Archive for the ‘Extra ordinary people’ Category

Alison Taft – by Kirsti Robinson

 

Alison is out of the ordinary. Growing up in Burnley – how many of us can make such a claim? She then went to live in Crete, moving on to the Middle East and later the Far East.

Determined to have a job she repeatedly got fired for insubordination. Adamant she would never get married, she‘s spent the last fifteen years living with Mark. Earnest she would not have children, she had two. And convinced she would never realise her childhood dream and become a writer; she has written three books – so far.

How so contrary?

Alison doesn’t know, but confesses her grandfather used to ask her that same question. Halso used to say she was telling stories. Telling stories is something she does very well. Her first book Our Father Who Art Out There…Somewhere is entertaining and deeply engaging. To Alison’s genuine surprise readers reception has been both enthusiastic and emotional. ‘It has been a revelation,‘ she admits: ‘People have come up to me and told me I’ve helped them deal with their own, similar situations. I never realized my writing could be good for other people too,‘ she explains.

On the arrival of her children, Alison became consumed by the need to find her birth-father. Her mother had re-married when she was very young, she was adopted by her stepfather and although she always knew she had a different dad, she felt it wasn’t something you could talk about as a family. But her own children fostered the need to know where she had come from and while searching for her father, the scene in her mind was set for their happy, loving reunion, complete with her proud introduction of her partner to her birth father and her father triumphant with his grandchildren in his arms…… Instead she got a letter – he did not wish to have contact with her.

Alison was not prepared for such a brutal blow. ‘I was reeling; how could anyone reject their own child and go on living as if s/he had never existed? – How could he reject ME!?’ she exclaims. The hurt and disbelief went deep but along the road she discovered writing brought her relief. ‘I found writing fiction allowed me to examine my emotions from a safe distance. I needed to mourn, and writing down meant being able to let go somehow,’ she muses.

At first Alison was only able to write about her emotions, but slowly, like peeling an onion (tears and all) she was able to go closer and closer to the core of her distress. As she finally was ready to face her pain head on, a character was born: Lily. Lily was someone who, like Alison, secretly believed her father would never voluntary have given her up. Unlike Alison however, Lily at 19 with her mother dead and no children or husband to protect or care for, was given free rein to unrestrained emotion and selfish indulgence.

Alison’s friend, who was allowed to read her passionate and sometimes outrageous scribblings (in one scene Lily kidnaps her fathers other daughter and as she refuses to believe that her dad lied to her, Lily shows her the wedding album) was impressed. ‘She researched ‘chick noir’ and found a publisher, Caffeine Nights,’ says Alison. ‘I only sent it to them because it said on their web-site they’d give feedback on rejected manuscripts. I nearly fell off my chair when they said yes.’

And she continues to smile, because her fathers refusal to acknowledge her as his daughter sent her on a journey where she discovered that writing is not only useful for escaping the day to day stresses, but also for gaining a clear vision and control over her own emotional life. But, most importantly, he has inadvertently given her the opportunity to help others and for that she is truly grateful.

Since 2005 parents can no longer have a child anonymously, but there are still families today, living with ‘the secret’ of having one or more adopted children. The concealment may go on longer when there is one natural parent and half-siblings involved and more often than not the reason given is to protect the feelings of the adopted childAlison is adamant that telling the truth early saves pain later. 

What is your opinion?

Alison talking about her fist book.

Alison’s favourite reads:
The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
The Firm – John Grisham
Danny Champion of the World – Roald Dahl
The Beach House – Jane Green

Do you have a story you believe might benefit others?

Please don’t hesitate to contact me on maggisummerhill@gmail.com- Thanking you in advance and thank you for reading. Your comments and ratings are warmly received. Maggi

Kathryn Ma with mum and dad

I first met Kathy thirteen years ago in a pub in Brighton UK. She had come over for a few weeks doing a tour visiting friends. We instantly got on and spent a few days together, shopping, laughing and generally having a lovely time. Little did I know that back in Hong Kong my new friend was a celebrity and a regular guest on local radio shows.

