Archive for the ‘Family stories’ Category

“Tween,” short for tweenager, is a preposition, a contraction of between. It is a noun, tween, a youngster between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager.

*Tip One: the most important thing you can do for yourself and your child, as the parent of a “tween” is to give them limits.

The power that is contained within my twelve-year-old son’s weedy body is enough to fuel a small power station. He comes home from school and bursts in the door, sparks shooting in all directions, talking to a friend on the phone in a voice booming through the rafters at similar decibel levels to a sonic jet. Without guidelines set and clearly known, chaos will ensue.

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My tween is a constant whirl of movement punctuated by long pauses at his device of choice, accompanied by phone conversations with his friends, newly-coined slang and laughter. He frequently bursts into song. He’s full of stories. He has yet to reach the stage of closing off and shutting himself away, or needing to oppose me.

*Tip Two: Don’t get lulled into easing up on the rules of your household. KEEPing guidelines in place now will help you through the storms to come.

The dreaded teen years lurk ahead like a thundercloud on the horizon. I know from experience the sudden leap kids do, especially boys, where they jump into these growth spurts and seem to morph before your eyes into alien beings with strange new bodies and voices. They become gripped by a hormonal whirlwind. But, that’s in the future. The teen’s adult preoccupations, like dating, fashion, and socialising haven’t kicked in yet. The tween still plays handball in the living room and soccer in the hall with his brother. For now, I just want to enjoy this sweet, kooky, joyous boy. For now, we dwell in the fields of daisies and carefree walks of the in between.

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I can still see the child in the outline of the face. The innocence is still there, and I guess because he is my last, and the end of his childhood looms near, it seems all the more precious and fleeting. His way of thinking is still pure, of another world we adults can’t inhabit.

A delightful side of the tween is they seek to communicate everything that happens in their day, especially the wounding injustices which have been inflicted upon them.

Tween’s retain this engaging, heart-warming need to turn everything over under the powerful gaze of their parent. They still want to figure out what happens and whether or not it is “fair.” They probe and prod for answers, for varying views on why things are the way they are.

*Tip Three: Let them talk, don’t stifle them or cut them short. Establish the communication and trust between you. This will help in future “negotiations.”

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He’s at that age when everything is funny. It’s adorable in parts. Yet, at the same time, exasperating. He often finds jokes so funny he laughs until he cries. Then, he falls about coughing and gasping for breath, until by the end of his enjoyment of the joke, I’m ready to strangle him with my bare hands to make it stop. He finds things too funny, if there is such a thing.

*Tip Four: take a breather from them when you need to.

Tweens and teens will go through one of the greatest growing periods of their life between twelve and seventeen. In a sense, so do we, as their parents. It’s stressful for all concerned.

Their limbs lengthen. Our resolve strengthens. His voice deepens. Our back straightens.

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It takes a lot of effort raising a tween. Their absentmindedness is both frustrating and hilarious. They become like gangly newborn fawns falling over themselves, ploughing into solid obstacles they claim they just “didn’t see.” Full control over their cognitive abilities seems to veer between heightened and non-existent. The next minute, they can withdraw into their own shell and go deaf, dumb and blind.

My tween ran straight into a post the other day. I’m the adult in the situation, so I’m not allowed to laugh!

As his guide, I only get to steer sometimes: I remind the tween to watch his head, eat a meal, get some fresh air, and so on (and laugh later, when I tell my friends about it).

*Tip Five: Repeat this after me, my main role as the tween parent is to stay calm and keep the rudder of the household on course, thereby providing a secure base for them to come back to. By staying in that centred place, through the storms in my household, I become the leader my children need me to be.

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is your job as the Tween Parent to preserve the magic for as long as possible and make crabby pants more live-able and hopefully, leave yourself with a little bit of sanity. ~ “BluntGuest” on BluntMoms.com

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My latest releases:

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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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 week, I took the boys down country to visit their grandfather. Dad has been recovering from double pneumonia. “I’m a medical miracle,” he told us proudly when we arrived. He is a miracle, getting over his life-threatening bout of illness at the rate of someone half his age. And, he was released home after a mere ten days instead of the usual month.

