Archive for the ‘holidays’ 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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It’s interesting living with young men, as you never quite know what mood you’re going to find them in. The sixteen-year-old was a drama a minute all of last year. Myself and the rest of the family were exhausted by Christmas. Yet, this year, he seems to be settling down and finding his middle ground.

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The youngest is on the cusp of adolescence. At the gullible age of thirteen, he takes everything so seriously, and lately, he has become even more into online gaming. These summer holidays, he was forced to take a two week break from gaming and spend time with family. But the last couple of weeks he’s been home and playing online most of the time. I offer him other activities. He says gaming is his way of relaxing.

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Apparently, most of his friends have moved on from constant Fortnite to other games like Call of Duty and Skate 3. They’re still ‘hanging out,’ just the same way I would have started doing with my friends at his age, but they’re doing it in digital form. The gamers follow one another in herds. All the friends who play regularly together, move by word of mouth to the games where the other kids are. All the time they’re playing they’re keeping up a constant conversation. In fact, if there are kids who are new in the group and they’re not talking, they get asked to speak because if they don’t, everyone else ‘gets sketched out about it.’

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I listen to the youngest son’s conversations sometimes, as I do sanction eavesdropping (not constantly, but on occasion) while a child is under the age of sixteen. A young person can easily be led astray without even realizing its happening. And this is such a potentially scary time for parents of pre-teens and young teens as everyone is so accessible. I admit I have nightmares about it sometimes. I worry about my boys often.

The other day, I heard my youngest son repeating some very unsavoury words, that he was obviously parroting someone else saying to him. I said, “WHAT are you talking about?”

He said, “I was talking with so-and-so (one of the people he plays online with) and he just randomly started saying these strange things.”

I said, “Unfriend and block him.”

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The youngest son did so. It surprised me that he had no idea what was going on. That’s where I feel a little parental guidance and supervision is required, at times.

He’s doing fine navigating things himself, yet he needs a bit of course correction now and again.

Apart from that, I can see the attraction. The kids are playing these super fun games from the comfort of home, yet, they’re still having this socially bonding experience with their friends. They’re all “What’s up, G?” “Let’s go!” “Yo!” and when a move taken in a game is a bad one “That’s cancer!” and when someone wins the game “You’re a god!” They talk the same lingo, and yet the words of choice change every week. What started out one week as ‘bro,’ turned into ‘bruh,’ then into ‘brr’ and, as of this week, they’re saying ‘bro’ again. You’ve got to be in the clique to know which words to use. One time I overheard the youngest son ask someone, “Why do you sound like you’re thirty years old?” They can tell when you’re not one of them in a twinkling.

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I can’t complain. If all this fun online stuff had been available in my time, I’m sure I would’ve been into it, too. I just worry that my boys don’t get out into nature enough. I want them to get outdoors more often. Throughout the holidays, I’ve invited the youngest son outside for rounds of badminton – formerly our favourite game – and he has declined the offer. Although I did convince him to joining myself and his brother for a number of swims.

I bought the youngest son a really good teen novel for Christmas to encourage him into reading. I want him to read at least one page every night this year.

I know he will come through this fixated, over dramatic, friends-are-everything stage, just as his two brothers did before him. Nevertheless, I try to stay vigilant in guiding and protecting him. I tell him he can always talk to me, that I’m always here for him.

The best advice my grandmother gave me for parenting was, ‘keep the lines of communication open,’ and that’s what I endeavour to do. What about you?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

 

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Raise one foot and you get ten feet of wind. – Chinese Proverb

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There is something therapeutic about doing nothing, isn’t there. And there’s a real art to it. Some are better at it than others. I have friends for instance, who declare when they’re on holiday, that they’re ‘very good at doing nothing at all.’ Whereas I’m a bit more on your tightly wound scale of things, I like to have things to do or I end up inventing things to do.

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I find myself longing for more stillness. In an article by Colleen Long, Psy.D. over on Pyschology Today, The Art of Doing Nothing Why Italians, Not Americans, Get This One Right, Colleen argues for the benefits of relaxation, citing the Italian term, “La Dolce Far Niente,” which means- the sweetness of doing nothing. Colleen asks the pertinent question of us, when we get home at the end of the day, ‘instead of checking your email one last time to see if anyone else is needing you to do something, instead of using your free time to check your bank accounts or pay that cell phone bill- What if you just did nothing?’ Provocative question isn’t it!