We have stayed in contact despite the physical distance and over the years I have learnt that behind that laid back happy-go-lucky demeanour lies a person who is incredibly driven and determined. ‘Hong Kong teaches you not to be lazy and try your best at all times.’ She says and adds : ‘As a woman you have to be even better.’

Kathy makes friends wherever she goes, despite this she is surprised when I asked her to be interviewed for my blog: ‘But why? I’m not very interesting.’ She says’.

Kathy is unusual; she is a Chinese Australian living and working in Hong Kong. She is psychic and a serial entrepreneur and yet she is one of these people who lives her life without a plan, accepting whatever challenges it hands her with gusto and flair.

You may think knowing what the future holds solves a lot of problems, like making the right choices and getting involved with the right people – foresight must be better than hindsight. But she insists that’s not how it works: ‘Psychics are unable to make predictions for their own futures.’ She says and explains: ‘Emotions get in the way, we make mistakes like anyone else.’

In fact it took Kathy a while to realize she could read the future. Not from a psychic background, while growing up she tried to reason she was a good guesser and her anticipations were logical rather than psychic. But after meeting a psychic in her early twenties she gradually realized she had an ability. Despite this she was still at loss to fit it into her life and it was only years later, attending a World Health Expo in San Francisco and meeting working psychics she realized she had to trust her ability and decided to embrace her gift fully. Kathy admits:’ it was a now or never moment.’

Kathy being Kathy not only set about giving personal readings, but quickly got involved with the business community as well, giving readings and strategic advice. ‘I wouldn’t give financial advice. I would convey the intentions of the participants of a meeting and the tone of the meeting itself which obviously went a long way to help good decisions being made.’ She says.

Attending other people’s meeting and reading other people’s lives was not enough for Kathy in the long run. She set up a Mind, Body and Spirit shop (The House of Energy), followed a few years later by a dating online website (DateAsia) and a paid Privilege lifestyle card purveyor in Hong Kong (VivAsia). At this point, much to her amazement she was hailed as one of the major trend setters in HK. ‘I’m not like that!’ She protests: ‘Things capture my interest and inspire me. Then of course comes the challenge to see if I can do it.’ She laughs.

Viewing her success and popularity I have to ask: ‘Why Hong Kong? Why not the world?’

Kathy doesn’t even pause to think: ”In Hong Kong you’ve got total efficiency – it’s amazing what you can get done in a day.’ She explains: ‘ Australia is too laid back and I did have offices in China, but it drove me crazy – it drove everyone crazy. Initiative and responsibility was basically alien to them.’

Hong Kong by Trey Ratcliff:stuckincustoms.com

Like Kathy, Hong Kong is full of contrast; densely populated it still has the feel of a village. Its inhabitant driven and demanding yet they are exceptionally friendly, helpful and creative.

Like in most of Asia the extended family in HK is very strong and despite living accommodations in general being very small by western standards it wouldn’t be unusual for a married couple to have one or two grandparents living with them and looking after the children. However there is an emotional and financial need to work.

Kathy driven as she is values her family more than her personal ambitions. You see while HK teaches you not to be lazy and try your best at all times – family always come first.

Kathy’s favorite reads:

1) A Fortune-Teller Told Me by Tiziano Terzani

2) The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

3) Collins Complete Works of Oscar Wilde

4) There’s A Customer Born Every Minute – P.T.Barnum’s Secrets to Business Success by Joe Vitale

5) Any books by John Sandford or Harlan Cohen – I do love a good crime mystery.

Thank you for reading. If you know anyone who you think should have been interviewed by me, please let me know on maggisummerhill@gmail.com. Comments are very welcome and so are ratings. 🙂

Roger, foster son Leon and Caroline

A few years ago Roger and Caroline attended the same lectures as I at Lampeter University. My curiosity was immediately aroused, while Caroline’s playful intelligence

and Rogers easy laugh and sharp humour was attractive; it was their high level of energy and drive that intrigued me.

