My Africa my Home!

Here it is!! I’m beyond excited to announce that the first book in The Fault in the Family memoir seriesMY AFRICA MY HOME is ready for preorder! I’m nervous, I’m excited, it’s been an incredible journey, and it’s not over yet. I would just love it if you could have a look, maybe a buy (it’s way cheaper to buy it as a preorder than once it launches on April 12th). It’s available as an eBook on all Amazons around the world.

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Here’s the blurb:IG Author Bio-2Scrawny and straw-haired, seven-year-old Jenny wakes up frozen. Her eyes won’t open, her voice refuses to work, she can’t even move her lips or her tongue. In fear, she grasps for her face, but her arms are both tied down, splayed out at either side. Why can’t she move? Where is she? And how did she get here? Her immediate assumption is that this is a punishment. But what was her crime? She searches through a mass of fear and fog, and as a blurry picture begins to form, of noise and drama, snot and tears, horror and panic …. she finds it. That must be it. She’d ignored the rules, fractured the silence, made a scene. She’d broken the cardinal rule; she’d been disobedient. Publicly. She’d broken free of invisible and caused all this terrible trouble. And now she was paying the price.

In this, the first book in the Fault in the Family Memoirs, Jennifer shares her gripping story of chronic neglect and loneliness in her teeny-tiny-bubble-of-a-world, slap bang in the middle of white, privileged, apartheid South Africa in the seventies. In My Africa My Home, Jennifer sets the tone and the background for this epic journey that will transport the reader through five decades, two families, eight international moves, and a shocking hundred-year-old legacy that underpins it all, in her search for identity, “home” and a place to belong.

As a teacher, mentor, author, artist, disability activist, TCK, corporate-wife and above all, mother, Jennifer brings her wealth of life experience as well as and her beautiful, heartfelt, vulnerable, passionate writing style to this incredible life story of hope where there shouldn’t be, and of redemption in ways she would never have imagined.

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If you’d like to read the first chapter, sign on to my email list HERE and I’ll email you a copy.

Please share, and shout if you’d like an interview, a chat, a review …. or to help spread the word!

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith
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FAQ: Why no Family & Friends Launch Pad?

IMG_3561I wrote this article a couple of weeks ago on the family and friends launch pad that many of us launch or social media platforms off, and the fact that I don’t have one, which doh, I should have realised would prompt people to ask me why. So here it is:

For all kinds of complicated reasons I have never known my own voice. I thought that I did and that I was good at standing up for myself, but it turns out that just because we can talk loudly, a lot, or boldly, does not mean that we know ourselves and our needs either deeply, or for some of us it turns out, at all. And that was me… I was absolutely gobsmacked when my psychologist worked it out, but in the same space and moment I also knew that they were 100% correct. The scariest thing was that I knew they were right but could not for the life of me find what my voice was saying. It was an extremely traumatic few years and deeply painful as for over a decade I had felt the weight of a thousand stones in my soul and so I knew that they were there and I knew that I was in deep deep pain… I knew that I had things to name and say, but I was so conditioned and practiced at silence that I could not access them AT ALL.

It was extremely frustrating, and deeply exhausting. I honestly thought at times that we would never get there, but as I started to write I started to find a voice that in one sense I never knew was there but in another sense always knew it was. I started to share that voice and those writing some of those around me and I got such a mixture of reactions. Some told me that I have to share it with the world and write my story, but many told me that these were things best kept silent. The more people wanted to silence me the more I knew that I needed to write and to tell and even to speak it out loud (which I can’t quite do yet, but I want to one day)…

Then there were those who didn’t expect me to keep silent but at the same time it evoked things inside themselves that they were trying to keep silent and so they asked me not to speak of my things around them. Others simply didn’t get it and weren’t very interested. And that’s OK too. It has to be OK, I need to let them have their own life journeys. And so a year ago I moved from my private blog that only they could see, and started my public blogs without telling them. The world can see this and I feel more free to speak what I need to than if I had any of them looking over my shoulder. Yes they might find me, but if they do then they have the choice of hopping on board or staying silent. It is up the them rather than me shoving it in their faces and expecting them to come on board.

My parents and family of origin have elected to let me go a very long time ago, so there are no family constraints as far as that goes, and my children are too young to journey with their mother, (and maybe that is not the job of children anyway). And so with only my dear husband cheering me on on the sidelines, I am going this alone, for now anyway. Thank you for coming on this journey with me … I can’t tell you how much it means to me 🙂

 

Ethical Tweeting? Part 1

IMG_3561Is there such a thing as “ethical social media”?

