Archive for the ‘Family stories’ Category

No matter how bad the year has been, I always try to take time on December 31st to think about what I’ve achieved during the year and all the things I have to be grateful for. My dear grandmother used to say something wise at the end of every visit. As I would reach the door, having hugged and kissed and said our farewells, reminding her when I’d be back again–the following Thursday for our weekly lunch and afternoon together–Gran would say something wise, usually the same few old sayings over and over. I never tired of hearing her say them. I felt I needed to hear the words that often to get the message. And one of her favourites was to say, “Remember, my dear, to always look for the silver lining and you will find it.” I loved that saying then, and I love it now.

I remember, Gran, I hear you saying the words and it helps guide me in my life. You had certain wisdom you passed onto me that has become part of who I am and how I deal with things. In the most horrible of situations, I try to look for the good that can come out of it. My grandmother was a great believer in “the power of positivity” as she called it. Gran believed and often told us about the transformative power of having an optimistic attitude. She was an ardent admirer of the Methodist minister Norman Vincent Peale’s work, and The Power of Positive Thinking was her favourite book, one she often quoted from. She would grab her well-worn hardback copy, kept in a bookcase by the front door, and open the plain blue cover to thumb through and read aloud a much-loved quote. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

I respected Gran’s enthusiasm for the topic and warmed to Peale’s ideas immediately. I have several Norman Vincent Peale’s inspirational books in my library and refer to his wisdom often. It helps to have tools such as these when looking back on 2020, as I was doing last night.

As I say, I take the time on New Year’s Eve to appreciate the twelve months gone before. When I looked back on the year we’ve had, it was hard at points to see the good in it. Man, it has been and continues to be a struggle. 2020 took a toll on me. The strain and anxiety around the whole Covid situation was intense, my concern being for my two younger boys. Both are at high risk. Nathaniel, the youngest, is asthmatic, and Samuel lives with a condition called “wet lungs,” caused by his aspirating food and fluids. Both boys were/are highly susceptible to infection, and Covid would be a death sentence. So we lived through months of tension and strife just going to the store.

At the same time as being confined to my home with two huge teenage boys and an adult nephew underfoot, I was editing The Last Tree and revising the first two books in my series, The Or’in of Tane and The Sasori Empire. I had a release date that kept getting pushed further and further back because it took so much longer than expected. Home, property, and kids went neglected as I slogged my way through editing day and night. It turned into six long months of stress and toil, PAINFUL in the extreme. I thought it would never be over, and I vowed I’d never release three books at once, ever again.

But I got there, releasing The Chronicles of Aden Weaver on October 10th. That was a big win for me in 2020. The book launch was the culmination of fifteen years writing this story and pursuing a dream, and I’m proud of myself. The trilogy sits on my bookshelf, the crowning achievement of 38 years writing for children. I’m glad I achieved that goal. Now I have these books and my children to leave as my legacy to the world which is a good feeling.

When I looked back, I saw other blessings too. I’ve made positive changes for my health and wellness. I doubled my meditation time, so now I start every day with twenty minutes of meditation, and I have more barefoot time in the garden, which helps me feel grounded. The boys are well and have done more reading. When schools reopened, we found a carer supporter, so Sam started Special Olympics basketball, and Nat made it into “A-team” in volleyball. All good things!

Gran you were right, I looked for the silver lining and it was there. What’s your silver lining?
Here’s to 2021. Happy New Year!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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Change your thoughts and you change your world. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Being a parent is hard at the best of times. When you’re working as well you divide your energy between their needs and your own. And my kids are at the most dreaded age of them all. No, not the terrible two’s but the terrifying teenage years. You always hear parents complaining about their teens and I used to think, no, nothing is as hard as raising little kids. But now that I’m here, man, this is parenting on a whole new level. It’s not just about feeding, clothing, housing and nurturing them anymore, it’s also about a whole raft of complex emotional counselling to keep them on an even keel. It’s about offering day-by-day guidance as they navigate the choppy waters of hormones and the realities of impending adulthood.

