Archive for the ‘FAMILY’ Category

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
*


Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


*


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

 

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
*


“Emptiness is a symptom that you are not living creatively.” – Maxwell Maltz.

*

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

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
*


“Happiness grows at our own firesides, and is not to be picked in strangers’ gardens.” – Douglas Jerrold.


 
*


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

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

*

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

*

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

When I moved back to “the old homestead,” the house my father built in 1962, I had grand designs for a large vegetable garden. The plot would cover the whole right corner of this quarter acre section. It still hasn’t happened. I pictured it in that spot because growing up, I remember my parents tending vegetables there. They had rows of raised beds with a path down the middle. If mum and dad were not at work, they were tending the garden and they produced a lot of fruit and vegetables from this small property. I aspired to do the same.

That was before I had my two youngest boys. A sunken trampoline took up residence in my designated vegetable plot. Life became crazy busy and somehow eighteen years went by. Our only vegetable patch has been a narrow strip of earth in the front yard. And we spend a small fortune at the greengrocers every week. My two teenage boys eat enough fruit and vegetables each day for a small rhinoceros. I thought, I have to find a way of creating a vegetable patch. After some research and conversations with knowledgeable types, (friends and family members), I came up with a plan. I built my own raised bed and you can do it too.

Here’s how:

Start by choosing where the plot is going to be, and how you want it to look. It seems obvious, but if you’re not clear, you will waste valuable time later when the builder arrives. It will cost more and make the process a lot less enjoyable.

I chose an area close to the kitchen.

Measure the area so you know how much wood you’ll need. Research your timber, as most woods will need painting to help them resist water and soil. Some people line raised beds with thin rubber sheeting as well. *Tip: I ordered macrocarpa sleepers. They are more expensive than other timbers, but the macrocarpa doesn’t require painting or lining. The high resin content makes it resistant to rot, and being untreated with chemicals, the wood is not harmful for the vegetables. Originally I’d wanted the raised bed to be the height of two sleepers, but because my chosen wood was so expensive I made it the height of one sleeper instead. *Look for the native resinous timbers that are available in your area.

Next, dig out your patch of ground. Why dig? There are greeblies (official term) that live in the grass and upper topsoil that are harmful to vegetables. If you try to put your soil directly on top of your lawn, the vegetables will not thrive. You’ll need to dig down at least 5 -7 cm and remove the turfs. *Tip: Water the area of ground to be dug beforehand. It softens the soil and makes it easier to dig.

Take a rake and level the exposed soil. My chosen area was on a slope, so I levelled as best I could. Then hire someone to do the building if you can’t do it yourself so the structure will come together properly and stay straight.

Figure out how much soil you will need. *Tip: ask the builder. That’s what I did. I ordered a cubic metre of soil from a landscaping company, half a cubic metre of topsoil to give the bed density, and half a cubic metre of the lighter “garden mix” of composted soil. *Tip: topsoil will still have weeds in it, so it’s worth buying the expensive composted material for the top layer.

Lay the topsoil in the bed first then fill with the garden mixture soil heaping it up into a generous mound. *Tip: it needs to be extra high as it will settle with time.

Sprinkle handfuls of fertilizer (I used blood & bone) into the top layer of soil, mix it in with a garden fork, and then rake the surface smooth. Mix with compost if you have it.

Water the soil and cover the mound with bark mulch. The mulch keeps in moisture, deters birds, and it also retards the weeds.

Now, it’s time to plant the vegetables.

Last, but not least, you need to construct a netting tent to prevent birds from pecking your new plants out of the ground. The netting will act as a light frost cloth, protecting your plants from frost in the mornings, and do triple-duty, acting as a shade cloth to keep out some of the harsh sun.

I used sturdy bamboo stakes, bird netting, and twisty ties. It was easy to wedge the bamboo stakes into place with bricks in the corners and sides of the raised bed. Then I affixed the bird netting to the stakes using twisty ties.

What do you think?

