After rashly deciding to join in with writing pals, Teresa Robeson http://teresarobeson.wordpress.com/  and Catherine Johnson on the Selfie Art Day challenge five months ago, I now find myself part of a regular artistic quest to capture one’s own features. An elusive, multi-fold quest.

Teresa Robeson

My first thought when I faced the prospect of Selfie Art was ‘pastels.’ I imagined myself sweeping colour blocks all over the place. I brought out a lavish tray of pastels, and an old HB pencil and bitten-down eraser.

As always, I started with a faint pencil outline, a bare suggestion of features. This gave me a template to work on.

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Then, I started firming up the outlines. I made my first attempts at getting the lines right, especially with the eyes. They were a big concern.

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I refined the features with pencil and added more detail.

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I took a photo of myself, to get a better handle on the line of the brim of my hat. I adjusted details. It was only at that point, I realized I’d completely forgotten the pastels. It was too by then to go back.

Without more ado, here’s my Selfie Art portrait, number six.

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If you decide to join in on the challenge, make sure you swing by Teresa Robeson’s wordpress blog at http://teresarobeson.wordpress.com/ and tell her about it. She’ll include your links on her regularly updated list. Include the hashtag on your post: #SelfieDay. Have fun.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The role of the artist is the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” ~ James Baldwin

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The thing about writing humour is that everyone has a different sense of humour.

I remember having a conversation about this with a friend. She said, their family had invited the son’s new girlfriend over, to join them for dinner. After the meal, they thought they’d watch their favourite show, with the idea that laughing would bring them all together. So they put on a comedy which they knew was side-splitting, ‘Little Britain.’ My friend said that she, her husband and sons were rolling off the couch, nearly crying with laughter, while the son’s girlfriend never cracked a smile throughout the whole show.

Humour is personal and deadly serious.

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I promised readers I’d share my journey towards the holy grail of engaging the funny bone. Let’s say, it’s been an interesting process, so far.

In my last post, there was a great moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth about having to write the material for my humorous speech.

I got some helpful pointers from a number of responders. With regards my first idea for material, which had been my mother and her dementia, a friend on social media – the wonderfully gregarious Lord David Prosser  – countered with a great comment.

David Prosser

‘If you get the chance to read the Deric Longden story Lost for Words or get the chance to see the TV film that was made starring Dame Thora Hird you’ll see that the subject of dementia can be dealt with i a funny, charming yet sympathetic way. Because we see the humour in a situation doesn’t make us uncaring towards people suffering that illness, it just means the particular situation was funny.’ ~ David Prosser

Thanks, David.

However, for the upcoming Speech Contest, I decided to go with the same topic I covered last year, something I know intimately – being a parent. Since then, after many anxious, feeble attempts at writing it, and wringing of hands, I began to despair I’d ever be able to write anything good ever again!

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I watched footage of award-winning humorous speaker, Jeanne Robertson http://www.jeannerobertson.com (thanks for the link, Jenny), and read a post or two by my friends who write funny blogs, like the self-confessed undie chronicler, Jenny Hansen, https://jennyhansenauthor.wordpress.com/ and sweet blogger, Bun Karyudo, whose excellent “Lovingly Hand-Crafted Humor Blog” is always good for a chuckle.

I thought Bun’s recent post, Teaching My Son to Swim? It’s Just Not Going to Happen https://bunkaryudo.wordpress.com/2016/08/13/teaching-my-son-to-swim-its-just-not-going-to-happen/ was hilarious.

Here’s an excerpt, where his wife is convincing a reluctant Bun why he ought to teach their son to swim:

“When someone makes a promise, isn’t it only right to keep it.”

When someone made a promise, I nodded, it was only right to keep it.

“Right then,” she said, “I promised our son you’d teach him to swim. How can you possibly refuse?”

Bun, however, has a natural gift for turn of comedic phrase. I don’t!

Still stumped, I gazed upon these people’s brilliance and felt unable to produce anything of credibly feather-tickling value myself.

