Archive for the ‘Whanau’ Category

Last week, my youngest son turned to me and asked in all earnestness, “You’ve never done anything wrong have you, mum?” This follows on from the week before last, when he asked me, “You don’t tell lies do you, mum?” He’s newly turned fourteen and we’ve entered the age of questions. You’ve heard of Kate de Goldi’s bestselling book, The 10 p.m. Question? Her son would come to their bedroom door every night with deep, thought-provoking queries. My son does the same thing.

I answered, that while I do my best, at times I make mistakes, too. I get angry at other drivers on the road. I sometimes forget why I went down the other end of the house. Recently I backed the car into a pillar at a friend’s house, which was in my blind spot, and I stove in my bumper. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes.

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Part of the youngest son’s transition from childhood to adulthood, is realizing some hard truths. In the next decade, he’ll learn that parents are not perfect, that life is not fair, that the world is not kind, that the world is in fact a scary, dangerous, ruthless place. Some people call it taking off the rose-tinted glasses of childhood.

The baby of the family is currently readjusting his view of the world. It’s a shame and also a necessary part of growing up. Every child must go through this rite of passage of adolescence, during which time the parents formerly believed to be gods, become human, during which time the reality of life starts to dawn.

It’s a bit of a test.

Still, at just turned fourteen, the innocence of the child is lingering and it’s precious.

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As the youngest, I have treasured this son’s childhood. I have truly valued the untamed, free, fluidity of the child’s spirit. ‘Is there a limited number of times that a child will insist on remaining wedded to the moment?’ asks Russell Brand, in his excellent book, Revolution. Brand posits that kids lose their spontaneity as they grow up. ‘We condition our children and ourselves to enter into this spectacle, confining ourselves to a prescribed path.’

The youngest is still in contact with the wild freedom of the boy within, while at the same time he takes tentative steps forward, finding his way into the jungle of adulthood.

I see the same wonderful element of untamed spirit in my one-year-old granddaughter. The spontaneity, the pure fervour she has for life is a joy to witness. She is a long way off from constructing a persona with which to deal with the world.

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When my son asks me have you ever done anything wrong, I feel a reaction of wanting to defend myself. But I don’t want to dig myself into a false position, or as Eckhart Tolle put it, to ‘adopt a mental position then we identify with that mental position and it becomes invested with self.’

So, I respond as honestly as I can. That way, the youngest son can come back later – as he often does, after he’s thought about things – and we can continue the conversation.

The teenage brain has been proven by scientists to only be able to sustain attention on a few things at a time. If I overburden him with too much information at once it will be wasted breath. It is far better, and more effective, to converse with a teenager in short instalments. Sound bites, if you will. Then they can retain what’s been said.

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I know he will be fine as long as we keep the lines of communication open. I remember my grandmother was proud of her closeness with her son (my father) when he was growing up. She said, they could discuss ‘anything and everything.’

When he would come home from sea for short stints, as an 18-year-old seaman, he and Gran would sit chatting for hours.

Gran said she never had a moment’s worry with dad, because she knew they could talk and sort out any problem.

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That’s the way I like to be with my kids.

In our conversations, I try to stay honest, and I try not to have a reaction to the things they share with me, so they feel safe.

The other day I overheard the youngest playing with friends on Fortnite. He said, “If you ever have a question don’t go to your teacher, they don’t like it when you ask lots of questions. Go to your mother. Mums know everything.”

Okay, so I haven’t quite debunked his myths around me yet, but we’re getting there.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A child’s bucket of self-esteem must be filled so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry. ~ Alvin Price

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

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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.

The back garden clean up crew

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.

The finished house

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 youngest son turned fourteen, last week. It was my first thought when I woke up that morning, ‘How can my youngest be fourteen?’ I’ve heard it said, that while a boy is thirteen and fourteen they still ‘have the boy in them,’ and after the age of fifteen and sixteen ‘the man starts to appear.’

