Today is new tattoo day.

My new ink.

This tattoo honours my late father, my family, and my unique identity within it. My family’s surname is Dutch: Groenenboom, which translates to ‘green tree’.

I am thankful to be starting the new year by doing something to deeply meaningful. It is a positive way of acknowledging those who have passed, including my dad and my beloved cousin six months ago, those who remain and are still flourishing, and my connection to them all.

I spent months choosing the tree design, as there are myriad options available and many are gorgeous. I chose this one because it symbolises strength, beauty and grace. The maple leaf represents me, obviously— unique among the other leaves, but strongly connected and coming from the same source.

I am so proud that this symbol is now part of me.

The word tattoo is interesting because the one word has two completely different sets of meanings that have come from entirely distinct sources.

That makes it a homophone, a homograph, and a homonym all at the same time: as it is pronounced and spelt identically for each of its various meanings.

#tattoo #tattooart #symbolism

Thirteen Thoughts On Writing

I found these writing tips by Paul Skenazy to be very pertinent to myself as a writer.

I really like the one that says “Never lose your awkwardness,” I have awkwardness by the bucketload, so I’ve got that part covered.

Really, though, when I read and consider these points, they converge into an encouragement to be the writer only you can be, and to tell the story the way only you can tell it.


I think I’ve got this.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

By Paul Skenazy

  1. Writing is an invitation to humility—you realize you’re on the wrong track, you’ve lost connection with a scene, an emotion, a voice. The return on that humility is when your imagination lets you slip into someone else’s skin. The tales you come up with tell the story you are trying to tell when you sit down to write and also the story of the years you spend working on the book. Rendering a/your life into art changes you.
  2. Trust your intuitions but trust (admit) that you don’t understand what your intuitions are telling you. They have their own truth and direction; your job is to follow where they lead. This doesn’t mean you don’t exert control, but you don’t exert as much control as you think you do. And you are often at your best when you don’t.
  3. Defend your story; don’t give up on it. At…

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One In A Million.

Believe it or not, I’m one in a million. 

A million authors writing to entertain others.
A million poets bleeding their souls onto the page.
A million people trying to help others.
A million people who are actually loyal. 
A million teachers going the extra mile for their kids. 
A million people caring for someone they love. 

It might be easy to get lost in the crowd. 
It’s easy to feel insignificant.
One tree among a million in the forest, so to speak. 
But I know I am one in a million. 

We all write and grieve and serve and give of ourselves differently. 
Each of us is unique. 
Each of us is a distinct blend of personality, talent and substance. 

Not a single one of us is worthless. 

I may not stand out among the million. 
I may never strike it rich or become famous.
I may never be someone else’s ideal. 
I cannot be perfect.

The truth is, I don’t have to.None of us do.

What matters is the contrast with some of the other people on this planet: the hateful, the cruel, the greedy, the selfish, the power-hungry, the narcissists. 
What matters is that I stand against the things they accept. 
What matters is that I am true to who I am, to my priorities, my values, my faith. 

What matters is integrity. 
That’s what stands out in this world. 

That, more than anything else, makes me one in a million. 

No More Tiptoeing Through The Tulips.

I love tulips. They are lovely and graceful, and so colourful!  

My goodness, though, they’re delicate. It doesn’t take much to make a tulip wilt and bend its head to the ground. One might be tempted to think that a flower that needs to have its bulb frozen during winter in order to bloom might be a little more resilient… but apparently not.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the people in my circles— not all, but a hefty percentage of them— are like tulips. As long as the environment suits them, they are fine, but when they are unhappy for some reason, they just don’t cope. It doesn’t take much to upset the balance: just do something they find confronting. The more brave and nonconformist the act, the stronger the effect.

Don’t get me wrong: I do like most of the people in my circles. 

What I don’t like is having to kowtow to their apparent discomfort about certain things that matter to me, when they demonstrate zero tolerance to who and what I am. 

I am weary of having to live with the perpetual awareness that many people I know don’t mind me being an author as long as I never mention it. Some wouldn’t mind my multiple ear piercings either if I grew my hair longer to cover them. Others don’t mind my tattoos as long as my clothes hide them. They feign politeness when I talk about the theatre company I’m in or the musicals I direct at school, but very few of them have ever bought a ticket and come to see a show. And let’s not even start on how they feel about my political views. 

And yes. Those very different things get exactly the same reaction from a lot of people.

It’s ridiculous, and I’m over it. 

I am not less than them. 
I do not matter less than they do. 
My feelings, thoughts, passions and pursuits matter just as much as theirs do. 
I am as worthy of their interest and respect as they are of mine.

And I am very proud of my poetry and my stories… and of my shows. I’m rather fond of my tattoos and piercings too, for that matter. 

What I write happens to be pretty darned good: all those reviews my books receive from strangers are proof of that. Why should I hide my work under a cloak of secrecy when they can freely discuss being a builder, a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker?

Nobody looks at them with thinly veiled suspicion. Nobody questions if what they build or make is any good. Nobody asks how much money they make per job. Nobody asks if their kids are real, or if they are any good. 
They are all quite free and welcome to talk about their kids in front of me even though I don’t have any, and I certainly don’t respond as though they are trying to sell me a child.

