Archive for the ‘mortality’ Category

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”~ Maya Angelou

This famous saying is one of those truisms that seems well said when we hear them as young people, yet sinks in deeper and deeper the older we get, the more we realize the profound truth.

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Today marked a certain milestone.

My youngest son turned thirteen. He boldly crossed the threshold to teenager. To commemorate, I gifted him his grandfather’s razor. Though he isn’t shaving yet, he soon will be. The razor is good quality and with continued care will last him for years. I know the gift hit the spot because he examined the razor minutely, popped open the lid and looked inside. He had to plug it in and turn it on. As he navigates these wild waters of his teenage years, I want him to feel supported and to feel loved.

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I’m glad he liked his gift, and I’ll freely admit I’m relieved he’s not using the razor, yet. He might be jumping with giddy glee from milestone to milestone, but, poor mama back here needs to sit down a minute and get her breath. We’re at the stage now where his childhood is hurtling by so fast it’s giving me whiplash.

Today also happened to mark another important milestone.

It was the day my beloved “adopted grandfather” Bruce left Toastmasters. He retired after having been in the speakers’ association for twenty-six years, much to the chagrin of all present, especially me.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t know either of my grandfathers. Both sets of my grandparents lived in England. As a consequence, my entire life, I’ve idolised grandfathers and that patriarchal figure in the family.

In my writing, the grandfather figure always plays a key role. In the series I’m working on at present, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, the first book starts off with Aden’s conflicted relationship with his ‘Papa Joe.’ It ends in the third book, which I’m writing at present, The Last Tree, with Aden now the grandparent telling his grandchildren a bedtime story.

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My maternal grandparents, Evelyn and Alfred Leonard

To me, that is the penultimate circle of life, when you have the child and the elder present in a story. I may have never met my own grandfathers, however, I can indulge in the experiences I missed out on by vicariously living through my characters, and I must say it is very soothing and healing to do so. I thoroughly recommend it.

Spending time around my “adopted grandfather,” Bruce, has been a real tonic these last few years, also. I’ve enjoyed our friendship. Meeting him at Toastmasters each week has been a hoot.

On that day, nearly four years ago, when I dared try Toastmasters, I went along sceptical and highly self-conscious and absolutely terrified at the idea of tackling my all-time biggest fear, public speaking. I made myself go by assuring myself I didn’t have to join; I was just ‘going to have a look.’

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When I arrived, I saw two silver haired gentleman standing talking outside talking. Bruce shook my hand and welcomed me warmly.

I felt an instant gravitational pull towards this venerable elder. I sat next to him for the rest of the meeting, and Bruce brightly asked questions about me at every opportunity. He said he was 96-years-old, a war veteran. He had recovered to sprightly good health after having both knees replaced at the tender age of 90. I had made a friend.

Needless to say, I joined the club.

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After the nerve-wracked, heart-thumping, knee-knocking experience of delivering my first speech, I walked to the back of the room and Bruce stood there, clapping.

He said, “Congratulations, my dear! You’ve been blooded.”

It was something only a patriarch would say, and I loved him for it.

For the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to be guided by him through many of my speech projects. At Bruce’s farewell party today, held not four days out from his 100th birthday, our club said heartfelt goodbyes.

I gave a one minute speech and said, “Everyone asks Bruce, ‘what’s the secret of your longevity?’ It’s not vegetarianism. He makes every single person he meets feel special. For that reason, everyone he meets loves him. Bruce is surrounded by love everywhere he goes. That’s the real secret to his youth.”

Which brings us neatly back to where we started. How will you be remembered? By the way you made people feel.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”~ Malala Yousafzai

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The All is Lost moment is powerful because it is primal ~ Cory Milles

Loss in the course of life is inevitable, yet we eventually become enriched and deepened by pain. We learn and grow from experiences of difficulty.

As writers, we can employ obstacles, failures and friction in a similar way, to force our characters to evolve.

