Archive for the ‘Family stories’ Category

I got caught on the hop this week. I discovered on Tuesday that I was due to give a speech at Toastmasters the following day, and I had to come up with something in a hurry. I thought about Sam, my sixteen-year-old with Downs’ syndrome. In the four years I’d been in Toastmasters, I had not tackled the big issues. I’d spoken about all kinds of major things, but, I hadn’t had the courage to talk about Sam, and Downs’ syndrome, or anything about my life as a “special” mum. I still haven’t had the courage to talk about about my youngest son, who has Congenital Heart Defect, and the life and death surgery he went through twice at the tender age age of five. Similarly, I have yet to give a speech about my grandmother’s death, or those of my parents (both deceased within the last four years). I didn’t feel I could do them justice.

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But, when Toastmasters asked me to do my first speech of the year, I decided the time had come to delve a little deeper and share more of my personal stories. In Toastmasters, they say that personal stories are the most powerful, they are the speeches people remember. I decided I would share the story of Sam’s arrival in my life and being a parent of a special needs kid. The speech title, ‘The Road Less Travelled,’ comes from the last verse of one of my favourite poems, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I opened my speech by recounting the story of Sam’s birth, in more or less these words:

When I was pregnant with my second child, I was thirty-six. My doctor recommended I take an amniocentesis test, which tests for any abnormalities in the child. I agreed and booked in for the test.

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But, the night before I was due to go into the hospital, I woke up at exactly 11 o’clock at night, with an epiphany. I sat up in bed and asked myself,

‘What would you do if there was something wrong with the baby?’

I knew I could not go against my moral code and abort it. So, literally at the eleventh hour, I cancelled the test.

Some months later, after a difficult birth, my midwife handed the baby to me with the words, “I’m sorry, but I believe your son has Downs’ syndrome.”

My world, my life as I knew it up to that point, ended, and a whole new life began in a whole new world. It was one I knew nothing about, and I had a lot to learn!

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Downs’ syndrome is a genetic condition which results from a third copy of the 21st chromosome.

One in six hundred babies are born with Downs’ syndrome every year in New Zealand. The condition entails delayed development, low muscle tone, and this combined with a large tongue makes it very difficult for many Downs’ syndrome kids to talk clearly. 70% of girls with the syndrome will be understood by anyone outside their immediate family and that figure drops to 40-50% for the boys.

The things that our normal babies take for granted, like sitting up, standing, walking, none of these things come easy for a special kid. Every step is hard won. Sam was three-years-old before he could crawl, five before he could walk, eleven before he was potty trained during the day and thirteen before he was dry through the night.

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We special parents say, ‘it’s like taking one step forward, two steps back.’

Therefore every milestone achieved, every hurdle crossed, with these kids is such a triumph. You feel so proud of them you could burst. I know how hard Sam has worked to learn how to do every little thing.

Being a special needs parent has enriched my life. Sam has taught me so much; I have gained so much from his example. He’s taught me humility, patience, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and how to care for the underdog. I would say most of all, he has taught me how to be present. For Sam, there is no future. He doesn’t have the ability to look ahead and imagine outcomes, there is only right now.

Sam is always present. That lesson in itself has been a gift.

The road less travelled by continues to reap dividends, and I am so grateful I accepted the challenge.

Thank goodness. Imagine what I would have missed out on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“There’s not one path. There’s not even the right path. There is only your path.” – Nietzsche

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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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Tuesday the twelfth of February marked the first anniversary of my father’s death. It was a year ago on a Monday that I got the phone call you dread, that someone you love has died. It was my elder sister, who was ringing from the Waikato Hospital.

I think it was seven o’clock in the morning – too early to be good news – “Dad passed away last night.”

I felt sucker punched.

My sister said the hospital then the funeral home was taking dad’s body to do the final things that needed to be done; he would be sent home to us in a day or so.

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I started packing our bags. I spoke to all the people I needed to speak to, excused the boys from school for the week, and we were on the road to my father’s log cabin within the hour.

