Archive for the ‘HISTORIES’ Category

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

The power of parental love is sorely missed.

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

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

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

I miss our long conversations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Blessed be the ties that bind generations. ~ Unknown

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I was talking with friends at Toastmasters this week. We find solace as women, in sharing stories with one another; it helps us to find our peace with the way things are. I and two other Toastmasters are in the same situation at present. We’re wondering what to do with all of our parents’ beloved possessions.

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If it was up to my nephews, they’d “back a truck up to grandpa’s section and just throw everything in.” But, it’s different for me and my women friends.

Our parents’ things, their worldly treasures have emotional resonance.

We value their collections, their chosen artworks, however, we can’t keep all of our parents’ possessions. It would be impossible. So we’re left to walk the tightrope of this critical decision making on what to throw and what to keep.

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One friend was saying her mother had collected the old fashioned bread plates and had a hundred and twenty of the pottery bread bases hanging on the walls in her house. Now, the family is stuck with what to do with them.

My other friend has an elderly mother who is currently downsizing, while she herself is retiring to a small town. Her mother had a treasured full dinner set with gold trim, which she’d bought when she first arrived in New Zealand, in the 60’s. My friend can’t take the big dinner set with her into retirement. She’s going to offer them to her daughter but her daughter is into minimal living. So the freighted question has to follow? Re-cycle, re-use or reduce?

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It’s such a hard call, because it feels like you’re parting with your parents in a very real way, dispersing their belongings, which they had gathered over a lifetime, while they raised you. I want to keep everything!

But, then I would be repeating the same cycle of having loads and loads of possessions I neither use nor look at.

I think I’m with my friend’s daughter. I prefer the idea of minimalism.

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If there’s one thing that dad’s death has brought home for me, it’s that we have far too much “stuff” generally. My parents, god bless them, liked collecting cool things too, shells, rocks, driftwood, amber (kauri gum). Yet, the boxes upon boxes of these treasures were accompanied by hordes of acquisitions over the years, which they had stored in the garage and forgotten about.

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I think it was after emptying the tenth or twelfth trailer full of rubbish from my parent’s property and seeing all the old crockery, and broken appliances, and junk going into that landfill, that I felt, this is wrong. Over consumption is killing our environment.

It made me want to do better, to yearn for simplicity in my own life at home.

After coming home from the first working bee with my siblings at my parent’s house, I started spring-cleaning my house. I gave away boxes of unnecessary bits and bobs to charity. Because I had seen firsthand that we’re weighted down with belongings we never look at and never use.

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At the same time, I feel a great need to simplify primarily by consuming less.

I need to be far more discerning in my shopping choices, from now on. I want to buy quality brand products when I do need to buy things, and buy as little things we don’t need, as possible. That’s the goal, anyway.

Wish me luck!

How about you, have you felt the need to simplify?

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Talk to you later.

Keep 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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Because my siblings and I have been clearing out my parents’ home recently, we’ve pored through literally hundreds of old photos. I was thrilled to find photos of the very early days of our family homestead, the house I still live in today, which none of us had ever seen before. And, the idea came to me, to do a photo montage of the journey this old house and yard has taken to the gorgeous beauty it is today.

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It all started with a patch of dirt with promise.

In 1962, my parents were set to immigrate to New Zealand with their two young daughters. Dad came to New Zealand first, to build his young family a house in a newly opened suburb, with the help of two professional builders.

Dad building the house

By the time mum and my sisters took the six week journey from the U.K by boat in 1963, a nice tidy three bedroom wooden house was waiting for them.

The new Lockwood house was home.

The finished house

Back

The finished house, front

Front

I was born in 1964, my brother two years later. We lived a semi-rural lifestyle with a menagerie of pets, and enjoyed an idyllic, safe, free childhood in this house.

The garden, back

In the backyard, my parents had planted a hedge of bentamy trees along the fenceline, and a liquid amber sapling in front of the canary aviary.

The house took a lot of wear and tear.