The middle son has his trials but being special needs he mostly cruises through life enjoying himself immensely or sleeping. The youngest son is on a rollercoaster of a lifetime. He’s a cauldron of emotions and intense reactions and feels burdened by being the smartest person in the room. There is a continuous thread of school drama going on in the background and he suffers deeply over things that happen between his large group of friends. Every night he regales me with whom’s not talking to who, who has acted strange, who he hates, who said this, that and the other thing. He talks about interactions with teachers where they have treated him unfairly, where none of the teachers appreciate him, and no one understands him. He says he lost respect for them because he asks questions and they don’t have the answers. He says they can’t think out of the box.

The youngest son has what they call “an old head on young shoulders.” He craves adulthood for want of a decent conversation. Teenagers are terrible conversationalists, he says. Teens mostly talk about recounts of their gaming exploits and what they’re watching online. They bore the youngest, and he gets all fidgety.

Being fifteen, he’s living through the most phenomenal rush of growth hormones he’ll ever experience, and I swear he’s taller every week. He’s growing at an exponential rate. Poor thing, he doesn’t know whether he’s a boy or a man. His brain is trying to catch up with him. He looks all awkward and gangly. He’s long limbed and cack-kneed, like a newborn giraffe. He bursts through the front door after school, lopes into the house, flops on the couch, or sprawls in a chair. He is energy at 110% or he’s nearly catatonic and falls asleep.

His voice has changed completely, too. Isn’t it funny how you get what you wish for? The dear boy had wanted a deep voice for years. In fact, I overheard him several times at fourteen-years-old, when playing on his X-box, pretending his voice was deeper than it was. Now his voice has broken it’s taken a lower timbre than any of his friends and he gets teased about it constantly. Now he wishes it wasn’t as deep as it is. Dude, decide!

The ever flowing, evolving form of his language changes like a chameleon. As he and his mates game together online, I hear the interchange of effortless “teen speak.” His tactics were ‘soft’ or ‘stale’ and if he’s doing badly in the game, he’s ‘choking.’ When luck is on his side, he’s ‘clipped it’ or ‘smacked them,’ in which case that was ‘cracked’ (truly awesome). And the favourite way of swearing without swearing is to put ‘frickin’ before everything.

The youngest son is a marvel. He has three modes: talking, gaming, or staring at his phone. Don’t get me started on the phone! What sort of monster did we create? I can remember his father and I discussing whether he was ready for his own phone at eleven. We bought him his first mobile at twelve. Cut to three years later and it’s permanently in front of his face. Their father took the boys to the South Island at Christmas and he confiscated the youngest son’s phone several times just to get him to look at the majestic scenery and take part in the family outdoor vacation. Otherwise the phone remains attached to one’s hand, or occasionally stuck in one’s waistband so one can stay plugged in to friends’ conversations while gaming.

I definitely underestimated how difficult parenting teens can sometimes be. I stand corrected.

Have you survived raising teenagers? Please send notes!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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90% of parenting is just thinking about when you can lie down again. ~ Phyllis Diller

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The unthinkable has happened in my world. The family has sold my parents’ home, the land we’ve owned, worked on, developed and made our little slice of paradise in the Coromandel Peninsula- my father’s log cabin by the sea. They have sold this plot we have tended and populated during the happiest days of our lives, the “creative wellspring” where I have gone seeking inspiration for my stories. Mum’s and dad’s home by the sea has featured repeatedly on this blog over the years. After my mother’s death in 2015, I wrote posts about the “boys’ trips” my brother and I took with our sons to visit dad every school holidays, A Visit to Grandpa, A Boys’ Trip! A Winter Trip, and so on.

Growing up, I didn’t know how lucky we were.

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Mum and dad bought the section in 1963. Dad told us the story many times, about how he had sold his bread business and the buyer could only afford to pay  £20 a week, “So I said to Shirley, we could put the money in our back pocket and carry on living high on the hog, or we could invest the money in a section for a bach.” The trip to the little Coromandel township on partly gravel roads over perilous mountains took my parents four and a half hours in a little old Ford with four kids. But as soon as they drove down out of the hills and saw the seaside town laid out before them, “it looked like paradise and mum said, this looks more like it.”

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They bought the section for the equivalent of a year’s wages, £900.

Growing up, we would start every vacation there with “the hundred bracken” game, we spread out in a line as a family across the property and we moved up the slope pulling bracken out stem-by-stem. Once we reached a hundred stems, we were let off the hook and could play. We developed the section slowly over many years from a bare plot of earth on a slope into a lovely retirement home for the last twenty years for mum and dad.

