Archive for the ‘growing old gracefully’ Category

I was watching a terrific program on the National Geographic channel the other night about the rise of interest in Cryonics. Apparently there’s great interest in the idea of preserving the body (or sometimes, just the head) after death by low temperature freezing, with the hope that science progresses far enough to bring the person back to life in the future. Many people have already paid good money and booked in to have their bodies preserved in this way.

This sort of preoccupation is nothing new.

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There are myths that have grown up around the idea of eternal life like that of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Of the plot, according to Wikipedia, ‘Newly understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul, to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied amoral experiences while staying young and beautiful; all the while, his portrait ages and records every sin.[6]

Myths like this were very much cautionary tales, warning us about the folly of chasing immortality. Yet, the quest continued.

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People still sought to extend their lives by whatever means possible. There were mythological places like the legendary island of Bimini in the Bahamas where the Fountain of Youth gave everlasting life to all who drank from it. Over the centuries, the fountain was much sought after but never found. The famous Spanish explorer Ponce de León reportedly set out to find the Fountain of Youth in the early 1500’s, although modern historians say that too is a myth.

Yet Wikipedia says, ‘There were longevity myths in the bible mentioning individuals with lifespans up to the 969 years of Methuselah. The ancient Greek author Lucian is the presumed author of Macrobii (long-livers), a work devoted to longevity. Most of the examples Lucian gives are what would be regarded as normal long lifespans (80–100 years)’. So, people still believed in the real possibility of prolonging life.

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In Medieval times Nicolas Flamel was reputed to have created a “sorcerer’s stone” that was then used to produce a potion, the elixir of life, said to make the drinker immortal. The idea so captured the public imagination of the 1300’s that other well known scientists – even the esteemed Sir Isaac Newton – attempted to replicate the results, without any luck. People 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, ‘The twenty-five-year old Emperor Ai of Jin died in 365 CE, after overdosing on longevity drugs. He wasn’t the last leader to die trying to live forever. The fascination with chemical immortality reached an ironic apogee centuries later, during the T’ang dynasty (618-907 CE), when elixirs poisoned those hoping for precisely the opposite effect.’

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Today, I celebrated the 101st birthday of a dear friend. Not only is he hale and hearty, he has a quicker sharper wit than anyone else in the room. And, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. I remember at his 100th birthday party someone in the crowd asked, “What is your secret?” He said “Well, the only thing I can say is I went vegetarian twenty-five years ago.” As a friend, I would say his secret is his positive attitude. He’s still a member of a handful of clubs, he has many times more friends than I do, and his attitude is always positive. It’s been proved that those who have a good attitude about aging lived more than seven years longer than those with negative attitudes, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, something I read about over on the blog of Karen Salmansohn.

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This is very much in line with something I’ve always believed, that a healthy long life is all in the attitude. I saw the magnificent Sophia Loren interviewed once, when she was in her glorious 80’s. The admiring interviewer asked her, “You are truly ageless. What is your secret?” Loren replied, “I always have something to look forward to.” I’ve remembered that great advice ever since and I employ that idea in my life. I’ve also seen it called “plan de vida” or “reason to live.” Plan de vida, says blogger, Karen Salmansohn, ‘is a common practice of peppy elders living in Nicoya, Costa Rica, a famed centenarian hotspot. In Nicoya, residents credit their longevity to living with a purpose.’

The Quest for Immortality Continues…

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Sophia Loren, 2014

Talk to you later!

Yvette K. Carol

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“I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.” – Virginia Woolf

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

 

 

 

The 0-5 years are the treasure years. Your kids will never be so adorable again. They’re pure and untrammelled spirits, and it’s a joy to be with them before they start school and start to become wise to the ways of the world.

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The under-fives are dynamos of learning. Their every moment is spent eating, sleeping or exploring their world. My granddaughter is ten months old and crawling. She’s bright and interested – not in the amazing toys I’ve put out for her – only in what I’m hiding inside the kitchen cupboards and the TV cabinet. Apparently, the best game in the world is to pull out the contents one by one, onto the floor. Said objects must be banged on the floor and also sucked. Things must be explored thoroughly.

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*I turn a lid draw in the kitchen into a ‘things they can play with’ drawer. It’s always a favourite.

Every part of the house is fascinating to my granddaughter. Even door stoppers are infinitely intriguing and worth studying and maybe gnawing on for a minute.

Doors are to be banged on and stood against.

Books on shelves are there for pulling onto the floor.

Boxes and baskets are for emptying. A trail of debris follows from room to room. I couldn’t leave her alone for a minute. When I did leave the baby with my two younger sons, while I put out the washing, she crawled around the house crying plaintively until I returned. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t go to the toilet, I couldn’t do a thing without company.