Some of the other boys in the youngest son’s soccer team are already shooting up, their voices have deepened and their necks are already thickening. The youngest is not quite there. I looked at him today, feeling that the loss of childhood is impending, and yet cherishing in him the puny neck and curving cheek of the child. He will still be a boy for another year, thank goodness.

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His first term of high school, the youngest said, he tried hard to be accepted by the cool kids. For whom, ‘you have to do bad things to fit in.’ But the cool kids refused to let him into their groups. He had been miserable, feeling he would never make any friends. “What I learnt,” he told me, “was that all you need to do is be yourself and be nice to people and you just end up making friends.”

I thought, wow, I could never have figured that out on my own as a fourteen-year-old. He’s smarter than I am!

He’s a dedicated gamer, still loyal to Fortnite, though he branches out to other online games now and then. His mobile phone has morphed from occasional gaming to now being part of his daily arsenal, always close at hand, for gaming, emailing, messages and instagram. He would no more think of leaving the house without it than he would think of leaving without his pants. He navigates between the real world and the virtual one with seamless ease and is fluid with the language for both.

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He’s also the hippest guy in town. His conversation is rife with slang, “Yo, yo, yo” “Bro” “R.I.P” and “whatsup.” Virtually every second sentence is followed by, “I’m joking!” He laughs uproariously over ‘jokes’ that are not funny.

At fourteen, he’s going through periods of rapid growth in which he grows several inches in several months followed by periods of slow development. He’s hungry all the time. I don’t where he puts it, but the grocery bill is definitely growing with him.

He’s very talkative. I’m glad he still talks to me and feels he can tell me what’s going on in his life. When he confides in me I try not to have big reactions, like when he told me he’d been bullied, or when he cried for having no friends, I try not to over react in a way that would make him shut down or feel unsafe talking to me.

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My role is to listen and be as neutral as possible.

He doesn’t often want my opinion anyway. He’s convinced he knows everything. When I give advice, he usually won’t take it until he’s done it his way, figured out that doesn’t work and has come back, realizing he might like to give my idea a try after all.

Everything’s tested.

He has begun to socialize with friends in public places. So far, he’s independently organized three get-togethers with friends at the mall and at the cinema, where they were able to hang out while still within a lighted, relatively secure environment. Though I was nervous at first, he handled everything without a problem.

He’s flexing his wings and taking short flights from the nest. He’s discovering how far he can go.

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It’s appropriate he learns now that with turning fourteen and getting to do his own thing comes more responsibility. He can stay up later, but later bedtimes have to be earned. He’s got to make his own bed every morning and prepare his own snacks from now on. In return for extra chores, he can earn some pocket money. He’s learning that he can have more if he does more.

He can talk to me about anything, but he needs to be respectful and use clean language. If he snaps at me, he has to apologize. He can make his own snacks and food, but he has to tidy up afterwards. He can play digital games, but only once the chores and homework are done. He has his own computer, phone, and Xbox, but is only allowed to use them in the communal living room, and is not allowed devices in the bedroom. A balance of open-mindedness, love, and reassurance is best when it’s levelled out by principles and healthy limits.

Kids need both love and rules to thrive.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth. ~ Peter Ustinov

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

Last week, we finally managed a get together like the boys’ trips we used to do in school holidays past. My brother and I brought together our youngest sons at our parent’s old home on the Coromandel Peninsula.

While we still have the use of the old cabin by the sea, it’s precious to spend time together under the same roof, in the school holidays.

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Here, in New Zealand, there are four terms in the school year. Each term is separated by a two week holiday which stretches to about six weeks over Christmas, in summer. Middle of April, we had our first school break. It felt great to go back and spend time as a family under the dear roof dad built with his own two hands.

I like to create memories each holiday, if I can.

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Despite nearing the end of autumn, the water was still warm enough for swimming and the weather was still mild. We had two and a half days together at the beach. It was wonderfully idyllic. I expected it to be bitterly cold (as it can get when you’re exposed to the ocean) but the temperatures were relatively balmy. We managed to fit in some fishing which made my youngest son very happy indeed. He’s one of those young boys who always hanker to go fishing.

