Archive for the ‘Birthdays’ Category

Having just returned from the first half of our school holiday break, we can report that Grandpa is doing well. We drove down there, having heard he had ‘a sniffle and a cough.’ The constant worry about my father went into overdrive. I was thinking, he hasn’t recovered from double pneumonia long enough to get sick again.

In reality, he has a bit of a drippy nose and does cough now and then. Apart from that, dad seems completely healthy and well and normal. 85-year-old normal though. He is, after all, a year older now. We celebrated his birthday while he was in hospital and at death’s door.

Since released a couple of months ago, dad has been noticeably quieter, slower, and less inclined to search for the right answer in the crossword.

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Yet, that hasn’t stopped him getting back into bowls and all the other clubs he belongs to, as well as going to church twice a week. Dad drives himself everywhere, even over the mountains to buy groceries once a fortnight. My brother and I relaxed a little. The whole family has been checking on visiting dad regularly since July, monitoring his progress back to health. I felt reassured, heartened to see that he has made a marvellous recovery and is doing well.

Prior to dad contracting pneumonia, my brother and I had been taking our boys to visit with him in every holiday break. It is healthy for all of us to return and touch base with our heritage. What could be better for the boys right now, than time with their grandpa?

Our boys have grown up a lot in the last two years since we started our trips. Yet, they’re still young enough – that delightful in-between – when they still want to play ball at the park, and build “houses” for crabs on the shoreline at the beach. So, we spend part of each day at the parks, the beaches, and fishing off the wharves. Breakfast, lunch and dinner and the evenings are spent with grandpa. We help each other figure out crossword puzzles. We play two rounds of cribbage each night, and grandpa can still be relied upon to keep perfect score.

But, where once he would entertain us with stories in the evenings, those days are long gone. He doesn’t reach for his handwritten book of old time song lyrics or limericks and jokes and regale us with the best of the best anymore.

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Sometimes, dad wants to watch a certain show on television. But, then he returns to what he’s doing. He withdraws, somewhere. Even his eyes look faraway. I notice it’s hard to get him into a conversation of any length. He’s more interested in the newspaper or the crossword or his jigsaw puzzle.

When we left today, I told him that another one of his daughters would be there in a couple of days.

Dad responded gruffly, “I haven’t been alone more than three days since I was released.”

“We care about you,” I said.

I didn’t tell him, ‘we’re worried you’re not looking after yourself. We’re trying to take care of you in such a way, by doing little things here and there each time we visit, that we take some of the strain off you and in that way, we enable you to stay in your own home for as long as possible.’

Dad knows the writing is on the wall. Losing the dignity of independence is a rough road for anyone. That’s where family comes in.

We try to cushion him, and we’re doing our utmost to help him stay where he’s happiest.

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Each time one of us comes away from Grandpa, the rest of the family gather round wanting to know, whether in person or by ether, how was he? What was your sense? We try to get a gauge on how dad’s doing and what the appropriate response should be.

This time, the answer is, “Grandpa has a sniffle. Otherwise, he’s doing great.” He is complaining of being smothered by family! But, still, I didn’t hear him say no when I offered to make him a hot lemon and honey drink at night. I suspect he secretly likes all the attention.

We’ve returned to the city. My brother and I agree, we feel good, reassured about our father’s health and wellbeing, and yet, already, we’re planning the next check visit. You know how it is. Any time spent with him is precious and it sets our minds and hearts at ease.

How do you support your parents’ wellbeing into graceful old age?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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The Or’in of Tane Mahuta

Book One, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I

The Sasori Empire

Book Two, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver http://amzn.com/B075PMTN2H

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This year my father’s 85th birthday passed by with dad seriously ill in hospital, suffering double pneumonia. If a person is a smoker, the rate of mortality from this illness among the elderly is high. As a non-smoker, and also a relatively fit person, dad’s chances of survival were better than average.

Nevertheless, none of the facts take the edge off, when you see your father that close to the final curtain. I remember how in those first moments of my first visit, when I saw his face with the cheeks sunken in towards his gaping mouth, I felt my heart clench. A keener sense of reality accompanied it. I felt even more love than usual for my father.

