Friday, 19 January 2018


C is for Challenge

It is now the third week into January of 2018,  I've been busy this last week making sure my children have everything they need for starting back at school next week. My eldest is beginning her final year of high school and my youngest, her final year of primary school... both major milestones.

Now I can guarantee with 100% certainty, that this year will present challenges to myself, my family and to you. Why? Because challenges and struggles are a part of life. No one escapes them.

I've already been thrown challenges with my husband having a fall before Christmas and not being to help around the house like he was able to do. It hasn't been easy, and I could have crumbled under the added pressurese. I haven't has I have made a conscious decision to accept what is and rise up, with a positive attitude. I know I can conquer and cope with the extra work I've had to do.

Have you recently been presented with challenges, and if so, how are you coping with them?


I love my comfort zone. I love staying where I feel safe and secure. As a sufferer of anxiety, my comfort zone helps keep my anxiety at bay. But, in many ways it feeds it, as staying in my comfort zone has not pushed me out into experiencing new things, and expanding myself. It is since leaving my comfort zone, which I was forced to do by work circumstances, and facing new challenges, that I have become more confident and am finding it so much easiest to cope with change and problems.

Challenges of Life

Smooth roads never make good drivers
Smooth seas never make good sailors
Clear skies never makes good pilots.
Problem and hassle free life never makes a strong person
Be strong enough to accept the challenges of life
Don't ask life, "Why Me? Instead say "Try Me!"
Author: Unknown

This is an interesting saying, isn't it? Don't limit your challenges... challenge your limits. It sounds like a new year's resolution. I personally don't make resolutions, but I know many people do. Instead of resolutions, I make monthly goals. These are usually related to my writing. I plan out my weeks and prioritise my jobs. And as well as having my goals, I try to limit the junk food and do some exercise. Of course, there is always room for improvement. 

Did you make a new year's resolution? Have you kept it or have you broken it already?

As part of my goals for the year, I will be challenging my limits. I know I am shy and find it hard to talk to people I don't know. This is something I will be working on this year. I want to run writing workshops and have already started to take steps towards doing that. I have fear of the unknown, but how does something become known unless it is attempted? When opportunities present themselves this year, I will not say to myself, 'You're not good enough'. Instead I will say, 'You can do it!' 

I am aiming now to embrace change this year.  Are you planning on too?

I went looking for some tips for coping with challenges, and I found the ones below. I think there is some wisdom in them.

1. Don’t overreact- Overreacting to a problem will cause you to make bad decisions. When we are not in control of our emotions, we will make decisions that we will regret later. Next time you are faced with a challenge, become the watcher of your thoughts and stay calm so you can make smarter decisions.
2. Accept present moment reality- Accept the way things are and the way people are. You have to understand that not everything is going to be the way you want it to be. If you cannot accept reality you will feel very frustrated with your life. Many people will try to change someone or something that they cannot control, and when it doesn’t work out for them they feel miserable. Once you can accept reality (including the challenges that you are faced with), you will be able to be more calm and think more clearly about how to get a step further towards your goals every day.
3. Don’t blame others- Many people make a habit of blaming others for all their problems. They fail to take full responsibility for the decisions they have made in life. The more you blame others with the challenges you are faced with, the more you will make people dislike you and not want to be around you. The first thing you want to do when faced with a personal challenge is not to start pointing fingers at others.
4. Practice detachment- Make a habit of detaching yourself from any outcome. Detachment means that you are not attached to any given result in life.  I remember in the past when I did public speaking and got really nervous. The reason I was fearful of public speaking was because I was too caught up thinking about what the audience was thinking of me. The fact is that there are some people that are not going to like what you say and others who may like what you have to say, therefore your job is to accept the way people are and not get worked up emotionally and mentally over someone not liking you. When you start practicing detachment, many of your fears and insecurities will disappear.
5. Don’t overanalyze- When you think too much about a situation or event that occurred, you will start to judge everything and everyone. When you think too much you will have a very tough time accepting reality and you will think that something is not right. Overanalyzing can also cause you to not take action on your goal, which can make you really frustrated in the long run.
6. Accept “changes’ in your life- You will have to deal with changes in life all the time. Many people don’t like change and they resist it because it gets them outside of their comfort zone.  You may be unhappy or happy at certain times; however you have to realize that those two states are not permanent. You have to train your mind to be at peace at all times regardless of the emotional state you experiencing.
7. Don’t compare your lifestyle with others- I know it is really difficult not to compare ourselves with other people, however the more often we do that, the more frustrated we will feel. There will be people that may have accomplished more than you. The key thing to remember is that you create your own story and success in life.

