Archive for the ‘Grandfathers’ Category

I think my father’s recent illness and brush with death has been a shock for everyone in the family. You are immediately reduced. Humbled by the experience. You know what’s important and what isn’t. Time seems to elongate and become meaningless. I felt how precious this person was to me. Here was my father, who was always hale and hearty, now gasping for air; his deep brown eyes faded to murky blue. He, who had nurtured me and supported me, now needed my support. I remember the feeling of desperate gratitude I had that first time I saw him in hospital, when I grabbed for his hand and it was still warm.

When my father slipped into delirium, he no longer knew who we were. I sat by dad’s bedside holding his hand, talking to him, while he recounted random sequences of numbers. It was terrifying.

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The family rallied, my sisters flew in from London and Austin. We kept a family vigil at his bedside, offering him constant drinks (which seemed to restore some of his cognitive powers), and we continued to have conversations with him and ask him questions. We kept him talking. My eldest sister had supplied us with information on how to help patients out of delirium. So we asked him questions: what his name was what day it was, how many children he had, where he was born and so on, to keep his mind active and the cogs spinning.

Within ten days, my father had made what the doctors termed a miraculous recovery. His lungs were clear in the x-rays, which they said would have been difficult for a twenty-five year old to achieve.

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The doctors were so pleased, that two weeks after being admitted to hospital with double pneumonia, my father was released home with a “fancy” walking frame and into the care of our family and local nurses.

We had gone in to dad’s home in between whiles and cleaned it from the rafters to the floorboards. Once we got him home, we showed him how to dry his home out in winter and we bought him a dehumidifier. We’ve helped him see he needs to light his fire during the day as well as at night to be warm in winter.

Dad admitted he’d given himself a fright. It’s hard to see his inner struggle as he works to come to terms with the fact that this has aged him greatly. A few days after returning home, the keys to the church were collected off him by another member of the congregation. The job of counting the collection money each week was also taken off dad’s shoulders and given to another member of the church. As he is unable to do these jobs at present it makes sense to delegate them.

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We keep telling him it’s temporary, when in reality, none of us know what the outcome will be. Yet, I think for a man of my father’s generation it’s particularly difficult when you have such a sense of pride. It’s hard for him to lose the ballast of that sense of “usefulness.”

We are aiming to help dad transition fully back to the independent life he once had, if possible. But he went a long way down and he still has way to come back up again. He lost a lot of weight and his appetite is greatly reduced therefore he needs to rebuild body mass, muscle and strength. Dad’s doing as well as can be expected for an 85-year-old who has been seriously ill. He’s still a bit wobbly. We’ve noticed he is bit more forgetful.

001 (2)As a family we want to keep dad in his own home as long as possible. Home is where he wants to be, where he can still make the fire each day, tend the garden and feed his wild birds.

Even so, my sisters, who have been nursing him, tell me dad is ‘down,’ the opposite of his normal happy self. My two younger sons and I will relieve them soon and take our shift to stay with him. The boys will cheer him up with their rambunctiousness.

Whatever happens, our family will move heaven and earth to make sure dad stays where he wants to be, in his own home until the end.

It’s our turn to look after you now, dad, as you’ve always looked after all of us….

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

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Humankind have been obsessed with the idea of immortality and living forever for centuries, according to Adam Gollner in The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever:

Gollner tells us the twenty-five-year old Emperor Ai died in 365 CE, after overdosing on longevity drugs. In medieval times, they thought the answer lay in the moss that grew on hanged men’s skulls. And, David Copperfield has an archipelago in the Bahamas, where the magician claims to have found “a liquid that reverses genes.”

Why are people fascinated by immortality? Is it because we’re afraid of death?

Watching my father go through a life-threatening illness in the past fortnight has instigated many thoughts on mortality for me. It’s been an interesting ride. Everyone knows their parents will die, as we all will die and so will everything alive at this moment. However, mental knowledge is a very different animal to seeing and experiencing it for yourself.015I understood to some extent what people have felt in the past about wanting to cling to life as long as possible.