I am passionate about both truth and community. They may sound like somewhat unrelated concepts, but for me they very much go hand in hand, regardless of what our belief system is. I believe that community and belonging are at the most basic level of our needs, and I also believe that the deepest and safest relationships are created when they are born and sustained in truth. For me personally, I believe that some of the signs and badges of relational truths are Freedom of speech, Respect for each other’s voices, Empathy from each to the other, Equal measures of grace with your truth, and so on.

To me, I believe that truth builds safe communities, and that safe communities foster truth. In this combination we can grow freely as human beings, we can have space to all be different, we can all be “seen”, nurtured, respected…. And I believe this of ALL forms of community. When I think about anything related to betrayal, hurt, bullying, … some of them can be connected to truth telling (done badly) and communities (functioning badly) but none of them can stand beside both truth and strong community… and I’d love yo to challenge me on that one if you can find something.

I totally understand and respect the issues with social media and that bullies can hide behind anonymity, that we need to keep “real” relationships happening instead of only relying on the internet “fake” ones, but I will deeply challenge the concept of which are fake and which are real in a few posts time. Here I simply want to focus on the concept of the depth of our most basic need for both community and truth.

And like it or not, whatever way we each use Twitter, Facebook and so on, we all use them at some level for community. This to me crosses all boundaries, both cultural and religious, and I believe that the need for community is one of the few things that I can find, that is backed up by all view points.

My Psychologist, a staunch atheist, says that it is deeply built into our DNA to belong to our own tribe or community. Deeper even than our most basic survival need for food, is our need for our tribe to survive as a whole. If it is wiped out, she says, then we will be left alone and isolated, and that isolation is the worst thing that can happen to a person, worse even than death. This rings true for me, even to the point where solitary confinement is still one of the worst tortures in prisons and armies.

From a “God perspective” I can’t find anything that contradicts these concepts either, the Bible is filled (to my knowledge) with all manner of things that all point towards building of community and truth. Jesus told us to care for the widows and orphans, that he would prepare a place for us in community in Heaven, that we are not here to judge or condemn each other. Even the old testament  stories of wars and battles, are about survival of our own communities and protecting and standing up for our own tribes.

My mission in life is to encourage, build, and restore tribes and communities (without wars let me be clear!). These concepts are the threads through and the foundations under, almost everything that I write about whether it is about my broken body, my abused and broken soul, or even on sharing my very fledgling journey on social media. I have already been battling with my gut and all that I am learning about social media, as I find a space to build my community, but to stay true to my values of truth and honesty, encouragement and integrity. In the weeks ahead I hope to explore this further and I am excited to share some of the people and places that I have found that already shine like lights in these areas. I am clearly not alone in this mission!

I’m also on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Pinterest too.

Who is Jennifer Peacock-Smith?

 

Author PicJennifer was born in South Africa in the late sixties, into the worlds of apartheid, feminism, and strict religion, to parents struggling to find their own place in the world and to make a difference. Lost in their battle to be different, better, “cleverer” than those before them or around them, and her mother’s fight to break moulds, little Jenny fell between the cracks. Born a girl instead of a boy, bubbly instead of serious, fun and talented instead of academic, everything about her was “wrong”.

Neglect doesn’t always look like dirty or starved or diseased or beaten. Neglect is chronic and often invisible. In a small bubble entirely cut off from the rest of the world, scrawny little Jenny’s voice, squashed by her parent’s need to find their own, is swiftly silenced, again and again. However, her shine refused to die and survived within her as a spark, a fighting spirit, and a sense of hope that defies logic.

It took her five decades, six countries, multiple diagnoses, and ultimately a physical and emotional collapse for little Jenny to successfully find her voice, to thrive, to get the medical and psychological care she needed, and to begin the journey to a place of sanity and peace. Her story is one of crushing loneliness and isolation, but more than that, it’s ultimately a story of resilience, hope, and redemption in ways that she could never have imagined.

Jennifer, a mentor, counsellor, artist, and now a successful author, writes for various blogs, The Mighty, and other public spaces on neglect, emotional abuse, anxiety, disability and chronic illness. You can find her on most social media platforms under @JPeaSmith (see below for direct links to all these places and more).

Jennifer is the author of “The Lion and the Peacock” and the first in her epic story “My Africa My Home – The Fault in the Family Memoir Book One”, which is available on eBook in your preferred Amazon country, including (but not limited to USAusUK, and Canada

From Jennifer:

Jennifer is my name, Peacock-Smith is my pen name as well as a very special family name (you’ll have to read the book to find out where it comes from but that’s not out as yet, it’s coming though!)

