Remembering my Grandmother

Liz Kalloch bio photoSo many people have asked me about the beautiful illustration on the front of Listening to our Grandmothers and so today I am really happy to share a guest blog from the artist who created it, Liz Kalloch.  

Liz is a San Francisco Bay area based artist, illustrator,  graphic designer and writer – I love how we are able to collaborate across continents now and am so glad I got in touch with her via Jen Lee because the cover feels so perfect for the book.  I learnt that we have something else in common when I read her delightful blog post because, like Liz I have a middle name, Walsingham, which is a maiden name.

I was named for my maternal grandmother – a Scottish tradition, so that the maternal names don’t get lost – so I am Elizabeth Briggs (my middle name is her maiden name). When I was a little girl, starting school every year, and the teacher would call my name, I’d cringe, waiting for the teasing over my middle name. I remember one girl in my 4th grade class asking me why my parents didn’t give me a “normal” middle name, like Anne, or Marie, like all the other girls had. And each year after the first day of school I’d ask my Mum why my middle name had to be listed for the teacher to call out, and for everyone to snicker at, and she’d tell me that someday I’d be happy that I had her name.

She hasn’t been here with us for a long time, she passed away when I was in my early 20s, but I think of her almost everyday, and she tops my personal list of people who have inspired, influenced, encouraged and even dared me.

my grandmother Elizabeth Briggs Balfour at 9 months old

my grandmother Elizabeth Briggs Balfour at 9 months old

An artist, an inspired gardener, a writer, a reader, a mother and a woman beyond her time. She was not encouraged to be independent, not encouraged to be an artist, nor a traveller, she was encouraged to marry and have children, because that’s what women did in her generation. And she did that, and also painted, and designed gardens and organised reading groups with her friends, and lived a life that on the outside had little in the way of frills or accessories; but on the inside was rich with beauty and ideas, and deep thoughts.

As my grandmother though, she told me at a very early age that I could do anything, be anything, have and be a part of anything that I wanted to be. She told me I was special and unique. She encouraged my dreams and my hopes and my wishes for my life. She encouraged my independence and my sense of self. In effect, she gave me permission to be myself all the time, in a world where conformity is the safe and easy route.

My relationship with her was like an open door: it was like walking to and fro from room to room, while in the midst of a never ending conversation, punctuated with other characters entering and leaving, kind of like a one act play, that just keeps going and going. I think of her as my first role model for a generosity of spirit that I since have always looked for in friends, in business partners, in romantic partners, in life. And I think that if I had not had her my whole young life, I might never have known that that kind of spirit existed out in the world.

Truthfully, as we go through school, through jobs, through relationships, as we grow and change and move through our lives, those kindred souls, those open spirits, filled with kindness and generosity and support, and the purest kind of love and devotion, do not come along around any old corner. They are the rare and most gorgeous jewels in our lives, and we are always the luckiest for having found them, or for they having found us.


I like to think that she found me, that is still my young girl’s daydream, I like to imagine that the first day she saw me, she knew who I was, she recognized me, and I her. I like to imagine she was my fairy godmother, not necessarily finding me the prince, but definitely turning my pumpkin into a carriage, and the mice into horses to take me anywhere I wanted to go.

I still hear her voice in my head, her energy still vibrates in the universe, and she still encourages me, inspires me and dares me to do more, ever more. Oh and my name? Sure enough, my Mum was right. By my late teens I was proud of my “different” middle name, and into my 20s and beyond, {especially after she passed away} I’ve taken pride and also feel much happiness signing my name. Seeing her name in mine.

You can find Liz and her wonderful illustrations and work at  To buy a copy of Listening to our Grandmothers click here or to stay in touch join the Facebook page here. 

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