In the 1300’s Nicolas Flamel created a “sorcerer’s stone” which was said to make the drinker immortal. In the 1500s Ponce de León, discoverer of Florida, is rumoured to also have set out in search of Bimini, a legendary island in the Bahamas. Long sea voyages of discovery in those days cost vast fortunes to finance. Why did he go? Because the fabled ‘Fountain of Youth’ was said to be on Bimini. It was believed the Fountain of Youth ‘gave everlasting life to all who drank from it.’

 

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We can laugh at those from the past. Yet, when you think about it, as author Adam Gollner pointed out, we each take a modern version of magical elixir every day in order to prolong and hopefully preserve our lives. ‘We’ve tried elixirs, hormones, prayers, pills, spells, stem cells.’

I myself take vitamins and pills. It’s no wonder the health supplement industry is one of the biggest growth areas today.

Why are we afraid of death?

I guess we fear dissolution. When I thought I was witnessing my father dying, I faced my own mortality. I saw it and felt it all around me. It felt confronting and a little scary.

Yet, there is freedom in surrender.

I said to myself, ‘death is an inevitable thing.’ I felt the comfort of being present with it in a quiet way. I released into the emotion of love for my father and love for my own life. That brought me into feeling a lot more appreciation of this wonderful moment right now.

I remember an old friend of the family said to me once, ‘Acceptance is the hardest word in the English language.’

Ever since, I’ve come to realize how wise that statement was. In the middle of being there for my father through his scrape with death, I wept and wept. I struggled to accept that this could be our final goodbye. It was only when I was able to accept his mortality and therefore, my own that I found the relief of coming back to ground zero. I felt that was the gem amidst the grief.

Since then my father has made a miraculous recovery. He has successfully made the transition home, where he is now doing well, recovering rapidly.

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In the wake of ten days fear and worry and tears at my father’s bedside, I feel I understand my own drive for a longer life. I empathise with my ancestors’ quest for immortality, and yet, at the same time, I have a new feeling of acceptance for death. Happily, these things have gone hand-in-hand because, while exhausted, I feel great serenity. I have a sense that I can cope.

In ancient times, our forebears went to extremes. I was quite shocked reading in Gollner’s book that members of the Tang dynasty poisoned themselves taking untested potions. Apparently, people trekked into the Himalayas seeking the restorative powers of drinking pure llama urine, bathed in the blood of murdered virgins, and concocted saline solutions with the ash of dead bodies and myrrh.

Even in our modern, technologically advanced era people are still obsessed with anti-aging. Plastic surgery has never been more popular. There’s research being done into cryogenics and prolonging life.

Yet, when you come right down to it, acceptance is a far easier option. It costs less. It’s less stressful, which leads to inner beauty, to having a happier life and greater equilibrium while you’re here. Win, win.

My father’s health scare was a reminder to me that life is short and time is fleeting. I made a mental note: must gather together with loved ones and have more parties!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The only secret people keep is immortality. ~ Emily Dickinson

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This year my father’s 85th birthday passed by with dad seriously ill in hospital, suffering double pneumonia. If a person is a smoker, the rate of mortality from this illness among the elderly is high. As a non-smoker, and also a relatively fit person, dad’s chances of survival were better than average.

Nevertheless, none of the facts take the edge off, when you see your father that close to the final curtain. I remember how in those first moments of my first visit, when I saw his face with the cheeks sunken in towards his gaping mouth, I felt my heart clench. A keener sense of reality accompanied it. I felt even more love than usual for my father.

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Dad’s still recovering in hospital. The family has taken shifts to sit with him and my elder sisters are with him now. I shudder at the thought of what lies ahead. The shadow at the dinner party. The ghost at the gate. The pitch darkness that lies beyond the horizon.

It’s only been two years since my mother died. She passed away blissfully in her sleep, June 25, 2015, just four months shy of what would have been my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. It reminded me never to bank on tomorrow. My teacher always says to ‘live as if death’s at your shoulder’ because it is.