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What gets me confused is that on the one hand, I want to take the foot off the pedal. On the other hand, summer is ideal for achieving things and making progress with plans and careers. When I’m warm day and night, there is lightness in that. Instead of having to brace against the chill and either do things to provide heating or layer up the clothing to become the Michelin man, I feel more at ease, I’m comfortable and with less material between me and life. I feel things are more immediate. I feel more ready to respond to the demands of every day. I feel more energy, and the days are long enough in which to go on adventures, or travel long distances, or to get more done.

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I find it hard to do nothing. I  always remember my gran at the end of her life, the change she found the bitterest pill of all, in her words, was ‘not being useful.’ She couldn’t bear having all the jobs slowly taken away from her as she grew older and became frailer. She’d prided herself her entire life on being the busiest woman in her community, a lady who could be relied upon to get stuff done, and doing less as she aged made her feel “useless.” I’m cut of her stock. I like to be productive. I am also my father’s daughter, a man who was busy serving his church and community in whatever ways he could into his dying days. It’s a challenge for me, each year in the holidays, to put down my pen – that’s the hardest wrench of all – to put away my gardening tools – I worry about my garden while I’m away – and this year, with my boys in the South Island – I worried about them, too – I got to take off my parenting hat, as well.

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This summer, I was child free for a ten whole days, and in that time, despite myself, I slowed right down to “island time.” I enjoyed it so much! Every day was a study in bliss with my eldest son and his family and my nephew, either swimming or visiting friends, or eating somewhere special every day. After that, I came home to the city so rejuvenated, I thought this slowing down, this art of doing nothing is an art I need to learn more about.

I gather the best place to start is with meditation. In his article, Why Should You Meditate? Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka relates how Harvard clinical studies have proven meditation to have physical, mental and emotional benefits.

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Recent studies from Harvard University found that long-term meditators have increased amounts of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, and the auditory and sensory cortex,’ said Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka. ‘When you meditate, you enter a space of internal expansiveness, calm, and joy. The result is feelings of expansiveness, calm, and joy in waking life, which has an effect on our interactions with others and the world around us.

There seem to be many benefits of meditation, and since it’s all about doing nothing, I feel challenged, and yet, I’m in!

Here are the links to some recommended resources:

How to Meditate for Beginners – 30 Tips, Tricks and Tools

Guided Meditations – Our 12 Best Meditations Now Free on Youtube

These are on my list of goals for the year ahead. In 2019, I intend to meditate! I want to do more nothing! And to have fun!

What about you, how good are you at doing nothing? Have you tried meditation? Tell me more!

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Talk to you later

Yvette K. Carol

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“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence. ~ Herman Melville

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A couple of days ago, my family and I returned from our summer vacation. Summer in New Zealand heralds Christmas and the long break from school. It’s the annual chance to escape from the city for a while and take a breather.

This year, my two younger boys travelled with their father to visit the other half of their family who live in the lower South Island.

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I decided to spend the holiday at the beach with my eldest son and his family. We travelled to stay at my father’s former home (now holiday accommodation) with it’s spectacular view of the sea.

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This meant I got to spend ten days in the company of my first grandchild, a squeezable six-month-old baby girl.

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I had looked forward to it for months, as I’d only spent time with my granddaughter for a few hours at a time prior to that and it hadn’t been long enough to form a proper bond with her.

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It was such a heart warming experience to watch my son with his daughter. His life is coming together. He qualified as a plumber and gasfitter in 2018. He’s met a terrific partner; they’re engaged to be married. She already has two children and they’ve had their first child together, and they make an excellent team. It’s gratifying to witness your child being a responsible parent. He’s a great father and takes care of his family. What better sight is there to see.

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There’s something special about the summer holidays, isn’t there? When you get to spend time with family under the same roof. It was relaxing and wonderful to hang out together for an extended period. It was even more fun having a new baby in the family. We had the very great joy of introducing her to some things. I relished introducing her to Kiwi classic children’s books by Lynley Dodd, The Nickle Nackle Tree and the Hairy Maclary series.

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We took her to the beach for the very first time.

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We gave her first whole fruit to herself, a nectarine. She noshed big chunks out of it.

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We introduced her to badminton! She was a dab hand, straight away, at bashing the racket on the concrete and making dings in the rim.

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We taught her the art of selfies.

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We showed her how to wear a fetching Santa suit at the beach and make all the females swoon with adoration.

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Suffice to say, my granddaughter and I have bonded at last. I think it was better I was on holiday without the younger boys because it gave me the chance to focus on the baby.