The house, 1980's

In the 1980’s the house was painted brown, and apart from the extensive vegetable garden, there was not a lot of garden, just three fish ponds and two bird aviaries.

A triumphant return.

The house, 1990'sThe house, front

My parents offered me the house for rent in the 1990’s, and I returned after a long absence. The exterior wall colour had changed to white. Otherwise, the homestead had remained unchanged inside or out since the 1960’s.

In the backyard, we found a jungle.

The garden, back, 1990's

The bentamy had been left to multiply untended for the whole six years their house had been rented out and had grown ten, twelve feet high, and engulfed the aviary completely. The neighbours behind us complained their garden received no sun in winter or summer.

The back garden clean up

The back garden clean up crew

My parents and brother pitched in to help with the enormous job of trimming the hedge. The arborist carted away a ton of wood on his truck.

reclaiming the aviary

We found the old aviary had survived underneath the bentamy, and we turned it into a garden shed.

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We left some foliage for privacy and planted a line of native trees called pittosporums along the fenceline. Within a few years, we’d take out the bentamy stumps altogether and let the natives take over.

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My husband and I began updating the interior of the house with a new kitchen, taking out the old fireplace, and putting in new LED lights. We added verandahs front and back as well as French doors.

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I had the roof fixed, the “hips” replaced, and I had the house painted a new colour called “Parchment” with white trim.

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I went on a planting spree and planted flowers, trees, and shrubs everywhere.

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I fenced the entire property and added three lockable gates.

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The liquid amber had bloomed into a fantastic venerable tree. As the oldest of its kind in the district, it’s leaves are the last in the neighbourhood to change colour in autumn and the first to get green buds back again in spring. It truly is the jewel of the garden.

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In 2014, I knocked down the old aviary/shed and built a brand new sleep out in its place.

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The maintenance on the house and property is nearly a full time job, yet, with a lot of hard work, I’ve managed to reclaim this place and create a magical garden getaway in the heart of the urban landscape. The house my father built was a haven for us growing up and is now a base for my kids and nephew and I that has heart, history and a family legacy rooted in its foundations.

I love our home.

Where do you live and why? Tell me where you grew up…

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” — Leonardo da Vinci.

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My grandmother was a fairly formidable creature. Nan Hefferan was the only one of our English relatives who made the move to New Zealand. “And, she made the move at the age of 79!” as my father is fond of saying.

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Gran lived here for the last nine years of her life. For most of that time, I lived five minutes’ walk away. She was the only grandparent I had the privilege of getting to know.

I’ve always revered grandparents, I guess because I grew up far away from mine.

Where my older sisters had grown to the ages of seven and five in England, my brother and I were born here, and our only relationship with our grandparents had come through letters, and parcels at Christmas.

In person, Gran lived up to my every hope of what a grandmother would be. She was a truly exceptional, wonderful woman, who had achieved a great deal in her life.

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I enjoyed getting to know her.

Born in 1901, she had lived through the last World War. Her memories were revelations of another era, and therefore, truly fascinating.

We had lunch every week, on a Tuesday, just her and I.

Mostly, she would talk. I would listen to all of the family stories I had never heard before. Through this precious human conduit to our family’s heritage, I gained glimpses of a different life. Gran told of a lost world: that of the past, and all the amazing things that had happened there, to members of our own family, our shared ancestors.

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Being a writer, I had to ask questions. I wanted to know more: what else happened? Why? When? All she needed was a gentle prompt.

She had what they call, a “pre-nuclear age” memory, i.e. she could remember facts, figures, dates, and names with precision.

To my creative mind, her details painted pictures.

Gran was also a great cook. On every visit, there would be some humble, great lunch. Meat pie she’d made herself, right down to the pastry, served with gravy, potatoes, peas and carrots. Or her famous cheese and onion pie, so heavenly, her homemade short savoury pastry crust was divine. She would always make the dessert herself, a cake, or a sponge, or a steamed pudding. There would be custard or cream. And tea served in a teapot on a tray with china tea cups with matching saucers.

