"Princess Shayna’s Invisible Visible Gift" Characters’ Back-Story
People are always curious about the origins and/or metaphors for the characters or objects in Princess Shayna’s Invisible Visible Gift. I have created this extensive back-story to answer those questions.
My journey with Princess Shayna’s Invisible Visible Gift began when I was in Buffalo, New York, with my friend Carol Coppage, attending the Creative Problem Solving Institute. I had taken all my required classes to be certified in creative problem-solving techniques and decided to relax by taking a story-telling class. It made sense; being a teacher, a professional speaker, and a mother, I was always telling stories.
The instructor told all of us to select one of the Renaissance scenes, which were pictures from a wall calendar, that she had taped around the classroom and capture the free-flowing ideas in our notebooks. I chose one of a princess in a beautiful forest and began writing. I was so immersed in my story that I did not realize that the class had been over for about an hour; Carol had entered the room and was relieved that she had found me. I told her that I could not stop writing a story that continued to flow into my brain like a tidal wave.
The conference was over that afternoon, and I returned home excited about my story. I told my husband, Jordan, what I was writing and how excited I was to continue. However, we did discuss that if I continued to focus on my writing the way I wanted to, it would definitely change our daily routines and our life. Jordan encouraged me to write the story, and I made a writing space for myself in our younger son’s, Noah’s, room. It had a lovely view that was framed by the ivy that climbed up the north side of our home.
I realized as I wrote about Princess Shayna that I was writing about my own life. What a joy it was to bring so many of my family members to life in my fairytale. I also realized that I used copious details from my childhood.
What distinguishes a fairytale from other stories is the fact that it speaks to the very heart and soul of the child within all of us. I believe that everyone can relate to this fairytale. Princess Shayna’s story confirms that life can present difficulties, but with good self-esteem and a loving and supportive family and community environment, we all can develop the courage to meet life’s obstacles and turn them into opportunities, just as Princess Shayna does.
The story also acknowledges a significant fact: that no one is perfect, not even a princess. That message is especially important to children and their families who have to face diabetes management challenges in their lives.
I allocate 10% of the royalties from the sale of my books to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The order of this back-story and the characters and objects are listed as they appear in the fairytale. I trust that you will enjoy reading this extensive list, which includes my family history and humor.
King Alexander and Queen Sylvia are my loving parents: Alexander I. and Sylvia Newman. However, my father did not see my mother in a garden; he first saw her walking her younger brother, my Uncle Jerry, to school. He said that my mother’s red hair and shapely legs caught his attention. He was immediately enchanted and eager to find out who she was and how to call her.
When my parents married, my father was 35 year old and 14 years older than my mother. As in the story, Queen Sylvia was much younger than King Alexander, but she was wise beyond her years.
The Honey Locust Tree was included in the story because I remember my parents planting a honey locust tree in the garden in our backyard for an anniversary gift to one another; it was one of their favorite species of trees.
The White Bench upon which Lady Sylvia sits in the Garden of Knowledge represents the white, wrought-iron, grape leaf–patterned bench that sat at the front entrance of my childhood home, and which now sits in a place of honor on my home’s back deck.
The Sparkling River and Forest of Friendship represent River Forest, which is a beautiful tree-lined suburban community west of Chicago where I grew up. My life began in River Forest, Illinois, so I found it appropriate to be in my fairytale by describing a beautiful sparkling river and a tranquil forest in the Kingdom of Kindness.
I grew up in the Garden of Knowledge because my parents loved gardening together and teaching me the joys of planting and nurturing flowers and herbs.
The Ivy-Covered Wall that surrounds the castle represents the ivy-covered wall that surrounded my childhood home and garden.
Sigmund the Royal Wizard, or “Sigi” as Princess Shayna affectionately calls him, is my Uncle Sigmund Mann. I considered him a medical wizard because he was a pharmacist and a physician. He not only was a brother-in-law, he was a trusted confidante and friend to both my parents. When Princess Shayna becomes ill on her 5th birthday and Sigi finds a cure for her never-ending sleep sickness, it represents the time my Uncle Sig saved my life when I became ill with pneumonia. As in the story, he always tasted my medicine before I had to take it, and I affectionately called him “Uncle Sigi.” I was fortunate to have spent a great deal of time with my Uncle Sig before he passed away. As I was writing the story, I realized what a significant individual he was in my life. My memories of him were and still are strong and clear, even though I was only 5 years old when he died.
“Rimsiyavyo!” is Sigmund the Royal Wizard’s exclamation when he discovers the secret of Meevillain’s Wedding Spell of Revenge and the Silver Apricot cure for Princess Shayna’s lingering illnesses.
The Pregnancy Potion that Sigmund created to enable Queen Sylvia to become pregnant was the antidote for Meevillain’s evil Wedding Spell of Revenge. My parents’ health issues are the basis for the potion that Sigmund created to help the king and queen.
