Friday, 30 December 2016

Success


 S is for Success


As we approach the end of 2016, I thought I'd use this blog to pause and reflect on the year. To be honest, it's been a tough year in the Woolsey household. Maybe your year has been a hard one too.

So when it's the end of the year, and you're thinking about the year that passed, and the year to come,  how do you reflect? Do you count your blessings and the successes of the year? Or do you focus on the negatives, the failures and the tough spots of the year? Or do you consider both?

Something that has been significant this year, are the number of celebrities who have passed away. I wonder how they saw their lives. If they could have told us a reflection on their lives, would they have recounted their successes, or focussed on the tough times in their life?

How you focus on life can be labelled as optimism or pessimism. An optimist sees life in a positive way, even when challenges and struggles come. They know eventually the difficulties will pass. A pessimist sees everything in a negative light. Even a bright sunny day is a bad thing. This is something I talk to my children about a lot as it is so easy to be a pessimist and see life as always hard; always one stumbling block after another; as one tragedy after another; as a constant cloudy or stormy day. It takes a total change in our view of life to become a optimist. Being an optimist doesn't mean that you don't acknowledge, and even groan about, what you're going through. But you don't stay in that state of 'everything's bad, nothing's going to change, my life sucks, there's nothing worth living for' state of mind. You say, 'yeah this sucks at the moment, but I'm going to stick it out, be brave, look for something good in each day (even if it's that you drank a cup of coffee) and pray for better times to come along soon.'

 

Over the past six months or so my husband has been suffering badly from kidney stone pain. This has limited what he can do. He finally was booked into surgery in December, then fell two days before, fracturing a rib. This delayed his surgery and he is still in constant pain, spending every day lying on the couch. This has limited our Christmas festivities. If I could drive, then it wouldn't have such an impact on the rest of the family, as I would be able to keep on doing what my husband normally does as the carer. I can't drive because of my visual impairment. I never have and never will. This thorn in my flesh as I call it, has really angered me over this time. I and the kids have walked when my husband would have taken us in the car, we've needed to rely on friends, take public transport, or just not do activities that we would normally do. I have been frustrated, but there is nothing that can be done to change the situation. I have just had to accept this is how it is at the moment until eventually one day life will get back to normal. If I look for the successes in this situation, it would be that I have been able to cope with the extra stresses and workload, my friends are happy to help if they can, and staying home has given me more time to write. :)

Is there something you have had to accept this year? Something that you've had to cope with? Maybe a sickness, a passing of a loved one, financial woes, loss of employment. There are so many things that can just hit suddenly and knock us for a six.

 

Also this year my daughter was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety and Medical Trauma. We spent much of the year supporting her, seeking help, and keeping her alive. This too was a tough ride. Even though this situation has been very emotionally draining and stressful, we can either choose to focus on the negativity of the situation or the small steps of progress that my daughter has made. It has been a success to see her smile and open up about what is going on in her mind.

Successes are not necessarily financial. Nor are they job-related, as is commonly thought of. Successes in my opinion are the positive things that have happened to a person. They can be really small through to significant events. They are personal and unique.

So what do I see as my successes for 2016?

* I studied my Certificate IV in Youth Work and have applied for school chaplaincy positions.

* I published two children's novels - Ride High Pineapple and Brockwell the Brave.

* I performed my first author talk, and my first speaking engagement.

* I stretched myself out of my comfort zone and grew in knowledge, wisdom and courage.

* I continued to manage my anxiety and depression.

* I helped people where I could, even if it was just an ear to listen.

* I loved and supported my family through the ups and downs of life.

* I spread awareness about facial differences, mental illnesses and Down syndrome.

* I tried to do more self-care activities.

* Some days it was just to get out of bed and drink a cup of coffee, or two, or three...

What are your successes for the year?



If you are having trouble thinking of successes, this diagram might help. Answer these questions. During 2016 have you:

* Worked hard at something? Persisted at doing something when it was hard?

* Tried to improve? Focussed on an aspect of your life e.g. maybe you tried to exercise more?

* Did you follow a passion or have some new ideas about hobbies or activities you could do?

* Did you push yourself when you didn't want to do something, even if it was getting out of bed in the morning?

*  Did you help or encourage someone?

Well in those thoughts, you had successes. Maybe you hadn't even considered those things.  



 

So to finish with, as the clock ticks down to the end of 2016, I would like to wish you good health, love and God's blessings for 2017. And tomorrow night when you celebrate New Years Eve, focus on your successes from the year, and look forward to the successes that will come in 2017. 