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I returned to the city to collect my two youngest sons from the airport, and we were all home safe and sound by the evening of New Year’s Day.

I have had a little think about my intentions for the next twelve months and written them down in a notebook, which feels like a way of making myself accountable. Despite the doomsdayers and naysayers, I feel optimistic and excited about the year ahead. Life is what you make it, as my dear old dad always said, and I’ve started 2019 feeling refreshed and revitalised in every way.

Happy New Year to you and yours! Here’s to a rockin’ 2019!

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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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Last Saturday, the youngest son left New Zealand along with twenty-six other kids, on this year’s ‘Californian Adventure.’ The trip is organized and run each year by Koru Care NZ, a charitable trust based in the South Island of New Zealand, whose mission statement is ‘making dreams come true for seriously ill and disabled children.’

As the last days counted down before departure, the tension began to mount, which escalated into pure adrenalin. We all got swept up in it. The tide of enthusiasm skipped from the kids, who were racing from all parts of the country to meet at Auckland International Airport, to the parents, whether through the Facebook page they’d set up or via those who could be there in person.

The kids were so happy, it was a force to be reckoned with.

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The photos started flooding into the Facebook page, which has became my favourite port of call every day since. The organisers have been brilliant, because through the steady stream of pictures, we parents have been able to follow along for the ride.

Part one of their grand adventure has been spectacular.

The first day in California was a free day, to give everyone time to get over the jetlag. There were pictures of kids swimming in the pool and eating ice creams and visiting the local food joints. In these pictures, I can see the youngest son is still finding his feet, still feeling a bit awkward with his new companions. Their second day, they took a bus ride to visit the California Highway Patrol where the kids watched demonstrations by the officers and learned about the work they do. They received souvenirs and were allowed to take photographs sitting on the bikes and cars.

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At this stage, the kids and the adults were visibly starting to relax more in the photos, and it seemed they were getting to know one another. I could tell the youngest son had befriended the other heart kid he was sharing a room with. In the pictures, the kids were chatting and getting on.

The whole group dynamic seemed to be becoming more like a family.

The fourth day, they took a bus tour to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There was a video taken of the kids screaming when they saw the Hollywood sign. The excitement was infectious. They went to Universal Studios, where they visited Harry Potter’s World and the Staples Centre. In these photos, the youngest son is having fun. There is a hilarious video posted on the KoruCare page of my son and others standing in front of a huge transformer.

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The robot knocked off the son’s cap and said, ‘Pick up your hat.’ The son picked it up and the transformer knocked it off again. This was repeated four times to greater and greater laughter from the crowd, and the funny part was the transformer laughed each time too. The group of kids around the youngest son seem tight-knit, and everyone’s in a great mood. The footage absolutely made my day.

It constantly amazes me how much joy my son’s good fortune is bringing me. I’m so happy for him I could burst!

Today, being the fifth day of their Californian Adventure, the Koru Care team visited SeaWorld in San Diego. That would have been the first time my son has ever seen a display like that, and I’m sure he would have been in awe and wonder.

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The way the trip has been organized, every morning the kids are told where they are going that day, they have no idea beforehand. The youngest son’s carer had explained the intention behind it being ‘that every morning will be like Christmas morning.’

I wish I could be a fly on the wall for tomorrow morning. Because tomorrow they get to go to … drum roll, please … Disneyland!

33674968_10155287787936744_7223338404287610880_nThe reactions should be priceless. My son will be over the moon. As his cousin was pointing out to me today, ‘This is a big step up from having gone on his first roller coaster ride, this year.’ In January, the boys and I had visited our first ever fun fair. The boys couldn’t get enough of the rides, and the youngest son said it was the most fun he’d ever had. So, for a treat, in May, I paid for him and friends and family to go to Rainbow’s End for his thirteenth birthday. He spent a delirious day going on every ride. That was when he went on his first rollercoaster. And here we are, in October, and he’s about to go to Disneyland! He’ll be in seventh heaven.

I’m so grateful to the good folk who do all the fund raising for these trips and the running of Koru Care Nz What an incredible organization. Support in any way you can. Thank you!

 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.” -Harley King

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A few months ago, our family got some great news. The youngest son had been chosen as a “heart kid” (a child who has undergone open heart surgery) to go along on this year’s ‘California Adventure.’ A trip to Disneyland is organized and run each year by Koru Care Charitable Trust NZ, ‘making dreams come true for seriously ill and disabled children.’

