Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

Yesterday, after a slog of four doctor/hospital appointments in one day between my two younger boys, I received some horrible news. I had finally made it to sit down at my laptop and zone out with a stroll through my feed on Facebook. It was there I read the sad update of a friend’s son, to say that Robyn Campbell, beloved mother of seven, and highly regarded member of the writing community, had passed away in her sleep.

I left two stumbling messages on the post and immediately shut down my computer. I went about the rest of my evening, thinking about Robyn. She was such a great editor and writer, and a real firecracker. She and I formed a critique group of two a few years ago, called ‘The Two Amigos,’ and we spent a year or more working on our middle grade novels together.

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Robyn was sweet, and she ended every email with “SMOOCHES! Xxx”

I admired her endlessly positive attitude and spirit. She let nothing get her down.

Robyn was one of the original members of my online group, ‘Writing for Children’ over on Wanatribe International. That’s where we first met. She was so vivacious and fun. Her son was going through serious health issues, then their barn burnt down full of gear, and in the last couple of years, she fell down a hill when running away from a bear and hurt herself badly. Yet, her buoyant spirit never wavered. She was always positive. I used to marvel at her strength and willingness to get back up again and keep striving.

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One of her children, Christopher, was born with Sturge-Weber syndrome, characterized by the port-wine staining of the skin and various health issues. People with Sturge-Weber have a higher risk for seizures, glaucoma, stroke, blood clots, blindness, and paralysis. It was on Writing for Children we hatched a book, compiling an anthology of stories together. We wanted to help Christopher and other children like him. We formed the idea to donate all the proceeds of the book to the Sturge-Weber Foundation which is doing research on the rare condition.

Robyn’s story took us, that when Christopher was little and had asked about the staining on his skin, she would always say, “That’s where an angel kissed you.” We thought it was beautiful. With that in mind, the title, Kissed By An Angel was born. We went over to Facebook with it, creating a page for the book where we invited middle grade authors we knew to join and take part.

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We ended up with eleven authors in all. Our theme was angelic, supernatural, or somehow not of this world. 

I wrote a story, illustrated my story and the cover. We edited the book by sending our stories to the whole group and critiquing back and forth. Then another member did the formatting and so on.

We were proud of the resulting anthology, Kissed By An Angel . After publication, we sent one copy around the world to every contributing author to sign, and Robyn gave it to her son. In the foreword, Robyn wrote that the authors of the anthology ‘volunteered time to work on their stories and the publication of this book. They’re more valuable than the finest jewels–more cherished and appreciated than mere words could ever say.’

Robyn was the best.

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In her moving story, which starts the anthology, Kissed By An Angel Robyn wrote the story from Christopher’s point of view. She retells when he says he’s sorry for having seizures and making her cry. “This is nothing you’ve done. It isn’t your fault.” Momma smooths the sheet. “…I want you to know I would never, ever need a break from caring for you.”

Robyn was a truly wonderful mother.

I remember when one writer’s mom became ill. Robyn organised a big group of writers to write a funny story by each adding a snippet and send it to her to cheer her up.

Robyn was a truly good friend.

What a giant hole she has left in her family and in everyone’s lives. I’m so sad, I could hardly sleep last night…

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And then I started to think about how much Robyn has inspired me.

She was a warrior mother, a home-schooler and a hard worker on the farm. Her nature was one of giving, and there’s a lot to learn from that. She never let things get her down and always looked to the positive.

Robyn was truly a role model.

She showed by example how to have the right attitude in life. That’s what I aspire to do, too, hopefully half as well as my amigo. 

Love you buddy, smooches! Xxx

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Choose happiness. It’s the ultimate act of rebellion. ~ Piper Bayard

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Subscribe to my newsletter, email me on yvettecarol@hotmail.com

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It has been a rollercoaster couple of weeks. It all began when the youngest in the family began having occasional tummy aches.

Of all my children, he is the one who has always been the dream sleeper. Nothing wakes him up once he’s in bed. If I hear him knocking on my door in the middle of the night, I know it’s serious. “My stomach hurts.” I gave him a painkiller and he went back to sleep. After the third night of interrupted sleep for both of us, I took him to see the doctor.

The doctor said it was either appendicitis or inflammation of the lymph nodes, which boys can often experience around his age of fourteen. They did some tests, took his blood, etc. Then we went home to wait for the results.