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My special needs son, on the other hand, has never shown the slightest bit of interest. He usually plonks himself on the wharf to watch resignedly, or he and I kick a ball on the street. But, this time, with a bit of encouragement, he tried holding the rod for the first time, to help us in catching some sprats for bait. He caught a sprat within five minutes, and it was the biggest fish we caught all morning He got such a kick out of that!

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Of course, no trip with the boys is ever complete without numerous rounds of basketball. The boys were delighted when my brother agreed to play a round of two on two with them. Then he managed to shoot the only hoop of the match. He continued to remind his long-suffering son the rest of the day and evening that he was the ‘undefeated champion.’ It was hilarious. My brother has a great sense of humour, and the boys all rib each other all the time, which I gather is part of the male bonding experience.

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Mornings and evenings were spent playing scrabble and cards and sitting around talking. A lot of time at family get-togethers is typically spent making food, eating, cleaning up from eating and planning what’s on the menu next. It’s time to share boxes of chocolates and a glass of wine or a beer, to cook big dinners and indulge in desserts. Every night we stayed up way too late, talking, and it took me about three days to recover, after we got home. To my mind, that’s the way it should be. As an adult, you don’t get the chance to hang out with extended family very often, so you have to make the most of it.

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There is a sense of amplified appreciation of the property my parents bought sixty-odd years ago, a sense of how precious it is, now that they’re not here. It’s a slice of paradise. I suddenly realize how fortunate we’ve been to have had a gathering place all our lives. Sure, as a family, we gather sometimes at one another’s houses for birthdays and milestones, and the big occasions throughout the year. But, it’s when you get to live under the same roof with family, that you really get to relax in one another’s company, and do lots of different activities. You have time to have all the conversations that need to be said.

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For townies like us, it’s a real tonic being in the countryside for a break. I think it’s the only time I ever truly unwind. I love the walks in nature. There’s a lovely walk through native bush we take to the mountain peak behind the house. I am always invigorated by walking among trees.

In Japan, there is a practice called ‘tree bathing,’ which is essentially walking through the forest. It comes from the belief that trees absorb negative energies from us, and that they have healing properties. Apparently, tree bathing has been proven to reduce stress, improve feelings of well-being, boost the immune system, and even to lower heart rate and blood pressure. I can attest forest bathing is zen. I came home to the city replenished and calm again.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden” – Goethe

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

At the moment, my eldest son is painting the exterior of the house for us. It’s been great. Because not only is the job getting done, but I get to see him regularly and sometimes he brings my granddaughter with him. At first, the idea was for my teenage boys to help me babysit her while the eldest carried on with the painting. But, after a couple of hours on the first day, the youngest son said, “Mum, I don’t think I’m responsible enough to be babysitting.” I had to laugh. At thirteen, he’s not quite ready to be a caregiver. He realized it takes constant vigilance to look after babies.

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He went back to his online game. My sixteen-year-old went back to watching YouTube. And I went back to following the path of her adventures. My nephew, who boards here, said to her, “Is it you who’s been pulling things out all over the house?” She just looked at them with those big blue peepers and we all laughed.

For me, as the grandparent, babysitting is a joyful vigilance. I’ve been absorbed in watching her and singing nursery rhymes, and reading baby books. It’s been a lot of fun and a wonderful bonding time with my granddaughter getting to see her for whole days at a time.

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Prior to my granddaughter’s birth, I was looking forward to being around a such a young child again. Even so, I had forgotten how special they are. When you’ve been here less than a year, the world is a vast and truly fascinating place. Everything is new waiting to be explored.

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They want to know what lies on top of every table and cabinet.

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They want to know what it is about these gadgets we find so fascinating, my granddaughter is never more animated than when she manages to get hold of a phone, or a tablet or a remote for a minute. They’re attracted to things they feel they probably shouldn’t be playing with.

