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!!!

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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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Happy New Year! My boys and I returned yesterday from our annual holiday with the family in the Coromandel Peninsula. My sister, her kids, son-in-law and grandson, my brother and his partner and youngest son, my eldest with his fiancée and daughter, a niece and my two younger sons gathered to have some family bonding time in mum’s and dad’s old log cabin by the sea, which some family members have been running as an “Air B’nB.”

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We arrived in the Coromandel on the 29th, and we were fortunate to spend a week there. Our days comprised sleeping in, eating, talking, making communal meals, and animated discussion how best to spend our day. Usually that involved either going into “town” the little seaside resort township which hosts a few thousand resident population during quiet months swells to 50,000+ over the summer holiday period, to our favourite coffee shop to eat Hash Stacks and sweet treats with good coffee. Or we would swim in the inner harbour where the boys can jump off the bridge at high tide and the beach is a safe place for babies to paddle. Sometimes the boys went to the playground or to play basketball at the park. It was idyllic.

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There was my son’s toy poodle, Charlie, to walk in the afternoons. Then we’d drive in convoy down to the surf beach to go body-surfing. Sam-the-man and I swam and spent hours playing Snakes and Ladders on our towelling version of the game. My sweet one and a half year old granddaughter “Bells” loved the beach. She was far more agile this year. She had a real yen for eating sand and munched a good deal of it every visit. We taught her to leap over the waves and to make her first sandcastles.

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Then it was home and into the shower. There’s nothing like pitching in with all the other “cooks” in the kitchen to prepare a huge dinner, roast chicken and roast veggies, butter chicken, frittata, mashed potato and salad, with massive desserts of fruit salad with cream, apple crumble, apple cake and ice creams in the cone. While you’re conversing with the others in the kitchen, it’s nice to see other family members reclining on couches reading or having a chat over cards.

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The reserve before my parents’ property is a vast bowl shaped green space for game playing and a children’s playground. Throughout the day, our three teenage cousins would disappear to the reserve, to ride the skim board all three at once down the slope like a toboggan, or play ball, or ride the swings, and they would stay out sometimes until after dark and we could hear the yells of the boys reciting raps they’ve memorised all the way from the swings. One dusk, I said to others with me on the veranda, “The boys are down at the swings and I need to call them for dinner.” Then the three people sitting below our tract of land, listening to music on the edge of the reserve, called out, “DINNER!” and the boys heard and started back up the hill. “Thank you!” I called to the helpful strangers. “That’s okay!” They waved back. Such are the way of things when you’re on holiday.

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It feels good the way time slows down when you’re on vacation. “I like it because you’re more relaxed,” said my son. I’m sure he doesn’t mind the late bedtimes either, sitting up in the man cave hunched over mobile phones with his cousins, or the snoring until midday. We all had fun. There were no disagreements, the boys didn’t butt heads. I guess they’re growing up. The break was just what I needed. I took a breather and had long conversations with the members of my family. I had bonding time with my granddaughter.

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We spent hours together as a family, swimming, walking, eating and playing games. On the night of the 31st, we watched TV and played cards until 11.30 when we wandered along to the end of the road where we had located the perfect spot to watch the fireworks. At midnight, we gasped and whooped watching the spectacular display of fireworks released from a barge in the middle of the harbour. The bursts of colour against the black Coromandel Ranges were magnificent, and then we swapped hugs and kisses.

2020 has begun. Whatever you aim for in the coming twelve months, I wish you success. From my family to yours, Happy New Year!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is not flesh and blood, but the heart which makes us connected. ~ Johann Schiller

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I find Boxing day relaxing after the rush and bustle of Christmas day. The term ‘Boxing day’ emerged out of Britain, when it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of gifts on the first weekday after the 25th as thanks for their service throughout the year. It connected the custom of giving boxes to an older British tradition, stemming from giving servants a day off after Christmas and a gift box to take home to their families. Sometimes the gift was leftover food and leftovers still form a big part of our modern traditions in New Zealand. We celebrate Boxing day by having a rest and eating the food from the day before. Until the late 20th century there was a tradition among many in the British Empire to give a Christmas gift, usually cash to tradesmen and vendors at this time of year.

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A tradition here in New Zealand is to go to the beach on Boxing day. The boys have gone swimming with their father and his family. I thought I might prefer to sit in the shade at home. Actually, as anyone who hosts the family get-together knows, we reserve the next day in some part to cleaning the house, decanting food, sorting the gifts and attempting to restore some order.

There are arguments about the origin of the term Boxing day. Some hold that the name is a reference to charity drives. Traditions in some countries include collecting money for the poor on Christmas day and opening the box the next day – Boxing day.

While others say it relates to an ancient nautical tradition when they sent a sealed box of money aboard sailing ships when setting sail for good luck. If the voyage was a success, the captain gave the box to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents then given to the poor.

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Whatever the true origin, it’s a day of utter rest for us, while we try to recover from eating too much and staying up too late.

