Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

by Ponderings Radio | Kate O'Donnell Author Planet Spectrum

Kate O'Donnell

Kate O'Donnell

Wordsmith & Teacher

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

words by Kate O’Donnell

I would like to tell you that there are specific types of autism, but the truth is whilst with new terminology there is only one umbrella term of autism; the word Spectrum is used to describe the varied range or degrees of autism. The fact is that not one person is the same as another. Every single child with autism is different and exclusive.

There are many different shades in the spectrum.

One observation I have made over the years is the need for parents to compare their child with other children; to see how their child sits against or is doing in comparison to other children. Whilst I have no doubt that this observation and comparison has its place and seems natural, it isn’t helpful in the slightest when it comes to children on Planet Spectrum. Every one of these munchkins is absolutely unique like a fingerprint.

Sure there might be certain characteristics or traits that appear to be similar but the fact is no two personalities are the same so therefore no two ‘autisms’ are the same. Your child is like a once off work of art, each brush stroke differs, each shade is different. Life on Planet Spectrum is one of stark contrast and differences. Once you start to work out your little individual’s quirks, reactions, triggers and focuses, ‘language’ becomes easier to negotiate, understand and facilitate.

Often other people feel the need to adapt their experiences to your child, as a means of trying to emphasize or relate to you.

This may start with “I know a person with a child with autism and they do this… this is like this…” We call this the Great Comparison of Misunderstanding. But autism is not a one size fits all, and like all good misunderstandings, they can be changed.

This is actually a great opportunity for you to educate those around you. If someone opens a conversation with you that resembles the Great C of M, explain to them that in fact no two autisms are the same!

You can often get verbal feedback from people who are not educated and can be both generalised and unhelpful.

There are thousands of stories of total strangers giving negative and ignorant feedback which takes you right over to Planet Frustration and wanting to bang your head against a brick wall, maybe even have a meltdown of your very own but we will touch on that more in the later chapters.

In the case of the Great Comparison; treat it as a positive opportunity to inform and educate (if you have the energy). Not everyone has visited Planet Spectrum before, so it can be unknown territory. Some people have really great intentions that just don’t know any different. Our aim is to have everyone in the community educated, so they know all about our beautiful Planet’s inhabitants and how to treat them and care for them with respect and understanding.

“I KNEW WHEN I FIRST MET YOU,
AN ADVENTURE WAS GOING TO HAPPEN”

We acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nation, on whose unceded sovereign land we work. 

We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

Lucy in the Sky with Blinders

Lucy in the Sky with Blinders

Lucy in the Sky with Blinders

Lucy McEvoy is an AFLW player. A Carlton player to be precise.

A bluebagger that might have ground curators shaking in their loafers. They might want to upgrade their Bermuda turf protection, as this burgeoning star prepares to rip up the field and take position. Described by sports commentators as a dazzling talent, Lucy McEvoy is a young sportswoman to watch. She is refreshingly open with a keen sense of humour and grin so big you can’t help but grin back- but she is not to be underestimated on the ground. The recent Carlton draft pick plays football with a tenacity that is compelling and fierce. 

I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Lucy on the eve of the draft at her home on the Bellarine Peninsula.

K: You were a promising basketballer, when did you know you wanted to swap to footy and when was the choice locked in?

L: I was selected in the first national side in 2016 at 14 years of age. I thought this is cool. I loved it, and it was so much more fun and physical than basketball. I loved the atmosphere and the competition. 

K: What do you love most about football? 

L: You get to play with your friends, the training is awesome, it’s fun, and the game is full of really good people. They just want to play footy and have fun with the game. I think its all about the culture and the vibe of the team. 

K: What’s your favourite position? 

L: Midfield, because I have been able to learn so much. But I actually enjoy all of them. 

K: The idea of tackling and falling so hard and being physically dominant in competition puts the fear of God into me, what do you love about it? 

L: I love the physicality of it, the tackling of it. It’s the only sport you can do it in without being abused. When I started playing footy, it sort of crossed over into basketball! So taking a screamer over a player and trying to stop tackling the players wasn’t working well (big grin inserted- told you she was funny.) Seriously though, pushing your body to its limits to see what you can do and with a team in play is the best. 

K: Outside of training, what do you do for fun or relaxation?

L: I walk the dog, Dudley, the German Sheppard cross Jack Russell. (He’s charming and looks baffled ponderers.)

K: Favourite athlète and why? 

L: Dustin Martin – he’s so good, you know when he gets the ball he’s going to do something good with it every time. 

K: Growing up, was there a particular person you looked up to or looked to for advice with sport?