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She liked to feed me until I couldn’t eat another bite.

After our delicious lunch, we’d take our tea and shortbreads, or chocolates, over to the comfortable chairs in the living room. There, Gran would start to talk, about her life and the stories of her parents.

She would talk all afternoon, and I would listen.

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I could not leave my grandmother’s home without her saying something significant. It was to me, as if she lived so close to the veil, that any moment could be her last and she lived with that truth. No moment was to be wasted.

After giving her that final hug, I’d walk towards her front door, and Gran would say, “Remember, my dear, reach for that star and you will get there.”

Or,

“Remember, my dear, whatever happens in your life, if you look for the silver lining, you will find it.”

I’d walk home with those parting words. I took that sustaining, empowered, heartening feeling away from every visit.

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I’ll be ever grateful to Gran, for having the courage after her husband died, to move to the other side of the world. She wanted to be with the family for the last part of her life. Our lives were enriched.

This week, I’ll be delivering my tenth speech for Toastmasters. The project title I had to tackle this time round was “Research your Topic.”

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I decided to talk about my grandmother’s contribution to the war effort.

Gran inspires me to be a better person. It does bother me, that all the wonderful things she achieved during WWII boil down to a yellow newspaper clipping, which lives in a drawer at my father’s house. So, part of the theme for my speech, is to bring light to the lack of the female voice in history.

Have you ever asked your mother or your grandmother what she did in her life? The least we can do is to ask the questions and wait for the answers. Our daughters and granddaughters may ask us for the stories one day.

There is so much more to say. Talk to you later.

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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What you do when you don’t have to, determines what you’ll be when you can no longer help it. ~ Rudyard Kipling

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A few weeks ago, I took part in a blog event, invited by friend, author and illustrator, Teresa Robeson, to show a retrospective of my art. In the process, I discovered old school projects. I was astonished to see the leaps I had taken in the presentation and effort that went into my projects over a number of years at school. The revelation gave some insight like a bird’s eye view on my younger years. I saw how I am who I am and how I am today because of striving to earn the approval of my father.

Take a moment to think about it, how did your father shape your life as a creative person?

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Growing up, I learned to work hard to win dad’s praise. On my school assignments I put in enormous effort, seeking to receive a pat on the back. Will he say, well done? I’d wonder. Dad would say, “There’s a spelling mistake.”

The praise flows from my father now that I’m grown. He’s a wonderful man. When I was growing up however, he felt his role was to teach, therefore, he had to point out whatever was incorrect so that I would learn.

And, I did! Sometimes, when I’d worked really hard on a piece and dad found flaws, I was disappointed, yes. But, it only served to fuel the desire to work longer to get to that “well done” moment. I used each failure in a positive way, to spur me to try harder on the next project.

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I began to think more deeply about answering the questions on school assignments. I began to pay more attention to my artwork and upgrading the layout.

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Each project gained an A grade from my teacher, but dad would always find a flaw, no matter how small. I started writing original thoughts, and working harder on the illustrations. My school work and grades improved.

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Every beautiful essay I showed my father was picked apart. He didn’t mean to be unkind. Dad would have been wounded if he’d known how much it humbled me.

Nevertheless, each homework assignment, I put in more effort. I was learning major lessons in concentration.

The Pearl River Delta

The last project I did at junior school, before I moved on, and past the need to show my father everything I produced, was a book review.

I produced my review of, ‘A Commune on the Pearl River Delta,’ in a round format, with tissue paper glued in between each page. There were in all a dozen round pages with words and images, crafted in dense colour pencil and pen. It begins with the “tour guide,” Mr. John Know-it-all, introducing himself to the reader, and then, John leads the way through the review as if through the Pearl River Delta itself.

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It was a work of art. A triumph. The first time I ever got A++ What did my father say when I presented it to him? “China is spelt with a capital C.”