I pray that you will face any challenges that come your way this year.

Monday, 18 December 2017


B is for Blessings

Growing up, when I was grumbling about being born with my craniofacial syndrome, my mother would always say to me, 'We count our blessings.' My response, made under my breath, would be, 'What blessings?'

Last week my story was on My Interview. A journalist interviewed me and my daughter Melissa, about living with Crouzon syndrome. This was in response to the movie Wonder, where the main character Auggie, was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, another craniofacial syndrome. After the interview I was chatting with Mum about a few of my childhood memories and again she said, 'We count our blessings.' 

Mum has never wavered from looking at the positive side of having a daughter and grandchildren with a craniofacial syndrome. Though she has admitted I have been through way more than she and Dad did, which is true, but they had way more prejudice in society to push against.

Since going on sick leave from work in 2013 and then resigning in 2014 due to burnout and severe anxiety and depression, life in the Woolsey household has continued to throw curveballs. I have spent many hours with my psychologist recovering, my daughter has struggled with her own severe anxiety and depression, my husband has bent his tailbone, broken his ribs, his wrist and his finger, endured kidney stones and is currently suffering post-surgery pain which is still being investigated. Plus all the usual hospital appointments, and dealing with coelic disease and Jessica's nuances, and financial difficulties... I have changed from being the breadwinner and mother, to the carer of my entire family, and doing the majority of jobs. This is something I am not used to and I have found difficult to adjust to. My husband is currently unable to drive, and me not being able to drive due to my visual impairment, has thrown up more challenges. 

The last couple days I've been quietly having my own pity party, but today I am determined to change my attitude, and count my blessings. :)  

So in this blog I am going to count ten of my blessings: 

1) I have a family who loves me.
2) I have friends who support me.
3) I have a dog I can cuddle and talk to.
4) I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and clothes to wear.
5) I have teenage children who can help me when I ask them.
6) My youngest, with Down syndrome, can play independently so does not need my undivided attention all day.
7) My eldest has her Learners and can drive my husband to the shops, which saves me from having to walk to the shops.
8) My church family delivered a surprise hamper last week when I was really down, which was so appreciated.
9) I am healthy.
10) Jesus is my Lord and Saviour, and He gives me hope. I know I am being watched over and everything will turn out okay sometime.

In a week's time it will be Christmas and we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus. It will just be the five us of us this year - no extended family. And even though life at the moment is not how I'd like it to be, I know it could be worse.

If life is getting you down, I ask you, 'What are your blessings?'

Monday, 20 November 2017



A is for Ableism

I came across the word ableism a few months ago, and it has taken me a while to get my head around what it means. I initially thought it referred to enabling people with disabilities to participate, communicate, and access facilities/transport etc.; to help them be able to do things... But in fact it has the opposite meaning.

So What is Ableism?

Ableism – are the practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.disabilities. These attitudes and practices are discriminatory.

An ableist society is said to be one that treats non-disabled individuals as the standard of ‘normal living’, which results in public and private places and services, education, and social work that are built to serve 'standard' people, thereby inherently excluding those with various disabilities.

Here are some examples of ableism:
  • Lack of access to a building. For example, no ramps for people in a wheelchair to access the front door of a building, or access is only through the back door. 
  • Lack of assistive technologies during conferences etc.
  • Not having events accessible to public transport, as many people with disabilities cannot drive.
  • Blaming the person with a disability about being victimised e.g. they were annoying so they deserved the bullying.
  • Denying a person's decision making capabilities for their own life (forced sterilization, decision making in terms of housing, etc).
  • Not talking to a person with a disability but instead talking to the able-bodied person with them.
  • Refusing to give the level of respect due to a person.
  • Using derogatory labels e.g. retard, psycho.
  • The misrepresentative of disabilities in the popular media and in the news.
  • Using people with disabilities as inspirational porn.
  • Assuming that people with disabilities cannot be autonomous or independent.
  • Able-bodied people using disabled parking or toilets.
  • Able-bodied people assuming that disabilities are always physical.

