Archive for the ‘perseverance’ Category

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

OPTIONAL January 8 question – What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Did you just “know” suddenly you wanted to write?

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Thinking about this question was like going back in time in my mind.

I thought it started when I wrote my first children’s story at seventeen. Why? It was the perfect escape from my life as a teen mum, living in a squalid upstairs flat, washing twenty dirty nappies in the bathtub every day, and making macaroni cheese with a different flavouring every night for dinner.

Then I thought no, it started further back than that. It started when I was seven and had first learned how to read and write. At school, I was a natural-born leader and could organize all the other crying kids into happy games of ring-a-roses and so on. However, I couldn’t do math, I struggled to learn to tell the time for years; I found every subject difficult apart from English because that was when invariably they would ask us to write a story. I can even remember one of the story prompts from when I was seven, ‘I was so scared when…’

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Every time the teacher asked the class to write a story, I would pick up my pencil and let fly with my imagination. There was ever a story to hand, I was never without one, and they tripped easily off the end of my pencil with ‘gay abandon’ as they used to say in the 60s. Suddenly I felt empowered suddenly I felt alive and suddenly I felt I could do anything!  I knew I could write a story. It felt wonderful to be sure of myself and to get good marks and encouragement for my work.

I loved expressing myself in the written word even then.

But the more I thought about it the more I thought no, it started further back than that. It began back when I used to tell my little brother spontaneous stories in our “curtain game” which we used to do when I was four and he was two.

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We had picture curtains displaying bright images of toys, dolls, trucks, and pets, and the game we used to play was to pick a picture and tell a story. My brother’s stories were a few words long while my stories could stretch on for fifteen minutes. I found story telling came to me easily, the ideas, the characters, the scenes tumbled out effortlessly, and the process gave me great joy.

Writing the stories down on paper began at seven, so I guess you could say my “writing journey” started properly then.

Into my twenties and thirties, I still wrote with pen and paper. I would spout off about how I liked the tactile aspect and that the thoughts seemed to flow more easily from brain via pen to real paper, and so on and so forth. But when I faced typing up the first draft of The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, in 2010, I had the unenviable task of typing up a 300,000 word handwritten manuscript. I chopped the story into three sections and I still had a huge job before me. I roped in a few people to take a few thousand words each, to make it less daunting. And it helped.

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However, when I finished that task, I felt burned. I never wrote another story with pen and paper. And you know what? I can write stories perfectly well on a computer, I’ve discovered the story writing is the same and you have the benefit of not having to transcribe your own tiny handwriting afterwards! Win-win. I published the first book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta in 2015, the follow-up, The Sasori Empire in 2017, and the third book in the trilogy, The Last Tree is due out this year. It’s been a thrilling journey so far. I love writing stories no matter the medium, and I can’t wait to see where I go in the decade ahead.

I love writing fiction! Do you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.” ~ Goethe

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I think I get addicted to editing on each project. I did a little thing with The Last Tree, that my family would call a “dad thing”–I kept count. I work as a “pantser,” I write a rough draft without a plan and then edit for a lifetime afterwards. I was curious about how many times I go through an entire 360 page manuscript editing this way. With the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver trilogy I kept a notepad by my laptop and noted each time I edited the whole book from page one. The answer? Seventy. Yep. I know, I had the same reaction. I knew it would be a high number but that came as a surprise even to me.

Ever since I sent the manuscript for The Last Tree to a friend who does copy-editing I have had to ‘down tools.’ I didn’t feel it was fair to keep making changes while she was working.

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For a personality like me, it has been hard to let go. It sounds so easy, yet it’s hard to do. It was amazing how many errors I would find every time I looked at the story, so I kept editing and even after seventy edits of the same material, I could easily keep going. But I have to draw a line in the sand sometime. Even a perfectionist has to stop somewhere. Paul Gardner said, a painting is never finished–it simply stops in interesting places.

Giving the story to my friend had forced me to stop editing. It made the cut. I was without the work that had defined me the last two years. In the final stages of editing a book, you’re working on it night and day and the effort consumes everything. Then it’s finished and you’re set adrift.

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I keep looking back over my shoulder thinking there’s something important I should be doing. Then I remember the book is being looked at by a professional and there’s nothing for me to do anymore.

This is the breakup. It’s difficult while it’s wonderful to be free.