There is one feature here at my house I had hoped to keep the baby away from, a Jade tree on the front porch which features little tiny pebbles and smallish glass butterflies.

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The jade tree was the first thing the baby noticed and she made a beeline for it. Babies are uncanny that way. They hone in on what you don’t want them to find. We played a fun game of Nana saying no, ‘you can’t eat that’ until I could distract her to something else.

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Luckily, we have loads of toys and everything a child could want here because I saved so much of the boys’ stuff, from their best baby toys and the best of everything over the years since then. Baby and I have a lot of fun playing with the musical instruments, playing with a bucket of water outside, blowing bubbles, reading picture books, stacking blocks and rolling a ball. But, what she’s really motivated to do is explore her world.

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One minute we’re playing the next minute she’s off, crawling at great speed to see what’s around the next corner. She wants to go into every room of the house, and pull herself up on the chairs and tables to see more.

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Every item she can get her hands on needs to be carefully examined and then sucked on. ‘Everything is intrinsically interesting’ as Shaun Tan said. This is the viewpoint of babies. I love how babies and little kids have to physically engage with their environment in a thorough way. It makes me see these same things anew.

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If there are stairs or different levels under fives have to go up and down and around and if possible through. They engage with things in every possible way. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is tested and known completely. It’s not enough to take things out of the drawer; one must get in the drawer.

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So far, I have found this window into early childhood absorbing. Now that my two youngest boys are teenagers, life is different for us at home. I don’t have to have everything out of reach or locked up tight. Whereas, when there’s a baby around, anything you don’t want lost or broken, or that might be a potential hazard, has to be out of sight. We’re rediscovering the delights and dangers of the world again through her adventuring.

I’d always heard being a grandparent is fabulous, now I can attest to the fact. It’s the love for family enhanced by the benefit of time.

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

Tuesday the twelfth of February marked the first anniversary of my father’s death. It was a year ago on a Monday that I got the phone call you dread, that someone you love has died. It was my elder sister, who was ringing from the Waikato Hospital.

I think it was seven o’clock in the morning – too early to be good news – “Dad passed away last night.”

I felt sucker punched.

My sister said the hospital then the funeral home was taking dad’s body to do the final things that needed to be done; he would be sent home to us in a day or so.

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I started packing our bags. I spoke to all the people I needed to speak to, excused the boys from school for the week, and we were on the road to my father’s log cabin within the hour.

I’ll never forget the scene, when we drove into dad’s seaside town and neared the mountain he lived on, we found the peak was completely hidden within its own private cloud. It was so unusual I had to stop and take a photo.

I felt the land and the sea surrounding us were speaking directly to our sorrow.

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When we arrived at the empty house that was when the tears flowed. I couldn’t believe dad wouldn’t be there, as he always had been there: reading the paper, watching the 6 o’clock news, doing the crossword, feeding his birds, working in the garden, making food in the kitchen, playing cribbage with us in the evenings. Dad would never be there again.

I looked at my two youngest boys and they looked at me, and I knew I had to be strong for them. Though dad had only been gone a day, certain doors had closed, and a new one had opened, that of my stepping up in rank in our family.

Now, it was my turn to begin the walk of the kaumatua (elder).

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I unpacked our bags, and started preparing food for my sisters, who were driving to Thames Hospital to sort out paperwork, and would then make the trip to us. It all felt surreal. The reality arrived when the funeral home brought dad’s casket to the house a day and a half later.

The funeral director said, ‘the hardest moments for the families are when the lid is first removed and when the lid of the casket is put back on.’

Both moments were heart wrenching. Yet, my father himself looked like he was sleeping, and he was dressed in his very best Sunday suit. We took it in turns after the initial outpouring of grief to sit with him. We didn’t leave dad alone, apart from when we were sleeping.