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There were views of the entire district from the peak behind their house, there was forest walks, fishing, rock-pooling, swimming at the surf beach and off the wharves, there was a grassy reserve below the house, there were playgrounds and basketball courts, a great little community with facilities and our favourite cafe where my family has gathered to dine for years.

The place had everything a child could want.

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I spent my childhood in kiddie heaven. In our holidays we could go wild, running free, riding down hillsides on cardboard boxes, jumping in the long grass, making tunnels through the bracken, taking off into the bush, exploring, climbing, trekking, and bird watching. In the early days, there was no electricity or running water.

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We had to take everything with us in our caravan. We cooked over an open fire, went digging for pipis to bait our fishing rods, we fished off the beach or the wharf and then cooked our fish on the fire, boiling the remaining pipis to eat on thick buttered crackers called cabin bread. We couldn’t all fit in the caravan. I loved sleeping under the awning. My brother and I would lie in sleeping bags on stretcher beds. We’d peek out the awning flaps at the moon shining on the black ocean and the immense vista of stars and talk for hours into the night.

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My sons and I went there to say goodbye over the weekend, along with other family members.

We pored over mum’s and dad’s memorabilia, photos and records. Dad had kept all his scouting books, and his scouting achievements, just as my mother had kept her dancing certificates, charting her childhood progress in dance class. Dad’s rise from apprentice to 1st mate in the merchant navy, recorded in his “Seamen’s Record” book, noted that Terence stood 5 foot 9, had brown eyes, brown hair and that his complexion was “fresh.”

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His marks were always “very good” and every year he achieved “very good” in “sobriety.” It was a little window into my father’s life. He had kept every letter of commendation received on his rise through the navy, even the epaulets from his uniform.

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We walked up the mountain; we played basketball, and we ate at our cafe. Then we packed up and shed many tears saying goodbye for the last time.

Farewell creative wellspring, farewell to our little slice of paradise. We remind ourselves we will get through this together. How about you, how are you doing? Any major changes in your world?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

June 3 question – Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

Fascinating question. I’ve got an excellent secret. It’s one of those weird, walking a thin line type of techniques a creative person uses to move the muse into responding. It’s a method I use when I get writer’s block. I’ll explain how it works. I act the story out. I get my butt off chair (the opposite to butt-in-chair, as recommended) and I act out the scene, saying aloud the dialogue and embodying the emotions.

Several times working on my latest book, The Last Tree, there were parts of the story that just wouldn’t work. I’d written them, torn them down, rebuilt them, sandblasted them, destroyed them, rewritten them and hacked them to pieces again and again. But I had no joy. The little inner writer’s voice kept nagging, ‘it’s still not right, it’s still not right.’ Then I tried the acting-it-out technique and ironed out the kinks. It got the story flowing again every time.

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This is how it works. *Note: for this technique I need to be home alone!  I set a pad and a pen on the counter, ready and waiting for the words of inspiration. Then I pace the house and start talking aloud.

I find it best to keep moving. I walk about around the rooms and put myself in the hero, Aden’s shoes. I say something like “I’m Aden. I’m a boy, thirteen-years-old. The enemy has recaptured me. I’m sore, I’m tired. I’m homesick. The hours are going past. What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What happens next?” and I talk it out with myself until I find the answers. As soon as ideas form, I write them down.

I’ve fixed every problem that way. It really is an effective tool. Yet if anyone had been a fly on the wall, I’m sure they’d have carted me off by the men in white suits. Lock her up, the neighbours would say, she’s ready for the loony bin.

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Another great secret from my past is that when I was in my twenties I used to work as “Barbie” for the Mattel toy company. They sent me to malls during the holidays, where I had to don my pink polyester suits, white high heels and an enormous blonde wig, and walk around handing out autographs. The funny thing was every time I entered a mall I expected to stand around twiddling my thumbs, but something about the whole Barbie magic would make the girls come running. They swamped me every time. I carried a stack of my own head shots, and would ask the kids’ names, write them on a postcard and then sign Barbie in a big flourish at the bottom. The girls loved it! Come to think of it, the job paid pretty well, and it was a cool gig for a junior writer.

