Life can be filled with challenges, and some greater than others. These challenges are not what defines us, but how we overcome them. So far above them, we rise for the love of life, the love of living and the love of all the magical things in this world we see, touch and feel every single day. And we keep going for all the things we wish too. Matters Speaking was deeply touched and inspired when introduced to the story of Katie and Beth Cooper Wares. Mother and daughter, best friends, kindred souls and warriors of love and light who were put together in this life to ignite each other's light, and touch the lives of many. This is their story. We hope that it touches you deeply and helps you rise above any challenges you are facing, and most importantly so we can help Katie and Beth continue to spread their infinite love and inspiration all over the world...
Katie: Can you tell us about your and Beth's story and the challenges you have overcome together
I was 20 years old and living in Ireland on a working holiday visa when I fell pregnant. I was extremely lucky to have a supportive family to come home to but I was determined not to let having a baby cramp my gypsy lifestyle. I was planning on strapping the baby to my back and just keep on travelling the world. I had been a bit of a wild child in my teenage years, in and out of unhealthy relationships, dabbling in all different creative endeavours but never really finishing anything. Looking back now, with a much different mindset, my younger self seems a little self-centred. I'm pretty damn blessed to have had a stable and privileged childhood in comparison to so many and I'm incredibly grateful for that now but perhaps wasn't so much back then. Those that believe in past lives talk about how your soul chooses each life in order to learn certain lessons, to grow and evolve into the next life. It helps me to think about the challenges we face like that, just another lesson to be learned - or a gift in strange wrapping paper.
They picked up there was something wrong in the first ultrasound. The measurements of her arms and legs didn't match up to the rest of her. I can remember every detail of that day. The specialist we were sent to misdiagnosed her and told me it was a form of dwarfism and then proceeded to show me a picture of a sausage dog in a medical book. I had nightmares about my sausage dog baby for weeks. Around that time I remember reading an article on the lioness' protective instincts of her cubs. I decided that was exactly what I needed to be. I've summoned that imagery so many times when I've felt fearful. I was also blessed to have an amazing paediatrician who was a little left of centre. One of the first things he told me was to trust my instincts, that a mothers instincts were usually right. Surrounded by specialists and surgeons with all those technical words and boxes to tick you can feel quite small. Believing that I was a lioness with finely-tuned instincts protecting my cub has served me well in those situations.
Beth was born with 4 broken bones - a rib, her shoulder, her arm and her collarbone. Her paediatrician diagnosed her with Osteogenesis Imperfecta - a severe brittle bone disability. I had never heard of it nor did it seem like anyone else had. We were discharged with a one page fact sheet. I learnt by experimenting. I had to make her all new clothes with velcro because she was too fragile to be put into bodysuits. I found this out after breaking her arm while trying to dress her. She couldn't sit up by herself until she was about 12 months old. She never crawled, she learnt a kind of gentle bottom shuffle. When she was two she took her first steps and the next years were filled with broken legs - every time one healed the next broke. The femurs were the worst. That meant six weeks in hospital with her legs tied to the top of the bed. She spent months in hospital or in full body casts in the heat of summer. Her legs have been rodded, which help prevent those big breaks and she is mostly in her wheel chair now but looking back those few years were chronically tiring. I was at uni too and working part time and trying to date. It was crazy. She has had over 35 broken bones now and countless treatments and operations. It's hard but it's the only life we have so we just keep on swimming.
I'm a self help junkie. And a walking quotation book. If you've got big challenges to face you need to be equipped with as many tools as possible to help overcome them. You need to be creative, find or invent better ways to cope. There is always a way of making life better but it begins with a choice. Sometimes that choice is hard to make. Sometimes you don't feel like you have a choice, that you have been summoned to stay in bed for the rest of your life, under a heavy blanket, in the dark, feeling more alone that anyone in human history has ever felt. The truth is nearly everyone has felt this way at some point. Everyone one of us has obstacles. Therefore we are never alone. In fact we are far more supported than we realise. There is ALWAYS a light. In fact, there are people that we don't even know - working everyday to ensure that we can actually get up and turn on a light. Literally. I have sometimes taken what some would view as a harder approach in teaching Beth certain things, but instinctively I knew it was necessary. Even when she was broken I would say to her 'You always have a choice. You can choose to wallow in self-pity or or to compare yourself to others. But this choice will only lead to misery. Or you can choose to be grateful for what you do have, to love yourself and your own unique gifts. You can choose joy' But I always gave her the choice. And she always chooses joy. We play the gratitude game often, where we list all the things we are grateful for. It's always the simple things. The beautiful community around us, our family, sunshine and salt water, ripe mangoes, the smell of books....if you focus on the things you are grateful for it tends to generate more things to be grateful for. Where your focus goes, your energy flows.....