When my son was born, thirteen years ago, my parents came to meet their grandchild. I recall my father shaking my husband’s hand. Dad said, “Welcome to fatherhood!” It was such a poignant, sweet moment, like a passing of the baton, and a reassurance that the path ahead was worth walking. Dad has cherished his role as father. He was so happy for us to be starting a journey together as a family.

The Wateow, from 'The Colour Secret,' late teens

When I think back on my own childhood with my father, I could look at his withholding of praise as a negative. No, I don’t see it that way at all. I look at what it produced. By the time I started at high school, I was a creative ideas machine. I could crank out essays and artwork at the drop of a hat. I was always willing to put in the extra work. I’m still like that today. I believe my ability for perseverance came from my childhood strivings, therefore are directly attributable to my father’s influence.

Take a moment to think about it, how do the qualities which define you today relate directly to your father? It’s wonderful when you start to identify them.

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They say that we get the parents we need. They also say there are no mistakes. It makes sense to think that by viewing what we’ve been given in each of our unique circumstances, as being exactly the springboard we needed in our lives, that we enable ourselves to move forward to better things.

This week, my youngest son said to me confidently, “We get 25% from our fathers and 75% from our mothers.” Cute but wrong. We get DNA 50/50 from our parents. Our fathers are just as important as our mothers, and just as influential. How we use the paternal influence as we go forward, however, is up to us.

What do you think has been your father’s greatest influence on you? His legacy?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“When a child is born, a father is born.”― Frederick Buechner

“What we think, we become.” – Buddha

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Have you heard of the Art of Positive Reinforcement? Rewarding the behaviour you want in children with your attention, in order to encourage more of the good behaviour. According to aish.com, ‘Warm fuzzies, also known in the 1960s as “positive strokes,” is something that parents who want to raise emotionally healthy children cannot do without.’

I’m here to report: warm fuzzies make adults feel good and ‘emotionally healthy’ too. 

We can give warm fuzzies to others by being generous with supporting others, and we can give them to ourselves through practising self-appreciation.

This week, a dear friend, author and illustrator, Teresa Robeson posted a terrific piece on her blog called Decades of Progress.

‘Kim Zarins shared a post on Facebook of a well-known illustrator’s art as a child versus a piece he did recently, contrasting the improvements in his craft. I thought that was a fun thing to do.’

Me, too. I like the whole concept behind this post idea and it seems to me that this could be a good way of giving ourselves as artists, warm fuzzy material. First, we get the positive reinforcement from other people, our friends and peers who see the post.

Through the images on her blog, Teresa demonstrated how her artwork had evolved over the years. We all said, wow, your artwork is awesome.

Then, Teresa also got to bear witness to her own growth.

So, second, there is the fuzzy warmth inside of saying to ourselves, ‘Wow, your art has changed and improved.’

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A visual retrospective is a nice way to chart our progress. It creates positive reinforcement of ourselves. Warm Self Fuzzies.

This morning, I went back through the archives and scanned my artwork, which I’ve faithfully kept from the age of five. This is about taking stock.

So with this is mind, here are a few examples to show the evolution of my art…

Family portrait, age 5

Family portrait, Age 5

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Character portrait, Age 8

I loved drawing pictures at school. As a lot of writers do when they’re little, I made my own books. The above drawing of Roma is from my book, The Spring Fairies.

The Wateow, from 'The Colour Secret,' late teens

Character Study, colour pencil, late teens.

This picture is from ‘The Colour Secret.’ ‘The WaTEOW,” or Woman-at-the-end-of-the-world. It marked my first attempt at an early chapter book series, The Great Adventures of Splat the Wonder Dog.

MaryThought, pencil sketch, age 27

Teddy bear portrait, pencil sketch, age 20

I enjoyed art and I continued to sketch in pencil as a hobby after I left school.

 

Self-portrait, pencil sketch, age 25

Self-portrait, pencil, age 25

In my spare time, side-by-side with writing, and raising boys, I always did some sort of drawing and art.