The last time we were there, dad was transitioning home from the hospital. He was still weak, only able to sit in a chair and doze, and he needed to use a walking frame to move.

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This time, he had colour in his cheeks, the normal tone had returned to his skin, and dad was walking unaided. My sister who had been nursing him reports he is now able to do everything for himself. “I’ve been driving for three weeks,” was the second thing he said.

They made them tough in the old days.

It’s great. Although there are worrying signs as well. It is not a simple matter to get over being gravely sick when you’re eighty-five. While he’s come a long way, there’s still a long way to go. Having lost a lot of weight, there is physical rebuilding which needs to take place. Until then, he needs to rest more often. He tires easily.

The pneumonia has left its mark.

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Thankfully, dad has such fire, such spirit. There’s no keeping a good man down, as they say, and it’s so true in his case. It doesn’t matter how far he sinks down, he comes back swinging. Yes, there are a few more issues, however, at the same time, he is doing marvellously. He’s busy doing his crosswords again, although he now sometimes gets the answers wrong. We grab the paper and correct them when he isn’t looking! Playing cards, where dad used to be a whiz at scoring, he now sometimes adds incorrectly. We laugh it off and make it fun.

The thing is the constancy has gone.

Some days, dad’s back on form and gets everything right. He’s so bright and bushy-tailed; he’ll come down to see his grandson fish off the wharf. Or he’ll spend the whole morning playing bowls and spend the afternoon working in the garden. Other days, he forgets the little details of his life which used to be automatic, like locking the door at night, or what he has with his vinegar in the morning (honey). And he’s so weary, he’ll barely leave the house, or take his evening walk.

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It’s hard to see this happening to a beloved parent. The fact of the matter is our parents do age ahead of us and aging is not the easiest process for a lot of people.

It’s our job as the children to take care of our parents into their dotage. The wheel turns and those who cared for us now need to be cared for. Yet, when a parent is still mentally sound and is physically strong; there is a fine line to tread between being supportive and intrusive. While our aim is to assist dad to stay in his home, we have to be careful not to impose our will over his. So one visits, cleans, gardens, does small maintenance jobs and meantime keeps an ever-watchful eye on them. All the family who have visited have done their bit. This is where the family support network plays a key role. It helps to share the load with someone.

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My sister and I holed up together in her room at the end of each long day, after the kids had gone to bed, and talked into the wee hours. We found that simply talking it over helped ease the burden. We let off steam that way, came up with strategies and plans for going forward.

We’re agreed we need to continue to share the visiting among us as a family and have enlisted dad’s neighbours to keep a weather eye upon him when we can’t be there.

In seeking common ground between us as siblings, we laid a platform to better assist dad to a happy, safe lifestyle, and hopefully, this will enable further constructive conversations in the future.

My youngest son said, “I like the way grandpa talks. He makes everything sound important.” Yes. Me, too. With a bit of help, grandpa will be able to continue to live in his wood cabin by the sea and keep telling his stories for a long time yet. It is a miracle!

What do you do to support aging parents while treating them with respect?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The wisdom acquired with the passage of time is a useless gift unless you share it!” ~ E. Williams

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

According to Dictionary.com, the modern “tween” is a youngster between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager. I was interested to learn the word tween has been in use since 1250-1300. It originally stemmed from the Middle English twene, which later evolved into ‘between.’

My youngest son turned 12 a few months ago. We’ve been living on the slopes of the dormant volcano in Tweenville for a year or so.

We didn’t know we were in trouble at first. At that stage, we didn’t know the youngest son would earn himself the nickname, ‘Little-Unpredictable-Volcano.’  At that stage, we were only newly arrived in the neighbourhood. We lived a placid, pastoral existence.

Things were quiet. Too quiet. The rumblings were far off in the distance, like that thunderstorm you hear coming but haven’t started worrying about yet.MountNgauruhoe

Six months in, I was thinking I had worried about nothing.

