Archive for the ‘FAMILY’ Category

When I started this blog, I shared how to make your family greeting card at this time of year. Every year since I have brought out the instructions, dusted them off, given them a re-jig, and re-posted them. The tradition of making my cards with photos of my youngest boys started with my middle son’s birth. Samuel was born with Down Syndrome and Autism, and it was a way of celebrating Sam by making him the feature.

When my youngest came along two years later, we added him to the greeting card, and I’ve made the same photo cards, updating the festive sibling portrait every year since. I love the ritual of taking photos for the card and then having a crafting afternoon to make homemade cards, bringing out all my card-making materials. Crafts are fun! Just seeing my glitter and stickers and the carefully saved paper brings a smile to my face. It’s like being a kid again. I am a fan of the homemade, custom look to festive things rather than the store-bought variety. In the beginning, I used to make a stack of forty cards or more for everyone on the family, friends, and acquaintances list. But, oh my gosh, it was a lot of work. The list of recipients whittled down slowly over the years. These days I only make about a dozen festive cards and they go solely to family members. I’ve learned to conserve my energy. With age, comes wisdom, one hopes!

This year, the sibling photo my son preferred for the Christmas card was the one where neither of them was smiling. I printed the photos and half-made the cards before I realized I wasn’t happy with the image. There was a nice alternative pic of both of the boys smiling. I printed that instead and began making the cards again. I loved the end result and put them in the postbox.

Here, in a nutshell, is how I craft our family Greeting card:

Start by taking a batch of cheap Christmas cards and cutting them down to nearly half the size, trying to preserve the greeting inside. Next, take the photo you want to feature on the front of the card. This is the top layer and, therefore, the smallest. Print the photos. You are going to build a couple of layers. I have cardboard guides for the size of each layer so I can keep the sizes regular, year after year.

You have the first two items needed for your card: a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible), and a stack of cut-out photos.

At this stage in the card production, I take any saved wrapping paper, or other coloured paper, set the iron on low heat, and iron out the wrinkles. Reduce, re-use, and save the planet!
*My tip, iron the paper with the picture side down, in case any ink comes away. Then it doesn’t mar your iron’s surface and protects the ink.
Now take a second cardboard “guide.” It needs to be smaller than the card and slightly larger than the photo. Cut your saved wrapping paper or other coloured paper to this size. You have your photos, cards, and cut-down paper that will act as frames for the photos.

My next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix,” a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product wherever you are. The fibers come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper, iron on low heat, and the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly stuff. I make a few sheets of Hot Fix at a time and then cut out small rectangles for each card.
The first official step of constructing the cards entails gluing the coloured paper to the card, also trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one glittery flag extends. The second step is to glue the photo on top. *Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile weights on top.

The third step is the best part—embellishments! Time to decorate the fronts with glitter, ‘gems,’ stickers, and doodads to your heart’s delight. I believe the technical term is bedazzling.
I write a personal message inside each card. With each card, I post a surprise, usually a gift tag, or a miniature antique postcard. I like the thought of loved ones getting a nice surprise when they open the envelope. A card is a lovely thing to send and receive at this time of year. Why not try making your own? It’s easy and people love that you’ve put time and energy into them!
What do you think? Have you ever made your own cards?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Life is short. Kiss slowly, laugh insanely, love truly, and forgive quickly. ~ Paulo Coelho


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Covid caused a lot of division in many ways. One of the ways it affected us was that our family split down the middle and the two sides stopped talking. We have operated in two camps throughout all the trials and tribulations of the last two years. It’s been so sad and unnecessary. We didn’t even come together for Christmases. We’ve missed celebrating one another’s birthdays and other milestone events. In 2020, I released my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, while we were scattered to the winds. It sucked when only five family members showed up.

This situation was at the forefront of my mind this week. My family has been split asunder for two years. Life has not been the same. In the diagram created by Abram Maslow, called the ‘Hierarchy of Needs,’ one of the levels of basic human requirements are the security needs followed by those of love and belonging. A well-functioning family fulfills those basic needs. There is nothing healthy about family battles. They fundamentally weaken us.
What changed the stalemate? We gathered together for a wedding recently, and it caused a thaw in relations between the factions. The door opened to a reunion, and it was because one member was brave enough to “just invite everybody and let them deal with it.” Everyone dolled up and gathered in one place for this glorious occasion. We hung out together for half a day and remembered, Oh, that’s right, it’s fun being together. Oh, that’s right, we’ve spent years of birthdays, Christmases, and parties together. Oh, that’s right, I love these people.