But who are they?

Their stories could not be more different yet they are a team; a married couple with a shared passion.

Caroline originally from Guilford, Surrey, had a happy childhood. ‘ We were the privileged families who were able to climb the social ladder by newopportunities, buy

our own home and become what I supposed was middle class.’ She says. Her contentment was to end most horribly when she was sexually abused as a teenager.

It shaped her view of the world and she spent her early adulthood ina state of confusion. She had four children amidst a world of poor choices and abusive relationships.

‘I had become a magnet to them.’ She states simply.

In her early thirties she hit an all time low and following some depressive periods decided to take control of her life and went to University to study an Access Course

(aimed at mature students who want a higher education.). ‘It opened up a whole new world for me and my confidence soared.’ She recalls.

She earned herself a BA and got a job she immediately loved, working with the Princes Trust as a team leader with teams of 15 young people at a time on a twelve-week

personal development course.  Promoted very quickly, she soon found herself struggling to balance her job with home life and her children studying A levels and leaving

for University. ‘I had to say enough was enough, but I so enjoyed supporting young people I decided to become a foster carer with the support of my kids.’ She smiles. ‘

And haven’t regretted a single day.’

Roger started life in one of the roughest areas of Swansea. Roger affirms: ‘You had to make a lot of choices at an early age to survive.’  But his hard working, loving parents

instilled their values in him and an exceptional teacher in school inspired a thirst for knowledge; including arts and music and a love of life. Despite this he never finished his

A levels. His father had a serious accident at work and he left school before his exams to work in a local toy factory as a trainee cost accountant to support the family.

He was seventeen. From then on he had a succession of momentous turning points where he had to change his life. ‘I applied for a job in the Swansea’s Magistrates Court and

got it.  Then at 21 I married someone I had known since we were 16. We had a rough time for about six years, mainly due to my immaturity. At 29 I had my first child, Victoria,

and moved to Leeds with the family for a fresh start.’ Roger recalls.  While working in Leeds Magistrates Court, Roger had become a semi pro musician and in 1976 he had

another child, James.   Twenty four years later his wife, Chris, was diagnosed with cancer and she died three years later. ‘I choose a selfish and destructive lifestyle, but,

ironically, everyone thought I was great company for a party.’ He observes.

He met Caroline a year later and a whole new life started when she introduced him to Buddhism and fostering.  ‘I had found my mission (fostering) and meeting Roger was

perfectly in alignment with how my life was progressing.’ Says Caroline. Fostering has been part of their lives for eight years now and the couple help train new carers in Wales.

There is no doubt their combined life experience goes a long way to understand how unpredictable and sometimes cruel life can be and the kind of choices people make in

stressful circumstances. However, the pleasure of assisting children and their families often comes with some pain. ‘We have had sleepless nights’ Roger admits and adds there

have been times where they have been unable to connect with a child.

Writing, drama (Roger helped set up an amateur dramatics society, Memorama,  when he was widowed back in 2003), playing music and practicing Buddhism has proven a great

way of channelling complex emotions. ‘And the children can join in if they want to.’ Says Caroline.

Will they ever retire from fostering?

‘Our happiness is entrenched in what we do, we love our own 6 children and having them around, we love our community and getting involved witheveryone, we love having children

come to us that need a bit of guidance and direction AND LOVE, we love working with Mother and Baby placements thatwe have recently seen so many of.’ Says Caroline while Roger

nods emphatically. ‘We are supposed to be retired, but fostering gives you themomentum to stay young.  And it’s so rewarding. ‘ Roger smiles.