Twelve months in, the rumblings were becoming more frequent in Tweenville. The other villagers living nearby looked up with fear and wondered whether they should evacuate their homes. Mini-eruptions were starting to rattle with increasing velocity.

In the last two months, something has clicked and Little-Unpredictable-Volcano has moved from smoking benevolently to blowing sky-high on more than one occasion. Just asking him to do the dishes these days can sometimes be enough to trigger an eruption. Larva flows everywhere, burns everything to a crisp and buries more of the villages. At this stage, all the people have evacuated except for the Mayor (me) and her trusty sidekick (middle son).

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In amidst the daily arguments and negotiations going at our house, and navigating his mood swings and grumpiness, there have also been occasions of his complete thoughtlessness.

One innocent Wednesday, the youngest son decided to stay after school and play basketball with his friends, without telling me. When he wasn’t home at the usual time, I gave him a further half an hour. Then his brother and I hopped in the car and drove back the way he would bike home from school, to see if he was having bike trouble or similar.

But there was no sign of him. We drove into the school carpark – there was no sign of any bikes. He must have left. We drove home, but he wasn’t there either. Out we went for a second drive around the neighbourhood to the school and home again, arriving an hour and a half after the time he should have been home and there was still no sign of him anywhere. That was when the adrenalin kicked into high gear.

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I went into full scale panic mode. I rang the police.

Half way through answering the list of questions, I spied the tween pushing his bike up our drive.

“Am I in time-out?” he asked, looking scared.

I didn’t know whether to hug him or kill him. (I hugged him). He ‘hadn’t realized the time.’ He was sorry. ETC.

I was weak with relief. I was angry he hadn’t found a way to contact me and let me know. I was disappointed he could have been so inconsiderate.

We talked. We hashed out an agreement. He will take his phone to school every day and text me if he wants to stay after school.

We hugged.

Little-Unpredictable-Volcano has gone quiet for now.

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One of the terrific anonymous guest writers* over on BluntMom.com wrote a post about raising tweens recently. She said, It is your job as the Tween Parent to preserve the magic for as long as possible and make crabby pants more live-able and hopefully, leave yourself with a little bit of sanity.

That last part is so important in these times of trial. We have to do whatever we can to make life with our young people more pleasant. We have to cut ourselves some slack.

When Mr. Crabby Pants went to start into another argument with me the other day, I cut him off with “I don’t want to do this.” The look on his face was pure shock. “Whatever argument you want to have with me, please hold on, and come back to me tomorrow,” I said. “I simply don’t have the time today. I’m sorry. So save that thought. Remember it. And we’ll talk about the whole thing later.”

To my astonishment, the tween accepted that. “Okay,” he said.

I realized its okay to call a time out on the drama sometimes and simply not participate. Postponement works. Then, when you do talk about it, the energy has gone out of it too which always helps a faster resolution.

If we don’t set parameters in place in the tween years, imagine the hell the teenage years could become!

How do you take care of yourself and survive raising your tween?

(My secret is late night treats!)

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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*http://www.bluntmoms.com/care-tweens-magical-creatures/

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

 

 

I think my father’s recent illness and brush with death has been a shock for everyone in the family. You are immediately reduced. Humbled by the experience. You know what’s important and what isn’t. Time seems to elongate and become meaningless. I felt how precious this person was to me. Here was my father, who was always hale and hearty, now gasping for air; his deep brown eyes faded to murky blue. He, who had nurtured me and supported me, now needed my support. I remember the feeling of desperate gratitude I had that first time I saw him in hospital, when I grabbed for his hand and it was still warm.

When my father slipped into delirium, he no longer knew who we were. I sat by dad’s bedside holding his hand, talking to him, while he recounted random sequences of numbers. It was terrifying.

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The family rallied, my sisters flew in from London and Austin. We kept a family vigil at his bedside, offering him constant drinks (which seemed to restore some of his cognitive powers), and we continued to have conversations with him and ask him questions. We kept him talking. My eldest sister had supplied us with information on how to help patients out of delirium. So we asked him questions: what his name was what day it was, how many children he had, where he was born and so on, to keep his mind active and the cogs spinning.

