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My brother and I decided to start the school holidays with a working bee. We made our first “boys trip” to mums and dads home by the sea since our father died.

I wanted to continue the tradition we had set up years ago, of taking our sons to the family homestead and spending time together during each school holidays. Back then, of course, the family vacays had been primarily for us to gather the boys around their grandfather in a regular fashion. However, after dad died in February, my brother was ready to abandon the holiday get-together – so much so, that we didn’t meet up there in the last school break. My kids and I really missed it.

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These family sabbaticals are essential, to my way of thinking. Otherwise, we see one another briefly a few times a year for birthdays and other celebrations. It’s not long enough to keep the fabric of our familial relationships alive and breathing. The internet is great and all very well. But, a true actual connection with your people comes through face-to-face conversations and spending time together.

I said, ‘I would like to continue the “boys’ trips” for as long as our teenagers want to go.’ My brother agreed, and we met in mums and dads quaint wood cabin on the first day of the holidays.

IMG_2957Unfortunately, without our parents there to maintain the place, when we drive up, it’s to a wild wonderland of weeds and overgrown paths. We’re also still reclaiming the land from the wilderness which had begun to overtake the gardens in the last few years of dad’s life. Upon every stay there now, we are reminded of how much work there is to be done.

The flat downstairs has been successfully renovated for renting out. The upstairs doesn’t need anything doing inside. It’s the house exterior and the grounds that need drastic elbow grease applied. Therefore, every trip is a working bee, by extension.

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We classed our stay at Grandpa’s as the ‘fifth working bee,’ and while we were there, we took three trailers of rubbish to the dump, marking the 23rd trip made to release our parents’ plethora of stuff.

Although the kids helped at times, mostly they wanted to have fun. Left to their own devices, they reverted to teenage things: like trekking down to the reserve to play ball, or lying around playing cards, and even tried their hands at cooking. They got to play cards with us in the evenings and watch movies lying on mattresses pulled before the fire.

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We didn’t trek up to the peak of the mountain, we didn’t go to the beach or the golf course, nor did we catch any fish. We worked hard on the family property, made meals together, and got to hang out in each other’s company for four days. And it was wonderful.

The best memories in life are made of such simple shared times as these.

It was such a delight to be in the fresh air of the seaside. It was such a pleasure to have an open fire, which we left burning all day on the really cold days, and it was satisfying to see the neglected areas come to life with a bit of TLC.

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We aim to slowly do the clean up and improvements on the house exterior, as well as to make the gardens low-maintenance, except for the veggie gardens, which we’ll hopefully keep going. We need to repaint, and to redo the steps and the ramp.

There is a huge amount to be done. But, nothing is daunting when you have a team alongside and you do each stint together. Every day, we moved mountains of rubbish and cleared whole areas of weeds. I made big pots of food each night and we feasted as only those who are truly hungry can. You’re exhausted and replete and sleep well.

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I particularly enjoy the conversations in the car. On this trip, my young nephew, who sat shotgun, was able to whip out his phone and check messages sometimes. But, the rest of the journey, we were stuck together with nothing to do but talk. You get to cover a broad spectrum of topics and catch up on everything. You can’t wander away and make food. You can’t read. Your attention is focused on what is being said. Car-bound conversations are some of the best I’ve ever had.

We finished our break by plotting the next one! We know it’ll be more blood, sweat and tears and, yet, we can’t wait.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts. ~ Author Unknown

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It’s time for this month’s group posting with 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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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

That’s a brilliant question because it really made me sit back and think. My goals have changed a lot. When I started penning kids’ fiction as a seventeen-year-old, I was far removed from the reality of being an author.

Believe it or not, when I started out, personal computers were not yet a thing. Although some people had them, no one I knew owned one. And the internet was just a twinkle in the eye of a brainiac, somewhere. I spent the first decade writing the good old fashioned way, with a pen and paper. I was a teenager, starting out in the 1980’s, just following the thread of what interested me in terms of subject matter and genre.

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I worked a string of other jobs and often second jobs as well. Writing stories was what I did in my spare time, and it still is.