It’s winter here in New Zealand, and it seems fitting to face these thoughts at this quieter time of year. As without so within and all that jazz.

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It’s also the first week of the school holidays.

Normally, my brother and I would take our kids to stay with dad for some of the break. It was so great to see the kids get to do all sorts of adventurous things outside in the fresh air on those visits, stretching their legs and their wings as boys need to do.

Even my boy with Down’s syndrome, Sam-the-man, who gets quite put out by any changes to routine, always welcomed the chance to spend quality time with his grandfather. Sam appreciated that his grandfather would sit and take the time to play cards and board games and patiently explain the rules.

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In Sam’s writing books, brought home from school at the end of each year, I noticed the words ‘Grandpa,’ ‘beach,’ and ‘sandcastles’ cropped up in his stories often.

We’ve had a special time and there are many wonderful memories.

These holidays, instead of going to the beach, the boys and I travelled to spend a couple of days sitting beside grandpa in hospital. We make the next visit soon.

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It’s sad to see an old tree fall. This profoundly good man has sacrificed a great deal for his family. He has given selflessly to all around him. Now, all he asks is to go home. While he is still very weak, we’re hopeful that one day, he will return home, at least in some capacity.

In a few days, the boys and I take our next turn at grandpa-sitting.

My sisters say dad’s health has improved.

We might not have noted dad’s birthday as we’ve done before. But as soon as he’s home we will celebrate.

We’ve remembered life goes on. Hope springs. And the human spirit is irrepressible. Thank goodness, no matter how many crazy despots come into power, life does go on. And I’m reminded of those sage words someone said once long ago; it’s never too late to bake a cake. 🙂 Words to live by.

Love you, dad. Happy Birthday!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius

 

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A reality bloomed before us yesterday…one I didn’t want to see…that shocked me to my very core. My father is mortal. The superhero of our family – our fearless leader – who has never spent a day in hospital, apart from when he got bowled over by a truck, is lying in a hospital bed at death’s door.

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As dad said when he was still lucid, ‘I never get sick. I’ve never had anything wrong with me.’ He couldn’t understand why people started to fuss over him in his town a few weeks ago. A few worried reports filtered in, that dad’s colour wasn’t right; he was ‘looking blue.’

When I rang to check on him, Dad said he’d had flu for about four weeks. I said he must see a doctor in the morning. He promised he would.

My sister rang the next morning to check on him. She found dad was panting and fighting for breath. He still refused to see a doctor. Nevertheless an ambulance and friends in the community raced to side. My father is so fiercely independent (as the nurses keep telling us, also) that he fought being taken away by the ambulance. He didn’t want to go, and had to be persuaded in no uncertain terms.

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My father was transferred to Waikato Hospital HDU where he could be put on oxygen and have his levels monitored. The doctors said he had pneumonia in both lungs which accounted for his difficulty breathing.

In talking to him, dad admitted he’d “been a bit wobbly” for a few weeks when getting his firewood. He said he “had been struggling a little.” That’s understated dad-language for ‘I’m desperately ill and have been struggling a lot.’ No wonder the other people in his town were concerned.

I travelled to Waikato Hospital yesterday, along with my eldest son, and we were in for a shock. I saw dad’s mortality written across his face, and for the first time I faced the fact we could lose him.

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Holding dad’s hand, I stretched one of Ma’s crocheted blankets across his lap. He was counting erratic sequences of numbers in his half-sleep. His normally brown eyes, when he opened them, looked murky blue.

My superman had landed. I could have wept a thousand tears. But I had to hold it together for my son and my niece. I’m sure my father doesn’t want to see us grieving before he’s even gone, either.

Unfortunately, because it went on so long, dad let himself get very sick, and at this point, he is still no better.

Bless him, we were told he is a “flight risk” even so. He keeps trying to leave the hospital to go home. While we were there, if he wasn’t sleeping, then every few minutes he’d check his watch and say, “It’s time to go.” He was feeling anxious because he hadn’t laid the fire and ‘needed to get home to collect the wood.’ Yet, being so wobbly, he can’t go anywhere without a walking frame and someone holding him.

