had a theme this year.  I have had an inner drive to make my podcast about BRCA Gene Mutations and Cancer Awareness.  I have been enjoying the challenge of trying something new.  I have another three episodes left that I want to make then I’ll probably give myself a break from it.  I have always wanted to write interlinked posts about cancer awareness as it is something I’m passionate about.  The audio quality of the podcast is not that great.  I’m more interested in getting my message out there than perfecting the quality.  

One thing I find difficult is all the technical side of having a website.  It’s getting neglected now that I have even less time to spend on it.  I don’t have time to promote it on social media anymore so I’m not growing my audience.  I would rather have an audience of regular readers even if it is low in numbers.  Blogging has always been about writing, and the community of bloggers.  That is why I keep finding time for it in my busy schedule.  I prioritise what is important to me, and let the rest go.

Overlooking the Gold Coast beach that holds a lot of significance for my husband
Overlooking the Gold Coast beach that holds a lot of significance for my husband

The Importance of Family

My mother-in-law passed away at the beginning of May.  I’m no stranger to grieving, having lost both parents and my sister, but my husband had never been through it.  The family has united in our support for each other.  We make sure my 90 year old father-in-law has regular visits to check in on him.  We all have our bad days but that’s to be expected.  Overall we’re doing fine.

My husband and I had a short staycation last weekend because we felt like we needed time to reconnect.  We spent time visiting the area that he grew up in.  Nearly every photo of him when he was a boy was at the beach so I wanted to see where his mum took him.  We are planning to spread her ashes in the ocean close to there when the time is right.  We shed  a few tears and really felt her presence that day.

The pandemic has once again stuffed up travel plans.  An outbreak caused lock-downs and forced my in-laws to cancel their holiday.  One of my nieces is stuck in Sydney, unable to return to Queensland.  It’s a reminder that this is not over yet.  Life won’t be back to normal for a long time.

Inspiration - If I Set My Mind to Something, I Can Do It
Inspiration – If I Set My Mind to Something, I Can Do It

Improving my Mental Health

Last year I began seeing a psychologist to help me to deal with the emotions that came from coping with my health issues.  I have continued to see her because I find my mental fortitude is so much better due to it.  I have definitely needed it for grief counseling this year.

To summarise, I feel that resilience was a very good choice for my Word of the Year.  I have needed resilience to cope with returning to work and grieving my mother-in-law.  Resilience has helped me maintain my fitness by exercising even when I don’t feel like it.  And resilience has helped me to deal with all the negative emotions I had during my recovery – self doubt, low confidence and self pity.

I have a lot more confidence now that I have achieved my goal.  I feel that if I set my mind to something, I can do it.  I can see how far I have come since this time last year.  I definitely don’t take things for granted like good health, my job, and my family.  I’m so much happier for it too.

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The end of the journey for a much-loved family member

sunset and clouds with a flock of birds flying

I am back after a break from blogging over the last few weeks.  My much loved mother-in-law passed away after a battle with lung cancer.  I took a break to spend time with my family during her last few weeks and until after her Celebration of Life.

I have written about my incredibly strong mother-in-law before.  Gwen was given 18 months when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She far outlived any of the doctors’ predictions and lasted 3 ½ years.  Most of that time she was living independently at home with her 90 year old husband, driving, and still continuing to enjoy social outings to bingo and lunch with her friends.

From Easter onwards we noticed a decline in her condition.  She lost her energy, became very short of breath on mild exertion, and started to get more pain.  We tried hard to persuade her to take her medication to help with her symptoms but she was reluctant to take too much of it.  Her appetite had been poor since she lost her sense of taste so she was losing quite a lot of weight as well.

She had reached many milestones over the last few months – her own 86th birthday in December, Christmas, my father-in-law’s 90th and their 65th wedding anniversary in March.  There was only one last milestone to reach – a family reunion with her siblings and their families on the first weekend in May.