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The youngest son couldn’t move too far without pain so everywhere we went, everything we did this week, we had to walk slowly, drive slowly over speed bumps, and he would hold onto my arm to walk long distances.

Three days passed with our groaning patient. He was bitterly sad to miss the last week of school for the third term. His squad missed him, too, by the number of text messages that flew back and forth.

When we returned to the doctor’s clinic, she could see no problem with the test results. I said he was still in pain and it was getting worse for him in the middle of the night. The doctor rang the children’s hospital to get a second opinion. A few minutes later she gave us a letter and said we should go over to the hospital.

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We came home and I quickly packed a bag with books, phones, chargers, water, food, our jackets and lip balm. An hour later, my son and I arrived at the children’s hospital. He had to have another blood test, which he gets really nervous about and squeamish. Everything is so amplified when you’re fourteen. In between seeing nurses and doctors, there were long waits in the crowded waiting room. We were told around eight in the evening that the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. We’d have to come back in the morning for an ultra-sound.

We were just happy to come home and sleep in our own beds. Unfortunately, the youngest had another bad night, with pain even worse than before. He and I returned to the children’s hospital the next morning.

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The ultrasound process was painful for him. All I could do was hold his hand and make him laugh by talking about all the cakes I’m going to bake him when he’s well enough to eat them.

Two hours later we were discussing his test results with a hospital physician. She explained the scan showed an inflamed lower bowel. This could be a common bowel infection, which will clear up by itself in time, or its inflammatory bowel disease, in which case we get to begin another round of tests with the gastro specialists. They took another blood test, and we will find out definitively what is ailing him within the next few days.

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I always worry about my kids when they get sick. In the past, when they were babies, the anxiety drained me of energy when I needed it most. I knew it was something I had to learn how to control. In the last thirty-five years the thing that’s helped me the most is learning how to keep thinking what my grandmother used to call ‘having the right thoughts.’

Nan was a big believer in The Power of Positive Thinking, and the book by the same name, written by the wonderful Norman Vincent Peale.

These days  it’s been proven that positive people live longer and are healthier than negative thinkers. Positive thoughts make us happier. Happiness floods our brains with dopamine, the one chemical that has the potential to drown out the negative thoughts and anxious feelings.

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It was Pat Riley who said, “If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.”

Faced with my current situation, what am I going to do? Spend the next three days worrying my son might have bowel disease? No, of course not, it wouldn’t serve me in any way. Besides, I want to demonstrate a good example of how an adult reacts to the crises in life.

I’m going to think about the outcome I prefer, which preserves my energy, which keeps me calm, which makes me feel proactive, which keeps my spirits up, which reassures my children. That’s the power of positive thinking.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Staying positive doesn’t mean everything will turn out ok. Rather, it is knowing you will be ok no matter how things turn out. – Unknown

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On the way home last night, I nearly had a serious car accident. One minute I was safely driving along, the next minute I was in mortal danger. It happened so fast, within a matter of seconds, but it was terrifying and I knew for sure I had had a close shave.

I had been sitting in my car, waiting at a T-junction for the lights to turn right. Finally, the light went green. As I turned right, a bus opposite turned left from a side road into the lane beside mine. Suddenly, from behind the bus, a red sports car hurtled around the corner, driven at high speed by a young man. He was coming straight for me, side-on. I had nowhere to go as there was only a concrete motorway divider on the other side. I saw him, saw my situation, and I even looked straight into his eyes for a second as if time had stopped.

He was driving so fast that I thought it was all over. I thought my time was up.

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Then the young man saw me, registered what he was about to do, and he spun the steering wheel hard left. Swerving hugely, the back end of his car skidded as he struggled to get the car under control. After that, he stuck one hand up in the air, to say he was sorry.

I was thunder-struck.

I drove off slowly, pondering life and saying prayers of thanks.

I felt as if my eyes had opened, or I had woken from a deep sleep, to this very real awareness of the fragility of life. One minute I was driving home, listening to my favourite music, everything had been fine, and the next minute, everything had been in dire jeopardy. The boy’s car had come so close to mine. It was within a hair’s breadth. Just like that we both could have been dead, or hideously injured. Anything could have happened. But in this case, he swerved at the last minute and we both walked away.

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When I got home, I was still in a state of shock. I found I was shaky. I took some rescue remedy and had a cup of tea. The incident made me contemplate my mortality, because in a very real way I had seen how easily it can all be over. Just like that, in a twinkling, your time is up and you’re gone. I felt a new appreciation of life and felt so grateful to be able to walk in the door back into the arms of my family.