I overheard a conversation the youngest son was having yesterday with friends while playing Fortnite. One member of the squad asked, “Why do you get to go to Disneyland?” and another answered, “It’s his reward for surviving heart surgery.” That’s the truth and yet, my youngest felt bad about accepting the gift. He said he felt someone else should be going on the trip in his place because he ‘didn’t deserve it.’

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And so, I gently reminded him of the terrifying journey of the first five years of his life. It was an endlessly harrowing ride for me as his chief nurse and caregiver.

The youngest of my three boys was born in 2005, with complex congenital heart disorder (or CHD), although we did not know that at the time. The first clue came when he started coughing at three weeks old, though he had no other symptoms of ill health.

The cough would come and go from then on, however when he did contract the flu, then his health would plummet fast and the cough would become life threatening and continuous. It took me five years to figure out what was wrong, as we went down the road of misdiagnoses and educated guesses, and countless trial treatments.

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Finally, after trying everything, I told our doctor the whole story. She listened carefully to his chest. Her diagnosis of a heart murmur then led us on to the hospital tests, which finally confirmed the actual problem was a sizeable hole in his heart or atrial septal defect. The medical part of our journey began there.

In 2010, he underwent double bypass open heart surgery. The operation was later added to the “unusual casebook.” The “hole” in his heart was ‘more than just a hole, there was only a rim between the upper chambers,’ the surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Rumball, told us later, ‘and his heart had grown a single vein from the liver to the bottom of the heart,’ something she had never seen before. Dr. Rumball had to figure out how create an autologous pericardial patch to fix both issues.

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After six hours of surgery, my five-year-old woke up in Pediatric Intensive Care, with a gash down his chest, in a lot of pain. Only three days out from the surgery, he’d been moved to the high dependency unit and was already taking his first steps. Three days later, we were released to go home.

We’ve come a long way since those days. The youngest son starts high school, next year. One of the teachers asked me how having had the surgery affects him now. I said, he’s fine now, yet, he will always be that little bit “fragile,” and he won’t have quite the same stamina and energy levels as other kids. Child heart patients are also susceptible to emotional, developmental and behavioural problems. We haven’t had any issues there, so far.

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He has to take daily medications and rest a little more than other kids his own age. But, generally he is healthy, fit and well. He bikes to school each day. And, wonderfully, gone are the days and nights of coughing. He has quality of life and the prospect of a healthy future ahead.

With a bit of gentle prodding on my part, the youngest son had remembered his journey and accepted that maybe it was acceptable for him to go on the California Adventure.

After another month and a half, I started the process of medical clearance for him to take the trip. I started on doing the paperwork, and buying the things he would need to take with him. I borrowed luggage and we went to get some money changed into U.S currency.

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As the weeks have gone by, the pressure to have everything in order has increased. And in the last two weeks, I’ve been flat tack. Tonight, the bags are packed. The boy has had his nails trimmed, and he’s had a haircut.

Everything is done, at last.

On Saturday, he leaves on the California Adventure with twenty-four other lucky kids.

The youngest son said, “I don’t feel happy very much, but about this trip, I feel the happiest I’ve ever been.”

The joy! What parent doesn’t want to hear that?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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You don’t have favourites among your children but you do have allies. ~ Zadie Smith

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Blessed be the ties that bind generations. ~ Unknown

To our eyes looking on, our father appeared to be doing well, living independently in his own home until the last of his days, with a little help from my sisters. However, since his death, we have been discovering the true extent to which he had let things go. At the grand old age of eighty-four, dear dad had still been making his own meals and driving his own car without any problem and lived a full, busy life in the Coromandel Peninsula. Yet, property maintenance was one of the things he’d let slip.

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When dad died in February this year, as our last surviving parent, it fell to us to clear our parents’ property. It took a long time just to start to sort out the possessions. Dad’s garage alone took weeks of effort. We always used to joke, when he was alive, that our father was ‘the guy who had it all, and kept it in his garage.’ His double garage was stacked to the gunnels with stuff dating back to the luggage that had come over on the ship with mum and my two sisters in 1962. Our goal became just to see the floor.

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It was only when we began to see the floor, and get through that stage of constant sorting and waste elimination that the house itself became a focus. That was when my sister discovered the rotting timbers and non-regulation home handiwork. That was when she found that the sea air had corroded the bolts holding certain key structural things like the upstairs deck. That was when we heard that the damage had gone so far the deck would need replacing within the next few years. The reality hit home.