The next thing that happened was we started discussing a family vacation together this summer and even booked accommodation. How’s that for something to be grateful for? I have such good memories of holidays gone past. We used to travel most summers while my parents were alive to gather at their seaside cottage for Christmas and happily spend the summer break there till after New Year. We’d spend whole days at the beach. In the evenings, the parties used to go into the wee hours, with music, laughter and talking. There were card games, and rounds of Cribbage. Dad would tell a story and sing a ballad or two. Mum would do an interpretive dance, which always made us laugh. There were board games of scrabble and Trivial Pursuits. All the things.
The night skies in the Coromandel Peninsula are exceptionally clear and have a following among stargazers worldwide. At some stage during the evenings, we would go outside when it was dark and look at the stars. There is something otherworld and magical about seeing so much more of the Milky Way at a decent elevation.

Mum’s and dad’s log cabin was sold after dad died. Then Covid happened. The family went separate ways, vowing never to talk to one another again. Then two years of estrangement ended recently with the family wedding. This summer will be the first time we’ve gathered together as a family for a seaside vacation in years. I feel gratitude that the truce is in full effect. To think of our family coming back together again gives me a feeling of succour, strength, and stability.
All this made me realize how much we need our families. Sometimes it takes forgiveness. Sometimes it takes a willingness to let things go. Sometimes it takes preparedness to back away from the argument plus acceptance that that’s okay. But, whatever it takes, the effort is worth it. We need that family bonding time, that love and support. They call this ‘the age of anxiety.’ What a soothing balm it is to the harried modern soul to have one’s family intact and functioning.

A year or two ago I would never have thought this would be possible. Covid caused the division, but we’re not letting Covid have the last word. Even when sometimes family rifts seem unsurpassable, I have learned that all is not lost. Even the most torn-apart family can heal if both factions reach the point of wanting to heal. We needed to step back from our differences and remember the common ground we do share as a family. We needed to be prepared to let bygones be bygones. We needed to attain the point of saying, Life is too short for this. We’ll never be perfect but we are finally coming back together. So, now I know it can be done. Take heart.
Family time is important. Now, more than ever. What about you? Did you manage to stick together throughout the pandemic?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

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Eventually, you will end up where you need to be, with who you’re meant to be with, and doing what you should be doing. ~ unknown


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Being a parent is tough. The other day, we introduced my delightful three-year-old granddaughter to my friend’s granddaughter, Miss two. It was a wonderful day. The girls dashed about from one activity to another like fleas in a fit. At one point we were watching the kids leap on the trampoline in the backyard. I asked Miss Two’s father, “How are you finding parenthood so far?” He got a far-gone look in his eye and said one word, “Relentless.”
You can tell he’s a poet. That one word. So pithy. Perfect.

It was Oprah who famously said there is no harder job on the planet than parenting. Such sayings stick because they are the truth. My eldest son has had his first child, the aforementioned three-year-old, and recently, I asked him if he had ever thought of having more children. He said, “Hell, no! One’s enough!” The early years of your child’s life are brutal.
Just as you surface from the flat-out breakneck marathon of raising kids from 0-to 10 you hit the teenage years. Their earnest, transparent personalities disappear. They suddenly take on exaggerated swagger and posture. There is a new language delivering words you’ve never heard before. A wrinkly brain is smart. A smooth brain is dumb. If something is “pog” it’s cool. Pog champ is really cool. And, of course, Good RNG means good luck. Everybody knows that.

They sing. That surprised me. I thought the singing would be dropped out of shyness or being self-conscious. But no, the youngest son still sings all day long. He and his friends make random sound effects here, there, and everywhere, apparently sampled from favourite songs and clips on tik tok. Life revolves around phones, social media, and online games.
I miss the early years. The simple years. Suddenly, the enormous capacity of children to focus on playing games and having fun switches on a dime to focusing on their friends. The youngest son told me that his large circle of mates are the most important people in his life, after we, his immediate family, of course. Thanks, son. Lucky save.