It was hard to leave dad at the hospital. I’ll take my younger boys to see him tomorrow.

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The call has gone out to the family. The time has come to gather from various points on the earth. We just need to focus on supporting dad through this and surrounding him with love. So that’s where our energy goes at this time, being there with him, no matter what.

We’re still praying he can recover and return to his beloved hometown. But, as one of my young nephews so sagely said, ‘Grandpa will never be able to go back to the way things were before.’ As a family, we have turned a corner. It’s just that none of us know which corner we’ve taken.

How do I approach the decline of this great man? Step by step. Moment by moment. There is no other way to do it than to let one’s heart be broken, petal by petal. That’s what it is to love, to surrender to the process of life. Yet, in all its suffering there is still sweetness and divinity. On the drive home from Waikato, the setting sun rimmed a burst of clouds with gold and sent out long apricot-yellow “fingers of God” into the deep blue sky. The scene was overwhelming in its pure magnificence. I looked with joy and I wept with tears of grief for my father.

How do we approach all of life with the same equilibrium? That’s something I’m currently pondering on…your thoughts are welcome!

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.’ ~ E.B.White

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*Courtesy warning: contains meat products.*

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I wish you could smell my kitchen right now. The smell is savoury, deeply fragrant and spicy. I’ve spent the whole day making meatballs. And let me tell you, it has been so much fun.

For those of us with children at school, we’re coming to the time of year when the kids take their next holidays. My thoughts have swung forward to organizing our next trip to visit grandpa.

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With travel in mind, the first thing I do is start to plan the food. This time, I plan to make a batch of pumpkin soup and freeze it into small batches to take with us. I like to take a few pre-made things. That way I don’t have to spend a lot of time making food when I’d rather be spending time with my father or with the kids.

I recently went to see a “medical herbalist.” She takes a comprehensive look at diet and lifestyle. She suggests herbs and some kind of eating plan. Mine discovered a few things absent nutritionally from my diet and she sent me an eating plan as well as a great list of suggested snacks.  Boiled eggs. Check. Tahini or hummus with vegetable sticks. Check. And homemade meatballs, “a small concentrated bundle of protein, handy to have as they last well in the fridge.”

I had never considered making meatballs to have on hand as a snack. I thought, what a great snack food for my hungry growing boys as well. I’m always looking for easy protein options for them.

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Mini meatballs would be the perfect thing to go in the boys’ lunchboxes for school as well as for the upcoming car journey. Why mini? Kids like small foods. So I decided to come up with a “healthy meatball” I would feel good about the kids and I eating on a regular basis. I retreated to my kitchen lab today and I came with a tasty low fat treat. The nice thing about having precooked meatballs with you on vacation is that they make a great sandwich or roll filling and can form the basis of a nice dinner with the addition of pasta and tomato sauce.

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Here’s my mini meatball:

Combine 375g mince, fresh herbs and a good dose of dried mixed herbs, fresh ginger grated on the fine grater, a cup of crumbled fresh Vogels (or wholemeal) bread (not the crusts), 2 tbs tomato sauce (I added a few diced angel tomatoes), a handful of minced fresh greens like spinach or silverbeet, I used the light-green inner of one leek, finely chopped, plus a glug of good olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper.

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The best part is smooshing all the ingredients between your fingers and then rolling balls of the mixture between your hands. In case you’re wondering, yes, it is just like rolling play dough into balls as a child! I’ve heard chefs say before that meatballs are a favourite recipe and now I can see way. It was brilliant fun.

All it takes is chopping and mixing a bunch of ingredients, pinch into small balls and you’re done.

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However, as meat is fatty, and I’d added some good fat to make it stick together, I didn’t want to add more fat by frying the balls in a pan. I wanted to bake them like miniature meatloaves. I came up with the solution of placing each little ball in a miniature container.

