Archive for the ‘Grandparents’ Category

I was “Toastmaster” this week at my Toastmasters club, a role which basically means you MC the entire meeting. Have you ever heard it said that if you don’t know the answer to something, ask your grandmother? In one of my turns speaking at the meeting, I came up with the idea of passing on handy tips to the audience. I thought I’d share helpful tips I’ve gathered along the way in the form of grandmotherly advice. You never know what might benefit someone else.

Here are a few of the tips I shared with fellow club members during the meeting as “Nan’s Advice.”

Handy tip: Put the special gifts you love in your car.

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About ten years ago, my father gave me a small white posy of fake flowers and wished me “Happy Mother’s Day.” It was the first time he’d ever said those words to me, and I was so touched I’ve kept the posy in my car ever since. People give you gifts and they’re wonderful but things get lost in the detritus of life after a while. Or, you don’t notice them anymore. However, putting a special gift you’ve received in your car means you see it every day. Each time I get into my car, I see the posy of white plastic flowers and I feel warmth, remembering my father giving it to me and saying, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

It’s a spirit lifter.

It’s a simple thing and it works every time.

Another handy tip: Turn off your Wi-Fi.

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My sister and I, have been doing this thing lately, of turning off the Wi-Fi connection at the wall as often as possible. I never used to think about it, the Wi-Fi was just on all the time. But my sister said why? When we know it’s been proven to have harmful effects on our health, we should limit our exposure as much as possible. I decided to try limiting our use of Wi-Fi and became hooked.

Now, I view my day differently. I think of what needs to be done online and when. For me, it’s best to go online first thing in the morning and download all the documents I need to read to Word documents. Then, I can go offline the rest of the day and turn off the Wi-Fi. It might be my imagination, however there is a more relaxed feeling in the house now that the Wi-Fi is turned off for long periods. If in doubt, why not give it a try yourself once in a while? See if it feels any different.

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Last handy tip for the week: Leave your old vegetable plants in the ground longer.

After they’ve finished producing, leave your vegetable plants in the ground for as long as possible, and you may find they grow again. In the past, when my old veggies began to die back, I would rip the plants out of the ground and throw them onto the compost heap straight away. But, once or twice in recent times plants have been left in the ground far longer than usual, and to my surprise, in some cases, plants started growing again. I had cut the heads off the broccoli and didn’t get around to taking out the stumps and two months or so later, they started growing new broccoli heads. Instead of the central stalks, each plant is sprouting lots of smaller heads but they’re still yummy to eat. Now, the same thing has happened with the celery, the stumps are sprouting deep green stalks. My great discovery I pass onto you.

You’re welcome.

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I called my handy tips ‘Nan’s Advice’ because I’ve officially decided to change my ‘grandmother name’ from grandma to nan. In our family, we tend to use grandma, gran, nana or granny. Everyone called me grandma when my first granddaughter was born. Yet, for some reason, I found the moniker wasn’t coming to the lips easily when referring to myself. Then, I overheard my nephew and later my sister talking to the baby and when they referred to me they said ‘nan.’ I found the term sat more favourably. It felt more like me. Is it a coincidence that it’s the same name my beloved grandmother took as her own? I think not. So, nan, it is. I have finally settled on my grandmother name.

It was Louisa May Alcott who famously said, ‘A house needs a grandma in it.’ A nana will do, too. What about you? If you’re lucky enough to be a grandparent, what name do you go by?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Grandparenthood brings yet another dimension of unconditional love that, once again, changes everything. ~ Cheryl Saban

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A good friend said to me a few years ago, that entering one’s “middle years” was like fall, in that ‘things started to drop away from you like leaves from the tree.’ I think that is a handy analogy for this season of life I find myself in. After losing both my parents in the last two years, as well as a good friend, thinking of this time in my life as ‘being like fall’ helps me achieve the right mindset. That way, I accept loss as the natural order of life and the way things go.

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I put this realisation into my work-in-progress, a middle grade fantasy novel called, The Last Tree. Because of the youth of the characters, the realization becomes an initiatory one. I was able to use my recent experience with grief to write more realistically about the grief we feel as kids when we first take those first tentative steps towards adulthood, and we start to leave childhood behind. I can clearly remember being that age of twelve to thirteen and not wanting to grow up.