I’ve been having the same conversation everywhere I’ve gone, what makes comedy?

This week, a friend asked me, ‘Look at this way, what makes you laugh?’

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Terrific question. I can tell you, one-liners leave me cold; I prefer it when there’s a storyline, and the humour comes through what happens.

A light went on! I realized that my earlier attempts had failed, because each was basically a series of one-liners strung together.

Yesterday, my two youngest sons left to spend the weekend with their father. Last night, I relaxed and listened to some music, as you do. I was thinking about how different childhood is for kids these days, compared to say, when I was young, or say my parents, or their parents before them.

A few words wafted by me on the wind. If you consider that my grandmother was born in 1901. She lived in the “pre-nuclear age…” I thought, Gran had perfect recall, while I have trouble remembering something from one room of the house to the other… that’s a funny idea! Lucky for me, I was fleet of foot and captured the words before they flew on by.

I had the start to my speech.

The concept of comparing childhoods in our family, from my gran through to my youngest son, gave me the all-important narrative I needed. The rest flowed from there.

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Here’s an example of the content as it stands so far: ‘They say there are more crazy people on the streets these days than ever before, we parents get warnings to keep an eye on our children’s whereabouts at all times. I know my children’s whereabouts – couch one and couch two in our living room, where they can get the wifi.’

Therefore, the raw material for my humorous speech has finally been produced. A labour of love, no less.

Now, I just need to figure out how to deliver the speech to achieve maximum impact. Wish me luck! Any tips for comedic timing/inflection that works,  please let me know! There’s a chocolate fish in it for you (nah, just kidding).

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is impossible to look cool while picking up a Frisbee. ~ Peter Kay

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Since I put my name forward to compete in a Toastmaster’s “Humorous Speech Contest,” a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been working on the dilemma of material. Or, lack of it. The race has been on to write something funny.

I have spent days wondering what I should write about.

My hairdresser came over to give me a trim. She has her aging parents living with her, one of whom is blind, while the other has Alzheimer’s. The stories she told, of the mishaps going on in their household, had both of us nearly crying with laughter. I thought, ‘this stuff is priceless.’

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I thought about my own family’s hilarious stories, about my mother, and her dementia. I put it to the arbiters of taste in my circle. The resounding answer was, ‘No, don’t go there. Mothers are sacrosanct.’ Then, I read an article the other day, in which a woman, whose mother had died with Alzheimer’s, decried another guy, who had written a piece about his mother “going mad.” She said, it was ‘cruel and inconsiderate’ to mock those whose parents had dementia.

I realized that my first two ideas were hot-button topics! I decided “not to go there.” In a contest situation, the idea is to appeal to the audience, not turn people away.

What is funny?

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I have wracked my brain, and done a bit of research.

I’ve learned from reading various comedian’s blogs that humour comes from the unexpected. We laugh because we’re led to expect one thing but are given the opposite instead.

I began to experiment. Going back to the subject of raising kids for my subject matter, I wrote a short speech.

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According to what I read, one’s success with a “humorous speech” depends less on content than on the delivery. In the latest Toastmasters magazine, it was reported that the speaker, Palmo Carpino advised, if you want to go from good to great, is “It’s not so much about building a library as it is about building your reflexes.” Paul, who is active with the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, says, “This is what usually separates the “ok attempts” scribed into a written speech from the “memorable point illustrated in a memorable manner.”

The next time I saw my nephew, I tried out some of the so-called “funny bits” in my speech on him. He gave me one of those face-spreading smiles you give, when something isn’t really funny. My jokes had flat-lined.

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I reworked the speech completely, remembering the rule of the unexpected. I practiced it again and again, by standing up, marching about and testing the delivery, the pauses, the inflections.

That’s what you have to get just right, the sound and timing of your material.

I tried rearranging each piece so as to take the audience in one direction then, casting about for the punch line which turns the listeners in a different direction. Bouncing it off myself and others.