When I started out at seventeen, I wasn’t thinking of publication. I was impelled to share my creativity through children’s stories, so I followed it. It took me another ten years to start submitting to publishers. My ultimate writing goal at the age of twenty-seven was simple, to get published and make money.

I have an old book of ‘Intentions,’ which I write up each year like resolutions. I discovered that by the age of thirty my ultimate writing goal had morphed into: “I want my books to be a huge success like Harry Potter.”

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Wow, I sure didn’t aim low in those days. I was quite surprised by the audacity of my intention.

I admit I’ve reduced my ultimate writing goals as I’ve gone along. Which I think boils down to figuring out what you really want to do with your time. As you grow older, time becomes more precious. The entry for 2017 reads: I raise people’s awareness and bring joy, inspire and make people feel better through the power of story.

And with age, you get more realistic. I might not be the next J. K. Rowling.

These days, I’m a stay-at-home mum and caregiver to my thirteen-year-old and my middle son who has Downs’ syndrome. I write part-time. I have two stories published and two books which I self published. My wish list these days tends to focus on more meaningful things like wanting joy, and a sense of fulfilment.

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These days my ultimate writing goal is to write more of what I love.  However, the series I’m writing is anthropomorphic fantasy fiction about insects. It gets some strange reactions at times.

I’ll never forget the response of one assessor to my book,  The Or’in of Tane Mahuta. She said, “Great story, but lose the insects!” I couldn’t lose the insects, they were an integral part of the machine of the story.

One day, I will move on to new fields in fiction. For now, I want to see this series out and do the best I possibly can.

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One of the authors I like is Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels. He’s a real storyteller. Asked to give a tip recently for writers, he said, “Ignore all the tips. It’s got to be 100% your own product. As soon as you start thinking about what you should do, there’s a compromise and the spark goes. You’ve got to do what you want to do.”

Child really gets it. He’s talking about listening to the gut and the heart of the story. I love it. I’m ignoring all the tips. It’s 100% my anthropomorphic fantasy fiction about insects. If I want little critters creeping and flying and turning into human hybrids, I must write them. You’ve got to do what you want to do, right?

I wonder what my intention for 2019 will be? I think it’s going to be something along the lines of ‘I just want to be myself and enjoy the process!’

What about you? What are your Ultimate Writing Goals for 2018? Have you met them yet?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom. ~ J. G. Ballard

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On Wednesday, the thirteen-year-old had done his chores without being asked and was ready to bike to school by 7.30 a.m. I commented on this radical departure from the way he normally has to be asked to do everything and leaves for school with two minutes to spare. He said, “I’m more mature. I’m a teenager now.”

I was enchanted. I hugged him and told him how much promise he has as a young man coming up in the world, how much he has to offer.

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On Thursday, I had to nag him to do every single chore and he was running late again. I asked him what had happened. He said, “I’m not a teen anymore, I’m just a kid again.”

“Why?”

“Because being a teen is boring! You just have to do more work.”

I had to laugh. Good luck on the Peter Pan wish, kid.

I think of my new teen like a reptile that has outgrown his skin without fully inhabiting the new one. He’s a little bit stuck betwixt and between. He’s not grown up enough or confident enough to be a full teenager, yet neither is he a tween any longer.

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His friends are just as important as ever, that’s one thing that’s remained a constant. He’s taking his first tentative, teetering steps into crushing on a friend. The social activity, his teacher reports, is increasing. Break times at school, which used to be all about sport, are now more often about socializing.

He’s a shape-shifter. Daily, the youngest son’s interests and appearance change. He veers from dependable, docile and close by, to unpredictable mood swings and long sessions whispering into his cell phone in the bedroom closet. The growth he is doing now is unparalleled; he’s morphing into new skins. The rounded cheeks are no more. They belong to yesteryear. I realize his voice isn’t as high pitched. He’s sneaking up on my eye-level.

I miss the days of my youngest son being a “tween” though. It was a lot quieter around here then. He’s gone to visit a friend, it’s been half an hour since he left, and yet, my head is still ringing.

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Bored with Fortnite, he’s back to playing roblox on his computer which means he is stationed on the kitchen counter, the only available spot left for a computer at this end of the house. The games make noises; like blaring sirens and bells ringing, and then the son himself is talking to the friend he’s playing the game with via his mobile phone. So, I hear the friend’s chatter and my son’s. I can deal with this. It’s all normal teen stuff. However, as the game goes on, his voice tends to take off for the stratosphere like a supersonic jet.

