Thursday, 10 August 2017

X Factor


 X is for X Factor

I was watching an interview yesterday on the Australian Today Show. Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson were interviewing Paul Burrell who was Princess Diana's butler. Karl was in hot debate with Paul over Paul's divisive statement that, 'Kate Middleton does not have the X Factor that Princess Diana had'.

Karl disagreed and there was a heated discussion between the two. Facebook went into overdrive with people taking both sides of the argument.

This is the link if you are interested in watching the interview:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4773016/Karl-Stefanovic-slams-Diana-s-ex-butler-Paul-Burrell.html

I couldn't stop thinking about this interview.  

So what exactly is the X Factor? Who determines who has the X Factor? Is the X Factor all about perception?


 I googled the definition of X Factor and the following came up:

X-Factor in very general term means the unknown factor or the unexplainable thing which adds a certain value to that object, element or a person. In relation to a person it is defined as the unexplainable element of a person's attractiveness or sexiness.

I thought about the TV show, X Factor. What is it about? I think most people have seen the show or heard of it - it's a competition that searches for a person who has an incredible voice and on-stage presence. In this context the X Factor is a special talent.

In another interview I read, Richard Wilkins stated that he thought the X Factor was, 'an indefinable quality. It exudes confidence, success, money, power and an inner glow of self-satisfaction.' There is no mention of 'incredible talent' in his definition.

These three definitions are different. Does this mean that there is no consistent agreement of what the X Factor is?

I decided to go deeper in my research and asked google, 'Who has been identified as having the X Factor?'

There were mixed results.

Paul Burrell explained his thoughts on this: “I met Mother Teresa — she had it, Pope John Paul II had it, the Queen has it, Diana certainly had it. Kate doesn’t.”

http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/australian-media-identities-reveal-which-celebrities-have-the-x-factor/news-story/cf31da4ee8b1917d349c71242378a338

News.com.au interviewed various notable Australians asking them who they thought had the X Factor. A number of actors, actresses and singers were identified. For example, Prince, Lady Gaga, Hugh Jackman, Matt Damon. What I found interesting was that there were no philanthropists in the list. There were no charity workers or missionaries. There was no mention of royalty. And I must admit that when I read the list of people who were identified, I didn't see the X Factor in them. For example, I don't see the X Factor in Madonna... I don't see the X Factor in Robbie Williams. So what does that mean?

I must conclude from the differences in opinion regarding what an X Factor is, that the concept is open to interpretation. It is perception. Being an intangible quality, the X Factor is mixed up with how we feel when we are around a person, or how we feel about their lives. Paul Burrell obviously spent a great deal of time with Princess Diana so he felt close to her and she was special to him. He saw the way she interacted with people. He knew things about her that no one else knew. It would be justifiable to say that Paul doesn't have that same connection with Kate. He hasn't spent the same amount of time with her. He isn't her personal butler. I bet if you asked people who have spent a significant amount of time with Kate, they may well say that she does have the X Factor. I imagine Prince William believes she does.

Do I know anyone who I would say has that special quality?  That X Factor? Yes. Over the years I have met teachers, nurses, people in the church and out in the community who were so lovely and kind. I'd marvel over them as they seemed to be like angels walking on the earth. They'd shine their unique special light everywhere they went. I personally don't think the X Factor is just reserved for celebrities or 'special' people. I think if we looked around us, we would see many people who have the X Factor.

Do you know someone who has the X Factor?

And... What do you think the X Factor is?


www.jennywoolsey.com 
My new children's novel, Land of Britannica, is coming in September!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Wonder

W is for Wonder


There has been a lot of talk lately about the above children's novel, Wonder written by Raquel Jaramillo, under the pen name of R. J. Palacio. It was published on February 14, 2012.


I was very interested to read this book when I first heard about it, as like Auggie the main character, I was born with a facial disfigurement. Also two of my children were born with a facial disfigurement, so the subject was very close to my heart. I needed to read the book to see if it resonated with mine or my children's experiences.

When I finished the story I had mixed feelings. The first page could have been written by me when I was a child and about my children when they were young. We did ordinary things, but others did not see us as ordinary children. Because our faces were 'abnormal', we were seen as different. Being different meant stares, pointing and comments.