Today, the feeling of appreciation continues. I can’t help myself thinking about that young reckless driver. While his speed had been life endangering, the young man’s feat of driving to avoid a collision, I have to admit, was admirable. I put it down to the good reflexes of youth, and probably the years of gaming that all the kids do now, and also the expensive car would have helped too, because he could respond to the fact I was there and turn the car on the head of a pin. But he had to slow down within seconds, as well, or he would have ploughed straight into the back of the bus. The car was fishtailing all over the place. Lucky for him he had good brakes. His car kept him alive, and possibly me, too.

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I understand that since 2000 there has been a reduction in the number of fatal road crashes in New Zealand. However, I find that fact surprising. In the last few years, I’ve seen more dangerous driving on the roads than ever. I’ve witnessed some truly brainless stunts. I see more cars with dents in the bumpers and fenders. I used to like to drive fast as a younger person, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to drive more safely.

My father always used to say, “It’s not what you do on the roads you have to worry about it’s the other person.” That’s true, and what you do contributes, too.

I get it. Everyone’s hurrying everywhere because we’re all busy and under pressure. We’re all running late and there are more and more vehicles on the roads. However, life is more precious than getting there on time. I’ve been reminded of that and jolted out of my complacency into a deep gratitude for every moment I get to have with my family.

My new resolutions: I aim to be a better driver. I want to be more aware of what others are doing when I’m driving. I intend to slow down. 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly. – Richard Bach

For the last two years, I’ve been working on my third book, The Last Tree, and I’ve finally gotten it to the point where I would normally go to a professional editor and then a proof-reader. But this time, I thought I would try an online editing service as the price difference was more than three thousand dollars. A friend, who is also an Indie author, recommended a particular service, and I signed up, paying $70 for a year’s worth of “premium service.” After two weeks of fruitless attempts trying to upload my manuscript to their documents file, and many emails back and forth, I am still unable to upload my story and unable to use their editing services.

I think of myself as reasonably intelligent, however I admit to being hopeless with technology. I find dealing with all the in’s and out’s and nooks and crannies of online services mind-boggling. Nothing is ever as straight forward as you’d like it to be. Everything requires a learning manual to figure out how to use the site: ‘Just watch these ten videos to show you how to use all the different aspects of our service.’

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I may have to go back to the original plan of paying a small fortune for professional editors to do the job. I think one of the things about being an Indie writer is that these sorts of delays, the technological misadventures that happen along the way to publishing a book, are things you would normally talk about with other people, but as an Indie, the buck stops with you. The job can feel a little lonely, sometimes, because it doesn’t matter how big the problem is no one else is going to fix it.

When my grandmother was alive, she lived five minutes’ walk up the road from me. I used to visit her every Thursday, and she would have cooked for us the most amazing full three course cooked lunch. We would sit and talk for hours. And she would tell me the family stories. Every time I hugged her and turned to leave, gran would say some special saying to take away, to think about on my walk home. She’d say, “Remember to always look for the silver lining, and you’ll find it” or “Reach for a star and you’ll go far.” So, these days, many years after her death, I hear her wise words and remember them. She would know that any hitch in the proceedings was fine, and all was in order with nothing out of place.

Gran and I

I emailed the online editing service, and said, if we don’t get the issue sorted out this time I’ll get a refund and move on. In the meantime, I’m very happy to have another go at editing the material. You can never edit enough, that’s for sure. So I’ll happily run through The Last Tree two or three times more while I wait.

As I near these final stages of working on this novel, I have to figure out the cover, the illustrations, and the whole presentation. I have included a couple of my own pen and ink illustrations in each volume, so I knew I wanted to do a couple for The Last Tree as well. I hadn’t had a chance to look at them while I was still deeply immersed in the editing. You get onto a track of momentum when you’re editing and you want to see it to the end. I had to complete the polishing edits before I could contemplate art.

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The last two weekends, I’ve spent hours at a time waiting as I tried to get documents to upload to the online editing service, and I spent that time wisely. I picked up my pencil and dusted off my art pad. It felt so liberating to leave the laptop. I sat down and started to draw the illustrations for the third book of the trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver.

By the end of the weekend, I had a template for two illustrations: one of the hero making a deal with the bird demons, and the other of two giants fighting. I see my given deadline of spring release for The Last Tree slip, slip sliding away. Yet, now, I have some illustrations I can work on during any further delays in production. I think they call that the silver lining. It helps to stay positive, no matter what.