L: There were a lot of good people, but Brendan Matthews- my Basketball coach from 8 to 16 was brilliant in giving me advice and guiding what I needed to do to improve in general in sport. 

K: Is it overwhelming coming into this newly recognised and supported arena or is it exciting, especially Carlton.  

L: Exciting. It is so exciting to get in there and see this happening, and it is a little bit surreal because it is so new. 

K: What do your family and friends think about it all? 

L: I think they’re proud (she’s humble) but everyone is super supportive.  I have a great group of mates and good people around me. 

K: If you had a choice of travel, where would you love to go? 

 L: I don’t have the travel bug yet really, but Australia, there is so much to see. I want to see all of it! 

K: Fave Comedian?

L: Kevin Hart  – he’s hilarious and quick. 

K: What do you wish was different about the attitudes toward women in sport and the male dominance aspect of opinion and performance? 

L:  I think its starting to change, I still feel like if it hasn’t come from a man, it’s not seen as relevant. There’s a little less recognition, but it is changing. I really look up to AFLW pioneer – Susan Alberti, – if you are in that environment, you have a duty to protect it and tell them what you think. This is what she does. 

 

K: Is the women’s competition of a high standard yet in your opinion, given the newness of it all? 

L: Oh yeah. The skills and abilities of the women players are really upping the competition. There are some injuries of concern, like ACLs and concussions, but this is changing. Things like running head-on to pick up the ball are stuff boys have been getting taught not to do since they were little.  There are motor skills and learned reflexes we are catching up on quickly, and it’s already a high quality game. 

 K: How did you go when you were younger playing with the boys? 

 L: The boys on my team were always really good. Sometimes at the start of a game, the other team would throw a bit of banter around about getting beaten by a girl, I wasn’t afraid to say something back. I’d give them a bit of banter back. I pushed, I wasn’t going to be pushed- gained some respect when they could see I could play. I’d go out and smash it, that was always fun to see the look on faces. (She laughs.) But most boys were supportive and inclusive.  I am still great mates with many of them today.

 K: Does anything really bother you?

 L: Most things negative or anything that is water off a duck’s back, I don’t get fussed by much or bothered. 

 K: Social media-obsessed? 

 L: (laughs) No. It’s good to see what people are doing, but I am not consumed by it.

 K: Treehouse or Cubbyhouse?

 L: Cubbyhouse, I think- so I could see everything. That’s a really cool question. 

 

We acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nation, on whose unceded sovereign land we work. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

Wuthering Heathcliff

Wuthering Heathcliff

Cassidy Krygger

Cassidy Krygger

Hollywood Expert

Wuthering Heathcliff

Darkly menacing, untamable and with a hint of a savage.

What’s not to love about literary hero Heathcliff? He is misunderstood – deeply complicated and in need of that one person who truly loves and understands him — the exemplification of the bad boy who we all want to fix. There have been many dashing leading men who have taken on the hard task of playing him on stage and on screen over the years, but who was best?

Heathcliff is the romantic hero (or anti-hero) of the 1847 gothic novel, Wuthering Heights by author Emily Bronte. The classic book tells the passionate love story of Heathcliff and Cathy and the revenge Heathcliff brings to everyone surrounding him once he loses her. It was surprising that such an intense story could be born from the brain of a woman who never married and supposedly never had a lover.

Heathcliff’s TV and movie career aren’t as well-known as his fellow literary leading man Mr Darcy.

There have only been five well-known adaptations, but perhaps the most famous would have to be the 1939 classic starring Sir Laurence Olivier in the central role. This film is the most romanticized, probably to keep up with the biggest movie of that year – the romantic epic Gone with the Wind. The second half of the book is left out, which deals with Heathcliff’s more vengeful and tyrannical side, painting him as the victim of the story as opposed to the aggressor.

The closest to the novel and least romantic would be Tom Hardy’s famous portrayal in the 2009 mini-series. Kathryn Flett of The Guardian perfectly summed up Hardy’s Heathcliff as “…thoroughly dangerous to know in all the right ways, entirely capable of making even careworn middle-aged women rend their garments, tear their hair and head for the moors.”

My opinion? Olivier did it best. Because it is more romantic? Probably, I am a hopeless romantic at heart. It was my first taste of Wuthering Heights at a young and impressionable 16 years old, and I became one of the girls who fell in love with Heathcliff. And I blame Laurence Olivier for it.

If you are new to the world of  Wuthering Heights, I insist you read the book. It will be a bumpy ride, I assure you. And then I suggest you watch the 1939 movie before any other adaptation. Yes, it is different from the book, and if you are looking for a faithful retelling, this isn’t it. But I believe it is powerful enough to stand alone and to make you fall in love with the tyrant himself. Just don’t blame me if you do.

