Archive for the ‘summer’ Category

Time seems to slow down over summer. It is good because summer helps anxious types like me to unwind. Last year I burnt myself out releasing three books at once, and I’ve been in recovery mode ever since. It was perfect timing to launch the books in spring, a season which matches the energy of new beginnings and planting seeds to grow in the future. I released The Chronicles of Aden Weaver in October and applied myself to the marketing. Then summer came along and I used that as my excuse to stop. Thank goodness summer triggers chillaxing. I needed it!

The marketing side of being an Indie author is a monster with a voracious appetite for your time and energy; you can never feed it enough. Through October and November, I had sat at my computer day after day, hour after hour, reading guidelines, scouring websites, scratching my head over what I needed to do to upload the books. The jobs seemed endless.

The sales, the marketing, the business side of being an author bore me witless. It’s not me. I’m one of those annoying sorts of people who is a dreamer. You want a million ideas a minute, no problem, but I don’t do as well with the practicalities. My son is a dreamer too, and that’s how I know it’s an irritating trait in a person. But as much as I strive to do better, I seem to still let some things slide and I struggle to follow through. In fact, it’s one of the biggest struggles in my life at present. I love the creative writing side of being a writer; it is deeply fulfilling whereas attending to marketing and distribution and sales is utterly stultifying.

Thank goodness for summer as I took a welcome break. I was beyond exhausted on every level. My father used to be the same. We’re the sort of people who prefer to be busy and spend our time productively, but sometimes that can lead to burnout. It means we let ourselves go too long without rest and end up wrecked, feeling unable to function.

December, I realized I was becoming like a deer in headlights, needing a retreat from everything book related. I closed up the laptop, walked away from being ‘Yvette Carol, author,’ and took a deep breath of the air outside. It’s been fantastic, weeding the garden, swimming regularly with my kids and family, going on picnics, taking scenic walks, attending lunches and parties. I’ve been reading, and I’ve watched movies and my favourite cooking shows on TV. Not being a writer for a while it has been heaven.

Last week, a good friend invited us to stay with her at her beach house. So my two youngest boys and I could travel out of town for a few days of sun, sea and surf. Beach walks, picnics, swimming twice a day, barbecue dinners, games in the evening, long conversations. It was as good as it sounds. It was just what the doctor ordered, and we returned to the city refreshed.

However, I still didn’t feel ready to start back at work. I looked at my computer and the stack of “to do” jobs and sighed. No. Not yet. I was not ready to don the author hat again. I hadn’t recovered enough or rested enough. There was still some tension left in the way my shoulders seemed to squeeze tight. No matter how often I reminded myself to relax them, I found my shoulders up around my ears. The drowsy contentment of summer is a necessary tonic for the system to reboot.

It’s vital not to fall out of love with being a writer. Therefore, I decided to continue to rest until the boys go back to school Feb 3rd. Then I can crank up the marketing machine, get more distribution channels sorted and attend to all that needs doing to release my stories, and perhaps even write again.

But in the meantime, there are twelve more days of summer fun ahead. Recently Alex J. Cavanaugh, IWSG Leader and Ninja, wrote, Remember that moment when writing was a joy and we were excited and ready to take on the world. That’s exactly what I want to do, to ‘remember that moment when writing was a joy,’ as I try to relocate my mojo.

What do you do when you finish an extensive project? Do you take time to reflect or immediately begin a new project? Or do you tackle several things at once? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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The cyclone derives its power from a calm center. So does a person. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

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

January 6 question – Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people’s books?

This is a timely question because I’ve been thinking about this very thing lately. I’ve read several books in the last two months, being our summer holidays here in New Zealand. The novel I’m reading at the moment is by an Indie author I met recently. When I took part in a local book signing event with other Indies, I ended up buying more books than I sold, as usual. Seriously, how can you resist? I could have bought a dozen more great looking books, but I had to be discerning, so I kept it to five. I sold four. These new purchases I added to the teetering tower of my “to read” books in the corner of my bedroom.