This comic explains it well. The white coats are making decisions on behalf of the people with disabilities but they are not asking them what they want.

Ableism is rife in our society. Though headway has been made, a lot more needs to be done. Attitudes towards people with disabilities, and systemic changes are necessary within government and education. One way is to start from the beginning of life, by having all types of children together in playgroups and then educated with each other. No segregation whatsoever. Inclusive education with teachers who are fully on board, will show the upcoming generations that people with disabilities are just like them, except they could need some modifications or assistance at times. And if there are needs, ask the person what they would like, and then accommodate them, so the person with the disability can participate at the same level alongside their able-bodied peers.

So how do we stop ableism now?
  • Read articles from well-known disabled writers.
  • Research the general opinions of the disability community.
  • Think about your own attitudes and actions. 
  • Treat disabled strangers with the same common courtesy you'd extend to anyone.
  • See the whole person not just their disability.
  • Listen when disabled people when they talk about their disabilities.  
  • Avoid assumptions. 
  • Recognize that their abilities may vary from day to day. 
  • Ask about their needs as relevant.
  • Respect their problems and emotions, visible or not.
  • Treat their disability as natural.

As a society we must extinguish ableism.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017


Z is for Zebras

Oh zebras why do I love thee?

I love your stripes
Your unique designs
I love your beauty
You're just devine!

By Jenny Woolsey

This month's blog is not a serious one. I chose zebras because they are my favourite animal. Why? I don't actually know. I'm not into horses at all. I tried riding one when I was in university and fell off whacking my head, and haven't been back on one since. I had gone out to Roma to a friend's property. I had to ride bareback and going down an incline I toppled off. But give me a zoo where there are zebras, I will sit and watch them for as long as my family allows. If there's an African documentary on TV featuring zebras, I will watch it. If I see pictures or ornaments out and about I will stop and examine them. I have photos of zebras up in my loungeroom. My friend's husband who was a photographer gave us a black and white framed photo of zebras for our wedding present. I have a stuffed animal collection of zebras. I nearly bought a large zebra at Bunnings the other day, but refrained as I had nowhere to put it. 

If I ponder my interest, I would have to say it has to do with their stripes. I do love their unique designs - no two zebras are the same. There are different colours also between zebras. They are not all black and white. Zebras all look the same from the outset but when you study them they are not the same. Is that like humanity in some ways? If you stare at a group of people all the same skin colour and hair colour, they may look the same from the outset but when you study them intently or talk to them, you will soon find out they are different.

I found this poem which I thought was really cute. It asks the question - something I have pondered at times - is the zebra black with white stripes, or white with black stripes??? 

Some interesting facts about zebras: 
  • Zebras are single-hoofed animals, closely related to horses and donkeys. 
  • They are generally thought to have white coats with black or brown stripe. They have black skin under their white coats
  • There are three types of zebras: 1) Plains 2) Mountains 3) Grevy's zebra.
  • Though they all live in Africa, each species of zebra has its own home area. Plains zebras live in the treeless grasslands and woodlands of eastern and southern Africa. The Grevy's zebra lives in the arid grasslands of Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The mountain zebra is found in South Africa, Namibia and Angola. 
  • It is believed that the zebra's stripes work like camouflage, according to the National Geographic. When zebras stand together, it is harder for predators to determine how many zebras are in the group. The stripes may also make the zebra appear unattractive to smaller predators, such as bloodsucking horseflies, which can spread disease. In addition, the stripes may work as a natural sunscreen.
  •  Zebras have several ways they communicate with one another. Facial expressions, such as wide-open eyes or bared teeth, all mean something. They also bark, bray, snort or huff to get their point across. Even the position of their ears can signal their feelings, according to the San Diego Zoo. For example, ears flattened back means trouble. Another habit of zebras is mutual grooming, which they do to strengthen their bonds with each other. 
  • Known predators of zebras include lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas. When danger approaches, the stallion will alert the others with a high-pitched snort, according to the University of Michigan. He will stand his ground while the rest of the family runs away in zigzag fashion. If he must fight, he will lower his head with neck outstretched and teeth bared, prepared to bite. However, running away is the usual tactic, sometimes accompanied by a defensive kick. The kick can be powerful, though, and can cause serious injury to a predator.
  • The Grevy's zebra is endangered. 