No-one likes hospitals but for people like us who have had to spend a long time in them you find certain ways to cope. I like to run staircases when my patience runs thin and I take my guitar and make up funny songs. It helps us to fill the long hours with creativity. We always decorate her bed, having different themes each time. My favourite was the evil mermaid cave. We write and draw. We laugh a lot. And dance. Dancing always makes things better. Life isn't supposed to be so serious.
I still hold my breath every time she does something risky but I try hard not to say 'be careful' so often...sometimes I just don't look. I don't want her to be scared to try new things. She has broken bones a few times doing stuff kids with brittle bones wouldn't do but we weigh it up after. If she thinks it's worth it then that's all that matters. Bones heal. She has developed a high pain threshold, it amazes me that her mind has adapted that way. Reprogrammed itself. I figure all I can do is give her the tools to help her use her mind to overcome the challenges. Because in the end, our body is just the vessel and our whole world is created by the way we think.
Katie: Your wish is to give Beth the adventure of a lifetime, one in which she can try new things, continue to grow with worldly confidence and infect everyone she meets with pure joy. Please tell us about Beth's Adventure Fund and how we can help make your and Beth's dream come true
Beth has written a bucket list of 101 things she wants to do around the world and we are crowd funding it and asking for support from sponsors. We are selling everything we own. We are hoping to head off at the end of May and think it will take us around year and a half to tick everything off.
Beth's adventure grew out of my concern of what the coming teenage years were going to hold for her. High school & puberty is tough for most kids but the ones that are 'different' seem to struggle the most. I started thinking about what I could do to give her that extra boost of confidence in her self and her own uniqueness and the gift of travel seemed the perfect fit. It's been so interesting watching her construct her bucket list of 101 things. I've really taken a step back and let her create this dream for herself, I'm just here to help implement it. She is going to write a blog as we travel around and I'm so looking forward to reading what she comes up with. She is such a natural creative and a really funny writer. She has 16 'novels' on the go at the moment.
I've never asked for help like this before, I've always just kind of struggled through. I've also never been this vulnerable before and told our story. It's all new and raw and scary. What I've learnt is that not only is it okay to be vulnerable and ask for help, it's essential. By being brave enough to live like that, you give permission for other people to live the same way. We have had amazing support, donations and beautiful messages. I usually cry because I'm hypersensitive and Beth gets the giggles.
The best way to help us other than donating is to make Beth's gofundme page and the Facebook page go viral so it can reach as many sponsors around the world as possible. We are only guided by the bucket list and a rough itinerary and by staying open to whatever offers of support come our way, the trip is now being shaped by the kindness of strangers. I get emails and phone calls ranging from offers of accommodation and food to people donating raffle prizes. We are so grateful for any help. To be completely honest (and totally vulnerable) sometimes I feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew...
Beth: We have heard that you are one incredibly special and talented girl who is the best contemporary floor dancer, actress and busker yet! And now you are writing a bucket list of 101 things you want to do in all the places you want to visit all over the world. Tell us which things you have been dreaming about the most
My favourite things on my bucket list (be prepared, there's a lot of them) are definitely: Volunteering to save baby turtles, staying in a treehouse (don't ask me how I will get up there!), visiting the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica (they have baby sloths!) and snorkelling around all of the islands of Micronesia! In Europe there is all the housesitting and petsitting at different houses! We are also going to Euro Disneyland! In America I am also looking forward to busking on the streets of New Orleans playing a jazz song on my flute! Out of all of them, I couldn't possibly choose one. I think I'm most looking forward to 'pay it forward' more than the things on my bucket list!
Beth: Not only are you a very creative soul, you are also very kind. Your wish is that every time you tick something off your bucket list, you will 'pay it forward' and do a random act of kindness for someone else in need. Why is this important to you
This is VERY important to me as my mum and I like helping people. One of her favourite sayings is you feel better when you give, not receive. Yes, getting presents and lollies can be fun sometimes but giving is soooo much funner! You get this silly smile on your face and you feel all warm inside! Even for the tiniest things like letting people go in front of you in a long line or giving someone a compliment makes you feel soooo good!
For my 11th birthday, Mum took me out to a really nice restaurant. Across from us was a women eating all by herself. We started talking to her and told her it was my birthday. When she left she wished me a Happy Birthday. Then 5 minutes later she came back and said 'Don't worry about your bill, I have fixed it up'. And then she walked off and we never saw her again. Then we got in a state of the giggles. Mum kept on saying 'I can't believe it, I just can't believe it' and I kept on laughing and laughing. And this is how we were for the next 24 hours! Because of that we came up with the idea that each time we completed one thing off my bucket list we would 'pay it forward' or do a random act of kindness for someone else. Hopefully that person will pay it forward too! So one small act of kindness can be so much bigger in the end!
