Archive for the ‘growing old gracefully’ Category

In Toastmasters last week, during the spontaneous speaking segment of the meeting called Table Topics, I was asked this question, “How has your life changed in the last two years?” I replied, “There has been a lot more stress. Even after doing meditation and yoga each day, there is still stress. But, the greatest change has been the divisions that have taken place between my family and friends.” Apart from the impacts of illness, death, and chaos around us, the pandemic has also divided communities and families. People have become polarised over powerful feelings one way or the other. There is a lot of rhetoric on both sides. My own family has broken into two camps. Some people aren’t talking to others and are not seeing those on the other side of the fence. My friend group has suffered the same fate. As the classic middle child peacekeeper, I navigate my way down the middle, passing messages between the camps. It appears that stress has altered the normal levels of tolerance friends and family would extend to one another. Instead, people are quick to attack and denounce others as wrong. It’s sad.

Whenever I’m in doubt, I retreat to one of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far in 57 years of life on this planet. I’ve shared this message before, and anyone who has known me the last nine years I’ve been active on social media will have heard it already. Be prepared. I will share it again in the future. It is too valuable to keep to myself.
Let me tell you the story.
About thirty years ago, I was a recruit to Amway. I didn’t last long in the business, but, in the beginning, I was new and shiny-eyed, ever curious to learn more. If you are unfamiliar with Amway, it works on a tier system. As you gain more people in your business (or “down lines”), you earn more money, and by the time you reach “Diamond” level, you earn decent returns and have many down lines all looking up to you as their leader.

Our Diamond leaders were an intelligent, good-looking, older couple. They were articulate and kind. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call them Bob and Sue. I would assume a lot of the teaching and lectures in Amway would take place online these days, but in those days, the meetings happened in person. So we would rock along to school auditoriums and church halls one night a week to hear the various Diamonds and above give talks about building the business.
On Tuesday night, I attended a meeting where my Diamond leaders were speaking. Sue, especially, was glamorous and impeccably dressed, one of those people who has star quality oozing out of her pores. She never goes unnoticed, heads turn. She and I had never spoken in person. I was a mere underling, a newbie so far down the line I had not even signed up a single business prospect. I was starstruck to be in the same room.
The meeting was inspirational, as always. When it finished, I filed out along with everyone else, and somehow, I ended up walking alongside Sue. To my amazement, she started talking to me.

We established I was one of her downlines. We wandered slowly out to the car park. Sue was in full swing, talking about the benefits of the business and the usual speel. Then we faced one another to say our goodbyes. Sue grabbed my hand, and she said, “You know what, honey, if you forget everything else I have told you tonight, it’s fine. There is only one thing I want you to take away. There is one rule I try to follow every day. It’s more important than everything else, even the business.”
I nodded. My focus was on her 100%.
“Whether in your business or in your life, there is only one thing you need to do every day, and that is to SPREAD THE LOVE.”

Even then, I could feel the tingle, the reverberation of those words. The moment and the message were profound. They engraved into my memory. I took the message away with me that night, and it completely changed my outlook. I’ve never forgotten it, and I have endeavoured to apply the wisdom in the years since. Whenever in doubt about any situation, big or small, I remember Sue’s advice. Spread the love.
Within the current climate of disintegration, I remember that life lesson again. Have hurtful things been said to me by family and friends? Yes. Have hurtful things been done to me? Yes. Has misunderstanding run rife? Yes. But do I respond in kind? No. Do I stand in my corner pointing fingers, telling others what they should think or how they should behave? No. Do I belittle and demean others for their choices? No. I come back again and again to that shining woman in that dimly-lit car park, throwing the business narrative out the window to impart the most valuable truth in her life.

I think, how can I SPREAD THE LOVE?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” ~ Albert Einstein


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Long before positive thinking or affirmations became a thing, my grandmother led by example. She had a way of framing things and people in the best light. I’ll never forget what Gran said one day after my eldest son was scolded by my father for doing something naughty. The family, exasperated with him, had decided my son had Attention Deficit Disorder. Gran said, “He’s not naughty. He doesn’t have ADD or anything like that. What he has is spirit. Mark my words, he will go far in life.” (Turned out she was right, but that’s another story). With those words, my beloved grandmother turned a bad situation around to good and changed my outlook for the better.
Gran called it ‘thinking the right thoughts.’