The youngest son doesn’t have to be situated in the kitchen, but I’ve watched enough Oprah shows to know that kids taking computers into their bedrooms is never a good idea.

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And, while the incessant chatter that goes on after school between he and his friends is annoying, I’d rather that than not be privy to what they’re talking about or getting up to.

Nevertheless, after the kids have gone to bed each evening, I feel like my head has been freed from the inside of a bell.

At least with Fortnite, the son played it in the living room. I never thought I’d be suggesting to my youngest that he might like to play Xbox, but I have done so. A number of times. However, he’s not buying what I’m selling. Fortnite is so last month. Of course, the key factor is that all his friends have returned to Roblox. Kids flock together. It looks like I’m stuck with him in the kitchen drowning out all other sounds for miles around. I’m thinking of buying sound cancelling earmuffs.

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Perhaps the earmuffs might also help me withstand what he himself has called “verbal diarrhoea.” He’s at the stage of having a lot to say. He talks a lot when he’s not gaming, texting or on a phone call, practising his drumming, or eating. Once he starts to talk he just keeps going. He doesn’t need me to say anything, just listen.

All he needs is for mama to set the framework, hold the course, to give him someone to bounce things off. And, to keep the food coming, of course!

It’s nothing a good pair of earmuffs and a regular sabbatical won’t heal. What about you, how are you surviving the teen years?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them. ~ Magic Johnson

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When did I know I was going to become a grandmother? Nine months ago, my eldest son sent me a simple text. “Guess who’s going to be a grandma?” it was like time stood still. In reality, it was twenty-eight years ago, when my blond haired boy of eight used to draw pictures of his ‘house, wife and three children,’ that he first told me I would one day be a grandmother.

When I was little, I used to draw fairies, animals and so on. I don’t recall ever thinking ahead about my future, or the family I might have one day. When my eldest was little, he drew his own home and family and even his dog, it’s something he’s wanted ever since he was a young boy.

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Maybe it was because I was a teen mom, and his father and I were separated by the time he was one and a half years old? Maybe he wanted to give his kids the family environment he’d wanted for himself?

Maybe it was just his personality.

As a teenager, my first born gained a reputation for being good with kids. At the parties for the youngest in the family, he could always be relied upon to be outside, looking after the gaggle of kids on the trampoline, or wherever they were. He has that open fun sort of personality that little kids adore.

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In my mind, I have always seen him as a father-to-be, no doubt. So, it really surprised me when a few years ago, he said he wasn’t sure if he would ever have kids.

Meeting the right partner changed things, however. He and his girlfriend got engaged last year, and, I was delighted to hear they were expecting a baby.

I wasn’t so sure how I felt about being called “Grandma,” though. Frankly, it made me feel old. Grandmother? Me? I could’ve sworn I was still a young person with places to go and things to do. No, I thought, I don’t like the thought of being called “Grandma,” I’ll have to use Nana, or Nan, or Gan-gan, or Gigi, or Meemaw.

The nine months sped by.

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Then, on the 17th June, my first granddaughter, Sienna Bella, was born  at 2.51 in the afternoon, weighing in at a healthy 3. 30 kg.

We went to meet her the following day. As soon as I laid eyes on her my heart melted. I saw my son holding his daughter in his arms and the happiness was indescribable. You hear people talk about how wonderful it is to become a grandparent, and yet, you never really know what it is until you experience something for yourself.

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I can say all my anxiety about getting old, about time passing quickly, and so on and so forth, just faded away in the face of the magnificence of this new life. This daughter, this granddaughter, who is now the spear of this family. This girl will carry the blood and genes of our family forward into the future. I felt myself and my silly worries about weight and wrinkles fade into insignificance before this newborn, the first born of my first born. It was a moment of sheer bliss, only equalled by the birth of my own children.

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To be clear, I had expected it to be lovely, of course. Babies are powerful. Most people love to be around babies. They remind us of the time before words and thoughts and worries, when we, too, were fresh from the netherworld. To be around a newborn and look at their perfection is like being refreshed.