Teens at the moment are navigating the minefield of the pandemic on top of the usual rush of hormone-driven behaviours. My boys have friends who get sick and vanish from social life for a while, then they recover, and another wave goes down. The constant communication via devices continues uninterrupted, but the occasional parties and get-togethers to cruise the mall or hang out at one another’s houses have to be temporarily shelved. This translates to teens who are grumpy. Cue the big sigh.
Being a parent means getting to bear witness to these kids growing up. A bittersweet process. Now, my boys tease me ruthlessly about “shrinking” (with old age) as they turn into human giraffes.

The youngest is a lot more emotionally needy as a teen. He requires more listening from me and wants me to explain everything at length in five different ways. He speaks so fast that the words run together in mini avalanches. My grandmother always used to say as long as your kids are talking to you, things are okay. I keep that in mind. Although at the teenage stage, sometimes he talks too much. Everything is exaggerated, and sometimes I get overly anxious. I do my best not to panic about all the potential pitfalls out in the world. At this age as with those that came before, kids want clear boundaries. With the rules in place and by setting a good example, I can be a solid foundation in his life. At the end of the day, that’s all you can do, as well as love them.
Love them relentlessly.
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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In Toastmasters last week, during the spontaneous speaking segment of the meeting called Table Topics, I was asked this question, “How has your life changed in the last two years?” I replied, “There has been a lot more stress. Even after doing meditation and yoga each day, there is still stress. But, the greatest change has been the divisions that have taken place between my family and friends.” Apart from the impacts of illness, death, and chaos around us, the pandemic has also divided communities and families. People have become polarised over powerful feelings one way or the other. There is a lot of rhetoric on both sides. My own family has broken into two camps. Some people aren’t talking to others and are not seeing those on the other side of the fence. My friend group has suffered the same fate. As the classic middle child peacekeeper, I navigate my way down the middle, passing messages between the camps. It appears that stress has altered the normal levels of tolerance friends and family would extend to one another. Instead, people are quick to attack and denounce others as wrong. It’s sad.

Whenever I’m in doubt, I retreat to one of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far in 57 years of life on this planet. I’ve shared this message before, and anyone who has known me the last nine years I’ve been active on social media will have heard it already. Be prepared. I will share it again in the future. It is too valuable to keep to myself.
Let me tell you the story.
About thirty years ago, I was a recruit to Amway. I didn’t last long in the business, but, in the beginning, I was new and shiny-eyed, ever curious to learn more. If you are unfamiliar with Amway, it works on a tier system. As you gain more people in your business (or “down lines”), you earn more money, and by the time you reach “Diamond” level, you earn decent returns and have many down lines all looking up to you as their leader.

Our Diamond leaders were an intelligent, good-looking, older couple. They were articulate and kind. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call them Bob and Sue. I would assume a lot of the teaching and lectures in Amway would take place online these days, but in those days, the meetings happened in person. So we would rock along to school auditoriums and church halls one night a week to hear the various Diamonds and above give talks about building the business.
On Tuesday night, I attended a meeting where my Diamond leaders were speaking. Sue, especially, was glamorous and impeccably dressed, one of those people who has star quality oozing out of her pores. She never goes unnoticed, heads turn. She and I had never spoken in person. I was a mere underling, a newbie so far down the line I had not even signed up a single business prospect. I was starstruck to be in the same room.
The meeting was inspirational, as always. When it finished, I filed out along with everyone else, and somehow, I ended up walking alongside Sue. To my amazement, she started talking to me.

We established I was one of her downlines. We wandered slowly out to the car park. Sue was in full swing, talking about the benefits of the business and the usual speel. Then we faced one another to say our goodbyes. Sue grabbed my hand, and she said, “You know what, honey, if you forget everything else I have told you tonight, it’s fine. There is only one thing I want you to take away. There is one rule I try to follow every day. It’s more important than everything else, even the business.”
I nodded. My focus was on her 100%.
“Whether in your business or in your life, there is only one thing you need to do every day, and that is to SPREAD THE LOVE.”