I’ll never forget the scene, when we drove into dad’s seaside town and neared the mountain he lived on, we found the peak was completely hidden within its own private cloud. It was so unusual I had to stop and take a photo.

I felt the land and the sea surrounding us were speaking directly to our sorrow.

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When we arrived at the empty house that was when the tears flowed. I couldn’t believe dad wouldn’t be there, as he always had been there: reading the paper, watching the 6 o’clock news, doing the crossword, feeding his birds, working in the garden, making food in the kitchen, playing cribbage with us in the evenings. Dad would never be there again.

I looked at my two youngest boys and they looked at me, and I knew I had to be strong for them. Though dad had only been gone a day, certain doors had closed, and a new one had opened, that of my stepping up in rank in our family.

Now, it was my turn to begin the walk of the kaumatua (elder).

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I unpacked our bags, and started preparing food for my sisters, who were driving to Thames Hospital to sort out paperwork, and would then make the trip to us. It all felt surreal. The reality arrived when the funeral home brought dad’s casket to the house a day and a half later.

The funeral director said, ‘the hardest moments for the families are when the lid is first removed and when the lid of the casket is put back on.’

Both moments were heart wrenching. Yet, my father himself looked like he was sleeping, and he was dressed in his very best Sunday suit. We took it in turns after the initial outpouring of grief to sit with him. We didn’t leave dad alone, apart from when we were sleeping.

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Dad spent two and a half days with us at home. We sat with him, held his hands, stroked his hair, sang and talked to him. More family arrived until we were all present. Friends came by, bringing food, neighbours baked cakes and lasagnes.

In the evenings, we siblings sat around the dining table, spending hour after hour going through the old photos. There were boxes to view and sort and distribute between us. Each day, we selected another room of the house to clear out and sort through. The contents of our parents’ lives spread before us.

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Although it almost felt disrespectful to touch their belongings, two people’s lives and a house full of possessions needed to be resolved.

After dad had been moved to his beloved church and had been given a beautiful, moving ceremony, we laid him to rest, alongside mum in the town’s cemetery.

Tuesday 12th 2019 marked the first anniversary of dad’s death. My sister and I travelled to mum’s and dad’s hometown in order to pay our respects.

We visited the cemetery and cleaned the headstone; we put in fresh flowers and solar lights. We spoke to dad and said some prayers and sang a song. We told him and mum that they’re not forgotten. It was sad but it felt like the right thing to do.

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I came home to the city and my kids musing on the fact sometimes growing up can be hard. I felt sorry for my teenagers and their travails.

In the last two weeks, my youngest son has started high school. He’s made several commitments to teams and groups, at the same time undertaking more chores at home. Tonight, when I asked him to do the ‘umpteenth thing,’ he said, “GROWING UP SUCKS!”

It does, man, there’s no other way of putting it. Yet, the tragedies and the hardships we go through, as we get older and lose more people, are what also shape and craft us into better, deeper, more empathetic human beings.

Sometimes, it sucks, yet, that’s okay. It means another phase of life begins.

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Talk to you later.

Yvette K. Carol

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

 

 

The youngest son began high school this week. He was nervous about the extra work load and whether he’d fit in. At the same time, he was excited about the new opportunities. When his older brother and I joined him the first morning of the Orientation day, for the Powhiri (traditional Maori welcome ceremony), my heart was wrung inside out to bear witness to his slouching, head hung down awkwardness.

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I can remember my first day of high school. I walked – it was a good three quarter of an hour distance – and I was petrified, wondering what college would be like. After a while, another girl, who was walking along in the same uniform, joined me. We immediately became friends. All the nervousness melted away. For that important first day, I strolled in the gates with an ally and that made all the difference in the world.

I hoped my son would find his friends.

Eyes are watching, everywhere.
Look at the seniors, we wouldn’t dare.
Talk to old friends, the pressure ends there.
From ‘High School’ © Nikii
Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/highschool

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The youngest son’s first day at high school was an orientation day so there were no classes. I was distracted the whole day, worrying about him. He survived however, and somehow, miraculously figured out which bus to catch home, returning faded and dusty around four in the afternoon. He’d found one of his buddies from last year, he said.