Soon after my parents’ married, my mother was told she would never have children. My Uncle Sig was a great comfort to her during that difficult time. Obviously, the other doctors were wrong, because I was born on the second day of the second month of the New Year: February 2, 1945.
The queen gives up a portion of her lung; my mother had tuberculosis in 1961 and had the upper lobe of her right lung removed in a 10-hour experimental surgery at the University of Chicago when I was 16 years old. When I was young child, my father developed heart disease and died of a heart attack in 1977 when I was 32 years old. Those health challenges taught me to value the blessings of good health and the sacrifices my parents made while they were raising me and to appreciate my parents and their good health at an early age, just like the princess did.
Meevillain, the Princess of the Forest of Fear, is the shadowed side of everyone’s personality. She was angry when King Alexander did not choose her as his bride. I created the name Meevillain by dividing the word into three sections that refer to our shadowed behavior.
- When we are disappointed, upset, and angry, any of us can become focused on ourselves and how we were wronged. That is the “Me.”
- Often, when we experience angry feelings, we can engage in “evil” actions toward others and/or ourselves.
- Then we become a “villain” to ourselves and others.
Meevillain’s Could of Chaos is cast over the Kingdom of Kindness when the princess is born. I thought of this because the second day of the second month of the New Year is Groundhog’s Day. It also is my birthday and often a cloudy day when the groundhog looks for his shadow.
The Raven Meevillain that follows Princess Shayna represents the transformation of an individual’s Brain Color personality when they live in the Forest of Fear.
The Chill that shivers across people’s backs is the wind Meevillain creates. Just like Princess Shayna, people intuitively know when something does not feel right. Often those feelings can send chills down a person’s back.
The Ginkgo Tree plays a significant role in the story and had a significant place in the courtyard of my childhood home. It was lovely tree that would greet me when I came home from school, and I could see its delicate foliage from my bedroom window. I always loved its fan-shaped leaves and the swishing sound they made in the wind. The Ginkgo tree on the book cover represents the three main healthy self-esteem–building themes of the story:
♦ The roots of the tree represent the foundation and the “village elders” from which we grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
♦ The tree trunk represents our parents, family members, friends, teachers, and mentors on whom we lean for support.
♦ The leaves of the Ginkgo tree grow in leaflet clusters, like a community of people and families. The branches of leaf clusters grow upward and represent the youth in all of us, reaching for new knowledge, with balance and guidance from the roots and solid support from the trunk.
The Ginkgo tree is one of the oldest species of tree. It is more than 2,500 years old, and the Chinese culture considers the Ginkgo to be a tree of great distinction and dignity. It also is an ancient Chinese emblem of longevity and survival, which are two wishes for the children and adults who must deal with the never-ending daily challenges of diabetes management. It is respected as a loyal and historic soul, as are the village elders in the story.
The Ginkgo tree is historically known as the Grandfather–Grandson tree. Only the old trees bear seeds, so it is the grandson of the planter who benefits from the precious “silver apricots” of the tree. That is very meaningful, because the roots of the story were planted by my father, who had T2D (type 2 diabetes) and was the inspiration for King Alexander in the story; our elder son, Joshua, was diagnosed with T2D (type 1 diabetes) when he was 15 years old, and he will benefit from the fruits my story.
Princess Shayna became the heroine in the story when I realized how autobiographical the fairytale was becoming. I decided to name the princess Shayna because it is my Hebrew name, and it means “beautiful.” My mother always told me that I was a beautiful gift to her, since she thought she would never have a child. It also is significant for the children to know that the princess is not perfect. The princess has T1D (Type 1 Diabetes) and you do not have to be perfect to be loved!
Princess Shayna’s Baby Cradle that Sarah Spundah spun from silver threads represents my Lucite baby bassinet, which I slept in as an infant.
The Baby Naming Ceremony is a traditional Jewish event when a baby is given his or her Hebrew name. The characters who come to the baby naming ceremony are all my family members and dearest friends.
Lord Harry and Lady Eva, or “Mimi” and “Poppy,” as I affectionately called my cherished maternal grandparents, played a significant role in my life. Lord Harry and Lady Eva gave the baby princess a Precious Gift, which was a pair of silver candles. These candles represent Mimi’s actual silver Sabbath candlesticks that she bequeathed to me and are meant to sustain and enlighten the princess on her life’s journey. One candle represents wisdom and the other candle represents peace. The candles instantly illuminate when Princess Shayna circles her hand over them, which represents the Jewish tradition of a woman circling her hands over her Sabbath candles three times before lighting them and reciting the Sabbath blessing of thanksgiving.
Lady Eva’s the crescent-shaped pastries (also known as Kichelach) were delicious cinnamoncakes that symbolized the sweet and plentiful life that Lord Harry and Lady Eva wished for their granddaughter, Princess Shayna.