And I’ll finish with the revelation that I like to watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I have a circle of rather wonderful friends whom I’ve known since high school. What they don’t know is that they’re all more high-brow than I am. They like to do things like going to the art gallery, poetry readings, listening to lectures and so on. I go along because we’re friends, or I try to join them mostly for the lunches and dinners.

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One time we were all out at dinner, the nine of us, and one friend was telling me about someone she was having difficulties with. As if indicative of this person’s low character, she said, “She even watches KUWTK.” I had to bite my tongue, thinking, ah, so do I. I confess I like reality shows, trashy magazines, big budget movies, rap and R&B, and my favourite treat on my nights off is eating a big bag of crisps with a glass of cold, full-cream milk. I can happily solely watch the E channel night and day. I’m sure it would horrify my friends if they knew. They’d probably disown me. But that’s why these are secrets.

Shh! Don’t tell. What about you, do you have an interesting revelation to share?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Choose happiness. It’s the ultimate act of rebellion. ~ Piper Bayard

I’ve been running around all week like a flea in a fit. The youngest son has been home from school, suffering from his allergies, and as any parent knows when a child is sick it creates a ton of extra work. Also…he likes to talk. He’s one of those people who once he gets going on a topic that interests him can ramble on and on, making it hard to get away. So each day, he’s lain on the couch, sneezing, talking, and watching anime, surrounded in a cotton cloud of spent tissues, while I’ve tried to get all the usual stuff done as well as look after the patient. These are the times you need to clone yourself.

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I suspect the youngest son has an active mind. The other day he said, “Do you know what I’m looking forward to the most about growing up?” A number of things went through my head like leaving school, independence, money, etc. He said, “I’m looking forward to having rational conversations.” I think my jaw hit the floor. Say what? Yes. He said he gets tired of the ridiculous things his friends say and it drives him crazy. I was amazed by that. I hung off every word my friends said when I was his age like a brainless gibbon. I had no such discernment.

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Since he was a tiny child the youngest has always been wise for his age. And decisive. While I’m dithering about on a decision, like what to name a new pet, the youngest son will deliver a verdict immediately. As the years went by, I started to rely on his instantaneous decision making because he always seemed to make the right choice. He’s fourteen and to him things are very clear. It’s a quality I envy at times. To me things are very grey never black and white, however, I may have gotten jaded with time.

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Over a month ago, he begged me to take him to an information evening about junior space school. The $10,000 price tag for two weeks at Space Camp didn’t faze him. He negotiated with his father and has started working every weekend with him as a builder’s hand. He’s saving the money steadily. “I want to do this more than I’ve wanted to do anything else in my life,” he told me. I believed him and want to support him in fulfilling his dream in every way that I can. The other day, in a questionnaire for school, he said they asked what he wants to be when he grows up. “I wanted to write astronaut but thought it would sound stupid.” “It’s not stupid to have big dreams,” I told him. “Dream as big as you like and anything is possible.”

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I admire him because I know how far he’s come. I guess when you’ve faced death on the operating table at the age of five it changes a person. But the youngest son survived his double bypass open heart surgery, without brain damage or the possible side effects of paediatric heart surgery like emotional/developmental/behavioural difficulties. He came through perhaps a little weaker physically than his peers. Otherwise he is no different except for his high level of intelligence and a well of compassion as deep and wide as Lake Taupo. I would say he’s an extraordinary individual. If anyone could grow up to be an astronaut, it’s him.

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I tell friends, “he’s fourteen going on forty” as a way of saying he has an old head on young shoulders. I remember we were driving back from his physiotherapy one afternoon, and the boy racer in the car next to us screeched to a halt half a car’s length over the stop lines on the road. The youngest said, “Why do that? He’s just showing off. It’s silly.” I thought if I closed my eyes that could be my father speaking, you’d never think it was coming from someone nearly eligible to be a boy racer himself.

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It’s humbling being a parent. As Kahlil Gibran said in his famous book, The Prophet, your children are not yours, they are the arrows and you are the bow that sends them forth into the world. As a parent you want the best for your children. You create them, raise them, guide them, love them and then you let them go. Yet, with my youngest sometimes I’d swear he’s the one raising me.