Friday, 7 October 2016

Rainbow

 

Red and yellow and
Pink and Green
Purple and orange and blue

I can sing a rainbow
Sing a rainbow
Sing a rainbow too

Listen with your eyes
Listen with your ears
And sing everything you see

I can sing a rainbow
Sing a rainbow
Sing along with me

R is for Rainbow

Who doesn't love a rainbow?
What do you think of when you see a rainbow?
  • Do you see the colours?
  • Do you see the shape?
  • Do you wish there was a pot of gold at the end you could get to?
  • Do you see the science behind the rainbow?
  • (A rainbow is formed by the reflection and refraction of sunlight in raindrops. When a ray of light enters a raindrop, it bends and gets separated into its constituent colors. How many colors are there in a rainbow? The answer is 7 amazing ones: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.
    Read more at buzzle.com)
  • Do you see God's covenant with His people? There will be no more floods that wipe out the earth like Noah's flood did?
  • Do you see the symbol for the gay and lesbian community and gay pride?
  • Or do you see beauty?

When I look at the rainbow I see diversity. To be precise, diversity in colour. This diversity in colour is on display everyday, all over the world, in the flora and fauna around us. We can also see it in the array of landscapes; from the bluest oceans, to the yellowest sunflowers, to the montage of colours that are painted on the birds that fly around us, to the orange dirt of the outback. Our world is a truly magnificent and beautiful place because of the all of the colours and mixes of hues.


I also think of the diversity in the colour of people. When I was little I remembering singing the following song in Sunday School:

 Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They're all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

When I see all the racism in the world as an adult, I really wish people could love each other the way Jesus loves everyone in the world, no matter what the colour of their skin is.


I think most people would say that they love the diversity of colours in our world too. But yet the diversity in the types of people in our world is not as well loved or accepted. The black man, the child with Down syndrome, the adolescent with the facial difference, the lady with the mental illness, the Muslim, the Christian, the homeless family, the indigenous youth... There are so many marginalised people in our community.

What I guess I am finding a trifle annoying at the moment, is that when one of these groups is used in a TV campaign or shown in the media, a big fuss is made about it. Does this big fuss, draw more attention to the fact that these people are marginalized?

Let me explain. The latest Kmart advertisement features children. Both boys and girls. The ad is promoting clothing and toys. This morning on the news, this ad was called 'controversial' because of the models used.


When I saw the ad myself, I had a reaction. My reaction was, 'Hey look there's a boy playing with a Barbie. That's awesome!' Why did I have that reaction? Two reasons. One because I've never seen any magazine or TV advertisements showing a boy playing with a 'girl gender' doll or toy, and two, I have a son who loves dolls. He collects dolls - and he is twelve. In the beginning it was a bit hard to get used to my son's obsession with dolls - why? Because society says that boys shouldn't like female dolls - they should only like action figures which are mainly superheroes. Now my son owns no action figures, and I bet there are other boys out there in the world who are the same as my son; they are happy in their masculinity and like dolls. Do we hear about these boys? No.Why not? Probably because most likely they consequence will be ridicule or being teased by trolls and other ignorant people.

The other type of marginalised group in the Kmart ad which has been particularly noticed, is a little girl towards the end of the ad, who is 'riding' an emu, has Down syndrome. A huge deal has been made of this. The headline for the news article I have linked above is:

Kmart television advert one of the first to feature model with Down syndrome

If the child was in a wheelchair, would the headline have been, Kmart television advert one of the first to feature model in a wheelchair? I am not so sure. Society still holds a lot of prejudice towards children and adults with Down syndrome. There is a meme going around Facebook that says: This little girl has Down syndrome but she is still beautiful. I want to slap the person who made this. This meme is implying that Down syndrome means she should be ugly. How stupid is that? Does the fact that these children are born with almond shaped eyes mean they are ugly? I don't think so. That's absolutely ridiculous. Or is it because they are intellectually impaired that they are ugly? That too is absurd.

Now I must confess that I did put the write up on the Kmart ad on my Facebook feed. Why? Because I think it does raise awareness of marginalised groups, and I give kudos to Kmart for embracing diversity in their advertising. Am I adding to the fuss being made? Maybe in some ways I am. But as an advocate for the active inclusion of people with disabilities into society, and as a mother of a child who has Down syndrome, I think it is important for me to keep on putting it out there that people with Down syndrome and other disabilities, are more alike to the rest of the human race, than different. I hope that one day there comes a time when marginalised groups will be included in advertising campaigns and a fuss isn't made, because it will be a normal thing, not a 'first'.

Now when you look at a rainbow, what will you think about?




Friday, 16 September 2016

Quit? No!



 Q is for Quit? No! It's Don't Quit!

