Guest Post by Rachel Cox: Grace Lessons

I’m thrilled to share the first ever guest post on I Give You The Verbs with you today, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to kick it off than my good friend Rachel of The Chronic-ills of Rach.

I met Rachel through Blog With Pip and we struck up an instant friendship.

Rachel writes from a room with a gorgeous view in Auckland, New Zealand. She is a generous friend, a  great conversationalist, a teacher by trade, a burgeoning supermodel, and a loving mum and wife. Rachel has a neurological condition called Dysautonomia, and her blog helps me understand the impact an invisible illness can have on a person’s life. Rach is, of course, more than all the labels we apply upon introducing a friend, and you can get to know her in all her multifaceted glory on her blog, The Chronic-ills of Rach. I urge you to check out her skilful, soulful blogging style.

I gave Rachel the keys to I Give You The Verbs, and asked her to write whatever she wanted to, and I’m delighted and touched by her words.

I’m sure you will be too. Let us know what you think in the comments. 


I was a student teacher, embarking on my first ever classroom placement. For three weeks I’d be at a little school not far from my home, nestled among the gumtrees in a genteel corner of Sydney.

The class was Year One and from the moment I sat in the story chair and felt all their gazes turn to me, I knew I had found a career I could love. I stared back into each of their faces; hopeful, open, curious faces. I was about to introduce myself and settle into a story when I saw her, over to the side, mousey hair falling over her scowl. A tiny thing, unlike all the others. Troubled. I made a mental note to find out more about her at morning tea time.

Her name was Grace.

Her teacher kept it simple. She explained that Grace had endured traumas in her young life that made her decide not to talk anymore. It is a powerful psychological response to trauma that is rooted in a deep seated need to protect oneself. It’s called elective mutism.

As Grace went most afternoons to be with an art therapist over in the atelier, I only saw her in the mornings. In just the short time I had with her, I learnt a lot about communicating with non-verbal students – lessons I have used often over my years of teaching.

I enjoyed being with her and I recognised that it wasn’t ideal for her to have a student teacher disrupting her routine. Trust is not easy to come by when your little life has already held too much for you to bear. But her little face on that first day had pulled me in. I didn’t want to stress her with my presence, but I did want her to feel my heart for her.

Every chance I got, I drew pictures with Grace. Pictures to make her smile. Pictures only half finished, that she would finish for me. Funny faces and pretty flowers, progressive pictures, built up, turn by turn, by both of us. A squiggle from me and once, a little giggle from her. It was our quiet and tentative connection. I didn’t know how else to connect, but I knew she loved going to art therapy. So that is what we did.

On my last day we had a shared farewell lunch. All the sausage rolls and chocolate crackles had been demolished. The plastic cups were stacked by the sink. We had some music playing and the kids were dancing and singing as they helped clear up the classroom. I was standing off to the side talking to the teacher when I felt it. A little flutter at my elbow. It was Grace. Eyes down, she held up her little hand. There was a piece of paper in it.

‘Is this for me?’ I asked.

A barely perceptible nod. ‘Thank you so much ‘, I breathed as I accepted the folded paper from her hand.

It seemed an extraordinary gift from a little girl who didn’t like to connect. As I opened it, she ran away.


Inside the folds of paper was a tiny picture of a little bird. The bird had a speech bubble stretching out from its mouth, and inside it, Grace had carefully written, thank you. I looked for her, but she was studiously avoiding any eye contact. She sat curled up, knees to her chest, plucking at the threads on the carpet. Then the bell went and all the children ran off home, to the rest of their lives. Before I left for the rest of mine, I drew her a little picture reply. tucking it into her desk for her to find the next day.

I caught up with her teacher years later. She told me that Grace had become verbal before that year was out, due to the wonderful work of her art therapist. I was so pleased to know that little bird had found her voice again. And not at all surprised that the key to finding it was through art.


Art has a kind of magic to it. You need to indulge yourself in the artistic process to truly understand what I mean. If you have, you’ll be nodding. If you haven’t, I warmly suggest you give it a go. No matter what your circumstances, art will meet you at your own level of experience and draw you into something beyond yourself. Something beautiful.

I have adored watching Annette’s passion for painting and creating grow on this blog. Have you? The joy of her work speaks volumes to me. It is a beautiful expression of her enthusiasm for life, the colour and warmth of her nature and her capacity for embracing the now. I can’t wait to see each new piece hanging up for display. To feel the enthusiasm in her words as she describes her perfect day. Have you noticed how often that includes paint?

My mother was a painter. She used to say to me that everyone could be an artist if they wanted to be. Anyone. It’s just about practise and technique.