“Remember to always look for the silver lining, and you’ll find it.”

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Staying positive doesn’t mean everything will turn out ok. Rather, it is knowing you will be ok no matter how things turn out. – Unknown

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It’s strange after your parents die, it’s the loneliest feeling. In life, there are so many hardships, there is loss, and there is suffering along the way, that’s just the way it is. But, when your parents are gone, and these things happen, you realize how much support they gave. How they sheltered you with the umbrella of their unconditional love. You suddenly appreciate how much they loved and cared about you. How they were always willing to raise a hand on your behalf, no matter what it was, they had your back and were there for you.

The power of parental love is sorely missed.

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My parents had a good life together. They emigrated from England in 1961, and raised a happy family in New Zealand. After working for forty years, mum and dad retired to spend the last twenty years of their lives living by the sea, in a lovely little town on the Coromandel Peninsula. Then, in 2015, at the age of eighty-four, my mother died peacefully in her sleep, in her own bed. Dad had a further two years of gardening, bowling, music club, helping to run the church, Probus meetings and outings with the Friendship club. While still recovering from double pneumonia, he suffered a heart attack in hospital and died at the age of eighty-six.

My parents had had good, full lives. Sometimes however, I wish they were still here.

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It’s strange after they’re gone. It takes time to adjust. Two years later, and I still find myself reaching for them in a way. When things are difficult, especially, I find myself wishing I could talk to mum. She had developed in the latter part of her life the most magnificent ability to listen. She would ask how I had been and then listen in rapt attention to every word I said. She had an insatiable interest in me, my kids and our lives. I felt I could tell her everything, and quite often, she would say something surprisingly wise in response.

I miss our long conversations.

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It’s strange after they’re gone, because you miss the little things, like the banter over the family games of cards, monopoly, and scrabble. I can remember playing scrabble for hours, and the card games sitting in a big circle on the floor. It was fun to play cribbage, as dad would keep up a constant banter of funny old English sayings that went with each drop of the cards, as he counted, ‘four’s a score’ ‘five’s alive’ ‘seven’s in heaven’ ‘eight’s in state’ and of course, ‘one for his knob’ and so on. It was quirky and quaint and particular to dad.

In their eighties, mum became a notorious cheat at cards, and dad started to make mistakes in the scoring, though we never said a word.

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When we were growing up, dad was not big on displays of affection. But as he got older, he softened. In his last decade, I received some genuinely tender cards from him on special occasions. The last birthday card he gave me said, ‘I am very pleased with you to have achieved so much in your life. Bless you, your loving Dad’ (with four kisses and one hug).

When I’d visit, dad would spontaneously hug me or rub my back – something he’d never done – he became more able to communicate his love. It was so sweet.

It’s strange after they’re gone, because there is this constant feeling that I should be going somewhere or doing something. When they were alive, although they weren’t demanding, their presence meant I was either contacting them or planning something to do with them, or worrying about them (as they got older). I travelled down country to spend time with them every five weeks, so I was often there, or sorting out the next trip. Now, the pressure is off, there is nothing to do on mother’s and father’s days, or their birthdays or for them at Christmas.

Many of the year’s celebrations in our family have changed and we need to learn how to redefine these occasions.

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To have both parents gone is the strangest feeling. I wonder if I will ever get used to it. I suppose you always miss people after they’ve died, but as time goes on, you become slowly stronger and wiser and more able to deal with sorrow.

I think it was Dr. Seuss who said sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. I value my parents more now than ever.

I realize how lucky I was to have had good parents who loved me and gave me a happy, stable childhood! It makes me more determined than ever to honour them, by being a good parent also and giving my children the same.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Blessed be the ties that bind generations. ~ Unknown

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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 of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

Writing takes me by surprise all the time, and that’s one of its many charms. It’s a great way to live, trying to catch the muse by the tail as she sails by on the breeze. Then if you’re lucky enough to catch a good story and follow it through into form, you have the joy ‘going along for the ride’ to see where the tale goes.

One thing that never fails to surprise me, is the way story elements you wrote in rough draft six months ago, suddenly make sense when you get to write the end scenes. That’s the fun of being a “pantser” (someone who writes without a plan). You get to feel part of creating something ‘other’ outside of yourself. You are just a cog in the wheel, a part of the story writing process, not the only agent of its creation, and that is a marvellous, magnificent feeling.