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Character Portrait, ‘Free Wally!” age 29

When I was in my twenties, I started writing and illustrating picture books, experimenting with painting using gouache on simple watercolour washes. I took one of my picture book manuscripts, ‘Free Wally!’ to show a friend, Liz Sutherland, an artist and art teacher. Liz said, “They’re good. But you should learn oil portraiture, because you need to learn how to be bold.”

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Oil portrait, of my youngest son, Nathaniel, age 40

I studied oil painting with Liz for the next three or four years, through two pregnancies, when I could hardly reach the easel for my enormous stomach. By the time I finished my last oil portrait class, I had learned how to be BOLD!

Nice one. Retrospective done. Warm fuzzies abound!

How do you give yourself and others warm fuzzies? How have you kept a record of your creative evolution?

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ~ Henry Miller

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In the balmy, festive last days before Christmas, 2015, a friend I’d known for 30 years died of liver cancer. We had visited Lyall/Ella and I remember sitting with her. She said, “My liver’s shot, everything’s shot.” I said, “I’m so sorry.” Ella said, “It only hurts when I cry.” I said, “Then, I’ll cry for you.” And we had a hug and bit of a weep together.

She died two days later.

When I returned to the city, I went to visit with her wife. We sat with Ella’s ashes, looking at old photos between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Therefore, this year began on a sombre note and a special light had gone back to the cosmos.

Tans & Dan

Today is St. Patrick’s Day in New Zealand. March 17th is also the birthday of my brother’s first wife, the irreplaceable Tanya, mother of Anthony and Daniel. Tanya died fourteen years ago, in the hospital after becoming suddenly paralysed and ending up in Intensive Care.

Every year, when St. Paddy’s day comes around, I think of Tanya. I missed her a lot today. I think it was finding the right pictures to go with my blog post and remembering her so clearly that I wept for her again. The hardest thing about getting older is losing people. It’s really tough. However I think the acceptance comes around more quickly as well.

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On June 25 of this year, my family will be gathering for the first year anniversary of our family matriarch’s passing. We are going to do the unveiling of Ma’s tombstone, and we’ll probably, let’s face it, drink quite a lot. We will definitely eat a lot and we’ll remember Ma, in all her glory, we’ll repeat the stories. We’ll talk about what was funny, and what we miss the most. We may even dance “The Gnu!”

I rationalise that it is because of these circumstances that I’ve been feeling weepy lately. I’ve been letting a little rain fall to release the sadness. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the love for those we’ve loved and lost. All this has brought me to thinking about loss. About how it has the power to absolutely stop us and the world in its tracks.

My brother tells me that when he rang to give me the news of Ma’s death, I swore like a sailor repeatedly throughout the next five minutes of our conversation, yet I have no memory of it.

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In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying, postulated a series of emotional stages experienced by survivors of an intimate’s death.

The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

The model was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients, according to Wikipedia.

‘Although in later years, Kübler-Ross claimed these stages do not necessarily come in order, nor are all stages experienced by all patients.

She stated, however, that a person always experiences at least two of the stages.

Often, people experience several stages in a “roller coaster” effect—switching between two or more stages, returning to one or more several times before working through it.[3] Women are more likely than men to experience all five stages.[3]

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I’ve definitely gone through the stages of denial and bargaining. After that, I think I skipped a couple of stages and jumped straight to acceptance. I really do feel a great soothing sense of peace in my soul around my mother’s passing and I think the whole family would agree.

Mum had become very fearful about dying in her later years, afraid she would suffer, and she was forcibly resistant to the idea of going into care. After suffering five strokes in the five years before her death, however her quality of life was going downhill and her mind wasn’t what it once had been.

Yet, despite all her anxiety, and her frailty, she managed to stay in her own home with dad looking after her right to the end. Ma really did “pass away peacefully in her sleep.” Her ending was such a comfort for us all, especially my father. Though it was hard for him, he knew it really was for the best. We can remember her the right way. So I do feel a great sense of acceptance and that helps.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone.

Who are you missing today?