However, meeting my first grandchild was better than lovely. It was a moment I’ll never forget. I felt instantly connected to her. Instantly moved by a desire to guide and protect.

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It is a pure love I feel as the paternal grandmother and the nectar is extraordinarily sweet. I have this feeling inside like “I can’t wait to see her again!”

I went to Toastmasters a few days after her birth. My friends at the meeting greeted me with, “Congratulations, Grandma!”

I said, “Yes!” and struck a crazy pose!

I tell you, I embrace the word, “Grandma.” In fact, I’m over the moon about it.

Welcome Sienna Bella to the world and to our family. Another phase in life begins.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings

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I totally missed this month’s group posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! I temporarily was without a phone service for one very frustrating week. No phone, no WordPress password, no blog post. However, I thought the “Question of the Month” for June was particularly interesting so I’m going to post my answer anyway.

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names? 

I find both equally as hard. I would say the only time in the last thirty-five years that a book title came easily was The Sasori Empire. It’s Book Two in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series I’m currently working on. How did I come up with it? Sasori is Japanese for scorpion. The baddie of the series is a scorpion shapeshifter, and the title for his association needed an epic name. This led me in a very organic way to the Sasori Empire for the bad guys. Straight away, I knew it would make a great book title, too. Still, to this day, it is the favourite of all my story titles.

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The character name which came the most easily was Sun, the child slave who enters the story in Book Two. Her name was just ‘there,’ fully formed straight away. I didn’t have to effort or chase, or change it five times in writing the prose. “Sun” is like a haiku. It’s short and quintessentially her. It’s one of my favourite character names for its simplicity.

To me, naming your pieces is important. It’s part of the ritual, of drawing inspiration out of the ether and giving it form.

And it’s a significant step in writing the true story which wants to be written. If the name of a character or a story does not ring true for me as the reader, I’m turned away. And the same happens for me as the writer. I can’t get to know and understand my characters, and therefore do them justice, without their real names.

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My current series evolved out of picture books I wrote and illustrated twenty years ago. Names which were appropriate for pre-schoolers were not appropriate for upper middle grade readers, so they needed to be changed.

It took me a year to get them right. I changed the side-kick’s name three times and yet, I still wasn’t happy. Then, I heard my sister-in-law say, that she’d always thought if she had a baby girl she’d call her Te Maia. I loved the name immediately. When I paired it with the surname I already had, Te Maia Wilde, a feisty sidekick was born.

I find the protagonist’s name much harder to choose, because there’s so much riding on it. A main character’s name has to hit it out of the ball park. It has to be easy to say and easy to remember. It has to paint a picture in as few words as possible. Can you imagine Star Wars without Luke Skywalker? Or The Hobbit without Bilbo Baggins? Or The Hunger Games without Katniss Everdeen? These are solid names to hang a heart on.

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With my current protagonist, I couldn’t get anything to fit. He needed a strong, stable name with potential hero in it. I tried Franklin, Benjamin, Sage, and many more monikers. Nothing ‘felt’ like the kid I knew so well in my head. He needed depiction through his name, but no matter how I chased, it remained elusive. Like the white stag in the distance, I could glimpse the form but never catch up.

It required patience. Staying the course.

Four years after starting the rewrite, I happened to read a blog about the success of the Harry Potter series. One of the important factors in the success, so the journalist proposed, was the fact that the hero’s name was ‘relatable.’ The name Potter is taken from those who used to make their humble living in days gone by sculpting clay, and people responded to that sense of familiarity, so he surmised.

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I thought about this, and considered the different professions which were common to most societies and times, and the name “Weaver” popped into my head. I had the surname.

The first name came much later, from a project my youngest was involved in at school, and one of the boys listed in his class was called Aden. I paired this with Weaver in my head. And, I finally had my protagonist. We could sail!

These days, I keep notebooks and jot down great words and names so I have plenty on file. It’s still torture though.

How about you?

How do you figure out your names and titles?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”~ Stevie Wonder

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“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”~ Maya Angelou

This famous saying is one of those truisms that seems well said when we hear them as young people, yet sinks in deeper and deeper the older we get, the more we realize the profound truth.

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Today marked a certain milestone.

