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Special Me; Bragging, Bravery and Doing Better

If one ever thinks the eight plus months it takes to complete a book is tough, then prepare yourself for the wake-up, being the first five weeks following its online launch.  It’s a wonderful feeling creating best IVF stories for children but I know I’m getting rather impatient towards moving onto the next project, and whilst they are not going anywhere for now, I’m not sure I was prepared for the time a book takes following its release.  This being said, I’m very proud of the project and I’mwilling to let the rest go, as the time right now, is all about Special Me – for IVF Families.

The past five weeks have been somewhat of a horse and cart ride; rather steady with lots of bumps.  The bumps tend to be worked through relatively fast, though I find I’m always unprepared and they take seem to take up a lot of time.  Then occasionally you’ll get a positive jolt from somewhere that’ll make it all worthwhile.  I’m going to take a moment and some bragging rights to write these down before I forget . . . memory of a mum now.

The biggest jolt for us to date came in the form of a Facebook review from the “Queen of Common Sense” famous author and educator Maggie Dent.

Some time back I bought her book “Building Children’s Resilience” online and since having kids, also enjoyed following her Facebook feed.  I’m not sure if I willed it into my universe or not, but it’ll go down as a career highlight as far as this project goes.  I’ve since learned she doesn’t give reviews away lightly – which makes it more precious.

Another jolt came from Mum,Blogger and Educator Kate Russell who I just so happened to get talking to one day at my kids swim class about nothing relating to IVF, and neither of us aware of each other’s secret professions, hers not so secret as I found out after that she’s famous around these parts, with good reason; she promotes peaceful parenting for kids to grow confidently.

She was 34 weeks pregnant and suffering placenta previa (as I had) and I was in shock that she was walking around taking her kids to swim lessons . . . I could say, under the circumstances of our chance meeting, she’s the peaceful to my crazy.  Either way, she graciously added it to her Facebook feed and list of resources for IVF parents.

In the past week a third jolt arrived in the form of Cath Hakanson, who just so happens to be an x-Charleville girl who asked if we’d like to be added to her books for children (hell yes!!).  Cath runs for parents wanting to better educate their kids about the subject matter – which I think is fantastic and a great business concept to dedicate your life too.  She’s also well versed on the subject matter, being a nurse, counsellor, clinician and author already.  Cath also highlighted the fact that we made it on another booklist, which I had to admit as a first time author of such, I was not aware.

This would make our fourth jolt; landing on the reading and resource list of USA librarian and blogger Ms Patricia MSarles  who I’ve since thanked.  Turns out she likes our book.  Whilst I don’t get hung up on personal opinions of the book it feels pretty awesome when a librarian dedicated to such books, likes your book!

Special Me – for IVF Families,has made its way out, now available at the Toowoomba Library and a number of supporting organisations locally; Qld Fertility Clinic, Cosmetic Elegance Clinic, Women’s Health Only Clinic, Saint Vincent’s Hospital Toowoomba to name a few;copies we gifted for their role in taking care of my little people.

We’ve been asked when it’s going to be available elsewhere, but I still can’t give any answers on that, other than there is a request in the hands of the Queensland Health Minister.

We’ve also had a couple of interviews in the past weeks, the first with Toowoomba Chronicle Newspaper that made Saturday’s edition, Page 19 .

The second was an interview by ABC Radio Tropical with Tegan Philpott giving us 10 minutes on her “Mornings” show.

We were grateful for their time and they are good at what they do, and it is certainly not a criticism, but as we’ve found interviews seem more directed at the personal story than the actual book itself.  I don’t think this was ever the intention for Joy Holt and I, but given we are proud of the project, it’s gone beyond trying to keep the two separate.

In the interviews there has been on occasion a couple of questions that I’ve been asked by reporters, and none of which I feel I’ve answered or been edited adequately.

“Do you think there needs to be such a book for IVF parents; that kids need to be told?”

I blundered through this question relating to some negativity that I had heard and experienced, and that is readily available online and in social stigma; not saying what I really wanted to say.