So, no more tiptoeing around. I won’t be shoving a book in their face at every opportunity — that’s not me — but I’m not going to allow others to pretend they don’t exist, either. They don’t have to read my work, but they will know that I expect their respect and acknowledgment.

I will not allow other people to treat me as less than I am.

I will not allow them to suppress my thoughts and feelings. 
I will call people out on double standards. 
I will refuse to be made to feel small.
I will be as diplomatic and gentle as I can, but I will assert myself.

And if they insist, I will know they are not really my people, and were never really in my circle.

My mother’s daughter.

A couple of weeks ago I posted some photos of my parents on their wedding day with a reflection about the legacy they left their children. Scroll down and you’re sure to find it.  I meant every word of what I wrote, and I love my parents dearly. I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding about that. 

Since then, however, I’ve experienced something of a strange conflict. So many people – many more than I ever expected – have commented how much I look like my mother. That’s not a bad thing at all, but I’ve never really thought myself to look like her.

I know I get my colouring from her. My dad’s side of the family are pretty much all your stereotypical Dutch blondies, except for my Auntie Margaret whose hair was a lovely nutty brown. She still has the ‘Dutch’ blue eyes though.  My dark hair and hazel-green eyes almost definitely come from Mum’s side of the family. 
I’ve always thought that my face was more like Dad’s side. Especially in the department of facial expressions, that is certainly true.  
Both my aunts and my cousins Michael and Geanette share a cheeky grin with me that I know without a doubt came from Dad’s side of the family. 
My Auntie Trish used to give us “the look” that communicated that she meant business, and we knew to take it seriously.  It involved a straight mouth and an arched eyebrow.  It wasn’t until I was about 20 that it occurred to me that I had inherited “the eyebrow” from her. I realised by accident one day when I was plucking my eyebrows – I arched my eyebrow and actually intimidated myself. True story.  Now I use “the eyebrow” to communicate my displeasure to my students when they deserve it, and it’s equally effective – perhaps even better. Not everyone has an eyebrow with superpowers. 
So what’s with people telling me I look like my mother? And why does that bother me so much?  I honestly have no idea.  My mother was an only child, and I never met her mother, so I don’t have much family on that side to compare with. 
I clearly remember some of her uncles, aunts and their children, and I know I don’t really look anything like them. Mum’s cousin Helen was really pretty, and her dad, my great-uncle Charlie had the cheekiest grin I’ve ever known and loved. His brother Mick had the second cheekiest grin I’ve ever known and loved. Her Aunt Enid and Aunt Anne (known as Judy) were beautiful women. I remember their visits with much happiness. They were always impeccably dressed and made up, and they smelt beautiful. They talked with me like I wasn’t a child, and I loved the fact that we had intelligent conversations about all sorts of things. I felt so grown-up with them. I loved them more than I probably ever told them. I would so love to be like them. Perhaps I am in an intellectual sense, but I’m certainly not beautiful or elegant like they were. 
Mum was a wonderful person. She had a great sense of humour with a quickness of wit that I loved. We liked similar music and similar books, although I was more interested in reading the literary classics and “stodgy history” (her term for my more academic history books) than she was.  She taught me about my Irish, Scottish and English heritage, and that’s probably where my passion for English, Irish and Scottish history came from. She loved The Beatles, Glenn Campbell, John Denver, Tom Jones and Beethoven.  We loved singing along to “Jukebox Saturday Night” on the radio and playing Trivial Pursuit at home on Saturday nights right up until I left home and moved interstate.  We had teaching in common: she taught in the primary school, and I teach secondary. Our teaching styles are completely different, but I know she was proud of the fact that I was a teacher. 

Even so, we didn’t always see eye to eye, and I often felt like I didn’t really measure up to what she wanted me to be. Maybe that’s the source of my inner conflict. 

On the other hand, maybe that is irrelevant given that you can’t see those things in photographs. 
Perhaps it’s because I fear that people see similarities in us physically – please oh please, use the words curvaceous and buxom instead of any other less flattering terms. Let’s just say that we were built for comfort, not for speed, and leave it at that. 
Maybe it’s because I just want to be me. I don’t want to fit into a pattern or to be predictable. All my life I’ve been known to many people as Anne’s daughter or David’s sister.  Those aren’t necessarily bad things, but the pleasure one experiences in such associations does wear thin after being mentioned regularly over a few decades. 
Overall, I’m quite happy with who I am and what I’ve achieved. I’ve learned to live with my physical flaws and work with my assets. I have overcome injury, infertility and illness and stayed positive. I have my flaws and failures, and I’m still learning from them. I have my own style and I have always done things my own way. Confident, sassy, sarcastic, independent, and perhaps a little stubborn on occasions. Okay… so that last point made me laugh, too. 
Maybe it doesn’t matter if I look like my mother. Perhaps I do look like her more than I realised.  Maybe I’ll learn to embrace that. Maybe it’s actually kind of cool.  
Until then, though, it would be nice if people said things like “Oh, she’s lovely!” or “Oh, she looks like fun!” before they tell me I look just like her. That would help a lot. 
Thanks in advance. I appreciate it.