Yet, I noticed he was still carrying the bag with his year’s worth of stationary.

I said I’d buy a school locker, but no, he was ‘too nervous to get one!’

The second day, he was still finding his way around the new school, navigating his classes with different teachers. “Everything about high school is weird,” he said, upon returning home that day. They had done a tour of the nurse’s office, “And on the walls were giant posters, one was for LGBT rights, and the other was about using condoms.” I gather he was slightly shocked.

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He’s being treated in a new way, as if he’s older, which he quite likes. He still didn’t appreciate hearing the input of the teacher, who – upon seeing he and his friends laughing in the break – said, “You won’t be smiling like that for long!”

We all know, high school is a place of hard knocks, but no one expects the teachers to be telling the new students that message on their first day at high school. He’ll find the truth out on his own!

The youngest son came home around four in the afternoon, weary and wan, and devastated that he had been given homework already! Stepping into high school, apparently, was like stepping into another world. He said, “The kids don’t really play games in the breaks, they just walk around the school talking.”
There’s peer pressure, sex, violence, and too many fights to imagine.
People, who you thought were your friends, are the ones you mainly end up fighting.
From ‘A Typical Teenager’ © Courtney Dailey
Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/a-typical-teenager

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The third day at high school (today) was a new experience again. Youngest son came in the door around four this afternoon, tired and pale, yet, he was smiling. He said, “Remember how I wanted to go to this school because my friends were going there? Well, I found a crowd of them today. It was awesome!” Additionally, a number of them catch the same bus route home. Happy Days!

I noticed he’s still carrying his year’s worth of stationary around with him.

Maybe that will settle down and he’ll be able to trust his stuff to a locker in the second week? Unknown. For now, I can say, we have both managed to get through those gnarly first days, and he’s managed to find his feet to some degree.

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According to some statistics, kids generally enjoy high school. Teens say they have their best memories from school in high school (45%) versus those that rank Middle School/Junior (33%) or Elementary School (22%).

I can remember having an awful lot of fun in high school and meeting my best friends there.

The youngest son has five years ahead of him at this institution. Though I worry he’s underweight, and possibly a bully magnet, his years at high school could also be the making of him. Given the right sprinkle of teachers and the right sequence of learning opportunities, he might grow in confidence as well as size. He might gain maturity and become more responsible. He might make lifelong friends. You never know.

What I do know for sure is that we’ve seen another milestone. Now, I have two boys in high school. Another phase in life begins….

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“There’s not one path. There’s not even the right path. There is only your path.” – Nietzsche

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

It’s interesting living with young men, as you never quite know what mood you’re going to find them in. The sixteen-year-old was a drama a minute all of last year. Myself and the rest of the family were exhausted by Christmas. Yet, this year, he seems to be settling down and finding his middle ground.

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The youngest is on the cusp of adolescence. At the gullible age of thirteen, he takes everything so seriously, and lately, he has become even more into online gaming. These summer holidays, he was forced to take a two week break from gaming and spend time with family. But the last couple of weeks he’s been home and playing online most of the time. I offer him other activities. He says gaming is his way of relaxing.

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Apparently, most of his friends have moved on from constant Fortnite to other games like Call of Duty and Skate 3. They’re still ‘hanging out,’ just the same way I would have started doing with my friends at his age, but they’re doing it in digital form. The gamers follow one another in herds. All the friends who play regularly together, move by word of mouth to the games where the other kids are. All the time they’re playing they’re keeping up a constant conversation. In fact, if there are kids who are new in the group and they’re not talking, they get asked to speak because if they don’t, everyone else ‘gets sketched out about it.’

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I listen to the youngest son’s conversations sometimes, as I do sanction eavesdropping (not constantly, but on occasion) while a child is under the age of sixteen. A young person can easily be led astray without even realizing its happening. And this is such a potentially scary time for parents of pre-teens and young teens as everyone is so accessible. I admit I have nightmares about it sometimes. I worry about my boys often.

