Sunday 18 February 2018

'When I grow up - the benefit of turning 40' and 'A mini book launch'.

Allow me to extend to you the benefit of my experience as a 40 year old. That is, my first 21 days of being 40 (technical middle age adulthood) with lots of photos of my 'Mini Book Launch' thrown in to illustrate a point.
Mini Book Launch for 'The Art Garden' written by Penny Harrison.
Photo curtesy of Fiona Stiles. 
The first thing that hit me about turning 40 is that it didn't really hit me. Some people say that if it doesn't hit you then you're doing it wrong. It's perfectly reasonable that you may wake up a few days later and think "Oh...I'm 40 now" and then go on waking up. And that is exactly how I feel. I think the fact that I have turned 40 has hit other people more than it has hit me. People have been coming up to me and saying "Wow - you're 40 now". I've also noticed that the only people saying this are usually older than me and say something about 'joining a club'? And people who are younger seem to have to make a point of saying how far off 40 they are. Except for my daughter who keeps asking how old I am, with awe and wonder in her voice, like I'm the oldest person she's ever known.
My beautiful Mum and I just before I turned 40. 
And here's the secret to turning 40 that NO ONE tells you (except I'm going to share it and some of you may have learnt this secret way before turning 40). Remember when you were little (and not even quite so little, like 39 maybe) and you'd always look up to people who were older than you. They were more sophisticated, more organised, and more together, way less muddled, and generally worth looking up to. Well I could keep comparing myself to others the rest of my life, there will always be someone to look up to, even if they are younger than I am. But the crazy thing I've realised is, while most people are busy looking up to whoever they admire, chances are that somewhere there is someone (maybe even a lot of someones) looking up to them. So while it's good to admire others and learn from them it's also good to appreciate your own strengths and treat yourself gently.
Emma and Emma (both not 40).
Miss M, Belinda, Jillian, and Miss C.
As soon as I figured this out, by allowing it to become heart knowledge not just head knowledge, (because it's been rattling around upstairs for a while) instead of trying to be like something that someone else already is, I can spend a lot more time concentrating on being whoever I may happen to be. I can finally give myself permission to joyfully concentrate on growing back into the dream of my four year old self. I've also learnt that sometimes those who are closest to you know who you are meant to be, or who you've forgotten you were meant to be, or the person that you never thought it was possible to be, long before you do (i.e. ever patient husband who has never once said I told you so).
Realising the joy of being what you've always dreamed of.
One thing that lots of people don't realise about turning 40 is that it means you can set your own trend. So that if you love chocolate freckles, so much people send them to you in the mail, you don't have to feel like you are acting like a kid. When you turn 40 you can actually savour your little quirks (albeit hiding in the pantry so you don't have share the afore mentioned chocolate freckle stash). You can replace a quick phone call, or text, with an actual meeting with a friend. You can sit in a cafe having a juice, stop at the book shop and browse for hours forgetting to wash the children's school uniforms, stop off at the supermarket and buy more chocolate freckles, find a park with swings in the middle of the day and not have to compete with children to get a turn, or buy yourself a helium filled biodegradable yellow ballon (making sure to dispose of it responsibly so it won't kill some poor sea creature). This may all sound very childish, but really it is the epitome of adulthood.
So I feel that 40 is the really the year of winding back the clock and finally being comfortable with who my heart always knew I was. An illustrator of books, who really doesn't like gardening, isn't that fond of swimming at the beach, loves climbing trees and wearing flower crowns, who adores her family, pets and the occasional soft toy, and who can finally say they know what they want to be when they grow up.
Fiona, me, and Donna
To everyone who was a part of celebrating 'The Art Garden' with me on Saturday


And if you would like to purchase a copy of 'The Art Garden' written by Penny Harrison but were unable to attend either of our launch events on the weekend, you can purchase here If you purchase online you go in the draw to win a fabulous 'My First Garden Hamper'. Thank you EK Books for creating such wonderful stories.
Image curtesy of EK Books 
By the way, all the photos (unless stated otherwise) were taken by my daughter - I was pretty amazed at the end of the festivities to have such a wonderful record of the day. 

Monday 15 January 2018

Confessions of a Book Lover #bookgivingday

I love books. Nay, dare I say it? I adore books. Books, books and more books. They have provided me with a refuge from the real world, comfort in times of need, inspiration when my heart was tired, encouragement when the going was tough, lessons when I needed them most, and whole worlds to imagine and explore.

My house is full of books. So many books I actually took time this week to clean out my stash of cherished vintage fabrics to free up more space for books. Because when the choice is between books and fabric, the books win. Actually there have been times when the choice has been between books and groceries, the books win (please don't judge me, my children don't starve I just place huge importance on feeding their souls). As a result both my children love books.

So I am a huge advocate of #BookGivingDay. What better way to encourage a love of books than to gift them to others - especially children.

Art work by Elys Dolan Facebook Twitter Instagram
International Book Giving Day is aimed at increasing children's enthusiasm for books and their access to books. It's that simple. One the 14th of February, #bookgivingday, people from Nepal, India, Canada, South Africa, UK, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Nigeria, Fiji, Czech Republic, USA, Cambodia, Hungary, Philippines and Romania. The many ways to share a book are limited only by your imagination. In 2014 Scholastic Australia went to the Melbourne Children’s Hospital and gifted a book to every child. Books have been sent to child refugees in Calais, France; a new library was created in Cape Town, South Africa; in Uganda the Mpambara-Cox Foundation gifted books to children, for many it was the first time they have been given a book of their own.

So may I please encourage you to gift a book to a friend or family member, leave a book in a waiting room for children to read, or donate a gently used book to a local library, hospital or shelter or to an organisation that distributes used books to children in need internationally.

My children have grown up in a world surrounded by books. There are so many books piled throughout our house (as mentioned in a previous blog post) we are running out of places to keep them.

I count myself as truly fortunate that my oldest is an avid reader who would rather chew through books than actual food (and I mean that literally). My youngest adores picture books and adventure stories but prefers to be read to. The reason? Reading has not come easily to her. She says "it's too hard to see all the pictures in my head if I have to figure out the words too", which I completely understand.

And here is the confession. I have not always been an avid reader or appreciator of books. In fact I found learning to read very difficult and confusing. I remember sitting in remedial reading groups struggling to sound out words and make sense of all their scribbly secrets. I remember a teacher who would cover the pictures so I couldn't 'make up' a story. She made me read and I hated it. So please donate a book to a child who may never have held a book so they can unlock the secret we are so fortunate to take for granted.

PS. I still read to my daughter and I will continue to read to her for as long as she needs - and the bonus? When my son hovers on the edges of the room quietly drawing near so he can listen too.