What about you, do you know a child who seems far older than their years? Or are you the old soul in your family?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. ~ Kahlil Gibran

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

 

 

 

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

March 4 question – Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

Not so much family traditions, however, there are other ways I’ve used family as a resource for my stories. The main character, Aden Weaver, who is the hero of my latest series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, resembles my youngest son. Aden is a year younger, but it’s still been useful whenever I’ve wondered how he would act or how he would view something to imagine my youngest and look at things through his eyes. It enabled me to gain access into the young male mindset. Conversely, for Aden’s leadership of the team, his plans, decisions and the way he spoke in every crisis, I brought to mind one of my nephews and he helped me capture that strong male warrior mentality and masculinity.

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I based the kindly yet stern grandfather figure in the series on my father, with his white shock of hair ‘standing off his head in a salute.’ I had to get my father’s hair into a story! It was wonderful and the bane of his life. Dad would carefully slick the hair on top of his head down every morning with some product and halfway through the day his hair would spring up again. If I pointed out how cute he looked, Dad would look horrified, although in a gently comedic way and scamper off to comb his hair again. He was a great model for Aden’s beloved grandfather. I took the character’s name, Papa Joe, directly from my younger boys’ paternal grandfather, Joseph, who signed his first card and a letter to the kids with “Papa Joe.” I loved the name the moment I saw it and knew I had to use it in a story one day. It was too good, too short, sweet and lyrical.

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I drew Aden’s grandmother, Nana Jeen, from my grandmother, except I gave Nana Jeen the hair I’ve always loved in children’s literature, long silver locks which she wears in a braid or coiled up. I mention Nana Jeen’s cooking often, and that was my grandmother, whose husband famously never once took her out to dinner. When asked why not, he would say, “Why would I go out to eat when I can eat so well at home?” Nana Jeen is soft, attentive and loving like Gran was and she cares enough to go the extra mile like remembering to make someone’s favourite sweets. She also likes a drink of strong liquor in the evening. Gran was partial to sherry.

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In my story, Nana Jeen disapproves of Papa Joe smoking cigars, whereas in real life my grandmother was fond of a private daily cigarette. Nana Jeen is also a kick-arse gal, who knows how to fight, being a trained warrior in the Order of Twenty-four, and I think Gran would have liked that.

Te Maia was a name I overheard in conversation, when my Maori sister-in-law said if she ever had a baby girl she’d name her Te Maia. It was such a beautiful name it stayed with me through the years. I gave Te Maia in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver disabilities because having my son Samuel who has Down syndrome, I’m drawn to include characters with special needs. Te Maia learns to fight, and she has a prodigious memory, and she also brings her healing skills with herbs and traditional medicine as assets to the team.

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Sun was an easy character to draw for me because I’d bring to mind another of my nephews. I worked as his live-in nanny, looking after him from the age of three weeks to seven years old. He quickly earned the nickname “Sumo-momo” for being a fearless, feisty, energetic, irrepressible dynamo. Sun is one of my favourite characters in the whole series. She has that special something my father used to call “spirit” that get-up-and-go quality.

When I think about it, I guess I have drawn on family liberally for characters for my stories.

What about you? Do you use family for inspiration?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Whether or not you write well, write bravely. ~ Bill Stout

The school year is off with a bang! It’s like going from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds. I’m ready for a holiday already. I’ve been running around like a headless chicken as the school year typically begins with a list of the kids’ “required items,” uniforms, stationary, sports uniforms, footwear, school fees, sports fees, and there are endless emails to read from schools, sports clubs, teachers, and coaches and so on. In the last two weeks, between the two boys, with the school gear and stationary lists, and the various items needed for camp, I’ve been on the phone, online, making purchases, making lists, dashing out to the shops, going here and there, buying things and finding obscure items like heavy duty gumboots, insect repellent and aquatic shoes.

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The youngest son began his second year of high school last week. In that time he has already impressed his math teacher by being the only student in the classroom to figure out the difficult math puzzle he put to them. That night when he was telling me about it, he said, “Me, big brain,” which made me laugh. He has that dazzling self confidence that young people do before life has bashed them around a bit. My nephew is always telling him, “You don’t know everything, you realize that?” I think it’s a great and admirable thing about youth when they believe anything is possible. I like to emulate that. He has been away with the other Year 10s on a school camp this week. The house has been resoundingly quiet without him. I never realized he made so much noise.