It’s a weird limbo. Who am I without my work? My youngest son said a profound thing the other day, something this wise young owl has been wont to do since he was a tot. He excels in science and has been talking about his interest in space for months. Then he said he’d been thinking about it, ‘we shouldn’t be looking at the planets we should study ourselves, we should find out all those answers first.’

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It was Blaise Pascal who said all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

I knew it was time to take a deep breath and just stop and do nothing for a while. This helped me get back on track. I let myself enjoy life again. I stopped rushing, slowed my pace, and put the gardening tools away. I took myself out for a bit of retail therapy and started my Christmas shopping. I met with friends and talked. I went walking and got fresh air into my poor oxygen-starved lungs. I ventured outdoors in the sun instead of looking outside longingly from my writing desk. I took up meditating twice a day, the same way Oprah does. I crafted and decorated homemade gifts and made Christmas cards.

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I started reading a new book. I wrote letters and sent cards and gifts to far-flung family and friends who I knew would be lonely at this time of year. I made donations to worthy causes. I planned to get together with people to celebrate the season. I moved on in as positive a fashion as I could muster. I’m endeavouring to balance out the activity and time spent appreciating nature with regular periods of stillness, mindfulness or ‘studying myself first’ as my son would put it. I feel much better. My feet are on the ground again.

It’s also nice after the hours labouring over a computer to spend time with loved ones. I’ve had lots of wonderful conversations with my kids. The old tension around my book has gone from my system. I think it’s important as writers that we take care of ourselves and allow that sometimes finishing a book is a process.

It takes time to decompress to let go to breathe to unwind to reform our sense of ourselves and that’s okay.  

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“My greatest wealth is the deep stillness in which I strive and grow and win what the world cannot take from me with fire or sword.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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I will call what happened “an intervention.” A close friend took me by the hand and gave me a kind little shake up, a gentle push in the right direction. When she heard my intention was to soft launch my next book, The Last Tree, on Amazon, she was aghast. ‘But if you do the same things, you’ll only sell to the same number of people.’ It’s a privilege when someone gets real with you, because it means they care about you enough to intervene.

She asked me, ‘What do you want?’

‘To inspire more readers.’

‘If you want to reach more readers, you must do more.’

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My friend introduced me via email to two people in the business. And over the last fortnight I have met with these two wonderful successful business women, one a traditionally published author of sixteen books and a publicist, and the other a well-connected and respected literary agent. Both women generously gave their time as mentors.

I thought I should share some insights I have gained through this enlightening process.

The first advice was to use my time more wisely.

‘You have too many toes in social media. These things are time wasters.’

I think I sucked in a horrified breath. I’ve spent the last ten years working extensively on my brand, by maintaining ten social media accounts: going around the sites, liking, sharing, commenting, and by making status updates, posting photos and quotes. I thought I was building a social network of contacts, which was important for Indies. It never occurred to me I was wasting my time. Admittedly, sometimes I ran myself ragged keeping up with it all.

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In life you learn and learn, then you course correct, then you learn and learn and change more. It’s a constant process, isn’t it? I remember hearing, ‘Margaret Mahy doesn’t have any social media accounts. She doesn’t even have a website.’ I remember being surprised by that. And I remember my writing buddy,James Preller, joking that he didn’t go near sites like Goodreads because they scared him. I had always felt I needed to be present in as many social media spheres as possible to build my brand as a writer. Yet, maybe that’s why Mahy published hundreds of titles and Preller is on his 85th and I’m on my third….

A week ago, I deleted half my social media accounts, reducing my activity to this blog and my Facebook Fan Page for writing. The monthly newsletter, Pinterest, and my personal Facebook page get to stick around for a while because I can’t bring myself to release them.

The next advice was to amalgamate my blog and website.  To do what I do online better, they suggested I study what the greats are doing with their Internet presence and do likewise.

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I circled the internet and noticed the bestsellers usually have one official site which has a blog and website combined along with a few pages to read: about the author, coming soon/what’s new and links/downloads, that sort of thing.

I did the same. I shut my old website down and amalgamated my blog and website, so it is now a journal blog plus a few pages about me and my work.

The next advice was to expand my author branding. I changed my title from ‘Children’s Writer’ to ‘Author’ as the former might become limiting in future if I want to branch into other genres.

The next advice was to get out of my comfort zone. I shall start submitting to publishers, however if I do self publish, then I’ll spend the money to bring a publicist and a distributor on board, to get the book into stores and libraries and get media attention.