 

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~  Seuss

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ~ Mae West

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The launch of my first book at the weekend was a tremendous success. The good vibes and happy feelings continue to ripple outward. This post is for all those who were unable to attend the event in person. Even my close-knit family and best friends were unaware of the ‘whole story’ of my journey so far as a writer. This address was my chance to step out of the shadows of my writer’s cave, and share what it’s taken for me to get this book ready for the world….

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“A dream”

A long time ago, I had a dream of being a writer and publishing a book.

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When you are living the creative life, you carry this little torch inside, of hope that your work will reach the public one day and make a difference. You’ll get to stand up and be counted.

I set a glass ceiling for myself, when I wrote my first novel at the age of 17 that I would get a book deal.

At the age of twenty, I took a writing course. I remember the tutor, Maria, said to me, “Put down your pen, and stop writing. You’re too young. Go out and live your life, then you can write about it.”

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I did my best. I raised my son. I studied fashion design and photography, I managed a bar in town and a drycleaners, among other things. Yet, in my spare time, I was always writing. Sorry, Maria, but I never gave up.

From the time I moved home in my late twenties to live with my parents and work on my fiction, to the time I spent writing on the side-line while raising my children, to writing as an escape from the gruelling anxiety over my boys’ health troubles – steadily working on the craft has ever formed the backdrop of my life. Writing and submitting stories and being rejected a hundred times. Year-after-year, I persevered.

Initially, I wrote chapter books for early readers. Then I moved on to writing and illustrating my own picture books. I have a number of beautifully-painted manuscripts stacked in boxes underneath my desk from those days.

That book deal, you see, was proving elusive.

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In 2005, I attended a children’s writing workshop with Kate de Goldi. Kate challenged me to decide what I was, an illustrator or a writer. She wanted me to choose a path.

I chose writing. I stopped illustrating then, not out of slavish abeyance but because I really felt in my bones she was right. And looking back, I realise I needed to do just that. It’s a powerful thing to pinpoint ones focus.

In that workshop of 2005, Kate asked us to write non-stop for a regular period each day. To my surprise, I found I was writing a novel for 9-13 year olds. I didn’t have to worry about continuity. Every time I picked up my pen, the story would carry on from where it left off. The story flowed, and the characters that came out in this fully-formed world were the same insects who had peopled my picture books, but they were slightly older.

I wrote every night after the kids were in bed, from then on, and for the next few years. I ended up with a vast epic, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, which I chopped into three. ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ is the first book in that trilogy.

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Then, I ventured into the world of social media. I started my online group, “Writing for Children,” and my American friends encouraged to set up a website, to start my own blog and to join with writing partners and online critique groups.

Because the development of this book was done through critique and endless rounds of edits with my American friends, the terms, the spelling, everything gradually evolved, and what started out as a fantasy adventure firmly rooted in an alternate NZ became a story more and more suited for the American market, making this story a rare hybrid.

When I finished work the first time on this book, I sent it to acclaimed kiwi author, Fleur Beale, for her assessment. She said, ‘Excellent story, but lose the insects!’

I couldn’t lose the insects because it was the fact that The Chronicles of Aden Weaver was set in this microscopic world that made it so unique and interesting. However I came up with a new concept – of making the characters shape-shifters – able to move between human and insect form.

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Eighteen months later, after a major overhaul of the script, I met Frances Plumpton, NZ representative of The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. I gave the Tane Mahuta novel to her to assess. I’ll never forget what she said. “Every writer has that book in their bottom drawer that should never see the light of day. This is that book.”

My next writing partner was an author and musician. He said, my story “went clunk” and “sounded like the equivalent of riding over cobblestones on a horse.” His advice was scrap the whole thing and start again. And so it went on. The knocks in this business are legendary.

In fact, there’s a wonderful site, called literary rejections dot com where I discovered I was not alone. To name a few, Louisa May Alcott, who wrote Little Women, was told Stick to teaching.” Richard Bach, author of Jonathon Livingston Seagull was told, Nobody will want to read a book about a seagull.” L. Frank Baum was told, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, was Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.”