Even then, I could feel the tingle, the reverberation of those words. The moment and the message were profound. They engraved into my memory. I took the message away with me that night, and it completely changed my outlook. I’ve never forgotten it, and I have endeavoured to apply the wisdom in the years since. Whenever in doubt about any situation, big or small, I remember Sue’s advice. Spread the love.
Within the current climate of disintegration, I remember that life lesson again. Have hurtful things been said to me by family and friends? Yes. Have hurtful things been done to me? Yes. Has misunderstanding run rife? Yes. But do I respond in kind? No. Do I stand in my corner pointing fingers, telling others what they should think or how they should behave? No. Do I belittle and demean others for their choices? No. I come back again and again to that shining woman in that dimly-lit car park, throwing the business narrative out the window to impart the most valuable truth in her life.

I think, how can I SPREAD THE LOVE?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” ~ Albert Einstein


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2022 has been a fascinating rollercoaster ride so far. Three weeks ago, the middle son – Samuel – who is nineteen and has a dual diagnosis, Down syndrome, and Autism, began to exhibit certain worrying behaviours: not sleeping, not eating, talking incessantly, flicking light switches on and off, and so on. I existed on little to no sleep. The stress levels were through the roof. I sought professional help, and we ended up seeing a behavioural specialist.
We managed to link Samuel’s behaviour issues to the many changes going on in his life and a simple error on our part of not fully explaining things to him as we went along. Because Sam is non-verbal, we can sometimes forget to include him in the conversations about what is happening in our family. It is easy to overlook that he is affected by every decision we make and therefore needs things explained to him every step of the way.

Frankly, a lot of things have altered lately. Sam’s father decided he would sell his house, intending to move to the countryside. He started renovating the house, and his flatmates moved out. Sam’s younger brother (and best mate) stayed at dad’s house for three weeks, helping him to paint the exterior. All these major events were going on around Sam without his understanding. No wonder he started acting out.

We sat down, and I talked to him about the entire situation, moving house, the renovating, and so on.
The behavioural specialist said until the living setup and routine fully settle down, Sam may continue to exhibit erratic behaviours. “But you understand it now. It’s his way of controlling an uncontrollable situation. Let him do his little things and know that it will eventually pass.”

Heartened, I told various family members and my closest friends about what we had gone through around here for the last three weeks. The general reaction was shock. My sister said, “Tell me while it’s going on, next time. Why don’t you let me support you?” And my friends told me off similarly. One of my oldest buddies said to me today, “You know, it helps to talk about difficult things. That’s what friends are for.”
I hear what they are saying, and I get it. What they don’t understand is this is the way introverts deal with the big stuff. We live through it, figure out the answers (often with the help of professionals), contemplate the circumstances and what we have learned. When we have the issues resolved, we share the carefully considered results.
It doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the offers of help. We do. We do things a little differently from the majority.

According to the site Introvert, Dear, an award-winning community hub:

We introverts make up 30 -50% of the population, and most of us share these characteristics:
We’d rather stay home most nights than go out to one social event after another.
We enjoy quiet, solitary activities like reading, writing, gaming, gardening, or drawing.
We’ll usually choose the company of a few close friends over a wild party.
We do our best work alone.
Many of us will avoid small talk or other unnecessary social interactions.
We usually do our best work alone.

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And, from my personal experience, when the major events take place in our lives, we wish to sort out our business by ourselves first, before we include loved ones.
Apart from irritating my family and friends with this introverted trait, I am happy to report that the worst of the crisis is over. Samuel is sleeping and eating again. So am I. Huzzah! His father and I have made a point of talking with Sam about each new thing. There are fewer erratic behaviours and more of the son we know and love.

Currently, I’m floating in a state of utter relief and bliss. My patience has returned. I can feel my face again. Now, I want to spend time with those around me and talk.

Family and friends of introverts know this. Talking to you after rather than during a crisis does not mean we don’t need you or love you. We need to process our experiences in a private way before we share. Is that okay?
To my fellow introverts, I say: It is essential to honour your real self and what you need for bliss. The world needs more contemplative, calm people. It is fine to be an introvert and do things your way.
Let us celebrate our differences.