The other day, I heard my youngest son repeating some very unsavoury words, that he was obviously parroting someone else saying to him. I said, “WHAT are you talking about?”

He said, “I was talking with so-and-so (one of the people he plays online with) and he just randomly started saying these strange things.”

I said, “Unfriend and block him.”

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The youngest son did so. It surprised me that he had no idea what was going on. That’s where I feel a little parental guidance and supervision is required, at times.

He’s doing fine navigating things himself, yet he needs a bit of course correction now and again.

Apart from that, I can see the attraction. The kids are playing these super fun games from the comfort of home, yet, they’re still having this socially bonding experience with their friends. They’re all “What’s up, G?” “Let’s go!” “Yo!” and when a move taken in a game is a bad one “That’s cancer!” and when someone wins the game “You’re a god!” They talk the same lingo, and yet the words of choice change every week. What started out one week as ‘bro,’ turned into ‘bruh,’ then into ‘brr’ and, as of this week, they’re saying ‘bro’ again. You’ve got to be in the clique to know which words to use. One time I overheard the youngest son ask someone, “Why do you sound like you’re thirty years old?” They can tell when you’re not one of them in a twinkling.

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I can’t complain. If all this fun online stuff had been available in my time, I’m sure I would’ve been into it, too. I just worry that my boys don’t get out into nature enough. I want them to get outdoors more often. Throughout the holidays, I’ve invited the youngest son outside for rounds of badminton – formerly our favourite game – and he has declined the offer. Although I did convince him to joining myself and his brother for a number of swims.

I bought the youngest son a really good teen novel for Christmas to encourage him into reading. I want him to read at least one page every night this year.

I know he will come through this fixated, over dramatic, friends-are-everything stage, just as his two brothers did before him. Nevertheless, I try to stay vigilant in guiding and protecting him. I tell him he can always talk to me, that I’m always here for him.

The best advice my grandmother gave me for parenting was, ‘keep the lines of communication open,’ and that’s what I endeavour to do. What about you?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

 

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

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

There is something therapeutic about doing nothing, isn’t there. And there’s a real art to it. Some are better at it than others. I have friends for instance, who declare when they’re on holiday, that they’re ‘very good at doing nothing at all.’ Whereas I’m a bit more on your tightly wound scale of things, I like to have things to do or I end up inventing things to do.

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I find myself longing for more stillness. In an article by Colleen Long, Psy.D. over on Pyschology Today, The Art of Doing Nothing Why Italians, Not Americans, Get This One Right, Colleen argues for the benefits of relaxation, citing the Italian term, “La Dolce Far Niente,” which means- the sweetness of doing nothing. Colleen asks the pertinent question of us, when we get home at the end of the day, ‘instead of checking your email one last time to see if anyone else is needing you to do something, instead of using your free time to check your bank accounts or pay that cell phone bill- What if you just did nothing?’ Provocative question isn’t it!

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What gets me confused is that on the one hand, I want to take the foot off the pedal. On the other hand, summer is ideal for achieving things and making progress with plans and careers. When I’m warm day and night, there is lightness in that. Instead of having to brace against the chill and either do things to provide heating or layer up the clothing to become the Michelin man, I feel more at ease, I’m comfortable and with less material between me and life. I feel things are more immediate. I feel more ready to respond to the demands of every day. I feel more energy, and the days are long enough in which to go on adventures, or travel long distances, or to get more done.

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I find it hard to do nothing. I  always remember my gran at the end of her life, the change she found the bitterest pill of all, in her words, was ‘not being useful.’ She couldn’t bear having all the jobs slowly taken away from her as she grew older and became frailer. She’d prided herself her entire life on being the busiest woman in her community, a lady who could be relied upon to get stuff done, and doing less as she aged made her feel “useless.” I’m cut of her stock. I like to be productive. I am also my father’s daughter, a man who was busy serving his church and community in whatever ways he could into his dying days. It’s a challenge for me, each year in the holidays, to put down my pen – that’s the hardest wrench of all – to put away my gardening tools – I worry about my garden while I’m away – and this year, with my boys in the South Island – I worried about them, too – I got to take off my parenting hat, as well.