When I was a small girl we’d go adventuring into the foothills around Christchurch in her tiny Morris Minor. I loved the smell of the linseed oil and paints in her paintbox. The rituals of setting up the easel, squirting out those magnificent colours, named as though they themselves were kings and queens of the spectrum – burnt umber, vermillion, cerise, chartreuse. And then, the hours of seeing her art become something on the canvas board, my own sketchbook and crayons frequently abandoned so I could just gaze at the palette knife in her confident slender fingers. Scraping and moving the colours into blended images of clouds and rocks, trees and sky.


Art making was our meditation. Our silent connection. Our therapy and our reward.

Recently I thought it might be time to pick up a paintbrush again. My mum is no longer with us, but I know she would approve of this timeless way to find solace and meaning in the midst of swirling colours. I might even find her again, in the art of making. Or maybe, I’ll find a little bird. Some Grace.

Recently I read this article about the seven psychological functions of art. It’s a good read and a timely justification for giving art a go again.

What’s your therapy?

To read more of Rachel’s beautiful writings, follow her blog, her Facebook page or check her out on Instagram.

1 year of blogging, 100 posts.

Good morning. Drumroll please…… this is my 100th blog post, and my first blogiversary today. Wow!

Cake for everyone (which fits in nicely with #sundaybakingsunday)!

One year ago today I Give You The Verbs was born. I haven’t given birth to a child, but boy there were a lot of tears and feelings of helplessness, with a good measure of  ‘I can’t do this!’ thrown in as IGYTV came into the world. But I did do it, and now we’re here.

I am really chuffed with this little space I’ve created. It isn’t the biggest or best blog out there, to which I say phew and not my goal! Let someone else fret over stats and content and usefulness and niches and targeted social media campaigns and all that jazz. I’m a happy hobbyist. I write this blog because I want to. It’s a creative endeavour, not a commercial one (but if you’re a publisher or agent reading this, let’s talk!)

I Give You The Verbs
I Give You The Verbs

This space is a non-competitive zone. I do not and will not buy into the idea that my blog is in competition with anyone else’s. I know others disagree, particularly if blogging is tied to creating an income stream, it’s a different beast, but I just do not give this notion of thousands of people bent over their laptops, elbows up, hoping to knock others out, any credence.

This is actually a topic that keeps coming up and it really makes me cranky, especially when I see it crippling new bloggers before they’ve even hit publish for the first time. Ugh!

Do you think those creative heroes of yours, who toil away diligently at their craft, are thinking about the other guy when they’re writing a novel, or creating a painting, or crafting a song? Their manager might be, their agent might be, but if you tried to write a great novel or song or anything of beauty while thinking about your ‘competition’ I reckon those projects would never see the light of day. Guess what? There’s room for everyone. Look at your bookcase or CD collection – there’s the proof, right there.

The plaint fact is, I get cranky at quite a lot of things… that’s how I’m wired, especially when I see people limiting or doubting themselves. I even got cranky in the middle of a video I made last night about my gorgeous blog’s birthday. I’m not going to bother with a #sorrynotsorry tag, I’m not into that silly I have to add a hashtag to my opinions (just in case I offend) stuff. I have opinions, and I own them. I’ve even completely changed my mind on some things over the years.

Sometimes I even ramble about these things on YouTube. Yep, I’m one of those bloggers.

See what happens! I get fired up and end up on Tangent Highway.

So let’s take the next exit off Tangent Hwy, and get back to my birthday/blogiversary.

What a fantastic thing it is to reach a little milestone and scramble up on a rock and look back at the year that’s just flown by. Yes there are stats I could recite, but I’m not going to do that. It’s not what this is about. It will never be what this is about.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, it has been a year with a few challenges for me, but more than that it has been a year where I’ve been able to unfurl my wings into new creative territory. How awesome is that?

A year ago I did not blog, or write regularly, I didn’t paint, I didn’t own oil pastels, I didn’t think I could paint or be creative in that way. Guess what? I was mistaken. I had boxed myself in to a certain type of creativity – my love for words. Now I know that most creative endeavours are just an effort away.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? Is it crochet or triathlon or learning Japanese? Here’s how to do it. Ready… HAVE A CRACK. Just try it.

Try it without expecting to be the best, fastest or most fluent. Try it without any of your ‘measuring’ sensors engaged. Just try it. Does it feel weird and hard? That’s okay. If you’re a bit like me it may feel like you want to throw something through a window as you bump into inevitable hurdles… take a deep breath, say a kind word to yourself, and just try again.