10599505_10202530643248555_4175807170543700148_nThat was a week ago.

Dad’s still recovering in hospital. The family has taken shifts to sit with him and my elder sisters are with him now. I shudder at the thought of what lies ahead. The shadow at the dinner party. The ghost at the gate. The pitch darkness that lies beyond the horizon.

It’s only been two years since my mother died. She passed away blissfully in her sleep, June 25, 2015, just four months shy of what would have been my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. It reminded me never to bank on tomorrow. My teacher always says to ‘live as if death’s at your shoulder’ because it is.

It’s winter here in New Zealand, and it seems fitting to face these thoughts at this quieter time of year. As without so within and all that jazz.

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It’s also the first week of the school holidays.

Normally, my brother and I would take our kids to stay with dad for some of the break. It was so great to see the kids get to do all sorts of adventurous things outside in the fresh air on those visits, stretching their legs and their wings as boys need to do.

Even my boy with Down’s syndrome, Sam-the-man, who gets quite put out by any changes to routine, always welcomed the chance to spend quality time with his grandfather. Sam appreciated that his grandfather would sit and take the time to play cards and board games and patiently explain the rules.

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In Sam’s writing books, brought home from school at the end of each year, I noticed the words ‘Grandpa,’ ‘beach,’ and ‘sandcastles’ cropped up in his stories often.

We’ve had a special time and there are many wonderful memories.

These holidays, instead of going to the beach, the boys and I travelled to spend a couple of days sitting beside grandpa in hospital. We make the next visit soon.

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It’s sad to see an old tree fall. This profoundly good man has sacrificed a great deal for his family. He has given selflessly to all around him. Now, all he asks is to go home. While he is still very weak, we’re hopeful that one day, he will return home, at least in some capacity.

In a few days, the boys and I take our next turn at grandpa-sitting.

My sisters say dad’s health has improved.

We might not have noted dad’s birthday as we’ve done before. But as soon as he’s home we will celebrate.

We’ve remembered life goes on. Hope springs. And the human spirit is irrepressible. Thank goodness, no matter how many crazy despots come into power, life does go on. And I’m reminded of those sage words someone said once long ago; it’s never too late to bake a cake. 🙂 Words to live by.

Love you, dad. Happy Birthday!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius

 

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I’ll never forget a school trip we did once. When I was seven-years-old we visited an old folks’ home. An octogenarian said, ‘I was young once, like you. I thought I was Peter Pan. You’ll be old like me, too, before you know it.’ I remember a chill going down my spine.

Time and the way it passes is a strange thing. It may be explained in a theoretical way, by a source like Wikipedia, ‘Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.

However, for most of us, we observe time in a personal, subjective way via a passing parade of birthdays and rites of passage.

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Both my youngest boys make the transition from junior schools to the next level of their education, next year. In 2017, my middle child will move from Intermediate to High School, and my youngest boy moves from Primary School to Intermediate.

In four days, I shall turn 52.

I suddenly become aware of time, in a new, more acute way, it seems as if time has ‘sped up’ and ‘gone by fast.’

I was seventeen when my eldest child was born. I looked ahead at our lives like an endless path. Twenty years went by and I had my subsequent children. When I looked ahead with these babies, I saw a different picture, a shorter road.

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I’ve celebrated more birthdays with zeroes on the end. I’ve taken to dyeing the roots of my hair to cover the greys, and to wearing heels and lipstick more often to draw attention away from the gathering “crow’s feet” and “smile lines” on my face.

What does time mean?

According to Wikipedia, ‘Periodic events and periodic motion have long served as standards for units of time. Examples include the apparent motion of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the swing of a pendulum, and the beat of a heart.’

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Yes, the beat of a heart. My boys have lost their baby teeth, they’ve passed the famed “double digits milestone,” learned to read and write, learned how to look after pets, play sports, and do basic chores. There has been a rhythm to the changes.