My youngest son turned thirteen. He boldly crossed the threshold to teenager. To commemorate, I gifted him his grandfather’s razor. Though he isn’t shaving yet, he soon will be. The razor is good quality and with continued care will last him for years. I know the gift hit the spot because he examined the razor minutely, popped open the lid and looked inside. He had to plug it in and turn it on. As he navigates these wild waters of his teenage years, I want him to feel supported and to feel loved.

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I’m glad he liked his gift, and I’ll freely admit I’m relieved he’s not using the razor, yet. He might be jumping with giddy glee from milestone to milestone, but, poor mama back here needs to sit down a minute and get her breath. We’re at the stage now where his childhood is hurtling by so fast it’s giving me whiplash.

Today also happened to mark another important milestone.

It was the day my beloved “adopted grandfather” Bruce left Toastmasters. He retired after having been in the speakers’ association for twenty-six years, much to the chagrin of all present, especially me.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t know either of my grandfathers. Both sets of my grandparents lived in England. As a consequence, my entire life, I’ve idolised grandfathers and that patriarchal figure in the family.

In my writing, the grandfather figure always plays a key role. In the series I’m working on at present, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, the first book starts off with Aden’s conflicted relationship with his ‘Papa Joe.’ It ends in the third book, which I’m writing at present, The Last Tree, with Aden now the grandparent telling his grandchildren a bedtime story.

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My maternal grandparents, Evelyn and Alfred Leonard

To me, that is the penultimate circle of life, when you have the child and the elder present in a story. I may have never met my own grandfathers, however, I can indulge in the experiences I missed out on by vicariously living through my characters, and I must say it is very soothing and healing to do so. I thoroughly recommend it.

Spending time around my “adopted grandfather,” Bruce, has been a real tonic these last few years, also. I’ve enjoyed our friendship. Meeting him at Toastmasters each week has been a hoot.

On that day, nearly four years ago, when I dared try Toastmasters, I went along sceptical and highly self-conscious and absolutely terrified at the idea of tackling my all-time biggest fear, public speaking. I made myself go by assuring myself I didn’t have to join; I was just ‘going to have a look.’

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When I arrived, I saw two silver haired gentleman standing talking outside talking. Bruce shook my hand and welcomed me warmly.

I felt an instant gravitational pull towards this venerable elder. I sat next to him for the rest of the meeting, and Bruce brightly asked questions about me at every opportunity. He said he was 96-years-old, a war veteran. He had recovered to sprightly good health after having both knees replaced at the tender age of 90. I had made a friend.

Needless to say, I joined the club.

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After the nerve-wracked, heart-thumping, knee-knocking experience of delivering my first speech, I walked to the back of the room and Bruce stood there, clapping.

He said, “Congratulations, my dear! You’ve been blooded.”

It was something only a patriarch would say, and I loved him for it.

For the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to be guided by him through many of my speech projects. At Bruce’s farewell party today, held not four days out from his 100th birthday, our club said heartfelt goodbyes.

I gave a one minute speech and said, “Everyone asks Bruce, ‘what’s the secret of your longevity?’ It’s not vegetarianism. He makes every single person he meets feel special. For that reason, everyone he meets loves him. Bruce is surrounded by love everywhere he goes. That’s the real secret to his youth.”

Which brings us neatly back to where we started. How will you be remembered? By the way you made people feel.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”~ Malala Yousafzai

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The “tween” morphs before my eyes. This weekend, he celebrates turning thirteen (ominous bells toll somewhere!) Wasn’t he a baby a moment ago?

He’s taking that step over the threshold, from hovering ‘between child and teenager,’ into official teenagedom.

We’ve been feeling the rumblings of the fiery belly within the volcano for a few months now. I’ve referred to my youngest son’s tween years in previous posts, by likening our household to being the wary villagers living on the slopes of an active volcano. Rumbles like meltdowns and unexplained grumpiness accompany bouts of joyous abandon on a daily basis.

The “tween” morphs before my eyes. His second year of intermediate school is much more social and about friendships and social groups. You never let your friends down, so he tells me. He’s spending more time on his phone. I had to request he put his mobile down for the entire drive we took in the car today, so that we could have a conversation.

