Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

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
*

“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


*

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

It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow. If your festive season is anything like mine, you will have been invited here, there, and everywhere. Each time, people asked you to bring “a plate” (or food to share). Last weekend, I joined a group of my oldest friends for our usual Christmas get-together. Normally, we meet at restaurants for long, boozy dinners which are an absolute hoot.

But, this year, with the lockdowns and current restrictions on movement, we opted to meet for a late lunch at one of my girlfriend’s houses. She asked us to bring a plate. My go-to, and I mean nearly every time, is to make a frittata. It is adequate for lunch or dinner. Having a recipe you know like the back of your hand is mighty useful, especially in the festive season when there are so many extra jobs to do and quite frankly, the brain is fried (pardon the pun). A frittata is delicious, too.
My tip: Everything tastes better home-grown and homemade.

Whenever I make this dish, people ask me for the recipe. I thought I would share it here as well. It is an easy and tasty meal for eight to ten, although you could halve it for a family of five. Left-overs will freeze and can reheat perfectly well at a later date. If reheated, I like to add a little sprinkle of fresh cheese on the top before baking it again.

Ingredients List for Frittata:
1 large potato, a large carrot, and kumara or sweet potato
2 decent-sized slices of bacon
1 red onion
I zucchini
6 large fresh mushrooms, sliced
12 eggs
1 small block (250g) of mild cheese, grated
Black olives pitted
Small oblong tomatoes, whole
Capers or any other yummy things you like

Here’s how to make your Frittata:
There are a few things to do in advance. It’s possible to prepare the first elements the night before without spoiling. You boil or steam the chopped-up root vegetables. I used potatoes, carrots, and kumara. Alternatives that work just as well are pumpkin, parsnip, and swede.
When you need to make the frittata, you start by frying up some short strips of bacon. I used two big strips and cut them up to pinkie-size. Then put them aside to dry on paper towels. The paper towels soak up the extra oil. Fry the mushrooms, the zucchini, and the onion separately. Let them cool on separate plates with absorbent paper towels.

Grease an oven-proof dish. I used a rectangular oven tray with tall sides. I think it tastes better if you can make a deeper frittata with more layers.
Now’s the fun part – building your layers!
Spread out the root veggies on the bottom of the dish. Set the bacon strips in between.

At this stage, sprinkle a layer of cheese – and season with generous salt and pepper—it makes a big difference to the taste. Next, set out the mushroom and onion mixture over the top of that. Add another layer of root vegetables and bacon.
Beat together the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables until you have covered the filling.
Dot in big black olives and small oblong tomatoes (like the Sunburst variety) and sprinkle a few capers on the top. Season with salt and pepper and cover in the grated cheese.

Bake at 150 degrees – slowly. I left it in the oven for about an hour or more. You know it’s done when the cheese has pleasant colour, and the mixture stays solid when you wobble the tray.
Bon appétit!
If you try this recipe, let me know what you think.

I wish you good eating, celebrations with loved ones, and joy. Happy holidays, everyone!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
*


When you get up in the morning, you have two choices–either to be happy or to be unhappy. Just choose to be happy. ~ Norman Vincent Peale


*


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

Recently I went to see the award-winning play Te Po with my friends, and to say I felt blown away would be a giant understatement. I consider myself a total Luddite compared to my friends. Right from the start, when I met my girlfriends in high school, they invited me to do such cultured things as take grapes to the park and read poetry. They fascinated, enlightened, and challenged me in many ways. As adults, they have coerced me into going to art galleries, shows, and performances I would never attend on my own. I have been to one other play in my life, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. I was twelve. I felt a twinge of resistance when my friends suggested we attend a play together. But that is why these ladies are so good for me because they force me out of my low-brow comfort zone.