‘Currently, the international unit of time, the second, is defined by measuring the electronic transition frequency of caesium atoms.’ Why does time seem to go more slowly when we’re growing up and then seems to “speed up” as we age? I believe there is a scientific reason for it which has recently been established although I haven’t read the hypothesis, yet.

However, such things as this Wikipedia definition of time and the Gregorian calendar are relatively recent inventions.

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As a teacher of the Kahuna tradition, Erin Lees says, ‘The ancients followed the natural cycles. Life then followed that observation of nature.’ In other words, our ancestors heeded the seasons, plants, animals, migrations, the tides, the stars, the movement of the sun and moon for their sense of time.

The ancient peoples were consummate astronomers. ‘Temporal measurement has occupied scientists and technologists,’ says Wikipedia, ‘and was a prime motivation in navigation and astronomy.’

These days, we have become more and more “time poor.” Everybody rushes around saying they ‘don’t have time.’ You often hear the term, ‘time is money,’ and ‘there just aren’t enough hours in the day.’

‘Time is of significant social importance, having economic value as well as personal value, due to an awareness of the limited time in each day and in human life spans.’ ~ Wikipedia

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Therefore, to my mind, my task is to make the most of the time I have.

To do this, I need to find a balance between work and rest. The onus falls on me to find the methods of relaxation which suit me best.

There are many ways of stepping outside of the stress and slowing down. In order to return to some of that timeless experience of youth, we can utilize age-old relaxation techniques.

After trying many different things over the years, these methods work for me: daily meditation, which I learnt from the yogi, Gurudev Hamsah Nandatha, (e: adivajra@xplornet.com), daily discipline practise, I do Ka’alele Au, a form of martial art from Hawaii, which I learnt from the teacher, Erin Lees, (e: romikapalele@rocketmail.com), daily yoga, and I attend a local satsang group (also run by Erin). These are the things which keep my feet on the ground and my chin to the wind.

(p.s. on my birthday, I also gorge myself on cake!)

How do you create enough time? Do, tell!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. ~ John Lennon

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time

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I threw a party recently for my nephew’s 21st and was given the job of baking the cake. My nephew’s top choice is choc/banana which just happens to be my specialty. The cry went out for my “world-famous” double banana-chocolate-cream masterpiece.

Why world famous, you ask? Because it’s a combination I’ve concocted perfected over the years, with wild experiments careful testing in my laboratory kitchen.

I have honed the dynamics to a point where they really work together in sweet harmony, or as my youngest son would say, this cake is “boss” (translation: perfect).

It’s a great “event cake.” In other words, it’s a bit flash. This is the sort of dessert that always gets mostly eaten up, the sort of which leftovers are few and far between, and are sometimes even fought over the next day. When I shared the news I was baking it again, on Facebook, one friend requested the recipe. Here it is.

Double Banana-Chocolate-Cream Cake

Method:

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Start with a basic banana cake recipe. I use the one from the Kiwi classic, the Edmonds cook book.

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I double the recipe because I like a nice amount of cake to work with.

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Pour the mixture into a wide baking tray. A flatter, larger tin is best. Once the filling and the icing is added later, the cake becomes substantially higher. I don’t want to end up with a cake that is top-heavy.

*My tip: I use a disposable roasting dish, lined with baking paper. That way, you end up with a nice sized cake for decorating (and you don’t have to do the dishes, if you’re that way inclined – I recycle mine and use them again).

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I need to let this sucker cool completely. Otherwise, I’ll never get it cut in half and turned over cleanly.

*My tip: I always bake the cake the night before the event, so it can cool overnight.

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I cut the cake in half and line one side with sliced bananas.

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*My tip: I spread a thin layer of cream on the bottom half before applying the banana layer. That way, I can move the slices about more easily if I drop one or make a mistake in the pattern. 

*My tip: While blackening bananas can be used for the batter, use only new perfect fruit for the middle layer. As the slices may be partly visible on each slice served.

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Spread a layer of whipped cream over the bananas. Fresh cream is best.