Thankfully those authors didn’t listen to the naysayers! And neither did I….

Though a couple of years ago, I went through yet another crushing defeat that did stop me in my tracks for a minute. I had submitted this book to an international contest for the prize of publication. I didn’t hear back from them. Then, on their website, the organizers said, those who don’t hear back are the finalists. Whoopee! This was cause for great jubilation! Until upon further enquiry, I discovered that not only had I not made it to the finals, but the organisers had not received the manuscript at all, due to my fatal error in calculating the time difference between countries.

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In my mind, I had thought I was this close to breaking through that glass ceiling. Instead I was back at square one. AGAIN. Devastated, I fell into a black hole that lasted for seven days.

At the end of that week, I got a phone-call. I heard my mother’s voice. She said, “The darkest hour always comes before the dawn. You may think all is lost right now, but it isn’t. This is just the start of great things opening up for you. You’ll see!”

Ma, I always hoped you’d be here for this, and yet I know you’re here in spirit.

Even though my mother was failing in her later years, she always knew when to ride in on the silver horse!

I have to thank my parents for so much. I know that my journey to publication has been a long and winding road. And yet mum and dad still believed.

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When, as a writer you feel everything is taking too long, and the frustration mounts, there’s this expectation of you and yet you’re not delivering, you could literally wallpaper your house with the rejection letters – you actually do need more than financial assistance to keep going sometimes, you need love. My parents gave me both.

Thank you to my father for driving up from Rotorua just to be here today. Thank you to those who have postponed personal milestones to help me celebrate mine. To you I say I am humbly grateful. Thank you to my friends for your patience, for putting up with me when I miss all the get-togethers, or on the rare occasion I do show up, that I’m always the first to leave. Thank you, Simon, for bringing Aden Weaver to life. I really appreciate you all being here to help me mark this moment, this crossing of the threshold. I am sure a great many of you – don’t worry I don’t need a show of hands – had begun to wonder if I’d ever publish anything. You might have been forgiven for wondering if this day would ever come.

The only reason this day is here now is because I stopped waiting to be picked up by a traditional publisher. Along the way, I had realized my glass ceiling was holding me down. So I let it go. I let the dream of a book deal go, but I didn’t let go of the book, nor the insects, nor the vision of how I wanted it to be. The dream is still alive in a new form, and it’s even better, I have total creative control.

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One of my writing tutors, Bob Mayer, once said, “Failure is the start point for future success.”

Hugh Howey had ten novels in print before he published “Wool” which became a big hit. The estate of Jack London, the House Of Happy Walls displays some of the 600 rejections he received before selling a single story.

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In other words, the only thing that separates the published from the unpublished author is deep determination and a touch of insanity. Lucky for me, I’m endowed with both.

It was Sir Winston Churchill who once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

By those standards, I’ve been WINNING for the last 33 years!
A long time ago, I had a dream…of being a writer and publishing a book. Today that dream has become a reality! Thank you for being here with me to witness this moment.

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Awaken to the brilliance in ordinary moments. Tell the truth about yourself no matter what the cost. Own your reality without apology. Be bold , be fierce, be grateful. Be gloriously free. Be You. Go now,and live” Jeanette LeBlanc.

It was the great writer, Terry Pratchett who wrote, “Our ability to make other worlds made us human.”

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And it was another famous Terry, my father, who came along with me to Toastmasters this week and taught me how to give a speech. Dad’s what I call ‘a natural orator’. He doesn’t have to try hard to speak in public the way I do! When I get called upon, I waffle and panic, whereas my father is ever smooth and unflappable.

Invited to speak for a minute, my father knew to go straight for the jugular.

Asked to speak on his past, he started out with a killer first line. “My childhood was dictated by Hitler.”

Way to bring the audience to a standstill, Dad! People strained to hear what happened next.

We, as a species, are wired for ‘story’.

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Mankind first developed ways of communicating 150,000 years ago, and ancient peoples found explanations for everything that happened in their natural world. Those ideas found their expression via tales of the imagination.