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Our young hero, Aden Weaver, was eleven in book one of The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series and each book covers the course of a year in his life. The Last Tree, being the third volume in the trilogy, includes the final battles, and the flowering into fullness of the child character/s must transpire.

As Aden Weaver is thirteen in The Last Tree, he is therefore on the cusp of change, walking that fine line of the transition between boyhood and manhood. He would naturally entertain his first thoughts about mortality. I did this through having his beloved mentor start to age rapidly. The thin line I had to walk was to have Aden experience loss while not dwelling on it to the point of being morbid.

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I knew I had to handle everything about the final book with care. In The Last Tree, Aden Weaver says goodbye to people he loves. It is a graduation story after all, and with graduation comes leaving people and places behind, so while there is bliss there is sadness. That’s life. It’s how we handle what happens that defines us.

It’s vital for the reader’s sense of resolution that Aden displays the depth of character at the end of the series absent at the beginning.

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The protagonist must demonstrate a growth arc and become that thing that was promised in book one, the wannabe must become the warrior, the hero, the more evolved, more complete version of themselves.

Aden, must taste the bitter fruit of reality and grow up a little and move on with new maturity. It’s a delicate piece in the mechanism of the coming of age story. However, I don’t prefer writing morbid fiction for children. You can see in the success of series like The Hunger Games that this generation of kids has high tolerance levels for death and violence. I read the Hunger Games trilogy to my boys earlier this year, and I was shocked at the content. It’s that sort of thing I couldn’t do.

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I want to do my story and characters justice in a potent way without the gore.

To me, there should be some reflection of life’s difficulties in our children’s books, and it also needs careful treatment. When you are writing for the 9-13 year-old age group, this acknowledgement of the child grasping the intransience of life needs to be touched on in some way, to be authentic to that stage of life. It’s about our passage over the threshold, from the first phase of life to the next. It can be symbolic, through leaving town, or changing schools. It needs to be present but not at the forefront, and not put in a way that is irresolvable for the immature mind.

Life’s tragedy can be delivered in junior fiction in a way that enriches the story without overwhelming it, if it’s done well. Just think of Charlotte’s Web.

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In writing about loss for young people, you must, also offer hope. Just as we do in real life, seek a counterbalance. The aim is not to leave your young audience devastated. We have a responsibility to reveal the glimmer of light along with the darkness.

At the end of The Last Tree, I sought to redress the balance back into the light. I only wrote the triumphant scenes a couple of months ago, and now they’re among my favourites in the whole book.

Hope is restored, as it should be. Life does go on.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Good stories are about the getting of wisdom; let your children grow up.’ ~ Jane Yolen

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At the moment, my eldest son is painting the exterior of the house for us. It’s been great. Because not only is the job getting done, but I get to see him regularly and sometimes he brings my granddaughter with him. At first, the idea was for my teenage boys to help me babysit her while the eldest carried on with the painting. But, after a couple of hours on the first day, the youngest son said, “Mum, I don’t think I’m responsible enough to be babysitting.” I had to laugh. At thirteen, he’s not quite ready to be a caregiver. He realized it takes constant vigilance to look after babies.

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He went back to his online game. My sixteen-year-old went back to watching YouTube. And I went back to following the path of her adventures. My nephew, who boards here, said to her, “Is it you who’s been pulling things out all over the house?” She just looked at them with those big blue peepers and we all laughed.

For me, as the grandparent, babysitting is a joyful vigilance. I’ve been absorbed in watching her and singing nursery rhymes, and reading baby books. It’s been a lot of fun and a wonderful bonding time with my granddaughter getting to see her for whole days at a time.

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Prior to my granddaughter’s birth, I was looking forward to being around a such a young child again. Even so, I had forgotten how special they are. When you’ve been here less than a year, the world is a vast and truly fascinating place. Everything is new waiting to be explored.

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They want to know what lies on top of every table and cabinet.