How do you process the big stuff? By talking it through with folks (extrovert) or talking about it after the fact (introvert)?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” ~ Albert Einstein

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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 on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers 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 the hashtag is #IWSG.

February 2 question – Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn’t around anymore? Anyone, you miss?
I miss my parents. They were my biggest supporters, especially my mother. In the early days, as a writer in my teens, I used to edit my stories, then print out several copies, have them spiral bound, and give them to people. I had given my parents many copies over the years. Ma was my biggest fan, and she kept my handmade books on their bookshelf. Anyone who came over their threshold, be it neighbour, friend, or stranger, Ma would bring out one of my stories and read aloud to them. As a younger, more foolish person, I can remember feeling red-faced and embarrassed at having my early stories paraded in public. But after my parents died, I missed Ma’s earnest, innocent, unerring support more than words can say. It struck me that no one (apart from maybe paid professionals) was ever going to sell my stories every chance they got or with such fervour ever again.

I was very close to my parents and was the only one of four siblings to live at home* for long periods in adulthood. (*see, starving writer). When my parents retired, they shifted to live in a log cabin by the seaside for twenty years of bliss. I would travel down from the city to visit them for a three-day weekend every six weeks. Not once did Ma ever fail to ask how my writing was going. Even after the six mini-strokes that slightly addled her brain. She always asked about my stories and – wonderfully – would sit and listen to the answer with rapt attention. Ma genuinely wanted to know what I was writing. She would ask interesting questions and I loved to fill her in.

Every writer knows that the process of submitting work to publishers and competitions is soul-destroying. If I faltered in my self-belief and began to feel I couldn’t send out another manuscript to a publisher, Ma’s enthusiasm and unfailing belief in my ability would keep me going. She loved my stories and was utterly convinced that it was just a matter of time before someone turned them into bestsellers. Her strength kept me aligned due north.

About twenty years ago, I was unpublished and still entering stories into every competition and awards contest. I submitted the first manuscript in my future trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, titled The Or’in of Tane, to an international “unpublished manuscript” competition. The first prize was the publication, physical copies, and worldwide distribution of the resulting ebook. It was a pretty awesome prize by anyone’s standards. The publisher would contact the shortlisted authors after they chose the final winner. Everyone else would hear bad news within a few days of submission. A month after the deadline passed, I still had not heard from them. I felt tentatively excited. Publisher silence meant my story still had a chance.
But then another month passed, and I still hadn’t heard. I finally emailed the publisher. I found out my story had arrived a day after the deadline. I realized I had made a simple mistake calculating the difference in time zones. Therefore, they had not even considered my manuscript. After all the years of rejections, to think I had potentially crossed the finish line, only to find out I’d failed again, was too much. I fell into a black hole of depression and stayed in a dark place for an entire week.
At the end of that week, the phone rang. I picked it up. “Hello?”
My mother’s voice. No preamble. She said, “The darkest hour comes before the dawn.”
And with those words offered as a lifeline, she pulled me out. I started to weep. While I bawled my eyes out, I could hear Ma saying positive, encouraging, uplifting things. Then I dried my eyes, and we talked. Later, when I got off the phone, I realized my perspective had shifted, and I could move on with my writing life. Ma always knew when to ride in on the white horse.

Both my parents were avid supporters.
When I finally went the Indie route and self-published The Or’in of Tane, it was September 2015. My mother had died in June of that year. She never got to be at my book launch. But my father was there. At the age of 82, he traveled all the way to the city to attend, and in the speeches, he stood up and started his piece with ‘I’m Dad.” He was proud, and I got to feel my parents’ faith in me was vindicated.
By the time I released the second and third books in the trilogy, my father had passed away, too. There were two empty chairs at the launch, which I allocated to my parents because they would have loved to be there. The dedication I gave them on the front page of The Or’in of Tane read, For my parents, who believed in me, no matter what.
I sure do miss them.
What about you. Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn’t around anymore? Anyone, you miss?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. ~ Hellen Keller


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Every year around this time I have two mammoth jobs that need to be done. My sons and I bake the massive Christmas Cake, which is a rich fruit cake to feed about sixty-four. We also do the photoshoot of my two young victims sons, whom I make dress up in festive gear at the start of December. Then I pick the best photo from the shoot and make our Christmas card for friends and family. We did the photoshoot this weekend. The boys get a bit grumpy about it these days, which I think is quite cute. I had fun making the cards all day. It’s creative, it’s fun and it involves glitter. What more do you need to know?