That’s basically what this blogging caper has been for me. So. Many. Hurdles. I can recall more than one occasion when l  I was sitting in front my laptop and wanted to scream (and sometimes did) and throw that box of technological mumbo jumbo into the wall (glad I didn’t do that). So I had to give myself a talking to: Hey, Annette, have you done this before? No. So why don’t you put down your enormously unhelpful load of expectations and just TRY. I’m glad I listened to myself – and the many, many other encouraging voices I was surrounded by during the Blog With Pip course I did last February. Those ladies are the reason we’re here. Pipsters forever!

If you can embrace trying, teamed with a lot of encouraging self-talk, you’ll be astounded at what happens. Seriously.

And here we are, 100 posts later.

No walls with laptop shaped holes in them.

I’m still learning, still trying things, and when I need to, I remind myself I’m not in competition – not even with myself.

I want to give a special shout out to just two people today, which is a really difficult thing for me to put a limit on, but if I tried to name everyone who has encouraged me this post would go on for days and days. Just know this, YOU, the person reading right now, your time and attention to this blog means so much to me. When you hit the like button, or leave a comment, or join my #InstaTribe or follow IGYTV on Facebook…. every time, it means something special. It registers. You matter to me.

The two women I want to thank are women of integrity and passion. They are Australian bloggers and they are both decidedly lovely.

The first is Pip Lincolnea do-er, blogger, author, creator, encourager, crafter, teacher, and a deadset inspiration. Pip is one of those people who is on the go a lot. She pours her heart into every endeavour she’s involved with. She’s sensitive, she’s strong, and smart and generous. Pip teaches the Blog With Pip course (alongside a lot of other cool courses), and it was under her tutelage that I learned how to get this blog from an idea to a reality. Pip answered my desperate emails in those early weeks (along with loads of other students’ cries for help), she helped me narrow down the best choice for my blog name and she even came up with my tagline. She’s my blog guru, and a woman I have enormous respect for.

The second is Nikki Parkinson: a champion supporter of women, style maven, author, blogger, a really hard working and generous lady, community fosterer and also a deadset inspiration. I have been following Nikki’s blog Styling You for quite a few years, and she’s always been so generous with her style advice and encouragement to me, as well as to thousands of other women. Do you know the #everydaystyle thing on social media? That’s Nikki’s! As for the power of Nikki’s encouragement of this endeavour, I can’t even tell you what it means to me. Nikki really sees people.

So to Pip and Nikki, I offer my sincere thanks. You both truly inspire me.

There are others my fingers are itching to add to the list… like Beth from BabyMac and Kayte from Woogsworld… ladies who write blogs that I love, ladies who have both taken time to encourage me online and reply to comments and messages, and who didn’t roll their eyes at me when I cried on them at ProBlogger. (I wasn’t fangirl crying on them, I was new blogger overwhelm crying, but it’s a known fact that I am not a smooth networker.)

Damnit! I added more than two. But that’s it. There’s no way I going to add the lovely Sonia from Sonia Styling or my New Zealand BWP buddy Rachel from The Chronic Ills of Rach to the list. No way. I said two, I slipped to four, but see, I didn’t even link to these last two…. oh wait, I did. #sorrynotsorry ha!

See what I mean, so many people to thank, and it’s NOT about “names” in the blogging world, it is about women who have encouraged me that I Give You The Verbs isn’t a completely pointless vanity project.

I’m going to leave you with this awesome piece of advice from Nikki of Styling You.

Styling You's Best Advice
Styling You’s Best Advice

Nikki gave us this piece of advice in her session at ProBlogger last year, and I think it is absolutely foundational, not just for blogging, but for life. There’s such a temptation to be busybodying into what others are doing, how they’re doing it, why their party/business/marriage/blog seems more successful/fabulous/popular/cool than yours. Nikki told us to stop giving so much attention to what others are doing. Feed your own guests. Look after them, give your energy and attention to the people who are at your table.

Great advice, don’t you think?

So that’s my 100th post for I Give You The Verbs. Sheesh, I’m so proud of this space, of persevering, of taking chances in posting on days when I’ve been feeling really vulnerable. I’m humbled and amazed by the response my writing receives. Truly gobsmacked. I feel like I have spent a lot of time in the past twelve months saying thank you. I’ve needed people’s help and encouragement, and people have been so generous with both. So, I’m happy to say it again, thank you.

Here’s to my ‘baby’ I Give You The Verbs (aka IGYTV), and mostly here’s to you, the people who make this space what it is!
Here’s to trying, and playing and creativity.

Sincerely, gratefully, with thanks,

Annette x