A Decline in Condition Leads to a Trip to the Hospital

On the 24th of April she woke in a lot of pain and could barely move due to the breathlessness.  We called an ambulance and she was admitted to hospital.  Scans showed that her cancer had progressed and she had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in her lung).  She was now to have oxygen permanently.  During the whole course of her cancer she had not wanted treatment and was adamant about that.  We all supported her in that decision because she was very clear about her wishes.

At the beginning of her hospital stay we thought she may be able to return home so we organised home oxygen, a wheelchair, shower chair and wheely walker.  Over the next few days it became more apparent that she would be too unwell to leave the hospital.  Her family’s reunion came to her!  Quite a few much loved family members visited her in hospital.

Joy in the Palliative Care Ward

It’s not often that a palliative care ward has much joy but Gwen’s room did.  There was laughter and tears, as we all tried to make her last few days as positive as we could.  Her room radiated with love – our love for her and her love for all of us.  Even though we were well prepared, we still felt like we didn’t have enough time when she passed away.

She deteriorated so quickly on her last day we barely had time to make it to the hospital.  Most of us were there to hold her hand while she peacefully took her last breaths.  We were all heartbroken because we didn’t feel ready for her to be taken from us.  

A Celebration of Life

Gwen had been very clear about what she wanted. There was to be no morbid funeral.  Instead, she wanted to be cremated privately and a celebration of life was to be held afterwards.  She had chosen songs and told us all how she wanted to be remembered.  This made it so easy to plan her final celebration of life and I highly recommend that everyone do it.  I have now lost both parents, a sister and my mother-in-law and because Gwen had outlined everything she wanted it made it so much easier than the other deaths to plan for her funeral.

The whole family were involved in Gwen’s Celebration of Life.  It was held at my brother- and sister-in-law’s home.  My brother-in-law gave a lovely eulogy then we had a video with photos of Gwen through the years, and each of us had recorded a short piece saying our memories of Gwen. My niece created a beautiful tribute video to showcase Gwen’s life.  

Gwen and her mother on her wedding day
Gwen and her mother on her wedding day

We had a few of the things that Gwen loved on display – her bingo trophy, her favourite drinks Baileys and Scotch, and many family photos with all of her loved ones.  The video was a very moving tribute to our much loved matriarch.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the place, especially from her loving husband and family.

Grieving the Loss of Someone Special

Once the funeral was over we all felt a sense of relief.  We still grieve every day because we miss her so much.  It didn’t really sink in for me until Mothers’ Day.  Our usual family gathering was very subdued and quiet without her.  She always prepared the food and without her there it just seemed strange.

We have all rallied around my father-in-law and make sure we visit and give him the odd meal.  Luckily he can cook and he had been helping Gwen with household chores while her health declined.  He had a bad fall last year and ended up having a long stay in hospital so we suggested a personal alarm for him.  He already has services like housekeeping and lawn mowing set up for him.

Supporting Each Other Through Grief

The one positive of having 11 months off work was that I was able to spend much more time with my in-laws.  Seeing everyone come together at this very sad time and emerge from such a sad event is a testament to how strong my husband’s family is.  Comparing it to my own family it is obvious to see that some families grow stronger at times like this, and others fall apart like mine.  Any cracks that were there before can deepen into chasms if there is dysfunction in a family.

Communication and empathy are the key.  We had deep discussions as a family during this period.  Being respectful of each other, and showing kindness and compassion can help.  Everyone experiences grief differently and just being aware of that can prevent misunderstandings. 

Continuing Family Traditions

We aim to continue having family traditions like our Sunday gatherings.  Even though it’s not the same without her, those get-togethers will be an important way of supporting each other as time goes on.  My own mother passed away thirty years ago so I know that losing your mum is arguably the hardest death to get over.  Having experienced the loss of three close members of my family has given me the ability to help others through the experience.  Each loss is very different from the next but hopefully I can be the kind of support for others in the family that I know I needed while I was grieving.  It’s not a time for isolation – grieving is easier with a shoulder to cry on and a kind ear to listen.  It helps me as well.  Often a hug and a cry is what we all need and the shared experience can uplift us when we are having a bad day.