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In his book, The Prophet, poet, Kahlil Gibran, writes of love, ‘He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant.’ This gives an apt metaphor for human life. In our short spans on this planet, we suffer and win and are made anew. ‘That you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.’

This is exactly which happens in life and what we seek to get right with writing fiction. It’s why people read, too.

As my teacher Kate de Goldi said, ‘We remember the readings that acted like transformations.’

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Author, PJ Reece wrote, ‘We’re not attracted to stories without conflict simply because we can’t learn anything from them. They are empty of the seeds that might nurture our own growth, in whatever direction that might be. Of course we love to read happy stuff in books too, but only after the hero has travelled his or her difficult path of personal growth and finally reached the reward for their journey.’

This is precisely why we like books with a solid definable problem.

Think Harry Potter vs Lord Voldemort, or Katniss vs the tyranny of the Capitol. We know who we’re cheering for and that there’s the promise of a good fight.

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All stories, since the first tales told around the campfire, capture the same essence, that of our collective struggle through life.

The stories we remember are those about characters who strive and fail. We love those who transcend their lower natures to become something more, because we relate to that battle. The triumph of our tiny hero, Bilbo Baggins, in The Lord of the Rings, when he throws the ring in the fiery pit is universal and the jubilation at the return of the king is the sort of life-affirming, inspiring fodder we will read for generations. They’re the stories about the human condition, our common travail, and they’ll never age.

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In the Warrior Writer’s course I took with tutor, Bob Mayer, he taught us that conflict is the fuel of a story. He also taught that the goals of the protagonist and antagonist must be opposed, although their goals don’t need to be the same thing.

Whether your antagonist is the ocean, a person, or an idea, in order for the core conflict to work, it must bring them against the protagonist in direct dispute. For one to achieve what they want, the other can’t achieve their goal. Therefore they become locked in a dilemma which needs to be resolved.

The questions which this tussle generates keep the readers glued.

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If your story is low key and quiet, then force the protagonist through inner fires. ‘The best stories — and the most lifelike — are ones that follow/force the protagonist through a series of disillusionments.’ Wrote author PJ Reece. ‘I see all protagonists as bumbling their way into the dark, otherwise they never leave their valley, the Valley of the Happy Nice People, and who wants to read about that? No one.’

In other words, if you want your story to be remembered, get the problem nailed down because a sturdy conflict can turn a mediocre story into a bestseller.

With a believable force opposing our hero, the characters are forced to make choices, and we ask which choices they will make and what will be the result. Result: reader engagement.

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Some stories have a background antagonist, who presents no immediate threat, in which case most of the conflict will come from friends, family, team members and “threshold guardians.” Yet, whether there’s a direct or indirect antagonist, each external mini-battle must expose more of the root of the character’s internal conflict.

Each test slowly grinds them to whiteness, teaching them a life lesson or giving them the option to change and grow.

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Within each story there are both internal and external sources of conflict. The internal relates to the character’s inner flaws which need to change. The external refers to the physical forces opposing him creating tension.

In every scene the ideal is to have both an external and internal conflict.

The transformation at the end of the book comes only after the protagonist confronts their limitations and defeats both them and the antagonist. Hopefully, there is a glorious resolution of storyline. There is a positive change in the central character arc, a blooming of the protagonist’s full potential, and a reward, a boon, “the gift of fire” to bring back home for the tribe.

Or as writer, David Farland said, ‘At the end of your novel, there are only three rules: Payoff! Payoff! Payoff!’

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Life is trouble. When everything goes wrong, what a joy it is to test your soul.’ ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

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A tragedy befell our garden this week of Edwardian proportions.

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

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

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yes, why?”

“Your big tree’s fallen down.”

My heart sank. No. Not that tree.

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

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

No.

Not that tree.