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Dad spent two and a half days with us at home. We sat with him, held his hands, stroked his hair, sang and talked to him. More family arrived until we were all present. Friends came by, bringing food, neighbours baked cakes and lasagnes.

In the evenings, we siblings sat around the dining table, spending hour after hour going through the old photos. There were boxes to view and sort and distribute between us. Each day, we selected another room of the house to clear out and sort through. The contents of our parents’ lives spread before us.

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Although it almost felt disrespectful to touch their belongings, two people’s lives and a house full of possessions needed to be resolved.

After dad had been moved to his beloved church and had been given a beautiful, moving ceremony, we laid him to rest, alongside mum in the town’s cemetery.

Tuesday 12th 2019 marked the first anniversary of dad’s death. My sister and I travelled to mum’s and dad’s hometown in order to pay our respects.

We visited the cemetery and cleaned the headstone; we put in fresh flowers and solar lights. We spoke to dad and said some prayers and sang a song. We told him and mum that they’re not forgotten. It was sad but it felt like the right thing to do.

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I came home to the city and my kids musing on the fact sometimes growing up can be hard. I felt sorry for my teenagers and their travails.

In the last two weeks, my youngest son has started high school. He’s made several commitments to teams and groups, at the same time undertaking more chores at home. Tonight, when I asked him to do the ‘umpteenth thing,’ he said, “GROWING UP SUCKS!”

It does, man, there’s no other way of putting it. Yet, the tragedies and the hardships we go through, as we get older and lose more people, are what also shape and craft us into better, deeper, more empathetic human beings.

Sometimes, it sucks, yet, that’s okay. It means another phase of life begins.

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Talk to you later.

Yvette K. Carol

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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings

 

 

The youngest son began high school this week. He was nervous about the extra work load and whether he’d fit in. At the same time, he was excited about the new opportunities. When his older brother and I joined him the first morning of the Orientation day, for the Powhiri (traditional Maori welcome ceremony), my heart was wrung inside out to bear witness to his slouching, head hung down awkwardness.

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I can remember my first day of high school. I walked – it was a good three quarter of an hour distance – and I was petrified, wondering what college would be like. After a while, another girl, who was walking along in the same uniform, joined me. We immediately became friends. All the nervousness melted away. For that important first day, I strolled in the gates with an ally and that made all the difference in the world.

I hoped my son would find his friends.

Eyes are watching, everywhere.
Look at the seniors, we wouldn’t dare.
Talk to old friends, the pressure ends there.
From ‘High School’ © Nikii
Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/highschool

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The youngest son’s first day at high school was an orientation day so there were no classes. I was distracted the whole day, worrying about him. He survived however, and somehow, miraculously figured out which bus to catch home, returning faded and dusty around four in the afternoon. He’d found one of his buddies from last year, he said.

Yet, I noticed he was still carrying the bag with his year’s worth of stationary.

I said I’d buy a school locker, but no, he was ‘too nervous to get one!’

The second day, he was still finding his way around the new school, navigating his classes with different teachers. “Everything about high school is weird,” he said, upon returning home that day. They had done a tour of the nurse’s office, “And on the walls were giant posters, one was for LGBT rights, and the other was about using condoms.” I gather he was slightly shocked.

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He’s being treated in a new way, as if he’s older, which he quite likes. He still didn’t appreciate hearing the input of the teacher, who – upon seeing he and his friends laughing in the break – said, “You won’t be smiling like that for long!”

We all know, high school is a place of hard knocks, but no one expects the teachers to be telling the new students that message on their first day at high school. He’ll find the truth out on his own!

The youngest son came home around four in the afternoon, weary and wan, and devastated that he had been given homework already! Stepping into high school, apparently, was like stepping into another world. He said, “The kids don’t really play games in the breaks, they just walk around the school talking.”
There’s peer pressure, sex, violence, and too many fights to imagine.
People, who you thought were your friends, are the ones you mainly end up fighting.
From ‘A Typical Teenager’ © Courtney Dailey
Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/a-typical-teenager

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The third day at high school (today) was a new experience again. Youngest son came in the door around four this afternoon, tired and pale, yet, he was smiling. He said, “Remember how I wanted to go to this school because my friends were going there? Well, I found a crowd of them today. It was awesome!” Additionally, a number of them catch the same bus route home. Happy Days!

