To say the last month has been hectic is an understatement. Lots of big deal happenings. It started with my husband having an overdue knee replacement - so he has been home 24/7 needing a dash of care here and there. My MA graduation finally happened and all the while I was cooking, shopping, cleaning and testing scary technology to host a Live Screen Wedding Breakfast in our home for 40+ guests. Our son in Chicago was married two days ago. In between that my new book Being a Distance Grandparent - a Book for ALL Generations was making its entre into the world.
I am hoping the rest of June will be a tad quieter. Come July a book media campaign will kick off in New Zealand and that will be fun.
To those of you with Dads in the U.K., U.S.A., Canada or South Africa - just a reminder it is Fathers Day there on Sunday 20th June. There is still time to order a paperback or e-book version for Dad. A Distance Mother/Grandmother told me at the wedding, "As soon as I started reading your book I couldn't put it down. I related to so much. Yes, some was hard and some was heartwarming and that's okay. I loved it!"
Finally I have branched out into Instagram. If that is your cup of tea you'll find me here @helenellis.author
Until next month
Take care and happy Distance Familying
Book excerpt: "Fruit cake is a working partner in my Distance Grandparenting role"
“I gingerly attempted to pass on a love of this treat to my American grandsons who live in a country that has little appreciation of this delicious English pleasure. It is no exaggeration to say these young lads have become obsessed with fruitcake so it is transported in suitcases to America. It has even achieved the lofty status of Santa’s favourite indulgence. A slice is left under the tree on Christmas Eve along with the English tradition of a glass of port.
This senses-filled (sight, taste, and smell) fruitcake experience for my grandsons has evolved into an embedded family tradition and builds bonds and connections while simultaneously trying to offset the unsettling nature of Distance Grandparenting. Fruitcake is a working partner in my Distance Grandparenting role.”
I did the bulk of my Masters in 2019 and submitted my thesis, "How is distance grandparenting for you?" A study of long haul, New Zealand distance grandparents and inter-generational transnational familying in April 2020. Finally, in May 2021 I collected the certificate. Patience is a virtue.
Robyn Vogels is an expert at relocation. She is based in Melbourne and owns Personnel Relocations.
Her business is helping emigrants to leave well and arrive well. We talk a little about what to do before families leave. This is a hectic time with much on everyone's To-Do list. A little time and attention spent with the soon-to-be left-behind parents and grandparents helping them adjust, can be so fruitful.
Click below to watch the webinar.
What did I learn being the Mother of the Groom at a Live Screen Zoom wedding?
Two days ago our son got married in Chicago to a lovely U.S. lass. We hosted 40+ for Sunday breakfast at our place and Zoom was a guest of honour.
Our house was alive and pumping, stretched at the seams with family, our son’s friends and our friends - babies, children, raincoats, umbrellas and a kids’ toy corner.
Our three x TV's and separate speeches links all worked (we practiced a lot), despite the fact that I vacuumed up a very important connection the day before.
The breakfast buffet meal in the garage was a great success.
My local friend who ‘did’ for me in the kitchen was a trooper.
We had a lovely NZ cake cutting ceremony just for our guests that we’ll treasure. I read the story from my book (above) about fruitcake.
We were grateful in NZ we could gather as we did. Separately, many tuned in on Zoom around the world.
Most importantly everyone realized that if it were ‘normal times’ hardly anyone present would have been in Chicago and the wedding, for most, would have been no more than a few photos that landed in their Facebook feed.
We don’t have the experiences of a trip to Chicago and ‘being there’, but we do have many people to share our memories with – and that’s not all bad.
On the 20th of April, when my book was published, I could legitimately call myself an author for the first time. I have had many job titles over the years but never... an author. It feels pretty special but more importantly the book is receiving nothing but positive comments and that's incredibly satisfying. As the dust settles I have made a start the next book, Being a Distance Son or Daughter - a Book for ALL Generations. I can't tell you when it will be published. The first one took a year which is pretty good. Let's see how long this one takes!
Every author waits for THIS moment. It's the first and only copy in New Zealand and really chuffed with it. The global printers will crank up their machines next week.
Trans Tasman Bubble
Love this. Whānau is Maori for extended family.
The skies have opened between New Zealand and Australia. Distance Families can now reunite with no compulsory quarantine.
A Red Letter Day for many Distance Families.