Within ten days, my father had made what the doctors termed a miraculous recovery. His lungs were clear in the x-rays, which they said would have been difficult for a twenty-five year old to achieve.

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The doctors were so pleased, that two weeks after being admitted to hospital with double pneumonia, my father was released home with a “fancy” walking frame and into the care of our family and local nurses.

We had gone in to dad’s home in between whiles and cleaned it from the rafters to the floorboards. Once we got him home, we showed him how to dry his home out in winter and we bought him a dehumidifier. We’ve helped him see he needs to light his fire during the day as well as at night to be warm in winter.

Dad admitted he’d given himself a fright. It’s hard to see his inner struggle as he works to come to terms with the fact that this has aged him greatly. A few days after returning home, the keys to the church were collected off him by another member of the congregation. The job of counting the collection money each week was also taken off dad’s shoulders and given to another member of the church. As he is unable to do these jobs at present it makes sense to delegate them.

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We keep telling him it’s temporary, when in reality, none of us know what the outcome will be. Yet, I think for a man of my father’s generation it’s particularly difficult when you have such a sense of pride. It’s hard for him to lose the ballast of that sense of “usefulness.”

We are aiming to help dad transition fully back to the independent life he once had, if possible. But he went a long way down and he still has way to come back up again. He lost a lot of weight and his appetite is greatly reduced therefore he needs to rebuild body mass, muscle and strength. Dad’s doing as well as can be expected for an 85-year-old who has been seriously ill. He’s still a bit wobbly. We’ve noticed he is bit more forgetful.

001 (2)As a family we want to keep dad in his own home as long as possible. Home is where he wants to be, where he can still make the fire each day, tend the garden and feed his wild birds.

Even so, my sisters, who have been nursing him, tell me dad is ‘down,’ the opposite of his normal happy self. My two younger sons and I will relieve them soon and take our shift to stay with him. The boys will cheer him up with their rambunctiousness.

Whatever happens, our family will move heaven and earth to make sure dad stays where he wants to be, in his own home until the end.

It’s our turn to look after you now, dad, as you’ve always looked after all of us….

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Talk to you later.

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

 

Humankind have been obsessed with the idea of immortality and living forever for centuries, according to Adam Gollner in The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever:

Gollner tells us the twenty-five-year old Emperor Ai died in 365 CE, after overdosing on longevity drugs. In medieval times, they thought the answer lay in the moss that grew on hanged men’s skulls. And, David Copperfield has an archipelago in the Bahamas, where the magician claims to have found “a liquid that reverses genes.”

Why are people fascinated by immortality? Is it because we’re afraid of death?

Watching my father go through a life-threatening illness in the past fortnight has instigated many thoughts on mortality for me. It’s been an interesting ride. Everyone knows their parents will die, as we all will die and so will everything alive at this moment. However, mental knowledge is a very different animal to seeing and experiencing it for yourself.015I understood to some extent what people have felt in the past about wanting to cling to life as long as possible.

In the 1300’s Nicolas Flamel created a “sorcerer’s stone” which was said to make the drinker immortal. In the 1500s Ponce de León, discoverer of Florida, is rumoured to also have set out in search of Bimini, a legendary island in the Bahamas. Long sea voyages of discovery in those days cost vast fortunes to finance. Why did he go? Because the fabled ‘Fountain of Youth’ was said to be on Bimini. It was believed the Fountain of Youth ‘gave everlasting life to all who drank from it.’

 

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We can laugh at those from the past. Yet, when you think about it, as author Adam Gollner pointed out, we each take a modern version of magical elixir every day in order to prolong and hopefully preserve our lives. ‘We’ve tried elixirs, hormones, prayers, pills, spells, stem cells.’

I myself take vitamins and pills. It’s no wonder the health supplement industry is one of the biggest growth areas today.

Why are we afraid of death?

I guess we fear dissolution. When I thought I was witnessing my father dying, I faced my own mortality. I saw it and felt it all around me. It felt confronting and a little scary.