Suddenly, the world was a story.

Homo Sapiens became Homo Narrans, “Story-telling man”; the rest was literally history,” said Terry Pratchett.

The story-tellers’ ability to spin tales sent the human race on a path that led us to our modern existence.

Before you can change the world, you have to be able to dream up a picture of a new, better world. Who better to manufacture dreams than the story-tellers?

 

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My father told myself and the other Toastmasters about the time that he was seven when war was declared. Hitler was sending planes to bomb England, and all the women and children had to be evacuated from the cities.

Dad was sent away from his parents in Hastings. As an only child, this was ‘hard on him and his parents’.

His mother, ‘Nan’, stayed elsewhere. She was Head County Borough Organizer of the Women’s Voluntary Service and they were busy working the equivalent of full-time jobs, weaving camouflage nets for tanks and military equipment and helping in other practical ways. Dad’s father wasn’t called up for service because he ran the power plant that supplied electricity to the whole district.

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Dad went on and told us that instead of being sent to a ‘billet’ (to live with a family in the country), he was given the opportunity to go to St. Albans. At that time you had to be eight to get into the well-regarded grade school, he was only seven. Nan went with him for the entry level test.

“Spell cat,” they said.

Dad slowly spelled, “K. A. T.”

“Yet, I went to St. Albans!” He told us, and everyone laughed. Dad got a good round of applause as he returned to his chair.

Want to know more? Of course you do! Young Terrence wasn’t to return to live with his parents for another five or six years until after the war ended. Dad still, to this day, doesn’t know how his mother got him into the exclusive school that sheltered him throughout the war. But he had a good education and endured no hardship there. Though by all accounts he missed his parents terribly, and they, him.

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As I say, asked to speak ‘on-the-fly’, Dad reached for his personal stories. He wove a tale about his childhood in an imaginative way that included us, the audience, and took us there. We escaped the room in the memorial hall and the winter day and went ‘somewhere else’ with him.

 That’s the essential trait of a good story-teller. What is a story other than a window to another place?

The ability to spin a good yarn has long been a respected talent. It was humankind’s ability to conjure other realms through story-telling which has given us our fiction, and our mythology.

In 587 B.C. the alphabet reached the Jews, and their writings would become the best-selling book of all time, the bible. In another two thousand years, the first printing press would be created by Guttenberg and then the power of words would spread over the whole world.

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Between the first human civilizations and the year 2000, they say nearly five ‘exabytes’ of information were created. Now the same amount of information gets churned out every couple of days. Probably more.

Whenever my family gathers together, we play cards, and we sit around my father in the evenings. We listen to Grandpa’s stories; we absorb his unique contact with the past and our family’s history. We listen to his memories, his jokes and his old-time songs, the lyrics which he reads from a notebook, all written painstakingly by hand in his peculiar style of capital letters. We sit to be entertained and to share our family’s past in such a way that the tales bond us together as a group and ensures we won’t forget who we are or where we came from.

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Story comes through as important rituals in many cultures.

Consider the age-old Maori tradition of the ‘Mihi’, when two factions meet, they stop and each person has the floor and the chance to give their Mihi and in that way say who they were and where they came from. This personal story sharing had a peace-serving function, creating ties with other territories through the discovery of shared friends and relatives.

That’s the real power of story. We need each other to survive. Stories weave us together.

Even today, humans are still very much Homo Narrans, “Story-telling Man”. In the global community, a story is still a powerful form of currency today. Still valued. Still responsible for our humanity.

And my father, who after his impromptu tales this week was warmly praised for his ability to ‘tell a story’, will always be welcome back at my Toastmasters club!

Dad is a Story-teller.

I am too.

How about you? What story-telling traditions abound in your family? 

 

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Tell me what you think in the comments…

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Yvette K. Carol

“Lots of animals are bright, but as far as we can tell they’ve never come up with any ideas about who makes the thunder.” Terry Pratchett.