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It reminded me of that seldom spoken aspect of parenting, the need for parental time out. When my two youngest boys were little I would get burnt out on the job sometimes. I genuinely needed a break on my own every now and again. I used to leave the boys with their father, and I’d visit my parents on the coast for the weekend. That time away from my beloved sons kept me sane. I highly recommend.

My kids are now thirty-six, sixteen and thirteen. The eldest has given me my first grandchild. I see the cycle of child rearing again, through different eyes and the cycle of life goes on.

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I have a great deal of respect for parents, because I know how difficult it can be. I had my first child when I was seventeen. My middle child has special needs. My youngest son has Congenital Heart Disorder, and I raised my boys, for the most part, as a solo mum. Yet, it doesn’t matter the travails you go through, the moment you look into your child’s eyes. There is no greater love than the love you feel for your children, unless it’s for your grandchildren.

Sometimes, I feel nostalgic for the past, for my boys’ younger years, when they were chubby and cute, and they needed me. Then, I get the delight of babysitting Her Cuteness for a day, and I am reminded of the reality of mothering children under five. It’s gruelling. Nothing will ever make you more knackered! It occurred to me, you know what; maybe I’ve done my time.

It has made me more appreciative of the fact the younger boys are teenagers now. They don’t need me as much, it’s wonderful. It’s freeing in a lot of ways. I have more time for the things I want to do. I have more energy.

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Having said that, a mother’s work is still never done. The kids have their chores and I add another responsibility on their lists now and again. But the fact is, there is still so much more on the list to be done in a household, for a family, in a day. Home ownership is no joke. It is constant maintenance and it requires attention and frequent doses of money. My dad would call it, being “head cook and bottle washer.”

These days, my two younger sons go to stay with their father for a couple of days a week. I dropped them off tonight and came home to put away their stuff and cover up their devices and their recharge cords. I realized that even though the kids themselves aren’t here, I was still cleaning up after them and sorting out stuff for the household. It made me laugh, because it really is true that a mother’s work is never done. That’s when the title for this week’s blog came into my mind.

Just when you think you’re finished, you discover there’s something else needs doing. That’s life.

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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

 

 

(and save money going organic)

For years, I’d intended to “go organic” but, somehow, I’d never managed to get around to it. Yet, with both my parents dying in the last two years, I felt life was catching up with me. So, I decided this year, I’d make the effort to improve our diet and our health.

After multiple car trips around the neighbourhood, comparing prices and availability of organic produce, I found a good local wholefoods store. And, I’m proud to say, we have now made the move over to eating (nearly) all organic food and it feels wonderful. We also make a few things ourselves. It’s a matter of trial and error as we go along. The wonderful thing about being connected via the internet, as I have been for the last five years, is that you can share your developments and discoveries as you go along, and (hopefully) benefit other people. So, here goes…

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I used to buy pre-made dumplings. Now, we make our own. Simply buy a pack of dumpling wrappers, some lean, free-range, ethically raised pork mince, and add a few diced shrimps and herbs and chives from the garden, a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce. Mix and dumplify. Then drop in hot water and freeze in batches. The ultimate dream would be to make my own dumpling wrappers as well, using organic ingredients, but, hey, one has to take one amazing step forward at a time!

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The first time we made our own dumplings, they lasted for weeks. It was a saving and they were tastier and better for us.

*Top tip: make your children do all the work. My kids love making dumplings!

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I used to buy a bag of mesclun lettuce for the kids at $3.99 and a fancy lettuce for me at $3.99 each week. Now, I buy two packs of multiple organic seedlings for $3.95 each from a wholefoods store and we grow our own salad greens for months.

I used to buy bean sprouts. One pack of organic alfalfa at $3.95 and one organic broccoli sprouts or chickpea sprouts at $3.95 from the wholefood supermarket a week.

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Now, I buy 100gm packs of alfalfa and lentil sprouting seeds at $6.90 and $3.95 respectively, from BinnInn, and we make our own bean sprouts. The bags last for more than a month.

I thought I’d share the steps of how to do your own sprouting, to show how simple it is. My son says the homemade sprouts taste better. And they’re obviously fresher which means they’re better for you. It’s a win-win all round!

Here’s how to grow your own bean sprouts:

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Start with your pack of seed, a jar and a preserving jar lid with mesh glued around the inside. We made our own sprouting kit, using a 1 kg peanut butter jar and preserving lid, adding mesh we bought at the hardware store. However, you can buy starter kits with the seeds included in most wholefood stores. In New Zealand, you can get them at Binn Inn,  for a reasonable twenty-five dollars.

