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Health and wellbeing

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On being a duck


As a kid I was given the nickname ‘Duck’ by my mum. I was her little duck.

the young familyThat’s me, in my mum’s arms, with my sisters Judy and Barbara and Granny!

The name caught on in primary school, and with a surname like McDonald morphed into “Donald Duck” then over time back to  “Duck”.  Duck stuck till I left high school and Wangaratta, at 18.  If anyone calls me “Duck” I know they’re from Wang!

This week a friend gifted me the realisation that Duck was actually a very apt nickname. For like a duck I can seem calm on the surface when underneath I’m paddling madly!  I may be a more composed duck now I’m older, but I’m still a duck. No doubt about it! Once a duck, always a duck!

Now I’m a Mumma Duck, and today with my two little ducks, Zac and Bianca, we will swim in our fourth annual YMCA Swimathon, along with around 1,500 swimmers across Australia, in an event I have worked on in various leadership roles in this time.

It might be Zac’s last year though – he’s almost 13 now and rebelling like any good teenager! I confess – I incentivise him with $10 out of my pocket for every $100 he raises. He’s heading for $40 this year!  And he’s still saying he might get in the pool “but I can’t make him swim”.  We’ll see…I can be a tough Mumma Duck!

All Swimathon swimmers are not just swimming but also actively raising funds to support people with disabilities in their local communities.   I am a proud Mumma Duck thinking about everyone we  already support, can potentially support, and everyone across Australia swimming their laps, shaking their tins, all working towards the same goal, on the same day.  Finally, I also am thinking of everyone I have worked on this event with – many have now moved on, but I hope they’re a feeling proud, today, too. Big proud quacks and thanks to all!

Each year  as a family we have steadily grown our funds raised, from $725 in 2012, to $1305 in 2014 and $2,200 in 2014.   As a family this year we have raised almost $3,000! Thanks to support from lots of wonderful individual donors, and in the last two years with the added fun of an annual fundraising event with girl friends.

Just as each year the event overall has steadily grown from raising $110,000 in year one, $210,000 in year two, $230,000 in year three… this year we are steadily heading towards our national goal of $250,000, to support at least 1600 people with disabilities.

By 2017 we want to double that and raise $500,000.  I’m confident we’ll get there, and that in 10 years’ time, we’ll be a high profile event on every swimmer’s calendar, with several key sponsors, supporting thousands of Australians. And our event will be a true partnership with those we seek to benefit.

Swimathon 2014 thank you from Zac, Di and Bianca For the last two years we have swum at Aquarena, YMCA Manningham. Here we are after last year’s event, thanking all our wonderful supporters! Zac in his own t-shirt design.

My parents, and Mum in particular, were heavily engaged in their local community, helping build the Killawarra Tennis Club and courts (no longer there) and the Wangaratta Hard Courts (still there!), through fundraising, organising and connecting people together around a shared cause.

And this year as I reflect on this event, and my role in it, and having lost Dad recently and Mum 13 years ago, I realise how much I have absorbed of my parents’ values.   It makes me happy that I too have been actively helping create opportunities for people to participate in sporting activities.  Outside of work, I’m also on our community’s inaugural netball club committee.

This year I also miss both my mum and my dad deeply and profoundly.  On the surface,  I’m functioning, I’m doing well, nothing to complain about really, but underneath runs a river of sadness.  Once a duck, always a duck.

However, on the brighter side – ducks can swim! And lucky duck I was, I had the chance to learn as a kid (a pool at my public primary school!) and friends with pools (Thanks Kenzos!), as well as rivers and public pools to swim in.  I am a lucky duck in so many ways.  Too many kids today don’t get this chance, and if you have a disability, it can be even harder to get a fair go.  At the Y we want everyone to have the opportunity to be healthy, happy and connected – and the YMCA Swimathon is one way we seek to achieve our vision.

So heartfelt thanks from this little duck to everyone who has supported our YMCA Swimathon journey, this year, or in previous years.  I’ll be thinking of you all, as I paddle along happily, with my little ducks, and all the other ducks in the pool at YMCA Derrimut or any one of the other 65 pools splashing out for this great cause. maddy kayla and di

Maddy and Kayla Parker are two little ducks who will also be swimming at YMCA Derrimut today.  In fact, they’re the reason why I’m swimming here.  Two amazing girls who have much to overcome just to swim, who have already learned that giving back where you can, is good. And look how our event branding has changed this year! More color and fun to convey the contagious happiness experience we want everyone to have!  You can sponsor Maddy and Kayla here.