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Sam-the-man, my seventeen-year-old with Down syndrome started his first week at the Transition Centre. He loves it, thank goodness. Parents of special needs kids always feel trepidation approaching any change in circumstances for their children like changing schools, moving houses, or taking on a new carer supporter. You never know whether your child will flip out this time or display a delayed reaction by “acting out” later at home. As one of the two students from his high school to be picked last year for the coveted positions at the Transition Centre, I wanted him to be ready, but I still wasn’t sure. He seemed too young and immature to be at what is essentially the special needs equivalent of a university or a job training facility. Was he ready? I didn’t know.

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On Monday they picked Sam up in a big Mercedes bus taxi. On board were a small crew of able-bodied young people with special needs aged between seventeen and twenty-one. They were the other kids going to the Transition Centre from around our neighbourhood.

According to the timetable, they spend their days working at local farms and tree nurseries. Some days, they do fitness, swimming, arts and crafts, and literacy and numeracy classes. It’s a far more grown up week. Even after his first day, Sam came home looking more confident. His teacher tells me he worked hard and “he responds really well to praise.” I gladly put my fears away, because Sam comes home each day with a new sense of purpose in his stride. He was ready for the step up.

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Sam’s dance class began their first term of the year on Tuesday. As the night of the class has changed and it no longer clashes with my schedule, I take him. It’s a great excuse to sit and read for an hour while taking peeks at his progress. Sam picks up the new moves quickly. The other girls in the class seem to take him and his sometimes quirky antics and lapses into freestyle in stride, and the teacher carries on teaching! It’s a tolerant environment for him to grow as a dancer. And he’s started going to the gym on Wednesday nights again. I’ve been providing the taxi service for the various activities.

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As the summer holidays draw to their end, I always think the kids going back to school will be a cinch. With all your beach days behind you, you can take anything life brings. Then the first week of school happens and you feel as if you have been “run over by a truck.” The first week or two back at school, the boys and I are exhausted and grumpy. It takes a little while to get the cogs greased and the wheels of the school bus turning again. However, the challenges of the New Year arise and we have to grow to meet them. It’s a process.

We’ll get there, aided in no uncertain terms by good music, family, friends, meditation, and good food.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it. ~ Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens)

It’s been an interesting and intense time of late with the higher than usual summer temperatures and the boys becoming fractious towards the end of the holidays. Adolescence has beset the youngest child, and he’s monstrously tired all the time, not only that he lies around complaining about being too hot and too tired. Apparently all he can do is online gaming or binge-watching anime on Netflix. He tries asking for things, like can I bring him a drink or a snack, from the couch. That’s when I growl, and he says, “Okay, I’ll do it” with a groaning voice as if he was dying. I get that the hormones racing through his body are raising his body temperature and that this is our hottest summer, yet there’s a limit to even the most patient parent’s Zen.

“Don’t you feel hot?” asked the youngest child, plaintively.

“Yes,” said I.

“Well, how do you handle it?” he asked.

“I try not to focus on it but put my attention onto other things.”

“Huh?”

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The constant baking temperatures test the patience levels. The boys have been grumpy, and they snap back a lot. We have been having difficulty sleeping, though we each sleep with a fan.

An hour after we’d gone to bed last night, a knock sounded at my door. A weary voice on the other side, that wavers these days between high and low as if uncertain where to settle, said, “I’m boiling, I can’t sleep. Can you help?”

I got up and hugged him. It was like hugging an oven. The youngest is having hormonal surges – just as I am each night when menopausal hot flashes wake me up – his body at fourteen-and-a-half is aflame with hormones. I felt sorry for him. We did a few things that helped his core body temperature come down and he could sleep.

As there is some concern about the “heat wave” predicted for New Zealand this weekend, when temperatures may reach 30 degrees, I thought I might share a few tips on cooling down.

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“Temperatures nationwide are above normal on Sunday, not just by a few degrees but in many regions by over 10C as air flows from Australia and the sub-tropics combine to move down over parts of New Zealand,” according to NewsHub.