There have been many times in my life when I've wanted to quit. Life's been hard. In fact, too hard. Times when I've been in the deepest darkest black hole of depression. Where no glimpse of light radiated from the future. Times when my body and mind were controlled by excruciating anxiety. Times when I felt so alone, that if I disappeared off the earth then I was sure that no one would notice or care. 
Have you ever felt this way?


There was a time when suicidal thoughts tormented me. At one point, in the midst of my domestic violence marriage, I felt the only way out was through death. My death.
Have you ever felt this way?


But I am still here. Why? Because inside I am a fighter. I also know that I have the highest power in the universe looking out for me. He doesn't want me to be destroyed. He has plans for my life. He has special work for me to do. In the midst of my depression and anxiety I felt God whisper in my ear that He was in control of the situation. 
Have you ever felt this way?


I gave a talk to a ladies dinner last Saturday night. We talked about the labels and names that society gives us growing up. For example, fat, ugly, nice, stupid etc. Some are positive. Many are negative. I disclosed some of my own that I was given growing up - freak, weird, deformed, happy, Frankenstein and many others. Some positive, many more negative. We then talked about God's labels for us - which are all positive. The first label I talked about was 'we are chosen'.

I love the following verses from the Psalms in the bible. Please read them below. These verses tell me that God knew me before the world began. I wasn't a freak of nature as the world says. I was born to be different and I was born to do special work. So therefore, no matter what happens to me, all is well with my soul, even if it's not in my head. The God who made the greatest blue whales and the smallest cells, made and keeps the planets circling the sun, created the beautiful colours of the rainbow - loves me and He loves you too! We were God's children before the world began and we will be after the world ends. That gives me hope for the future, and great comfort and strength, to keep on going through the struggles and trials that life brings. I pray it gives you hope, comfort and strength too.

Psalm 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.




So let me encourage you to not give up on life. Don't quit. Keep on going. Let me also spur you on with this poem:

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

- Author unknown –

Tomorrow the sun will rise again. :)



Sunday, 31 July 2016

Promoting RHP



 P is for Promoting Ride High Pineapple

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to promote my new children's novel, Ride High Pineapple. I began writing this book officially in 2014, though there had been a few sporadic attempts before then over fifteen years; the book being partly written in numerous forms but put away for another day. Never ever finished. Why? Because the subject matter of Ride High Pineapple - not the pineapple part, as I love pineapples - was too close to home.

You see the main character, 13-year-old Issy Burgess has something that I have. Something that I grew up being embarrassed and ashamed about; something that I hated talking about; something that would give me panic attacks if people questioned me about it; something that affected my self-esteem and self-worth and led me on a series of destructive paths in my teenage and young adult years; something growing up that I wished I hadn't been born with. And something two of my children were also born with.

What was it?

It was having a face that was different, labelled initially as 'Crouzon Disease', caused by a rare genetic mutation of a chromosome. This change in the chromosome told the cells forming the bones of the skull and face to stop growing too early.

In a 1977 Australian Women's Weekly magazine article a child with this syndrome was described as having a 'grotesque' deformity. At the time I was nine years-old and I thought I was more severe than that child - so what did that make me? 

Being born with this syndrome (at some stage it was renamed from being a disease to a syndrome), directed my life. It affected the happiness of my childhood. It affected how people treated me. People thought that they had the right to pass their judgements and prejudices onto me. I was different and that wasn't okay. It affected my personality. It affected the decisions I made in my life. It also has led me to write this book and be an advocate for facial differences, which is a positive thing.

In Ride High Pineapple, Issy Burgess, the protagonist (main character), was born with Crouzon syndrome.

And I am here to tell you, that it is okay to be different. It is okay to be born with a face that has grown in a different way, no matter what other people may think or say. 

I wish this book had been around when I was a teenager. 

So why did I write this book?

The main reason was because there was no other book in the world with the main character having my syndrome. There is the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio (http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/rj-palacio/wonder-9780552565974.aspx) but it is a very different story and it isn't written by an author who knows what it's like to be born with a craniofacial syndrome. I truly believe that unless you walk the walk you can't possibly know what it's like to be born with a face that is considered 'abnormal' or 'deformed'.

On my re-working of one of the early manuscripts of Ride High Pineapple, I added another dimension of myself to Issy. Something I knew I had but didn't have a name for - Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I was only diagnosed in 2013, in my 40s, after suffering with it since a child. So as a good writer does and with lots of awareness happening at the moment about mental illness, I gave Issy this as well. In the book all sorts of things stress her out and give her symptoms.