You can still sponsor me here

Sponsor Zac here

Sponsor Bianca here

Quack, quack!

“I’ve never seen you on the inside”: celebrating 20 years in therapy


 “I’ve never seen you on the inside”, my son Zac said to me recently, with something like wonderment.

I’d been trying to explain that sometimes people could feel really shy or anxious, and nobody but them might be able to tell.  This was after my seven year old, Bianca, had dredged up a memory about a birthday party where she’d felt too shy to join in. It was obviously troubling her.  Zac kindly shared that he, too, often felt like that. 

I then shared that despite how confident I might seem on the outside, I too sometimes felt shy and anxious, and that it was quite normal to feel this way, sometimes. And that talking about it really helped.

Zac’s response reminded me that it’s really very difficult to genuinely know someone ‘on the inside’.

I perhaps have some insight on this subject: This year I celebrate, yes celebrate, 20 years in therapy. 

I bet that might surprise a few people.  I now know that looking in from the outside I don’t appear to lack in confidence, or to have any obvious outer reasons for being in therapy for that amount of time.  Much of the work I have done in therapy has been about closing this gap between how others see me and how I see myself.

It’s taken me this long to feel confident enough to share this experience beyond the boundaries of those closest to me – to “put it out there’ for all to potentially see.

Gradually my ‘inner circle’ has widened from a few close friends to extend to team mates and senior colleagues whose opinions I might once have coveted so much I would have avoided sharing such information about myself at all costs.

Once I might have feared this would be seen as a sign of weakness.  Now I know it to be a sign of strength, and a source of ongoing strength.  I’m a better mother, wife, friend, colleague and manager for having done this inner work and continuing to prioritise this in my busy life.

My last post on parenting a child with Asperger’s Syndrome seemed to connect with others.  I share this post in the same spirit, that by being open there is nothing to fear, only to gain.

All families need a break, sometimes…


Last week as I sat in the waiting room of Sensational Kids, in Ormond, where my son has regular interventions, I was almost overwhelmed by the intensity of the needs in the room. The needs of the kids (mostly pre-school aged); the less obvious needs of the parents, all doing our best to get our children the support they need. Not so long ago, I’d been them; was still them, just a little further down the track. Who’s supporting us – the parents – while our kids get the input they need? When we grapple with what’s required of us to implement the changes and strategies recommended by the endless rounds of (costly) experts to unlock our children from their individual barriers?

I’m lucky to work for an organisation – the YMCA – that really does care for families, and that provides real and practical support.  For employees, there’s part-time work (I couldn’t manage my families needs without this), flexible hours, and the opportunity to ‘buy’ additional annual leave to help families manage school holidays.  For staff at our recreational centres, there’s also the opportunity to take advantage of the excellent child care and creche facilities on offer at many.

There’s also our new Family Membership, that blows away the cobwebs of the ‘traditional’ family unit of mum, dad and two kids, to welcome families of all kinds.  We also provide support for families through support networks Parentlink and Dadslink, big on providing fun, recreational and social activities for families to come together.  Pizza nights, family camps, day trips…isolation-breaking experiences.  We provide school holiday programs and outside school hour care. And, critically, there’s subsidised support for families who can’t afford  full fees, through YMCA Open Doors. Last financial year in Victoria we provided more than 3,100 inividuals (including many, many families) with support in this way.

From 4th to 8th January next year the YMCA is running a Family Camp, at Anglesea. If I wasn’t already on a family holiday of my own, I’d be there with bells on! All meals provided (my personal favorite), the opportunity to ‘hang’ with other families through the witching hour, and on the beach….as well as during the organised activities. Plus a very nice roof over your head and very little to do in the way of domestic duties. What’s not to like?

It doesn’t matter if your child has additional needs, or not. All children have needs. And at times, every family needs some extra support. Sometimes just being with other families can be therapeutic in itself. I know that I’d rather be on a family camp, with my son and the rest of my family, than constantly in waiting rooms. There’s a place for both.  I’m glad to work for an organisation that helps me realise – and access – this.

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