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Admittedly, I shall have to summon all my courage to submit to publishers again. I had gotten to the stage where I was sick of the rejections, and that was one joy of going Indie was I didn’t have to worry.

However, I will send the query letters. I will go to the Publishers Association New Zealand website and look up the member directory for publishers and then follow the guidelines on how to submit.

The last advice they gave me was to be professional. They said ‘if you want to be taken seriously in this business, have your manuscript checked by a proofreader and a copy editor. Pay the money.’

The Last Tree is with a proof reader now.

I’m taking notes. You live and learn, boy. What about you, what have you discovered lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.” ~ Les Brown

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I was thinking today how cool it is being an Indie Publisher. I get to do the labour of the writing and I also get to design the finished product. For instance, with my upcoming release, The Last Tree, I’m in the final stages of preparation. After two years of writing, rewriting, and editing, now I get to put the whole package together.

I will do a few illustrations, organize the formatter, the printer, the ISBN’s, and think about the book launch—you know, the fun stuff. I’m communicating with my nephew, Si, the artist, about the cover art. And I’m dreaming of what it will look like and whether it will mesh well with the first two books in the series.

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I can’t wait to see it and the artwork could arrive at any moment!

This is when you can be as creative as you like. You don’t have to go the full Lemony Snicket, but you can let your imagination run wild in your own way about how your final masterpiece will look. I like the design side of book production. I would find it difficult to hand over the decisions to someone else. I had a picture book accepted once by a Wellington publisher, but they wanted to change the names of every character, so I declined the offer. These stories are my creations. As Martin Baynton said, ‘A book belongs to you. It’s your intellectual property.’

My stories are my intellectual property, and they will live long after I’m gone, therefore I want a true representation left in the world.

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I find the end stages of book production particularly pleasing. There are lots of little details to get done. It’s when the story morphs into something real I can hold in my hand. There are delicious treats to savour ahead like seeing the cover art, when Si will bring one of my characters to life. Then there is that singular moment when I get to see my book cover for the first time. Every published author can attest that there is no greater delight than laying eyes on one’s new novel! After the hours spent nose-to-the-grindstone editing the story, these are the glory days. These are the exciting things every author dreams about.

When I pictured how the finished books in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series would look, I wanted eye-catching covers, which I created with Si, and the cover designer at BookPrint. And, I wanted a symbol to act as an emblem linking the books together visually on the shelf. So I designed the seal of the Order of the Order of Twenty-four and set that on the spine of the jacket.

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As a child reader, I always appreciated it when the author added their own artwork to their stories, which is why I also include my pen and ink illustrations inside. In last week’s post, I shared how to create a map. This week, I’m sharing how I created the first pen and ink illustration, which I finished on the weekend.

This is how I did it. I drew a rectangular frame within an A4 sheet of paper. Then I chose a scene from the book—a battle between two giants. Breaking away, Ike Lee collected a boulder with his free hand and tossed it. (chap. 63, pg 210)

I drew the scene in pencil within the frame. Once happy with the image, I went over the pencil lines with black ink pens.

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As with making my map, I used a variety of size nibs, and also black water colour paint to fill in the shadows.

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It is fun to fill in the outlines and ‘colour it in’ with ink. I like to experiment with different patterns and textures. I think it’s essential with pen and ink to have some decent areas of black and white, too, as it’s so effective in this medium, creating differentiation, drama, and maximum impact. Then imagination can let fly.

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I built up the layers, lines, dashes and dots. I spent the whole day adding more. I finished with a black key line to frame the image. It was lovely to doodle all day after the hard graft of getting the story written and edited. I always look forward to doing the illustrations as an author’s reward for making it to the final stages of production.

And here’s the finished picture. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it. ~ Roald Dahl

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What a kid. My youngest son never fails to amaze me. He’s been a walking list of ailments his entire fourteen years of life. I have had to slowly peel away the “onion rings” of his symptoms in order to get to the source of his real problems. I’ve raised all three of my kids alone. With the middle son’s special needs and the complex health profile of my youngest son, I’ve found that there is help out there, however nothing’s handed to you on a plate. You have to go and find it. You have to ask questions. You’ve got to self advocate. And, you have to keep a watchful eye on your child, keep notes, and keep going to health professionals until you get over the finish line with the answers.