We had a blissful day yesterday. The boys got up at 8.30 to discover their stockings and presents. Let us just say both boys have restocked their libraries! I want to foster the youngest son’s love of reading. The middle son has always been a reader, but the youngest has only just begun. I bought him a dozen books across a wide range of genres hoping among them he would find one or two to twig his interest, and he did.

It was an effortless day. One of our family traditions is to have fresh peas for the festive dinner and share the job of shucking the peas. It’s something we’ve always done together. Instead of the whole family being here this year, the boys helped me shuck them, which was very sweet.

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My nephew who boards with us helped cook the roast turkey dinner. A niece who had just returned from a long overseas trip joined us for a day of cooking, eating, drinking, and talking. My eldest son, his fiancée, and their one-year-old daughter also came to visit. My granddaughter is vocalizing sweet garbled words, she’s walking steadily, however, she doesn’t quite have the idea of opening gifts. She was more interested in playing with the paper and moving the magnets on the fridge. Her chubby cheeks and big blue eyes held us entranced.

We all pitched in to create a lavish feast of roast turkey, hassle back potatoes, vegetables, fresh peas, spinach and broccoli and gravy. Homemade fruit cake, chocolate chip cookies, and fresh fruit salad followed this with whipped cream.

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After four in the afternoon, we were doing dishes and packing away plates. In the evening, after eating two more rounds of dessert, we strolled down the road to look at the festive lights. The boys were in bed asleep by nine, and finally mama could watch a movie with a box of chocolates.

A modern Boxing day phenomenon is the big retail sales when many people do their Xmas shopping for the following year. Not me. I far prefer some R&R and to unwind and take the time to reflect on things. As I send out thank you messages, I think of the many gifts this year has brought. I like to ponder the twelve months just gone at this time of the year and turn my thoughts for the first time towards the year to come.

May 2020 bring you peace, happiness, and love!  

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us!” – H. Borland

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Overheard in the supermarket at the start of December, one checkout operator to the other, ‘It has begun,’ and the other replied, ‘I know we’ve been so busy this morning.’ You could feel the collective tensing by those in the service industries who braced themselves for the onslaught of the festive season madness. After doing the house maintenance jobs later into the season than usual, I didn’t go near the shops to start my Christmas shopping until the second week of December. When I ventured out there on the 8th, I realized the stress. Each foray to the shops I sat in lines of traffic and there was a pervasive undercurrent like a hum of tension in every place, on every face. Each week as I have gotten steadily busier, the shops, the supermarket car parks, all the usual places I need to go are increasingly full. There are more and more people. Each day, the “To do” list has gotten longer. It can get crazy.

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A lot of folks these days prefer to do all their shopping online and not tackle the crowds to avoid the extra traffic on the roads. But to me, noisy and overwhelming though it might be, I would far rather go out there physically to walk around and discover things, see, feel and smell things than to have another date with my computer. I’m a writer. I spend my entire day in front of my laptop. At least Christmas shopping is a valid excuse to leave the house.

We may differ in the way we celebrate Christmas down here in the summer heat of the southern hemisphere, but one way we are the same as the north, this time of year is about gathering together with friends and loved ones. Each weekend there have been the sounds of people’s voices and music at parties on the wind. Each day there have been lunches and farewells and prize-givings. Each night there have been dinners and parties. My introvert brain is starting to hurt.

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This is the time of the year the list of ‘what I wished I could have done but didn’t get time for’ also grows bigger. We had planned a big family trip to see the Franklin Road Christmas lights, but we were all too tired after a hectic weekend to go out at night. I wanted to go to the big extravaganza Christmas in the Park, but had already been to two events that day and so it goes on. I think I’d much rather focus on what I got done. The house and garden maintenance got done. This week, my nephew and I sanded and repainted the bathroom. The seventeen-year-old graduated high school. And my nephew came along with me to collect Sam that afternoon, and to hand out presents and cards to staff and students.

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We have baked the rich fruit cake. New flowers planted. We’re ready for a ‘small’ lunch on the 25th hosting a traditional turkey dinner for the few family members in town. It will be low key and nice.

I like the thing these days of buying fewer gifts. In our family everyone used to buy something for everyone else. But as the family grew bigger, the stack of gifts grew to uncomfortable proportions and we were spending too much money. So we agreed to cut back to everyone getting one gift from the whole family, by each taking a name ‘from the hat.’ That worked well and made gift buying much more reasonable. Then a few years ago we cut it down again, and now we only buy gifts for the children, which is the best idea of all. It makes the focus of the day less about presents and more about the experience of being together.

The older I get, the more it’s the togetherness I savour most.

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I also like the crafting. Every year since my second son Sam was born, I’ve hand crafted our family cards. I’ve always spent lots of time trying to figure out what to say inside. With this crop of cards I found a terrific site that offers inspirational festive greetings. I found a few I used like this one.

This time of year brings festivities and family fun. It is a time for reminiscing and looking forward. Wishing you wonderful memories during this joyous season.

Great, huh!

Whatever you do my friends, enjoy it. Why not? As the president at our Toastmasters’ Christmas party said, ‘This is the one time of the year we’re allowed to be jolly.’

Happy Holidays, everyone!  

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts. ~ Author Unknown

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