As much as I’m new to being self-published, I’m also new to reading Indie fiction. I plucked one of the books I’d bought from the top of the pile and started reading my first Indie work. I wasn’t sure what to expect, however the story has a great premise, and it interested me.

The hitch came in the first part of the story when there were one or two wobbles with context and grammar. They were simple little things yet because of this I don’t want to name the story, to protect the author. What did these slight errors do? They made me hesitate in my headlong flight into belief in the story unfolding. So instead of getting further sucked into the magic and the mystery, it jolted me back to reality. When I started reading again, there was a hesitation within. Sometimes the errors were so minor, I almost didn’t notice them, but then I’d question what had just happened and have to go back to check earlier parts of the narrative. Spell broken. It’s that dreaded moment in every author’s book where the reader might put the tome down, never to return!

Why did I stick with the story after a so-so start? Because I’d paid twenty bucks for that book so I was determined to get my money’s worth. But also the story is solid. This is the thing. Fortunately, with this Indie tale, there were only a few mistakes, and as the story is progressing, the author’s confidence grows. No more wobbles. I am back into becoming fully immersed in the tale. (I’m still only halfway through).

What I have learned from reading my first Indie novel is that if you have a good enough story line, it doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make, the readers will stick with your stories, anyway. I am thoroughly entertained and I literally look forward to picking it up and reading more each day.

I should file this under ‘Lessons learned so far in 2021.’ It’s all about the story and only the story!

Before going, I’d like to say a big thank you to Alex J. Cavanaugh, IWSG Leader and Ninja, for the stirring piece written for the January issue of the IWSG newsletter. ‘Reach out to other writers, encourage one another, and come up with some new strategies. Remember that moment when writing was a joy, and we were excited and ready to take on the world.’

Yes! Needing to pick up the reigns and get writing again this year, it has dismayed me to feel no energy towards getting started. I truly do feel encouraged reading Alex’s post and more than that, inspired to create. If I feel the joy in writing again I will write stories people want to read. That’s the goal, right?

What stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people’s books?

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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If ever there was a time to reboot our lives and set some goals, it’s now. Leave 2020 in the past. Find that creativity and hope and make plans for a new year. ~  Alex J. Cavanaugh,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you feel about your productivity and why?

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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

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The school year is off with a bang! It’s like going from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds. I’m ready for a holiday already. I’ve been running around like a headless chicken as the school year typically begins with a list of the kids’ “required items,” uniforms, stationary, sports uniforms, footwear, school fees, sports fees, and there are endless emails to read from schools, sports clubs, teachers, and coaches and so on. In the last two weeks, between the two boys, with the school gear and stationary lists, and the various items needed for camp, I’ve been on the phone, online, making purchases, making lists, dashing out to the shops, going here and there, buying things and finding obscure items like heavy duty gumboots, insect repellent and aquatic shoes.

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The youngest son began his second year of high school last week. In that time he has already impressed his math teacher by being the only student in the classroom to figure out the difficult math puzzle he put to them. That night when he was telling me about it, he said, “Me, big brain,” which made me laugh. He has that dazzling self confidence that young people do before life has bashed them around a bit. My nephew is always telling him, “You don’t know everything, you realize that?” I think it’s a great and admirable thing about youth when they believe anything is possible. I like to emulate that. He has been away with the other Year 10s on a school camp this week. The house has been resoundingly quiet without him. I never realized he made so much noise.

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Sam-the-man, my seventeen-year-old with Down syndrome started his first week at the Transition Centre. He loves it, thank goodness. Parents of special needs kids always feel trepidation approaching any change in circumstances for their children like changing schools, moving houses, or taking on a new carer supporter. You never know whether your child will flip out this time or display a delayed reaction by “acting out” later at home. As one of the two students from his high school to be picked last year for the coveted positions at the Transition Centre, I wanted him to be ready, but I still wasn’t sure. He seemed too young and immature to be at what is essentially the special needs equivalent of a university or a job training facility. Was he ready? I didn’t know.