With time the deep sorrow does ease.  Some things will still trigger emotions, and anniversaries of important dates will still be hard to get through.  She will always be in our hearts, nothing will ever change that.  Her legacy is her family and our strong bond with each other. May Gwen Rest in Peace.

Shared on Weekend Coffee Share Linkup on Natalie the Explorer’s blog and Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan’s blog

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Reaching a Goal and Setting New Goals

3 hooks with colourful tags hanging

I Reached My Goal of Returning to Work

Some of you have already seen my latest update on social media so it will come as no surprise that I finally reached my goal. A goal that seemed impossible to reach a few months ago. I started back at work this week after nearly 11 months of sick leave.

I thought I would be nervous and anxious because I suffer from anxiety, but I was calm and relaxed. Too relaxed perhaps because I was nearly late on my first day! I had forgotten what the traffic was like at that time of day. My employer is supporting me during this transition period. I have started back at two shifts per week, non consecutive days and am building up to my usual 7 shifts per fortnight.

A Gradual Return to My Job

My first day was primarily a training day to do my yearly mandatory competencies on the computer. I felt a bit brain dead by the end of the day. I’m so glad I continued to use my brain during my sick leave, to write this blog and complete a course. It has helped me to keep the grey matter from being neglected!

My second day I was looking after patients with one of my colleagues as a buddy alongside me. Having her there to ask questions was so helpful. We use computers for all of our documentation and I had always found the computer difficult to use. I prefer the old school way of nursing because I feel that the computers take you away from the patients. But they are here to stay. Most of my questions related to the computer – the nursing came easily (once a nurse always a nurse!). I was happy that I didn’t feel as rusty as I expected.

It felt so good to look after patients again. I really missed this role while I was off work. It’s great to feel like a productive member of society again. Catching up with my colleagues was also lovely. There have been 3 pregnancies amongst the staff while I’ve been away. I enjoyed being welcomed back to the team.

While many of my colleagues are aware of the reason for my prolonged absence, very few know how hard I had to work to be fit enough for my job. I will never take my job for granted again. I used to think it would be nice to not have to work, but when I was in that position the only thing I could think of was returning to work. Nursing is such a rewarding career and it’s all I know. I couldn’t think of doing anything else.

Returning to work after long term sick leave as a nurse.  Image:  the author Christina Henry in scrubs on her first day back at work in nearly 11 months

Staying Fit and Strong in the Future

My goal is to keep up the exercise program that I have been doing. I used to have so much pain, especially in my lower back. The Exercise Physiologist has helped me to build up my strength so that I am using the correct muscles for lifting and performing tasks. I don’t want to lose that strength by sliding into bad habits again. I have never felt healthier and my back has never felt so strong.

Some of my daily routines will be different to before my sick leave. I used to cook a meal for my family no matter which shift I was on. We have become empty nesters in the past few months so I no longer need to do this. Freezing the excess has become a new habit and it will come in handy to have meals for my work days.

Many of my regular readers have encouraged me as I struggled with my journey to wellness. Thank you to everyone who has written such supportive comments. I feel overwhelmed sometimes by the kindness given to me. Every one of those comments meant a lot to me and helped me, especially when my spirits were low.

My New Project

For the last few weeks I have started working on a new project. I am creating a resource page for BRCA genetic mutations and cancer awareness. It is something that I feel drawn to because I have learned so much through my own journey. I am writing the script for a podcast on the same subject. This is a side project to my current blog, and will be attached to Midlifestylist.com. You may see the odd blog post on this subject in the future.

Lack of time will always be a factor. I wish I had more time to do everything that I want to do! But my blog has kept me motivated and busy for the entire time I was off work so I intend to keep going with it. Writing has always been my passion and it has given me purpose.

I will try to continue my weekly blog posts but as life returns to normal I may not have time to post a blog every week. I will try to continue sharing to my favourite Linkups but may have to reduce it to fortnightly in the future. Returning to work was my goal and after finally reaching it, my new goal is to stay fit and healthy so that has to remain my priority.