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They want to know what it is about these gadgets we find so fascinating, my granddaughter is never more animated than when she manages to get hold of a phone, or a tablet or a remote for a minute. They’re attracted to things they feel they probably shouldn’t be playing with.

There is one feature here at my house I had hoped to keep the baby away from, a Jade tree on the front porch which features little tiny pebbles and smallish glass butterflies.

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The jade tree was the first thing the baby noticed and she made a beeline for it. Babies are uncanny that way. They hone in on what you don’t want them to find. We played a fun game of Nana saying no, ‘you can’t eat that’ until I could distract her to something else.

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Luckily, we have loads of toys and everything a child could want here because I saved so much of the boys’ stuff, from their best baby toys and the best of everything over the years since then. Baby and I have a lot of fun playing with the musical instruments, playing with a bucket of water outside, blowing bubbles, reading picture books, stacking blocks and rolling a ball. But, what she’s really motivated to do is explore her world.

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One minute we’re playing the next minute she’s off, crawling at great speed to see what’s around the next corner. She wants to go into every room of the house, and pull herself up on the chairs and tables to see more.

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Every item she can get her hands on needs to be carefully examined and then sucked on. ‘Everything is intrinsically interesting’ as Shaun Tan said. This is the viewpoint of babies. I love how babies and little kids have to physically engage with their environment in a thorough way. It makes me see these same things anew.

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If there are stairs or different levels under fives have to go up and down and around and if possible through. They engage with things in every possible way. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is tested and known completely. It’s not enough to take things out of the drawer; one must get in the drawer.

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So far, I have found this window into early childhood absorbing. Now that my two youngest boys are teenagers, life is different for us at home. I don’t have to have everything out of reach or locked up tight. Whereas, when there’s a baby around, anything you don’t want lost or broken, or that might be a potential hazard, has to be out of sight. We’re rediscovering the delights and dangers of the world again through her adventuring.

I’d always heard being a grandparent is fabulous, now I can attest to the fact. It’s the love for family enhanced by the benefit of time.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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On the seventh day, God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town. ~ Gene Perret

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Tuesday the twelfth of February marked the first anniversary of my father’s death. It was a year ago on a Monday that I got the phone call you dread, that someone you love has died. It was my elder sister, who was ringing from the Waikato Hospital.

I think it was seven o’clock in the morning – too early to be good news – “Dad passed away last night.”

I felt sucker punched.

My sister said the hospital then the funeral home was taking dad’s body to do the final things that needed to be done; he would be sent home to us in a day or so.

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I started packing our bags. I spoke to all the people I needed to speak to, excused the boys from school for the week, and we were on the road to my father’s log cabin within the hour.

I’ll never forget the scene, when we drove into dad’s seaside town and neared the mountain he lived on, we found the peak was completely hidden within its own private cloud. It was so unusual I had to stop and take a photo.

I felt the land and the sea surrounding us were speaking directly to our sorrow.

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When we arrived at the empty house that was when the tears flowed. I couldn’t believe dad wouldn’t be there, as he always had been there: reading the paper, watching the 6 o’clock news, doing the crossword, feeding his birds, working in the garden, making food in the kitchen, playing cribbage with us in the evenings. Dad would never be there again.

I looked at my two youngest boys and they looked at me, and I knew I had to be strong for them. Though dad had only been gone a day, certain doors had closed, and a new one had opened, that of my stepping up in rank in our family.

Now, it was my turn to begin the walk of the kaumatua (elder).

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I unpacked our bags, and started preparing food for my sisters, who were driving to Thames Hospital to sort out paperwork, and would then make the trip to us. It all felt surreal. The reality arrived when the funeral home brought dad’s casket to the house a day and a half later.

The funeral director said, ‘the hardest moments for the families are when the lid is first removed and when the lid of the casket is put back on.’

Both moments were heart wrenching. Yet, my father himself looked like he was sleeping, and he was dressed in his very best Sunday suit. We took it in turns after the initial outpouring of grief to sit with him. We didn’t leave dad alone, apart from when we were sleeping.

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Dad spent two and a half days with us at home. We sat with him, held his hands, stroked his hair, sang and talked to him. More family arrived until we were all present. Friends came by, bringing food, neighbours baked cakes and lasagnes.

