Archive for the ‘Whanau’ Category

Being a parent is tough. The other day, we introduced my delightful three-year-old granddaughter to my friend’s granddaughter, Miss two. It was a wonderful day. The girls dashed about from one activity to another like fleas in a fit. At one point we were watching the kids leap on the trampoline in the backyard. I asked Miss Two’s father, “How are you finding parenthood so far?” He got a far-gone look in his eye and said one word, “Relentless.”
You can tell he’s a poet. That one word. So pithy. Perfect.

It was Oprah who famously said there is no harder job on the planet than parenting. Such sayings stick because they are the truth. My eldest son has had his first child, the aforementioned three-year-old, and recently, I asked him if he had ever thought of having more children. He said, “Hell, no! One’s enough!” The early years of your child’s life are brutal.
Just as you surface from the flat-out breakneck marathon of raising kids from 0-to 10 you hit the teenage years. Their earnest, transparent personalities disappear. They suddenly take on exaggerated swagger and posture. There is a new language delivering words you’ve never heard before. A wrinkly brain is smart. A smooth brain is dumb. If something is “pog” it’s cool. Pog champ is really cool. And, of course, Good RNG means good luck. Everybody knows that.

They sing. That surprised me. I thought the singing would be dropped out of shyness or being self-conscious. But no, the youngest son still sings all day long. He and his friends make random sound effects here, there, and everywhere, apparently sampled from favourite songs and clips on tik tok. Life revolves around phones, social media, and online games.
I miss the early years. The simple years. Suddenly, the enormous capacity of children to focus on playing games and having fun switches on a dime to focusing on their friends. The youngest son told me that his large circle of mates are the most important people in his life, after we, his immediate family, of course. Thanks, son. Lucky save.

Teens at the moment are navigating the minefield of the pandemic on top of the usual rush of hormone-driven behaviours. My boys have friends who get sick and vanish from social life for a while, then they recover, and another wave goes down. The constant communication via devices continues uninterrupted, but the occasional parties and get-togethers to cruise the mall or hang out at one another’s houses have to be temporarily shelved. This translates to teens who are grumpy. Cue the big sigh.
Being a parent means getting to bear witness to these kids growing up. A bittersweet process. Now, my boys tease me ruthlessly about “shrinking” (with old age) as they turn into human giraffes.

The youngest is a lot more emotionally needy as a teen. He requires more listening from me and wants me to explain everything at length in five different ways. He speaks so fast that the words run together in mini avalanches. My grandmother always used to say as long as your kids are talking to you, things are okay. I keep that in mind. Although at the teenage stage, sometimes he talks too much. Everything is exaggerated, and sometimes I get overly anxious. I do my best not to panic about all the potential pitfalls out in the world. At this age as with those that came before, kids want clear boundaries. With the rules in place and by setting a good example, I can be a solid foundation in his life. At the end of the day, that’s all you can do, as well as love them.
Love them relentlessly.
Have you survived raising teenagers? Please send notes!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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90% of parenting is just thinking about when you can lie down again. ~ Phyllis Diller

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Do you have a garden bed that is in a difficult spot in your garden? Our rockery in the backyard is in a challenging position. Located behind the house, it offers drought and flood and full shadow for most of the day. Previously, we had had a dragon tree in the rockery and a young native tree that was already much too large. The job of transforming the rockery became my “lockdown project.” Change it. I would. And, here’s what I did.
The first casualty was the young tree. With the potential to grow into a grand chieftain, I removed it from the rockery, leaving a long oval-shaped dry bed featuring a lone dragon tree at one end and a spindly sapling at the other. The proposition of making this awkward bed into ‘something’ was daunting. With gardening, you have to attempt to forecast into the future how plants will grow and envisage the potential outcome. In the end, you throw the dice and leave it up to nature. Who dares, wins, right?

I started by simply clearing the weeds and scraping off years of detritus to reduce the bed to a blank canvas. The old bricks which had formed the edging had sunk into the ground over time, nearly disappearing in the mud. I dug these out, cleaning them as I went. Then I packed soil around the edges of the bed, putting the bricks back on top, thereby lifting the edging clear.
There are a few ways to go about laying the foundations of a garden bed. You can plant intensely and not worry about weeds. Or you can set down weed matting, adding bark. Or you can do what the landscapers do, lay a layer of bark at least 400 mm deep so the weeds can not grow.