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The first year at Intermediate school, he spent an hour or so gaming in the evenings, but it was on his computer, mostly playing games like Roblox and Minecraft, which he did for the most part alone.

This year, every night after dinner’s eaten, homework and drum practise are done and all the chores are finished, the youngest son plays Fortnite. There are alternate explosions henceforth, of giddy dances of triumph, and bursts of molten lava bearing anger and frustration down the slopes, either killing or scaring the daylights out of the poor, unsuspecting villagers.

What weaves these explosions of energy together is a lot of enthusiastic boy talk as he and his friends discuss their game. I watch sometimes from the kitchen while I’m making dinner. Their continuous conversation is punctuated with “Bro” “Bruh” “Yo” “Rip” “and “tight.” Every aspect of the previous game and the kills they made has to be discussed before they can start again.

The son does play solo quests sometimes but, they seem very sad affairs. No, Fortnite is all about the squads, and the way the groups of kids get to hang out together in virtual reality and play war games to their hearts’ content.

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In our house, Fortnite is played through the Xbox on the big screen of the tv, and the youngest son can talk to his friends as they play. This sort of enlarged experience is all part of the more hyped up version of himself he is at present. His voice rises in pitch more often, and he sometimes collapses to a bed mortally wounded by something I’ve said. Apparently, I don’t understand where he’s coming from, even though on the other hand I’m ‘the only one he can tell everything to.’ I tell you, it’s turbulent times in the village. We look up at the black smoke wisping from the peak across the sky.

What else is to come?

The “tween” morphs before my eyes.

There’s no change in the tone of voice yet, he can still reach a high note I can only dream of.

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Another thing that hasn’t changed is the sweetness. The innocence is still there, thankfully. I delight in the purity I still see in him.

And, he retains a need to discuss everything with me. I’m a “touchstone” for now. I remember though, with horror, the terrible creature I morphed into at the age of fifteen. I shudder to think of that happening to my youngest son. He has such a beautiful heart. So far, he hasn’t changed from the usual earnest, sensitive spirit he always was.

However, his appearance is slowly dramatically changing. He doesn’t look like my baby anymore.

All of a sudden, he’s sprouted literal inches overnight.

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I swear. I looked at him tonight and he’s taller than he was yesterday! I felt like someone had taken my child away and replaced him with a much bigger version, and I wanted the smaller one back. His face looks different, the cheeks no longer chubby. Can people really grow that fast? I’ve heard it said that the body releases so many growth hormones, that it does more growing in adolescence than at any other time in our life.

The youngest son’s only just started shooting upwards.

Tonight, he and I looked at one another from his new elevation, and he said, “Imagine when I’m looking down on you.” I said, “Let’s not imagine that, yet.”

Did you ever see the play, ‘Stop the world, I want to get off?’ I did, and that’s how I’ve been feeling lately, with my newly minted teen. Any advice would be welcome!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth. ~ Peter Ustinov

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My status update on Facebook of a week or so ago asked whether sleep deprivation was ever used as a form of torture. It was an earnest question. Because having experienced insomnia brought on by menopause in the last four years; I have come to realize how important sleep is to my well being.

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Getting enough hours of shuteye each night is essential to my health, and to my mental health and emotional wellness.

I’ve noticed myself getting annoyed with people out in public, I have little mini road rages in my car, and I don’t give way with a smile as often. I’ve done stupid things like putting the phone in the fridge, and the milk in the freezer, and I’ve forgotten appointments.

This has made me aware that for me to have a sunny attitude and happy interchanges with people, I require a certain topping up of the tank. When there are only a few hours sleep under the belt, the tank’s at half full.

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They say most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.

Women need twenty minutes more than men, and once they’re awake generally find it harder to fall back to sleep than men.

In the last four years, I’ve been finding it more difficult to fall asleep again if I’m disturbed in the night. I’m still raising my two younger boys, and sometimes, they wake up, needing me for some reason. The end result: I’m sometimes getting through my days on three to four hours sleep.

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Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post  says women aren’t getting enough sleep and once famously called sleep ‘a feminist issue.’ I see her point. I do find everything harder to do on less sleep, let alone attaining my “full potential.”

