Archive for the ‘Christmas,’ Category

After months mostly spent indoors at the computer, my boys and I headed to the coast to spend Christmas with family.

It was a lot of fun. We stayed a whole week, with the boys going back with their father to the city for one day and night, to kayak with their other cousins. I surprised myself by swimming every day, sometimes twice. It was great.

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While there, I went from feeling the stress of Christmas to relaxing. My brother arrived with injuries, hardly able to move. Yet, by the time they left, he was looking like his old self. His partner suffers from an ongoing illness, and yet, while on holiday with us she had more “good days” than ever.

I pondered this as I holidayed, and I realized there is therapy in travel…in being somewhere ‘different’

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In fossicking about in rock-pools

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In connecting with the earth – actually touching it

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In making new friends

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In risking a little discomfort for the adventure

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In spending quality time with your cuzzies

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In hanging out with your siblings

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In being outdoors in the fresh air, sometimes doing nothing, sometimes climbing a mountain

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In fishing

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And swimming

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In snatching one last dip with the kids and nephews before the sun goes down

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There is therapeutic value in spending time with family. Full stop. Gathering under the same roof, especially during a festive time, helps to build and maintain those bonds. All the feasting and partying also expands the waistline! Never mind, the worry and guilt can wait till next year.

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These festive celebrations deepen the important connections in our lives. We feel the love. We feel plugged back into our families again.

I’ve returned to the city feeling refreshed, invigorated, calm and peaceful. I’m ready to work! I look forward with optimism to the year ahead. Bring on 2017!

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Talk to you later.

Happy New Year!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself.” ~ E.E. Cummings

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

 

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The week before last, my eleven-year-old son asked the dreaded question, ‘Is there really a Santa Claus?’

A friend of his at school had said he didn’t believe in Father Christmas because ‘it’s just your parents bringing you presents.’

My boy looked up at me. ‘It’s not you bringing us the presents, is it?’

I stared into his eyes.

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I explained I was doing my bit to uphold a tradition in our family which dated back in time. The original mythology of the big guy delivering ‘small gifts to good children’ comes from St. Nicholas or “Bishop Nicholas.” He was one of the most popular saints in all Christendom, especially in the East. He is said to have been a bishop of Myra (Lycia) in the early 4th century. He was related to doing good works.

Bishop Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a starving family, so the story goes, and the story of his kindness (one of many in his lifetime) spread. People everywhere grabbed onto the idea and began to hang stockings by the fire; in the hope Bishop Nicholas would visit them with his “magical gifts” in the night. Something about this idea caught hold in the human consciousness and took root.

As Brian Conway said, “A true hero of the people, St. Nicholas still delivers his magical gifts each year at Christmastime. The gifts Santa Claus delivers, gifts of hope and joy, bring the joy of giving to all the children of the world.”

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I thought this is the key time to talk about magic and those things that are beyond our ability to explain, before his facility to grasp the ethereal, the subtle is lost. The whole magic of Christmas, to me, lies in the power of possibility thinking. Anything can happen and probably will. That’s where the magic lives, in that gap we create with our minds, by saying, ‘what if?’

I asked, ‘Have you heard of the famous letter, ‘Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus?

‘No.’

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There’s a famous post from the column of Francis P. Church, who wrote for The Sun, in 1897.

The story goes that a girl called Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor. She said, “Dear Editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?”

Francis Church wrote in reply ~

“Dear Virginia,

Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be seen which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.”

“In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

“He exists as truly as love and generosity and devotion exist.

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(photography, Tracey Henderson)

“How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.

“There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

“Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe in fairies! The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

“Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in this entire world there is nothing else more real and abiding.

“A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

~

My son smiled. He asked, ‘Was it you bringing our gifts all these years?’

‘Yes.’

‘I still believe.’

‘Me, too.’

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Talk to you later.

Happy Holidays!

Yvette K. Carol

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Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

 

 

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

 

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Ever since the first year my son Sam-the-man was able to sit unaided, I have photographed him and made a Christmas card for our family.

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Sam was born with Down’s syndrome. The card began as a way of celebrating him and his achievements. It created a small yet meaningful tradition for our family. Once his little brother came along, the card featured the two boys and it became another way to chronicle their lives.

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I think people gravitate towards things which are home-made. Those are always the favourite gifts from the kids. I send a parcel to the boys’ grandfather every year at this time. I send him gifts and the boys’ artwork, their calendars, stories they’ve written, as well as our Xmas card.  This is what the older generation, grandparents especially, live for.

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The card is simple, easy to make, creative, fun.

The Photo:

Any parent can tell you, the first and hardest step in any Xmas photo is the child-wrangling.

*Tip: Don’t leave it till December. Try to get the photo taken before the festive season.

I aim to get the photo taken in the last couple of weeks of November, as this gives me a leeway of time up my sleeve if the boys prove resistant to having their photo taken. Ha ha. *evil laugh, rubs hands together!*

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Once I’ve managed to coral them into one room with the box of Christmas get-up, then they must be persuaded with promises of treats, to dress up. After that, I snap as many shots as I can take before they start begging to be let out.

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The boys are fourteen and eleven respectively, this year, and it’s getting harder and harder to coerce them into the festive shoot. You’d think it’d be getting easier, but, no!

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The Construction:

Picture chosen, print up a dozen pictures at 10 cm x 7 cm, and trim them. I like to keep them to a small size because some people like to hang the cards on their tree.

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Then, I choose which cardboard to use. Originally, I used to recycle old cardboard. We have a saying in New Zealand, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle,’ which we try to adhere to as much as possible. Some years, I cut old Christmas cards down to size. This year, however, I sourced a small box from the Hospice shop which were the right size which was a great option as they came supplied with their own envelopes.