In the case of the rockery, when I tried to lift the top layer of weed matting, I discovered another, even older layer of matting much farther down. So rather than excavating, I opted to leave the matting in place. If you use a weed mat, you will need to add blood and bone to the soil to correct the PH balance of the soil before adding the mat and the bark on top. So I treated every plant with a good dose of blood and bone mixed in with the potting mix.
My father built the rockery wall out of bluestone in the early 1960s. He needed a retaining wall to create a flatter area in our sloping back garden. The wall was higher than it is now, but over the years, the top tier of bluestone had been robbed out and used elsewhere.

One of my first jobs was to hunt out the rogue bluestones from every corner of the property. Then I lay the stones across the bed to create a stepping stone path, imagining my grandchildren hopping from stone to stone one day.
The rockery is a raised bed. Therefore, it’s helpful to use drought-tolerant plants. Cacti and succulents are ideal. Being situated in the lee of the house, I also needed plants that could handle shade. Ask at your local garden centre for suitable plants for the conditions in your bed. In our case, I planted a line of Buxus hedge trees, which are hardy. Along the front of the rockery bed, I dug in yellow grasses for colour and contrast.
To square off with the lone dragon tree in one corner, I moved my ponytail palm from the front bed into the rockery. Being at the other end of the bed to the lone dragon tree, it makes sense. Huzzah!

Then I planted a dwarf apricot tree. My sister donated a hydrangea, and I planted a few of my mother’s orchids. If you choose to plant an orchid, use the proper potting mix (similar to bark). They do well in the shade.
I still had a gnarly stump in the rockery and an unwieldy section of the tree trunk that was too big to cut with a chainsaw. In the case of immovable obstacles, why not turn them into features? Beneath the dragon tree, I set the section of the trunk upright. Then I turned both the stump and the trunk into wood sculptures by decorating them with my father’s aerophytes (air plants) and rocks.

The last stage of the transformation was to spread bark in between the plants and the stones. I think it looks great. Yesterday, my three-year-old granddaughter came over to visit. When we took a walk in “Nana’s garden,” she automatically dashed over and hopped from stone to stone across the rockery bed. It was a wonderful moment.
I hope you have gained some inspiration for your difficult garden beds. Let me know your stories.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

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Long before positive thinking or affirmations became a thing, my grandmother led by example. She had a way of framing things and people in the best light. I’ll never forget what Gran said one day after my eldest son was scolded by my father for doing something naughty. The family, exasperated with him, had decided my son had Attention Deficit Disorder. Gran said, “He’s not naughty. He doesn’t have ADD or anything like that. What he has is spirit. Mark my words, he will go far in life.” (Turned out she was right, but that’s another story). With those words, my beloved grandmother turned a bad situation around to good and changed my outlook for the better.
Gran called it ‘thinking the right thoughts.’

We love that phrase in our family. Whenever any of us had something important happening that we were hoping would go well, Gran would always say, “I’ll think the right thoughts.” Which meant she would only envisage and only speak about the best possible outcome. That was how she lived. She walked her talk. These days I use the technique constantly. In keeping with the theme of resilience in various posts lately, I thought it would be the ideal time to share some of my grandmother’s outlook on life.

You’re welcome.

Whenever Gran had an event or outing coming up, she would say, “I’m looking forward to it with a confident sense of anticipation.” It was so simple. She demonstrated positive thinking as a way of life. That little gem has become a family saying, a special something we say to one another on occasion with fond knowingness.
I used to visit my grandmother on Thursdays. She lived around the corner from our house. I’d walk into her neat, elegant little unit at the start of the day and leave again around five in the evening. Thursdays were our day to hang out together. We always started our soiree with morning tea, which Gran would have set out on a tray. There would be tea in fine china cups with saucers, served with an array of sweet treats. Gran was a legendary baker and baked every day. She’d serve a plate of fresh scones, or sponge cake, or muffins, whatever treats she had made that morning. After eating, we’d sit in the lazy-boy chairs in the living room and talk. Then I would help her put out and bring in the laundry. We sometimes looked at photos or her embroidery. Sometimes we baked together. Then Gran would serve a big lunch with meat, vegetables, and homemade dessert like her apple pie or blackberry crumble. We would talk until it was time to say goodbye.

Every time I reached her door to leave, Gran would give one parting shot to take with me. It was usually one or two favourite sayings, “Remember my dear,” she would say, “Set your sights upon a star, and you will go far,” or “Every cloud has a silver lining, if you look for the silver lining you will find it.
They were the same sayings, time and again, yet I would walk along the street thinking about what she had said and repeating it to myself.
My grandmother inspired me with her natural optimism and right thinking. It shaped how I look at everything. I am a big believer in daily affirmations, in speaking positively to myself and others. I have a whiteboard with life-affirming statements on it, which I read a few times a day.
If we want to keep our spirits up, we need to bear witness to the words coming out of our mouths. People these days tend to be one-track-minded and fatalistic. Conversations have never been more boring.