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

*

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. ~Audrey Hepburn

*

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

I wouldn’t go back to being a teenager for all the money in the world. What a roller coaster. My youngest son is at the tender age of fifteen, when his body’s morphing at a gallop and his view of himself and the world is in constant flux. He’s growing taller every week, he’s either a bundle of energy or catatonic on the couch, and he has to question everything. The emotions rocket from simmering to sky-high in an instant. As a parent, I’m used to ongoing frustration with both my younger boys, and feeling peeved when they haven’t done what I’ve asked, and so on. Now every time a flicker of annoyance crosses my brow, I’ve hurt my teenager’s feelings. We’ve been doing a lot of talking, in consequence.

It’s a minefield, I tell you.

The youngest son is morphing in so many ways it’s hard for me to keep up. Not only is he evolving in ever-increasing height and girth, the tone of his voice and his new dialect of teenage slang keeps changing. He’s altered likewise in his preoccupations. Friends used to call him ‘the dancer’ because whenever he had to wait he would dance on the spot. At home he would break into dance between games. Then he turned fifteen… and stopped dancing.

He disappeared into his phone.

As a drummer, he used to tap a rhythm with his feet constantly. You knew where he was in the house by the sound of his drumming feet. It was like living with a tap dancer. He filled our days with the sound. When he turned fifteen, he stopped tapping.

He started playing more Xbox.

It’s official. The youngest son is going through the teenage ya-ya’s. As an adult, I process life using the pre-frontal cortex, the brain’s rational part, whereas at fifteen, he’s still processing stimuli using the amygdale, the emotional part. The connections between his amygdale and the rational part develop at different rates. He literally is feeling things more than he’s thinking about them.

The rational part of his brain won’t fully develop until after the age of 25, so I have to be patient and be the adult for both of us.

I set rules and limits, and we negotiate the parameters as an ongoing process. He’s expected to do chores and make some of his own meals. He’s on breakfast and lunch, I handle dinner. I feel sorry for the teen angst he’s going through. As a Gemini, when he was little, the boy could talk the hind legs off a donkey. These days he’s tongue-tied. He says he can’t make conversation, he doesn’t know the right thing to say and that he stuffs a conversation up.

He’s painfully self-conscious and self judgemental.

Two weeks ago, the youngest became nervous about going back to school, and the week before first term began, he fretted over distinct possibilities for disaster every night. He ‘wouldn’t know what to say,’ he’d be taller than his height-challenged friends again, (as happened last summer), or he’d have no friends in his classes, and the subjects he’d chosen would be the wrong choices.

Every night I was putting out fires.

Each day his anxieties rise and fall. Yet the glorious thing about kids is they’re indefatigable. Alongside the self doubt, there is an inextinguishable bravado. If I question whether the youngest should walk to school before daybreak, he tells me he’s ‘big and strong.’ If I query whether he should take on more at school, he tells me he’s so far ahead of the other kids in his class; he teaches them the subjects when they get confused, that he’s ‘got it sussed.’ If I worry about him getting home late from school, he rolls his eyes and tells me he knows what he’s doing. No matter what it is, he assures me he has it under control and I should stop worrying.

I’m your mother, dude, I never stop worrying.

I counsel myself that the only things I can do as the parent is:

*To check in with him when he talks, about whether he wants me to find solutions or just listen

*Make him aware of the consequences of his actions and help him link his thinking with the facts

*Remind him of the tough times he’s dreaded and gotten through in the past and that he is resilient enough to get through anything

*Pay attention to him and listen when he talks, even if it’s about the anime shows he’s watching or what happened the last time he played Minecraft or Rocket League.

I need to do all this, while still running the household and writing books. I’m just sayin’.