My book stock has arrived and copies are heading off to the NZ media - pretty exciting. A media launch will commence in New Zealand on 1 July 2021.
To order your copy from anywhere click here.
"Say it with flowers"
In my book, I write about the power of the written word and how precious letters and cards are to their recipient.
This week I received some congratulatory flowers from an overseas friend. What a joy. Flowers are too fragile to send around the world – but here they were, delivered with a press of the doorbell.
It reminded me of my youth when my father managed the advertising account for Interflora. As a teenager, I thought Interflora was incredibly glamorous. How amazing it would be to receive flowers from the other side of the world? This was of course! well before the internet. Important messages including flower orders were sent by telegram.
These thoughts led me to delve into the history of Interflora which still operates today. If you’re interested, have a look at this YouTube link.
But back to this post – flowers, like the written word, have power. These days we can use Interflora or email a florist in the same suburb as our distance family and pay no more to have flowers delivered, than if they lived down the road. Good to remember.
I normally send my monthly newsletter in the first week of the month. This is a bonus extra message.
Pre-order is now available for Being a Distance Grandparent - a Book for ALL Generations.
I am excited to announce that pre-order is available now - delivery from 20 April.
Just a reminder it is Mother's Day in some parts of the world on Sunday 9th May.
Here's a link to the global bookstores, plus some local in-country distributors.
“I wish I had read this book before our first translocation. This book is a well-structured, informative and knowledge-based read about distance grandparenting. Throughout the book Helen offers a broad range of perspectives as a New Zealander distance grandparent, which gives a very authentic yet disciplinary approach to the understanding of the topic. With her honesty and personal voice the book becomes a very enjoyable easy read. It is a must-read for each member of a distance family, a book you should read over and over again.”
Traditionally March it is a busy month in New Zealand as it is prime-time summer and loads of events are on. This year, despite our relative Covid-utopia status, many have been cancelled again. We wait with baited breath of a bubble to open between NZ and Australia and NZ and the Cook Islands but still we're locked away. All our new norms, now almost seem normal.
On the book front it is 'all go'. You'll see below the publication date is Tuesday 20 April so by the time the next newsletter is out I will be a published author which I have to say... feels very strange and exciting.
I keep updating the 'Shop' page on my website with the latest information. In a week or so I should announce advance ordering facilities. You will be able to place your order ahead of 20 April and it will automatically arrive in due course.
Introducing Professor Loretta Baldassar
Introducing... Professor Loretta Baldassar.
Loretta Baldassar is a Professor in the Discipline Group of Anthropology and Sociology at The University of Western Australia. Transnational families and caring from a distance are two of her research topics.Professor Baldassar kindly agreed to write the 'Foreword' for my book, ‘Being a Distance Grandparent – a Book for ALL Generations’. She shared some of her own fascinating family story. Click below to read.
I was recently a podcast guest - a most enjoyable experience. Author, Emily Morgan founded 'The Grand Life' podcast and I can thoroughly recommend it. An easy 20 minute listen.
Do you live in a country where Mother’s Day and/or Father’s Day is celebrated on a different day from where your mother and/or father live?
Since the last newsletter Auckland and the rest of New Zealand have been in and out of different level lockdowns again. It reminds me of a saying and movie title, If today is Tuesday, This must be Belgium. Each day you wake up and have to remind yourself where's the world at today? and what are today's rules?
Plans of the NZ virtual wedding breakfast for our Chicago son are now surrounded with a cloud of question marks. A case of 'wait and see', like so many things.
Lockdown has made little difference to me Monday-Friday as I am buried in my office. Each day is full of important decisions about tiny details of the book design of Being a Distance Grandparent. A shout out to Summertime Publishing whose attention to detail is second to none. You can expect a book launch date by the next newsletter.
I am making a start on Being a Distance Son or Daughter and every so often getting diverted across to Being a Distance Grandchild. Terrific to be able to pour myself into these publications.
Take care until next time
DistanceFamilies.com is delighted to announce the safe arrival of a darling new cover. Mother and babe both well. She'll be showing her face in April 2021. For the latest feedback click here.
The many sides of the Covid story
"It is only now I realise the toll the pandemic has taken’: a letter from the other side of Covid."