Sorry I Am Too Tired To Friend

Now faced with the grown-up responsibilities of raising a family, paying bills, a mortgage, working and raising little humans and sleep deprivation. There has been a shift.

 

 

 

 

 

Still Hope For Angel Babies

Still Hope For Angel Babies

Montanna Macdonald

Journalist

Montanna Macdonald

Still Hope For Angel Babies

Alison and Adam Wightwick sit side by side on their sofa, looking into the eyes of each other as they speak about their last moments with their son, Aaron. Adam spoke softly, “you’re on the maternity ward … there is a lot of happiness around, and babies crying, and our baby’s not crying.” 

 

Aaron Wightwick is one baby of six in Australia to be stillborn each day, the main cause of death under the age of one. According to the 2018 Senate Inquiry into stillbirth, Australia’s stillbirth rate is higher than the national road toll, and over 30 times more common than Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Despite modern advancements in medical practise, Australia’s stillbirth rates have not changed in the last 20 years, receiving less recognition than other childhood deaths. The lack of conversation is a national crisis, affecting the mental health of bereaved parents, families and health practitioners. 

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) defines stillbirth as “a foetal death occurring at 20 or more completed weeks of gestation or 400 grams or more birth weight”. For Ali and Adam Wightwick, 2019 marks the 12th anniversary of Aaron’s death at just 19 weeks and six days. “The hardest thing is all of the firsts,” Adam says. “He was due on our wedding anniversary. That date for quite a few years was not a happy day when it should’ve been a happy day.”

On June 12, 2007, Ali Wightwick went from back pain one day, to Aaron having no heartbeat the next. The Wightwick’s specialist only weeks earlier said the pregnancy was strong. “It was tough to hand him over. This is the end, and this is it, we aren’t going to see him again,” Ali says. 

 

“He was a little human,” Adam adds. “All the features were there; little hands, fingers and toes.” The couple will never forget picking up Aaron from his hospital bassinet and holding him one last time.

 

Following Aarons death, the Drysdale couple went through two more IVF miscarriages within three years, triggering anxiety, depression and feeling withdrawn from society. “I didn’t want to leave the house,” Ali says to her husband, to which he responds: “it was hard to lift your spirits when you didn’t want your spirits lifted. We did a lot of counselling.” 

 

The Wightwicks share a memory box filled with trinkets and a teddy bear with Aaron’s urn inside to cuddle. It was these small things and support groups that brought them peace. Happily, the couple now have two healthy boys, Zane and Xavier, and believe seeking support changed their course. 

 

 “If we didn’t get any of that, our story could be totally different,” Adam says. 

“Reach out and take the support, even if you don’t think you need it because that’s what makes the difference.”

According to the University of Queensland’s Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth, the often hidden tragedy of bereavement affects over 2000 families each year, with the sorrow of empty arms causing a ripple effect with social and emotional impacts. Furthermore, up to 50% of Australia’s and New Zealand’s bereaved parents believe they are unable to communicate freely about their stillborn baby because of the discomfort in others.

 

Geelong’s Westfield My Local Hero Finalist, and Angel Gowns volunteer, Sarah Tuohey, crochets clothing and blankets for “angel babies” and premature babies. The Westfield program offers community recognition and grants for nominated locals efforts to support an organisation of their choice. Angel Gowns for Australian Angel Babies provides angel packs with gowns and other keepsakes for families with babies up to 18 months who have died. 

 

While cradling little white booties in the palm of her hand, Sarah softly says, “these beautiful little beanies and booties show that those little people are not forgotten, rather than just remembered as a miscarriage or something that went wrong.” 

 

Sarah’s premature son, Noah, survived her complicated pregnancy, after being diagnosed with a potentially deadly condition called Placenta Percreta, where the placenta can attach to the uterus and nearby organs. Sarah encountered mothers who lost their children and needed small clothing, prompting her to volunteer for Angel Gowns. For Sarah, giving families clothing signified these babies had a life, giving parents the chance to celebrate the short time they had. 

Sarah reflects on a conversation she once had with a bereaved mum. Dressing her baby in a gown was the only thing she could do, “putting the baby to rest in a beautiful way, knowing the baby was loved”. “She couldn’t save the child, but she could at least give the baby a farewell that they deserved.” 