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My son started coughing at two weeks old.

There began the first part of our medical mystery tour together. In his first five years, we were in and out of doctor’s offices because of his cough. We got different diagnoses: hayfever, flu, childhood asthma, and he took lots of medicine. We tried different branches of alternative medicine: he was diagnosed with sour stomach, gluten allergy, and wheat intolerance, and we tried eating in many new ways. We tried Chinese herbal medicine as well, and they all did help a bit.

But nothing stopped the coughing. When he did catch the flu, he and I would spend long, frightening nights as I tried to keep him alive through his continuous bouts. We spent many nights at A&E.

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I kept taking him back to the doctor. He was put on nebulizers, and given a blue and orange inhaler to take daily. At one stage, when things were at their worst, I spent $600 taking him to the doctor in one month. I was determined to get to the bottom of it. And, we did. Finally, on the umpteenth visit, we got a doctor who listened to his chest, and listened again, and said, “I think I hear a heart murmur.”

Those words set us on the course to finally learning what he really had, which was Congenital Heart Disorder.

We were put on the short list for surgery. Four months later, the youngest son underwent double bypass open heart surgery to have a closure of the large Atrial Spetal Defect, and repair of a partial anomalous venous drainage.

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It was a harrowing ordeal he came through with flying colours. After the operation began a lengthy recovery process

It takes kids who have heart surgery a year to get over the anaesthetic, five years to get back to their pre-surgery weight, and ten years for their bodies to get back to their pre-surgery state.

My son had his surgery at the age of five, so next year he will pass the ten year mark. However, back in 2010, after the surgery had fixed his heart and healing was underway, he was still coughing.

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This time, the rounds of visits were confined to a doctor and a homeopath. I felt he was allergic to something, so I requested of my doctor that we be sent for allergy testing. The result was, he was allergic to cats, dogs, fish, dust and egg. On a scale of one to ten, he was allergic to eggs at a ten. Eggs were off the menu. He was put onto daily antihistamines. Our homeopath prescribed homeopathic tinctures to help him get over flus and colds. All good except he went on coughing.

Long story short, we discovered the youngest son had asthma, not the ‘childhood’ variety, but the real kind.

Leapfrog a few years to last week. After years of the youngest son being teased in the family for being deaf, I finally decided to have his hearing tested.

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To my surprise, we discovered he has a retracted eardrum and a loss of hearing. I thought, that makes sense of a lot of things. We’re seeing the specialist in four months, at Otorhinolaryngology.

This week, I followed up on another worry. I’ve always worried that the youngest son injures his ankles easily. A recent sprain wasn’t getting better, so I took him to a physiotherapist and a podiatrist. Turns out, he has a twisted pelvis with one hip more forward than the other. And he has an in turned foot. That explained a few things. Nevertheless, with daily exercises and an insert in his shoe, we can fix what could have been a developmental problem for him, in future. I’m so grateful. (I’m also thinking, what the heck with this kid?)

However, with each new diagnosis life gets easier. We gain new tools. Getting the answers is the thing. And from here, all is possible.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Failures I consider valuable negative information – Dr. Goddard

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What’s been going on around here, lately? A whole lot of pruning of hedges and fruit trees. We usually try to get it done in autumn, but as I rely on the help of extended family, I must accord with their schedules. I like to keep as many of the big jobs as possible within our group. We work by a system of barter, goods or services given, in exchange for certain jobs done. We have some very useful people on board: with gardeners, a plumber, an electrician, and a budding architect.

This year, we didn’t get started on the tree pruning until the beginning of June, which means winter. Still, I couldn’t complain. I was just glad to see family with a ladder and a chainsaw.

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I think the idea of pruning in autumn, is that the trees are ‘sleeping’ (their sap isn’t running), and the weather is still mild. In winter, there is too much rain to make the job easy or pleasant for anyone.

Luckily, in the North Island of New Zealand, we have had a relatively dry autumn and winter, so far. And, we got the first part of the pruning successfully done. I have been dismantling the wood the rest of the week.

Outside at present, there are a number of big piles of branches down. I’m trying to get ahead of it. The other day, I offered my nephew forty dollars if he’d help dismantle one of the piles of branches. After three hours, he started looking into the cost of hiring a wood chipper machine.