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Glue a sheet of paper cut to a couple of centimetres shorter than the card to the front of the card stock. This will form an edging like a frame for the picture. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. I like to see a little of the construction in crafts.

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*Tip: Every year, on Boxing Day, I do a ritual of taking the discarded gift-wrap and cutting up the beautiful or unusual wrap into small, clean pieces for later craft projects. In this case, I have some rather special rescued reindeer, snowflake, and red-chequered print paper.

My mother used to buy me a crafting material called “Hot Fuzz,” coloured synthetic fibres which bond together under the heat of a warm iron (through paper). I cut a dozen rectangular wedges of a sheet of Hot Fuzz, for the dazzle. You could use holographic cellophane just as well for this.

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Stick the photograph on top of the recycled paper, trapping a wedge of Hot Fuzz/cellophane between the layers.

*Tip: use a glue stick as “wet” glue can stain the paper. Press the cards under something flat and heavy between each glued layer as it creates a flatter, more pleasing finish. Make sure each layer is fully dry before you add another.

This year, I bought a “Card Kit” of decorations at the Hospice Shop. It included diamante leaves, silver stars, silver bows and transparent beads. I also sourced some finer glitter.

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*Tip: When you add the glitter, make sure to place the card on a small tray as it’s really hard to collect and re-use the left-over sparkles otherwise.

On top of the photo, in the same corner as the Hot Fuzz, apply embellishment, be it a delicate bow or a star. In the lower right corner, on a sweep of glue, drizzle more glitter and add beads or stickers.

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The last step is to write a personal message inside. Then, post it, yes, via snail mail. It still exists.

I posted ours to the lucky recipients. One Facebook friend – who had requested a card – responded, she ‘couldn’t take her eyes off it.’ Yay!

A Christmas craft project completed feels wonderful. This year, I even had enough left to put one on our own shelf. Joy.

Do you have a festive family tradition? Do you enjoy crafting? Do share in the comments below!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. ~ Albert Einstein

‘In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. Now, I know when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth…Pursue relationships, perhaps art, perhaps a dream from younger days.’ ~ Steve Jobs (last words)

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Here in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the 24th of December, Christmas and the end of the year are mere days away.

 

In the past, when we were an agricultural society, the 25th December determined the point when the sun started to move again, and thus, it bore the promise of planting and reaping the crops. This serves to remind us even today of the passing of time, the cycles of nature.

 

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With the coming of the Romans, and then the Christians each utilizing different calendars, New Year’s Day was a “moveable feast” back in those eras. After the Gregorian Year was introduced to modern thinking, however, 1 January was generally accepted in most places as New Year’s Day. And that’s the way it remains to the present.

 

From Christmas to New Year’s Day, this is traditionally a period of introspection, a time for reflection, and a time to refresh one’s spirits before moving forward again.

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At present, a dear old friend of mine is dying of liver cancer. She has decided to die at home rather than stay at hospice. This dire situation has given me a lot more to think about during this festive season.

 

On the way home from visiting her last week, I noticed there was a marked difference in attitude and body language between the kids and I. My boys sat in the back seat, singing. I, meanwhile, drove along tense and upset, completely fraught about the fact my pal was soon to be entering the dark forest and leaving us behind. And the difference between my kids’ chirpiness and my somber contemplation was “time.” My kids have the “blissful ignorance of youth.”

 

I, meanwhile, am a lot older than they are. My mother died this year. My father thinks he’s losing his memory. I know that time is running out. I wrote to my critique partner, Maria Cisneros-Toth, about this dark night of the soul I was walking through, and about my dying friend.

 

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With Maria’s kind permission, I will relay our email conversation:

Maria CT: ‘I am so sorry about your friend. When these things happen, whether I know the person or not, it’s a reminder to me to get done with the writing project I want to complete.

‘Life is so precious; there isn’t a moment to waste. It’s so cliché, but very true. And this is your first Christmas without you mum. That’s tough, too.’

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Yvette C: ‘Yes, it has been a big year, 2015. You’re so right! With Ma’s passing, I decided to draw a line in the sand. The finish line is here. I wanted dad to be alive to see me launch my first book, and, indeed, by pushing ahead to professional proof-reading and self-publication, I did achieve that goal this year.

 

‘Dad was there at the launch of ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ and he gave a speech about how proud he was. It was a wonderful, emotion-filled moment for me. Ma didn’t get to be there in physical form but she was there, nevertheless.
 

‘Sometimes, you get a reminder that life is short. Your mother dies suddenly of stroke in the night. Your friend is dying of cancer. Your husband has a heart attack, right? That’s when you realize our dreams need to be put into action. Now. Today. There is no tomorrow!

 

‘Then it came to me, I understood what my friend, and mentor, Erin Lees was trying to tell us, when she said last year, that we should ‘live as if death were always at our shoulder.’ Aha!’ mum

 

With this perspective, I need to take clear, focused, heart-motivated action towards my goals in 2016. Remember, that Steve Jobs, one of the most successful men in the world said we should ‘pursue relationships, perhaps art, perhaps a dream from younger days.’

 

While I remain heartbroken for my friend who is sick, I am realigned with my purpose and my willpower to strive towards my dreams.

 

What does the essence of this Yuletide and New Year distil for you? Any revelations to share?

 

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Talk to you later…

…in 2016!

Yvette K. Carol

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This was me on my way home from an audition for King Kong where I was told I was too “ugly” for the part. This was a pivotal moment for me. This one rogue opinion could derail my dreams of becoming an actress or force me to pull myself up by the boot straps and believe in myself. ~ Meryl Streep