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On Monday they picked Sam up in a big Mercedes bus taxi. On board were a small crew of able-bodied young people with special needs aged between seventeen and twenty-one. They were the other kids going to the Transition Centre from around our neighbourhood.

According to the timetable, they spend their days working at local farms and tree nurseries. Some days, they do fitness, swimming, arts and crafts, and literacy and numeracy classes. It’s a far more grown up week. Even after his first day, Sam came home looking more confident. His teacher tells me he worked hard and “he responds really well to praise.” I gladly put my fears away, because Sam comes home each day with a new sense of purpose in his stride. He was ready for the step up.

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Sam’s dance class began their first term of the year on Tuesday. As the night of the class has changed and it no longer clashes with my schedule, I take him. It’s a great excuse to sit and read for an hour while taking peeks at his progress. Sam picks up the new moves quickly. The other girls in the class seem to take him and his sometimes quirky antics and lapses into freestyle in stride, and the teacher carries on teaching! It’s a tolerant environment for him to grow as a dancer. And he’s started going to the gym on Wednesday nights again. I’ve been providing the taxi service for the various activities.

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As the summer holidays draw to their end, I always think the kids going back to school will be a cinch. With all your beach days behind you, you can take anything life brings. Then the first week of school happens and you feel as if you have been “run over by a truck.” The first week or two back at school, the boys and I are exhausted and grumpy. It takes a little while to get the cogs greased and the wheels of the school bus turning again. However, the challenges of the New Year arise and we have to grow to meet them. It’s a process.

We’ll get there, aided in no uncertain terms by good music, family, friends, meditation, and good food.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it. ~ Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens)

It’s been an interesting and intense time of late with the higher than usual summer temperatures and the boys becoming fractious towards the end of the holidays. Adolescence has beset the youngest child, and he’s monstrously tired all the time, not only that he lies around complaining about being too hot and too tired. Apparently all he can do is online gaming or binge-watching anime on Netflix. He tries asking for things, like can I bring him a drink or a snack, from the couch. That’s when I growl, and he says, “Okay, I’ll do it” with a groaning voice as if he was dying. I get that the hormones racing through his body are raising his body temperature and that this is our hottest summer, yet there’s a limit to even the most patient parent’s Zen.

“Don’t you feel hot?” asked the youngest child, plaintively.

“Yes,” said I.

“Well, how do you handle it?” he asked.

“I try not to focus on it but put my attention onto other things.”

“Huh?”

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The constant baking temperatures test the patience levels. The boys have been grumpy, and they snap back a lot. We have been having difficulty sleeping, though we each sleep with a fan.

An hour after we’d gone to bed last night, a knock sounded at my door. A weary voice on the other side, that wavers these days between high and low as if uncertain where to settle, said, “I’m boiling, I can’t sleep. Can you help?”

I got up and hugged him. It was like hugging an oven. The youngest is having hormonal surges – just as I am each night when menopausal hot flashes wake me up – his body at fourteen-and-a-half is aflame with hormones. I felt sorry for him. We did a few things that helped his core body temperature come down and he could sleep.

As there is some concern about the “heat wave” predicted for New Zealand this weekend, when temperatures may reach 30 degrees, I thought I might share a few tips on cooling down.

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“Temperatures nationwide are above normal on Sunday, not just by a few degrees but in many regions by over 10C as air flows from Australia and the sub-tropics combine to move down over parts of New Zealand,” according to NewsHub.

Here are some ways to cope with the heat

Go downstairs to the basement if you have one as they will always be cooler than upstairs.

Have cold baths or showers

Try to avoid getting sunburned during the day.

Close the curtains on the sunny side of the house.

Don’t open windows facing the sun during the day, open them at night once the temperatures come down

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Make trays of ice and hold a cube in your mouth.