What I really wanted to say is I’m not about to tell another parent what they should do, or how they should raise their own kids.  Our book is something beautiful that we created and I think it has the potential to help people, beyond itself.  But I’ll leave that to the individual to decide.If you are chasing a book for your IVF child, as you want them to be safely introduced and proud of how they came about- then our book is for you.

I also wanted to make the point that where there is an element of embarrassment or shame or failing felt by people relatable to IVF, than we need to cast it aside and be proud of our IVF journeys – whatever the outcome.  Fruitless words I know, for someone facing their tenth unsuccessful round.  But you are going after what you want in life, at a huge cost to every element of your existence – that’s called being brave!  Don’t forget that!The outcome doesn’t change the fact.  We try, we fail, we get back up. We humans!

Lastly in my own experience, I think that having kidswhilst scares the life out of you, also makes you a new type of brave.  Parents always want better for their kids; confidence, resilience, freedom and love – most of all you want them to enjoy being a kid.  This takes bravery in various forms and some honesty.I think if you are experiencing any negative emotion about where or how your IVF kid/s came about, then you owe it to them andyourself, to cast it aside and embrace the beauty and reality that is what you went through to achieve them.  So when the time comes and they ask, you can be honest, free and proud in telling them.  They deserve that; they deserve better.

The last page of “Special Me” sums it up I think “I’m happy and proud to be part of the team known as an In Vitro (IVF) Family”. Absolutely!

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An IVF Story Book and the Joy Holt story . . .

IVF Story Book

The last thing I thought I’d be writing is an IVF story book.  But it is funny how ideas and people float back and forth throughout our lives, and whilst some go away, some gravitate back to us.

For me artist/illustrator Joy Holt is one of these people.

I would have been an early primary school student in Winton, when Joy; a mother of two children lived there also, her kids a few years younger than I.   I’m not sure we ever met then, but I have vague memories of her daughter at Saint Patricks Primary School; all of about 50 kids.  We just so happened to share the same first grade teacher, an elderly Catholic Nun by the name of Sister Rose; and have very differing opinions about her teaching methods.  Mine clouded by visions of her cane used for discipline, aptly named “Charlie” . . . hers of her daughter being the only girl in grade one and getting the royal treatment.

I’m certain Joy Holt didn’t ever dream she’d be painting an IVF story book, but this is how some of her story goes, and how “Special Me” came about . . .

Raised in a loving, close-knit family and calling Morayfield, Queensland home, Joy was the eldest of three daughters. Her father Bill and mother Bev owners of “Holt’s Saw Mills” which also sold produce.  Joy grew up an avid horse fan, passed down from her father, and she loved pony club; remembering the days of riding horses from Morayfield’s Oakey Flat Road across the Caboolture Bridge, up the hill and through the centre of town, to attend regular pony club meets at the Caboolture showgrounds.  Unheard of today, given its busy highway status.

Joy Holt commenced her love of art at school, painting a landscape picture that remains hanging on the wall of the Caboolture RSL to this day.  The irony I find in her telling me this is she really doesn’t enjoy painting landscapes at all.  But it was around this time in Joy’s late teens, that people started telling her how much they loved her work, and she toyed with the idea of becoming an art teacher, but her love of horses would supersede art at the time.

Whilst dating a boy in her late teens, Joy once painted him a picture in oils and earthy tones of a little cowboy in his boots, dragging a rope.  As it turns out, the picture would be stolen from a house in Theodore and she recalls being first amazed that someone thought enough of her painting to steal it, and secondly very annoyed that it had actually been stolen.  It has never been seen again; the oil painting of the little cowboy in his boots, dragging a rope.  This leads to wonder what may have become of it, and if it is still around to this day.