I baked them for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

When they came out they were each sitting, bubbling, in an inch of oil.

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At this point, you have to be ready with paper towels spread over the baking rack, and a pair of tongs. You want to whisk those meatballs out of the oil as fast as you can to prevent them from soaking the oil back up again. If they hit the paper towel warm they’ll continue leaking even more excess oil. The resulting meatball will retain some of the fat but most of it has been rendered.

Take them off the paper and let them cool the rest of the way on the baking rack. Freeze in relatively small batches, so you can take out half a dozen at a time and still have some for another day.

Our mini meatballs look and taste great, they’re our family’s healthy take on an old favourite.

Do you have a go-to recipe to take on holiday?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. ~ Desmond Tutu

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This week, I took the boys down country and met my brother with his son. We stayed with grandpa for four days, as we do each school break.

Here’s the thing about visiting parents when they’re aging, there’s always a slight tension that never quite goes away. It’s like the prickle in your finger you can’t stop thinking about.

In between our visits, I worry about my father. He’s on his own now, mum having died nearly two years ago. I love his independence. He’s a potter-er. He has his aches and pains but he soldiers on. He makes his own meals and does his own laundry. I know he can take care of himself. I know he’s happy. I know he has a good life between his church, friends, bowls, volunteer work, clubs, and meetings.

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The last few get-togethers dad started complaining of memory loss. The last holiday or two, we have noticed changes. Some little instances of his not recognizing people he should have known, and so on. Since then, the normal mild tension one feels with a parent in their 80’s, became greater concern for his well-being. We’ve been keeping an eye on him. And now, each time we go, I’m hyped with stress, how is he going to be this time? Is he going to be worse? Will the decline be slow or steep?

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This visit was a relief for my brother and I because dad was fine. He showed no displays of memory loss beyond the ordinary things you or I would do. He was great. However, he is still different, more turned inward. When we saw a family friend on the last day, she asked my brother and I, how was your trip, and we both replied, “Interesting” in the same breath.

This holiday, dad, who is famous for his telling of jokes, and the offer of “a story,” had been silent. He didn’t tell a single joke in four days. That, in itself, set the tone for the difference. Dad also has his favourite things he likes to say, like how he was blessed with a lovely wife, a happy family and finding the land he lives on, and the story of how he found it. None of these stones were touched upon. And, that was unsettling.

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In the evenings, the boys would be playing cards (and dad joined in on many games), Sam would be playing his psp, and I’d be writing. I’d look up at dad and think, why isn’t he talking? He was busy with his Sudoku or he was working on his crossword, or he was reading the paper. If I asked a question, he’d answer and then go back to his crossword. He seemed deeply intensely absorbed in his routines and his things he likes to do.

Then on the last day we were there, I thought, I need to have a talk with dad.

I got up early. The instant I heard a footstep above, I rushed upstairs. I caught him before he could get started on his paper and I started him talking.

I engaged him, told him things about us and asked him questions. We had a conversation.

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He said, “I’ve been blessed with…” and I can’t tell you the relief I felt as he told me his familiar saying. He said, “And this place had only been open for development five days when we first saw it. I’ve told you the story, have I?” I said, “Yes, but tell me again!” I was so overjoyed he was back. There you are, dad. Whew!

Dad is simply aging naturally and as well as you can. He’s at the age and stage in life where he’s becoming more introverted. He’s looking inward which is the normal thing to do in the final stage of life. He’s got his routines and his set ways of doing things and he concentrates on them more so now than he did before as is natural. All is well with grandpa.

Yet, still I worry.

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The kids love to visit. My son with Downs’ syndrome loves grandpa, and Sam did spend a fair bit of time just staring at his face. Bless him, dad didn’t react but carried on as usual. I treasured him more than ever. I came home happy to report to the rest of the family (and Facebook!) that grandpa is going strong.

Now, how to manage the stress of worrying about him. What do you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius

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

After months mostly spent indoors at the computer, my boys and I headed to the coast to spend Christmas with family.