The hardest thing about being born with a facial syndrome, is you can't hide your face. In the story, Auggie wears a motorcycle helmet to school - to me that seems a bit extreme. But I must confess to putting blankets over my children's prams when I didn't feel up to dealing with the public and wearing of sunglasses always hides eyes that are bulgy or turned.

The difference between Auggie and my experience, as well as my children's, is that we lived in the same town from babyhood to adulthood. Auggie lived in New York, which I suppose is why he wasn't well known (though I question this). We were known around the town from the moment we were born. It was only places where we weren't known that we struck the most difficulties.

Some of the chapters in Wonder are about Via, Auggie's older sister. Via was angry and sad about having a brother with a facial disfigurement. I know that my two older brothers still carry emotional scars from having me as their little sister. They hated that I had frequent medical appointments, and would get into physical fights at school protecting me. There were times that they would ignore me and not want me around. One of my brothers bullied me as well. In my children's case, the older two both have the syndrome and in some ways this mutual similarity has brought them closer. My youngest daughter is oblivious to them being different.

Auggie only had a few friends in Wonder. I was blessed with many friends. And my friends stood up to those who picked on me. I was invited to parties and playdates. I went to sleepovers. I played sport and was in Girl Guides. My best friends stayed best friends into adulthood. Something that Auggie didn't seem to have experienced.

My children did not experience the amount of bullying I did. Overall they were accepted. My daughter had friendship difficulties all the way through school, but whether it was her personality, the clickiness of the girls in her grade, some of her autistic traits or her face, we do not know. Auggie's small number of friends was attributed only to his face. In Year Two the other kids told my daughter that she had big eyes, and she didn't know how to cope with this. She didn't think she was different, so it was a shock to her to be told that she was. She acted out at that time and we had to work through the situation with her. In Year Four, my daughter had a facial halo on her face for four months. The halo pulled the bones in the middle of her face forward. She decided that she wanted to go to school with it on, once it was safe to do so. This was a massive thing for her to do but she did it. No one teased her about the halo. In fact most of the children were in awe of her braveness. We have photos of my daughter acting in the end of year play with her face painted around the halo and a flower in her hair. She had no bullying at all after this, though her friendship difficulties continued. She flourished until the end of Year Nine.

My son found his group early on and those friends have stayed with him from the beginning grades of primary school through into high school. Due to his surgeries my son was not allowed to do sports or play rough, so his group of friends have always been girls - and this has never bothered him. The other boys accepted the situation and if they did say something to him, it was water off a duck's back. My son didn't care what others thought. I can't say that my children's experiences mirrored Auggie's at school.

I guess the part of the story that most bugs me is the last part of the book about Julian. I have not heard of any child who's had nightmares about how my children looked. No parent ever reacted to them the way Julian's parents did and no way would someone be so callous as to photoshop out their faces. In fact my photos with my facial syndrome have been shared over facebook by my friends who I grew up with.

Now there are things about Wonder I like. It shines a light on people born or living with facial disfigurements. It highlights the amount of surgeries some children need to go through. (I had four, my daughter's had twelve, and my son's had eight) The book shows the different reactions kids can have. It focusses on bullying. It shows that Auggie sees himself as an ordinary child, though others don't. It shows the anxiety people who are different can encounter when they have to meet people for the first time, or go somewhere for the first time.And I like that it tells people to be kind to people born different.

I am curious to see the movie. I am curious to see how close to the book it is, and what creative interpretation has been made. I hope it is an empowering movie... A movie that shows that people born different can overcome.



At this point I must promote my own book, Ride High Pineapple. In my story, the main character, thirteen-year-old, Issy Burgess, also was born with a craniofacial syndrome (Crouzon syndrome). This is the syndrome that myself and my two children have. Issy is fictional but she is a mash-up of mine and my daughter's experiences in high school. The story, written as a journal, is real, honest and raw. People who know me and have read it, say they can hear my voice as they read it. Ride High Pineapple is a very different story to Wonder. It is about overcoming the bully by working on your passion, which in Issy's case is her love of skateboarding. The story is about not keeping secrets. It is about how awesome friendships can be, and the ups and downs girls experience. It is about dealing with severe anxiety by using the analogy of 'becoming a pineapple'. And Ride High Pineapple is also an Australian story which makes it unique. Anyone who was born different will identify with something in the story.