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Dad, for all his integrity and goodness and spirit, had let the reins slip a bit. Our new family co-owners decided to invest in the place, which means we may be lucky enough to holiday there together as family for the foreseeable future, as long as most visits are accompanied by a working bee to get the maintenance done. We might be able to keep our parents’ property but only if we’re prepared to work for it.

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The boys and I just came home from the usual “boys’ trip” we do every school holidays. We met my brother and nephew and niece at dad’s home by the seaside, where my sister had been working hard.

We went to the beach. We worked in Grandpa’s garage.

We played basketball. We threw out a skip worth of rubbish.

We went to a 60th birthday party. We scrubbed and cleaned the conservatory from floor to ceiling.

It’s wonderful to spend time together and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of hard work to earn your cold beer at the end of the day.

The joy is in living for an extended period under the same roof that’s what it’s all about.

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The other very nice thing that has started to happen as the jobs get ticked off one-by-one, is that we have started to witness our parents’ dilapidated home gaining a new lease of life. The effort being put in behind the scenes by various family members has been herculean. Each improvement transforms the old place a little more. It has “a million dollar view” as we like to say, so it has great potential.

If the property can become a source of passive income stream for the co-owners then it’s possible we might be able to keep it in the family.

It’s a wonderful feeling. It feels like keeping our connection to our parents, who are buried in the small town. It feels like it would make dear old dad happy, who had once expressed a wish we keep the place ‘if we could.’

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It feels like providing that link to family history for our children and grandchildren, the tradition of coming together there in holiday times and at Christmas.

Therefore I am happy and willing to work as much as needed and even contribute money, if necessary, in order to keep the old homestead in the family. In these turbulent times, there’s nothing more important.

To go “home,” it feels immeasurably comforting simply to be there. You feel grounded and settled into neutral again. While at the same time you feel supercharged with energy like you put your finger in a light socket. We came home and I felt rejuvenated.

For me, the little seaside town is my turangawaewae or the place in the world I most feel my roots. What about you, where’s your turangawaewae?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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My brother and I decided to start the school holidays with a working bee. We made our first “boys trip” to mums and dads home by the sea since our father died.

I wanted to continue the tradition we had set up years ago, of taking our sons to the family homestead and spending time together during each school holidays. Back then, of course, the family vacays had been primarily for us to gather the boys around their grandfather in a regular fashion. However, after dad died in February, my brother was ready to abandon the holiday get-together – so much so, that we didn’t meet up there in the last school break. My kids and I really missed it.

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These family sabbaticals are essential, to my way of thinking. Otherwise, we see one another briefly a few times a year for birthdays and other celebrations. It’s not long enough to keep the fabric of our familial relationships alive and breathing. The internet is great and all very well. But, a true actual connection with your people comes through face-to-face conversations and spending time together.

I said, ‘I would like to continue the “boys’ trips” for as long as our teenagers want to go.’ My brother agreed, and we met in mums and dads quaint wood cabin on the first day of the holidays.

IMG_2957Unfortunately, without our parents there to maintain the place, when we drive up, it’s to a wild wonderland of weeds and overgrown paths. We’re also still reclaiming the land from the wilderness which had begun to overtake the gardens in the last few years of dad’s life. Upon every stay there now, we are reminded of how much work there is to be done.

The flat downstairs has been successfully renovated for renting out. The upstairs doesn’t need anything doing inside. It’s the house exterior and the grounds that need drastic elbow grease applied. Therefore, every trip is a working bee, by extension.

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We classed our stay at Grandpa’s as the ‘fifth working bee,’ and while we were there, we took three trailers of rubbish to the dump, marking the 23rd trip made to release our parents’ plethora of stuff.

Although the kids helped at times, mostly they wanted to have fun. Left to their own devices, they reverted to teenage things: like trekking down to the reserve to play ball, or lying around playing cards, and even tried their hands at cooking. They got to play cards with us in the evenings and watch movies lying on mattresses pulled before the fire.

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We didn’t trek up to the peak of the mountain, we didn’t go to the beach or the golf course, nor did we catch any fish. We worked hard on the family property, made meals together, and got to hang out in each other’s company for four days. And it was wonderful.

The best memories in life are made of such simple shared times as these.

It was such a delight to be in the fresh air of the seaside. It was such a pleasure to have an open fire, which we left burning all day on the really cold days, and it was satisfying to see the neglected areas come to life with a bit of TLC.