Roger’s playing with Brass Ear, you can find them on:  YouTube (Vehicle march 2012 Brass Ear.mpg)

If You would like to know more about the amateur dramatics society Roger and Caroline supports, check out:  memorama.org.uk

Rogers favorite titles:  
Legend of a Suicide (David Vann)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon)
An Evil Cradling (Brian Keenan)
Elephant (Raymond Carver)
Plays 2 (Anthony Minghella)
Caroline’s favorite reading:
The Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton)
To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf)
At-Swim-Two-Birds (Flann O’Brien)
The little Prince ( Antoine de Sainte-Exupery)
The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)

Thank you for visiting and reading this true story, I hope you enjoyed and would love to hear from you.

Come back again or click “follow’ for the next story – Driven: Kathy Ma is half chinese, half Australian but Hong Kong is her home.

RC Bridgestock; Robert and Carol are one of the most promising crime writing team in Europe today.

Truth be told, they know more about crime than most people.

Carol had two children and was looking for a change in career from hairdresser and fancied working in an office. However her dad an office worker himself tried to put her off as he thought she would be bored ‘Finally I joined the Police as a support worker and it was everything I wanted – working in an office but there was always something to do and never a dull moment,’ she says.

Bob had joined the Police as a young man. ‘I kept being picked on by the local officers, I’d heard the saying ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ After a particularly unpleasant experience (he was bitten by a dog handlers dog) I thought I’d better join them.’ He laughs. He signed up for 30 years and by the time he met Carol he was a Detective.

Meeting at work, they quickly realized they were on to someone special.

‘Despite our track record in personal relationships after both our marriages had broken down and against all the odds we trusted each other immediately.’ She remembers. ‘That trust never waived.’ Bob agrees.

Getting together proved to be the start of a healing journey for them both. ‘Bob worked hard and hardly ever took a holiday and often couldn’t even take his day’s off,’ Carol remembers. ‘When he became a SIO (Detective Superintendent, Senior Investigative Officer), working on a murder case and serious incident the children and I would lose him to the family of the victim for the duration.’ On one day he gave evidence in three different murder trails that he was in charge of in a Crown Court – one of the cases had seven defendants who all had different Barristers. But Carol knew it was the only way, and supported him the best she could.

In their book titled Deadly Focus Jen gets Jack Dylan’s suit out in the middle of the night when he gets called out and puts fruit in his briefcase… Some say she is ‘too good. But this is exactly how Carol was. ‘It’s exactly how it needs to be.’ Bob says. ‘We are a team.’

The authenticity of the characters and police methods in Deadly focus are so compelling, laymen and police have commented on it.

They confess the books are to some degree autobiographical. ‘The cases are fictional but Bob is just like Jack and Jen is exactly like me. ‘Well in book one, two and three she is, I can’t vouch for the rest. You will have to wait and see,’ Carol smiles.

Writing together has proven to be the icing on the cake for both of them. A new venture to work on together after spending so long apart and a chance to revisit their past.

Carol feels writing has helped her deal with the psychological trauma in particular the fact she was bullied in her workplace by her immediate female boss.

Writing about it made her realize how much it had affected her. ‘It has taken me three books to work it out of my system.’ she confesses and adds ‘I can smile about it now.’

Bob agrees. For him it was an undetected murder playing on his mind. He was in charge, the pathologist got it wrong. Possible evidence was missing and the offender is still at large.  ‘It was one out of 26 murders I took charge of in the last three years of my thirty year police career, and I have come to terms with the fact I couldn’t have done more than I did.’ He says.

Writing together was Bob’s idea and when they retired from police work he enrolled them both on a course. ‘He wanted something we could do together.’ says Carol.

Bob laughs ‘Well the reason I didn’t want to go alone is that Carol can type quicker.’

In Bob and Carol’s world there is not much time for leisure as they have three more novels planned, Carol is Chair of the Wight Fair Writers’ Circle, Bob is a member and Bob is at the moment helping the well-known scriptwriter Sally Wainwright with background and police procedure on her new police television series. ‘We are enjoying our selves, it’s like a breath of fresh air Carol says.’

R.C. Bridgestock are authors of the crime thriller ‘Deadly Focus’ and ‘Consequences’.  The Publishers are Caffeine Nights Publishers http://www.caffeine-nights.com. The books are dedicated to victims of crime.