We love that phrase in our family. Whenever any of us had something important happening that we were hoping would go well, Gran would always say, “I’ll think the right thoughts.” Which meant she would only envisage and only speak about the best possible outcome. That was how she lived. She walked her talk. These days I use the technique constantly. In keeping with the theme of resilience in various posts lately, I thought it would be the ideal time to share some of my grandmother’s outlook on life.

You’re welcome.

Whenever Gran had an event or outing coming up, she would say, “I’m looking forward to it with a confident sense of anticipation.” It was so simple. She demonstrated positive thinking as a way of life. That little gem has become a family saying, a special something we say to one another on occasion with fond knowingness.
I used to visit my grandmother on Thursdays. She lived around the corner from our house. I’d walk into her neat, elegant little unit at the start of the day and leave again around five in the evening. Thursdays were our day to hang out together. We always started our soiree with morning tea, which Gran would have set out on a tray. There would be tea in fine china cups with saucers, served with an array of sweet treats. Gran was a legendary baker and baked every day. She’d serve a plate of fresh scones, or sponge cake, or muffins, whatever treats she had made that morning. After eating, we’d sit in the lazy-boy chairs in the living room and talk. Then I would help her put out and bring in the laundry. We sometimes looked at photos or her embroidery. Sometimes we baked together. Then Gran would serve a big lunch with meat, vegetables, and homemade dessert like her apple pie or blackberry crumble. We would talk until it was time to say goodbye.

Every time I reached her door to leave, Gran would give one parting shot to take with me. It was usually one or two favourite sayings, “Remember my dear,” she would say, “Set your sights upon a star, and you will go far,” or “Every cloud has a silver lining, if you look for the silver lining you will find it.
They were the same sayings, time and again, yet I would walk along the street thinking about what she had said and repeating it to myself.
My grandmother inspired me with her natural optimism and right thinking. It shaped how I look at everything. I am a big believer in daily affirmations, in speaking positively to myself and others. I have a whiteboard with life-affirming statements on it, which I read a few times a day.
If we want to keep our spirits up, we need to bear witness to the words coming out of our mouths. People these days tend to be one-track-minded and fatalistic. Conversations have never been more boring.

Chats with friends and neighbours can often be depressing, and I don’t think these people realize the effect they’re having on others. Why not converse with loved ones about the book you’re reading, the movie you’ve seen, or the creative project you’re working on. We don’t always have to talk about Covid, people!
I prefer following my grandmother’s example. The glass-half-full approach means looking at the things that are working in our lives. I use a daily gratitude journal to note what I’m grateful for and make it a practice to say thank you for all the blessings. If you ask how I’m doing, I’ll be thinking the right thoughts and looking forward to what the future brings with a confident sense of anticipation!

I hope you gained a gem or two from this post for yourself.
Do you have grandparents with their little sayings? Have you ever tried keeping a gratitude journal?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Emptiness is a symptom that you are not living creatively.” – Maxwell Maltz.

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Be at peace with where you’ve been and where you are. That’s how you win the battlefield of the mind. ~ Andrena Sawyer


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Do you remember turning 16? I do. Like it was yesterday. It was the summer holidays. My friends and I were hitchhiking up north. We stopped at a cafe. There were four of us hunched around a Formica tabletop with sodas, and I remember saying I didn’t want to turn 16 (the next day). Why not? It was too close to 20! Who could imagine being “so ancient?”

Funny how the vantage point of time changes things.

The youngest of my three sons had his sweet sixteenth birthday two weeks ago. He is more mature at this age than I have ever been. I guess for some people it just comes naturally. The other day, he said, “Do you know what I’m looking forward to the most about growing up?”

I said, “No” although I imagined he’d say beer, driving, or possibly not going to school.

He said, “I’m looking forward to having logical, rational conversations.”

Huh? Jaw drops to floor.

We’re definitely different, he and I. At 16 I fretted about getting old, while my youngest son pines for more adult conversation. How shallow was I? He’s already a better human being than I am. Huzzah!

What did the son want to do for the big milestone birthday? After offering him every adventure option or fun experience available, what he most wanted was ‘a cake and to hang out’ with his friends uninterrupted. Could they hang here? Sure, I said, smiling, although I secretly dreaded it. Idiot Trooper that I am, I let him invite all his mates over regardless.

My friends and I at 16 were rebels. No self-respecting adults wanted to be around us.