The mysteries of anthropology
When I describe myself, depending on where I am and who I am talking to, I might gingerly refer to myself as an anthropologist, albeit a fledgling one. Where did this begin? Dr Graeme Macrae from Massey University in Auckland has to take some responsibility. When I did my undergraduate degree I sat in his classes and he would take me on an exotic journey to peoples and cultures afar. Later he was one of my M.A. thesis supervisors.
I never ended up researching the peoples of New Guinea or doing fieldwork in a village in Africa. Instead, my research took me to the lounge rooms (physical and virtual) of distance grandparents and a mainstream book series.
Thank you Graeme.
The maternal grandparent advantage
Mothers and Mothers-in-law - we've all got a story. I have seen many sides to this discussion and write about it in my book. This article is a good read and is still relevant to distance families.
Such a lot has happened in the last month. The U.S. elections, vaccination roll outs but sadly many more Covid deaths and the news of the passing of Captain Tom Moore from the U.K. who we've all adopted as our own. Back here we are grateful to be enjoying the best that summer delivers and thinking of those of you in the Northern Hemisphere.
Book update: Being a Distance Grandparent - a Book for ALL Generations
Good news - you are the first to know the manuscript is finished and yesterday it was sent to my early reviewers. These folk are generous experts who read the book with a quickness in their step and supply me with hopefully some glowing words for the back cover and Praise page. They have all been on standby awaiting the almighty PDF to appear in their 'in' box. If you'd like a peek into some of the feedback I have received from others who have been privy to an early read, click here.
And for another inside scoop - the cover, in fact all covers of the whole series, is changing. So watch this space.
Just a reminder the book will be published in April and will gradually be available on all the big online platforms.
What can the Silent Generation teach us?
Do you have a grandparent or great grandparent who is 75 years or older? They are part of the Silent Generation and have lived through a lot in their lives.
My late father was born in London in 1930 and was a young lad during WWII. In his memoir, he explained he missed months of schooling due to nighttime bombing raids. To those homeschooling parents in Covid hotspots, who are struggling, I can confirm my Dad turned out just fine, despite the missed schooling. We can learn a lot from this uncomplaining, resourceful generation.
Love this article.
Shifting family values
This article is quite profound and offers much food for thought
Rites of passage
There comes a time when decisions have to be made and no doubt some of you have had to do the same - Distance Familying during Covid is a tough gig.
This is my Chicago son, Robbie and his lovely American fiancé Jen. They booked their wedding reception lounge in Chicago for 5 June 21, well before Covid happened.
We've all been putting off the decision, but for sure we won't be going, and neither will anyone else from NZ. The wedding (however it turns out in the U.S.) will be live screened so we're going to host a 'do' in New Zealand at our home for their friends, our friends and family. It will be 4pm Saturday in Chicago and a 9am Sunday wedding breakfast in NZ.
Some Rites of Passage are no longer a rite we can count on being part of.
Looking on the bright side we can invite friends who would never have ventured (or even been invited!) to Chicago. We can put on a posh frock, open the champagne and be grateful we can at least gather.
I often wonder where the world will be in twelve months. Who will we celebrate Christmas with in 2021?
What we can be sure of, is 2021 will deliver us permanent changes in we go about our lives. How that will affect Distance Families in the future is still unknown. Much wait and see is required. With our previous Christmas and summer plans turned upside down and seeing none of our distance family could visit New Zealand my husband and I 'turned Christmas on its head' and travelled way from home.
Thoughts from the luggage carousel
I was fortunate to enjoy a walking adventure in one of our national parks prior to Christmas. For those of you sitting in Covid hotspots, especially in the cold Northern Hemisphere, please know that those of us able to enjoy these sorts of freedoms take NOTHING for granted.
When I flew back to Auckland I had what I call an 'emotions slipping off a shelf' moment. I normally keep my Distance Family emotions tidily 'on a shelf'. There is nothing I can do about them and acceptance is the key. But as I stood at the luggage carousel a local grandfather was embracing two little grandsons who had been on the same flight as me. As I took in the moment I realized that today my U.S. daughter and two grandsons should have flown into Auckland for Christmas and I would have been doing a trip like this grandfather to the airport to meet the family.
No doubt many of you have similar coming or going stories, maybe with feelings of emotions 'slipping off a shelf'.
Next stop was a holiday house. Our local daughter & family 'blessed' us with a 1000 piece jigsaw for Christmas. Fortunately, my sister-in-law who was staying with us is a jigsaw fan. As I was poking away at the puzzle I was also reading my book draft again and couldn't help but smile when I read...