When I first started this blog, my middle son – who was born with Down Syndrome – featured by himself on the card. Three years later, his little brother came along and the pair got to feature on the next family card and so it has gone on.

Here is how you can make your family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Once you have your photo, reduce it to a small size. Figure out how many people you are making cards for. Print out the photos on regular A4 paper and cut them out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the thrift store) and cut them down in size. I use the same “guides” for the layers which I made myself out of cardboard, so they are all the same dimensions. Start with a guide for the size of the card. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper and iron them towards the following year’s cards. Make a guide for the interesting saved paper, or any fun paper you like, as your next layer. It must be smaller than the card and larger than the photo.

Now you have the items you need for your cards: a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible), the rectangles of saved wrapping paper, and a stack of your cut-out photos.

My next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix” which is a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product where you are. The fibres come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper then iron on a low heat until the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly material. I cut out small rectangles of Hot Fix, one for each of my cards.

Begin construction by gluing the saved wrapping paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends.

Then glue the photo on the top.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile weights on top.

The best part is adding the embellishments! It is time to decorate the front of each card with glitter and crystals and stickers to your heart’s delight.

Inside each card, I include a surprise, usually gift tags, or I also have a set of miniature antique postcards which I bought in a thrift store once, and I’ll include a couple of those with each one. Match your card as closely as possible to the size of the envelope. It looks better that way. Write a special message inside each card and post it to family and friends.
It’s homemade. It’s personal. It’s crafty fun. What’s not to love?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


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Long before positive thinking or affirmations became a thing, my grandmother led by example. She had a way of framing things and people in the best light. I’ll never forget what Gran said one day after my eldest son was scolded by my father for doing something naughty. The family, exasperated with him, had decided my son had Attention Deficit Disorder. Gran said, “He’s not naughty. He doesn’t have ADD or anything like that. What he has is spirit. Mark my words, he will go far in life.” (Turned out she was right, but that’s another story). With those words, my beloved grandmother turned a bad situation around to good and changed my outlook for the better.
Gran called it ‘thinking the right thoughts.’

We love that phrase in our family. Whenever any of us had something important happening that we were hoping would go well, Gran would always say, “I’ll think the right thoughts.” Which meant she would only envisage and only speak about the best possible outcome. That was how she lived. She walked her talk. These days I use the technique constantly. In keeping with the theme of resilience in various posts lately, I thought it would be the ideal time to share some of my grandmother’s outlook on life.

You’re welcome.

Whenever Gran had an event or outing coming up, she would say, “I’m looking forward to it with a confident sense of anticipation.” It was so simple. She demonstrated positive thinking as a way of life. That little gem has become a family saying, a special something we say to one another on occasion with fond knowingness.
I used to visit my grandmother on Thursdays. She lived around the corner from our house. I’d walk into her neat, elegant little unit at the start of the day and leave again around five in the evening. Thursdays were our day to hang out together. We always started our soiree with morning tea, which Gran would have set out on a tray. There would be tea in fine china cups with saucers, served with an array of sweet treats. Gran was a legendary baker and baked every day. She’d serve a plate of fresh scones, or sponge cake, or muffins, whatever treats she had made that morning. After eating, we’d sit in the lazy-boy chairs in the living room and talk. Then I would help her put out and bring in the laundry. We sometimes looked at photos or her embroidery. Sometimes we baked together. Then Gran would serve a big lunch with meat, vegetables, and homemade dessert like her apple pie or blackberry crumble. We would talk until it was time to say goodbye.