 Want to know more about Bob and Carol? Visit their website

http://www.rcbridgestock.com .

The Wight Fair Writers’ (www.iowwritingircle.co.uk) each year organize two writing competition to raise money for a charity and try to inspire all age groups to enter. Their next competition is the ‘Crime & Intrigue’ short story competition and the launch will involve a mock crime scene, police dogs and the firearms team – all who will come and take fingerprints to make into badges too for the children of the 1st Godshill & Rookley Cubs on Wednesday 7th March.

Carol’s favorite reading is: Diary of Anne Frank,Through the Stones by Diana GabaldonSense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

And Bob’s: Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian, Abide With Me by Ian Ayris, Turtle Island by Darren Law

  

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed and look forward to your comments. Please come back next month for another installment of Inspirational Lives and feel free to contact me with your story via my e-mail: maggisummerhill@gmail.com. Best wishes – Maggi 🙂

All books mentioned in my blog are one click away from the Book Store below.

  
Carol Bridgestock

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed and look forward to your comments. Please come back next month for another installment of Inspirational Lives and feel free to contact me with your story via my e-mail: maggisummerhill@gmail.com. Best wishes – Maggi 🙂

All books mentioned in my blog are one click away from the Book Store below.

She is the senior manager of a management consultancy firm, wife, and mother of three children under five. She is thorough, determined and when it comes to human suffering whether it’s anger, deceit, violence or love she is utterly fearless and relentlessly curious. She comes alive between midnight and four in the morning new worlds are created. This was Catrin Collier in the nineteen eighties.

‘The management job was more than a nine to five and so was the family of course, but I had to write.’ She states simply.

After seventeen unpublished books, a number of short stories, articles and plays; three of them which were professionally performed, Catrin finally had a book published in 1989. It was a crime novel. Killing the hero in the first chapter she brought on police officers that were too fat, too thin, too non PC – the title was Without Trace and written under the name Katherine John (the name of her Welsh grand mother).‘I’d received advice from Alex Cordell, I changed the way I wrote and everyone wanted more.’ She recalls.

Catrin went on to write and has published one crime and one historical novel a year.

It was her dream to become a full-time writer and live these stories in her head. But while her husband was one hundred percent supportive and even re-mortgaged the house to buy her first computer, the children now fourteen, thirteen and nine were less sympathetic to Catrin’s need to write.

‘My children knew exactly how and when to wind me up during those years. They’d come in when I was in the middle of a chapter and ask for pocket-money or tell me I cared more for my books than them.’ She laughs.

‘I noticed though, they didn’t mind ‘helping’ with my research whenever I visited fairgrounds and theatres or toured the Rhondda Valleys.’ She adds.

The need to write started at a young age, in fact as soon as she could form words on paper and it has never left Catrin since. Even while in the last two years coping with her fathers Alzheimer’s and mothers Vascular Dementia she ghosted two books and a novelization of a new horror film. ‘I can’t imagine a day without writing – but then I’ve never had one. Perhaps my husband is right, it really is a disease.’

Back again, she is … writing! She’s sitting in the study she calls her ‘cupboard’ with a strong black coffee, spilling the contents of her dreams onto paper as fast as she can. Characters are coming alive on the page as she enters their world completely. ‘The characters are walking around, they are real to me.’ She admits.

The advice Alex Cordell gave her so many years ago was to write what you know. It turned Catrin into a successful author with books translated into Czech, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish and Spanish.

I ask her how her stories relate to her real life.

‘The most personal pieces I have ever written are probably in my books.’ She replies and goes on to admit relationships can be difficult to write about. ‘ If someone really annoyed me I might kill them off in a book and that will be the end of it.’ She adds playfully.

Catrin Colliers favorite reads: H H Munro -Saki, Isabel Allende -House of the Spirits and The Sum of our Days, Cruz Smith -Gorki Park, Kellerman -The Butchers Theatre

Catrin Collier can be found on: catrincollier.co.uk 

And here is a list of her books.