We met early in the evening for minestrone and then made our way to our local events center. Te Po, they told me, was part of the centenary celebration of New Zealand playwright Bruce Mason’s birth. The performers would appear in a theatre named after the playwright, and it was only on for two nights. Like a pop-up store, it was a pop-up theatre. Blink, and you would miss it. Luckily, I let my friends twist my arm, and we attended this lightning in a jar. Te Po, written by Carl Bland, is a comedy, as told by a policeman, a blind man, and a priest, about missing playwright Bruce Mason. And it is laugh-out-loud funny. Though sometimes, we wept.
Te Po is Maori for The Great Darkness, a destination for the dead. It is a place where the dead can revisit their potential and attain knowledge. The elderly Maori character anchors the piece, sings the songs, speaking melodic Maori and English, as the wise man who knows all. He bridges the gap between the worlds and brings spiritual depth.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Te Po. Live theatre is an enlivening experience. Who knew? The combination of a great story, plus fascinating human beings in 3-D, with lights, music, and special effects, was immersive, transformative, and captivating. I felt drawn further and further into the world they created. The mystery deepened in the first acts, and strange things happened, like, the furniture shifted unaided across the stage, giving us a visceral sense of being unsettled. At times, they closed the curtains, plunging us into darkness and playing the sounds of a wild crashing storm. The stage was incredible, with a writer’s office with windows that opened and bookshelves and chairs that moved across the stage. Towards the story apex, the colors deepened to sepia tones, and the whole set began to slide backwards, making the scene appear to dwindle. The effects were well done. Special mention must go to the puppeteer, who created a believable seagull and a captivating giraffe head that took our breath away.

It was interesting to compare how the script for a play follows similar conventions to writing fiction. The writer asked a question then withheld the answer. There was foreshadowing going on and red herrings that became important later. There were expectations set up then dashed. Though somewhat truncated, the characters each had an arc. And the rules changed most refreshingly as the story went along until we finally caught up to speed with the surreal nature of the piece. By then, we had abandoned ourselves to the ride anyway and didn’t care anymore. In the end, when the priest finally gives his last sermon, as promised, it provoked belly laughter from start to finish. We laughed till we cried. It was glorious.
I walked out energized, excited, and with a slightly altered view of the world (the whole intention of art). Now I understand why people around these parts have raved about this play. I am a convert to the wonders of live theatre. It is like a whole new world. Woohoo!

What about you, have you been to a live show lately?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
*
 


Be at peace with where you’ve been and where you are. That’s how you win the battlefield of the mind. ~ Andrena Sawyer


*


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

The weekend before last, I hosted my girlfriends here for a garden tour and a picnic lunch. What I needed was a dessert that could do double duty as a delectable after lunch treat and a take home treat for my guests. Cookies, or “biscuits” as we call them down here in New Zealand, seemed the perfect answer.

Whenever the occasion calls for cookies, I always go to my favourite ever treat, my legendary chocolate walnut cookies. It’s a dreamy dessert I concocted years ago when I got sick of making plain vanilla biscuits. I’m a big fan of adding nuts to baking. When I first devised this recipe, which is basically a richer version of a chocolate chip, I used macadamia nuts to contrast with the brown of the chocolate. But in the interests of making them more affordable, I changed to walnuts with some pecans thrown in for a variety of taste and texture.

Ingredients List:

125 g butter

¾ cup Demerara sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence or extract

1 large egg

1 cup walnuts and pecans, roughly chopped

Kingsize block or 125 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

2 cups organic white stone-ground unbleached flour

1 tsp baking powder (organic if you can get it)

Solid pinch of Himalayan salt

Here’s how to make your cookies:

Cream together butter and sugar until lighter and texture. Add egg beating well. Add a generous pinch of salt. Sift flour and baking together, mix into butter and sugar mixture. Add chocolate and nuts, mix to combine.

Form into small balls, setting them out on an oven tray. Flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake at 190 degrees Celsius for 12 minutes.

I made these cookies the day before the garden tour. Once they had cooled fully, I filled the cookie jar for our table at lunch. Then I packaged two to three cookies into each small cellophane bag. These I popped these into my plain brown paper bags.

I added a fresh sprig of bay leaves from our amazing bay leaf tree to each bag. And then I could send each guest home at the end of our lovely day together, with cookies and fresh bay leaves. Everybody loved it. People like a slight gesture and it makes them feel special. Mission accomplished.

Enjoy!

If you try them, let me know what you think…

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

*

I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom. ~ Thomas Carlyle

*

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

The America’s Cup has been a fiercely contested yachting race since the schooner ‘America’ won a race around the Isle of Wight against the British boats in 1851. Shortly afterwards, the New York Yacht Club Commodore John Cox Stevens donated the hundred guinea cup to the New York Yacht Club, stating it was to be “a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between nations.” Friendly and not-so friendly competition has carried on ever since, with New Zealand winning the “oldest trophy in international sport” yesterday for the fourth time. No one has yet beaten America’s original record, however, of winning the trophy for 132 years straight, the longest winning streak in the history of sport.