Ride High Pineapple is available online as a paperback or ebook. I would love people to read my story.






Monday, 22 May 2017

Violence

V is for Violence

My husband came to Australia in 1999. At the time he made the comment on how different Australia was to the USA. It was different in regards to the fact that our community was racially white, there was very little crime reported on the news, and it was safe to walk around our suburb alone.

Last night we were watching the news and my husband made the statement. 'Now we're getting like America.' He was referring to the fact that crime and violence have increased. Instead of a few random incidents from around Australia, we are inundated every night with multiple incidents from each state. And the worrying trend is that the perpetrators are getting younger. Just a couple of days ago a twelve-year-old stabbed a ten-year-old. Having been a teacher in the public system this does not surprise me. I taught children of that age who I thought were capable of committing crimes.

I thought I'd investigate my husband's feelings, and went to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. His feelings were validated. The report on Offenders said that over the last four years there has been a steady increase, which is compounded by the increase in population.

ABS - Recorded Crime - Offenders

So why?  What is happening to our society? Is it that people are coming from many different countries so there are racial or other tensions? Or people are coming from countries where crime is a normal part of life and they bring that way of life here? Is it the government's preoccupation with making mothers and fathers work, and their push to put children in childcare which are often run by young girls, who are not mothers themselves? Is it society's lack of discipline for young people? Is it marriage breakdowns and lack of role models for boys? Is it that young people don't know how to amuse themselves in a safe manner? Is it TV or the movies where violence is often portrayed? Is it the video games people play? Is it the rise in alcohol and drug abuse? Is it addiction to gambling? Is it the lack of jobs and the high unemployment rates, and the subsequent financial pressures? Maybe it's the complex interrelationships of all these things.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics identified illicit drugs as being the most common offence, particularly in the 20-24 year age group. Drugs have become the scourge of society.



There is one thing that has changed since 1999 which is positive. And that is the awareness and speaking out on domestic violence. I was a victim of domestic violence. I didn't know it was domestic violence at the time as I'd never heard the term or knew what it was. I just knew that the way my husband treated me was sucking the life out of me. I didn't know that the threats he gave me when I said I was leaving, was a common thing in a domestic violence situation. He told me that if I left him then he would come after me and get me and drag me back home, as I belonged to him. Fortunately, just before I took my own life, an opportunity arose where I could escape, and with the support of my parents and a friend, I was able to be protected and supported. It still stays with me though. It has been nearly twenty years but I still get panic attacks when I see a man who looks similar to my ex-. After my divorce came through in 1999, I started noticing ads on TV talking about domestic violence. I remember staring at the TV in shock and saying out loud, 'That's what I've been through.'

I also looked at the statistics for domestic violence on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website. The stats showed that it is on the increase.

ABS - Recorded Crime - Victims

Last year a friend was murdered by her partner. How many more women, and men, are going to die in these toxic homes? And why is domestic violence on the rise? Is it because women now know it's a crime and are reporting it? Is it because there is still a major lack of respect for women? (Men and women can be victims of DV). Is it because DV Orders are often ignored and police can't do anything unless a crime is committed, and then often it is too late? Or is it a combination of the issues raised above or is there something else seriously lacking in our society?



I have lots of questions but I do not have the answers. If things continue the way they are, what will our society be like in another twenty years?

In our communities across the country, we need the kind and generous and good people, of which there are many. We need those people to stand up and be seen. Yes, there are plenty of people who have morals and would rather help people than hurt them, but they're not heard about very often. The media needs to take more time to focus on these angels of our society. Maybe if the great things that are happening were promoted, then more positive things would happen. What if the first ten minutes of the news was a report of the wonderful things that had happened that day around Australia, instead of the crimes and violence? It's a thought...