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With the alfalfa, I use a tablespoon and a half of seed. With the lentils, I use two tablespoons. Cover the seeds in separate containers with filtered water by at least an inch. Screw the lid on top of the jar. Leave the seeds to soak overnight.

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Drain off excess water the next morning. Roll the jar onto its side and spread the seeds out a bit by shaking so that they all get a bit of space and air can circulate.

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Each day, water them night and morning, and drain off water. Repeat until the sprouts are to the size you want them. The alfalfa takes about four days to reach a decent size.  The lentils only take a couple of days, or they get a little ‘tough.’ Then move the sprouts to the lidded container of your choosing and refrigerate.

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I like to wash the sprouting jar and lid, and give them a day and a half at least of non-use in between batches. After that, cover the next lot of seeds with water and start again. It makes enough sprouts for our family of three for a week.

You’re welcome. Enjoy! And let me know how you go with your bean sprouting adventures.

I do feel improvement in my health and overall wellbeing, and it feels so good to do this for my kids. I hope these tips are of use to you and your family!

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.” – Virginia Woolf

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It’s time for this month’s group posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

That’s a brilliant question because it really made me sit back and think. My goals have changed a lot. When I started penning kids’ fiction as a seventeen-year-old, I was far removed from the reality of being an author.

Believe it or not, when I started out, personal computers were not yet a thing. Although some people had them, no one I knew owned one. And the internet was just a twinkle in the eye of a brainiac, somewhere. I spent the first decade writing the good old fashioned way, with a pen and paper. I was a teenager, starting out in the 1980’s, just following the thread of what interested me in terms of subject matter and genre.

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I worked a string of other jobs and often second jobs as well. Writing stories was what I did in my spare time, and it still is.

When I started out at seventeen, I wasn’t thinking of publication. I was impelled to share my creativity through children’s stories, so I followed it. It took me another ten years to start submitting to publishers. My ultimate writing goal at the age of twenty-seven was simple, to get published and make money.

I have an old book of ‘Intentions,’ which I write up each year like resolutions. I discovered that by the age of thirty my ultimate writing goal had morphed into: “I want my books to be a huge success like Harry Potter.”

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Wow, I sure didn’t aim low in those days. I was quite surprised by the audacity of my intention.

I admit I’ve reduced my ultimate writing goals as I’ve gone along. Which I think boils down to figuring out what you really want to do with your time. As you grow older, time becomes more precious. The entry for 2017 reads: I raise people’s awareness and bring joy, inspire and make people feel better through the power of story.

And with age, you get more realistic. I might not be the next J. K. Rowling.

These days, I’m a stay-at-home mum and caregiver to my thirteen-year-old and my middle son who has Downs’ syndrome. I write part-time. I have two stories published and two books which I self published. My wish list these days tends to focus on more meaningful things like wanting joy, and a sense of fulfilment.

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These days my ultimate writing goal is to write more of what I love.  However, the series I’m writing is anthropomorphic fantasy fiction about insects. It gets some strange reactions at times.

I’ll never forget the response of one assessor to my book,  The Or’in of Tane Mahuta. She said, “Great story, but lose the insects!” I couldn’t lose the insects, they were an integral part of the machine of the story.

One day, I will move on to new fields in fiction. For now, I want to see this series out and do the best I possibly can.

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One of the authors I like is Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels. He’s a real storyteller. Asked to give a tip recently for writers, he said, “Ignore all the tips. It’s got to be 100% your own product. As soon as you start thinking about what you should do, there’s a compromise and the spark goes. You’ve got to do what you want to do.”

Child really gets it. He’s talking about listening to the gut and the heart of the story. I love it. I’m ignoring all the tips. It’s 100% my anthropomorphic fantasy fiction about insects. If I want little critters creeping and flying and turning into human hybrids, I must write them. You’ve got to do what you want to do, right?

I wonder what my intention for 2019 will be? I think it’s going to be something along the lines of ‘I just want to be myself and enjoy the process!’

What about you? What are your Ultimate Writing Goals for 2018? Have you met them yet?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom. ~ J. G. Ballard

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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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My status update on Facebook of a week or so ago asked whether sleep deprivation was ever used as a form of torture. It was an earnest question. Because having experienced insomnia brought on by menopause in the last four years; I have come to realize how important sleep is to my well being.

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Getting enough hours of shuteye each night is essential to my health, and to my mental health and emotional wellness.

I’ve noticed myself getting annoyed with people out in public, I have little mini road rages in my car, and I don’t give way with a smile as often. I’ve done stupid things like putting the phone in the fridge, and the milk in the freezer, and I’ve forgotten appointments.