I noticed he’s still carrying his year’s worth of stationary around with him.

Maybe that will settle down and he’ll be able to trust his stuff to a locker in the second week? Unknown. For now, I can say, we have both managed to get through those gnarly first days, and he’s managed to find his feet to some degree.

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According to some statistics, kids generally enjoy high school. Teens say they have their best memories from school in high school (45%) versus those that rank Middle School/Junior (33%) or Elementary School (22%).

I can remember having an awful lot of fun in high school and meeting my best friends there.

The youngest son has five years ahead of him at this institution. Though I worry he’s underweight, and possibly a bully magnet, his years at high school could also be the making of him. Given the right sprinkle of teachers and the right sequence of learning opportunities, he might grow in confidence as well as size. He might gain maturity and become more responsible. He might make lifelong friends. You never know.

What I do know for sure is that we’ve seen another milestone. Now, I have two boys in high school. Another phase in life begins….

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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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Love is the greatest gift that one generation can leave to another. ~ Richard Garnet

A couple of weeks ago, I learned that my nephew, a hardworking student doing his masters in architecture, had lost out on the summer job he’d been expecting. I wanted to support him. But I’m not going to just give him money. What does he gain from receiving something for nothing? Nothing. Far better, he moves and breaks a sweat, then gets the reward. In my home, my nephew, along with my three boys, and another nephew (who boards here), are all welcome to stay as long as they like. If they need money, they can have it, but, they have to earn it first.

I think a family, no matter what the shape or size, needs rules and to keep the rules simple. 

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I offered the nephew a few weeks work around here, as the old homestead was due for sprucing anyway. No problem. In fact, I realized it might even be preferable to put the effort in now, instead of waiting for the sweltering heat of the holidays.

It’s a win-win situation: I get help with the big work of summer, and he gets some income to pay his rent and eat, until he can find himself another part time job.

He and I have been working on the house maintenance the last two weeks, and we’ll most likely get finished next week. I feed him and pay him well, so I know he’s getting fed, he can pay his bills and in return, I’m getting all our jobs done early this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that. It means that this year, I might actually relax during my break. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. I think they call that a ‘win-win-win situation!’

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I really do want to support my nephew and help him. He’s a wonderful young man with a bright future ahead of him, and a social conscience as to how he can help people.

The proposal he recently submitted for his Master’s thesis – which he has to write next year – is about ‘the absence of the Maori voice, presence and culture in our present New Zealand society and in our design aesthetic.’

It was so poetic and poignant, I was struck by this boy’s mind and heart, his eloquent vision, and how much potential he has to do good in this world through his humanitarian approach to architecture.

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Sadly, my nephew’s mother died when he was only seven-years-old. I had been his “nanny” from the time he was three weeks old to the age of seven – as his parents were both busy professionals, working long hours – so we’ve always been close. But ever since his mother’s death, when his father remarried, I’ve felt like I was a standby, second mum for him.

I’ve watched him rise up through the ranks of college, choosing tech drawing and design classes the whole way through the school system.

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He always knew what he was interested in and what he was good at. I’ve seldom seen such singularity of purpose in a young child. So, I’m in awe of his trajectory, and I intend to continue to act as a support network behind him. As I’ve said to him many a time, if ever you need anything, you always know you can come here. Family should keep an open door for each other.

It’s difficult for young people coming up these days because everything’s so expensive.

Rental prices in this city are sky-high, so a lot of young people’s incomes are absorbed by the rent each week. It’s hardly good incentive for tertiary study.