In the evenings, we siblings sat around the dining table, spending hour after hour going through the old photos. There were boxes to view and sort and distribute between us. Each day, we selected another room of the house to clear out and sort through. The contents of our parents’ lives spread before us.

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Although it almost felt disrespectful to touch their belongings, two people’s lives and a house full of possessions needed to be resolved.

After dad had been moved to his beloved church and had been given a beautiful, moving ceremony, we laid him to rest, alongside mum in the town’s cemetery.

Tuesday 12th 2019 marked the first anniversary of dad’s death. My sister and I travelled to mum’s and dad’s hometown in order to pay our respects.

We visited the cemetery and cleaned the headstone; we put in fresh flowers and solar lights. We spoke to dad and said some prayers and sang a song. We told him and mum that they’re not forgotten. It was sad but it felt like the right thing to do.

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I came home to the city and my kids musing on the fact sometimes growing up can be hard. I felt sorry for my teenagers and their travails.

In the last two weeks, my youngest son has started high school. He’s made several commitments to teams and groups, at the same time undertaking more chores at home. Tonight, when I asked him to do the ‘umpteenth thing,’ he said, “GROWING UP SUCKS!”

It does, man, there’s no other way of putting it. Yet, the tragedies and the hardships we go through, as we get older and lose more people, are what also shape and craft us into better, deeper, more empathetic human beings.

Sometimes, it sucks, yet, that’s okay. It means another phase of life begins.

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Talk to you later.

Yvette K. Carol

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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings

 

 

‘Family is the most important thing in the world.’ ~ Princess Diana

Last weekend, I joined the extended Maori side of our family to celebrate the “unveiling ceremony” for a family matriarch. The unveiling is held a year after a person’s death, when the whanau (family) gather again at the marae – the general area outside their meeting house –  for a service and at the family cemetery to reveal the person’s headstone. It’s a time to bless the stone, to remember the loved one, to talk about them and sing to them, once more.

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I’d been invited to join my niece and nephews, to farewell their grandmother one last time at her “unveiling.” It was to be held at their family’s marae, on the banks of Lake Rotoma, which lies just beyond Rotorua. Lucky for me, I was able to coordinate my arrival with that of my niece, and I simply copied the protocol she displayed, so as not to do the wrong thing by mistake. I accompanied her when we entered the Te Waiiti Marae and followed in her wake, kissing the cheek of all those already there.

I felt out of my comfort zones, out of my element, and yet, it was okay. I was glad to be there.

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Outside the big kitchen where many women were busy preparing the food, there was a plastic bucket of Koura, or fresh water crayfish, which had been found in the nearby Waiiti stream.

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To the rear of the kitchen block, on a flat piece of lawn, the men were laying the hangi. They had dug the pit that morning. A bonfire had been lit much earlier and had burned down to coals. The rocks, which had been within the fire, were tipped into the bottom of the pit. Then the trays of prepared vegetables, pig, lamb and chicken were placed over the rocks.

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These were covered in sacks which had been soaked in water. Then, the men all pitched in to cover it in the soil. The hangi was then left to cook.

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An hour later, the ceremony began with the powhiri (welcome) when friends and family who had arrived were welcomed onto the marae.

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Everyone was seated outside the whare, (the house) where some of the women in the family sat with the photos of the deceased. The eldest male in the family then gave the mihi, or recitation of those family members who have passed, reminding everyone of the names of their ancestors.

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This was followed by waiata (song) and karakia (prayer), and then, the grandmother’s family lined up to greet the new arrivals. From there, everyone drove to the cemetery a mile or so down the road, where the gravesite had been prepared with decorations and the stone was covered by a traditional feathered cloak.

After more prayer, the headstone was unveiled and the inscription read aloud, before being blessed by the priest. There were readings, songs and everyone who wanted to speak was invited to speak, also known as ‘korero.’

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Finally, the whanau processed back to the marae in the afternoon, to dig up the hangi and eat a meal together (kai hakari).

I marvel at how lucky we’ve been in our family, that we have become forever connected – through marriage – to this Maori family. Because of this connection of whanau, we’ve been invited to attend a number of these traditional Maori events over the years, and have been fortunate enough to get a see a little bit of insight into their culture, which has been a real privilege.