Lord Shunjato was created as a combination of my two sons’ and two grandsons’ names. The ever-changing kaleidoscope was a Precious Gift Lord Shunjato gave to the princess. It teaches her to be responsible for the changes she chooses in her life and reminds her to acknowledge, appreciate, and accept the strengths and differences in others. My sons and grandsons are perfect reminders of those valuable lessons.
Lady Michelle and Lord John are our dearest, most treasured friends: Michelle Bracken, my college roommate, and her husband, John. They bring Princess Shayna two Precious Gifts. The first gift is an Intuition Compass, which gives Princess Shayna self-direction, wisdom to follow her heart, and compassion when making decisions that will affect herself and others. The second Precious Gift is a resonating seashell, which teaches Princess Shayna to respectfully listen to others, even if their point of view is different from hers. The seashell is the treasured gift that symbolizes the loyal friendship we all share.
Lady Lillian and Lord Joseph are my other loving parents: my husband’s mother and father. They give Princess Shayna the Precious Gift of a flawless White Falcon with inquisitive tourmaline eyes that becomes Princess Shayna’s beloved and devoted companion. White Falcon shares his three Praiseworthy Gifts with the princess: acute vision to value humanity, guidance to help her rise above the challenges in her life, and the confidence and courage to view any obstacle as an opportunity.
White Falcon is my husband, Jordan, and he is my beloved and devoted companion of almost
50 years. Jordan is not the prince who comes to rescue the princess on a white horse. He was my date for a Chicago Blackhawks hockey game on November 26, 1964, who arrived at my home in a white Ford Falcon automobile. Jordan also is a licensed private and commercial pilot, so he does know how to fly. White falcons are rare raptors called Gyrfalcons; during medieval times, Gyrfalcons were considered noble birds and were used only by royalty.
Shimmerlyka, Queen of the Flower Fairies, was created as a combination of all the names of my daughters-in-law, my granddaughter, and two of my cherished cousins. Shimmerlyka brings a Love Gift that Princess Shayna’s parents give her throughout her life. The extraordinary women in my family have nurtured and shared the Love Gift my parents gave me.
The Invisible Visible Gift is the Precious Gift of self-esteem that is invisible when someone gives it to you, but visible upon you when you have it. It was the precious gift the king and queen gave Princess Shayna, along with their unquestionable love, just as my parents gave me. This Invisible Visible Gift is a fragile circle of life. It is priceless and cannot be bought, sold, or taken from the princess or anyone who receives it. Sarah Spundah, the guardian of the Forest of Friendship, is my Aunt Sarah, who was married to my Uncle Sig, who is Sigmund the Royal Wizard. I created Sarah Spundah to be the sweet and helpful guardian of the Forest of Friendship because she loved everyone she met, and they loved her. She also loved jewelry. The pearl necklace Sarah Spundah wears represents the pearls my aunt always loved wearing.
The Magnolia Trees in the Garden of Knowledge, where Shimmerlyka lives, represent the five beautiful pink star magnolia trees that grew along the ivy-covered red brick wall that surrounded my childhood home.
The Silver Apricot Potion represents the insulin that a child or adult must take if they have T1D (type 1 diabetes) and often T2D (type 2 diabetes). When the fruit of the Ginkgo tree breaks open, it is milky white and looks like insulin.
Princess Shayna’s Two-Poster Canopy Bed is a replica of the bed I slept in as young girl in my childhood bedroom.
“I love your more than tongue can tell!” Is an endearing expression of love, which my dear friend, Michelle Bracken (Lady Michelle), shared with me. The expression originated with Michelle’s great aunt (Tanta Yeta), who shared it Michelle’s mother, who shared it with Michelle, who shared it me. Now four generations later, I am privileged to share it my family friends and with readers.
Macdolodge the Royal Tutor was named for Mac-Do Lodge Camp for Girls, the summer overnight camp I attended for many years. My many years at Mac-Do Lodge; the friends
I made; the camp director, Minnie A. Cohen (“Mac”); the counselors; and the lessons I learned about teamwork and collaboration have remained with me all my life.
Princess Shayna’s Vision Quest represents her rite of passage that begins on her 13th birthday, as if she were a Bat Mitzvah, and is acknowledged as a young woman by her community.The princess observed the ancient customs and sang from the books that told of her family’s heritage. Princess Shayna read the speech she wrote to conclude the ceremony. The princess said, “I know you all are proud of me and I am now considered a woman who is responsible for faithfully keeping the teachings and customs of our ancient heritage. I will strive to become a wise, independent, compassionate, and fair-minded woman, as my mother and grandmother before me. I will become a Woman of Valor.”
The String Game reminded me of the “Cat’s Cradle” string game I loved playing with my Poppy as a child. The princess plays the string game with Lord Harry, her Poppy, her to teach her patience, strategies to solve her problems, and how to make good decisions.