Instead of relishing the day, I’m battling the day. I can’t get ahead or enjoy the moment.

My grandmother, rest her soul, only ever slept three hours a night. When I asked her why, she said she’d done so her whole adult life. She didn’t need more than that. Me, I need a good nine hours a night to be at my best.

They say that sleeping a whole seven hours at a stretch is a relatively modern innovation, and that in the past, people usually slept two or three hours, got up for a spell and then went back to bed. This was one of the suggestions I heard, to get up and do something relaxing in a low light, like yoga or meditation, before returning to bed.

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It’s about training the mind and memory to attach wakefulness to other areas of the house, and to associate restfulness with the bedroom.

The last four years have been a bit of a struggle, as I’ve been barely functioning on auto-pilot each day, after sleeping a few hours.

I had to look into different things I could do to assist me on the path back to the land of the sandman.

The first thing I did was go to see a medical herbalist. The herbal tinctures she prescribed were instantly effective, and wonderfully natural and non-toxic yet, the price, exorbitant. After a few successful months, I realized the budget couldn’t sustain the price of the tinctures, so I quit. I had to do what I could at home to help myself get the Z’s.

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It’s all still a matter of trial and error, but at least here’s somewhere to start.

*Top Tips for Better Sleep*

*Take regular exercise each day, aerobic and weight training can cut down the number of times you wake in the night

*Carbs for dinner give the body a peak in the levels of insulin which helps you to nod off

*Try to establish a routine bedtime, as the body can set a pattern for unwinding at that time

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*Switch off all sources of light in the room, the darker the better for production of adequate levels of melatonin, the hormone that helps us stay asleep

* Play slow soft music; it’s been found that music with a rhythmic rate of around 60 bpm syncs with the resting heart rate

* Meditation or relaxation/breathing exercises prior to bedtime help release the stress of the day and detach from the dramas

I’ve learned the hard way to make sleep a priority. How about you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before. ~ Albert Einstein

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**with ref: the special report, Are you getting enough sleep, by Alex Davies

012 (16)What a week! There is this thing kids with special needs do sometimes, which myself and friends who have special kids like to call, “running with Diablo.” It refers to those inexplicable times that come around with cyclical regularity, when our kids go off the rails for a short time.

Overnight, they go from sweet and obliging to fickle and resisting.

I’m not sure what sets Sam-the-man off. Our fifteen-year-old with Downs’ syndrome will periodically become impossible to deal with. What causes it? I’m not sure.

It never lasts more than a few days, yet while it’s here, he can cause merry havoc.

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Sam’s been running with Diablo this week. Yesterday, his teacher rang to say he’s not listening to any of the teachers in class. The day before, the taxi driver had to move him to the back seat, because Sam kept taking his shoes off and putting them in her face as she was driving. On Tuesday, my neighbour came to tell me Sam was in his school uniform lying on the grass verge. We ran down and there he was. He must have gotten off the taxi outside our house, as usual, but instead of walking up the drive to the house, he’d walked along the street and lain face down on the grass verge. Luckily he was unhurt. I thanked my neighbour and brought him inside, thanking our lucky stars as well.

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The rest of the time, Sam’s a model child! He will do everything he’s asked. He knows his daily routines, though he still needs a parent there to keep him on task. He can do everything for himself with guidance. It’s taken a lot of work and patience over the years to get him to this level of independence, but we’re here and so proud of his progress.

Sam’s doing really well in school and in general. He’ll happily sit and do his homework for an hour with his carer supporter in the evening. He’ll do anything he’s asked with a smile on his face that melts your heart.

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Then overnight, Sam is the exact opposite, he won’t do a thing I say, and he won’t go along with a single thing the family is doing. He plonks himself down and refuses to move. It’s like a switch is flipped. I talk to him a lot at these times, to explain why he has to do a thing. If he hears enough that makes sense to him, he’ll cooperate.

Next week, I’m attending another child behaviour workshop run by Sam’s school. A special needs mum needs tools in her kit!

The best tip I ever heard was “Distraction! Distraction! Distraction!” and it’s the parental trick I use with Sam most often.

They say the mental health of someone with Downs’ syndrome is five years younger than their physical age. Therefore, Sam is mentally around ten.

