“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.
Jo 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.”
For 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.”
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.