Zebra Facts

Zebra in the grasslands of the Serengeti at dawn in Tanzania, East Africa.

Do you have a favourite animal? Why do you like it? Tell me below.

Thursday, 28 September 2017


Y is for You

When you look in the mirror, and stare at yourself, going past your physical looks, who do you see? Who is your true self?

Who are you? What makes you, you? Why are you, you?

Something I have done on many occasions, is to ponder why am I in this body? Why couldn’t I have been put in another body? Why wasn’t I born in another country? I’ve even pondered what it would be like to be in someone else’s body. Would I appreciate my life more? 

 Have you ever had the same or a similar thought?

Since my breakdown in 2013 I have been seeing a psychologist. Something we’ve worked on over that time is getting to my core. What thoughts about myself do I carry around from childhood, which have been reinforced by a variety of circumstances throughout my life, which affect my behaviour and how I feel about myself?

One of these core thoughts is not feeling valuable. Growing up being told by society that I was different and shouldn’t be out in the world still lurks in my subconscious. This core thought was reinforced by bullying, being in a domestic violence marriage, work difficulties and lack of opportunities which were given to other people which I thought I would have been capable of doing.  It is a core thought that I must actively work against accepting. I tell other people that because they are human they are valuable, yet my own core feeling is that I am not. That doesn’t even make sense when I say that. Do you have any negative core thoughts about yourself?

There are so many things we pick up from our family, school, our friends, wider society and work. These all mash together to make us into our true self. 

I found an article online about discovering yourself. Under each thing is a list of questions you can ponder. They made me think and I realised from answering them that I know a lot about my true self which is really nice! So I hope they will have the affect on you. Have a read and tell me what you think.
7 Things you need to discover about your true self

1) Find your values. These are the things that matter most to you on the deepest levels. What are your personal values and standards? What are your priorities and your beliefs? Do you understand why these things are important to you? What level of commitment are you willing to make to your personal standards and ethics? How true do you want to be to your true self?

2) Understand your strengths.  What natural abilities do you possess and which ones do you want to cultivate and develop? The strengths you have and those you develop are your personal assets. They give you a unique position in life and you need to be aware of them. This includes your emotional strengths and your ability to express love and appreciation.

3) Know your passions.  What are you passionate about? What is it that gets you excited or demands your undivided attention? What activities and pursuits make you feel really alive? You can’t build your life around your passions if you haven’t figured out what they are. Making sure that your passions align with your values and standards is vital when trying to create internal harmony.

4) Identify your tendencies. Your tendencies often become habits, either good or bad. Do you tend to jump into things on a whim? Do you procrastinate or over react? Knowing your habitual tendencies can help you to analyze areas that need some improvement. It can also help you identify which tendencies most contribute to your strengths and successes.

5) Acknowledge your limitations. You will never be the very best at everything. It’s better to know which skills or activities are beyond your ability for now. That way you can delegate those things to others while you focus your energy where it’s the most effective. We can all improve our abilities in most areas of life, so don’t view current limitations as permanent. Just be realistic in your personal assessment. Honesty is a prerequisite to knowing your true self.

6) Set your goals. What do you really want to achieve? What kind of person do you want to grow into? Goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic. Clarity is a key ingredient when it comes to setting your goals. Clarity leads to action, lack of clarity leads to confusion and inaction.

7) Establish your direction. Where in life does your true self want to take you? Once you understand your values, strengths, passions, tendencies, limitations and goals – you need to have a destination to move toward, a direction. Don’t worry about reaching your destination because in reality – it’s the journey that counts. So pick a direction that represents genuine happiness and move toward it, and then let life unfold before you.

I think finding your true self is a journey. It starts with our search for our self-idenity as a teenager and continues on throughout the various stages of life. I also think once you know your true self – the real you – the one behind all of the masks you wear - you will feel more at peace with yourself, and you can actively reject the negative core feelings you have about yourself. You will also understand why you react to situations in a certain way, and you will have more control over your emotional and physical wellbeing.That has to mean a happier life.

Answer the following...Who are you?

Jenny Woolsey is loved and determined.

Leave a comment telling me what your two words are... I am ? and ?

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:

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.” 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? 
My new children's novel, Land of Britannica, is coming in September!

Sunday, 2 July 2017


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.