If you’d like to receive not just free, but exclusive updates, photos, and otherwise unpublished books, for free, then sign on for my “big news only” Newsletters (I promise I won’t spam you! I only send them when something important is happening) then click HERE.

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith
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Is the Choice REALLY mine???

warning: major rant!

Sometimes things in life tick me off. I’m pretty sure that I am not the only person who gets ticked off in life; not much in life is easy or fair, and not that much goes our own way… but that is the reality that we live in, and there is so much beauty in diversity and difference and if we stop and complain about everything that rubs up against us in ways that we don’t like, then we can make ourselves pretty miserable. So I try to not let things get to me, especially in an era where we can skim our social media so easily and filter out anything that we don’t like…

But now and then something comes along and I am a bit like a dog with a bone over, and as I was nodding off to sleep I came across this picture (minus everything in red which I added to it afterwards!! … am I allowed to do that? does that infringe copyright laws?) … and I knew that I would spend the next hour or so stewing over it … so I thought rather get this off my chest instead!

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REALLY????? Is the choice REALLY mine to make? It is bad enough that the world media uses sex to sell everything from women’s things to cars, machinery to sport, and everything else in between (it’s late, I couldn’t come up with better examples sorry!), but if ain’t bad enough that we are told what we have to look like when we are young, now women are being told what they need to look like when they are old?!?!?!?!

Even worse are the photos where they say “What’s your excuse?” (as if I have no excuse!!!)

Let’s call the lady on the left Lefticia, and the lady on the right Rightlyn, just to make it easy, ….and let me make a few things abundantly clear before I go any further: Lefticia is clearly beautiful, hard working, and committed, as well as healthy, is probably pretty determined, and has a whole lot of very admirable work ethics, and other wonderful attributes. Also there is NOTHING wrong with being inspired by women who are able to do all kinds of great things … inspire away … just don’t use it as a guilt trip to others!!!!

Rightlyn on the other hand certainly also looks physically unfit… but that is where it ends for me. The photo on the right comes from only one of two sources: It is either staged (and therefore she could well be older than 74, the lighting used accentuate her wrinkles … blah blah blah…. ) or it is a genuine photo pf someone at 74, who really is like that … and then I have a MASSIVE problem with them using this picture as a comparison: At a very basic level, they are showing Lefticia at her very best, and Rightlyn at her very worst! … I think you get the picture and I don’t want this rant to be about how I struggle with the photo ethically…

The point that I want to make here is more about the WORDING!!!! Let me try and make this somewhat brief:

1: I know 74 year olds who work as hard as Lefticia and are as fit and healthy as her, but at 74 their bodies have suffered the ravages of disease (cancer, polio, etc), serious wounds (including burns, surgery, cuts, accidents etc), had their skin stretched and damaged due to carrying many or few, large or small babies but their skin or abdominal muscles became and remained stretched, scarred, broken …. These ravages and scars tell a thousand tales of misery, torture, triumph, failure, loss, agony, heartache, joy … and no matter what they do, these women DO NOT have a choice, and they will NEVER EVER EVER have a body like this!!!!

2: I know 74 year olds who work as hard as Lefticia and are as fit and healthy as her, but because their genes mean that they are stunted and short, or have tiny rib cages or wide strong ones, they have ligaments and muscles that don’t work properly and are not strong enough to carry their own meal to the table much less enough weights to produce those muscles, who work at physio waaaay more hours than Lefticia has put in to a life time, just so they can FUNCTION, let alone be toned or strong, … and so the list of genetic limitations are endless, that mean that no matter what they do, they DO NOT have a choice, and they will NEVER EVER EVER have a body like this!!!!

3: I know plenty of women half this age who’s bodies have been struck by diseases and illnesses, which mean that they may well look whole, but due to paralysis, EDS, MS, and an almost endless list of other life altering conditions and complications, mean that they will never walk again, or run again, or swim again, or carry their children or grandchildren again, that mean that no matter what they do, they DO NOT have a choice, and they will NEVER EVER EVER have a body like Lefticia’s!!!!

4: I know 72 year olds who worked as hard as Lefticia and are as fit and healthy as her, and even looked somewhat like this (I don’t know many, I have to say, but I do have a couple of family members who have worked VERY hard for this), but they pushed themselves too far, and beyond their limits because of this kind of pressure, that at 72 one snapped an Achilles tendon, could not walk for 6 months, and when they were strong enough their shoulder went and as they recovered from shoulder surgery their knee went and they are now waiting for their first knee replacement and they are not yet 74… they were on track to be Leftictia at 74, but at 73, they are permanently pretty immobile, they DO NOT have a choice, and they will NEVER EVER EVER have a body like this again!!!!