*My tip: I find I can never make this layer thick enough. Even when I buy the big bottle of cream and whip it, and I put a glacier of cream in the middle, it always somehow is never quite enough when it comes to eating it! I try to be ever more generous.

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Put the “lid” on top.

The next secret to this great cake is the icing must be mostly chocolate, no icing sugar as it adds too much sweetness. I use the “Melted Choc Icing” recipe, also in the Edmonds cook book.

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*My tip: The trick is to make the icing first thing in the morning. This icing needs to cool.

Once completely cool to the touch, I beat it until thick and glossy.

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When icing, sometimes I cover the sides altogether so the filling is a surprise. Other times, like this one, I left the middle layer partly visible. Either way, once I’ve cut this delicious dessert, it’s a matter of standing back and watching the stampede.

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*My tip: Get a piece early or I’ll miss out.

I waited too long on the day, as I was busy in the kitchen. I managed to eat one slice later that evening. The next morning, my family returned. Over cups of tea, they ate the leftovers. Before I could turn around, the cake was gone. Sigh. One slice after all that work! However, that’s a sign they loved it – every cook’s dream come true.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, too. If you do, write to me and let me know.

*My tip: I feel obliged to say, remember the “80/20 rule,” friends: eat good, healthy clean food 80% of the time, and you’re allowed 20% goodies. Yay!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I attribute my longevity to constant smoking and marrons glaces. – Noel Coward

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15 September, 2002

The worst night yet for aches, pains, difficulty turning over and lack of sleep. I woke at 4.22 a.m. with the conviction the Braxton Hicks (false labour pains) had changed nature and were stronger. Fortunately, I remembered to breathe.

Some people dismiss keeping journals, however when you’re looking back at one of the major events of your life, after a period of fourteen years has elapsed, and you think, I’ll look that one up, you realize the wisdom in keeping a record of every day.

You have notes on the milestones in your life. This forms a precious record of your thoughts and words at that moment in time. Not sanitised by the mind, not romanticised by distance, but the fresh, raw “moment” captured.

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At this particular point in my life, 14 years ago, I was newly married to my second husband, expecting my second child. My first born child had been delivered when I was a teenager, under crisis circumstances. I’d always had the dream of getting to experience a planned pregnancy, in a family situation.

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It was great to have my husband here, because I felt like a ‘space cadet.’ My head was spacey, my belly felt firm like a melon, my whole body seemed to be vibrating, the cells skittering. Throughout the day, the contractions fluctuated in time and intensity, sometimes bearable, sometimes unbearable. I didn’t feel afraid. Rather, I felt joy; at the “second chance” I’d been given.

Whew. This excerpt takes me back so clearly to this day.

After a long, difficult and traumatic birth, I remember, I climbed from the birthing pool into bed, at last. My husband and I waited for the baby to be cleaned up and examined.

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I wrote in my journal, Instead of our emotions rushing into euphoria, we both felt there was something wrong with the look of his face. Our midwife said she had to tell us, she thought our baby might have Down Syndrome and our emotions rushed into shock and fear instead. We held him and looked at him. He was born at 1.26 a.m.

My own words bring it all back so clearly.

I sit here shedding a few fresh tears at the memory of how devastated we were at the time.

The day followed in a blur of visitors, texting, breastfeeding, and talking, and at the end of the day everyone left.

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After dinner, I wrapped Sam in blankets and lay him on the bed in front of me, so I could sit with my legs stretched out on either side of him.

Watching my baby and stroking him, I began to truly connect for the first time and feel my heart start to break free of its bonds to stretch towards him.

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At 9 pounds 11 ounces, and long-bodied with it, he was a lovely plump size. And his nature was beautiful, compared to the other babies I could hear wailing and crying, Sam never cried at all, he radiated a gentle sweetness.

From that moment on, Sam and I began our mother-son bond, a connection that has steadily built with every day.

It has been a long and interesting road these last fourteen years with my middle child, my special boy.

