Jo Guy

Life and Lemonade

“When life throws you lemons, make lemonade” is a saying most of us will have heard at one time or another, a poignant phrase that encourages optimism in the face of adversity and misfortune. When life threw Jo Guy lemons she did exactly that, and her blog www.makelemonade.co.nz came to life.

Keep your head upJo admits to never being much of a writer, but after experiencing loss within her family she saw herself beginning to journal. “I started writing down things every day to get the rubbish out of my head. I started doing more and more and then I thought, ‘You know what? When I look back on these journals I’ve learnt a lot, so maybe I could pass that on’. I’ve found that I love writing, which is odd because I’ve never done it before.”

Jo sought the expertise of Jumprope, a marketing firm that helped to bring her ideas to life, creating a platform for Jo to share and connect with others. Discussions of life, fashion and food are what readers find on Jo’s blog, including some of her mother’s and grandmothers’ oldest recipes. After owning her own styling business and women’s boutique, Jo also shares her knowledge of trends, colours and shapes in the hopes of building confidence and self-esteem in others.

My grandchildren inspired me; I want to reinforce those values. I’d like to address different issues in a way that children can understand.

“I met some really interesting people so I wanted to document their stories. I wanted them to write about themselves and what they had been through. It’s interesting to hear how someone else overcomes something, because we’ve all been through something, we all have a story to tell, and it’s just whether people mind telling those stories.”

The Happiness ProjectFor Jo, connecting with others is what she loves most about blogging. “If I can help somebody coming behind me or their life is touched a little by what I’ve written, then it’s worth it. I want others to know there is a way through and I hope I inspire others to keep going and to not give up.”

Life issues are somewhat at the heart of Make Lemonade, and it’s a topic close to Jo’s heart. “Not a lot of people talk about the life issues; you’ll find plenty of blogs on food and fashion. Sometimes we don’t talk about the important things enough. Because of the hardships we went through our priorities became very clear. Talking is really important in relationships, so that kind of fascinates me, how people interact and communicate.

“I think it’s trying to encourage people to sit around the table and have a meal and talk, just getting back to the basics. Maybe bring it to the front of people’s minds and remind them it’s important.”

I’ve found that I love writing, which is odd because I’ve never done it before.

With 11 grandchildren, family is a big part of Jo’s life. She is also looking to start writing children’s books inspired by her own grandchildren. “I’ve got an illustrator looking at them at the moment; I’m hoping that’s the vehicle I can use to get them out there. My grandchildren inspired me; I want to reinforce those values. I’d like to address different issues in a way that children can understand.

“I guess Make Lemonade is meant to enrich our lives, so that other people feel better for reading it and they spread that. If we all make a difference in our families and the way we live, it creates a kind of ripple effect. For us we had a ripple effect of all these bad things, and it seemed to get worse. You think to yourself, ‘I’ve got to turn this around’, and then it becomes a ripple effect for the good. Hopefully Make Lemonade gives other people that hope.”

Books

THAT ‘HAPPY PLACE’

Have you ever heard your children or grandchildren say, “My ‘happy place’ is….”?

It made me think, “What is my ‘happy place’?” What is essentially just me? This is a question for you too. We all need a ‘happy place’.

I have several happy places or favourite things to do. Spending time with family, having everyone gathered around for a meal. Swimming in our local outdoor pool, with the sun shining and the water sparkling like diamonds. I like sitting and reading a good page turning mystery novel.

I just love hanging out with my husband Bryan. Travelling, discovering new places, experiencing new cultures and foods, or walking amongst beautiful trees and gardens.

Then it occurred to me that we get caught up in our roles as mother, wife, or in our particular job. Everywhere we look there are expectations on how we should look, behave and live. But we must be our own person too. I’m sure this sense of self gets lost along the way as we get busy with all the demands on us. (“To thine own self be true”, as Shakespeare wrote.)

As I have walked this journey of losing our dearly loved son and all the events that followed, I am starting to remember what kind of person I was. Tragedy and loss changes us but we can have a new depth and growth and still find our way, I hope, to be a better person.

I have this saying up on our wall at home – “A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails”.

Sometimes we need a gentle reminder. We all have a song.

I remember I love to wear funky clothes. So this season I have bought some seriously cool drop crotch pants. I remember I like to drive a little Mini Cooper. (There’s a fond memory of learning to drive in one as a teenager.) I remember I like to sing.

This is a new beginning for me and no one has to like what I like or even approve. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we find the person in us that we had forgotten was there.

www.makelemonade.co.nz/happy-place

Bringing in the donations

The Heart of Volunteering

Whether it is helping youth to reach their potential, lending a hand to families in need, or partnering with organisations to raise funds, Lyal Brenton is behind it all. Lyal’s commitment to volunteering stretches back 50 years and it continues to be a major part of his day-to-day life as a dedicated Manawatu volunteer and as manager of Goodwill.

LyalAs part of his work responsibilities, Lyal is in charge of raising money for charity as part of Methodist Social Services, a centre to help people in the community. Aside from that, he somehow manages to spread his time and skills between organisations such as Rotary, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Hospice, Red Cross, Salvation Army and Corrections.

Of all the volunteering Lyal has been involved in, the Big Brothers programme is what gives him the most satisfaction. For the past two years he has mentored an 11-year-old boy who otherwise would not have a male figure in his life. The pair go fishing, do archery and go to Big Rig days – classic boy stuff! “It’s an incredible journey watching his behaviour change and knowing that it’s from my influence that he’s benefiting,” says Lyal. “I have a passion for young people; sometimes they may go off the rails and head in different directions. But they are our future so they need development and balance.”

It’s about belonging to an organisation that affects change. There is always time for other people, we just have to get on with it.

“I get young people through here from Corrections. They come in and they’re lippy and out to prove something to the world. I had a young chap recently who was here for three weeks doing community service before going to rehab, at only 14. When he first came in his head was bowed down; by the time he left he held his head high. He cried when he left because he got a benefit from being here that you can’t actually measure. And that’s through a culture I create.” Some of the people Lyal has helped through Corrections have come back in and said, ‘Look, you helped me when I was down, you gave me food and clothes, I’d like to come back in now and help you.’”

DonationsHowever, spreading his generosity around Palmerston North is not enough; Lyal helps globally wherever he can. After disaster struck in Vanuatu, Lyal and his team packed up a shipping container full of clothing items to help those suffering. Being the Assisting Governor for his local Rotary group also means Lyal has helped with eradicating polio in South Africa and India, which he is thrilled are now polio free! “It’s about belonging to an organisation that affects change. There is always time for other people, we just have to get on with it.”

www.methodistsocialservices.org.nz