I’ve received some great tips and ideas from people. The top two would have to be, ‘Just be yourself and let your character shine through.’ A great resource, according to a writer/artist friend of mine, Steve Attkisson, is Gene Perret’s Ten Commandments of Comedy. This is ‘one book that has been instructive and entertaining.’ I intend to withdraw this book from the library, to read next. I know I need help.

Will the audience laugh? Only time will tell!

In the end, I’ll get it right. Meantime, I thought the lessons I’m learning along the way might be valuable. As I figure out how to write a humorous speech, hopefully, what I share via my blog might also benefit someone else. Ain’t the internet cool?

How do you write funny? Any tips to share? Send help. Please. Or chocolate.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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My advice? You wanna look 20 years younger? Stand further away. ~ Jeff Green

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

I know, I’m late again. Wednesday is time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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Right now, I am deeply insecure about the human race.

It’s hard to look at our planet right now and be chipper about it, even for an upbeat, optimistic, Sagittarian Dragon like me.

How can I continue to create my imaginary literary worlds when the real world around me is going to hell in a hand basket?

Although I appear somewhat refined, I’m actually low-brow. I loved Harry Potter, love ‘following the Kardashians,’ going to the movies, eating ice-cream and too much junk food on my time off. I don’t read the news, don’t know anything about politics, didn’t go to University, didn’t get a degree, well, you get the idea. I’m a fairly basic human being.

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Nevertheless, I still have my own expression to share.

I look at the world and I am disappointed by the sad state of our planet, by stupid credit wrecking world finances, by inane politics, by religions, by the state of our education system, by practically everything! I’m deflated right down to being scared of the strange characters loose on the streets, that make it too dangerous for a single woman to jog.

On my jog today, I was frightened by a man.

All day, I’ve been trying to think of a solution. I could jog with someone else, if I knew someone who lived nearby who jogged. But, apart from the lack of such a person, I use my running as time to commune with myself, in the style of a semi-meditation. So, that’s not really an option.

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There have been lots of incidents over the 20+ years I’ve been living here. I’ve been forced to change the times of day I run, and the routes many times. I used to run at 5 in the morning, when I got a doozy of a scare to find a man had been waiting for me in an alley. I changed to running at 9 a.m. 4 p.m. midday. Then, I changed it back to 8 in the morning which is where I am, currently.

Today was the second time in a few days, that I’ve seen the same terrifying guy, with the deadly serious attitude.

It was pouring with rain.

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As I ran past this man walking, I knew it was the same man who had given me chills from two days before. I thought I’d better check the stranger was still walking on up the road. But, he wasn’t. He’d stopped and was starting to turn around.

My guts said, “MOVE!”

I saw I was a few steps from the driveway of another school mama. I shot down to her front door. She and her daughter, and their big dog were just getting ready to leave for school. She said, “What’s wrong?”

I said, “There’s a strange man on the road, and I came to the nearest safe house.”

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She said, “Don’t worry. Brut will scare them off!”

We went back up their driveway. The man in the hoodie was loitering on the other side of the road.

I said, “There he is!”

At that, the man pivoted and took off into the property behind him.

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I thanked my friends and ran home safely. Yet, it was like the final straw. I have ignored the signs for years. But now, it’s unavoidable. I have to accept that my freedom is curtailed, because it is not safe to jog anymore. And something in me really rankles against that. I’ve spent the day feeling incensed.

With evening, I find I’m left with this great weight of disappointment like a sad blanket upon me. I’m disappointed by the human race.

Someone on Facebook said a few days ago, that he feels a sense that the miraculous is afoot. This does give a glimmer of hope. Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek movie, says, “I think you’re underestimating the human race” I sure hope so! However, I’ve also decided to invest in a treadmill.