Married at 20, Joy’s life took her to Quilpie for a year in the days of no television, then Brisbane for sometime and being a country girl at heart she was not fond of city living.  She would then head out to North West Queensland to the township of Julia Creek in the McKinlay Shire, where she worked various jobs, one being at the old “telephone exchange”. Joy remembers the telephone exchange “fire season” far too well.  Everyone would be on the phone wanting updates on the fires, whilst others were waiting and wanting to get on the line; which made for a very hectic telephone exchange in those times. She also has fond memories of the late and sadly missed local and Councillor John Stevens, with Fred Cook who on two separate party lines would talk for hours – no exaggeration!  As it was in those days, the exchange would cut in and ask “are you extending” to which Joy would hear no noise for what felt like ages, before John or Fred would chime in with a “yes exchange” and this was a regular occurrence for her and the telephone exchange; an experience that anyone younger than 35 today, will likely have no recollection or understanding.

Joy would call Julia Creek home for 4-5 years, during which time the doctor had given her father; still living at Morayfield, the ultimatum to give up work for his health.  Much to anyone’s amuse Joy’s father leased their sawmill and went and bought the cattle property “Allawah”approximately 60kms south west of Tambo; a picturesque block off the Langlo River Road; the back road between Tambo and Charleville.  Joy would eventually move back to Winton when her husband got a promotion, and being close with her parents, visited them at the Tambo property on occasion.  Her recollection of visiting “Allawah” was its beautiful homestead on the Langlo River, but also how freezing a Tambo Winter can be.

Sometime later, Joy’s father would be diagnosed with Leukaemia and they would sell “Allawah” and move to Wamuran; on a farm halfway between Woodford and Caboolture to retire.  Joy would leave Winton shortly after, and head back to her home stomping grounds of Woodford, where she’d stay for the next 10 years and it was duly noted with some surprise, that Joy has never attended the famous Woodford folk festival.

Joy’s life took her away from her art for a while, replaced with being a busy mum of two and working at fruit picking, a café and an office job.  Her son following in her footsteps, loving pony club and gymkhanas, whilst her daughter enjoyed the netball court more than the horses; however she recently able to pass on some helpful horse advice to her little niece, struggling to ride, by empathetically explaining to the young rider that the reins are meant to steer the horse, and the horse was going in circles because one rein was shorter than the other – and they need to be even.  This was followed up with “stop sending the horse giddy around in circles and don’t be a flapper – you need to get your knuckles dirty”; meaning keep your hands low.  Valuable riding lessons no doubt passed down from mum to daughter standing the test of time, and now onto the next generation.

Her second calling to the township of Julia Creek came when her husband was posted to the then and no longer Dalgety’s Office.  Her kids would attend boarding school in Charters Towers and a local on maternity leave, opened up an office job for her with Dalgety’s.  Then Joy was offered the local Council Librarian’s role which she held for some time, before being the successful applicant of the Accounts Payable role with the McKinlay Shire Council.

I would be, if not close to 19 years of age when I would finally meet Joy Holt in her current role at the time.  I came out of boarding school, went straight to work in Townsville and 1.5 years later, I was sick of the city and headed back to Winton, where I’d work long days at various administrative jobs, and half the night serving beers at the pub for the grand prize of $10 an hour.  I was having a great time, to what I thought was “racking in the dollars” and on my way to bigger and better things.  Joy’s husband at the time was a regular pub attendee and regardless of the rumours and innuendo I’ve heard since, he was always friendly and good for a laugh.

It was serving Joy’s husband beers that ended up tipping me off to a job going in Julia Creek at the McKinlay Shire Council.  I put in my application, ended up with an interview, sitting across a desk from the then Joy Holt.  I had only a brief phone conversations with her arranging the interview time and particulars prior to this, and here she was with the Deputy Chief Executive Officer who seemed during the interview more concerned with my ability to not be offended by swearing . . . needless to say I think I swore more than anyone I encountered in that office at the time, but left that out of the interview of course.  Joy contacted me afterwards to confirm I had performed well in the interview and would keep me posted as to the outcome.  By that afternoon I was moving to Julia Creek and this would be the start of the first time I worked with Joy Holt.