Drink plenty of water

Drink iced water. Put your water bottle in the freezer until it’s nearly frozen and then take out and once it melts take small sips, it’s effective for bringing body temperature down.

Apply cold packs which are cheaply available from stores like Pak ‘n’ Save

My friend said that they were saving the money to have air conditioning installed. We have air con though I never use it as it’s too expensive to run, but it’s a backup plan if things get desperate. However, if you don’t have air con at home, borrow other peoples. We hang out in the malls, the libraries, the museum, the public places that are air-conditioned during the day to cool down.

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As temperatures continue to climb, we must think further ahead. I plan to get a quote for sun awnings off both sides of the house to cover the verandas and also get quotes for wooden shutters for the windows. I hear getting the windows triple glazed is best. Triple glazing keeps the heat out and in winter keeps the heat in, however, that is top dollar.

My youngest tells me, “This results from global warming, the seasons will be more extreme, summers will be hotter and winters will be colder.” Summers are more scorching, I haven’t noticed winters changing overly, although weather has been unpredictable with freak storms, floods, and so on. I remember reading that Europe and America had heat waves last summer. It’s an undeniable fact that conditions are changing, therefore on a global level, we have to find ways of responding to climate change.

On a personal level, there are also many things we can do to embrace change and deal with what is happening positively. I want to think ahead, find solutions for my family, and get on with living life. How about you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The more you accept your life, the more your life improves. ~ Unknown

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I inherited a fishpond with this property. My ex husband put the pond in during the ten-year period he was living here, and as usual it was one of his do-it-yourself creations. He’s always been a fish guy. When he left, I took over care of the pond and scores of fish.

Slowly, as the last eleven years have gone by, the fish stock has dwindled down to two survivors. I’m not a fish guy.

The pond admittedly was looking overgrown. I had cleaned it out a few times, but the plastic liner was getting old. Last year, with all the rain we had in winter, the pond filled up to the brim as it always does, but this time the water was brown. I didn’t know what to do. So I rang the ex husband. I said, “Isn’t the brown water going to kill the fish?” He said, “Well, it’s not good for them. You need to replace the liner every ten years.” I said, “Thanks for telling me.” Oh, dear! There was nothing I could do because the garden was a sea of mud the rest of winter.

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I hadn’t seen a sign of the goldfish since then and had assumed they were both dead. 

We’ve had a hotter than usual spring and summer in New Zealand and pond water evaporates fast in the heat. Instead of refilling, I thought I’d let the water mostly evaporate naturally, as the fish were dead. I was planning to fill in the hole in our lawn. This week, I poked around in the fetid water but there was no sign of anything living. So I started emptying the rest of the pool with a bucket. When I got down to the last inches, suddenly there was a flash of red. There was a survivor, just one, but, hey.

Suddenly, I was back in the fish business. I had to figure out how to recreate the ex husband’s D-I-Y pond and save the goldfish.

by Gary Cook

It wasn’t difficult at all. In fact it was fun. In the interests of sharing how easy and cheap it is to create your own fishpond in your backyard, I thought I’d share the steps with you.

Instructions

Start by digging a hole in the lawn. Don’t just dig a boring square or an oval, do something off-beat and interesting. Dig down in stepped levels. Think of fish as intelligent beings in need of mental stimulation (and water and food). Who wants bored fish, just hanging there? Give them something to do to keep them feisty for as long as possible.

Line the hole with plastic. Here’s a tip. Don’t go to the landscaping section of your hardware store, the pool liner they had there would have cost $150 for three meters. Go to the building supplies section. I bought a roll of black polythene, which says on the label is suitable for lining rock pools, 2 x 5 meters for $10.50. There might even be enough to re-line it again in another ten years.

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Place stones or bricks around the edges to hold the plastic down.

Go to your local pet store to pick up supplies. You’ll need a fish! I bought a mate for our poor survivor.

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Buy fish food and oxygen weed, water lilies and pond grass and so on, things for the fish to hide under and to eat. Fish will eat anything. My parents used to supply their ponds with aquatic snails but I don’t bother. They were fish guys, I’m not.