In this sad, old world of ours how do we artists continue to create our imaginary Edens?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago, had they happened to be within reach of predatory human hands. ~ Henry Havelock Elllis

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At this same time last year, the president of our Toastmasters club asked us, “Who wants to enter the Humorous Speech Contest?” Out of the twenty-five people in the room, four people put their hands up. I put my hand up, too. I’d only joined Toastmasters the month before and I had no idea what was involved. Yet, a number of people I liked and admired, had put themselves forward, and I felt it was only right I should join them.

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In my mind, I imagined we’d be delivering our talks, as we did each week, to one another, in the usual club setting. Have a laugh. A cup of tea. End of.

Little did I expect what was to follow.

When I trucked up to our club rooms to give my speech in the contest that day, I was surprised to find the room was full of people. And at least half the people there were strangers. This is always a big step up for any aspiring public speaker. That moment when you go beyond the friendly faces and atmosphere of your club setting.

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My reaction was to go into panic and meltdown.

No one had warned me. I had had no idea that this contest was on a big scale. Turns out there are four big contests in Toastmasters a year, and all of them work to funnel the best speakers in the country to the top of the pile. At the end of each year, the best speaker from New Zealand goes over to the Annual International Convention, this year being held in Washington D.C, to compete against the best speakers from all around the world. Like, it literally couldn’t be any bigger. So, for the club level contests, there have to be guest judges, a contest chairperson, tally counters, the works.

Now, I’m not a competitive person. I never have been. I only entered thinking I was participating in something a bit fun within my club. Once the event was under way, I was terrified, thinking about the scope. I was waaaaay out of my comfort zone. But, it was too late to back out.

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Long story, short, I ended up winning. The moment they called my name, I thought, Oh, crabapples, now I’m going to have to compete at the next level. I tell you, there is no way I would have put myself forward into that position, if it hadn’t happened completely by accident like that. So it was a comedy of errors to get to that point. Like a row of dominoes.

Anyway, on the night of the next level of the competition, my nerves were off the charts. It was the only time I’d experienced a panic attack. When I started speaking, my nerves got worse and worse rather than weaker and weaker. So much so, that I ground to a halt twice during the delivery and went completely blank. I felt I’d flubbed it. But I won second place.

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I came home, shakily, needing a week to recover. I had never been more afraid. I had never felt more exposed. I had never felt more adrenalin. I said to myself that was one of the worst experiences of my entire life. I’m never doing that again!

This week, at our club meeting, El Presidente asked, “Who wants to enter the Humorous Speech Contest?” and I found myself putting my hand up. I know it’s going to be utterly terrifying. I know I’m going to want to kill myself for putting myself in that situation, on the night of the competition. Yet, I put my hand up.

Why?

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Because it’s like I’m in competition with myself: I have to do better than I did last time. Not to come first. But to deliver the whole speech and not to freeze up when I felt so previously stricken.

Yeah, that’s the crux of it: I want to do better than that.

It’s a personal challenge. I’ll let you know how I go.

Which personal challenge are you the most proud of overcoming?

Yvette Carol 2

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I think my securities far outweigh my insecurities. I am not nearly as afraid of myself and my imagination as I used to be. ~ Billy Connolly

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

After rashly deciding to join in with writing pals, Teresa Robeson, and Catherine Johnson, on the Selfie Art Day challenge five months ago, I now find myself part of a regular artistic quest to capture one’s own features. An elusive, multi-fold quest.

After a few experimental shots at different kinds of selfie art portrait with the last few posts, I decided to take a leaf out of Teresa Robeson’s book this time, and pare it back to minimal lines done in pencil.

This whole portrait was done with an HB pencil.

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I like to snatch the main outlines first. I find I always underestimate how big my hair is and make it too close to the head. But, nevertheless, I’m happy if the placement of the facial features and general shapes seem to be in the right places.

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Next, I like to make all the main lines more firm and distinct, so I don’t lose them.

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I’ve messed up the eyes a number of times, and I usually leave them till last. This portrait, I decided to do the eyes first, figuring perhaps I’d be fresher. More able to get the lines right. And to me it’s a definite improvement.

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Here’s my Selfie Art portrait, number five. What do you think?