Chats with friends and neighbours can often be depressing, and I don’t think these people realize the effect they’re having on others. Why not converse with loved ones about the book you’re reading, the movie you’ve seen, or the creative project you’re working on. We don’t always have to talk about Covid, people!
I prefer following my grandmother’s example. The glass-half-full approach means looking at the things that are working in our lives. I use a daily gratitude journal to note what I’m grateful for and make it a practice to say thank you for all the blessings. If you ask how I’m doing, I’ll be thinking the right thoughts and looking forward to what the future brings with a confident sense of anticipation!

I hope you gained a gem or two from this post for yourself.
Do you have grandparents with their little sayings? Have you ever tried keeping a gratitude journal?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Emptiness is a symptom that you are not living creatively.” – Maxwell Maltz.

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Do you remember turning 16? I do. Like it was yesterday. It was the summer holidays. My friends and I were hitchhiking up north. We stopped at a cafe. There were four of us hunched around a Formica tabletop with sodas, and I remember saying I didn’t want to turn 16 (the next day). Why not? It was too close to 20! Who could imagine being “so ancient?”

Funny how the vantage point of time changes things.

The youngest of my three sons had his sweet sixteenth birthday two weeks ago. He is more mature at this age than I have ever been. I guess for some people it just comes naturally. The other day, he said, “Do you know what I’m looking forward to the most about growing up?”

I said, “No” although I imagined he’d say beer, driving, or possibly not going to school.

He said, “I’m looking forward to having logical, rational conversations.”

Huh? Jaw drops to floor.

We’re definitely different, he and I. At 16 I fretted about getting old, while my youngest son pines for more adult conversation. How shallow was I? He’s already a better human being than I am. Huzzah!

What did the son want to do for the big milestone birthday? After offering him every adventure option or fun experience available, what he most wanted was ‘a cake and to hang out’ with his friends uninterrupted. Could they hang here? Sure, I said, smiling, although I secretly dreaded it. Idiot Trooper that I am, I let him invite all his mates over regardless.

My friends and I at 16 were rebels. No self-respecting adults wanted to be around us.

To my surprise, my son’s friends were delightful. They had the run of one part of the house the entire day, while I kept food and liquid coming. They played online games, outdoor games, jumped on the trampoline, took photos of themselves, played music, and sang in harmony together the entire day. In the afternoon they demolished an entire chocolate cake and then left en masse to buy supplies from the supermarket, returning an hour later to cook a feast. So lively, so fun, were they, I even missed them in their absence.

In the late afternoon, the girls drifted home. Finally, just “Da boys” remained, playing online games into the evening, still singing in beautiful harmony along with their favourite songs. By the time Da boys left, I felt tired but mostly buoyed by the experience.

They’re mature, considerate kids. Who knew?

That said, they’re still only 16. They still like to play games the same way they did when they were little, but with a lot of music, singing, slang and posturing thrown in. The energy levels when these teen buddies get together can ramp up suddenly, get inexplicably loud for a short period—almost explosive—then peter out again and dip so low the kids appear to retreat behind their phone screens for a while to reboot, becoming temporarily tomb-like and silent, before the shrieks and the laughter escalate and they flare into life, noise and energy all over again. To be around them even for a short period is akin to putting one’s finger into an electric socket, recharging every cell in the body and rendering one’s hair into an instant afro. It’s vitalizing and frenetic at the same time.  

The upshot overall was the day was easy, no drama. As their humble servant, I got to witness snippets of their group dynamic, the teen slang, the weird sounds they make when they’re together, which was fun.

I remember the heady freedom of being 16. You’re old enough to do things but young enough to be silly and not care who is watching.

There was one of son’s friends singing that very Michael Jackson, high-pitched, “Hee hee!” so frequently I nearly asked him to stop (although thankfully, I didn’t). One boy hugged his phone and speaker the entire day, constantly scrolling the music selection – he was clearly in charge of the music selection. There was the occasional daring use of a swear word, but not loud enough for me to discern. I turned a blind eye, regardless. As head provider of refreshments, I stayed in my quarters – the perfect excuse to get some writing done – and let the teens have the house for the day. Some freedom was all they wanted. They often burst outside to play Frisbee, badminton, shoot hoops and jump on the trampoline for hours in the afternoon, which rather impressed me.

I think your child’s friends say a lot about who they are and how they’re doing, and I liked the son’s friends a lot. That made me happy.