5: On the other hand, I also know plenty of 74 years olds who look a lot like Rightlyn. But those wrinkles have been hard earned! They have never been lazy a day in their lives! Slaving over hot stoves and factory jobs to support children with no help from a husband, putting children through school and sleeping four or five hours a night for over half a century! They started hard work at 17 and at 74 this is what is left!! Through absolutely no fault of their own, they DO NOT have a choice, and they will NEVER EVER EVER have a body like Lefticia!!!! They would not even know where to start, and nor do they want to, they are in dire need of REST REST REST … and for many of them, they might LOOK like that, but they have a right to carry such a burden and look back on a life that almost barely had a chance at anything else, and you want to rub Lefticia in their faces and say why do you not choose this?

6: I also know plenty of 74 years olds who look a lot like Rightlyn…. and they have beautiful smiles when they turn around and look at me, and they are rich beyond belief in all the things that ACTUALLY count! They are loved by many, they are wise, they are strong as an ox !!… Who cares what their hair style, clothes choice or skin looks like? To their friends, and loved ones, even their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren if they have any, they smell and feel and simply “are” everything that is safe, secure, constant, loyal, sweet, tasty, …. and above all everything that is right about the world! … they have CHOSEN to invest their precious time and energy into the things of the world that make the most difference, they CHOOSE not to be Lefticia and for them and all who are loved by them, it is the best choice!

7: This is an obvious one … who does Mother Theresa look more like? Lefticia or Rightlyn?

Come on world … inspire by all means, but stop giving false hope, false guilt, rubbing loss in people’s faces, forcing some values way above others, … do we REALLY need this?????

 

To Valentine or Not to Valentine? THAT is the question!

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Over the weekend my Newsfeed was been filled with a mixture of those adding photos and messages of love, (both sending stuff out there and sharing what they received)… and those deriding the “holiday” and sharing their disdain (or even hatred) for it!

My husband and I had a long chat about it last night. I have always had very mixed feelings on Valentine’s Day, as well as on Mother’s and Father’s Day. In my experience, I have come across many people who struggle with all these days for all kinds of reasons; either it is a painful anniversary of something going badly wrong, a hurtful reminder of broken relationships, feelings of missing out, grieving for their own lack of romantic love on Valentine’s Day, or loss of healthy or strong parent-child relationships on those other days. Bad memories, unhelpful reminders, stabs through the heart, and anger instead of love…

And having survived another year of being wished Happy Valentine’s Day over and over by everyone from friends to shop assistants, and being given heart shaped lollipops and chocolates at the service station, the street corner and the restaurant where we went for dinner with friends (which had NOTHING to do with Valentines Day), … as well as having a loving husband who refuses point blank to recognise any of the stupid, ridiculous, money making, commercial Hallmark holidays.. …we climbed into bed and I brought up the dreaded subject! The elephant in the room, the thing that neither of us had mentioned for three days since we were given the first lollipops on the way home form work on Friday afternoon.

He said as he does every year, that “we don’t do Valentine’s Day” as if this is not only something that we have both agreed on and discussed, but even more so, as if it is a position to be proud of. A bit like “we rise above that kind of nonsense” or “we don’t get sucked into that, so aren’t we clever!” and I struggled to answer, not because I didn’t agree with him, but I couldn’t help wondering whether I myself do not entirely agree with his stance either! So he asked me what my needs are, … do I have a need for him to buy me flowers on Valentine’s Day?

We stopped to talk about it and while I felt a little put on the spot, he gave me all the time I needed to think it through… and quite quickly I realised that I had always felt or assumed that there were only two options and that I could only pick A or B. That almost everyone I know is either very much for or passionately against Valentines Day. That it is extremely polarising, and there doesn’t appear to be a middle grown. And as I processed that, the next though that quickly followed was that I didn’t think that I was truly in either camp! I wasn’t strongly committed to either point of view.Or more accurately, I had a level of discomfort for both! I think now that we processed it last night, I think that for all these years of knowing his strong stance on A (against) and my lack of conviction towards B (for), I had pretty well just gone along with A for all these years. But is there a middle road? Are there any other options to pick?

And so we had an amazing discussion and almost from nowhere, I processed my thought and tried to find words for them at the same time, I realised that my stance on Valentines Day is this…

I have always been very passionate about community, connectedness, relationships. Family is everything to me and so is my God. I don’t believe that God created Christmas or Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day or Valentines Day, or that there is any moral aspect to any of them. BUT, if you look across all cultures in all corners of the world, from the poorest of poor all the way through to Royalty, from the most advanced down to the most primitive, and if you look all the way back through history since time began (regardless of belief system or science based framework of time or history), these three things, community, connectedness, and relationships … a sense of belonging to your tribe, have always been the glue that binds human beings together.

