Archive for the ‘FAMILY’ Category

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!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

November 4 question – Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

You know, a long time ago my nephew was studying at university and becoming far too wise about the ways of the world. He was becoming too informed and having trouble sleeping. Every time we met he would talk about pollution of the planet and over population and every other terrible thing, and he said, “What is the point of getting married and having children when there is no future?” His earnest expression broke my heart. My nephew was at that idealistic stage of life when every cause had a lot of fervour behind it. He disapproved of the artistic, bucolic life. But someone has to be the artist, the actor, the musician, the author, or none of us would survive. FYI, that Albert Camus quote is now my favourite of all time.

My nephew asked me, “How do you cope?” I replied, “To be a writer you must have one foot in the actual world and one foot in the world of imagination, otherwise you’d never be able to write. If I knew too much, I could not gain the uplift I need in order to create. For me to contact the muse, I need to dream.”

I am very fortunate to be a writer. I’ve had a generous, supportive family at my back throughout my life and got to a stage with my writing where it’s good enough to share. Because I began adult life at seventeen as a mum and then met my second husband at 36, starting the second half of my family then, I’ve always had children to care for. My life has revolved around home and parenthood and still does, with one grandchild added to the mix. Therefore, I’ve always fitted my writing in around the needs of the kids. I’ve grabbed moments alone each day to scribble stories frantically in notebooks.

From the get-go, the stories were fantasy fiction for children. My first ever story, The Scrifs and the Stirrits, featured a quest type adventure with anthropomorphic characters set in a different world, which is a fairly accurate description of my current trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver.

Why do I write what I write? My go to when I needed to escape the drudgery around me as a cooped-up teen mother was to climb out the golden window of my imagination. I wrote what I had most enjoyed reading as a child. I grew up on fairy tales, myths, and legends then moved on to fantasy chapter books, like Wind in the Willows, The Water Babies, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Wishing Chair, The Faraway Tree, The Moomintroll stories, The Narnia Chronicles, The Redwall Series and The Lord of the Rings. So I found that writing magical fantastical stories came easily. Naturally. It was like breathing; I felt free. I frolicked around in the meadow of make believe creatures and foreign lands and had so much fun that fantasy adventure for children has been my genre ever since.

Some people mock the genre, although since Harry Potter, middle grade fantasy has become more popular. My brother-in-law used to refer to me as “living in La-la land” and my sister used to say I “lived in fairyland.” But so what? I think that’s why I still love to write fantasy for children today because it’s still a secret place where I can escape the humdrum, the misery of life. Who cares if I have a La-la Land? Who cares if I live in fairyland? I’m writing fantasy stories for children–that’s part of the brief. I’m still raising my kids, paying my bills, and being a good citizen. I believe writing this genre has kept me sane and well throughout every trial and tribulation in my life, and I can’t wait to see what stories are yet to come. It gives me the feeling there’s always something to look forward to.

Why do you write what you write?

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” ~ Ray Bradbury

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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

April 1 question – The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in a crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

We’re in the North Island of New Zealand, where the whole country has been on lockdown for nearly two weeks, with two weeks still to go, unless the end date gets changed. It’s been so strange, almost haunting, as if one had gone back in time to one’s youth. The air is clear of the usual traffic fumes and jet exhaust and smells different. Clean. The streets ring with the sounds of children playing and adults talking. There are more cyclists than cars on the road, and there are families out walking along the footpaths in droves.

It reminds me of growing up here in the 1960s.

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Yet, it’s not like the memories I keep of my childhood because this bucolic idyll is fraught with tension and a keyed-up state of general anxiety. As my friend said the other night, in our virtual drinks, re the Covid-19 virus, “I could have it, you could have it, we could all have it,” and that’s the uneasy truth we’re living with. Every visit to the supermarket, every outing, we feel we’re literally risking our lives. And we are.

Those of us who are parents are also trying to help our children deal with the stress. I have three boys. My two younger boys, my nephew and I are in our “bubble” over here, and my eldest is in a bubble with his own little family on the other side of town. At present, I’m worried about my eldest and his twenty-two-month-old baby. My darling granddaughter has a fever and they’re not sure what it is yet. I’ve been receiving constant updates and staying in contact with them.

Thank goodness for the Internet.

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My youngest son has immersed himself either in online schoolwork or in gaming and watching anime. He practices the trombone and drums. He’s not worried about a thing, he is as happy as a sandboy.

My seventeen-year-old Sam has Down syndrome and does not understand the pandemic or anything about lockdown. All he knows is that everything is suddenly different. His weekly chart of activities went from being full with school every day, and extracurricular activities, dance class, gym training, and basketball at night to being stuck at home on endless holiday. For a special needs person, they thrive on routine, and they like things to be the same every day. All Sam knows is the personal disaster of everything changing and becoming different suddenly. His reaction is to act out, to do silly things, or to freeze up and refuse to cooperate with even the simplest of requests. As Sam can’t speak, bad behaviour is his way of expressing himself. However, he’ll get used to the new normal given time.