During my year working with Joy, I think I learned more about life than in my previous life to date.  The workings and happenings of not just government, but people, business, along with the intricacies of communication, privacy and life in general . . . as a wise man would once say “I learned more about women, wine and dance” in the short time I was there, than the previous 18 years; that’s the benefit of having had a great mum and a rather sheltered childhood for which I’m still proud.

At the McKinlay Shire Council, we had a great team for a few moments in time and shared a good number of laughs, whilst feeling as though we were actually contributing to something bigger than ourselves; the McKinlay Shire community.  However Local Governments at the time seemed to attract greater storms than any coastline, and a volatile working environment was leading us all on a path of separation.  It wasn’t long before crazy possessed the place, and wreaked havoc wherever possible, an executive manager with a short fuse had everyone on edge and it was a misery to go to work – with very limited alternate employment options in the community and the little voice in one’s head constantly saying to quit is to fail.  This lead to some rather demeaning moments; self inflicted and otherwise. Some of the times were eased by girl’s nights out, which were really wine nights in someone’s house.  The bubbly bottle of “Trevi” was our poison of pleasure, and many a night we had saving the world on the stuff, with Debbie the Rates Clerk, Maureen the HACC lady and Glenn from Payroll.  Some of those moments make for the funniest fond memories.

But it was not meant to last and Joy was first to cut and run.  She started her university degree externally and next thing we knew she scored a promotion at the Aramac Council, and she was gone from my life once again. A few years later Joy would return to Julia Creek as owner/operator of the Julia Creek Post Office and would manage this and various mail runs for the next ten years, where I only saw her once or twice and again at my wedding, for a couple of moments in the chaos.

During this; Joy’s third time in Julia Creek, she built on some fond memories with her kids, but also endured the sad loss of her father to Leukaemia and the passing of her grandmother Vi and then her mother, all of which were very close and pillars within her tight knit family circle.  Her son also suffered a serious car accident, but luckily pulled through and this was followed by Joy’s marriage breakdown.  Life had certainly tested Joy Holt, and she would come out of the storm battered but certainly not beaten, and without a doubt stronger than before.

It was 2013 when Joy Holt gravitated back into my life, almost fifteen (15) years since our first encounter.  She was confidently single with her two children raising families of their own, Joy was working for Queensland Education, still holding strong ties to Julia Creek through another job with stock and station agent Bram Pollock of Raine & Horne Rural Atherton, Julia Creek.  Joy had relocated to the Darling Downs to be closer to her family. She and I were living some distance apart; opposite sides of town, but after I moved back to town in late 2014, our friendship became more regular caffeine and cake induced laughter sessions; the best kind . . . with limited hangovers other than the sugar related kind.

Here was Joy Holt, working two jobs, finished her Central Queensland University degree, finding her way through life again and had just started painting. I recall the first pieces she painted that took my eye, two being of grey Brahmans.  She has a knack for them and all animals in general, but is unlimited in her capabilities, and I became an instant fan.

Here I was, two tiny kids, a small business, a part time tax job, and studying, all of which she could understand first hand having lived a similarity before.  I’d say we bonded over a conglomeration of coffee, cake, shares, finance, real estate, dreams and talk of old times, not necessarily in that order.  But she had raised a boy and girl child very well, and here I was in the same situation.  She was never judging, just sharing her knowledge and allowing me to, on occasion confide the psychological dramas every parent experiences; guilt, worry – the standard crazy, whilst trying to achieve one’s own goals with limited time constraints; the same as everyone else.

As far as Joy Holt goes, I think there’s a special place in heaven for those people that help you achieve your dreams, and ask nothing else from you in return.  I also think your world is far more enjoyable when you have an artist in it, so I tell everyone I meet; Joy Holt just so happens to be mine – my artist!

I think I speak for both Joy Holt and myself in saying events unfolding in our lives have been rather unpredictable, but an idea combined with hard work, makes for a great time and we are proud of our first little project “Special Me – for IVF Families”. . . and I’m sure it is not the last time anyone will hear of Joy Holt.  I’m sure there is far more to her story past, present and future that’s yet to be written.

For more information about Joy Holt or to contact for commission works visit www.joyholt.com.