... "Distance Grandparenting is like a challenging jigsaw. The picture on the box looks daunting and you would rather put the puzzle back in the cupboard. Once the ‘edge’ is done the remaining pieces don’t look like they will ever make a finished picture but with time and perseverance, each piece finds its place in the same way a routine of 'doing' Distance Grandparenting begins to emerge for you. But please, PLEASE don’t knock the table"...
Excerpt from 'Being a Distance Grandparent - a Book for ALL Generations'.
The Three H's
Some Distance Grandparents graciously and reluctantly accept their role... some don't.
Acceptance occurs in one’s heart because it is the right thing to do.
When acceptance hasn’t found a home, often its progress can be monitored by language. It is not so much what Distance Grandparents say to themselves (or their friends), it's what they verbalise to their Distance Family.
This language is ‘The 3 H’s’: the Language of Progressive Acceptance of Distance Grandparenting.
The Shift from Helicopter Parents to Helicopter Caregivers
What a year it has been. Our lives will forever be changed by our experiences from 2020. With vaccinations being rolled out 2021 looks promising that in time a new-normal will emerge. As this year winds down I wish you all a safe, healthy and Covid-free Christmas. Thank you for engaging with and supporting DistanceFamilies.com.
Nine non-obvious ways to have deeper conversations with family
When we can't travel to be with family here are great video chat ideas: ways to achieve deeper connections.
How to stay close to grandparents when you're miles apart
Great advice from a distance daughter who has 'done the miles'.
Read this before you fly anywhere
This is a terrific article with lots of practical hints.
The Many Face of Pandemic Grief
With Christmas approaching it is understandable that many scattered families will feel disconnected, especially if they are accustomed to being together. Here is some wise advice.
Summer is around the corner and making appearances for a few days here and there. Hubby and I are blessed to have our first holiday in a long time. We're taking nothing for granted.
Distance Grandmother takes refuge in New Zealand
Love this story... bach = holiday home
War time memories
I often say to my "Covid is a war". When I do, life's challenges are, I think, put into perspective. My late Dad was born in London and was nine years old when WWII broke out. I think of what he coped with as a lad in the U.K. and I am humbled.
These encouraging words offer hope to Distance Families who are unable to physically connect at this time.
The article might be 10 years old but remains relevant in these COVID times.
"So how's the book going?", you might be wondering. 'Being a Distance Grandparent - a Book for ALL Generations' is kind of on the (long) home straight. In a couple of weeks, I need to submit the latest draft which I hope the ed' will say is "looking good", or something along those lines. Having recently completed a 43,000-word thesis you'd think this project would be a 'walk in a park', but alas writing for professors is a world away from writing for the mainstream. Needless to say - lots of good learning curves. I know my book speaks in a way no other book does, so be assured the voice of Distance Grandparents will be loud and clear. At this stage, I hope the book will be on the market in March 2021.
Today all of New Zealand is back down to Level 1. Everything is open and happening except the borders. We do feel blessed and will keep those masks handy when we're out and about. But of course the questions remains... "when will we be able to visit family?" We're all needing to find a resilience, which let's face it.... isn't much fun. I am very distracted with book writing and most grateful for the diversion.
Here are some snippets of news from the last month.
Working across time zones
“Despite the fast advances in communication technology, time difference remains one of the few challenges in telecommunications that will likely never be truly “solved” […] Therefore, understanding the role of the time difference in connecting families can be regarded as both a timeless and a timely thesis […]” (Xiang Cao, Communications & Technologies scholar).
This is an interesting read around work and timezones. There are newly returned expats in NZ working some pretty crazy hours.
Tools to improve connecting with your family
Want to connect with your distance family better?
Do you love playing around with various apps and platforms?
I am extending a list of digital connection ideas.
Click below and look for ‘Handy digital tools’ (top-right)
If you feel like some light (hardly) reading and have a few hours to spare here is a link to my master's thesis that has finally been loaded on my university's online library.
Its title is..."How is distance grandparenting for you?" A study of long haul, New Zealand distance grandparents and inter-generational transnational familying.
This has formed the framework for my upcoming global book, 'Being a distance grandparent'. Please be assured though, I have had to knock all the academia heavy talk out of my system to write for the mainstream market. My book will be quite different.
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