When a friend invited us on their launch last weekend to join the flotilla watching a day of the America’s Cup racing, I jumped at the chance. What an unprecedented opportunity to get a front-row seat on Match Day 3. The challenger, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (ITA) would race against the defender: Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL).

On Saturday, another mutual friend collected me and my son, Samuel, from our house. We travelled to the marina in the city where we met everyone on the pier at one thirty in the afternoon. It was a happy gang of people, loaded down with beers, wine, food and swim gear who boarded the motor launch.

“Hold on,” said our esteemed captain, “once we get going, the water is seriously choppy out there because of the number of boats.”

He was not wrong. It amazed us to see thousands of boats on the harbour. As a result, we pitched about wildly. There was no point at which our boat levelled out. I was worried about Sam–he had to hold on to solid surfaces with two hands just to walk from one spot to another. I shouldn’t have worried. Sam took it all in stride. He donned his headphones and listened to the radio. He did some colouring in at one stage at the tiny table, and mostly he ate his way through the afternoon. The amiable ladies on board with us had brought cheeseboards, sushi, chips & dip, quiche and a fruit platter. They set it out on the table and kept encouraging Sam to eat more. So he did! Still, it kept him occupied.

“Look, there goes the Luna Rossa!” someone said. We glanced to our left. They restricted harbour traffic to five knots. So the lead boat towing the Italian yacht and the two police boats seemed to fly past us at lightning speed. Much farther to our right, Emirates Team New Zealand, was similarly being towed to Course Area A.

Our esteemed captain had a tough job navigating the teeming waters. Hundreds of boats flanked us or followed in our wake, while ahead lay two thick walls of boats stretched either side of the racecourse. Once we reached the sideline of Course A, we downed anchor and marvelled to see every imaginable water vehicle, from the floating palace with an H on the side, to three people astride a jet ski, to Little Toot, the tiniest tugboat you ever saw.

The luxury launches dotted everywhere sported beautiful young women sunbathing in bikinis on deck between swims. Young men jumped off the top decks, showing off, and meanwhile, more boats arrived, every minute jostling for space.

Two enormous launches crammed full of people did an impressive job of threading their way through the already crowded flotilla to reach their privileged spot at the front.

There was a shout, and we raced out of the cabin in time to see the NZ Air force fly overhead in formation. It was exciting. At that stage, at the start of the day, the Match had tied 2-2. We were all eager to see what would happen next, knowing if the Italians won too many of the races it would make it harder for us to win the cup.

Race 5 began at 4:15pm. We stood on the seat to look from the open sunroof as Luna Rossa won the race. The flotilla was silent. Race 6 began with all of us hanging off the bows and sterns, delighted when Emirates Team New Zealand won Race 6! The crowds aboard the surrounding flotilla waved NZ flags above their heads, jumping up and down and whooping. The volley of boat horns was deafening. This left the Match tied at 3-3. A glorious end to a glorious day, as my dad used to say. How lucky were we!

To see Emirates Team New Zealand win the 36th America’s Cup yesterday was the icing on the cake. Wonderful! Well done to them, and to the Luna Rossa team, who were gracious in defeat. Did you watch the race?

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

*

Looking forward to what you desire is the key to renewed hope. ~Simone Butler

*

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.

February 3 question – Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

I have! Before I started out on social media about 8 years ago, I expected people to be hostile and for other writers to treat me like the competition. I feared I would shout into the silence and hear my echo, but it’s been the absolute opposite experience. I have found the online writing community to be warm and welcoming. It’s been wonderful. Of course there has been the occasional troll and the occasional pain in the a.. e, but you get that in actual life too. It’s not exclusive to social media.

I’ve mostly met incredible, inspiring and supportive folks.

When I first started out, I was following the advice I’d read in a book by social media guru Kristen Lamb. She had launched an online support group called WANA (We Are Not Alone), which I joined straight away. I set up a group called Writing For Children. The fab group of writers I met were there at the very start. I attribute to them nearly every step forward. At their advice, I branched out into many platforms; I set up my website, had a professional author photo taken, joined critique groups, and had the courage to instigate my email list and to release a monthly newsletter.

Best of all, I established a firm foundation of friends with whom to navigate the world of online writers, and to bounce ideas off along the way.

Some friends I met doing online writing courses and they’ve become my most faithful pen pals.

Some friends I made because we were always commenting on the same blogs and followed the same authors. Those beautiful souls invited me to like their pages in other places. We ended up becoming friends on Facebook and keeping up a steady banter and the usual well wishes at birthdays and in the holidays throughout the years. One cool gal I met through commenting on the same blog posts was a blogging queen. She ran three at once for her different styles of fiction.