Katie: Not only does Beth deserve the adventure of a lifetime, but so do you. It has always just been you + Beth, and life has not been what you would call easy. Can you tell us about the parts of the journey that you are most looking forward too for all the others that you have overcome
The last two years have actually been the toughest yet for for both of us. I ended a relationship, lost a soul friend in an accident and then unexpectedly and suddenly right before Christmas, my Dad - who was a real rock in our lives and who I counted as one of my best friends.
Grief brings with it a certain energy amidst all the pain. Colours seem more vivid, a song can be written just for you, everything takes on more meaning. It is said that your grief tells you two very important things: a) you're still alive and b) you have a heart. It feels to me like suffering actually enlarges my heart, making it easier to connect to the things that are important to me and enabling me to hear the pain in others hearts. I couldn't think of a better time to travel than now, with my heart wide open. I love connecting with people and listening to their stories. I'm so excited I'm going to have time to do that.
I'm also looking forward to creating an adventure for Beth and also myself that is filled with as many moments of joy as possible. In the Prophet, Kahill Gibrahn wrote "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain". We are going to dance in the rain, busk on the streets, eat amazing food, connect with beautiful people and practice random acts of kindness all over the world.
Katie/Beth: You want to dedicate your adventure to anyone who has a disability which makes the things they want to do in life harder and sometimes seem impossible. You have said that you both learnt that it is never the disability that is the problem; it is just that the world is not set up for people with disabilities. What is the biggest change in the world you want to see
We want people with disabilities to haver a bigger voice. Their stories need to be heard so people can understand what is needed to make the world better. Just recently I read about young people with disabilities in Australia who are being cared for in aged care facilities because there is not anywhere else for them to go. These are 20 & 30 year olds, and what most often ends up happening is that their friends and family stop visiting them, they become less mobile and involved than what they are already, going outside less often or staying in bed more. These are young people and all around them people are dying. It's not right. It's issues like this that need to be highlighted. Half of all people with disabilities in Australia live near or below the poverty line. If people are struggling and their voice is not being heard and we are lucky enough to be in a better position then we need to be their voice.
One challenge we face constantly is restricted wheel chair access. Stairs suck. Big time. So do the gaps in train platforms. When comedian, writer and disability activist Stella Young (who also had Osteogenesis Imperfecta) passed away late last year, we both took the pledge to help carry on her work. Although we choose to look at the world in a positive light - we won't ever ignore that disability issues need to be addressed. Stella has been quoted as saying 'No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever turned it into a ramp. No amount of standing near a bookshelf and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn the books into Braille'. And she is right. The way society views people with disabilities needs to change. We need better policies and laws that work to help all minority groups in our society. It's why it is so important not who we vote for but what party we vote for and what their policies are. The majority of people in Australia vote without knowing what the policies are which is crazy considering you could just google it. We dare you.
Beth: Your mummy is
Like my very own Wonder Woman! She is always single handedly making sure I am ok! Most mornings I wake up and she is running around making some weird breakfast, trying to dry my school clothes whilst dancing to really loud music. Sometimes I get confused whether she is actually my mum or my best friend! She gets sad when I get sad, is happy when I'm happy and when I'm excited well, I'm surprised she hasn't broken anything herself yet! My mum is beautiful, amazing and crazy and I love her.
Katie: Your daughter is
Is my biggest teacher. The best parenting advice I was ever read was: you cannot give your child anything that you have not given yourself first. If I want Beth to love her body and it's imperfections I must first love my own body and it's imperfections. If I want her to have healthy relationships I need to be brave enough to let go of any unhealthy relationships in my own life. Children learn by example. Now that she is older she mirrors back to me anything I have taught her. If I'm rushing she reminds me to slow down. Her favourite saying right now is 'Seize the moment'. It's like having my own personal guru. She is the best human being I know. She also has got really great hair.
Katie/Beth: This adventure is going to be
Magical and totally epic.
Katie/Beth: Anything else you want to add
Katie: If we didn't have such supportive family, friends and a beautiful community around us life would be so much harder. You guys rock our world. Big love especially to the strong, empowered women we have in our lives.
Beth: What message would you like to leave for the readers at Matters Speaking.
Beth: Believe in your true self!
Katie: What is your 'true self'?!
Beth: (thinking) Who you actually want to be...no no....Who you actually are.
Katie: Nice thought process. How do you find that out?
Beth: (thinking) Well...you have to try everything at least once and then you can make a list of all the things you love and them do them as much as possible.
Katie: I like it. What sort of character traits do you need to live like that? I mean...what things do you need to to find in yourself to choose to live that way....
Beth: Bravery. Ideas. And Faith.
Katie: The guru has spoken.....
FOR EVERY PIECE OF MATTERS SPEAKING JEWELLERY PURCHASED IN THE FOLLOWING TWO WEEKS, WE WILL BE DONATING $5.00 TO BETH'S ADVENTURE.
Photography - Unicorn Studios Photography