Here are some ways to cope with the heat

Go downstairs to the basement if you have one as they will always be cooler than upstairs.

Have cold baths or showers

Try to avoid getting sunburned during the day.

Close the curtains on the sunny side of the house.

Don’t open windows facing the sun during the day, open them at night once the temperatures come down

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Make trays of ice and hold a cube in your mouth.

Drink plenty of water

Drink iced water. Put your water bottle in the freezer until it’s nearly frozen and then take out and once it melts take small sips, it’s effective for bringing body temperature down.

Apply cold packs which are cheaply available from stores like Pak ‘n’ Save

My friend said that they were saving the money to have air conditioning installed. We have air con though I never use it as it’s too expensive to run, but it’s a backup plan if things get desperate. However, if you don’t have air con at home, borrow other peoples. We hang out in the malls, the libraries, the museum, the public places that are air-conditioned during the day to cool down.

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As temperatures continue to climb, we must think further ahead. I plan to get a quote for sun awnings off both sides of the house to cover the verandas and also get quotes for wooden shutters for the windows. I hear getting the windows triple glazed is best. Triple glazing keeps the heat out and in winter keeps the heat in, however, that is top dollar.

My youngest tells me, “This results from global warming, the seasons will be more extreme, summers will be hotter and winters will be colder.” Summers are more scorching, I haven’t noticed winters changing overly, although weather has been unpredictable with freak storms, floods, and so on. I remember reading that Europe and America had heat waves last summer. It’s an undeniable fact that conditions are changing, therefore on a global level, we have to find ways of responding to climate change.

On a personal level, there are also many things we can do to embrace change and deal with what is happening positively. I want to think ahead, find solutions for my family, and get on with living life. How about you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The more you accept your life, the more your life improves. ~ Unknown

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I inherited a fishpond with this property. My ex husband put the pond in during the ten-year period he was living here, and as usual it was one of his do-it-yourself creations. He’s always been a fish guy. When he left, I took over care of the pond and scores of fish.

Slowly, as the last eleven years have gone by, the fish stock has dwindled down to two survivors. I’m not a fish guy.

The pond admittedly was looking overgrown. I had cleaned it out a few times, but the plastic liner was getting old. Last year, with all the rain we had in winter, the pond filled up to the brim as it always does, but this time the water was brown. I didn’t know what to do. So I rang the ex husband. I said, “Isn’t the brown water going to kill the fish?” He said, “Well, it’s not good for them. You need to replace the liner every ten years.” I said, “Thanks for telling me.” Oh, dear! There was nothing I could do because the garden was a sea of mud the rest of winter.

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I hadn’t seen a sign of the goldfish since then and had assumed they were both dead. 

We’ve had a hotter than usual spring and summer in New Zealand and pond water evaporates fast in the heat. Instead of refilling, I thought I’d let the water mostly evaporate naturally, as the fish were dead. I was planning to fill in the hole in our lawn. This week, I poked around in the fetid water but there was no sign of anything living. So I started emptying the rest of the pool with a bucket. When I got down to the last inches, suddenly there was a flash of red. There was a survivor, just one, but, hey.

Suddenly, I was back in the fish business. I had to figure out how to recreate the ex husband’s D-I-Y pond and save the goldfish.

by Gary Cook

It wasn’t difficult at all. In fact it was fun. In the interests of sharing how easy and cheap it is to create your own fishpond in your backyard, I thought I’d share the steps with you.

Instructions

Start by digging a hole in the lawn. Don’t just dig a boring square or an oval, do something off-beat and interesting. Dig down in stepped levels. Think of fish as intelligent beings in need of mental stimulation (and water and food). Who wants bored fish, just hanging there? Give them something to do to keep them feisty for as long as possible.

Line the hole with plastic. Here’s a tip. Don’t go to the landscaping section of your hardware store, the pool liner they had there would have cost $150 for three meters. Go to the building supplies section. I bought a roll of black polythene, which says on the label is suitable for lining rock pools, 2 x 5 meters for $10.50. There might even be enough to re-line it again in another ten years.

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Place stones or bricks around the edges to hold the plastic down.

Go to your local pet store to pick up supplies. You’ll need a fish! I bought a mate for our poor survivor.