Every time I reached her door to leave, Gran would give one parting shot to take with me. It was usually one or two favourite sayings, “Remember my dear,” she would say, “Set your sights upon a star, and you will go far,” or “Every cloud has a silver lining, if you look for the silver lining you will find it.
They were the same sayings, time and again, yet I would walk along the street thinking about what she had said and repeating it to myself.
My grandmother inspired me with her natural optimism and right thinking. It shaped how I look at everything. I am a big believer in daily affirmations, in speaking positively to myself and others. I have a whiteboard with life-affirming statements on it, which I read a few times a day.
If we want to keep our spirits up, we need to bear witness to the words coming out of our mouths. People these days tend to be one-track-minded and fatalistic. Conversations have never been more boring.

Chats with friends and neighbours can often be depressing, and I don’t think these people realize the effect they’re having on others. Why not converse with loved ones about the book you’re reading, the movie you’ve seen, or the creative project you’re working on. We don’t always have to talk about Covid, people!
I prefer following my grandmother’s example. The glass-half-full approach means looking at the things that are working in our lives. I use a daily gratitude journal to note what I’m grateful for and make it a practice to say thank you for all the blessings. If you ask how I’m doing, I’ll be thinking the right thoughts and looking forward to what the future brings with a confident sense of anticipation!

I hope you gained a gem or two from this post for yourself.
Do you have grandparents with their little sayings? Have you ever tried keeping a gratitude journal?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Emptiness is a symptom that you are not living creatively.” – Maxwell Maltz.

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Where I live, we are still in lockdown level 4. Many people I know are struggling. Yesterday, the youngest son’s school sent us this “important note.”
Lockdown is tough on everyone.
We all have some days that are better than others.
Look after yourself.

Get exercise each day.
Offer to help others in your bubble.
Be kind to yourself and others.
Do something you enjoy.
Get help when you need it.

I appreciated the encouragement. The schools are aware that we parents are doing the hard yards. On our family chat on Facebook, various members said they didn’t think they could cope with another week of level 4. They needed face-to-face interactions.

“One more week of this and I’ll go crazy,” said the mother with two children under five.

Everyone from all walks of life has talked about feeling blue. At the grocery store, the lovely university student who works there part-time said the universities and adult training institutes had just announced there would be no more lectures on campus the rest of this year. “I’m over it,” she said. “This is seriously getting me down.”

These days such topics as depression are talked about more openly, which is a healthy thing. It’s good to hear family members and friends discussing their feelings. This year, however, I was shocked to discover that more than half the people I know live on anti-depressants as a way of life. In my post a couple of weeks ago, Hold Onto Your Joy, I shared various fun things I do with my kids to keep our spirits up. Hearing people discuss their fears and anxieties since then, it seemed appropriate to add another chapter to the discussion about positive health alternatives.

One of the things we do is a little thing called forest bathing. Have you ever heard of it? In Japan, people practice forest bathing, where they spend quiet time absorbing the wisdom of ancient forests, taking long walks among the trees to stimulate their immune system. There are lots of urban nature reserves where we live, and we walk through the trees daily.

This solution is not at all new. “The tonic of the wilderness” was Henry David Thoreau’s classic prescription for civilization and its discontents, offered in the 1854 essay Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. In Taoism, generations of students have been encouraged to meditate among trees. They believe that the trees will absorb negative energies, replacing them with healthy ones.

Trees are seen as a source of emotional and physical healing and as meditators, absorbing universal energies.

Now there’s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. Experiments on forest bathing conducted by the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences in Japan measured its physiological effects. “The team measured the subjects’ salivary cortisol (which increases with stress), blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate variability during a day spent in the city and compared those to the same biometrics taken during a day with a 30-minute forest visit. Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments,” the study concluded. This is due to various essential oils, generally called phytoncide, found in wood, plants, and some fruit and vegetables, which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects.

Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher. It is better for you!

City dwellers can also benefit from the effects of trees with a visit to the park. Brief exposure to greenery in urban environments can relieve stress levels, and experts have recommended “doses of nature” as part of the treatment for attention disorders in children. The evidence suggests that we don’t need to spend a lot of time in nature to gain the numerous benefits of forest bathing. But regular contact with trees does appear to improve our immune system function and our wellbeing. Our health has never been more vital than it is now. The same goes for our mental health. We have to do everything we can to preserve both.
Let’s face it, while we’re in lockdown, what better time is there to go for a stroll in nature? Do you like forest walks? Have you ever tried forest bathing?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Happiness grows at our own firesides, and is not to be picked in strangers’ gardens.” – Douglas Jerrold.