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This summer, I was child free for a ten whole days, and in that time, despite myself, I slowed right down to “island time.” I enjoyed it so much! Every day was a study in bliss with my eldest son and his family and my nephew, either swimming or visiting friends, or eating somewhere special every day. After that, I came home to the city so rejuvenated, I thought this slowing down, this art of doing nothing is an art I need to learn more about.

I gather the best place to start is with meditation. In his article, Why Should You Meditate? Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka relates how Harvard clinical studies have proven meditation to have physical, mental and emotional benefits.

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Recent studies from Harvard University found that long-term meditators have increased amounts of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, and the auditory and sensory cortex,’ said Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka. ‘When you meditate, you enter a space of internal expansiveness, calm, and joy. The result is feelings of expansiveness, calm, and joy in waking life, which has an effect on our interactions with others and the world around us.

There seem to be many benefits of meditation, and since it’s all about doing nothing, I feel challenged, and yet, I’m in!

Here are the links to some recommended resources:

How to Meditate for Beginners – 30 Tips, Tricks and Tools

Guided Meditations – Our 12 Best Meditations Now Free on Youtube

These are on my list of goals for the year ahead. In 2019, I intend to meditate! I want to do more nothing! And to have fun!

What about you, how good are you at doing nothing? Have you tried meditation? Tell me more!

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Talk to you later

Yvette K. Carol

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“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence. ~ Herman Melville

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

A couple of days ago, my family and I returned from our summer vacation. Summer in New Zealand heralds Christmas and the long break from school. It’s the annual chance to escape from the city for a while and take a breather.

This year, my two younger boys travelled with their father to visit the other half of their family who live in the lower South Island.

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I decided to spend the holiday at the beach with my eldest son and his family. We travelled to stay at my father’s former home (now holiday accommodation) with it’s spectacular view of the sea.

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This meant I got to spend ten days in the company of my first grandchild, a squeezable six-month-old baby girl.

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I had looked forward to it for months, as I’d only spent time with my granddaughter for a few hours at a time prior to that and it hadn’t been long enough to form a proper bond with her.

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It was such a heart warming experience to watch my son with his daughter. His life is coming together. He qualified as a plumber and gasfitter in 2018. He’s met a terrific partner; they’re engaged to be married. She already has two children and they’ve had their first child together, and they make an excellent team. It’s gratifying to witness your child being a responsible parent. He’s a great father and takes care of his family. What better sight is there to see.

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There’s something special about the summer holidays, isn’t there? When you get to spend time with family under the same roof. It was relaxing and wonderful to hang out together for an extended period. It was even more fun having a new baby in the family. We had the very great joy of introducing her to some things. I relished introducing her to Kiwi classic children’s books by Lynley Dodd, The Nickle Nackle Tree and the Hairy Maclary series.

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We took her to the beach for the very first time.

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We gave her first whole fruit to herself, a nectarine. She noshed big chunks out of it.

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We introduced her to badminton! She was a dab hand, straight away, at bashing the racket on the concrete and making dings in the rim.

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We taught her the art of selfies.

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We showed her how to wear a fetching Santa suit at the beach and make all the females swoon with adoration.

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Suffice to say, my granddaughter and I have bonded at last. I think it was better I was on holiday without the younger boys because it gave me the chance to focus on the baby.

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I returned to the city to collect my two youngest sons from the airport, and we were all home safe and sound by the evening of New Year’s Day.

I have had a little think about my intentions for the next twelve months and written them down in a notebook, which feels like a way of making myself accountable. Despite the doomsdayers and naysayers, I feel optimistic and excited about the year ahead. Life is what you make it, as my dear old dad always said, and I’ve started 2019 feeling refreshed and revitalised in every way.