If you decide to join in on the challenge, make sure you swing by Teresa Robeson’s wordpress blog and tell her about it. She’ll include your links on her regularly updated list. Include the hashtag on your post: #SelfieDay. Have fun!

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That or a kick-arse red lipstick. ~ Gwyneth Paltrow

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 

My grandmother was a fairly formidable creature. Nan Hefferan was the only one of our English relatives who made the move to New Zealand. “And, she made the move at the age of 79!” as my father is fond of saying.

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Gran lived here for the last nine years of her life. For most of that time, I lived five minutes’ walk away. She was the only grandparent I had the privilege of getting to know.

I’ve always revered grandparents, I guess because I grew up far away from mine.

Where my older sisters had grown to the ages of seven and five in England, my brother and I were born here, and our only relationship with our grandparents had come through letters.

In person, Gran lived up to my every hope of what a grandmother would be. She was a truly exceptional, wonderful woman, who had achieved a great deal in her life.

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I enjoyed getting to know her.

Born in 1901, she had lived through the last World War. Her memories were revelations of another era, and therefore, truly fascinating.

We had lunch every week, on a Tuesday, just her and I.

Mostly, she would talk. I would listen to all of the family stories I had never heard before. Through this precious human conduit to our family’s heritage, I gained glimpses of a different life. Gran told of a lost world: that of the past, and all the amazing things that had happened there, to members of our own family, our shared ancestors.

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Being a writer, I had to ask questions. I wanted to know more: what else happened? Why? When? All she needed was a gentle prompt.

She had what they call, a “pre-nuclear age” memory, i.e. she could remember facts, figures, dates, and names with precision.

To my creative mind, her details painted pictures.

Gran was also a great cook. On every visit, there would be some humble, great lunch. Meat pie she’d made herself, right down to the pastry, served with gravy, potatoes, peas and carrots. Or her famous cheese and onion pie, so heavenly, her homemade short savoury pastry crust was divine. She would always make the dessert herself, a cake, or a sponge, or a steamed pudding. There would be custard or cream. And tea served in a teapot on a tray with china tea cups with matching saucers.

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She liked to feed me until I couldn’t eat another bite.

After our delicious lunch, we’d take our tea and shortbreads, or chocolates, over to the comfortable chairs in the living room. There, Gran would start to talk, about her life and the stories of her parents.

She would talk all afternoon, and I would listen.

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I could not leave my grandmother’s home without her saying something significant. It was to me, as if she lived so close to the veil, that any moment could be her last and she lived with that truth. No moment was to be wasted.

After giving her that final hug, I’d walk towards her front door, and Gran would say, “Remember, my dear, reach for that star and you will get there.”

Or,

“Remember, my dear, whatever happens in your life, if you look for the silver lining, you will find it.”

I’d walk home with those parting words. I took that sustaining, empowered, heartening feeling away from every visit.

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I’ll be ever grateful to Gran, for having the courage after her husband died, to move to the other side of the world. She wanted to be with the family for the last part of her life. Our lives were enriched.

This week, I’ll be delivering my tenth speech for Toastmasters. The project title I had to tackle this time round was “Research your Topic.”

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I decided to talk about my grandmother’s contribution to the war effort.

Gran inspires me to be a better person. It does bother me, that all the wonderful things she achieved during WWII boil down to a yellow newspaper clipping, which lives in a drawer at my father’s house. So, part of the theme for my speech, is to bring light to the lack of the female voice in history.

Have you ever asked your mother or your grandmother what she did in her life? The least we can do is to ask the questions and wait for the answers. Our daughters and granddaughters may ask us for the stories one day.

There is so much more to say. Talk to you later.

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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What you do when you don’t have to, determines what you’ll be when you can no longer help it. ~ Rudyard Kipling

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

July 8th. It was the end of the second term and time for our return visit to Grandpa.