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When putting your pond together, try to create a few areas with rocks that provide shelters for the fish to hide under and that are also fun. I try to position rocks to make shelves they can swim around, and I put one of those sections of old ceramic pipe on the bottom to create a tunnel for them to swim through.

Once the rocks are in place, three quarter fill the pond to allow for rainfall, if you live in a dry area then fill higher, and add your pond weed. Next, sit the goldfish into the pond still in the bag (and bucket) to acclimatize them to the temperature of the water for an hour before you release them. Hey, maybe I am a bit of a fish guy.

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Plant grasses and ferns or flowering plants around the edges of the pond. Don’t forget to put wire or protective mesh over the water or birds and cats alike will dine, and hedgehogs will fall in, trying to drink the water.

I need to add more rocks around the edge of ours to cover the plastic but I think it looks good, and it only cost twenty-five dollars. Anyone can do it!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing. ~ William Shakespeare

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Though we’ve returned to the city and had our summer break in the country, the feeling of being on holiday continues. A lot of people have not yet returned to work so the days are slow and balmy. In New Zealand, businesses close altogether for a few weeks at this time of year. The usual traffic noise from the distant motorway which dissects the urban sprawl has dwindled to a distant hum. Bees drone in the garden and birds flick from branch to branch pecking at the remaining fruit. There is a lazy feeling in the air.

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The reclining Black Doris plum tree in our front garden is a wonder of nature. The trunk now lies on the ground, it’s half rotten, half hollowed out by ants yet new branches have grown up towards the light creating the illusion of a long line of small trees, and this marvellous crazy old tree produced an abundance of fruit again, this year. We picked buckets of plums. We’ve had overflowing bowls of red orbs on every surface everywhere in the kitchen and the air has been redolent with the tropical smell for weeks.

The pod of bananas on our tree outside the front door has yellowed rapidly and they are delectable. We like eating them straight off the palm. However, added to the juicy plums, they also make the basis of the greatest smoothies!

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The garden is alive with the sounds of chicks in the nests around the garden. The birds, mice and rats have been having a bumper season because of the warmer temperatures, so they’ve been keeping the neighbourhood cats on their toes. Whenever I step outside, it feels as if the surrounding air is alive with things flying about. It’s frenetic. I guess it’s in keeping with these sped up times.

Last weekend, I finally went back to work on my latest book, The Last Tree. The copy editor returned her notes around Christmas, just prior to our going away, and this was the first chance I’d had to open the document. I got about halfway through the edits and hope to finish going through them this weekend. The story is taking on a high sheen.

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Yesterday, I finished reading Donato and the Cartege Blade by Fiona Jordan, a fellow New Zealand writer. She did a good job with that book. I noticed in reading her acknowledgements, the small army of people she thanked for their help editing and shaping the story, and I couldn’t help think I’ve only had a small amount of input on mine. I hope it’s enough.

I’m at the stage where I’m close to making important decisions about where to spend my money next, and I also have a ton of organizing to do as to producing and distributing and promoting The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series. At some point, I will need to swing my radar onto starting a new book. I admit to being rather daunted. There is spade work ahead, this year, that I know, but I also know that right now in this moment we’re still on vacation. The boys don’t go back to school until February, so I have until then to take a breather while I can.

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I think trying to find a balance is important. I have to take care of myself to be healthy and present for my kids and my family. The pace of life is faster, these days, and for me to be as productive and yet as calm as possible, I need to balance work and play. So, though I’m looking ahead at 2020 and seeing the effort I need to make, I’m also planning my downtime and making enquiries about a vacation out of the city.

My best friend says she loves the holidays because she’s “good at doing nothing all day.” I really admire that ability to decompress completely. With our busy lives, we need to prioritize relaxation. I tell myself, “It’s okay to unwind.” I practice daily meditation and endeavour to observe “mindful” moments throughout the day. I want to be the best parent and role model I can be for my children. It starts with self care first, and then the care for everyone and everything else flows from there.