Happy New Year to you and yours! Here’s to a rockin’ 2019!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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On the seventh day, God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town. ~ Gene Perret

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

The other day at Toastmasters, one friend said that she can never get used to Christmas in summer. Being born in the U.K, and only having lived in New Zealand for ten years, she’s still not used to celebrating the festive season at the height of the hottest season. My grandmother was English also, and though she lived here the last nine years of her life, Nan always said, ‘it never felt like Xmas’ celebrating in the sun.

It really is nutso when you think about it.

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The original celebration was about reassuring the people during the dark months of winter that the light would return again, when the shaman or elder went from door to door in the village with a branch of evergreen and a lamp.

Here we are, in the southern hemisphere, where it’s already the height of summer, therefore we are ‘in the light’ and don’t need a reminder that the sun will return again. Yet, we still eat a big roast meal in the middle of the day, we still wear fluffy Santa hats, we still songs about snow and sleigh bells. There is some conflict there because the celebration is happening in the wrong season.

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Me, I put all the negative voices aside. I was born in the month of December, so maybe that’s what makes me partial to the tradition, but I was raised with Christmas in summer. I have no problem with the nutso scheme of things. It suits me perfectly. I am happy to wear a Santa hat at the beach. I have no issue at all with wearing a Christmas jersey in summer. Maybe it comes down to being a kid at heart. I still have a powerful belief in Santa Claus, or rather; I fight for the right to believe in the possibility he exists.

My creative spirit is restless to believe in the ‘wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world,’ in the possibility of anything.

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

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?”

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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.”

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. 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.”

Christmas magic (via Tracey Henderson)

The original mythology of the large-hearted man delivering ‘gifts to good children’ comes from St. Nicholas or “Bishop Nicholas.” He was one of the most popular saints in early Christendom, especially in the East. He is said to have been a bishop of Myra (Lycia) in the early 4th century, and he was related to doing good works.

Bishop Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a poor 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. And, it’s been with a great many of us, ever since.

I know the festive season gets a lot of bad press, these days. However, it also brings a lot of pleasure. To me, it brings creativity, inspiration and uplifts the artist within.

The joy! I wish you and your families Happy Holidays, and I’ll see you in the New Year!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“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.” ~ Brian Conway

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[N.B. The blog will be on hiatus next week]

Love is the greatest gift that one generation can leave to another. ~ Richard Garnet

A couple of weeks ago, I learned that my nephew, a hardworking student doing his masters in architecture, had lost out on the summer job he’d been expecting. I wanted to support him. But I’m not going to just give him money. What does he gain from receiving something for nothing? Nothing. Far better, he moves and breaks a sweat, then gets the reward. In my home, my nephew, along with my three boys, and another nephew (who boards here), are all welcome to stay as long as they like. If they need money, they can have it, but, they have to earn it first.

I think a family, no matter what the shape or size, needs rules and to keep the rules simple. 

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I offered the nephew a few weeks work around here, as the old homestead was due for sprucing anyway. No problem. In fact, I realized it might even be preferable to put the effort in now, instead of waiting for the sweltering heat of the holidays.

It’s a win-win situation: I get help with the big work of summer, and he gets some income to pay his rent and eat, until he can find himself another part time job.

He and I have been working on the house maintenance the last two weeks, and we’ll most likely get finished next week. I feed him and pay him well, so I know he’s getting fed, he can pay his bills and in return, I’m getting all our jobs done early this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that. It means that this year, I might actually relax during my break. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. I think they call that a ‘win-win-win situation!’

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I really do want to support my nephew and help him. He’s a wonderful young man with a bright future ahead of him, and a social conscience as to how he can help people.

The proposal he recently submitted for his Master’s thesis – which he has to write next year – is about ‘the absence of the Maori voice, presence and culture in our present New Zealand society and in our design aesthetic.’

It was so poetic and poignant, I was struck by this boy’s mind and heart, his eloquent vision, and how much potential he has to do good in this world through his humanitarian approach to architecture.

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Sadly, my nephew’s mother died when he was only seven-years-old. I had been his “nanny” from the time he was three weeks old to the age of seven – as his parents were both busy professionals, working long hours – so we’ve always been close. But ever since his mother’s death, when his father remarried, I’ve felt like I was a standby, second mum for him.