Yet, there is freedom in surrender.

I said to myself, ‘death is an inevitable thing.’ I felt the comfort of being present with it in a quiet way. I released into the emotion of love for my father and love for my own life. That brought me into feeling a lot more appreciation of this wonderful moment right now.

I remember an old friend of the family said to me once, ‘Acceptance is the hardest word in the English language.’

Ever since, I’ve come to realize how wise that statement was. In the middle of being there for my father through his scrape with death, I wept and wept. I struggled to accept that this could be our final goodbye. It was only when I was able to accept his mortality and therefore, my own that I found the relief of coming back to ground zero. I felt that was the gem amidst the grief.

Since then my father has made a miraculous recovery. He has successfully made the transition home, where he is now doing well, recovering rapidly.

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In the wake of ten days fear and worry and tears at my father’s bedside, I feel I understand my own drive for a longer life. I empathise with my ancestors’ quest for immortality, and yet, at the same time, I have a new feeling of acceptance for death. Happily, these things have gone hand-in-hand because, while exhausted, I feel great serenity. I have a sense that I can cope.

In ancient times, our forebears went to extremes. I was quite shocked reading in Gollner’s book that members of the Tang dynasty poisoned themselves taking untested potions. Apparently, people trekked into the Himalayas seeking the restorative powers of drinking pure llama urine, bathed in the blood of murdered virgins, and concocted saline solutions with the ash of dead bodies and myrrh.

Even in our modern, technologically advanced era people are still obsessed with anti-aging. Plastic surgery has never been more popular. There’s research being done into cryogenics and prolonging life.

Yet, when you come right down to it, acceptance is a far easier option. It costs less. It’s less stressful, which leads to inner beauty, to having a happier life and greater equilibrium while you’re here. Win, win.

My father’s health scare was a reminder to me that life is short and time is fleeting. I made a mental note: must gather together with loved ones and have more parties!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The only secret people keep is immortality. ~ Emily Dickinson

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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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A reality bloomed before us yesterday…one I didn’t want to see…that shocked me to my very core. My father is mortal. The superhero of our family – our fearless leader – who has never spent a day in hospital, apart from when he got bowled over by a truck, is lying in a hospital bed at death’s door.

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As dad said when he was still lucid, ‘I never get sick. I’ve never had anything wrong with me.’ He couldn’t understand why people started to fuss over him in his town a few weeks ago. A few worried reports filtered in, that dad’s colour wasn’t right; he was ‘looking blue.’

When I rang to check on him, Dad said he’d had flu for about four weeks. I said he must see a doctor in the morning. He promised he would.

My sister rang the next morning to check on him. She found dad was panting and fighting for breath. He still refused to see a doctor. Nevertheless an ambulance and friends in the community raced to side. My father is so fiercely independent (as the nurses keep telling us, also) that he fought being taken away by the ambulance. He didn’t want to go, and had to be persuaded in no uncertain terms.

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My father was transferred to Waikato Hospital HDU where he could be put on oxygen and have his levels monitored. The doctors said he had pneumonia in both lungs which accounted for his difficulty breathing.

In talking to him, dad admitted he’d “been a bit wobbly” for a few weeks when getting his firewood. He said he “had been struggling a little.” That’s understated dad-language for ‘I’m desperately ill and have been struggling a lot.’ No wonder the other people in his town were concerned.

I travelled to Waikato Hospital yesterday, along with my eldest son, and we were in for a shock. I saw dad’s mortality written across his face, and for the first time I faced the fact we could lose him.

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Holding dad’s hand, I stretched one of Ma’s crocheted blankets across his lap. He was counting erratic sequences of numbers in his half-sleep. His normally brown eyes, when he opened them, looked murky blue.

My superman had landed. I could have wept a thousand tears. But I had to hold it together for my son and my niece. I’m sure my father doesn’t want to see us grieving before he’s even gone, either.

Unfortunately, because it went on so long, dad let himself get very sick, and at this point, he is still no better.