As Catrin Collier 21 books: (Historical sagas set in Wales)
A Silver Lining (Orion, 1996)
All that Glitters (Arrow Books, 1996)
Past Remembering (Arrow Books, 1997)
Such Sweet Sorrow (Arrow Books, 1997)
Broken Rainbows (Arrow Books,1998)
Spoils of War (Orion, 2000)
One Blue Moon (Arrow Books, 2001)
Swansea Girls (Orion, 2002)
A Swansea Summer (Orion, 2002)
Hearts of Gold (Arrow Books, 2003)
Homecoming (Orion, 2003)
Beggars & Choosers (Orion, 2004)
Winners & Losers (Orion, 2004)
Sinners & Shadows (Orion, 2004)
Finders & Keepers (Orion, 2005) 
Tiger Bay Blues (Orion, 2006)
Tiger Ragtime (Orion, 2006)
One Last Summer (Orion, 2007)
Magda’s Daughter (Orion, 2008)
Black-Eyed Devils (Quick Reads) (Accent, 2009)
Bobby’s Girl (Allison & Busby, 2011)

As Katherine John 10 Books: (Crime novels)
Without Trace (1990)
Murder of a Dead Man (1992)
By Any Other Name (1996)
The Corpse’s Tale (Accent Press, 2006)
By Any Name (Accent Press, 2006)
Midnight Murders (Accent Press, 2006)
Amber Knight (Accent Press, 2007)
The Black Daffodil(Accent Press,

2007)
A Well-Deserved Murder (Accent Press, 2008)
The Destruction of Evidence (Accent Press, 2009)

As Caro French 1 Book: (Modern fiction)
The Farcreek Trilogy (Simon & Schuster, 1995)

As Katherine Hardy 2 Books: (Novelisation of TV productions)
The Grand (Simon & Schuster, 1997)
The Grand II (Simon & Schuster, 1998)

As K A John with James Patterson 1 Book: Bloody Valentine (Arrow Books 2011)

Forty years of life on the street – Coronation Street the epic novel (Granada Ventures Ltd 2003)

*All books are available from the store below.

Thanks for reading this, I hope you enjoyed. Please be my guest and make a comment or ask a question. If you have a story to tell, let me know. I would love to hear from you.

Maggi

maggisummerhill@gmail.com

P.S. Extra bonus material for writers – ‘Catrin Collier on writing’. It’s very short but if you like to have it, simply e-mail me. It’s free 😉

Lars Olrik

                                                                                                                                            

Birkerod, Denmark.
When Lars Olrik started life 47 years ago, he had very little idea of what he wanted to do.
Twenty years later he wasn’t much the wiser, but he had noticed in himself a flair with words.
It was that flair that landed him his first job, writing freelance for a music magazine and later an apprenticeship with the direct marketing giant Wunderman to learn the trade of copy-writing. ‘ It was hard work and a bit boring but it was well paid and I had 84 rejections before Wunderman so I decided to live with it.’ He muses.

For a bit of fun Lars entered competitions in his spare time; winning prizes on his poetry, slogans and songs. One day he was grabbed by a member of one of the most popular Danish bands at the time ‘Laban’ and asked if he would write them some lyrics.
Having just won an award for campaign work at Wunderman, Lars flushed with success didn’t waste a minute to accept this opportunity to give up his day job to become a freelance songwriter. ‘I thought I could walk on water.’ He chuckles.
An early recession in the advertising industry made freelance copy-writing jobs hard to get by and the songwriting didn’t pay much. ‘It wasn’t long before, my ex and I were sucking stones.’ He remembers.
In the spirit of  a true Viking; Lars battled on and during this time  he wrote and had published four novels and an alternative dictionary. ‘I dug out old words and made up new meanings for them. It was quite popular amongst my friends actually.’ Lars smirks.