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Ugly



 U is for Ugly

I was contemplating what I would write about for U. I even asked my husband for his thoughts. 'Understanding, unique, unicorn...' There were quite a few to choose from. My original idea was understanding but I've decided to shelve that one for another time. Why? Because I came across the above quote by my favourite author, Roald Dahl. I read it and thought, That's it! Ugly it is.

So why did this quote stir my soul? Because I believe Roald Dahl's quote goes against society's generalised ideal of what pretty and ugly is, and it resonates with my own opinion.

***
I'm a bit of a definition geek so I googled the definition of pretty:

1. (of a person, especially a woman or child) attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful: "a pretty little girl with an engaging grin"

This led me to ask, Well, what is attractive? And what is in a delicate way??? 

So... I googled the definition of attractive:

1. pleasing or appealing to the senses: 'an attractive village" 

Other definitions given were:
  1. (of a person) appealing to look at; sexually alluring:  
  2.  having qualities or features which arouse interest
  3. relating to attraction between physical objects

This then led me to another question - What makes someone appealing? 

What do you think?
Is it their face, or how they smell - their scent or perfume, or the money in their pocket, or the clothes they're wearing? Or something else?


***
A few years ago I came across online, an article discussing the perfect face. I've just found another one on Oprah.com, discussing the Golden Ratio. This is what it said:


During the European Renaissance, renowned artists and architects used an equation known as the "golden ratio" to map out their masterpieces. Thousands of years later, scientists adopted this mathematical formula to help explain why some people are considered beautiful…and others are not.


Dr. Kendra Schmid, an assistant professor of biostatistics, uses the golden ratio and 29 other measurements to study facial sex appeal . These measurements are calculated to determine a person's beauty on a scale of 1 to 10. What does she measure?

A. First, Dr. Schmid measures the length and width of the face. Then, she divides the length by the width. The ideal result—as defined by the golden ratio—is roughly 1.6, which means a beautiful person's face is about 1 1/2 times longer than it is wide.

B. Next, Dr. Schmid measures three segments of the face—from the forehead hairline to a spot between the eyes, from between the eyes to the bottom of the nose, and from the bottom of the nose to the bottom of the chin. If the numbers are equal, a person is considered more beautiful.

C. Finally, statisticians measure other facial features to determine symmetry and proportion. On a perfect face, Dr. Schmid says the length of an ear is equal to the length the nose, and the width of an eye is equal to the distance between the eyes.

Most people score between 4 and 6, and Dr. Schmid says no one has ever been a perfect 10.

I find this whole thing crazy. What do you think?

Does this mean beauty is an imperfect face because no one has a score of 10? 

***
Now, I will admit - here's my confession - I am sensitive to the 'u' word. I heard it often growing up. As a child I wanted to be one of the 'pretty' girls. I even thought that if I hadn't been born with my craniofacial syndrome that I would've looked like one particular girl in my year level. Her name was Lisa Teasdale. In my eyes she was beautiful and had it all. I was jealous and lamented that she wasn't me.

Now I haven't seen Lisa since I was young but I have seen many of the girls labelled as 'pretty' from my youth, and they are not so pretty now as they turn fifty. 


***
Next, I want to talk about a fellow author, Robert Hoge, who I have known since I was a child. I met Robert at the Brisbane Mater Children's Hospital Craniofacial Clinic. I was eight at the time, Robert was a toddler. We both went through our initial facial surgeries together. He was first, I was second. I distinctly remember recovering in the ward after my surgery, and refusing to wear one of Robert's beanies that the nurse wanted me to wear, to hide my shaved head with its large ear to ear scar.

Robert has written a series of books, and presented speaking engagements, about his life having been born with a facial tumour and legs that didn't form properly. His books are titled 'Ugly'.


I shuddered at the title when I first saw it, as I never saw Robert as being ugly. He looked different, like I did, but not ugly. 


The photo below is how I clearly remember Robert. It was after his operation, in the ward with the bandage on his head. I thought he was cute and I thought it was pretty cool that the doctors were able to help fix his nose. I was more traumatised by seeing a baby lying in a cot with his head taking up most of the width of the cot because he had hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) and was dying.