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Buy fish food and oxygen weed, water lilies and pond grass and so on, things for the fish to hide under and to eat. Fish will eat anything. My parents used to supply their ponds with aquatic snails but I don’t bother. They were fish guys, I’m not.

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When putting your pond together, try to create a few areas with rocks that provide shelters for the fish to hide under and that are also fun. I try to position rocks to make shelves they can swim around, and I put one of those sections of old ceramic pipe on the bottom to create a tunnel for them to swim through.

Once the rocks are in place, three quarter fill the pond to allow for rainfall, if you live in a dry area then fill higher, and add your pond weed. Next, sit the goldfish into the pond still in the bag (and bucket) to acclimatize them to the temperature of the water for an hour before you release them. Hey, maybe I am a bit of a fish guy.

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Plant grasses and ferns or flowering plants around the edges of the pond. Don’t forget to put wire or protective mesh over the water or birds and cats alike will dine, and hedgehogs will fall in, trying to drink the water.

I need to add more rocks around the edge of ours to cover the plastic but I think it looks good, and it only cost twenty-five dollars. Anyone can do it!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing. ~ William Shakespeare

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Though we’ve returned to the city and had our summer break in the country, the feeling of being on holiday continues. A lot of people have not yet returned to work so the days are slow and balmy. In New Zealand, businesses close altogether for a few weeks at this time of year. The usual traffic noise from the distant motorway which dissects the urban sprawl has dwindled to a distant hum. Bees drone in the garden and birds flick from branch to branch pecking at the remaining fruit. There is a lazy feeling in the air.

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The reclining Black Doris plum tree in our front garden is a wonder of nature. The trunk now lies on the ground, it’s half rotten, half hollowed out by ants yet new branches have grown up towards the light creating the illusion of a long line of small trees, and this marvellous crazy old tree produced an abundance of fruit again, this year. We picked buckets of plums. We’ve had overflowing bowls of red orbs on every surface everywhere in the kitchen and the air has been redolent with the tropical smell for weeks.

The pod of bananas on our tree outside the front door has yellowed rapidly and they are delectable. We like eating them straight off the palm. However, added to the juicy plums, they also make the basis of the greatest smoothies!

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The garden is alive with the sounds of chicks in the nests around the garden. The birds, mice and rats have been having a bumper season because of the warmer temperatures, so they’ve been keeping the neighbourhood cats on their toes. Whenever I step outside, it feels as if the surrounding air is alive with things flying about. It’s frenetic. I guess it’s in keeping with these sped up times.

Last weekend, I finally went back to work on my latest book, The Last Tree. The copy editor returned her notes around Christmas, just prior to our going away, and this was the first chance I’d had to open the document. I got about halfway through the edits and hope to finish going through them this weekend. The story is taking on a high sheen.

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Yesterday, I finished reading Donato and the Cartege Blade by Fiona Jordan, a fellow New Zealand writer. She did a good job with that book. I noticed in reading her acknowledgements, the small army of people she thanked for their help editing and shaping the story, and I couldn’t help think I’ve only had a small amount of input on mine. I hope it’s enough.

I’m at the stage where I’m close to making important decisions about where to spend my money next, and I also have a ton of organizing to do as to producing and distributing and promoting The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series. At some point, I will need to swing my radar onto starting a new book. I admit to being rather daunted. There is spade work ahead, this year, that I know, but I also know that right now in this moment we’re still on vacation. The boys don’t go back to school until February, so I have until then to take a breather while I can.

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I think trying to find a balance is important. I have to take care of myself to be healthy and present for my kids and my family. The pace of life is faster, these days, and for me to be as productive and yet as calm as possible, I need to balance work and play. So, though I’m looking ahead at 2020 and seeing the effort I need to make, I’m also planning my downtime and making enquiries about a vacation out of the city.

My best friend says she loves the holidays because she’s “good at doing nothing all day.” I really admire that ability to decompress completely. With our busy lives, we need to prioritize relaxation. I tell myself, “It’s okay to unwind.” I practice daily meditation and endeavour to observe “mindful” moments throughout the day. I want to be the best parent and role model I can be for my children. It starts with self care first, and then the care for everyone and everything else flows from there.

I hope to achieve a better work life balance in 2020. How about you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you. – Walt Whitman

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