Have you survived raising teenagers? All tips welcome!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

*

Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your children. ~ Sam Levinson

*

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

Time seems to slow down over summer. It is good because summer helps anxious types like me to unwind. Last year I burnt myself out releasing three books at once, and I’ve been in recovery mode ever since. It was perfect timing to launch the books in spring, a season which matches the energy of new beginnings and planting seeds to grow in the future. I released The Chronicles of Aden Weaver in October and applied myself to the marketing. Then summer came along and I used that as my excuse to stop. Thank goodness summer triggers chillaxing. I needed it!

The marketing side of being an Indie author is a monster with a voracious appetite for your time and energy; you can never feed it enough. Through October and November, I had sat at my computer day after day, hour after hour, reading guidelines, scouring websites, scratching my head over what I needed to do to upload the books. The jobs seemed endless.

The sales, the marketing, the business side of being an author bore me witless. It’s not me. I’m one of those annoying sorts of people who is a dreamer. You want a million ideas a minute, no problem, but I don’t do as well with the practicalities. My son is a dreamer too, and that’s how I know it’s an irritating trait in a person. But as much as I strive to do better, I seem to still let some things slide and I struggle to follow through. In fact, it’s one of the biggest struggles in my life at present. I love the creative writing side of being a writer; it is deeply fulfilling whereas attending to marketing and distribution and sales is utterly stultifying.

Thank goodness for summer as I took a welcome break. I was beyond exhausted on every level. My father used to be the same. We’re the sort of people who prefer to be busy and spend our time productively, but sometimes that can lead to burnout. It means we let ourselves go too long without rest and end up wrecked, feeling unable to function.

December, I realized I was becoming like a deer in headlights, needing a retreat from everything book related. I closed up the laptop, walked away from being ‘Yvette Carol, author,’ and took a deep breath of the air outside. It’s been fantastic, weeding the garden, swimming regularly with my kids and family, going on picnics, taking scenic walks, attending lunches and parties. I’ve been reading, and I’ve watched movies and my favourite cooking shows on TV. Not being a writer for a while it has been heaven.

Last week, a good friend invited us to stay with her at her beach house. So my two youngest boys and I could travel out of town for a few days of sun, sea and surf. Beach walks, picnics, swimming twice a day, barbecue dinners, games in the evening, long conversations. It was as good as it sounds. It was just what the doctor ordered, and we returned to the city refreshed.

However, I still didn’t feel ready to start back at work. I looked at my computer and the stack of “to do” jobs and sighed. No. Not yet. I was not ready to don the author hat again. I hadn’t recovered enough or rested enough. There was still some tension left in the way my shoulders seemed to squeeze tight. No matter how often I reminded myself to relax them, I found my shoulders up around my ears. The drowsy contentment of summer is a necessary tonic for the system to reboot.

It’s vital not to fall out of love with being a writer. Therefore, I decided to continue to rest until the boys go back to school Feb 3rd. Then I can crank up the marketing machine, get more distribution channels sorted and attend to all that needs doing to release my stories, and perhaps even write again.

But in the meantime, there are twelve more days of summer fun ahead. Recently Alex J. Cavanaugh, IWSG Leader and Ninja, wrote, Remember that moment when writing was a joy and we were excited and ready to take on the world. That’s exactly what I want to do, to ‘remember that moment when writing was a joy,’ as I try to relocate my mojo.

What do you do when you finish an extensive project? Do you take time to reflect or immediately begin a new project? Or do you tackle several things at once? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

*

The cyclone derives its power from a calm center. So does a person. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

*

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

When I first started this blog, I shared how to make a homemade greeting card at this time of year. The tradition of making my own cards with photos of my youngest boys started with my middle son’s birth. Samuel was born with Down Syndrome in 2002, and featuring him on our card was a way of celebrating his arrival.

Sam’s younger brother came along two years later, and I’ve made these photo cards every year since then. I love the ritual of taking the photo for the card and 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. Personally I am a fan of homemade looking festive things rather than the store-bought variety.