By now the recession was not just personal to Lars, but global and surprising everyone by it’s ferocity; in particular the Danes who had become quite used to being held up as an example of economical and social success. ‘It was doom and gloom galore everywhere, the press in particular.’ Lars admits.

Lying on the sofa one day, having no particular reason to get up, Lars surveyed the room and decided it might be about time he had a bit of a clean up. ‘I hate domestic chores.’ He admits. ‘The place was pretty messy, even by my standards.’

Lars got to work with a Hoover and a bottle of detergent and slowly worked his way to the kitchen where he came across an amateur painters kit he had bought on a whim years earlier. ‘I was literally standing over the trash bin, ready to throw it out.’

Instead Lars brought it back into the living room, unpacked it, and dipped one of the knives into some of the paint that hadn’t dried out. – When he next looked up six hours had passed. ‘I was hooked.’ Lars admits.

Over the next months Lars would paint furiously. ‘Some of it was pretty bad, but I enjoyed it and I did seem to get better.’ Learning through his mistakes and by studying other painters on the Internet; Lars finally felt he was ready to let the world have a look and posted his first painting on his Facebook page. ‘Within half an hour, I had three offers – people wanted to buy it!.’ Lars recalls.

Three years and 87 paintings later Lars admits his success. He is now fully booked with exhibitions four months in advance and has offers from three galleries.‘If twenty-seven years ago you had told me that I would become a successful painter I would have thought you were crazy.’ Lars Laughs.

Dimensions By Lars Olrik

Author and Artist Lars Olrik’s favorite reads:

* “The Shining” – Stephen King.* “Når snerlen blomstrer” – Bjarne Reuter* “My life as a dog” – Reidar Jönsson* “Animal farm” – George Orwell* “The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” – Douglas Adams

You can view Lars Olrik’s new paintings via:https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.192100496547.137836.592381547&type=3

Books by Lars Olrik

* “Ridderen af den runde bold”/”The knight of the round ball” – 2001.* “Fra sans og samling”/”Out of one’s mind” – 2001″ “Haikus” – 2005* “Melankolatter”/”Melancholaughter” – 2008* “Løgnagtigt leksikon”/”Encyclopedia of lies” – 2011

Thanks for reading this, I hope you enjoyed. Please be my guest and make a comment or ask a question. If you have a story to tell, let me know. I would love to hear from you. Maggi ( maggisummerhill@gmail.com)

Karen Griffard Putz; mother of three deaf teenagers, competitive barefoot water skier, journalist, founder of a non-profit, early intervention provider, greeting card company distributor and prolific blogger…… and, she is deaf.

Karen Griffard Putz with passion!

Karen is one of my first cyber friends. I met her a few days after joining Twitter.

If you ever have the pleasure to meet her in person, the first thing you notice is a radiant smile that reaches all the way up to her big brown eyes and that terrific energy! An energy fuelled by an extraordinary passion for life and a genuine belief that she can do anything – She is POSITIVE!

‘It has been a long process’ she confides: ‘I didn’t arrive in this place overnight’.

Karen’s journey has indeed been long; she lost some of her hearing at the age of seven following an illness with a high fever. Despite her young age, she became self-conscious and was determined to cover up her compromised hearing.

Through her childhood and teenage years she used a mixture of bluff and an ingenious system to guess what was said to appear ‘normal’. It was emotionally and physically draining and she was constantly comparing herself to hearing people. ’ I felt I didn’t measure up in certain areas and group conversations were a nightmare. I was crying a lot,’ she recalls.

Life had a new and bigger challenge in store for her:

‘When I climbed into the boat, I couldn’t hear.’

At nineteen, Karen took up barefoot waterskiing and spent the summer zipping around Christie Lake, finally something she was really good at and could enjoy without paying too much attention to her hearing. But one day she turned to cross a wake, caught a toe and slammed into the water sideways. After the crash, she  thought she had water in her ears, the truth was hard to bear; she had become profoundly deaf.