 
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Do you remember turning 16? I do. Like it was yesterday. It was the summer holidays. My friends and I were hitchhiking up north. We stopped at a cafe. There were four of us hunched around a Formica tabletop with sodas, and I remember saying I didn’t want to turn 16 (the next day). Why not? It was too close to 20! Who could imagine being “so ancient?”

Funny how the vantage point of time changes things.

The youngest of my three sons had his sweet sixteenth birthday two weeks ago. He is more mature at this age than I have ever been. I guess for some people it just comes naturally. The other day, he said, “Do you know what I’m looking forward to the most about growing up?”

I said, “No” although I imagined he’d say beer, driving, or possibly not going to school.

He said, “I’m looking forward to having logical, rational conversations.”

Huh? Jaw drops to floor.

We’re definitely different, he and I. At 16 I fretted about getting old, while my youngest son pines for more adult conversation. How shallow was I? He’s already a better human being than I am. Huzzah!

What did the son want to do for the big milestone birthday? After offering him every adventure option or fun experience available, what he most wanted was ‘a cake and to hang out’ with his friends uninterrupted. Could they hang here? Sure, I said, smiling, although I secretly dreaded it. Idiot Trooper that I am, I let him invite all his mates over regardless.

My friends and I at 16 were rebels. No self-respecting adults wanted to be around us.

To my surprise, my son’s friends were delightful. They had the run of one part of the house the entire day, while I kept food and liquid coming. They played online games, outdoor games, jumped on the trampoline, took photos of themselves, played music, and sang in harmony together the entire day. In the afternoon they demolished an entire chocolate cake and then left en masse to buy supplies from the supermarket, returning an hour later to cook a feast. So lively, so fun, were they, I even missed them in their absence.

In the late afternoon, the girls drifted home. Finally, just “Da boys” remained, playing online games into the evening, still singing in beautiful harmony along with their favourite songs. By the time Da boys left, I felt tired but mostly buoyed by the experience.

They’re mature, considerate kids. Who knew?

That said, they’re still only 16. They still like to play games the same way they did when they were little, but with a lot of music, singing, slang and posturing thrown in. The energy levels when these teen buddies get together can ramp up suddenly, get inexplicably loud for a short period—almost explosive—then peter out again and dip so low the kids appear to retreat behind their phone screens for a while to reboot, becoming temporarily tomb-like and silent, before the shrieks and the laughter escalate and they flare into life, noise and energy all over again. To be around them even for a short period is akin to putting one’s finger into an electric socket, recharging every cell in the body and rendering one’s hair into an instant afro. It’s vitalizing and frenetic at the same time.  

The upshot overall was the day was easy, no drama. As their humble servant, I got to witness snippets of their group dynamic, the teen slang, the weird sounds they make when they’re together, which was fun.

I remember the heady freedom of being 16. You’re old enough to do things but young enough to be silly and not care who is watching.

There was one of son’s friends singing that very Michael Jackson, high-pitched, “Hee hee!” so frequently I nearly asked him to stop (although thankfully, I didn’t). One boy hugged his phone and speaker the entire day, constantly scrolling the music selection – he was clearly in charge of the music selection. There was the occasional daring use of a swear word, but not loud enough for me to discern. I turned a blind eye, regardless. As head provider of refreshments, I stayed in my quarters – the perfect excuse to get some writing done – and let the teens have the house for the day. Some freedom was all they wanted. They often burst outside to play Frisbee, badminton, shoot hoops and jump on the trampoline for hours in the afternoon, which rather impressed me.

I think your child’s friends say a lot about who they are and how they’re doing, and I liked the son’s friends a lot. That made me happy.

At sixteen, I was a fool. At the same age, my son is smarter, more mature, and more emotionally intelligent than I am. Maybe there’s hope for the future, yet.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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There’s nothing wrong with teenagers that reasoning with them won’t aggravate. ~ Anonymous

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*Tips for parents on Stanford Children’s Health, Understanding the Teen Brain