She said, “I just love the discipline of sitting down each week and writing new posts.”

It was 2014. Though I knew Kristen Lamb and my friends in KiwiWrite4Kids strongly advised to write a regular blog as a tool for writers to reach readers and to practice their writing in a different format, I was too nervous to do so at first. I felt terrified of the idea of having to come up with something new to say every week. (Seriously, when do I run out of things to say?) I didn’t want to commit to readers and then be responsible to providing material for them. (Seriously, when was that not part of being a writer?) I feared falling flat on my face and no one liking or responding to anything I said. (Seriously, when was that not part of being a writer?)

But my dear friend from Writing for Children, Robyn Campbell, said to me, ‘If you write posts regularly, the people will come.’

And come they did. I started my blog. Week by week a few likes and comments trickled in. I didn’t fall flat as I’d feared. People literally replied to me and were really nice. Then a pal from Writing For Children, suggested I join IWSG, as she was a nervous blogger and had found succour there. So I joined. The joy of putting out a blog post each month and having a regular handful of people like it and comment was great. The joy of popping around a bevy of other bloggers and reciprocating was so fun it was infectious. I’ve met cool people, joined more groups and made more friends. What’s not to love?

Have you made friends through blogging?

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

*

Reach out to other writers, encourage one another, and come up with some new strategies. ~  Alex J. Cavanaugh,

*

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

A lot of times as an author it can feel like you are stuck in an endless loop of editing from which you might never escape. And some books take a lot longer than others to complete. The youngest son said last week, “When is this going to be over?” and I felt exactly the same way. After fifteen years of writing and editing on repeat loop, I finally finished my middle-grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. Incredible. I think I was in a state of pure disbelief that I had concluded the journey. Is it over? I kept asking myself at first. I was in a state of shock.

The day I “signed off” on The Or’in of Tane, The Sasori Empire, and The Last Tree to go to the printer, it was like a weight lifted off me. It was done. I had told the story to the best of my ability and edited it to the best of my ability as an Indie Publisher. It was time to release the culmination of years of change and growth as a writer. I couldn’t believe I was done working on the Chronicles. The moment overwhelmed me with emotion. I shed a few tears. Fifteen years of writing in all the spare moments around raising my two youngest sons, cramming the editing into every crevice had borne fruit.

I had finished three books, and I waited less than patiently to receive them. When the boxes of my books arrived by courier, I was so excited.

There is nothing like that moment when you first get to see and hold the real paperback in your hand. Writing the story, following the idea from start through to finish and creating a book is the greatest feeling in the world! As a lifelong reader, I’ve always regarded books with reverence. Now I have created one of those magical things that have given me so much joy. It is bucket list material.

Some things in life are worth waiting for, like the satisfaction of crossing the finish line, releasing your own novels, and the celebration of the book launch. You slave your butt off to complete the course and earn your right to party. The relief! The joy! I’m sure they could have seen my smile in Wellington. The launch was fabulous. Thanks to my friends from Toastmasters, we transformed the hall with flowers and tablecloths and the sparkle of china and glassware. The covers of the books shone like gems and the themed cupcakes looked almost too good to eat!

However, the point-of-sale material I had designed and ordered failed to arrive, the elections and voting clashed with our event which affected our turn-out, and one guest helpfully tried to open a whole box of expensive cupcakes by turning it upside down! But that’s life, and we roll with the punches. The hall looked charming; the atmosphere was spring like and promising. The guests filled the seats, and everyone enjoyed the afternoon, so it was fine.

In the week leading up to the launch I suffered horrible bouts of nerves about giving the oration. Though I had done some research and had an idea for the format of my keynote address, I ran so late with book production and the launch that I ended up with only one day to work on the speech. I thought the presentation would come together easily, but it didn’t, and I panicked. I was still pacing the house at ten o’clock on Friday night – not a good way to be the night before your book launch.

Saturday morning was hectic. I dropped my boys off at their father, went to get a blow wave at the local salon, then I tried to remember how to apply make-up and put my glam on. There were boxes of books, signs, tablecloths, thank you gifts for my helpers and the liquid refreshments to load into the car. There was still the hall to set up. Luckily, when it came time for me to walk on stage and speak, the speech came together. I’ve moved on from writing out and rehearsing my speeches, to trying to strike a 50/50 blend of research and spontaneity. It means potential for failure, so I get more nerves and it’s always a relief when the speeches work. Whew!