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

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

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

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

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

Boy, I hope so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Dad’s grandson and great-granddaughter)

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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I 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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I remember how sad it was when mum died in 2015, but, now, with dad’s passing, it’s a whole other thing. I feel as if my world has turned upside down, and nothing will ever be the same again.

While I still had one parent alive, there was still that level of compassionate protection against the barbs of the world. There was still that parental feeling of someone being there who truly cares about you more than any other person. There was still that wise older person to turn to for advice.

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But, with both of my parents gone, the feeling of support has been severed completely. It’s like going into free fall. I don’t know where earth is.

The only remedy for me in the last two weeks has been working in the garden. I’ve spent the weeks, weeding and digging, and planting trees and flowers. I have needed to walk on the grass barefoot and get my feet back on the ground and plant new things, to remind myself of life on-going and eternal.

Yesterday, I asked my friend about this strange feeling I have of being at sea, disconnected and discombobulated, and she said she still feels the same way about the loss of her parents seven years later. I get the sense this might be something you learn to live with. “But with the years, it hurts less,” said my friend.

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I’m glad to hear that.

Losing the second parent is a broad type of grief that is multi-fold. There is a real loss, an empty feeling. There is a feeling of absence in the upper tier of our family. There is a sense of connections lost with the past. There is no longer a shoulder to cry on.

There is no one to sit and tell the family stories. That’s a hard one. I console myself I’ll have to start telling the family stories for my own children and grandchildren.

Now, I’m the parent. I have to answer my own and my children’s questions.

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So, there is this feeling of roles having changed, and the season of all our lives has irrevocably moved on. One world has sloughed away and a new world has taken its place.

And, it’s a strange and sober world without my mother and father.

I hadn’t realized that they buffered me while alive; they stood between me and heaven. With dad gone now, too, heaven draws a little closer. It’s my turn to stand on the top rung. It’s my turn to walk the walk of the kamatua, the “elder” level of this family. It’s my turn to start the walk of the grandmother, the crone.

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My parents got to live long healthy lives into their eighties. With both of them gone, I’m reminded of my own mortality. As the priest Father Tony Delsink, said in his sermon at dad’s Committal Service, “When someone close to us dies, it’s a wakeup call.”

I keep trying to explain it to friends, but nothing ever quite nails the way I’m feeling: I miss dad, I have new responsibilities, and I’m suddenly old. At the same time, I’m truly deeply appreciating every moment, loving my kids and nature and life, because I have this fresh new awareness of how short life is. How precious.

As a writer, I seek to write and see the feelings transform into words that bloom. That is part of the process of grieving for me. This is my third blog post in as many weeks on the subject of the death of my parents. I think about them and our history together, the times we shared, and the implications of this new loss to our family.

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The changes that are taking place in our family are really profound. There’s a seriousness that has entered my life with my second parent passing away.

My siblings and I get to make big decisions about what to do with my father’s estate, his belongings, the bills, and so on. There are heart rending jobs to do, like washing my dad’s clothes, selling his car, and dismantling some of his beloved, well-overstuffed, cobwebby garage workshop, the inevitable cleaning out of his drawers and cupboards. I’m sure there’ll be other poignant moments too, as we gather to work on dad’s property in the months ahead. The gradual, loving dismantling of a well-lived life.

Then once the work is done, we’ll each get down to the real work, of going on with our lives without him.

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Talk to you later,

Yvette K. Carol

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600 BC, Lao Tzu ~ “The muddiest water is cleared as it is stilled.”

 

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On Monday morning, I got the phone call most people dread, and heard the words no one wants to hear, “Dad’s died.” The bottom fell out of my day and my world.

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After my father’s miraculous recovery from double pneumonia last year, we had gotten another precious seven months with him. I wonder if it took a toll on his heart. Last weekend, dad suffered a massive heart attack, and he died three days later in hospital, surrounded by family loving him to the end.

At first, I went into a state of shock. Nothing seemed real, and everything seemed to happen around me without touching my bubble.