Bless him, we were told he is a “flight risk” even so. He keeps trying to leave the hospital to go home. While we were there, if he wasn’t sleeping, then every few minutes he’d check his watch and say, “It’s time to go.” He was feeling anxious because he hadn’t laid the fire and ‘needed to get home to collect the wood.’ Yet, being so wobbly, he can’t go anywhere without a walking frame and someone holding him.

It was hard to leave dad at the hospital. I’ll take my younger boys to see him tomorrow.

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The call has gone out to the family. The time has come to gather from various points on the earth. We just need to focus on supporting dad through this and surrounding him with love. So that’s where our energy goes at this time, being there with him, no matter what.

We’re still praying he can recover and return to his beloved hometown. But, as one of my young nephews so sagely said, ‘Grandpa will never be able to go back to the way things were before.’ As a family, we have turned a corner. It’s just that none of us know which corner we’ve taken.

How do I approach the decline of this great man? Step by step. Moment by moment. There is no other way to do it than to let one’s heart be broken, petal by petal. That’s what it is to love, to surrender to the process of life. Yet, in all its suffering there is still sweetness and divinity. On the drive home from Waikato, the setting sun rimmed a burst of clouds with gold and sent out long apricot-yellow “fingers of God” into the deep blue sky. The scene was overwhelming in its pure magnificence. I looked with joy and I wept with tears of grief for my father.

How do we approach all of life with the same equilibrium? That’s something I’m currently pondering on…your thoughts are welcome!

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.’ ~ E.B.White

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As a parent, your children pass so many milestones which at the time seem incredible and wondrous: their first tooth, their first smile, first step, first day at school, first night away from home, passing the double digits, and so on. As a parent of a child with CHD, Congenital Heart Disorder, you have additional, special milestones. Surviving the surgery is the first one.

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And it’s not a given. You come face to face with this brutal reality the first day you arrive in the Children’s Heart Ward for your child’s procedure. The specialists sit you down to explain the risks of open heart surgery. The real danger lies in what they call the “bypass.” The surgeons must stop the heart beating, and divert the blood, passing it through a machine while they work on the heart. This creates the threat of blood clotting. They tell you, your child may be permanently brain damaged or die. You have to sign a waiver at this point which basically says you agree to take these risks.

Next, the psychologist shows you a book of the photos of the surgery and graphic detail of the children’s chests afterwards. This is tough love; they say the preparation is necessary because otherwise, the shock for the parents is too great.

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By this stage, you’re quaking in your boots, trying to look strong and brave for your child. You have to be the parent, even though you wish you could run home to your own.

Therefore, surviving the surgery is the first milestone.

My son was an unusual case, and patching the ASD (Atrial Septal defect) did not entirely fix the problem. When they took him off bypass the first time, and closed him, the surgeons saw the blood coming out was still blue instead of red. Something was still wrong. They had to open the heart again, stop the heart and put him on bypass for a second time.

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They discovered an “anomalous” vein going down to the liver. This defect was “unique to him.” They replaced the patch so it covered the hole and the unusual vein. This time his blood ran red. My five year old had survived a double bypass.

He made it through that terrible first day in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. “OW! Mama it hurts!” were his first crying words. The second day, he said, “I need to get well!” He made it through the first few days in the High Dependency Unit, and taking his first painful steps walking in the ward. Surviving week one in recovery is the second milestone.

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Then we went home and he managed the first six weeks at home when CHD children must not fall over or take a blow to the torso and getting comfortable enough to sleep every night is the tricky part. Third milestone, ticked!

It typically takes CHD children twelve months to regain normal energy levels. My son had only just started at school when he had to have his surgery. When he returned to school a month later, he could only do half days and I had to give him a piggyback home every day, because he was too tired to walk. A year later, he was at school doing full days and walking both ways. Fourth milestone!

In 2011, we returned to the Children’s Heart Clinic for a check up. Most patients get “discharged” at this point. 95% of cases survive into adulthood which is a good success rate. However my son had been added to the “unusual case book,” and as such, the surgeons asked us to return in five years, so they could check on him again.