This has made me aware that for me to have a sunny attitude and happy interchanges with people, I require a certain topping up of the tank. When there are only a few hours sleep under the belt, the tank’s at half full.

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They say most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.

Women need twenty minutes more than men, and once they’re awake generally find it harder to fall back to sleep than men.

In the last four years, I’ve been finding it more difficult to fall asleep again if I’m disturbed in the night. I’m still raising my two younger boys, and sometimes, they wake up, needing me for some reason. The end result: I’m sometimes getting through my days on three to four hours sleep.

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Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post  says women aren’t getting enough sleep and once famously called sleep ‘a feminist issue.’ I see her point. I do find everything harder to do on less sleep, let alone attaining my “full potential.”

Instead of relishing the day, I’m battling the day. I can’t get ahead or enjoy the moment.

My grandmother, rest her soul, only ever slept three hours a night. When I asked her why, she said she’d done so her whole adult life. She didn’t need more than that. Me, I need a good nine hours a night to be at my best.

They say that sleeping a whole seven hours at a stretch is a relatively modern innovation, and that in the past, people usually slept two or three hours, got up for a spell and then went back to bed. This was one of the suggestions I heard, to get up and do something relaxing in a low light, like yoga or meditation, before returning to bed.

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It’s about training the mind and memory to attach wakefulness to other areas of the house, and to associate restfulness with the bedroom.

The last four years have been a bit of a struggle, as I’ve been barely functioning on auto-pilot each day, after sleeping a few hours.

I had to look into different things I could do to assist me on the path back to the land of the sandman.

The first thing I did was go to see a medical herbalist. The herbal tinctures she prescribed were instantly effective, and wonderfully natural and non-toxic yet, the price, exorbitant. After a few successful months, I realized the budget couldn’t sustain the price of the tinctures, so I quit. I had to do what I could at home to help myself get the Z’s.

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It’s all still a matter of trial and error, but at least here’s somewhere to start.

*Top Tips for Better Sleep*

*Take regular exercise each day, aerobic and weight training can cut down the number of times you wake in the night

*Carbs for dinner give the body a peak in the levels of insulin which helps you to nod off

*Try to establish a routine bedtime, as the body can set a pattern for unwinding at that time

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*Switch off all sources of light in the room, the darker the better for production of adequate levels of melatonin, the hormone that helps us stay asleep

* Play slow soft music; it’s been found that music with a rhythmic rate of around 60 bpm syncs with the resting heart rate

* Meditation or relaxation/breathing exercises prior to bedtime help release the stress of the day and detach from the dramas

I’ve learned the hard way to make sleep a priority. How about you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before. ~ Albert Einstein

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**with ref: the special report, Are you getting enough sleep, by Alex Davies

A tragedy befell our garden this week of Edwardian proportions.

On Tuesday night, around nine o’clock, a storm sprang out of nowhere. It only lasted a few hours and yet, it did untold damage across our region. Trees fell down on people’s houses, on cars and across roads. Winds gusted 100 -160 kilometres an hour and in some places got up to 210 kilometres. A four story building under construction caved in, and there were power outs in many areas, leaving people without heating on the coldest night of the year.

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I went to bed around 9.30 on Tuesday night, afraid of the big gusts of wind roaring around the house. About half an hour later, I was woken by a loud, insistent banging on the door. My neighbour, Pete, stood on the doorstep in an oil slicker, holding a powerful torch, with the wind and rain howling behind him.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yes, why?”

“Your big tree’s fallen down.”

My heart sank. No. Not that tree.

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Not the tree my parents planted in 1962 when they first moved in. The tree my brother-in-law dubbed ‘The Jewel of the Garden’ for its radiant magnificence. The tree whose dramatic changing hues, shedding of leaves and regaining of resplendent green shoots has heralded the turning of the seasons throughout my life. The tree I went and hugged for a few days in a row after dad died, and sang to. No. Not that tree.

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I remember when dad came back to visit the old homestead, a few years ago. He walked out into the backyard to admire the liquid amber he’d planted fifty years before. His head tilted, and he marvelled, “It’s grown so big.”

No.

Not that tree.

I couldn’t bear to go and look at it that evening and, besides, it was too wild outside. I waited until the next morning. Then, I went out into the garden, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Most of the main column was gone. My nephew, who lives in the sleep out, said he could hear branches cracking in the storm. He’d gone outside to get a look and could see the big gusts of wind whipping the branches around. He went back to bed and threw a mattress over himself when he heard another loud crack, then a resounding thud when the top half fell.

Miraculously, it had crashed into Pete’s backyard, missing everything except for his clothesline.