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I took the job back again. Sometimes, when I’m working in the yard, I think of my parents. They were always out doing something in the garden. I don’t mind the effort. I find it therapeutic. In fact, I was reading an article the other day that related many health benefits of gardening. The Healing Power of Gardens: Oliver Sacks on the Psychological and Physiological Consolations of Nature

I have a fond memory of one time, when I walked up the path, and mum was weeding around the base of the plum tree in our front yard. She turned around and smiled, with white petals sprinkled in her hair. It was a moment so sweet it’s stayed with me ever since.

My father was famous for breaking the wood down into the smallest parts and not wasting any part of the tree.

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I’m the same way. I dismantle the wood completely. I spend weeks breaking the branches down into leaves for compost, twigs for kindling, and short logs, which I load into cardboard boxes. This weekend, I’ll deliver another carload of wood to a family member, who has an open fire. For the rest of the wood, I’ll put it on the free site, Pay-it-forward, on Facebook. (To find your local group, put ‘Pay it Forward’ in the search bar at the top of the page on Facebook, and search for one in your area.) I simply advertise ‘free firewood’ and people come by to collect the wood.

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It used to be, we had a lovely open fireplace. However, my husband and I built a wall over it, because it was dangerous with two babies in the house. I miss having the open fire. I used to sit entranced by the flames through long, stormy nights.

When I first moved back to this house as an adult, it was a little over twenty years ago. My niece and I used to come home on Friday nights, after salsa class in the city, and sit the rest of the night, with hot chocolates, toasting marshmallows and talking in front of the fire. You can’t do that in front of the air con.

I miss the way our home fire burned all the wood the property creates, and it saved us money on heating bills. Now that we no longer have a fireplace, I have to pay for the air con, and I have to figure out what to do with the wood.

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At present, my primary target is to reduce the stacks of branches into leaves for composting and the boxes of firewood. The clock is ticking, as the second half of the pruning still waits.

Hopefully, we’ll finish before the wet weather begins, and I can rest for winter knowing the year’s maintenance is done. As my nephew said the other day, ‘You’ve created your own secret garden.’ That’s exactly how I feel about this place, too.

Even a ‘Secret Garden’ takes a bit of effort and a bit of teamwork to bring to fruition.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” ― Percy Bysshe Shelley

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

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

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

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

Doors are to be banged on and stood against.

Books on shelves are there for pulling onto the floor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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On the seventh day, God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town. ~ Gene Perret

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Both the boys’ schools are requesting the pupils wear brightly coloured mufti to school tomorrow and donate gold coins in the “Colour Your Day for Christchurch” event. Designed ‘to lift New Zealand’s spirit after the mosque shootings in Christchurch,’ it’s a lovely initiative taken up by many of the schools here and it symbolises a real sense of ‘coming togetherness.’ I’ve seen this spirit of compassion exhibited many times in different ways in the days since the massacre some have called “Black Friday.” 15 March 2019 will be forever marked in history as the day of New Zealand’s worst mass shooting, when a masked gunman opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, killing fifty innocent people at prayer.

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The horror touched me personally as one of our lovely Toastmasters from our club lost two friends in the tragedy. To some extent I still can’t believe it happened in our slow little backwater of a country. I have felt sad to the core over the senseless brutal loss of life. I have felt extra gratitude for my life that my children are alive today – I’ve given my boys lots of hugs. I have felt such empathy for my friend and all the others in their grief.

When we heard the news, on Friday 15th, it was a shock.

It seemed as if a cloud of gloom hung over New Zealand for a while, at first.

While at the same time, I have seen such a coming together of people everywhere. And, there has been an outpouring of love and support for Christchurch.

Orewa College, NZ

(Orewa College, NZ)

The very next day, there were Girl Guides selling biscuits and people selling hotdogs outside our local Bunnings, to raise funds for the families of those affected.

This Wednesday, when our friend in Toastmasters gave a speech and revealed she had lost two friends in the shooting, I had to stand and do an evaluation of her presentation. I was too emotional to speak. I said, “I don’t think I can do it.” Another member stood up spontaneously and came to stand with her arm around me, which gave me the strength to continue. I experienced such a sense of fellowship, with my fellow club members that day.

I saw exactly the same thing happen in a news report a few days ago, when the senior medical staff at the hospital in Christchurch was being interviewed. The surgeon was describing operating on a four-year-old shooting victim and he choked up, unable to speak. Then, another doctor walked over and put her hand on his shoulder, and he continued speaking. There has been so much love and care from every quarter.