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Being winter, I had the car packed with extra bedding, extra warm clothes, and extra everything. We left town at 10 a.m. The boys watched movies on my laptop in the backseat. We were due to meet my father in his favourite coffee shop for lunch, and by the time we neared the turnoff from the highway, we were making good time.

Then, we neared the bottom of the hill, a literal fifteen-minute drive left to Grandpa’s small town.

That was when we saw orange cones across the road ahead of us. Ominously, a council worker stood re-directing traffic.

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“The road’s closed,” said the earnest-looking young Maori man.

“Why?”

“Flooding. No one can get through. There’s been heavy rain and there’s a ‘King tide.’ The tide won’t drop till about 5 p.m.”

“What can we do?”

“Prestcott’s Garage is open. You can go along there and wait with the others, if you want.”

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We opted to go through the barrier, and drive a few hundred yards to the old-timey gas station. It was midday.

We sat waiting in our car, along with about a dozen other similarly-trapped people, stuck in limbo, in the pouring rain.

The laptop then ran out of battery power. The boys started complaining. It was one of those times when you, as the adult, wished there was someone you could complain to!

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We trailed about outside, and were very fortunate that after half an hour, it stopped raining. The kids were able to see it as an adventure then, rather than a punishment.

For the next two and a half hours, we played with a ball, and we took walks around about to look at the flooded fields.

I’d seen the low-lying countryside with lots of big puddles before, but nothing like this. There were cars stuck on the other sides of the roads in all directions, too, we were told. A tree was down across the road, also, for which a special kind of tractor was sent. A car was submerged and a truck had landed in the ditch. A local farmer had had to “teach her heifers to swim.”

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We were wet, cold and tired. Yet, we bided our time and watched the occasional emergency vehicle dash past.

I had spontaneous conversations with all kinds of interesting folk. There was the 95-year-old who had travelled down with his 70-year-old wife, to view a property in the area, and had only been intending a day trip, to travel straight back to the city afterwards. There was a young businessman with neat coiffed hair and immaculately-pressed shirt and slacks, on his way to meet friends. The truck-driver who told me, he would attempt driving through anyway, but he was worried because if he didn’t make it, ‘the insurance won’t cover you if you’ve travelled on a closed road.’ An elderly blue-eyed gentleman blustered, ‘We only just moved here from Auckland. I’m beginning to wish we never had!’

We stood around, talking and commiserating.

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Finally, an authoritative-looking man came from the direction of the flood, and announced, “There’ll be nothing getting through for the next two days. The bridge has moved.”

I phoned dad. He said, “But, couldn’t you come around the long way?” A trip around the top of the Coromandel Peninsula would take another three hours. Yet, we had no choice!

I had never driven the journey in question before, and upon querying others at the station, was told, ‘just follow your nose to the turn off.’ At 3 p.m. we set off back the way we’d come, over the Coromandel Ranges, chased by the pouring rain and howling gale.

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The road lived up to the terrible reputation Kiwi roads have gained overseas. After an hour of hair-raising twists and turns winding up the coast, we headed into the mountains; a route of 25 – 35 km tight twists and turns. This particular trek includes the only “15 km” hairpin bend I’ve ever taken. As the gathering dusk turned to evening, I prayed we would make it to our destination.

Additional to this litany of woes, was the fact I was stuck wearing my dark prescription glasses. My glasses for night time driving were somewhere in amongst our luggage. I was trying to see where the road was going, as it bent and twisted in front of me like a pile of wet spaghetti in the pitch dark!

Another two hours later, we limped into my father’s small town. 6.15 p.m. The first day of our mid-winter break had been an instrument of torture!

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Later, my brother arrived with news the bridge hadn’t moved after all. Someone had gotten the wrong message through to the crowd of us waiting at the garage. 95% of the people waiting had turned around and returned home, while a few of us hardier types had weathered the trip the long way round. Either way, it had been, as a burly blond guy at the scene had said, ‘A bloody mess!’