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Another great surprise along the way has been the relaxation I always feel in being able to wear my pyjamas all day. I’m a full time mum part time writer. The only time I get to myself is at the weekends – while the boys are at their dad’s – and I use all of that time writing. During the weekend, I will not get out of my pyjamas once. I wrap myself up in a dressing gown, grab a hat and a shawl. Bliss.

It used to be, thirty or so years ago, that I would have hankered to get dressed up and go out somewhere. I would’ve looked forward to wearing my latest gear or hair style, to go out doing things with friends, or going to the movies. I’ve found the older I get the more I adore being at home and not going anywhere. It’s liberating not worrying about how I look. To work from home is relaxing, comforting, and it doesn’t cost very much to do.

Reading an excerpt of The Sasori Empire

On the downside, I’ve been surprised to find that being a writer makes for really awkward social conversations. Being a writer is not a conventional job. Whenever I’m at a party and people say, ‘what do you do?’ and they hear my answer, they invariably ask what do you write? Where do you sell your books? Are you in the library? And so on. When you’re a part time writer and self published as I am, and a relatively long way off being on the library book shelf, it can make sometimes for painful party conversation.

I love the way Alice Munro put it when she said, ‘When you’re a writer, you’re never quite like other people — you’re doing a job that other people don’t know you’re doing and you can’t talk about it, really, and you’re just always finding your way in the secret world and then you’re doing something else in the “normal” world.’

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That’s been the best surprise of all about this business. And I guess it’s what drew me into pursuing this as a ‘path’ over thirty-five years ago. As a seventeen-year-old children’s writer, I became hooked on the sheer joy of story writing. It takes you to great heights and lows, and extraordinary lands in between; you get to chase an idea to see where it takes you and experience the journey the characters take with them, it’s exciting.

Hunter S. Thompson said, ‘every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man and hence your perspective changes.’ I think I’ve grown as an author over the years. I’ve changed a lot. My fiction is no longer a hobby, it’s become a lifestyle. I savour every moment. I still revel in the delicious surprises that are part of the job. It’s a wonderful ride.

Does your writing or art every surprise you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. ~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

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

School started again this week. Talk about from “whoa” to go. We went from sleep ins and no schedules, to waking at the crack of dawn for exercise regimens and sports practices before school, multiple appointments for everyone, and extracurricular activities after school. I feel like I’ve been running since my feet hit the floor at 6 a.m. Monday morning. It has been an utter madhouse around here.

The youngest son sprained his ankle at the end of last term. We’ve been doing a regimen of exercises each day and attending physiotherapy each week. The middle son needed an eye exam on Tuesday and new glasses.

The guy turned up to finish the trimming of the hedges leaving me a piles of branches to dismantle.

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There has been a bombardment of emails from schools, sports coaches, music and dance teachers. A lot has been going on.

One of the things I did this week was to take my sixteen-year-old son with Down syndrome to the University, to take part in a study on Keratoconus, the degenerative eye disease which can often affect those with Down syndrome. If the disease goes undetected, the changing shape of the cornea can lead to progressive vision loss. I was told my boy has two lumps on one cornea and one on the other. So we will be screened again to monitor changes. We were lucky they picked it up. And since the study being done will be of worldwide significance, it was a win-win situation to participate.

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By Wednesday night, I was exhausted. Yet, the youngest and I had to stay up late and bake the scones he takes to school each day in his lunches.

Yesterday, I had the kids to organize, a full day of errands, plus the grocery shopping. I was feeling dispirited.

It’s at times like these that I miss my mother, who passed away in 2015. Ma had an uncanny ability to tune in when I was going through difficult times, and she would give me a call. When I visited my parents in their small seaside town every five weeks, mum would have flowers in a vase in my room and a hot water bottle heating up my bed at night. She surrounded me with love and a feeling of being of cared about.

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I remember there was this one time that happened six years ago. After working on my middle grade story for years, I had submitted the manuscript to an international story competition, the prize offered was book publication. As an unpublished author at the time, the prize was considerable. On the official website, they said, those who don’t hear back are the finalists. I didn’t hear back so naturally I was jubilant. Until upon further enquiry, I discovered that not only had I not made it into the finals, but the organisers had not received the manuscript at all, due to my fatal error in calculating the time difference between the countries. I’d missed their deadline by a day.