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(© Jorge Silva/Reuters)

People are hurting. Yet, people are helping where they can and comforting one another.

Everyone is joining in a spirit of fellowship that reminds us all we can create real solidarity between us no matter the creed or race. We’re all New Zealanders. And, there’s a sense now of pulling together when times are tough.

I’ve seen it in the images of people holding candlelight vigils, and the many photos of the flowers left at the gates of every mosque across the country.

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(© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited)

I’ve seen it in the attitude of our esteemed Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern. If I hadn’t been a fan of her before this event, I would be a fan now. The way she has handled this entire disaster has been steady and empathetic. Jacinda has shown true grace and humanity under immense duress. And she’s tough. When Donald Trump asked what the U.S.A could do to help, she told him he could treat all Muslims with love and respect. She’s no pushover, and I admire that about her.

Jacinda has already moved to change the gun laws, banning automatic weapons here, which I think is a terrific step forward. My dad would be cheering her on. She’s decisive and brave, and I’m grateful for her leadership at this time.

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(via Facebook)

I have faith we will come through this as a country. I think we’re all still a little shell shocked and the healing process will take time, however that process has started.

Healing comes through the small ways we show love and respect for one another.

And it comes through the messages of love and support from around the world, which have sometimes been literally breathtaking.

As long as we continue to pull into unity in this time of hardship, we will come out of this. Perhaps our communities will be even stronger and more cohesive than we were before. I hope so.

My prayers and love go to the Muslim community in New Zealand.

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Talk to you later.

Yvette K. Carol

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“Life is the love that reaches out, building bridges across gulfs of uncertainty to touch hands, hearts and souls in the experience of union” – P. Seymour

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I got caught on the hop this week. I discovered on Tuesday that I was due to give a speech at Toastmasters the following day, and I had to come up with something in a hurry. I thought about Sam, my sixteen-year-old with Downs’ syndrome. In the four years I’d been in Toastmasters, I had not tackled the big issues. I’d spoken about all kinds of major things, but, I hadn’t had the courage to talk about Sam, and Downs’ syndrome, or anything about my life as a “special” mum. I still haven’t had the courage to talk about about my youngest son, who has Congenital Heart Defect, and the life and death surgery he went through twice at the tender age age of five. Similarly, I have yet to give a speech about my grandmother’s death, or those of my parents (both deceased within the last four years). I didn’t feel I could do them justice.

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But, when Toastmasters asked me to do my first speech of the year, I decided the time had come to delve a little deeper and share more of my personal stories. In Toastmasters, they say that personal stories are the most powerful, they are the speeches people remember. I decided I would share the story of Sam’s arrival in my life and being a parent of a special needs kid. The speech title, ‘The Road Less Travelled,’ comes from the last verse of one of my favourite poems, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I opened my speech by recounting the story of Sam’s birth, in more or less these words:

When I was pregnant with my second child, I was thirty-six. My doctor recommended I take an amniocentesis test, which tests for any abnormalities in the child. I agreed and booked in for the test.

Dad with Sam0012

But, the night before I was due to go into the hospital, I woke up at exactly 11 o’clock at night, with an epiphany. I sat up in bed and asked myself,

‘What would you do if there was something wrong with the baby?’

I knew I could not go against my moral code and abort it. So, literally at the eleventh hour, I cancelled the test.

Some months later, after a difficult birth, my midwife handed the baby to me with the words, “I’m sorry, but I believe your son has Downs’ syndrome.”

My world, my life as I knew it up to that point, ended, and a whole new life began in a whole new world. It was one I knew nothing about, and I had a lot to learn!

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Downs’ syndrome is a genetic condition which results from a third copy of the 21st chromosome.

One in six hundred babies are born with Downs’ syndrome every year in New Zealand. The condition entails delayed development, low muscle tone, and this combined with a large tongue makes it very difficult for many Downs’ syndrome kids to talk clearly. 70% of girls with the syndrome will be understood by anyone outside their immediate family and that figure drops to 40-50% for the boys.

The things that our normal babies take for granted, like sitting up, standing, walking, none of these things come easy for a special kid. Every step is hard won. Sam was three-years-old before he could crawl, five before he could walk, eleven before he was potty trained during the day and thirteen before he was dry through the night.

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We special parents say, ‘it’s like taking one step forward, two steps back.’