It was a lot of fun. We stayed a whole week, with the boys going back with their father to the city for one day and night, to kayak with their other cousins. I surprised myself by swimming every day, sometimes twice. It was great.

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While there, I went from feeling the stress of Christmas to relaxing. My brother arrived with injuries, hardly able to move. Yet, by the time they left, he was looking like his old self. His partner suffers from an ongoing illness, and yet, while on holiday with us she had more “good days” than ever.

I pondered this as I holidayed, and I realized there is therapy in travel…in being somewhere ‘different’

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In fossicking about in rock-pools

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In connecting with the earth – actually touching it

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In making new friends

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In risking a little discomfort for the adventure

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In spending quality time with your cuzzies

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In hanging out with your siblings

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In being outdoors in the fresh air, sometimes doing nothing, sometimes climbing a mountain

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In fishing

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And swimming

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In snatching one last dip with the kids and nephews before the sun goes down

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There is therapeutic value in spending time with family. Full stop. Gathering under the same roof, especially during a festive time, helps to build and maintain those bonds. All the feasting and partying also expands the waistline! Never mind, the worry and guilt can wait till next year.

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These festive celebrations deepen the important connections in our lives. We feel the love. We feel plugged back into our families again.

I’ve returned to the city feeling refreshed, invigorated, calm and peaceful. I’m ready to work! I look forward with optimism to the year ahead. Bring on 2017!

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Talk to you later.

Happy New Year!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself.” ~ E.E. Cummings

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After the loss of my mother, last year, I realized I needed to organize regular, quality-length time for my younger two boys with their grandfather.

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Time is short, and we need to make the most of the opportunity, while dad’s still alive, for him to get to know them, and for the kids to get to know their grandfather. This is a chance to deepen those precious relationships.

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To this end, I arranged with my brother, we would bring our boys to visit dad in every holiday break. Our boys could then maintain their relationships with one another, as well. Five or so times, my brother and I have travelled from opposite ends of the country, to bring our kids together with their grandfather. And, it’s turning into a lovely tradition.

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These holidays, we headed down to visit my father in the Coromandel, despite the dire forecast of thunderstorms, heavy rain and 110 knot winds. Yet, I’d checked the road conditions, and I knew all the roads were still open.

We didn’t want to miss out on time with dad, and we had also arranged a charter fishing trip on a boat for the boys.

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It rained on and off most days. However, the storm passed us by without even touching us.

The kids weren’t worried and they just got on and enjoyed themselves.

They reminded me how to look at the bright side. When it rained, they played indoors, when the sun came out, they raced outside again. Sometimes, they went out, rain or no!

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The very first day, our combined trio of boys made friends with the local kids. The gang was inseparable from then on.

I was reminded of how well kids make friends. They see others their size-ish and they gravitate towards one another. It seems all it takes is a look. Then, they play together and are instantly bonded. No questions asked.

What a pity we can’t put all the kids in charge of the world, huh?

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Dad, my brother and I took turns keeping an eye on what was going on with this new tribe.

The kids would come from the houses which face down onto a reserve, and gather on the communal grassed playing area and playground below Grandpa’s house.

They played together with great gusto and spirit. They played most of the time. The digital games and phones lay indoors, forgotten.

I love that about going away for the holidays – the strictures of city life fall away. People and shared experiences become more important.

When we weren’t out with the boys ourselves, I’d often be indoors, watching with the binoculars. Sometimes the kids were playing soccer, or ball tiggy, or softball. Sometimes they were on the swings and slides in the playground. You could hear the shrieks of laughter and hoots.

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Sometimes, mysteriously, they camped for long periods, the whole tribe sitting and talking beneath a tree or in the shade of the climbing wall.

It seemed never a cross word passed between them.

There were no falling-outs. Throughout our stay, they gathered to play and traipsed back and forth as a gang. At meal times, the crew dispersed. A preternatural quiet would descend.

Yet, I noticed, all it took was for one of them to appear on the reserve or in the playground, and in a very short time; they’d have rejoined forces. The whoops and voices would ring again. The kids seemed like magnets for each other.