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Shared on Weekend Coffee Share Linkup on Natalie the Explorer’s blog and Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan’s blog

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Celebrating my Irish Heritage on Saint Patrick’s Day

Celebrating my Irish Heritage on Saint Patrick's Day

Saint Patrick’s Day Holds Special Significance For My Family

Saint Patrick’s Day has always been important for my family because of our Irish heritage.  My mother’s maiden name was Geraghty.  My other hobby is genealogy.  I have traced our family tree back to our European roots – Irish, English, Welsh and Scottish on my mother’s side and English and Polish on my father’s.  I have another blog about our family history called This is Who We Are.

My Irish Family’s Emigration to New Zealand

My Irish ancestors emigrated from County Cavan to New Zealand in 1865 on board the Ganges.  Patrick and Bridget Geraghty (nee Brady) had an eventful journey as she gave birth to a son, naming him Bartholemew Ganges Geraghty after the ship.  There were 56 deaths on board the Ganges from bronchitis and whooping cough.

Patrick and Bridget emigrated to New Zealand because of the chance to own their own land.  The potato famine had caused 1.5 million deaths in Ireland, and led to mass emigration to New Zealand, America and other parts of the world.  They had another 11 children.  One of their children died at the age of 2, another at 16.  

The Early Settlers Had a Tough Life

Life was very tough for the Irish settlers as they were housed in rough conditions then moved to a small town in the Waikato, Tuakau.  The New Zealand wars were fought in the area.  The Alexander Redoubt was built by the British troops and it was here that the wars with the Maori took place.  The result was that land was confiscated from the Maori to be used for farming for the settlers.  This caused  a lot of tension between the settlers and the Maori in the area.

The family became flax farmers as they had been allocated a 10 acre block.  The demand for flax fibre for ropes was high, and there were numerous flax mills in the area.  The Geraghty family have made their mark in Tuakau. There are a couple of roads named after them, and the cemetary in Tuakau has many of the descendants of Patrick and Bridget. They are buried in a large grave with an impressive monument to the Geraghty name along with several of their children. They began what is now a huge number of descendants who bear the Geraghty name in their family tree.  

Treasured Memories of my Irish Grandfather

My grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary.  Saint Patrick's Day is a day to remember my Irish heritage.
My grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary. I love this photo as they both look so happy

My grandfather was a third generation New Zealander.  He moved north to Dargaville after he married my English grandmother.  My grandfather wore a green jumper frequently.  He was a gentle, kind man but also tough.  His whole back yard was a potato garden.  The potato famine must have impacted the family through the generations.

St. Patrick’s Day Is Bittersweet

My family always celebrated St. Patricks Day but it holds bittersweet memories for me.  It is also the anniversary of my mother’s death.  Mum passed away from cancer in 1991, 30 years ago today.

My mother Diana (nee Geraghty) and the author, Christina Henry.  Taken in 1990 six months before Diana passed away
My mother and I in 1990, approximately six months before she died

Her passing was quite sudden.  This photo was taken of her on my hen’s night approximately 6 months before her death.  She was completely fine then and we had no inkling that cancer was metastasizing inside her.  In January she came to stay with me and my sister and I noticed that she wasn’t herself.  She seemed vague and not sprightly, and wandered off during a walk.

A Heart-breaking Diagnosis

I took her to my GP who ordered a CT Scan of her brain.  Being a nurse, my curiosity overcame me and I looked at the results.  The shock of reading that she had multiple metastases in her brain will always stay with me.  Having to phone dad and my brothers was incredibly hard.

We never did find out what her primary cancer was, but it was probably lung cancer.  The only treatment available in those days was radiotherapy which would have taken weeks to administer, and only extended her life for a few more weeks.  We decided to take mum home and make the most of the time we had left.

She had a burning desire to see her family so we took her to Sydney and Melbourne on the train to visit them.  Her brother, sister and nephew flew from New Zealand to meet up with us there.  My sister decided to take mum back to New Zealand to visit her other family members there.  Unfortunately mum took a sudden turn for the worse and passed away in her hometown, Dargaville.