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This week, we went back for our second check-up. Returning to the ward brought all the memories back. We peeped in down the hallways. My son remembered that when I’d placed him on the metal bed in the operating theatre, he’d worried that the blanket wasn’t thick enough to keep him warm!

The nurse gave son a check up. We filled out a questionnaire. Yes, he still gets tight-chested sometimes when he runs, yes, he gets blue lips when he does a lot of exercise, and yet, that doesn’t stop him. He plays golf and soccer, he’s learning to play the drums, and he runs around as much as the other kids. He’s fit and healthy.

The nurse gave him an E.C.G. and then an ultra-sound. The heart surgeons conferred and finally announced he was officially “discharged.”

Son and I “high-fived” on the way to the car. Yes. He made the fifth milestone. “Onwards and upwards from here,” as my father would say.

What milestone has made your heart sing lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“It doesn’t hurt to be optimistic. You can always cry later.”

— Lucimar Santos de Lima

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This week, I took the boys down country and met my brother with his son. We stayed with grandpa for four days, as we do each school break.

Here’s the thing about visiting parents when they’re aging, there’s always a slight tension that never quite goes away. It’s like the prickle in your finger you can’t stop thinking about.

In between our visits, I worry about my father. He’s on his own now, mum having died nearly two years ago. I love his independence. He’s a potter-er. He has his aches and pains but he soldiers on. He makes his own meals and does his own laundry. I know he can take care of himself. I know he’s happy. I know he has a good life between his church, friends, bowls, volunteer work, clubs, and meetings.

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The last few get-togethers dad started complaining of memory loss. The last holiday or two, we have noticed changes. Some little instances of his not recognizing people he should have known, and so on. Since then, the normal mild tension one feels with a parent in their 80’s, became greater concern for his well-being. We’ve been keeping an eye on him. And now, each time we go, I’m hyped with stress, how is he going to be this time? Is he going to be worse? Will the decline be slow or steep?

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This visit was a relief for my brother and I because dad was fine. He showed no displays of memory loss beyond the ordinary things you or I would do. He was great. However, he is still different, more turned inward. When we saw a family friend on the last day, she asked my brother and I, how was your trip, and we both replied, “Interesting” in the same breath.

This holiday, dad, who is famous for his telling of jokes, and the offer of “a story,” had been silent. He didn’t tell a single joke in four days. That, in itself, set the tone for the difference. Dad also has his favourite things he likes to say, like how he was blessed with a lovely wife, a happy family and finding the land he lives on, and the story of how he found it. None of these stones were touched upon. And, that was unsettling.

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In the evenings, the boys would be playing cards (and dad joined in on many games), Sam would be playing his psp, and I’d be writing. I’d look up at dad and think, why isn’t he talking? He was busy with his Sudoku or he was working on his crossword, or he was reading the paper. If I asked a question, he’d answer and then go back to his crossword. He seemed deeply intensely absorbed in his routines and his things he likes to do.

Then on the last day we were there, I thought, I need to have a talk with dad.

I got up early. The instant I heard a footstep above, I rushed upstairs. I caught him before he could get started on his paper and I started him talking.

I engaged him, told him things about us and asked him questions. We had a conversation.

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He said, “I’ve been blessed with…” and I can’t tell you the relief I felt as he told me his familiar saying. He said, “And this place had only been open for development five days when we first saw it. I’ve told you the story, have I?” I said, “Yes, but tell me again!” I was so overjoyed he was back. There you are, dad. Whew!

Dad is simply aging naturally and as well as you can. He’s at the age and stage in life where he’s becoming more introverted. He’s looking inward which is the normal thing to do in the final stage of life. He’s got his routines and his set ways of doing things and he concentrates on them more so now than he did before as is natural. All is well with grandpa.

Yet, still I worry.

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The kids love to visit. My son with Downs’ syndrome loves grandpa, and Sam did spend a fair bit of time just staring at his face. Bless him, dad didn’t react but carried on as usual. I treasured him more than ever. I came home happy to report to the rest of the family (and Facebook!) that grandpa is going strong.

Now, how to manage the stress of worrying about him. What do you do?

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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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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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