I hope to achieve a better work life balance in 2020. How about you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you. – Walt Whitman

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Happy New Year! My boys and I returned yesterday from our annual holiday with the family in the Coromandel Peninsula. My sister, her kids, son-in-law and grandson, my brother and his partner and youngest son, my eldest with his fiancée and daughter, a niece and my two younger sons gathered to have some family bonding time in mum’s and dad’s old log cabin by the sea, which some family members have been running as an “Air B’nB.”

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We arrived in the Coromandel on the 29th, and we were fortunate to spend a week there. Our days comprised sleeping in, eating, talking, making communal meals, and animated discussion how best to spend our day. Usually that involved either going into “town” the little seaside resort township which hosts a few thousand resident population during quiet months swells to 50,000+ over the summer holiday period, to our favourite coffee shop to eat Hash Stacks and sweet treats with good coffee. Or we would swim in the inner harbour where the boys can jump off the bridge at high tide and the beach is a safe place for babies to paddle. Sometimes the boys went to the playground or to play basketball at the park. It was idyllic.

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There was my son’s toy poodle, Charlie, to walk in the afternoons. Then we’d drive in convoy down to the surf beach to go body-surfing. Sam-the-man and I swam and spent hours playing Snakes and Ladders on our towelling version of the game. My sweet one and a half year old granddaughter “Bells” loved the beach. She was far more agile this year. She had a real yen for eating sand and munched a good deal of it every visit. We taught her to leap over the waves and to make her first sandcastles.

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Then it was home and into the shower. There’s nothing like pitching in with all the other “cooks” in the kitchen to prepare a huge dinner, roast chicken and roast veggies, butter chicken, frittata, mashed potato and salad, with massive desserts of fruit salad with cream, apple crumble, apple cake and ice creams in the cone. While you’re conversing with the others in the kitchen, it’s nice to see other family members reclining on couches reading or having a chat over cards.

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The reserve before my parents’ property is a vast bowl shaped green space for game playing and a children’s playground. Throughout the day, our three teenage cousins would disappear to the reserve, to ride the skim board all three at once down the slope like a toboggan, or play ball, or ride the swings, and they would stay out sometimes until after dark and we could hear the yells of the boys reciting raps they’ve memorised all the way from the swings. One dusk, I said to others with me on the veranda, “The boys are down at the swings and I need to call them for dinner.” Then the three people sitting below our tract of land, listening to music on the edge of the reserve, called out, “DINNER!” and the boys heard and started back up the hill. “Thank you!” I called to the helpful strangers. “That’s okay!” They waved back. Such are the way of things when you’re on holiday.

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It feels good the way time slows down when you’re on vacation. “I like it because you’re more relaxed,” said my son. I’m sure he doesn’t mind the late bedtimes either, sitting up in the man cave hunched over mobile phones with his cousins, or the snoring until midday. We all had fun. There were no disagreements, the boys didn’t butt heads. I guess they’re growing up. The break was just what I needed. I took a breather and had long conversations with the members of my family. I had bonding time with my granddaughter.

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We spent hours together as a family, swimming, walking, eating and playing games. On the night of the 31st, we watched TV and played cards until 11.30 when we wandered along to the end of the road where we had located the perfect spot to watch the fireworks. At midnight, we gasped and whooped watching the spectacular display of fireworks released from a barge in the middle of the harbour. The bursts of colour against the black Coromandel Ranges were magnificent, and then we swapped hugs and kisses.

2020 has begun. Whatever you aim for in the coming twelve months, I wish you success. From my family to yours, Happy New Year!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is not flesh and blood, but the heart which makes us connected. ~ Johann Schiller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the links to some recommended resources:

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

Guided Meditations – Our 12 Best Meditations Now Free on Youtube

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

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

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Talk to you later

Yvette K. Carol

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

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