Remembering my Mother on St. Patrick’s Day

Mum’s family looked after us all so well.  Her brother arranged the funeral and she is buried with her mum in Auckland.  Every time I go to New Zealand it is the first place I visit.  We have also buried a small portion of my dad’s and sister’s ashes with mum so that they can be together in spirit.

Mum was buried on my 25th birthday.  It just seems so weird to think she’s been gone for 30 years.  She was my age – 54 when she died.  Far too young to die.  I can’t imagine dying at my age.  She definitely wasn’t ready to go.  She wanted to see grandchildren but none of her four children had had kids yet.

Saint Patrick’s Day Today

I keep in contact with her family as they are such lovely people.  I visit them when I go to New Zealand.  Over the years my celebration of my Irish heritage has become more subdued.  I used to go to an Irish pub to eat Guinness pie and enjoy the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities.  On her 10th anniversary my father, brother and I enjoyed a fantastic day in Auckland at the Irish pubs.  I just don’t enjoy it anymore.  I decided that I would have a quiet day of reflection instead.

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Sympathy vs Empathy: Which one is better?

Sympathy vs empathy Which one is better?

How do sympathy and empathy differ, and which one helps someone feel truly supported in their time of need?

The thought came into my head this morning as I was contemplating the support I have received, especially in the last year.  The comfort I have received in some instances was just what I needed in my time of need.

The difference between Sympathy and Empathy:

Sympathy vs empathy: what’s the difference?

The term sympathy is largely used to convey commiseration, pity, or feelings of sorrow for someone else who is experiencing misfortune. You feel bad for them … but you don’t know what it is like to be in their shoes.

The term empathy is most often used to refer to the capacity or ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another, experiencing the emotions, ideas, or opinions of that person.

Expressing Sympathy vs Empathy

Some people mean well, but they don’t always give me what I need in that moment.  They are expressing sympathy at my situation usually by giving me advice:  “Why don’t you look for another job?”  They express pity for me: “Oh you poor thing”.

I don’t want to be pitied as I feel sorry for myself enough!  But at the same time I realise my situation is unique and it would be unusual to meet anyone who has gone through what I have. 

I feel like the people who really make the difference don’t try and give me advice.  They listen and then when they do say something,  they are empathising with me.  “It must be so frustrating to go through that.  I would find it hard too”.  

People who empathise can put themselves in your shoes and imagine what it would be like to go through the same situation.   They don’t try to fix things, or offer advice.  They let you vent and really listen.

Thank You to my Blogging Community For the Support

The theme for Denyse Whelan’s Life This Week Linkup is floral.  I want to offer a virtual bouquet of flowers to the blogging community to which I belong.  This is because I am so grateful for the support I have received from you all.  Being stuck at home can be lonely, but through my blog I have met so many lovely people. 

I have used my blog to promote a healthy lifestyle.   But also to share my journey as I recover from complications of surgery.  Whenever I write about my struggles the comments I receive are so lovely, warm and full of empathy that I often cry. I appreciate the words of comfort that feel like they come from a place of genuine caring.

I feel like I am among friends as I can relate to a lot of you as I read your blogs.  It helps being in the same stage of life, or slightly behind.  I look forward to reading your blogs and what you’re up to.  I am inspired as well.  I’m grateful to belong to a community of amazing people. 

Empathy offers genuine support

To conclude, there is nothing wrong with offering a sympathetic ear to someone in their time of need.  Empathy takes it one step further and helps the person feel truly heard and supported. While I appreciate advice, often I just need someone to listen and acknowledge my feelings. Being part of the blogging community allows me to express myself and feel supported by people who genuinely care.

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Clarifying Your Values for Deeper Self Awareness

Clarifying Your Values For Deeper Self Awareness

Clarifying your values leads to a better understanding of your inner self.

We all have values.  Our values are those attributes that define who we are as people.  Values are those qualities we hold dear to us.  Some are more important than others.  They are the values that we are most passionate about.  By clarifying your values, you will understand  your inner self – what makes you tick.  Clarifying your values will lead to a deeper self awareness.