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I know this particular nephew has a huge student loan already, and he’s still got his fifth year of University to go. He relies on paying work during summer, to put enough money away in the bank, to survive through the next school year. But, the company who had promised him work this summer went belly-up. The promised position had evaporated. Family can not only step in at this point, they can bang the tom-toms and send the message out to others. I can let my friends know there’s a willing young man looking for yard work. His father’s living down south at the moment so he’s not around, but I’m here, so that’s okay. No matter what, I’ll help get him through. That’s what family is for. I think it’s especially important to lend a hand to the up-and-coming next generation – they are, after all, our future.

Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them. ~ Richard L. Evans

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

Last weekend, I joined the extended Maori side of our family to celebrate the “unveiling ceremony” for a family matriarch. The unveiling is held a year after a person’s death, when the whanau (family) gather again at the marae – the general area outside their meeting house –  for a service and at the family cemetery to reveal the person’s headstone. It’s a time to bless the stone, to remember the loved one, to talk about them and sing to them, once more.

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I’d been invited to join my niece and nephews, to farewell their grandmother one last time at her “unveiling.” It was to be held at their family’s marae, on the banks of Lake Rotoma, which lies just beyond Rotorua. Lucky for me, I was able to coordinate my arrival with that of my niece, and I simply copied the protocol she displayed, so as not to do the wrong thing by mistake. I accompanied her when we entered the Te Waiiti Marae and followed in her wake, kissing the cheek of all those already there.

I felt out of my comfort zones, out of my element, and yet, it was okay. I was glad to be there.

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Outside the big kitchen where many women were busy preparing the food, there was a plastic bucket of Koura, or fresh water crayfish, which had been found in the nearby Waiiti stream.

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To the rear of the kitchen block, on a flat piece of lawn, the men were laying the hangi. They had dug the pit that morning. A bonfire had been lit much earlier and had burned down to coals. The rocks, which had been within the fire, were tipped into the bottom of the pit. Then the trays of prepared vegetables, pig, lamb and chicken were placed over the rocks.

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These were covered in sacks which had been soaked in water. Then, the men all pitched in to cover it in the soil. The hangi was then left to cook.

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An hour later, the ceremony began with the powhiri (welcome) when friends and family who had arrived were welcomed onto the marae.

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Everyone was seated outside the whare, (the house) where some of the women in the family sat with the photos of the deceased. The eldest male in the family then gave the mihi, or recitation of those family members who have passed, reminding everyone of the names of their ancestors.

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This was followed by waiata (song) and karakia (prayer), and then, the grandmother’s family lined up to greet the new arrivals. From there, everyone drove to the cemetery a mile or so down the road, where the gravesite had been prepared with decorations and the stone was covered by a traditional feathered cloak.

After more prayer, the headstone was unveiled and the inscription read aloud, before being blessed by the priest. There were readings, songs and everyone who wanted to speak was invited to speak, also known as ‘korero.’

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Finally, the whanau processed back to the marae in the afternoon, to dig up the hangi and eat a meal together (kai hakari).

I marvel at how lucky we’ve been in our family, that we have become forever connected – through marriage – to this Maori family. Because of this connection of whanau, we’ve been invited to attend a number of these traditional Maori events over the years, and have been fortunate enough to get a see a little bit of insight into their culture, which has been a real privilege.

At the same time, I still feel like an outsider looking in.

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I was very aware when I walked onto the marae, that morning, of being one of three other Europeans there. “Who’s that?” one of the aunties asked my nephew, indicating me. He said, “She’s my mum’s sister.”

Immediately, there were big smiles from the lady and all the other aunties sitting along the bench outside the dining room, and I went over to kiss her and each of the others on the cheek. I was welcomed with open arms.

The Maori culture is so rich and so steeped in tradition that it’s just a pleasure and an honour to bear witness and be a part of the lives of the indigenous people of this country. I loved every minute. It was a very special day to be part of, and it reminded me of everything that’s great about this country.

Te tangata, te tangata, te tangata! The people, the people, the people!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.’ ~ PD James

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