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I’ve been enjoying the virtual meetings. I’ve been attending Toastmasters’ meetings via Zoom every Wednesday. They’ve been a lot of fun. It’s so nice to see everyone and see they’re doing well. I think connecting in whatever ways we can is uplifting. I also attend Friday night virtual drinks with old friends, via Zoom. We’ve known each other since schooldays. We’ve called our soiree “cocktails & pigtails,” and we wear our hair in pigtails, too, for the laughs. I’ve been so grateful for my friends, and I’m on the phone daily with my family. We’re checking up on one another.

I’ve been busy, more so than ever, since lockdown. I’ve been an editing machine and in two weeks, I have edited the entire manuscript of my work-in-progress twice! I’ve also been communicating with the book designer and figuring out how we will redo my first two books and do the design for the third. With luck, I’ll stay on target for publishing The Last Tree by June. I’m still going after my dreams, despite my insecurities, virus or no virus, lockdown or no lockdown.

What about you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Life is the love that reaches out, building bridges across gulfs of uncertainty to touch hands, hearts and souls in the experience of union,” – P. Seymour

The city has gone quiet and the noise from the motorway barely audible. In New Zealand, we are officially on lock down as the government helps everyone in the fight to contain the Covid-19 virus. We have four weeks ahead of self isolation and with luck the government will step the nation down from a “Level Four Alert” to a Level Three. It’s okay. I can hear more of the bird calls and the songs of the insects. It sounds poignant. Some people say they don’t like the quiet. I love it. I haven’t seen the streets this quiet since I was a kid growing up here in the sixties. The stillness feels peaceful, which is just what we need as we curl inside our family “bubbles” and prepare to hibernate.

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Essential services are still running. I ventured out yesterday to do the grocery shopping, and it was nerve-wracking. Police outside the supermarket, hazard signs, and perspex barriers between us and the checkout operators.

How do I cope with going out in public? I take preventative measures.

There are face masks available at some local chemists. I’m doing my best to follow all the preventative measures. The boys and I are washing our hands regularly and using Hand Sanitizer. We keep a distance of two meters from others in public. When we get home we shower, wash the clothes we were wearing and put shoes and coats out in the sun. We wash all the groceries, fruit, vegetables, and the packaging of processed foods in warm soapy water. There are many things we can do to minimize the risk.

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It is still scary. Every day we hear about new cases of people infected. I hope my family will be okay. But yesterday, while in the supermarket, two men sneezed and did not put an elbow over their faces. In another aisle, an online shopper was putting goods in his basket and did a sneeze over the goods he had collected. Horrible. Though sneezing is not a symptom of Covid-19, when there is a deadly virus around, any sign of illness is off-putting. If they’d had face masks on they wouldn’t have shared their illness with us. I realized how little control I had over the situation and for the first time I was afraid. There is an invisible danger every time I leave the house, and yet I still have to enter the supermarket and grocery store to get supplies each week.

How do I cope with the fear? Deep breathing helps. I sometimes say a mantra. I find meditation helps me stay on an even keel, so I’ve been meditating more than usual.

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After this week’s sneezing incident, I’ve taken the boys’ father up on his offer to do the shopping for both households for the duration of the lock down period. The fewer people out there, the better.

Yet, as social animals, we still need social interaction. It can get lonely in isolation. Thank goodness for modern technology. People have been reaching out to each other, face timing relatives on Skype and meeting with friends online. I’ve heard from friends, family, and Toastmasters colleagues. I’ve had videos sent to me via Facebook of friends singing. My old friends from schooldays are meeting up via Zoom room this Friday night for “virtual drinks.”

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This week we had our club’s first ever online Toastmasters meeting, and it was great fun. In among the fear, there have been positive things that have come out of this extraordinary time as people find new ways of connecting and supporting one another.

However, there’s also such a thing as being too plugged in. With world news at the moment, I think less is more. I sat and watched the BBC news with my son the other night and afterwards I felt almost unable to function. Stress lowers immunity function. I think for now, a light touch with the news is necessary for one’s well-being.

If we give in to the fear, we spiral downward. We have to stay strong mentally and emotionally and physically. That’s the only way we can be of service to our families. We have to persevere, keep our spirits up, the morale high.

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How do I keep my spirits up? I gravitate towards things I enjoyed doing as a kid.

I read books, watch movies, draw pictures, doodle, write stories, listen to music, sing, dance, go outside into the garden, plant things, and spend time with my family.

The boys and I have done their schoolwork together, gone for family runs, and we’ve played board games. I’ve seen whole families out biking to the park, couples walking dogs.

We’re reminded we can get through this together, and we will. How about you, how are you doing?

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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

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 * There are free counselling services in New Zealand. Call or text 1737. Check what’s available in your area.

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

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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