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Our boys’ new mates even accompanied us on a family walk to the peak behind my father’s house.

Meantime, because of the weather warnings, the fishing charter was cancelled.

Not to be put off, we rearranged it with the skipper, for the following day.

Luckily, the weather improved enough for the fishing trip to kick off, as planned.

The boys were thrilled. My youngest called it ‘a big adventure,’ being a night trip. The boat was due to leave harbour at 5 p.m. and return at ten in the evening.

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Though they did encounter a rough off-shore wind that night, the trip was a success and, they each managed to catch some fish. Whew!

Being my son’s first proper trip, I was relieved to hear, upon their return, he’d caught ‘the first and biggest fish.’ Keeping everything on an even keel, my nephew then outdid him by landing an even bigger snapper.

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Both boys came home exhausted, proud warriors. It was lovely. You never know, we may have new fishermen in the family.

It was a fitting end to the trip. For dinner, I had fresh snapper fried with a little pepper, salt and olive oil, eaten with a simple green salad tossed with avocado. Perfect.

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I consider this holiday to have been a lesson in how a shining attitude (as demonstrated so ably by the boys), can transform a sodden four days, into a fun-filled adventure to be remembered forever.

How awesome is that?

I nominate children to rule the world!

Remember, whenever you reach the lip of a steep slope, (this sign graces the reserve near my dad’s house)… Please run down the hill screaming! (by Order of Life’s Too Short).

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Talk to you later,

Yvette K. Carol

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Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. ~ John Lennon

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Since I put my name forward to compete in a Toastmaster’s “Humorous Speech Contest,” a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been working on the dilemma of material. Or, lack of it. The race has been on to write something funny.

I have spent days wondering what I should write about.

My hairdresser came over to give me a trim. She has her aging parents living with her, one of whom is blind, while the other has Alzheimer’s. The stories she told, of the mishaps going on in their household, had both of us nearly crying with laughter. I thought, ‘this stuff is priceless.’

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I thought about my own family’s hilarious stories, about my mother, and her dementia. I put it to the arbiters of taste in my circle. The resounding answer was, ‘No, don’t go there. Mothers are sacrosanct.’ Then, I read an article the other day, in which a woman, whose mother had died with Alzheimer’s, decried another guy, who had written a piece about his mother “going mad.” She said, it was ‘cruel and inconsiderate’ to mock those whose parents had dementia.

I realized that my first two ideas were hot-button topics! I decided “not to go there.” In a contest situation, the idea is to appeal to the audience, not turn people away.

What is funny?

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I have wracked my brain, and done a bit of research.

I’ve learned from reading various comedian’s blogs that humour comes from the unexpected. We laugh because we’re led to expect one thing but are given the opposite instead.

I began to experiment. Going back to the subject of raising kids for my subject matter, I wrote a short speech.

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According to what I read, one’s success with a “humorous speech” depends less on content than on the delivery. In the latest Toastmasters magazine, it was reported that the speaker, Palmo Carpino advised, if you want to go from good to great, is “It’s not so much about building a library as it is about building your reflexes.” Paul, who is active with the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, says, “This is what usually separates the “ok attempts” scribed into a written speech from the “memorable point illustrated in a memorable manner.”

The next time I saw my nephew, I tried out some of the so-called “funny bits” in my speech on him. He gave me one of those face-spreading smiles you give, when something isn’t really funny. My jokes had flat-lined.

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I reworked the speech completely, remembering the rule of the unexpected. I practiced it again and again, by standing up, marching about and testing the delivery, the pauses, the inflections.

That’s what you have to get just right, the sound and timing of your material.

I tried rearranging each piece so as to take the audience in one direction then, casting about for the punch line which turns the listeners in a different direction. Bouncing it off myself and others.