As the summer holidays finished she hardly had time to digest her new situation before she found herself at a university that had a deaf program, amongst students whose first language was American Sign Language.  American sign language (ASL) like British sign language (BSL) is a sign language with grammar and structure, the signing was rapid and in Karen’s eyes complex. She was truly a foreigner in a strange land.  Karen found it impossible to lip read her instructors in the classroom.

At night the silence of her world became overwhelming and the frustration she had experienced during the day gave way to raw grief for her lost hearing. ‘I spent my nights crying.’ she confesses. One morning after yet another night of tears and frustration, she decided to take on the challenge instead of fighting against it – ‘I finally acknowledged I was deaf and decided to become the best deaf person I could possibly be.’ She says.

Karen set about the painstaking task of taking control of her life again; she learned ASL and keeping the promise she made herself, became so proficient that she ended up subbing her teachers in college.

ASL opened up the world for her and gave her access to education – something she had just been getting in bits and pieces over the years and now she could follow conversations with an interpreter.

Letting go of her old belief and survival systems took time and determination, but as her confidence grew, the occasions where she would fake understanding what was said became less frequent and she found a depth of friendship and human empathy that she didn’t realize she had missed since the age of seven.

‘My bluffing had made me lose out on a lot.’ She admits and adds: ‘If I had known the quote’ “why are you trying to fit in, when you are born to stand out?” then, instead of years later; it might have been another story.’

Karen wanted to become a labor and delivery nurse, but the lack of role models and a counselor’s comment:’ It will be too hard to overcome the communication challenges.’ Convinced her it was a bridge too far. Instead she took a degree in counseling, discovering much later that there are many deaf and hard of hearing professionals in all fields; deaf doctors, dentists, nurses and even politicians: lawyer Adam Kosa Mep who is also an MEP for Europe and New Zealands MP Mojo Mathers. ‘I’ve learnt an important lesson.‘ Karen says ‘limited possibilities comes from limited minds.’

Four years she worked as a councilor, but it was in the fifteen years after that she really learned the power of a positive attitude and the value of having a mentor as she started to explore new paths and new skills.

During this time she had three children, each were born with normal hearing but one by one they all became deaf. ‘I took complete joy in being able to spend time with my kids and teach them about life and how to communicate and advocate for themselves.’ She says. Karen also became very active in her community and started writing for Disaboom.com (a resource for those living with a disability, containing articles about living and thriving with a disability), Parentingsquad.com (tips, hacks and news for parents and their families) and the Chicago Moms blog and in 2003 she became a Deaf Mentor in the Illinois Early Intervention program, mentoring families raising deaf and hard of hearing children. ‘I wanted those families to know that there were unlimited possibilities for their children.’ She insists and quotes Kevin Hall: ”Talents and gifts do not reduce or diminish when shared, they expand and increase like the widening ripples form a pebble dropped in still water.”

As Karen’s children have grown and become more independent, she has herself learnt how valuable it is to have a mentor in your life: when sixty-six year old Judy Myers was featured on Today show waterskiing on her bare feet, Karen’s old passion was unleashed again and she connected up with the World Champion Keith St. Onge who not only mentored her to barefoot competitively but also helped her lose the extra pounds she had put on over the years.

Karen Griffard Putz can be found at the lake in bare feet, when she is not acting as a board member of Hands & Voices a non-profit organization or writing for Chicago Tribune, TribLocal and Chicago Now.

Karen with two of her mentors; Judy and Keith

Karen’s favorite reads: Aspire by Kevin Hall and Passion Test by Janet Attwood.  ‘These are two books that I consistently recommend to everyone.  The Passion Test will help identify what fires you up and Aspire will give you eleven words to live your life in a whole new way.’ (Available through the link below)

Thanks for reading this; I hope you enjoyed. Please be my guest and make a comment or ask a question or you have a story to tell, let me know. I would love hearing from you.

Maggi

http://astore.amazon.co.uk/lifelessordinary-21