We followed my keynote with a lively Q&A session lasting nearly forty minutes, which was cool. I sold three boxes of books and two people asked me about writing and self publishing. Yes! Afterwards, friends took me out for dinner and we toasted the launch with bubbly. It was a very good day.

Now let me shuffle off stage and collapse!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

*

Sunshine is the best medicine. ~ Unknown

*

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

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.

Baby me with sisters

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.

P1000432

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.

90815020_222719175741736_3424369509476073472_o

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?

P1000395

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

*

“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.

safe_image

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.

90587786_1123232751343710_6087175548537143296_n

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.

061

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.”

P1000398

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.

P1000408

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?

91295017_2543591615857211_7761275683652763648_n

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

*

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

*

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

Yesterday, I left Toastmasters. The send-off my friends gave me was so loving, so generous, so kind, so full of good cheer and heartfelt comments, I think I wept the whole time. Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it was not a decision taken lightly. I had wrestled with it for more than a year. I knew I needed to put the hours I’d been putting into the club and my speeches into writing my stories and books.

002 (3)

I knew I wasn’t achieving enough real B.I.C (butt-in-chair) hours to make the progress I wanted to make with my series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. That the boys still required the same amount of my input as teenagers as they had when they were little frustrated me. There weren’t enough hours in the day. Something had to give. To leave the club would seem obvious, and yet it wasn’t. A lot of self talk went on in my decision to quit Toastmasters. I love my friends there and the weekly get-togethers are fun.

20171025_133300

I joined a local club in June 2015, with the plan to stay for four months, hoping I would learn how to give a decent speech so I didn’t suck at my first ever book launch. September 15th arrived, and I launched my book and gave a speech my family were proud of. I knew the effort I had put into months of Toastmasters’ speeches to get to that point, and I felt proud of myself which was a lovely new feeling. The weekly meetings were stimulating and informative. I enjoyed my circle of inspirational, intelligent, interesting and funny friends. The book launch came and went, and I said, “I’ll just stay another month.”

I stayed another month for five years.

Evaluation Contest

With each year I learned more, I gained more strength; I discovered an unexpected facility for public speaking. And all in the company of some of the most wonderful folks I have ever met. In my parting speech yesterday, I said the people you meet in Toastmasters are the greatest people you’ll meet anywhere in the world. You make firm bonds with others in a speaker’s club. Through the fires of facing down knee-knocking, heart-pounding challenges together you forge friendships that can last a lifetime. You have been comrades, side-by-side, daring yourselves to compete in the many speech competitions the organisation runs each year, and you have shivered together before going on stage, daring each other to grow. It creates closeness between the members and real empathy for one another.

Being awarded my second trophy

It was during the last five years that both of my parents died, my mother passed away in her sleep within a few weeks of my joining the club, and my father died in hospital after a heart attack a few years later. Toastmasters proved a lifeline throughout my grief. I had the comfort of friends to care about me and a creative outlet in which to express my feelings. I was grateful for the gift of being able to speak in public because this empowered me to speak about my great love for my parents at both their funerals. Prior to Toastmasters, I would have been shaking in a corner, too paralyzed by fear to step up to the lectern and do them justice. Though I wobbled at the start giving Dad’s eulogy, I recovered using my training and delivered a tribute speech I still feel good about today.

87213985_200020164678304_8266163752315912192_n

The older members sometimes say “the system works” and that’s because it does. The Toastmasters educational program is transformative. It is an honour to guide the terrified newbies who join the club and mentor them through their journey of self development, as they turn up and do the work and find their voices, and develop self confidence, new strengths, and open their wings.

5534f1563e605_ralph_c_smedley

It was Dr. Ralph Smedley who founded the Toastmasters organisation on March 24, 1905. His brainchild, the idea was to foster potential in others by teaching interpersonal skills, to do with communication, management and leadership in the community, all by teaching the art of public speaking. From humble beginnings in a room at the YMCA, today it is an international speaking organisation with over 352,000 members in 141 countries. Why? Because the system works, it develops individuals into better versions of themselves. I’ll always be grateful to Toastmasters and sing its praises to anyone who will listen. You haven’t joined yet? Why not?

87051612_200020174678303_4678977822264393728_n

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

*

“Whatever your grade or position, if you know how and when to speak, and when to remain silent, your chances of success are proportionately increased.” ~ Dr. Ralph C. Smedley

*

 

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