At the same time, I still feel like an outsider looking in.

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I was very aware when I walked onto the marae, that morning, of being one of three other Europeans there. “Who’s that?” one of the aunties asked my nephew, indicating me. He said, “She’s my mum’s sister.”

Immediately, there were big smiles from the lady and all the other aunties sitting along the bench outside the dining room, and I went over to kiss her and each of the others on the cheek. I was welcomed with open arms.

The Maori culture is so rich and so steeped in tradition that it’s just a pleasure and an honour to bear witness and be a part of the lives of the indigenous people of this country. I loved every minute. It was a very special day to be part of, and it reminded me of everything that’s great about this country.

Te tangata, te tangata, te tangata! The people, the people, the people!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.’ ~ PD James

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

When did I know I was going to become a grandmother? Nine months ago, my eldest son sent me a simple text. “Guess who’s going to be a grandma?” it was like time stood still. In reality, it was twenty-eight years ago, when my blond haired boy of eight used to draw pictures of his ‘house, wife and three children,’ that he first told me I would one day be a grandmother.

When I was little, I used to draw fairies, animals and so on. I don’t recall ever thinking ahead about my future, or the family I might have one day. When my eldest was little, he drew his own home and family and even his dog, it’s something he’s wanted ever since he was a young boy.

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Maybe it was because I was a teen mom, and his father and I were separated by the time he was one and a half years old? Maybe he wanted to give his kids the family environment he’d wanted for himself?

Maybe it was just his personality.

As a teenager, my first born gained a reputation for being good with kids. At the parties for the youngest in the family, he could always be relied upon to be outside, looking after the gaggle of kids on the trampoline, or wherever they were. He has that open fun sort of personality that little kids adore.

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In my mind, I have always seen him as a father-to-be, no doubt. So, it really surprised me when a few years ago, he said he wasn’t sure if he would ever have kids.

Meeting the right partner changed things, however. He and his girlfriend got engaged last year, and, I was delighted to hear they were expecting a baby.

I wasn’t so sure how I felt about being called “Grandma,” though. Frankly, it made me feel old. Grandmother? Me? I could’ve sworn I was still a young person with places to go and things to do. No, I thought, I don’t like the thought of being called “Grandma,” I’ll have to use Nana, or Nan, or Gan-gan, or Gigi, or Meemaw.

The nine months sped by.

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Then, on the 17th June, my first granddaughter, Sienna Bella, was born  at 2.51 in the afternoon, weighing in at a healthy 3. 30 kg.

We went to meet her the following day. As soon as I laid eyes on her my heart melted. I saw my son holding his daughter in his arms and the happiness was indescribable. You hear people talk about how wonderful it is to become a grandparent, and yet, you never really know what it is until you experience something for yourself.

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I can say all my anxiety about getting old, about time passing quickly, and so on and so forth, just faded away in the face of the magnificence of this new life. This daughter, this granddaughter, who is now the spear of this family. This girl will carry the blood and genes of our family forward into the future. I felt myself and my silly worries about weight and wrinkles fade into insignificance before this newborn, the first born of my first born. It was a moment of sheer bliss, only equalled by the birth of my own children.

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To be clear, I had expected it to be lovely, of course. Babies are powerful. Most people love to be around babies. They remind us of the time before words and thoughts and worries, when we, too, were fresh from the netherworld. To be around a newborn and look at their perfection is like being refreshed.

However, meeting my first grandchild was better than lovely. It was a moment I’ll never forget. I felt instantly connected to her. Instantly moved by a desire to guide and protect.

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It is a pure love I feel as the paternal grandmother and the nectar is extraordinarily sweet. I have this feeling inside like “I can’t wait to see her again!”

I went to Toastmasters a few days after her birth. My friends at the meeting greeted me with, “Congratulations, Grandma!”

I said, “Yes!” and struck a crazy pose!

I tell you, I embrace the word, “Grandma.” In fact, I’m over the moon about it.

Welcome Sienna Bella to the world and to our family. Another phase in life begins.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings

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