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I was relieved to see the remaining trunk was still firmly planted in the ground and that many of the branches still seemed strong.

The tree removal guy says he hopes to salvage what’s left. He can trim the branches and trunk. The tree will be half the size, but the prognosis is that it might survive to be hugged another day.

Boy, I hope so.

I don’t care to lose too many more family members at the moment.

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The theme of loss and the reality of it in our daily lives is difficult.

At the end of the middle grade novel I’m working on, The Last Tree, when the hero, Aden misses his elderly mentor, Geo, he asks himself, ‘Is this what it’s like to grow up, there’s more pain and losing people?’

I think that’s one of those storms we all have to go through, when we start to mature, in becoming aware of our mortality and that our parents aren’t going to live forever. There are moments of understanding that one day we’ll have to find our way through this world alone, and one day, we’ll take the place of our parents as the elders in our own families.

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The elderly or grandparent character in a story always represents our mortality, by the nature of their advanced age, they represent impermanence.

I love to write the grandparents and always include them in my fiction. The truth is, that half the Jewel of the Garden must be taken away, that grandparents will die some day, and that our beloved parents will one day do the same, and so will we. But, the student, the child, the garden will carry on. The new growth will replace the old tree. And the next generation will blossom and thrive and have their season in the sun. That is the flow of life, and there is comfort in that knowledge and wisdom in acceptance.

Have you ever weathered a major storm or lost a tree you loved? What did you do? What nugget of wisdom did you gain from the experience?

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(Dad’s grandson and great-granddaughter)

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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If we know how to appreciate these beautiful things, we will not have to search for anything else. Peace is available in every moment, in every breath, in every step. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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I think when you have kids at the age of fifteen and twelve. you’re daily reminded by the sheer size of your children that the days of raising them are nearly over. At this stage, every milestone, every Christmas and New Year’s, has a slight touch of pathos, and there is the ever present awareness of appreciating their last days of childhood, their last carefree days of their youth.

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The six weeks the boys have off from school every summer has been one of the parts of parenting I’ve relished over the years. Never more so than now.

Of course, for a writer, who works from home, it is also a lot noisier, and it is more chaotic and harder to concentrate having the kids underfoot, yet, it’s an undeniable opportunity to spend time and bond together.

I would never allow myself to take that sort of time off writing usually, but because the kids need shepherding, help, driving about, as well as to be fed and watered during the holidays, I say, ‘it’s okay, I must.’ I end up taking the breaks with them.

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That’s no mean feat, because it takes a lot to stop me. I’m like a speeding locomotive. I get so much done during the year that when the festive season approaches, I’ll typically keep writing right up to Christmas Eve. This last Christmas, I stayed at my desk until 11.30 p.m. on the 24th before I finally conceded and closed the file on the work-in-progress, The Last Tree, and put the computer away.

When I finally do go on holiday, I like to go off the grid. I don’t take any devices with me, not even a phone. I think time away from the internet is very important for the creative soul, to replenish itself in nature and natural things.

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The kids and I, along with my eldest son spent the festive break with family at dad’s place, from Christmas to after New Year’s, for days of sun, sand and surf.

Burying children repeatedly in the sand

IMG_1454Eating fish and chips with the cousins

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hanging out together

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climbing mountains…

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…and more eating together.

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Once the kids and I returned to the city, we spent a day at the beach, a couple of days shopping for gadgets and supplies, a picnic with the family, friends coming over, dinner out, as well as a day trip to the fun fair.

It’s two weeks into the New Year and I still haven’t returned to work fully. It’s lovely to let go of the reigns, to take the foot off the accelerator for a few weeks, and remember what it is to have no agenda apart from having fun and connecting with the family, with no jobs to do other than to keep the food coming!

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We’re nearing the end of the kids’ long break, though. There are only one and a half weeks left. Thoughts turn towards preparation for school: stationary, uniforms, shoes, and of course, paying the various fees. But, there will be one or two more “play dates” for the boys and most likely, a few swims first.

All in all, our break has covered the bases, and I have to say, I like the feeling of 2018. Heading into the year of the Earth Dog, despite everything going on in the world, I feel a tentative optimism.

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I’m reminded of a great one of my dear grandmother’s invocations, once said to my sister and me and never forgotten.

One day when Gran was struggling with her health issues, she said to us, ‘let us go forward with a confident sense of anticipation.’ That quaint saying or “Nanism,” as I once coined my grandmother’s little repeated phrases, has become a favourite of ours, and it encapsulates my sense of the year ahead.

What’s your sense of 2018? Can you move forward with a confident sense of anticipation? 

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body, work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness too. ~ Holly Butcher

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