I’ve watched him rise up through the ranks of college, choosing tech drawing and design classes the whole way through the school system.

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He always knew what he was interested in and what he was good at. I’ve seldom seen such singularity of purpose in a young child. So, I’m in awe of his trajectory, and I intend to continue to act as a support network behind him. As I’ve said to him many a time, if ever you need anything, you always know you can come here. Family should keep an open door for each other.

It’s difficult for young people coming up these days because everything’s so expensive.

Rental prices in this city are sky-high, so a lot of young people’s incomes are absorbed by the rent each week. It’s hardly good incentive for tertiary study.

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I know this particular nephew has a huge student loan already, and he’s still got his fifth year of University to go. He relies on paying work during summer, to put enough money away in the bank, to survive through the next school year. But, the company who had promised him work this summer went belly-up. The promised position had evaporated. Family can not only step in at this point, they can bang the tom-toms and send the message out to others. I can let my friends know there’s a willing young man looking for yard work. His father’s living down south at the moment so he’s not around, but I’m here, so that’s okay. No matter what, I’ll help get him through. That’s what family is for. I think it’s especially important to lend a hand to the up-and-coming next generation – they are, after all, our future.

Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them. ~ Richard L. Evans

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

‘Family is the most important thing in the world.’ ~ Princess Diana

Last weekend, I joined the extended Maori side of our family to celebrate the “unveiling ceremony” for a family matriarch. The unveiling is held a year after a person’s death, when the whanau (family) gather again at the marae – the general area outside their meeting house –  for a service and at the family cemetery to reveal the person’s headstone. It’s a time to bless the stone, to remember the loved one, to talk about them and sing to them, once more.

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I’d been invited to join my niece and nephews, to farewell their grandmother one last time at her “unveiling.” It was to be held at their family’s marae, on the banks of Lake Rotoma, which lies just beyond Rotorua. Lucky for me, I was able to coordinate my arrival with that of my niece, and I simply copied the protocol she displayed, so as not to do the wrong thing by mistake. I accompanied her when we entered the Te Waiiti Marae and followed in her wake, kissing the cheek of all those already there.

I felt out of my comfort zones, out of my element, and yet, it was okay. I was glad to be there.

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Outside the big kitchen where many women were busy preparing the food, there was a plastic bucket of Koura, or fresh water crayfish, which had been found in the nearby Waiiti stream.

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To the rear of the kitchen block, on a flat piece of lawn, the men were laying the hangi. They had dug the pit that morning. A bonfire had been lit much earlier and had burned down to coals. The rocks, which had been within the fire, were tipped into the bottom of the pit. Then the trays of prepared vegetables, pig, lamb and chicken were placed over the rocks.

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These were covered in sacks which had been soaked in water. Then, the men all pitched in to cover it in the soil. The hangi was then left to cook.

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An hour later, the ceremony began with the powhiri (welcome) when friends and family who had arrived were welcomed onto the marae.

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Everyone was seated outside the whare, (the house) where some of the women in the family sat with the photos of the deceased. The eldest male in the family then gave the mihi, or recitation of those family members who have passed, reminding everyone of the names of their ancestors.

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This was followed by waiata (song) and karakia (prayer), and then, the grandmother’s family lined up to greet the new arrivals. From there, everyone drove to the cemetery a mile or so down the road, where the gravesite had been prepared with decorations and the stone was covered by a traditional feathered cloak.

After more prayer, the headstone was unveiled and the inscription read aloud, before being blessed by the priest. There were readings, songs and everyone who wanted to speak was invited to speak, also known as ‘korero.’

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Finally, the whanau processed back to the marae in the afternoon, to dig up the hangi and eat a meal together (kai hakari).

I marvel at how lucky we’ve been in our family, that we have become forever connected – through marriage – to this Maori family. Because of this connection of whanau, we’ve been invited to attend a number of these traditional Maori events over the years, and have been fortunate enough to get a see a little bit of insight into their culture, which has been a real privilege.

At the same time, I still feel like an outsider looking in.