Therefore every milestone achieved, every hurdle crossed, with these kids is such a triumph. You feel so proud of them you could burst. I know how hard Sam has worked to learn how to do every little thing.

Being a special needs parent has enriched my life. Sam has taught me so much; I have gained so much from his example. He’s taught me humility, patience, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and how to care for the underdog. I would say most of all, he has taught me how to be present. For Sam, there is no future. He doesn’t have the ability to look ahead and imagine outcomes, there is only right now.

Sam is always present. That lesson in itself has been a gift.

The road less travelled by continues to reap dividends, and I am so grateful I accepted the challenge.

Thank goodness. Imagine what I would have missed out on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“There’s not one path. There’s not even the right path. There is only your path.” – Nietzsche

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The stage that I’m at now with my kids, the eldest has his own family while I still have two teenagers at home. The youngest is halfway into his first year as a teen. He’s navigating new waters of social interaction with his peers. He’s figuring out how to stand on his own two feet. The middle son is special needs, with Downs’ syndrome and Autism. But, if you take some broad sweeps of the brush, there are many ways in which adolescence is universal.

Being a teen is confusing

Life suddenly becomes more complex. For instance, the youngest has become embroiled in intrigues and dramas at school between the groups of friends. He’s stuck as mediator and counsellor and he’s trying to unravel seemingly endless knots of disputes. There’s tension in every section. He comes home from school, more often than not, frowning, talking to himself; chock full of “teen angst.”

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It’s pressure-filled

You would not believe the amount of pressure these new teens put each other under to ‘find a girlfriend or a boyfriend.’ By the second term, the youngest had gained a “girlfriend.”

It’s a rollercoaster ride

Luckily, he doesn’t expect me to help. He only tells me the occasional insight, the shortened update that comes after he’s figured something out. I’m glad for that. Even the précis of his adolescent spats, are so convoluted they could suck all time for productive worthwhile endeavours into them like teenage black holes.

I do not envy my boys this stage in life. I wouldn’t go back there for a million dollars.

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What can I do, as the parent of these teenage boys?

I’m constantly juggling balls in the air, balancing the day-to-day stuff of running a family, while walking the knife edge of constantly gauging their wellbeing. When you’re the mum in such a situation as this, you learn to spot fires and put them out before they get out of control. If you don’t want World War Three in your house, you get to vet the teenagers’ emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing throughout each day.

I think parenting teenagers is just as exhausting as the pre-school years. It takes every ounce of savvy and screws every drop of resolve out of you, and as with all parenting, it requires your time and doesn’t let up for a minute.

With the middle child’s recent diagnosis of autism, I’ve learned to apply the rapid salve of one-on-one time. Instead of waiting for the teenage angst to send him to Mars, each time I notice him becoming restless, I suggest we do an activity together.

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We’ve played cards, board games and balloon tennis. He’s responded wonderfully to this diversion tactic, and there have been less aggressive outbursts.

While having one-on-one time works with my special son, it doesn’t work as well with my youngest son, who is starting to value hanging out with his friends, on line and at school, above spending time with mum.

I googled ‘tips or how to raise teens.’ These are my own versions of the tips which have worked for me, so far:

Let them grow up

A bit of trust goes a long way. Teenagers want to be respected. I’ve given the youngest more rope this year than he’s had before. This year, he’s started to stay late after school, and visit friends on the way home. He’s got a later bedtime and has more freedom.

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Set out the guidelines

I’m a firm believer in letting the kids know what the rules are in the house.

Give them more responsibilities

Let them do more around the house and do their share.

Have consequences

When the rules are broken, it’s time out on their own for ten minutes and they can’t return to the family until they’re ready to apologize.

 

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Have an open ear

I try to be as open minded as possible. If he feels safe to talk to me, and knows he can trust me, we’re on a good footing.

Talk about risks, discuss game plans for dangerous situations

I try to teach the youngest on how he can protect himself on the internet and in public. On a practical level, it’s important for teens to have a plan for what to do if they need help.  I always make sure the teenager has a cell phone with credit, and that we run through game plans ahead of social situations. I let my teen know that he can call at any hour, and I’ll come get him. The best I can do is provide the information and the safety net. And, pray like crazy, of course.

Hope that helps!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘…if you have raised a few teenagers you will understand that there is some point when sanity is questioned (yours not theirs).’~ Ann Kaplan

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