The Add-a-Pearl Necklace helps Princess Shayna count the days of her journey. Her grandfather Poppy instructed her to string the tiny seed pearls on her gold necklace, which helps the princess count the days of her Vision Quest and return home by the second day of the second month of the next New Year. This idea came from the add-a-pearl necklace my grandparents gave me as a small child. I still wear the necklace every day.
The Magical Pinafore represents the gifts my grandmother, Mimi, made for everyone. They were “cobbler aprons” that she designed and made for special occasions: engagements, weddings, a new home, or the birth of a baby. I decided on an eyelet apron because I still have the eyelet pinafore my mother made for me when I was 3 years old. The pockets were shaped like hearts to carry the Precious Gifts that Princess Shayna received at her Baby Naming Ceremony. Because the pockets are heart shaped, they are filled with love, so the princess can carry her gifts easily. Nothing is difficult or heavy to carry when it is surrounded by love.
The “It Can Be Done” Poetry Book represents the book of poetry our Mac-Do Lodge camp director, Miss Cohen, read from at our Sunday night campfires. One of Miss Cohen’s favorite poems, and one of mine, is “It Can Be Done.” The inspirational poems in the book were meant to encourage Princess Shayna, and they still resonate with me today.
Princess Shayna’s Celebration Dress was designed and sewn by Queen Sylvia. The dress was the color of Green Healing Herbs and was embroidered with Yellow Sunflowers, Blue Forget-Me-Nots, and Orange Tiger Lilies, which represent the flowers of the four villages of the Kingdom of Kindness. When I wrote this section of the story, I told my husband Jordan that I had seen this dress before, but I could not remember where. When we returned home from my writing trip, I looked in a box of old family pictures and there it was! A picture my father had taken of my mother and me standing in our garden wearing the exact green Mother–Daughter dresses I had written about! Amazing and true! Authors do write from their soul, and their soul does know.
The Royal Chapel was built by King Alexander to welcome all the villagers and visitors from distant lands to share their diverse customs and practice their personal and sacred beliefs. My father was a man who believed in fairness and respect of people’s differences. He was the building chairman and president of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois, where our family observed and practiced our Judaism.
The Sturdy Green Gate represents the large green gate that led out of the courtyard of my childhood home, which I would exit on my way to school or play with friends and enter when returning home. The gate was attached to the red brick ivy-covered wall that surrounded our home. When Princess Shayna leaves the Royal Castle she does so by kissing her father goodbye on both cheeks, which was a tradition between my father and me, and then she leaves through a large green gate to begin her Vision Quest.
The Forest of Fear can appear at any time while living safely within the Forest of Friendship. The Forest of Fear is a metaphor for feeling lost, as Princess Shayna had become lost along the crooked and circular forest paths that led to dead ends; where each tree, plant, and flower is dead; the serenely flowing stream of life has dried up; and not one living creature can be found. Only a foreboding feeling of fear remains.
Mennis and Meene represent the untrustworthy, dishonest, unctuous, and manipulative people that everyone encounters in life.
The Four Villages represent the four Brain Colors: The Village of the Yellow Sunflowers, the Village of the Blue Forget-Me-Nots, Village of the Green Healing Herbs, and the village of the Orange Tiger Lilies. Each village includes words that describe the Brain Color personalities of each village and their homes, relationships, food, schools, clothes, and activities.
The Village Emissaries are named after multifaceted sapphire gemstones: a yellow citrine, a blue spinel, a green peridot, and an orange padparadscha. Village Emissaries represent the diversity of the villagers (cultures) and the villages (diverse botanical groups of flowering plants) in the Kingdom of Kindness. Citrine represents many people of color and is the Emissary from the Village of the Yellow Sunflowers. Spinal represents the Native Americans and is the Emissary from the Village of the Blue For-Get-Me-Nots. Peridot represents the copious Asian cultures and is the Emissary from the Village of the Green Healing Herbs. Padparadscha represents the African American and Black cultures and is the Emissary from the Village of the Orange Tiger Lilies.
The Colored Stone Walls represent the walls that individuals build around themselves to protect their feelings from being hurt by other people.
The Serenely Flowing Streams that connect the villages, but have dried up, represent an individual’s stream of consciousness. But, when the stream dries up, they do not open their minds and hearts to other people and their ideas and perspectives.
The Copper Roof Tops on the Royal Castle represent the copper roof on my childhood home. I loved listening to the raindrops dancing on the roof whenever there was a storm.
Princess Shayna’s Homecoming Celebration is modeled after the Jewish Purim festival. It was decided that Princess Shayna’s Vision Quest would be retold for future generations, like the biblical Purim story of Esther, and that loud noises would be made when Meevillain’s name is mentioned, just as loud noises are made when the villain Haman’s name is mentioned at a Purim celebration.