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I threw the boys and bags into the car and we headed for dad’s seaside town, as I wanted to ready the house and prepare for my sisters and brother to return (they’d been the amazing support team for dad through his final hours in hospital).

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Driving along, I searched the landscape for some sort of message or reflection of dad passing into the realm of spirit. Then, as we arrived in his town, we saw an unusual sight; the peak of the mountain where my father lived was obscured by a cloud. The headless mountain seemed to echo my feelings at the idea of our family continuing without dad at the helm. When my siblings arrived, we agreed, it was as if the mountain were “flying at half mast.”

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At dad’s house, we could hardly see the surroundings for the white-out. The entire place remained cocooned in this soft white cloudy mist for two days, as the rest of the family arrived in dribs and drabs, and the crying began anew.

We spent a lot of time sitting talking, sharing Grandpa stories and making the necessary arrangements, trying to get our heads around our new reality. Dad ‘had had 85 years of excellent health’ and ‘a life well lived,’ he’d left ‘a good family’ and an even better reputation as people told us, kindly. Yet, nothing could ease the pain of the loss.

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The service was held at dad’s beloved church, which he’d raised funds to build for the community over many years and had helped to run and maintain. People turned out for his Committal Service saying, their town would ‘never be the same again,’ and that everyone was scrambling to find volunteers willing to take over his many roles in the community, and how much they’d miss him. Boy, so will we.

All in all, we were happy we gave dad a fitting send off. The whole family contributed at the service. At the cemetery, extended family sang ‘Let not your heart be troubled’ (John Ch 14:1-6).

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After baking in the sun at the church and the interment, and attending the reception at lunchtime, we headed back to dad’s place to change out of our hot mourning attire. We went to the beach for the afternoon, and I can’t even tell you how refreshing and good it was to bathe in the sea and let the salt water wash the remaining residue of the emotional preceding days away.

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Those of us who could, elected to stay and hang out together another day and night at Grandpa’s house. There were more conversations to be had, there were more tears to shed, and we needed extra time to continue to come to terms with the enormous loss. The patriarch is gone. It’s inconceivable and yet it is real. The whole notion of dad’s absence still messes with my head.

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This morning, before we left, we trekked to the top of the mountain.

Every scene takes on more poignancy when you’re in the throes of grieving. Every situation, every conversation seems heightened to new degrees of sensitivity. Even the light streaming through the trees as we descended seemed to be imbued with special cast and resonance, as if the environment was trying to speak to us.

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We made the drive back to the city around noon. I’m home, and yet, everything feels different, my foundations have changed.

Looking back on the last week, I think the family worked together and we did well with a difficult situation.

Despite terrible initial writer’s block, in which it took me the whole four days after my father’s death to come up with the words for his eulogy, I gave it my best.

The speech I gave at the service will appear as Part Two, next week.

Joy will return one day, but for now, life as I knew it has disintegrated, and pieces of my heart have dispersed with my father.

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Talk to you later,

Yvette K. Carol

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‘The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.’ ~ E.B.White

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This week, I took the boys down country to visit their grandfather. Dad has been recovering from double pneumonia. “I’m a medical miracle,” he told us proudly when we arrived. He is a miracle, getting over his life-threatening bout of illness at the rate of someone half his age. And, he was released home after a mere ten days instead of the usual month.

The last time we were there, dad was transitioning home from the hospital. He was still weak, only able to sit in a chair and doze, and he needed to use a walking frame to move.

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This time, he had colour in his cheeks, the normal tone had returned to his skin, and dad was walking unaided. My sister who had been nursing him reports he is now able to do everything for himself. “I’ve been driving for three weeks,” was the second thing he said.

They made them tough in the old days.

It’s great. Although there are worrying signs as well. It is not a simple matter to get over being gravely sick when you’re eighty-five. While he’s come a long way, there’s still a long way to go. Having lost a lot of weight, there is physical rebuilding which needs to take place. Until then, he needs to rest more often. He tires easily.