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I was very aware when I walked onto the marae, that morning, of being one of three other Europeans there. “Who’s that?” one of the aunties asked my nephew, indicating me. He said, “She’s my mum’s sister.”

Immediately, there were big smiles from the lady and all the other aunties sitting along the bench outside the dining room, and I went over to kiss her and each of the others on the cheek. I was welcomed with open arms.

The Maori culture is so rich and so steeped in tradition that it’s just a pleasure and an honour to bear witness and be a part of the lives of the indigenous people of this country. I loved every minute. It was a very special day to be part of, and it reminded me of everything that’s great about this country.

Te tangata, te tangata, te tangata! The people, the people, the people!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.’ ~ PD James

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

Today is Halloween in California where the youngest son continues his dream trip, ‘A Californian Adventure’ thanks to Koru Care NZ. The charitable trust is run by volunteers, who raise funds to send a group of seriously ill and disabled children on the trip of a lifetime to Disneyland each year.

When your child suffers so much due to ill health, as the parent, you want good things to happen to them.

Yet, as the parent, you’re also a bit jaded, and you tend to think, will this trip really be the ‘trip of a lifetime’ or will it be a series of disappointments? However, I’m happy to say the Californian Adventure has been all they promised and more.

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As was detailed in A California Adventure and Californian Adventure, Part 1, in the first week, the kids had been to meet the California Highway Patrol, to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to Universal Studios, and SeaWorld, and in the last blog post, the team were on their way to Disneyland. Imagine being a child at Disneyland for the first time, and you can stay all day through to the evening and go on as many rides as you can handle! Ha ha, I can hardly imagine the joy.

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The next day, they went to Knott’s Berry Farm, renamed “Knott’s Scary Farm” for the Day of the Dead. And, then, they visited Disney California Adventure Park.

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I love the fact that the kids aren’t being treated like kids. They aren’t expected to be in bed early every night. The team of adult carers have taken the kids out to see the sights in the evenings as well.

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They’ve given them a taste of the nightlife. They stayed at Disneyland, Knott’s Scary Farm and Disneyland California Adventure until after dark, so they got to watch the parades and ride the lighted roller coasters at night.

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They’ve dined in cool restaurants, seeing the bright lights along the way, and they’ve attended different dinner theatre, things most of these kids would never normally get to do.

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In the second week, they had another fun educational visit, this time to the LA Coast Guard and then a day at the San Diego Zoo.

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Today was a free day, and they’ve been at the beach all day. Tonight, they’ll have to fasten their seatbelts, because they’re going to a Halloween party! Then, the kids have one more day at Disneyland and California Adventure before they finally depart LAX for home.

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I expect the youngest son will come exhausted, satiated, and also, that his life will be forever enriched by this formative experience.

I’ve enjoyed watching on from afar and getting to live every minute vicariously through him, even the scary ones. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. The trip of a lifetime? It’s proving to be the trip of at least two!

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44877107_2379645158715632_414595559609860096_nI think one of the greatest things Korucare do with this trip is make it ‘device-free.’ The kids aren’t allowed to take phones or ipads or any sort of handheld gaming devices.

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They are thrown together for two weeks and without their phones and what-have-you, these kids are forced to communicate. And, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. You can see through the photos how close they’ve grown.

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These days, with the research done on the effects of the internet/personal phones/devices on our kids, the research has shown a decrease in the ability of children to hold a conversation.

What a brilliant idea, to make these vacations device-free. It really brings the group of kids together in a way they rarely get to experience, one-on-one, in the moment, and interacting with one another. It’s healthy for them and they need that reminder about how to function in real time with other people.

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At an event like this, where the kids are not allowed to bring their phones, you see them instantly revert to sitting in groups on the floor talking, and playing handgames, it’s the most heartwarming sight in the world. I’m so thrilled and pleased and honoured our family was one of those chosen for this special life-changing event.

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Thank you, once again, to all those who contribute to KoruCare NZ. We’ll never forget this.

Thank you!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal!” – P. Vaull Starr

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