My father said he was going to talk to the Mayor. The fact that all roads into the Coromandel had been reduced to a single lane for a whole day, and yet, there were no road signs out on the highways, to warn travellers, was “pathetic,” he said. The fact there was no clear authority in charge, once there were holiday goers stuck in limbo, was “hopeless management.” These were serious issues which needed to be addressed by the Mayor and the council, dad said. My thoughts exactly. Bravo!

Thanks, dad. You’re my hero! 

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Talk to you later.

(p.s. The rest of the holiday was great!)

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The hero’s redemption (and ultimate victory) hinges on their transcending their self-concern. And it rarely happens unless the writer brings the hero to the point of despair. ~ PJ Reece

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This Wednesday it was time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! I’m late again, (sorry). It is time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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I spied a funny meme on Facebook this morning, then when I went back to look for it this evening, I couldn’t find it. It had vanished on the ether. If I can paraphrase, the message was this: “Teach a person to read a book, they’ll while away many a happy hour; teach a person to write a book, they’ll spend a lifetime mired in self-doubt.”

A chorus of ‘ain’t that the truth’ comments had poured in. I suspect that we, writers, and creatives, all suffer the same voices of self doubt about our work. I found it rather heartening, to know I’m not alone in my uncertainty.

A friend and fellow Toastmaster, said to me to the other day, “We creative people are sensitive.” This is so true. When our speech or our story gets picked apart, as she said, “we take it personally, because we’re so close to the material.”

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We have to learn how to keep our feet on the ground, when our business is to reach for the stars. A photographer friend, said, we creative people put our heart and soul on the line when we show our work.

This is true. As a writer in the early ‘80’s, I used to stress and sweat it so much over every publisher’s rejection letter. I can remember as an over-dramatic teen feeling as if my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I think it was Leonardo di Caprio who said, ‘With age, comes wisdom.’ Luckily, I’ve learnt a thing or two as I’ve gone along.

What can we do?

Mindfulness. ‘Mindfulness is being deeply aware of what is happening from moment to moment, outside and inside us, without judging or attaching to the content, feelings and emotions that arise. It refers to living deeply and richly in the present moment and not responding to life in a distracted and mechanical manner.’ Dr Yellow Bird.

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World-renowned spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a lovely little book, Peace is Every Step. ‘The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.’ I have a copy of this classic book in my home library and re-read it regularly. The ‘deceptively simple practices of Peace is Every Step encourage the reader to work for peace in the world, as he or she continues to work on sustaining inner peace by turning the “mindless” into the mindful.’

How should one go about Mindfulness?

Dr Yellow Bird recommends, ‘formal mindfulness instruction can benefit anyone who is exposed to chronic stress.’

However, if formal instruction is not your style, Nhat Hanh’s book, Peace is Every Step, gives simple exercises you can do at home, to develop and build our awareness of your own body and mind. You work towards mindfulness through conscious breathing.

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Jordan Bates wrote a great article over on his blog which is another good resource. Check it out! The 14 Mindfulness Teachings of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Zen Buddhist Order

These sorts of relaxation-based techniques really speak to us, the sensitive souls who have to expose their souls in their work, writers, photographers, artists, etc.

I find mindfulness and meditation help keep me balanced in my middle age. And I feel they enhance my writing. I like to see that research is currently being done and they are discovering a basis for the reputed health benefits of meditative practices. I know they work for me.

How about you? What have you found that works for you to battle the self-doubt?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Friendship redoubleth joys and cutteth griefs in halves.  For there is no man that imparteth his joys to his friend, but he joyeth the more, and no man that imparteth his griefs to his friend, but he grieveth the less.”  Francis Bacon

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‘Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think.’ ~ Brené Brown

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A year ago, I lived with a debilitating fear of public speaking. In other words, I was paralyzed by the fear ‘of what other people think.’

Yet, two weeks ago, I delivered my ninth speech, ‘The Phoenix,’ at Toastmasters. I achieved something I thought impossible, through the help of my local Toastmasters club. I thought, yes, I’m doing so great. I can memorize a whole ten minute speech. I can get up on stage without falling flat. Yes! I’ve made it. Uh, no. You haven’t. Why? Because there’s always more to learn.