The pneumonia has left its mark.

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Thankfully, dad has such fire, such spirit. There’s no keeping a good man down, as they say, and it’s so true in his case. It doesn’t matter how far he sinks down, he comes back swinging. Yes, there are a few more issues, however, at the same time, he is doing marvellously. He’s busy doing his crosswords again, although he now sometimes gets the answers wrong. We grab the paper and correct them when he isn’t looking! Playing cards, where dad used to be a whiz at scoring, he now sometimes adds incorrectly. We laugh it off and make it fun.

The thing is the constancy has gone.

Some days, dad’s back on form and gets everything right. He’s so bright and bushy-tailed; he’ll come down to see his grandson fish off the wharf. Or he’ll spend the whole morning playing bowls and spend the afternoon working in the garden. Other days, he forgets the little details of his life which used to be automatic, like locking the door at night, or what he has with his vinegar in the morning (honey). And he’s so weary, he’ll barely leave the house, or take his evening walk.

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It’s hard to see this happening to a beloved parent. The fact of the matter is our parents do age ahead of us and aging is not the easiest process for a lot of people.

It’s our job as the children to take care of our parents into their dotage. The wheel turns and those who cared for us now need to be cared for. Yet, when a parent is still mentally sound and is physically strong; there is a fine line to tread between being supportive and intrusive. While our aim is to assist dad to stay in his home, we have to be careful not to impose our will over his. So one visits, cleans, gardens, does small maintenance jobs and meantime keeps an ever-watchful eye on them. All the family who have visited have done their bit. This is where the family support network plays a key role. It helps to share the load with someone.

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My sister and I holed up together in her room at the end of each long day, after the kids had gone to bed, and talked into the wee hours. We found that simply talking it over helped ease the burden. We let off steam that way, came up with strategies and plans for going forward.

We’re agreed we need to continue to share the visiting among us as a family and have enlisted dad’s neighbours to keep a weather eye upon him when we can’t be there.

In seeking common ground between us as siblings, we laid a platform to better assist dad to a happy, safe lifestyle, and hopefully, this will enable further constructive conversations in the future.

My youngest son said, “I like the way grandpa talks. He makes everything sound important.” Yes. Me, too. With a bit of help, grandpa will be able to continue to live in his wood cabin by the sea and keep telling his stories for a long time yet. It is a miracle!

What do you do to support aging parents while treating them with respect?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The wisdom acquired with the passage of time is a useless gift unless you share it!” ~ E. Williams

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Need to reduce some of the overindulgence in your diet and yet still craving some treats and “goodies” to look forward to? Me, too!

Recently, I had noticed a few stomach gripes after eating rich meals. I could see myself heading down a slippery slope to ill health if I didn’t start to make a few informed and wise choices with my diet.

Once you reach a certain age it pays dividends to start to think about things like healthy options which will support optimum blood sugar levels and hormone production. I gave my diet an overhaul as I needed to introduce some good fats and cut down on the not-so-good fats. My health professional suggested adding Chia seeds to my breakfast or in smoothies, as well as adding coconut oil in place of butter. She recommended increasing the healthy oils on salads too. Fat is required to make healthy hormones.

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She also proposed alternative snack foods like fresh fruit and vegetables. I used to buy plenty of fruit during the week for the kids to snack on and yet not eat any of it myself! I started buying more fruit and eating a couple of pieces daily. I started eating the fruit we produce on the trees in our own yard instead of giving it all away.

And yet, I still wanted to have a few yummy “treats” to look forward to after dinner. The desire for a bit of decadence has driven me to do a bit of experimenting in the kitchen of late. I always seek options to help alkalise the body too.

In my mission to cut bread from my diet about ten years ago, I had eliminated all bread and therefore all grains. When encouraged by my health professional to reintroduce bread, the first thing I thought of was spicy sultana loaf. I found Vogels make a beautiful wholemeal “extra thick fruit & spice” bread. However, mindful of trying to eat the right fats, I came up with a viable alternative to slathering my toast with butter.