I’ve received some great tips and ideas from people. The top two would have to be, ‘Just be yourself and let your character shine through.’ A great resource, according to a writer/artist friend of mine, Steve Attkisson, is Gene Perret’s Ten Commandments of Comedy. This is ‘one book that has been instructive and entertaining.’ I intend to withdraw this book from the library, to read next. I know I need help.

Will the audience laugh? Only time will tell!

In the end, I’ll get it right. Meantime, I thought the lessons I’m learning along the way might be valuable. As I figure out how to write a humorous speech, hopefully, what I share via my blog might also benefit someone else. Ain’t the internet cool?

How do you write funny? Any tips to share? Send help. Please. Or chocolate.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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My advice? You wanna look 20 years younger? Stand further away. ~ Jeff Green

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Ever since mum died, my brother and I have met up at our father’s home with our kids every school holidays. We travel from different parts of the country to meet in the lovely seaside township where dad has retired. With me, my thirteen-year-old, Sam (who has Down Syndrome), and my ten-year-old, Nat. My brother, Al, brings his eleven-year-old, Riki. We regularly reunite to spend quality time with grandpa.

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I noticed during this holiday Sam literally followed his uncle around. And, it made me think about the need our young people have for positive role models. Young boys can be like homing missiles, sometimes, seeking those role models, to look up to and show them the way.

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My boys are lucky. My brother and I are lucky. The amazing side benefit of gathering to visit grandpa is that it regularly brings three generations of the males in our family together. We have each other, and the older family members can guide the younger.

In the greater communities and society, however, the dearth of fathers in the home is a sad reality.

There are ‘men deserts’ in many parts of our towns and cities and we urgently need to wake up to what is going wrong. – Christian Guy

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In 2013, in a research project on male role models, a post was published. More children growing up without male role models says new report, shared details of the report released by the Centre for Social Justice which claimed the increasing rate of lone parent families was creating ‘men deserts.’

The Centre’s director, Christian Guy, said, ‘For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom. This is an ignored form of deprivation that can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development.’

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What can we do?

*Appreciate the importance of positive male role models in our own families.

The happy side effect of gathering around Grandpa has been gathering the guys for a few days, every couple of months, to fish and golf and play cards. And, they’re all benefiting from time together.

*Initiate/participate in ideas like the brother/buddy systems.

Recently, a friend of mine mentioned he’s involved with an initiative run by his church where the older guys are paired with fatherless boys, to do activities and spend time with them. This sort of thing has such positive effects  in our communities!

*Encourage and vocalise the idea that we need more male teachers for our upcoming boys.

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In the “Conclusions and Reflections” of the report published in 2001, Social Learning Theory and the Influence of Male Role Models on African American Children, Rhonda Wells-Wilbon and Spencer Holland stated, ‘The role and contribution of males in the classroom cannot be ignored. At minimum, they make the classrooms more manageable so teachers can teach. At their highest level, they instil positive values, pride, and the desire to want to do the right thing even in absence of the role model.

‘While school is considered the place where children learn the skills to be productive participants in the workforce, reading, writing and math alone are not sufficient for preparing the next generation.’

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Therefore, changes need to be put into place within the education system to encourage more young men to take up teacher training, to fill the current deficit.

The teacher, Erin Lees said, ‘If father is not there, the child looks to fill up with other male role models.’

According to Wells-Wilbon and Holland, ‘Mentoring programs and other volunteer programs that bring men into the classroom, and that are well structured for consistency and modelling positive behaviour can be a valuable resource.

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‘In this study, there seems to be a relationship between structuring a program that focuses on values and important life skills as well as tutoring and academic support. Children like adults learn and function best when they have a strong foundation of values and feel valued as important people.

Modelling and teaching important life skills is the foundation for building academic achievers.’

With such positive thinking, there is hope for the future.

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On the last day of our holiday, we took our late afternoon walk with Grandpa. At the end of the trail, I asked my thirteen-year-old Sam to bunch up with Uncle and Grandpa for a photo. Any doubts lingering as to the value of male mentors in a boy’s life can be answered right there.

Have you any stories to share about effective mentorship?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. ~ E. B. White

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