We went from the grief and devastation of the early days, to the dawning realisation we’d been graced with a little Buddha in our midst.

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This masterful character who has a heart as pure as driven snow, a spirit as unbreakable as steel, and a wisdom that is as earthy and real and grounded as you’re ever going to meet, has changed us and our lives for the better, forever. None of us in Samuel’s immediate family or even range of influence altogether will ever be the same again.

Little did we know, in our “green” state back in 2002, the miracle that had taken place on that day.

On the 16th September, at 1.26 a.m an angel was born to us. And, we had been forever blessed.

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16 September, 2016

I woke this morning and my first thought was of my middle child, my wonderful son, Samuel, who turns fourteen today.

Happy Birthday, my darling son

You are perfect in every way

You teach me every day how to slow down, how to listen and be happy

Thank you

I love you!

Mama xxx

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Talk to you later.

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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It’s strange. Tonight is the rare ‘Blue Moon’ as it’s the 31st here in New Zealand and in this part of the world. The Blue Moon was sung about in a classic song long ago.

The 31st of July is also my mother’s birthday. This is the first year of her birthday without her here with us to celebrate. For some reason it seems much more real to me today, that she’s gone. Because there’s no need to send a card, no one to ring and sing Happy Birthday to, there’s no present wrapped in my room waiting for the moment I go over to visit. In fact, the present I’d bought her was a box of dragonfly-shaped solar lights on sticks and I placed them in the ground at the cemetery just over a month ago. An even odder thought, to think of the solar dragonflies shining brightly under the full blue moon tonight.

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Just as I will celebrate what would have been Ma’s 83rd birthday, she will be celebrating with me from heaven. She was always an avid advocate of my writing, and she loved my stories. My very first set of children’s books, Ma took a liking to The Unsightly Wet Nightie, so I gave her a handmade copy. The Unsightly Wet Nightie was dragged out and read aloud to every visitor who crossed their doorstep.

Ma was so proud of my stories. She liked to ask about what I was writing whenever I visited. Then she would sit beaming as I spun my tales.  Especially in the last four or five years, Ma’s ability to listen had increased, and we would sit the whole day talking as I told her stories.

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I’m sure that now she’s passed, her passion has not diminished and she still watches on, in her own way.

I’m getting so close to the finish line with my debut novel, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’.

While Ma was alive, I’d been happily plodding along on a part-time path with this book which I started writing in 2005. The night she died, being 25 June, 2015, the manuscript, which had been through my critique group three times, was being read by three beta readers. The very next day I recalled the manuscripts from the beta readers. No longer prepared to loll along on the slow boat to China, I suddenly had a new fire in my tail. Ma had died without seeing my first book in print. I had to make that finish line with this book while my father was still alive to see it!

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Before I left town to join the family gathering around my father, I sent the book to a professional editor in the States, for her to proof-read. She’s already finished and is sending it back to me. While I wait on the manuscript, which is coming by post, I am busy looking at the next steps, the marketing and promotion. But first of all I need the right cover designer. l have made contact with someone whose designs I admire and hopefully she’ll be underway working on a phenomenal cover in the next few weeks. It’s all coming together.

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While I shed tears for my mother this morning, on her birthday, I also see that beyond my window, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining. And I see that I really am close to publishing this story. It’s not the end for her or for our relationship, it’s just the beginning. As it is for me, with my first book about to be birthed. Another chapter. A new era.

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Ma was a nurse in the 1950’s. The photo of her above has the legend written on the back, in her spidery handwriting, ‘Me, twenty, off duty from the London Hospital. 1952’. It gives me a pang to look at her, young and in her prime, with her whole life laid before her, her four children yet to come.

She, of all people, would know that despite the losses we suffer as we go along, life will go on. The sun will come up tomorrow and the moon will shine tonight. A rare Blue Moon, no less. And I’ll be there, raising a toast in salute.

Happy Birthday, my darling mother!

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Thanks for reading…

Talk soon,

Yvette K. Carol

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Raise your sail one foot and you get ten feet of wind. – Chinese Proverb