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I experimented and found that if I spread about half a teaspoon of coconut oil on the toast first, and then all I needed was the lightest of touches of butter on the top. So you feel like you’re eating buttered toast when really it’s mainly coconut oil.

What delicious sort of drink would complement this dessert perfectly?

I came up with an utterly decadent drink which is simple to make: real hot chocolate. It’s purely two ingredients: milk and dark chocolate.

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Here’s the method:

Heat a cup of what I call “good” milk – I bought organic non-homogenised milk. Do not overheat! Aim to bring up the temperature to warm.

Slice a few squares of good dark chocolate and add to the milk. Stir.

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Heat further.

Remember, you’re aiming to raise the temperature of the liquid to near-simmer but without boiling. Once you boil the milk it loses all its goodness and changes consistency.

Once the temperature is right give it a whisk with a spoon. And savour.

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The warmed chocolate milk taken with the spicy fruit bread is the perfect healthy, yet decadent snack. Yum yum.

Do you have any recipes which seem so good they must be bad for you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Keep clean, body and mind.’ ~ Sir Frederick Treves, 1903

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Humankind have been obsessed with the idea of immortality and living forever for centuries, according to Adam Gollner in The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever:

Gollner tells us the twenty-five-year old Emperor Ai died in 365 CE, after overdosing on longevity drugs. In medieval times, they thought the answer lay in the moss that grew on hanged men’s skulls. And, David Copperfield has an archipelago in the Bahamas, where the magician claims to have found “a liquid that reverses genes.”

Why are people fascinated by immortality? Is it because we’re afraid of death?

Watching my father go through a life-threatening illness in the past fortnight has instigated many thoughts on mortality for me. It’s been an interesting ride. Everyone knows their parents will die, as we all will die and so will everything alive at this moment. However, mental knowledge is a very different animal to seeing and experiencing it for yourself.015I understood to some extent what people have felt in the past about wanting to cling to life as long as possible.

In the 1300’s Nicolas Flamel created a “sorcerer’s stone” which was said to make the drinker immortal. In the 1500s Ponce de León, discoverer of Florida, is rumoured to also have set out in search of Bimini, a legendary island in the Bahamas. Long sea voyages of discovery in those days cost vast fortunes to finance. Why did he go? Because the fabled ‘Fountain of Youth’ was said to be on Bimini. It was believed the Fountain of Youth ‘gave everlasting life to all who drank from it.’

 

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We can laugh at those from the past. Yet, when you think about it, as author Adam Gollner pointed out, we each take a modern version of magical elixir every day in order to prolong and hopefully preserve our lives. ‘We’ve tried elixirs, hormones, prayers, pills, spells, stem cells.’

I myself take vitamins and pills. It’s no wonder the health supplement industry is one of the biggest growth areas today.

Why are we afraid of death?

I guess we fear dissolution. When I thought I was witnessing my father dying, I faced my own mortality. I saw it and felt it all around me. It felt confronting and a little scary.

Yet, there is freedom in surrender.

I said to myself, ‘death is an inevitable thing.’ I felt the comfort of being present with it in a quiet way. I released into the emotion of love for my father and love for my own life. That brought me into feeling a lot more appreciation of this wonderful moment right now.

I remember an old friend of the family said to me once, ‘Acceptance is the hardest word in the English language.’

Ever since, I’ve come to realize how wise that statement was. In the middle of being there for my father through his scrape with death, I wept and wept. I struggled to accept that this could be our final goodbye. It was only when I was able to accept his mortality and therefore, my own that I found the relief of coming back to ground zero. I felt that was the gem amidst the grief.

Since then my father has made a miraculous recovery. He has successfully made the transition home, where he is now doing well, recovering rapidly.