So what's all that got to do with pineapples? Well I want you to read Ride High Pineapple, to find out. But some hints are:  Pineapples are tough on the outside; not many things can penetrate the prickly thick barbs. Pineapples are strong. Pineapples have a crown on top. Pineapples are sweet on the inside.  


Some other interesting facts about Ride High Pineapple.
The story is written as a journal. It is raw, honest and gutsy.  The characters in the story are fictitious but there are parts of the story that are factual.
For example:
*Issy gives a speech to her Year Nine class. This speech was based on the speech my daughter presented to her Year Eight class to explain her face. I changed it to suit the story.
*At the time of writing the novel, my daughter loved skateboarding, so this was the influence for the sport. She also had an accident on her board, face planting on the concrete. Because of her facial surgeries we had to take her to the hospital to make sure her nose wasn't broken or damage had been done to the bones in her face.
* The medical and hospital information is all true, based on my own and my children's experiences.

So I would love your support in helping to promote Ride High Pineapple. Let's be partners! Please spread the word about my book and  buy a book or download the ebook.

RRP paperback $15 AUD
RP ebook $4.14 AUD
Postage within Australia is $5

It's available at:


Ebay.com.au

Direct bank deposit for Australian customers -
bsb: 062692  account no: 27847742

Hear some of my story in my Ride High Pineapple book launch speech



Friday, 17 June 2016

Opportunity


  O is for Opportunity

In 2014, when I was wallowing in my grief of having to leave teaching due to a severe bout of anxiety and depression, I decided to do something. 

That something was write.

I had written as a child. In fact my favourite subject all through school was storywriting and English. I absolutely loved writing stories. In Year 3 and 4, I would spend lunchtimes writing stories with my best friend Anne. In my 25 years of teaching, I had never seen a child do that.

As a teenager I loved writing poetry. That was my outlet. My crushes, the cruel world that bullied me, being born different, the unfairness of life, how much Jesus loved me. I was blessed to have a brilliant English teacher, Mr Kennedy, in Year 11 and 12. He encouraged me and supported me. In many ways he was my mentor.

My imagination was always vivid. As a child I believed that axe murderers would come through my window and kill me. I believed that my toys played whilst I slept. I believed that my cousin Jane and I could sew golliwogs, sell them in outback towns and become millionaires.

As well as being an avid writer, I was an avid reader. 

In 2014 little did I know that this difficulty I was experiencing - that of being forced to leave my self-identity as a teacher behind without closure - would lead to opportunity. If I could've seen the future I would've coped better with the situation! 

 

This opportunity was time. 


Time to learn. Time to develop my craft. Time to write. Time to edit. Time to join writing groups. Time to make new friends who shared my passion. Time to heal and rest and become a balanced human being.

Now here I am two years later with my debut children's novel, Ride High Pineapple.
A story I had tried to write in many different forms over the years. A story that never developed past the first five chapters or so. Why? Because how I was writing my first version was not how it was meant to go out into the world. Without the opportunity of time I would not have been able to write and rewrite my novel. 

I still have my original manuscripts which I may even go back to at some stage if I ever feel I am able to write a memoir. But this story is the one that is meant to be flying around the universe at this time. 

With Ride High Pineapple, I have been given the opportunity to raise awareness of craniofacial syndromes which most people don't know exist. I have been given the opportunity to give voice to the children and teenagers who are being bullied for being born different. I have been given the opportunity to help children and teenagers who suffer from anxiety. I have been given the opportunity to tell some of my story. I have been given the opportunity to give people hope. 

This probably wouldn't have happened if I was still a stressed, burnt out teacher.  
I see this opportunity as another stepping stone in the plan God has for my life. For 25 years I was meant to teach and care for children. There have been spurts through those times when I was in magazines, in the newspaper and on TV where my story was exposed a bit and a few layers of my sensitivity towards being born with a different face were peeled off. Now I have the self-confidence and assurance in who I am to further educate people. It was a tough gig being born in the sixties with a craniofacial syndrome... and it's still a tough gig today for those growing up. People are cruel and bullies are everywhere. The media's obsession with looks doesn't help the situation. 

I will gratefully take this opportunity I have been given and run with it

Is there an opportunity you too can run with?     

I want to encourage you. We all have difficulties. Life is full of ups and downs. No one escapes unscathed. Take that difficulty and make it into an opportunity or if an opportunity presents itself - take it. The opportunity can be something simple like being a compassionate ear, or it can be something substantial like changing careers. You never know what blessings will come from it or who you will bless in the process.

Jump out and dive in!


Ride High Pineapple is available as an ebook or paperback on Amazon.com.  Ride High Pineapple on Amazon.com