"Values are our heart's deepest desires for the way we want to interact with and relate to the world, other people, and ourselves.  They are leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life" Russ Harris
“Values are our heart’s deepest desires for the way we want to interact with and relate to the world, other people, and ourselves.  They are leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life” Russ Harris

How my health struggles have led to deeper self awareness

My health struggles have helped me to redefine what is really important to me.  They have led to a deeper meaning of what makes me tick.  Through this self reflection I can understand why I struggle with some aspects of recovery more than others.

Many of my readers are aware of my journey through recovering from a bilateral mastectomy that had complications.  Part of my recovery has been coping with the emotional and mental struggle due to not being able to work because of my health.  I have been seeing a psychologist to help me to deal with my struggles.

She has been helping me to manage my anxiety and feelings of loss by helping me to reframe some of my thought processes.  One of the things that has really resonated with me is learning about values conflict. I have been finding it hard to cope with the change in my life because there is a values conflict.  

What is a Values Conflict?

A values conflict is when something or someone challenges a value that is important to you.  In this case, my value is helping people which is why I became a nurse.  Not being able to work as a nurse means I can’t fulfill that part of me that wants to help people.

She gave me a list of common values.  My task was to choose the ten values that mean the most to me.  Narrowing it down to just ten was a challenge in itself.  Some of the values are more important than others.  When there is a values conflict you can react strongly – it’s a visceral reaction, like “being kicked in the guts”.  It made me realise why I react so strongly to some situations, and why my self worth suffers when I can’t fulfill those values that are important to me.

Defining Your Most Important Values

My ten most important values are:

  1. Contribution and Generosity
  2. Fairness and Justice
  3. Fitness
  4. Honesty
  5. Kindness
  6. Order
  7. Respect/self respect
  8. Responsibility
  9. Safety and protection
  10. Trust

I’m going to share the three values that mean the most to me, and explain where the values conflict lies.

Contribution and Generosity:  to contribute, give, help, assist, or share.

This is important to me because I get enormous satisfaction from helping others.  The main reason I chose nursing as a career was to help people.  I need to contribute to society and be a positive influence on others.  My blog aims to motivate other midlifers to live a healthy lifestyle.  I share my story so that I can inspire other people.  In other words, my life’s work is to be helpful.  

Now that I’m not working a huge gaping hole appeared in my life and it has taken a toll on me.  My role as a nurse is a major part of my identity.  I wrote about it here.  My values conflict lies in not being able to help others, and to be on the receiving end of that instead.

Fitness:  to maintain or improve or look after my physical and mental health.

This is probably the most important value to me.  Without health life is hard to bear.  I aim to keep myself as healthy in mind and body as possible.  My health and other people’s health is my life’s work.  I prefer to prevent health crises by being proactive with my health, using preventative measures to avoid disease, and following the health advice of experts.  I aim to show people how to live a healthy lifestyle by leading a good example, raising awareness of disease, and continually learning about health.  

Keeping physically fit is not for appearances, but rather to keep healthy.  My values conflict has been dealing with the aftermath of surgery that had complications.  Not being healthy and fit enough to work has been emotionally difficult.  I am working with an Exercise Physiologist to build my strength up so I can return to work.  It is hard work, my progress is slow and I get a lot of pain.  But working towards being fit and healthy is very rewarding as well.

Honesty:  to be honest, truthful, and sincere with myself and others.  

I hate being lied to.  It is my pet peeve.  It makes my blood boil when I find out I have been lied to and I can never really trust that person again.  I have a strong lie detector but it doesn’t always work, and that really shakes my world especially if the deception has been going on for a length of time.  It is heartbreaking to discover people close to me have lied or deceived me.  

I also am a terrible liar, even a white lie.  It makes me extremely uncomfortable to lie to somebody.  I would rather be told the truth, no matter how brutal, than be told a lie.  My visceral reaction whenever I sense someone has been lying is because there is a values conflict.  I included this value here because honesty is so important to me.