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In my mind, I had thought I was close to breaking through the glass ceiling. Instead I was back at square one. Devastated, I fell into a black hole that lasted for seven days. At the end of that week, I got a phone-call. I heard my mother’s voice. She said, “The darkest hour always comes before the dawn. You may think all is lost right now, but it isn’t. This is just the start of great things opening up for you. You’ll see!” I remember I wept. Even though my mother was failing in her later years, she always knew when to ride in on the silver horse.

Yesterday, there I was going through the motions of my to-do list and feeling weary. I wished I could turn back time and pick up the phone to hear Ma’s voice saying something wise and knowing and caring.

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Then, as I went about doing the family grocery shopping, I began to find a gold coin here, a gold coin there on the ground. And I thought of Ma. My mother was famously generous with her cash. She was always slipping me a fiver, that sort of thing. It was almost as if Ma was giving me little gifts from heaven. I don’t know if it was true, but it helped put a smile on my face again.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether a thing is “true” or not, it just matters that you believe it. Sometimes it’s that small leap of imaginative faith that gets you through to the other side of things and you feel better. Onwards and upwards, I say.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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No man can ever appreciate the debt he owes his mother, but sometimes a little thing may come up to set him thinking. ~ Edwin Robinson

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

 

 

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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Last week, we finally managed a get together like the boys’ trips we used to do in school holidays past. My brother and I brought together our youngest sons at our parent’s old home on the Coromandel Peninsula.

While we still have the use of the old cabin by the sea, it’s precious to spend time together under the same roof, in the school holidays.

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Here, in New Zealand, there are four terms in the school year. Each term is separated by a two week holiday which stretches to about six weeks over Christmas, in summer. Middle of April, we had our first school break. It felt great to go back and spend time as a family under the dear roof dad built with his own two hands.

I like to create memories each holiday, if I can.

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Despite nearing the end of autumn, the water was still warm enough for swimming and the weather was still mild. We had two and a half days together at the beach. It was wonderfully idyllic. I expected it to be bitterly cold (as it can get when you’re exposed to the ocean) but the temperatures were relatively balmy. We managed to fit in some fishing which made my youngest son very happy indeed. He’s one of those young boys who always hanker to go fishing.

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My special needs son, on the other hand, has never shown the slightest bit of interest. He usually plonks himself on the wharf to watch resignedly, or he and I kick a ball on the street. But, this time, with a bit of encouragement, he tried holding the rod for the first time, to help us in catching some sprats for bait. He caught a sprat within five minutes, and it was the biggest fish we caught all morning He got such a kick out of that!

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Of course, no trip with the boys is ever complete without numerous rounds of basketball. The boys were delighted when my brother agreed to play a round of two on two with them. Then he managed to shoot the only hoop of the match. He continued to remind his long-suffering son the rest of the day and evening that he was the ‘undefeated champion.’ It was hilarious. My brother has a great sense of humour, and the boys all rib each other all the time, which I gather is part of the male bonding experience.

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Mornings and evenings were spent playing scrabble and cards and sitting around talking. A lot of time at family get-togethers is typically spent making food, eating, cleaning up from eating and planning what’s on the menu next. It’s time to share boxes of chocolates and a glass of wine or a beer, to cook big dinners and indulge in desserts. Every night we stayed up way too late, talking, and it took me about three days to recover, after we got home. To my mind, that’s the way it should be. As an adult, you don’t get the chance to hang out with extended family very often, so you have to make the most of it.

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There is a sense of amplified appreciation of the property my parents bought sixty-odd years ago, a sense of how precious it is, now that they’re not here. It’s a slice of paradise. I suddenly realize how fortunate we’ve been to have had a gathering place all our lives. Sure, as a family, we gather sometimes at one another’s houses for birthdays and milestones, and the big occasions throughout the year. But, it’s when you get to live under the same roof with family, that you really get to relax in one another’s company, and do lots of different activities. You have time to have all the conversations that need to be said.

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For townies like us, it’s a real tonic being in the countryside for a break. I think it’s the only time I ever truly unwind. I love the walks in nature. There’s a lovely walk through native bush we take to the mountain peak behind the house. I am always invigorated by walking among trees.

In Japan, there is a practice called ‘tree bathing,’ which is essentially walking through the forest. It comes from the belief that trees absorb negative energies from us, and that they have healing properties. Apparently, tree bathing has been proven to reduce stress, improve feelings of well-being, boost the immune system, and even to lower heart rate and blood pressure. I can attest forest bathing is zen. I came home to the city replenished and calm again.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden” – Goethe

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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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