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We aim to slowly do the clean up and improvements on the house exterior, as well as to make the gardens low-maintenance, except for the veggie gardens, which we’ll hopefully keep going. We need to repaint, and to redo the steps and the ramp.

There is a huge amount to be done. But, nothing is daunting when you have a team alongside and you do each stint together. Every day, we moved mountains of rubbish and cleared whole areas of weeds. I made big pots of food each night and we feasted as only those who are truly hungry can. You’re exhausted and replete and sleep well.

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I particularly enjoy the conversations in the car. On this trip, my young nephew, who sat shotgun, was able to whip out his phone and check messages sometimes. But, the rest of the journey, we were stuck together with nothing to do but talk. You get to cover a broad spectrum of topics and catch up on everything. You can’t wander away and make food. You can’t read. Your attention is focused on what is being said. Car-bound conversations are some of the best I’ve ever had.

We finished our break by plotting the next one! We know it’ll be more blood, sweat and tears and, yet, we can’t wait.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts. ~ Author Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burying children repeatedly in the sand

IMG_1454Eating fish and chips with the cousins

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hanging out together

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climbing mountains…

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…and more eating together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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Over the festive period and summer holidays this year, I’ve been getting out more socially. My oldest friends finally managed to prise me out of my writer’s cave. I get so intense about my work, that it’s actually quite a relief to take a minute off and be reminded to cut loose again. When a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in thirty-five years, turned to greet the rest of us old high school mates, as we arrived in the bar last night with, “Right ladies, it’s time for cocktails,” you know it’s time to party.

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Now that my friends and I are into our fifties, the conversation topics will always include stories of our children and aging parents. Romy Halliwell put it best when she said; Middle age is that time in life when children and parents cause you equal amounts of worry.

Yet, there is great comfort and surcease to be had by sharing these stories of anxiety. We hear tips, we gain new ideas for how to do things.

Each event has been a lot of fun! It’s nice to see everyone again and catch up.

At the same time, I approach social events a little differently to other people. As a writer, I absorb lots of details, and a party is like being bombarded with information. Israeli author, David Grossman, once said, ‘Telling your secrets to an author is very much like hugging a pickpocket.’ That’s a great analogy. I come home from social events loaded with ideas and voices and colours, enriched with the minutiae of people’s lives.

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The conversations have covered all the important bases, too: we’ve discovered one another’s current home locations, marital status, and career situations.

There is one subject however, which I try to avoid at all costs. Money. The stark reality for the majority of authors, is that they will never recoup the production costs, let alone make a living out of writing fiction.

From what I understand, very few fiction authors do.

When talking about the subject of money, I always think of a friend who collaborated with us on the Kissed by an Angel anthology. Ellen Warach Leventhal. Ellen said that, during an author visit to an Elementary School in the States, this was her favourite response from a fourth grader: “You work hard, you don’t know if you’ll ever get paid for it, and you aren’t rich? Man, not sure I want to do that.”

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Or, I remember picture book creator, Don Tate’s recent Facebook post, which said, ‘Book birthdays are exciting but, let’s face it, they’re quiet. After many years of hard work, a book is finally available for sale. There are no trumpets. There is no confetti. Heck, there ain’t even no money. So, I like to make my book birthday’s as special as possible.’

Good on him, for throwing a big shindig to celebrate every book, and for being honest about this business.

A top tier of authors do make a fantastic living, and there is good money to be made. The rest of us have to slog it out for the sales. Like most authors and artists I know, I have to maintain a whole variety of other income streams, in order to survive.

Therefore, when I go out socially, and I’m making conversation with old mates, it gets awkward when everyone is comparing “what are you doing now” stories.

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My tale of hard won self-published books comes across sounding pretty weak, even to my ears, alongside the dizzying career heights of my professional female friends.

After listening to their stellar achievements I heard myself saying, “Producing a book is a lot of hard work.” “I need to sell a hundred books to get my first royalty cheque.” Somehow, it didn’t sound quite as glamorous!

Then, I thought of the letter left by Holly Butcher, the twenty-seven-year-old with cancer, which I read on Facebook today. She said of our worries, I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go.

This reminded me about to get real about what matters.

Last night, instead of trying to compete with success stories, I concentrated on sharing with my friends how much fun and fulfilment I get from writing fiction for children. Do what makes your heart sing, right? In the end, that’s what really matters.

Is your profession your passion in 2018?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘I’d rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet.’ ~ Jack London

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