In his book, Robert refers to himself as being ugly and that others thought so too, because of their treatment of him. Was he really ugly? Was he bullied because he was ugly or because he was different? I was bullied too. Was it because I was ugly or because I was different? I think the latter. In our era, people were scared of difference. In the 1970s racism was rift, as well as discrimination, and anyone who was severely different were locked away in institutions or kept at home. Difference in the community stood out. 

***
I really believe ugliness is all about a person's perspective. 

 
 

I went searching for memes about about being pretty. And to my surprise what I found was that most of the memes referred to other qualities rather than the face. Does this mean that society is changing its definition? I am unsure about that. What would the cosmetic industry do without the generalised perception of beauty? But, I do think there are plenty of people in society, who see through the shallow definition. 

***
I was discussing this 'ugly/pretty face' issue with my thirteen year old son. He told me without any qualms that the beauty of a face changes over time, and that it is the heart and personality that matter. I had to smile when I heard that. Wouldn't it be good if all young men felt the same way?


***
Going back to Roald Dahl's quote...

To all the people in the world who have good thoughts, including you Robert, I salute you, for you truly are the beautiful people in the world. 



www.jennywoolsey.com

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Timing



T is for Timing


One of my favourite movies is Sliding Doors. The story follows Helen (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) who loses her job at a classy London PR firm and on the way to the underground is attacked by a purse-snatcher. She misses her train and in so doing, doesn’t catch her boyfriend Gerry in bed with his former girlfriend. The story then looks at what would have happened in parallel, if Helen had caught the train; How would her life have turned out if she had caught Gerry? Two different scenarios, all caused by missing or catching a train. 

This movie really makes you think about timing – and even the timing of one or two minutes.



***

Now as a Christian I believe my life is planned out by my higher power. In having faith in the God of the universe, I believe that things will happen at the right time. Now if I was a really patient person, who never questioned God’s timing on things, everything would be cool. My problem is that I am human – fancy that – I’m human. I want to be in control of the timing of events in my life... I want things to happen when I say for them to. And when things don't, I get angry and upset and disappointed. I have to keep telling myself, Everything happens for a reason. You know that saying don't you? I bet you've even said it. 

In 2013 I had a breakdown. My anxiety and depression was severe and I fell in a heap. I ended up having to leave my job as a teacher, and totally felt lost. I didn't understand why my career had ended so abruptly. Now in 2017, I can see that God had other plans for me. My time of teaching had finished. Since 2013 I have ventured out of the child's world and interacted more with adults, I've written blogs and books, studied youth work, advocated for inclusion, mental illness, facial differences and disabilities. I even entered the world of public speaking. None of these things would have happened if I was still in the classroom.

Going back further in time, if my husband and I hadn’t been on the computer in the same chat room way back in 1999, we would never have met. We were on opposite sides of the world. Another example - if I hadn’t become clucky at 39 and become pregnant straight away, before I could change my mind, I would never have had my daughter who has Down syndrome. Without Jessica I would never have trod the path of intellectual disability. My world would never have been opened to the discrimination against these people, and I would never have become an advocate for Down syndrome and inclusion. 

Even a couple of weeks ago we were nearly in a car accident. A car crossed the road in front of us, my husband slammed on the brakes, and we just missed the car. A few seconds earlier, or if my husband had been distracted, things would have ended up very differently. 

So when you're waiting on the right time for things, do you sit around and fiddle your thumbs or do you step out and try things? I'm not good at just sitting around so I do step out in faith and try things. Since leaving teaching I have applied for several jobs which I really wanted; one door opened then closed a year later, and the others haven't opened at all. This has left me upset and confused, particularly when I and all my friends believed the signs were there to say I was going to get the jobs.

When these things have happened, I've had to tell myself the above quote: There's no need to rush. What's meant for you always arrive right on time. Keep believing. I must believe there's a reason why and time will reveal all. My patience is constantly being tested.

Do you believe in timing?
Can you identify with what I have been saying? 
Have you had a sliding doors moment in your life?
Are there things that have happened, or haven’t happened to you or someone you know, that have blown your mind? 
 Feel free to share them with me. :)