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When his behaviour derails, and he’s sitting on the floor refusing to get up and walk to the taxi, I divert his attention, “Oh, did you see that bird?” “Did I tell you about the thing we’re doing this weekend? Come on, get your shoes on and I’ll tell you.”

And the second best tip would be momentum. Once you’ve got them moving in the direction you want them to go/doing what you want them to do, KEEP GOING, do not stop!

Momentum is your friend.

A friend asked, “How do you cope?” Some days are harder than others.

Sam-the-man tests me sometimes to be more resourceful, and he keeps all of us on our toes. There are times when he’s locked us out of the house, or taken something important, like the remote for the garage or a personal device or car keys, and hidden them.

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We’ve lost many tv remotes and devices over the years that the phenomena even has a name, we call it a “Sammy special.”

The fact is it’s not easy, and as a parent I am tired a lot of the time.

I’m not sure whether his cyclical bad behaviour is a childhood thing he will grow out of or not. I remember my father asked me a couple of Christmases ago, “How much do you think Sam will grow up?” And I said, “I don’t know.” That’s the thing. The future is unknown. We’ll find out when we get there, I guess.

Meantime life is never boring, and I wouldn’t trade Sam for all the money in the world.

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with open eyes. ~ Nehru

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It’s 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.

Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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I’m reminding myself the “IWSG Day Question” is optional. This week I wanted to write about something which has been on my mind lately re my writing. And that is, the transformational power of a good critique group.

It was writer John_Yeoman who said, ‘There are no great writers, only great editors.’ Everyone writes a rough first draft. Our work has to be edited until we’re blind. And then we need a second pair of eyes to look at it, and to look at other people’s stories as well, to refresh the mental palate. I remember when I first joined kiwiwrite4kidz, in 2004. One of the organisers and authors, Maria Gill, said, the best advice she could give me was that I should join a critique group.

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I ran scared from that advice, in truth, for years. I had been tinkering on children’s stories in my spare time. I’d been quietly attending workshops and conferences, stalking the literary scene. I preferred being on the outside looking in. An introvert and a loner, I also didn’t feel ready to share my work. I was scared it wasn’t good enough.

Who was I to say I was a writer, and could bump shoulders with other literati?

It was an intimidating process, at first. It took me a long time to get past the initial stage of paralysis. Years later, I tried an in-person critique group. I was so awkward and self conscious and uncomfortable in those social situations, that I felt it simply wasn’t for me.

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I started the online group ‘Writing for Children’ in 2014, on the awesome Kristen Lamb’s Wanatribe site. I met other writers there, and quite naturally, I began swapping chapters with one of the writers, the wonderful Maria Cisneros-Toth, for critique. It was the first time I had shown the upper middle grade story I’d been working on, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, to anyone.

It was my first real experience of a ‘critique group’ situation, where you’re submitting your chapters each week and getting feedback to work on, and simultaneously reading another person’s chapters and giving feedback on them. It revolutionised my work.

My book began its transformational journey from seed to plant.

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After that, I joined the group, The Magnificent Five, and The Creative Collective, and last year formed another ‘group of two,’ The Two Amigos.

Through that time, I finished and published the Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and edited and published the second volume, The Sasori Empire.

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This year, I’m working on my third book, The Last Tree, with a group I call ‘The Gang of Four,’ (because I like the band!). Four is an effective working number to my mind, because you get a broad range of feedback and yet, there’s still a manageable work load. With two kids still at home, I have to be careful how I manage my time.

It does take energy and commitment, yet it’s worth every minute because critique stimulates and prospers the work and the authors. You get instant insight as to whether an idea has worked, whether your story is making sense and where more or less is needed.

Critique groups provide a fertile laboratory for testing our creativity.

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Sometimes you’re too close to the story to recognize the issues for yourself. One of the things that never fails to amaze me, is that I can see clearly the things which need changing in someone else’s work far more easily than I can in my own. Why is that?

I don’t know.

This give-and-take process of feedback creates a positive force that generates evolution in the work.

We may not love our stories when we first write them, but it’s how we feel about them at the end that counts. And a good critique circle can facilitate great work.

What about you? Have you found yourself a writing critique group, yet?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” ~ Stephen King

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