And human beings love to come together over a meal, a special meal if possible, and to remember and recognise each other and the mile stones of life. It is in our DNA, it was what we were designed to do; whether it is a coming of age ceremony in a remote village, a wake in the pub in Ireland, a wedding, a funeral, a swearing in ceremony in parliament, a baby head wetting, or a cigar after a birth. We celebrate baby showers New Year’s Eve, and we celebrate deaths, marriages, farewells and welcome homes. It is what we do. It is what binds us.

As do our relationships. We celebrate the anniversaries of when we started dating, got married, had a baby, and bought our first home. We love to be told that we are loved, and we show our love to each other in a myriad of ways: through words of encouragement, acts of service, giving and receiving of gifts, hugging and kissing and holding hands, and/or spending time with each other. It is part of the fibre of our beings, both physically and emotionally, as well as spiritually and psychologically.

I believe that Jesus wasn’t born on the 25th of December, but Christians as a culture have celebrated His birth each year because it is something important to them. It has nothing to do with the date. Obviously dates are a vital part of all celebrations, but the fact that when exact dates cannot be remembered or found, we still celebrate anyway, … as humans we find a date and we make it ours. This applies to everything from adopted children who’s birth paperwork was dodgy, to people who are born on the 29th of February. If you were born in a leap year on that date, you don’t miss out on three out of four birthdays, you just make do and pick the closest one that suits!

I believe that we were designed to celebrate our love for each other, our connectedness, and the special people in our lives. There is a reason that the world calendars used to be filled with everything from Christmas to Thanksgiving to birthdays to Independence Days. Labour Days and Queen’s Birthdays, and so the list goes on…

Why? Because as humans we like to stop and remember. We like to recognise and take stock. If there was no Christmas or Easter, those who know and love and have a relationship with Jesus will still go to Heaven. Marriages would survive if you never remembered or celebrated what date it began. And amazingly, people with cancer are fought for every single day (and hard!), not just on “Daffodil Day”. But when we stop now and then, and say to those we love “today I want to celebrate you” or “today I want to remember you” … and sometimes to say “I love you every day, but today is a fabulous excuse to stop and say that I am glad that you are my mother, or father, or the love of my life, or you are fighting your battle with illness like a champ! There is a jolly good reason that band new special days are added to our calendars every year. We now stop and recognise wars ending, diseases being fought, even national tragedies.

It is really easy to say “but I love you everyday” …. but the reality is that we lead busy lives, there is a lot going on, and sometimes we forget to show it. Others of us find it super difficult to say “I love you”. And for them, these special days are a blessing, a time when they can easily show how much they love and appreciate their parent or spouse or loved one, without having to find the words themselves.

I believe that if Hallmark had not come up with these silly excuses to sell greeting cards, as human beings we would have found another way. We WANT to celebrate and we love any excuse for a party!

This for me does not take away AT ALL, from the fact that these human celebrations (not just these three “tacky” ones, but the big “more acceptable” ones too!!), are a source of pain for those who miss out. For those who don’t have anyone to share them with, or that they had tragedies occur on those days in their history, or are a source of some other kind of pain, my heart breaks for them as it does for my own pain, and the sad stuff that pops up on each and every one of these celebrations is immense..

And so I guess, when all this came out of me last night, in the end I decided this:

No, I don’t want him to buy me flowers of Valentines Day as such. But I do think that it is a natural human response to want to be celebrated and loved at ANY celebration of the year. I am extremely blessed to have someone in my life who tells me he loves me a lot, and totally means it and shows it in all kinds of ways, all through the year. But not everyone has that, and even those who do, don’t like “missing out”. NO ONE wants to be left out of the celebrations around them.  We all love being remembered and told that we are special. I would love it I think if on all the “celebration days” of the year, that he would tell me that he celebrates me on this day as well as all days!

And so to those of you whose loved ones made you feel special yesterday, I am truly truly happy for you and I don’t believe that it was tacky or silly or shallow. Enjoy!!

But just as importantly, for those of you who felt sad or angry yesterday, for those who felt that yesterday was salt rubbed into your often open aloneness wounds, I deeply deeply feel for you and I hear you!

Celebrate away people, … but please, can I ask you not to forget that some around you are hurting, and also give them a reminder that you love them too xxx