To my surprise, my son’s friends were delightful. They had the run of one part of the house the entire day, while I kept food and liquid coming. They played online games, outdoor games, jumped on the trampoline, took photos of themselves, played music, and sang in harmony together the entire day. In the afternoon they demolished an entire chocolate cake and then left en masse to buy supplies from the supermarket, returning an hour later to cook a feast. So lively, so fun, were they, I even missed them in their absence.

In the late afternoon, the girls drifted home. Finally, just “Da boys” remained, playing online games into the evening, still singing in beautiful harmony along with their favourite songs. By the time Da boys left, I felt tired but mostly buoyed by the experience.

They’re mature, considerate kids. Who knew?

That said, they’re still only 16. They still like to play games the same way they did when they were little, but with a lot of music, singing, slang and posturing thrown in. The energy levels when these teen buddies get together can ramp up suddenly, get inexplicably loud for a short period—almost explosive—then peter out again and dip so low the kids appear to retreat behind their phone screens for a while to reboot, becoming temporarily tomb-like and silent, before the shrieks and the laughter escalate and they flare into life, noise and energy all over again. To be around them even for a short period is akin to putting one’s finger into an electric socket, recharging every cell in the body and rendering one’s hair into an instant afro. It’s vitalizing and frenetic at the same time.  

The upshot overall was the day was easy, no drama. As their humble servant, I got to witness snippets of their group dynamic, the teen slang, the weird sounds they make when they’re together, which was fun.

I remember the heady freedom of being 16. You’re old enough to do things but young enough to be silly and not care who is watching.

There was one of son’s friends singing that very Michael Jackson, high-pitched, “Hee hee!” so frequently I nearly asked him to stop (although thankfully, I didn’t). One boy hugged his phone and speaker the entire day, constantly scrolling the music selection – he was clearly in charge of the music selection. There was the occasional daring use of a swear word, but not loud enough for me to discern. I turned a blind eye, regardless. As head provider of refreshments, I stayed in my quarters – the perfect excuse to get some writing done – and let the teens have the house for the day. Some freedom was all they wanted. They often burst outside to play Frisbee, badminton, shoot hoops and jump on the trampoline for hours in the afternoon, which rather impressed me.

I think your child’s friends say a lot about who they are and how they’re doing, and I liked the son’s friends a lot. That made me happy.

At sixteen, I was a fool. At the same age, my son is smarter, more mature, and more emotionally intelligent than I am. Maybe there’s hope for the future, yet.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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There’s nothing wrong with teenagers that reasoning with them won’t aggravate. ~ Anonymous

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*Tips for parents on Stanford Children’s Health, Understanding the Teen Brain

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

December 2 question – Are there months or times of the year you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Yes, definitely the winter and autumn months are the most productive for me because during those months I’m indoors more and the shorter days keep me at my desk, whereas in spring and summer I’m hopping outside all the time at every excuse just to do things in the garden and feel the warmth of the sunshine. Spring is my favourite season of the year. I love the blossoms and flowers, the cool green shade of new leaves, the scents on the air.

Working from home in your jim-jams with a view of your garden, outside the French doors it’s hard not to hop outside and run around barefoot regularly.

In particular, I find the start of summer distracting. For us here in New Zealand, summer begins in December, which is also the beginning of the festive season. Coloured lights are going up outside houses and within. The lighted trees are appearing in living rooms, including ours. The decorations festoon the shops and there are wonderful gift ideas everywhere I go. I’m not one of those people who can do Christmas shopping all year round. To me, that is something you do in December, when there’s glitter and greenery in every mall and the cupboards at home become hiding places for gifts and gift-wrap. I like to make a master list around this time of the folk I want to buy a little something special for, and that includes family, friends, teachers and all the various bods who help my son with Down Syndrome throughout the year.

Then a few days of each week leading up to the 25th, I go out and slowly make the rounds of all my favourite stores. I don’t rush in, buy the thing I want and rush out again, I like to window-shop, walk around and look at the decorations and all the wares. I savour the experience. I like to take my time over every gift and think about that person and consider them. Then I get to go home and wrap the gifts beautifully. It’s lovely.

Shopping in crowds gets a little stressful, however. There is a lot to do in the festive season. It’s busy. Everyone rushes everywhere. Doing the grocery shopping yesterday, there was a lot more traffic on the road, the car parks were fuller and the queues longer. But you expect public places to be more crowded, and you adjust to it as you go along. Buying your groceries takes a lot longer, but that’s okay. I even enjoy the hectic side. It’s only Christmas once a year and after the shit year we’ve had this is fun.