Clarifying your values helps you to understand your emotions

By clarifying your values in this way, you can reflect on those aspects of your life that are causing an emotional reaction.  It’s that gut feeling that something is not right.  For example, when I sense someone is lying to me, I get a gut churning sensation that makes me really uncomfortable. 

Values conflicts cause me to have sleepless nights and anxiety.  By clarifying my values, I now can understand why some situations cause me to react in that way.  With that clarity, I have been able to work with my psychologist on reframing my thought processes.  She is helping me to pinpoint what it is that is causing that emotional reaction, and to deal with stressful situations in a different way.

When your values align with your significant other

Having values that align with your closest loved ones – in my case, my husband – means less conflict in our relationship.  My first husband and I had different values which led to a lot of conflict.  I feel blessed to have met someone whose values are similar to mine.  It’s nice to be “on the same page” when we make decisions.

Clarify your own values

What values do you value the most?  What is the most important quality to you?  What would you want to be remembered for?  Clarify your own values for a deeper understanding of your self.

By clarifying your values, you will understand what makes you tick. Clarifying your most important values will lead to a deeper self awareness. Values conflicts cause an emotional reaction so you can manage your emotions by knowing which values are important to you.

If you would like to explore this concept in more depth, Russ Harris of www.ActMindfully.com.au has some excellent resources on his website.  Clarifying Your Values and Making Life Changes is a worksheet from his book The Confidence Gap that will help you clarify your values.  I found this to be very helpful.

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Celebrating Australia’s Birthday

Celebrating Australia's Birthday

January 26th is Australia Day, which commemorates the arrival of the first fleet in Sydney in 1778 and the beginning of the colony.  Celebrating Australia’s birthday on this date has become controversial, however, because the nation’s first peoples see it as Invasion Day.  There have been calls to change Australia Day to another date out of respect for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.  So far Australia Day remains a public holiday and a day to celebrate our diverse culture.

I Am A Kiwi Aussie

Even though it is not politically correct, I still enjoy celebrating Australia Day.  I am proud to call myself Australian, and love my adopted country.  I was born and raised in New Zealand and came to Australia when I was 19, in 1986.  New Zealand is as much a part of me as Australia.  My sons think of themselves as Kiwi Australians because they had frequent holidays to New Zealand with me.

The symbol for a Kiwi Aussie - half kangaroo (Australian), half fern leaf (New Zealander).  Source:  Clipart
The symbol for a Kiwi Aussie – half kangaroo (Australian), half fern leaf (New Zealander). Source: Clipart http://cliparts.co/clipart/2806792

There has always been a bit of rivalry between Kiwis and Aussies.  The beginning of this video by actor Sam Neill explains it with a humorous twist:

https://www.facebook.com/SBSAustralia/videos/10156058565748686/

Australia, My Adopted Home

My sister and I came to Australia as two naive teenagers, and set out on the big Aussie adventure, backpacking on a working holiday.  We started off in South Australia, picking grapes at a vineyard and packing dried fruit at an apricot factory.  My poor mother struggled with the sudden loss of her daughters, so much that my parents emigrated the following year.  One brother then the other eventually moved here as well.

Three of us married Aussies.  I decided to make it official and became an Australian citizen after my first son was born.  My dad, who was a widower by then, became a citizen at the same time.  The law changed over time, and now it is much harder to become an Australian citizen.  One of my brothers had to go through a very lengthy process because he had returned to New Zealand to live for five years.  He proudly became a citizen on Australia Day 2020.

Celebrating Australia Day with friends - I'm in the middle.  Photo: 3 women wearing Australian hats
Celebrating Australia Day with friends – I’m in the middle

Celebrating Australia Day

We will celebrate with my husband’s family the way we usually do:  with a barbeque, a dip in the pool, and a few beers.  We’ll try not to get sunburnt, and avoid the crowded beaches that are the favoured place to celebrate Australia Day.  This year’s celebrations will be much more subdued because of Covid-19, but we’ll fly our Aussie flag and get into the spirit of day by listening to some Oz Rock.

Happy Australia Day!

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