 

Angel Gowns is just one of many organisations in Australia trying to provide bereaved parents with the support they need. Furthermore, with over 54 million 

 

Angel Gowns is just one of many organisations in Australia trying to provide bereaved parents with the support they need. Organisations like Red Nose, SANDS, Stillbirth Foundation and Still Aware are continually campaigning for education, awareness and action in stillbirth research and preventatives. 

 

These organisations, as well as over 269 submissions from around the nation, contributed to the Senate Enquiry Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education Report in December 2018. The report inquires the future of stillbirth with sixteen recommendations made by the committee. The Australian Government published their response in July 2019.

 

The Australian Government agreed to meet all sixteen recommendations made by the committee, including a total $52.4 million investment in research, education programs and mental health support. 

 

The Stillbirth CRE Safer Baby Bundle campaign rolls out this October in NSW, VIC and QLD, addressing the evidence gaps in maternity services on stillbirth prevention. The program aims to reduce stillbirth rates by 20 %, hoping to model the success rates of the ‘Saving Babies Lives Bundle’ in the UK. 

 

A prominent theme runs through these experiences, a need for communication, education and research to synchronise. Conversation is key to supporting families, not only in reducing stillbirth occurrence but also in the bereavement process.

 

The courage of Alison, Adam and Sarah to bravely push through the barriers of existing conversational taboo and allow us to share the space of these moments is something we hold dearly. Life brings so much to us, we are deeply grateful to ponder with them. 

 

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Unapologetically Her

Inspired Read

What does it take to climb a mountain of adversity as a child, to find yourself as an adult in a place of complete devastation? Sitting with the realisation you are deeply unhappy. ..

Unapologetically Her

Words: Kirsten Macdonald

For one Australian woman,  the decision to alter her life would carry an enormity and bring challenges she could never conceive of. The outcome?  She has become the embodiment of grit, positive change and possibility.

Telia Tonkin was 38 years old, weighed 159 kgs, standing 175 cms tall. Carrying physical and emotional weight and in an unhappy marriage,  the mother to two beautiful kids realised if she did not make a change, she would die. For her, it was a straight forward action, there was no-in-between. 

 Life was about to change dramatically.

 

“As a teenager, I would walk down the street with my friends, who were all thin. People would approach and look at me first; I always told myself it was because I was the fat one.”

“I always felt different from my friends, the outsider because of this. It is interesting though isn’t it? What we believe to be true, because those friends, my best friends to this day also had their own self-beliefs and insecurities. But at the time, my feeling of alone was big. People would look at me, and I always felt it was because of my size.” 

 

The root cause of her attachment to food was forged in emotional distress, comfort eating and resentment eating. A toxic trio that would create difficulty in her life. “There were adults in my life who constantly told me I was fat and lazy, so I believed it, and ate to rebel and in spite.”

 

Fast forward years later, a successful teaching degree in her hand,  a move to Queensland and a brilliant police force job, Telia married, had children and paused.

 

“I knew that not only would I have to make a total body transformation, but a total mind change. I started to see things so much clearer, I was abundantly aware of the mistakes I had made, both physically and mentally. I had two young children, I couldn’t go on being so unhappy, pretending to the outside world that my life was fantastic, hiding my tears, dreading that car ride home from work, back to that unhappy house, which was supposed to be a home.”

“But isn’t home where you should feel safe? You should be able to express yourself without concern of the consequences? I didn’t have a home, I was in a house, I was simply treading water, and I couldn’t stand it one more minute. My children are my world. You know the oxygen mask theory? You need the mask first so you can give the kids oxygen? So I left, I packed up my two children and drove away. I rented a house near their school and started living for myself again. I became a better person and a better mother because of that decision. My energy went just into my journey to health and that flowed through to my children.”

 

The dedicated mother had always enjoyed a passion for sport from a girl, and it was this that pushed her forward.

Bootcamp training, nutrition advice and a commitment to a gruelling transformation would fuel the next path Telia took.

“I started to focus on my love for weightlifting, training for a sport like that can be brutal. Training twice a day, 6 days a week. My children embraced my love for exercise, they would ride their bikes as I ran, they would come to training with me and sit quietly in the creche. Not once did they make me feel guilty about following my passion. They were proud of their mum, they would tell everyone at school that they had the strongest Mum in the world.”

Telia lost half her body weight and started to gain her confidence and the progressive feeling of shifting from a negative mindset to a positive one. The positive was much more enticing and it paid off. 

 

The next step was competitive weight lifting. The last two years Telia returned home from the State Masters with a silver medal.

 

 

 “Some would say that winning a silver was amazing. But for me,  being second best in Queensland just wasn’t enough.” 

 

In March 2018 Telia competed in the Queensland Masters Weightlifting Championships in Milton, Brisbane.