It’s almost impossible for me to get any writing done in the festive season, so productivity plummets through early summer to mid-summer.

Usually after Christmas there are family jaunts to the beach, picnics, road trips and get-togethers. I will typically pick up the pen and paper or the laptop again, in February to start my writing year again. I’m lucky though, as I don’t do this to make a living. I write at the weekends when my kids are elsewhere. If I was a professional writer, I would have to put butt in the chair and do the hours.

I really prefer to be a part-time author at this stage. I’ve been raising kids all my adult life. On Sunday I turn fifty-six years old and it feels like I can see 60 coming up fast. I don’t want to spend my entire life hunched over a computer. I want to be out there enjoying my days as well, so for me, being non productive is important to my well-being. Then I feel I come back to my writing with extra energy, fresh eyes, and a new appreciation of life.

How do you feel about your productivity and why?

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”

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If you’re like me, you may have gotten busier over the last few weeks. The chores stack up, things get overgrown. It’s the end of the year, jobs need resolution, deadlines loom and time pressure mounts. The thought of the impending festive season and adding even more items to the “to do” list strikes a note of panic into the heart. For some, the financial issues at this time of the year become overwhelming, and the thought of getting together with the family can be fraught. I have a friend who calls this ‘the suicide season.’ Add the fact that once stress sets in it can reduce the duration and quality of sleep, and you’ve got a disaster walking.

Without sleep, we cannot function properly. With the right amount of quality shuteye, then we get to enjoy the benefits as it helps prevent heart disease and weight problems, and boosts the immune system.

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Without sleep, you end up the walking dead, or ‘tired and wired’ as my friend put it when she saw me the other day.

I had been overdoing it in the last month or so working long hours to finish my book. About three weeks ago, I began to get abdominal discomfort which felt almost like a mild hernia or similar. I was having sleep broken by three hours of wakefulness a night.

It’s hard to be gracious when you don’t get enough sleep. I lost all sense of political correctness, courtesy, and I lost my sense of humour. It made me impatient with the kids. This created some inner turmoil and struggle over my feelings around myself as a mother. It gets complicated. However, I have come to know that I absolutely have to have adequate sleep to function as a parent and especially as a creative person.

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By the end of this week, I felt a deadly fatigue and yet so hyped internally I was running on pure adrenalin. I couldn’t slow down and felt I was close to burnout.

I went to see a friend yesterday morning who is a healer. We’ve known each other a few years. My friend asked how I was and we talked at length. Then she spoke about the wisdom of slowing down and attending to self care. ‘To nurture our families, we need to take care of ourselves first.’ She advised two meditations of a twenty-minute duration daily, morning and afternoon.

I’d only recently seen an experiment on the BBC show, Trust Me I’m A Doctor, on the benefits of meditation. They tested people before and after several weeks meditating daily. All participants showed improved health and an improvement in a sense of their overall well-being, and they were sleeping better.

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It is vital to our health to get enough sleep each night. The nine recognized benefits associated with getting a good night’s sleep are, lower risk of heart disease, lower inflammation, a stronger immune system, better productivity, greater social/emotional intelligence, lower weight gain risk, improved calorie regulation, better athletic performance, preventing depression.

For the last few years, I’ve been starting each day with a ten-minute meditation, and I had thought that was enough. But I was also willing to do anything to sleep well and for the pains to go away. I said I would meditate twice daily for twenty minutes. I’m only on my second day and I already feel significantly better, and last night, as promised, I slept like a baby. This has given me hope for the future. With adequate sleep under my belt each day I can conquer mountains.

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The average person needs seven to nine hours sleep a night to recover and repair the body. Kids need more, newborns need seventeen hours and kids need at least ten to twelve hours of shuteye a night. Usually, we need less sleep as we get older. But if you’re having difficulty sleeping, experiments have shown there are several things people can do to improve sleep quality: make sure you sleep in a dark bedroom, turn off devices and televisions, swap the caffeine or alcohol before bed for a warm milky drink, spend time in moving about each day, and reduce stress levels by exercise, therapy, or some other means.

If all else fails, why not try meditation? I have to say, I feel the best today that I have in a long time. Have you ever tried meditation?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “We are more powerful than we have been lead to believe. Walk tall in your power and never give it to an outside source. True authority comes from within.”- R. Cefalu

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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.

Sophia_Loren_-_1955Sophia Loren, 1954

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

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