This year I failed to get my two teenage boys to smile for our greeting card photo, however, it’s still an excellent likeness of them and I made the best of the shot I got. For those who are new to this blog, I will share how we make our family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Start by organising the kids, the dog, whatever your subject is, and snapping your photo for the card. Then print on regular A4 paper at a dinky size and cut out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the dollar store) and make them smaller. I use “guides” for the sizes which I made myself out of cardboard, so the layers have the same dimensions.

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

Next is the saved wrapping paper. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper for making the following year’s cards.

At this stage in the card production, I take my saved paper, set the iron on a low heat and iron out the wrinkles. *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 it also protects the ink.

Take a second cardboard “guide” that is smaller than the card and larger than the photo. Cut your saved Christmas paper to this size.

Now you have your photos, your cards, and cut-down Christmas paper.

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

The first step of constructing the cards entails gluing the Christmas paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends like a flag.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile various weights on to press them. The second step is to glue the photo on top.

The third step is the best part—embellishments! Time to decorate the front of the cards with the glitter and ‘gems’ and stickers and doodads to your heart’s delight.

Inside each envelope I like to 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. Make sure to match your envelope as closely as possible to the size of the card. It looks better that way.

Write personal messages inside your works of art and post away.

What do you think of this year’s greeting card?  

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

*

Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

*

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

December 2 question – Are there months or times of the year you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Yes, definitely the winter and autumn months are the most productive for me because during those months I’m indoors more and the shorter days keep me at my desk, whereas in spring and summer I’m hopping outside all the time at every excuse just to do things in the garden and feel the warmth of the sunshine. Spring is my favourite season of the year. I love the blossoms and flowers, the cool green shade of new leaves, the scents on the air.

Working from home in your jim-jams with a view of your garden, outside the French doors it’s hard not to hop outside and run around barefoot regularly.

In particular, I find the start of summer distracting. For us here in New Zealand, summer begins in December, which is also the beginning of the festive season. Coloured lights are going up outside houses and within. The lighted trees are appearing in living rooms, including ours. The decorations festoon the shops and there are wonderful gift ideas everywhere I go. I’m not one of those people who can do Christmas shopping all year round. To me, that is something you do in December, when there’s glitter and greenery in every mall and the cupboards at home become hiding places for gifts and gift-wrap. I like to make a master list around this time of the folk I want to buy a little something special for, and that includes family, friends, teachers and all the various bods who help my son with Down Syndrome throughout the year.

Then a few days of each week leading up to the 25th, I go out and slowly make the rounds of all my favourite stores. I don’t rush in, buy the thing I want and rush out again, I like to window-shop, walk around and look at the decorations and all the wares. I savour the experience. I like to take my time over every gift and think about that person and consider them. Then I get to go home and wrap the gifts beautifully. It’s lovely.

Shopping in crowds gets a little stressful, however. There is a lot to do in the festive season. It’s busy. Everyone rushes everywhere. Doing the grocery shopping yesterday, there was a lot more traffic on the road, the car parks were fuller and the queues longer. But you expect public places to be more crowded, and you adjust to it as you go along. Buying your groceries takes a lot longer, but that’s okay. I even enjoy the hectic side. It’s only Christmas once a year and after the shit year we’ve had this is fun.

It’s almost impossible for me to get any writing done in the festive season, so productivity plummets through early summer to mid-summer.

Usually after Christmas there are family jaunts to the beach, picnics, road trips and get-togethers. I will typically pick up the pen and paper or the laptop again, in February to start my writing year again. I’m lucky though, as I don’t do this to make a living. I write at the weekends when my kids are elsewhere. If I was a professional writer, I would have to put butt in the chair and do the hours.

I really prefer to be a part-time author at this stage. I’ve been raising kids all my adult life. On Sunday I turn fifty-six years old and it feels like I can see 60 coming up fast. I don’t want to spend my entire life hunched over a computer. I want to be out there enjoying my days as well, so for me, being non productive is important to my well-being. Then I feel I come back to my writing with extra energy, fresh eyes, and a new appreciation of life.

How do you feel about your productivity and why?

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

*

Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”

*

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