Part of the Toastmasters leadership program is the “CRC” system, or “Commend, Recommend, Commend,” by way of oral and written evaluation. My evaluator’s “recommendation” after watching, ‘The Phoenix,’ was that I looked like I’d rehearsed to a mirror and had simply written and learnt a speech by rote. I needed to learn how to connect with the audience.

5 Speeches Award, 2016

I’d never thought about it that way before.

My sister sent me a bunch of links for incredible talks on the TED channel. I could see the difference and began to understand what the next level of speaking could look like. My evaluator was absolutely right.

I realized I had bumped up against another of my own self-made limitations.

At our club’s 20th anniversary celebration the other day, founding member, Bruce Powell, gave a speech about the formation of the club. He told us stories, like the one about the girl who, upon hearing the “recommendations” of her evaluator, burst into tears and ran out of the room, never to return. Or the one, about the aspiring politician who joined our club, he later became elected to parliament.

Swearing in on the committee

It’s true. Even on a good day, the “recommendation” part of the process can be hard to stomach. I had worked so hard on my speech, and when I got my evaluation it felt as if he burst my balloon. Yet, sometimes, a bit of balloon-popping is just what we need. You can either run from it and stay the same, or you embrace it and grow.

It’s good to prune the ego sometimes, to go, ‘hey, I’m not always right.’ That’s a stable, balanced way to go through life.

It’s wise to cultivate within ourselves, the ability to say we’re wrong. Not to just to pay lip service to a nice idea, but to really then put in the work as well, to make change.

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At the moment, I’m taking a free writing class, Story Fundamentals, with Daniel Jose Older. The brief for our writing assignment was given during the video presentation, and then, we were to post our efforts in the online classroom. There, our beloved, sweated-over prose would hang out in the public forum, waiting for “likes” and/or “comments.”

The assignment was to write a short story. My least favourite form of fiction. My taste lends itself to the epic form, I like to sink my teeth into a meaty book or writing project. I’d also traditionally shied away from writing short story, believing I wouldn’t do it justice.

But, sometimes, I think when we have an instant, “no, I can’t do that” reaction, this can be a pointer, a sign-post to a hidden limitation we’ve held about ourselves.

My dear friend, writer and artist, Steve Attkisson, said, ‘Someone told me that the stuff you try to avoid makes for the most powerful literature.’

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I decided to go boldly forth and tackle this assignment, regardless of whether I wanted to or not. I sweated over my short story, ‘Birdma, she Taniwha’ for two days and posted it. I’ve returned and edited the story every day this week. Still no likes, no comments. Sigh! Yet, despite the lack of response, I still feel good. Victorious, even. Because this story represents yet another hurdle I’ve overcome. Another thing I said I couldn’t do.

These personal milestones are what we live for. Or they should be. Because, it’s in proving to ourselves first that we are worthy that we disengage from that old fear of ‘what other people think.’

It starts to become more important what we think of ourselves.

Fear is a Gift

Some of our self-made armour comes off with each limitation we overcome. Is it frightening? Yes. L. Frank Baum once said, ‘The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.’ Even a single display of bravery towards oneself carries rewards, and brings more courage. We grow incrementally. We start to build our first real foundations of self-confidence. Know thyself. Healer, heal thyself.

If you think of the opening statement, by Brené Brown, that our armour was keeping us from really living into our gifts, then we’d imagine that by releasing some, and putting ourselves out there, we start to achieve things. We can connect with an audience. We can write a short story.We can get elected to parliament. We gain the forward positive momentum we want in our lives.

Just think of all the unexplored adventures ahead! What do you want to achieve?

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See you in the funny papers!

YC

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Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.  ~ William S. Burroughs

The hero’s redemption (and ultimate victory) hinges on their transcending their self-concern. ~ PJ Reece

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