 

The trip to Melbourne for Nationals paid off. 

 “I achieved 6 out of 6 lifts, equal personal best. But do you know the best part, I won Silver! I didn’t come second, I won Silver! There’s a massive difference let me tell you. So do you know who I am? I’m second best in Australia for my age and weight category in Masters Weightlifting! I’m number one in Queensland, I’m the strongest mum in the world (according to my children.) But most of all;  I’m happy. If people notice me now, its because of my hair, or something positive. My life is mine, no longer under the weight of so much.” The metaphor is not lost.

 

“I’d done everything right, trained hard, stuck to my diet, remained focused, I felt good. I couldn’t have done anymore more going into this meet. To be honest I don’t remember much about the day. I remember I was so focused, just took one lift at a time, didn’t think too far ahead, didn’t worry what the other lifters were doing, kept my mind clear from negative thoughts, those negative thoughts that were dragging me down for years.”

“I lifted in the snatch first, 3 out of 3 lifts, they were fantastic lifts and I was so damn proud of how I remained focused. I was equal first going into the Clean and Jerk, I knew what I had to do. When they announced that Telia Tonkin was Queensland Champion, I cried, I couldn’t control my emotions. For three long hard years I had wanted this so bad, and now it was mine! GOLD! Number one in Queensland! After I composed myself, I realised I had qualified from the National Champions in May to be held in Melbourne. I thought, you know what, I’m going to do this, bugger it! I’m going to represent my State at Nationals.” And so she did.

And you know what Ponderers? With cropped blonde hair, striking eyes and ornate tattoos, Telia is bold and edgy, funny and incredibly real.  The attractive and tenacious woman is unapologetically her. The jokes come fast, and her brave and brutal honesty screams of an authenticity that is rare these days.

So who inspires Telia Tonkin? “My children and my siblings and their partners are my scaffolding, they are my world and source of strength and love.”

“One aspect I have noticed is that many people become so insecure about their partner making change, that they seem to get some satisfaction about making you feel guilty for putting yourself first every now and then. Or people who project their own stuff on you. Some people like to keep you in one space to make themselves feel good. This still baffles me. So many women stay in unhappy situations because they are afraid of the financial implications, they are afraid of being alone, all fear based.”

“Don’t lie to yourself, and act. Because the funny thing is, when you give yourself permission to find happiness, and seek it out- you are never alone because you find the most important person- yourself.”

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Meet The Mother Who Turned Grief Into A Refuge For Kids

Meet The Mother Who Turned Grief Into A Refuge For Kids

Meet The Mother Who Turned Grief Into A Refuge For Kids

Deborah Saunders experienced a mother’s worst nightmare when her son was killed in a tragic car accident at age 17. 

 

She recalls how the press bombarded her family, and mainstream media reported misleading articles. Everyone deserves a chance to tell their story. Here, Deborah explains in her own words how she coped with her son’s death and has healed her broken heart by looking after children.

 

The Barnardo’s Mother of the Year VIC 2019, has raised four children independently and fostered countless teenagers. She has devoted her life to providing young people with a home, a safe space and a chance for a better life. Deborah’s guiding light has saved those who have found themselves travelling down a dark and troubling path. Her home has been a place of protection and nurture. 

 

Children, entrenched in a world of drug and alcohol abuse, in an endless cycle of poverty, full of uncertainties such as when or where they will get their next meal, yearn for the love and stability that Deborah provides. The number of children dependent on this support continues to rise. 

 

The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Family Studies have shown that the number of children in care has risen in Australia by 18% from 2013 to 2017.

 

Winning Mother of the Year has in no way affected her humility. Throughout our small chat, Deborah oozed motherly compassion and a determination to help kids that need it.  

 

What would you say is your biggest passion?

 

I think the rights of young people. Definitely. The rights of dignity and respect. Some of the young people I work with don’t have housing. They’re living in poverty and experiencing drug and alcohol abuse, childhood abuse. The worst part is it just keeps going. It doesn’t get addressed. There’s no healing, so that’s my job. 

 

Has there been an experience that inspired your passion for helping foster children? 

 

I think it was my childhood. I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but it was a bit rough. I think also being a young person growing up in poverty, and then being able to reflect on actually how tough it is for these kids. I was one of the lucky ones because I had a family. Also, my kids would always bring friends home. We ended up with some staying, and these moments would help me reflect on how fortunate I was. 

 

Sorry I Am Too Tired To Friend

Now faced with the grown-up responsibilities of raising a family, paying bills, a mortgage, working and raising little humans and sleep deprivation. There has been a shift.

 

 

 

 

 

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