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In the wake of ten days fear and worry and tears at my father’s bedside, I feel I understand my own drive for a longer life. I empathise with my ancestors’ quest for immortality, and yet, at the same time, I have a new feeling of acceptance for death. Happily, these things have gone hand-in-hand because, while exhausted, I feel great serenity. I have a sense that I can cope.

In ancient times, our forebears went to extremes. I was quite shocked reading in Gollner’s book that members of the Tang dynasty poisoned themselves taking untested potions. Apparently, people trekked into the Himalayas seeking the restorative powers of drinking pure llama urine, bathed in the blood of murdered virgins, and concocted saline solutions with the ash of dead bodies and myrrh.

Even in our modern, technologically advanced era people are still obsessed with anti-aging. Plastic surgery has never been more popular. There’s research being done into cryogenics and prolonging life.

Yet, when you come right down to it, acceptance is a far easier option. It costs less. It’s less stressful, which leads to inner beauty, to having a happier life and greater equilibrium while you’re here. Win, win.

My father’s health scare was a reminder to me that life is short and time is fleeting. I made a mental note: must gather together with loved ones and have more parties!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The only secret people keep is immortality. ~ Emily Dickinson

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This year my father’s 85th birthday passed by with dad seriously ill in hospital, suffering double pneumonia. If a person is a smoker, the rate of mortality from this illness among the elderly is high. As a non-smoker, and also a relatively fit person, dad’s chances of survival were better than average.

Nevertheless, none of the facts take the edge off, when you see your father that close to the final curtain. I remember how in those first moments of my first visit, when I saw his face with the cheeks sunken in towards his gaping mouth, I felt my heart clench. A keener sense of reality accompanied it. I felt even more love than usual for my father.

10599505_10202530643248555_4175807170543700148_nThat was a week ago.

Dad’s still recovering in hospital. The family has taken shifts to sit with him and my elder sisters are with him now. I shudder at the thought of what lies ahead. The shadow at the dinner party. The ghost at the gate. The pitch darkness that lies beyond the horizon.

It’s only been two years since my mother died. She passed away blissfully in her sleep, June 25, 2015, just four months shy of what would have been my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. It reminded me never to bank on tomorrow. My teacher always says to ‘live as if death’s at your shoulder’ because it is.

It’s winter here in New Zealand, and it seems fitting to face these thoughts at this quieter time of year. As without so within and all that jazz.

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It’s also the first week of the school holidays.

Normally, my brother and I would take our kids to stay with dad for some of the break. It was so great to see the kids get to do all sorts of adventurous things outside in the fresh air on those visits, stretching their legs and their wings as boys need to do.

Even my boy with Down’s syndrome, Sam-the-man, who gets quite put out by any changes to routine, always welcomed the chance to spend quality time with his grandfather. Sam appreciated that his grandfather would sit and take the time to play cards and board games and patiently explain the rules.

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In Sam’s writing books, brought home from school at the end of each year, I noticed the words ‘Grandpa,’ ‘beach,’ and ‘sandcastles’ cropped up in his stories often.

We’ve had a special time and there are many wonderful memories.

These holidays, instead of going to the beach, the boys and I travelled to spend a couple of days sitting beside grandpa in hospital. We make the next visit soon.

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It’s sad to see an old tree fall. This profoundly good man has sacrificed a great deal for his family. He has given selflessly to all around him. Now, all he asks is to go home. While he is still very weak, we’re hopeful that one day, he will return home, at least in some capacity.

In a few days, the boys and I take our next turn at grandpa-sitting.

My sisters say dad’s health has improved.

We might not have noted dad’s birthday as we’ve done before. But as soon as he’s home we will celebrate.

We’ve remembered life goes on. Hope springs. And the human spirit is irrepressible. Thank goodness, no matter how many crazy despots come into power, life does go on. And I’m reminded of those sage words someone said once long ago; it’s never too late to bake a cake. 🙂 Words to live by.

Love you, dad. Happy Birthday!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius

 

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