At sixteen, I was a fool. At the same age, my son is smarter, more mature, and more emotionally intelligent than I am. Maybe there’s hope for the future, yet.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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There’s nothing wrong with teenagers that reasoning with them won’t aggravate. ~ Anonymous

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*Tips for parents on Stanford Children’s Health, Understanding the Teen Brain

I’ve finished reading my third novel for 2021, Just End It by Donna Blaber. Third novel already, I’m caning it! Donna is a friend, a fellow Kiwi Indie author, and she also edited the books in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver trilogy. An award-winning author of over forty books, she has worked as a magazine journalist, freelance feature writer, copywriter, proofreader, travel editor, lifestyle editor, and as the managing editor in three magazines. In 2016 Donna completed an MA in Creative Writing, graduating with First Class Honours, receiving the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Postgraduate Study.

This was my first chance to read one of Donna’s books. When I realized the topic was bullying and cyber bullying for teens, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It intrigued me. The author takes on a freighted subject, yet she makes it seem easy. The story leads us naturally into a believable situation where a teen’s world gets turned upside down when she’s bullied after the new girl arrives at school. As Jessie’s life unravels, a twin strand of story runs alongside about the obsidian rock she found on the beach, which seems to have stories to tell and adds mystery. There is a wonderful supernatural type element introduced with the rock, or ‘cobble’ (complete rounded stones) as used by the ancient Moa hunters. Our heroine Jessie found the rock on the beach. Then she dreams of a young Maori girl who also had the rock, but in ancient times. She learns the rock has special significance to the Maori people.

It would be so easy with a subject like this to set a foot wrong. The author’s grasp of the young girl’s perspective is on point, and Jessie comes across as a real teen. When the bullying escalates into hateful on-screen messages telling her she should end it, Jessie learns to rely on her own judgement and cultivates her real friends like Mia and Reuben. The lesson of speaking up comes across strong. Because Jessie shares about the bullying with those around her, the unbearable pressures on her ease and the solutions and answers then flow in. There’s some nice character development as Jessie moves through the pain and sadness. She rises, gradually gaining strength to tell her parents the truth and builds self belief, until Jessie knows who she is, that she’s a good person trying her best. She knows who her friends are and which friends to avoid. In the end she has this well rounded actual strength which we find utterly plausible. Well done, Donna!

I thought the story played out the way it should, nothing missing, every necessary corner traversed. Nothing was forced. They say a story should be told in a way that each scene feels inevitable. That’s the way it is with this book. Just End It. Donna Blaber handled the subject of bullying in a practical, no-nonsense way, with the solutions meted out and the consequences playing out as they should. She answered every question raised. There were subtle lessons about the value of communication and transparency, being judicious with your friends and standing up for yourself.

Being a Kiwi, I particularly enjoyed the strongly evoked New Zealand setting. The author has taken the time to do the research, giving us the correct Maori spelling for place names, the names of flora and fauna, the stories of the Moa Hunters and the Maori in the past, the way Whakatane got its name, etc. These delightful details add depth, setting the story in its unique environment using all the senses.

What a great story! There were solid characters to hold on to and the conversations flowed at all times. It was easy to become invested in the protagonist Jessie, she’s a fleshed out character with coherent thoughts and feelings. I liked the bringing in of the different generations of family members, who came on stage with enough gaps between them I could remember who they were. She described family members so I could picture each of them in my head. I was part of the whanau (family) too. Donna Blaber has done an outstanding job with this book. Just End It is a tough subject tackled exceptionally well. She’s given us a warm, uplifting story of triumph through adversity and reminded us of the resilient power of the human spirit.

My rating: Four and a half out of five stars.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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She’d had enough of being a tag-along, she enjoyed being an equal too much ~ Just End It.

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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.

February 3 question – Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

I have! Before I started out on social media about 8 years ago, I expected people to be hostile and for other writers to treat me like the competition. I feared I would shout into the silence and hear my echo, but it’s been the absolute opposite experience. I have found the online writing community to be warm and welcoming. It’s been wonderful. Of course there has been the occasional troll and the occasional pain in the a.. e, but you get that in actual life too. It’s not exclusive to social media.

I’ve mostly met incredible, inspiring and supportive folks.

When I first started out, I was following the advice I’d read in a book by social media guru Kristen Lamb. She had launched an online support group called WANA (We Are Not Alone), which I joined straight away. I set up a group called Writing For Children. The fab group of writers I met were there at the very start. I attribute to them nearly every step forward. At their advice, I branched out into many platforms; I set up my website, had a professional author photo taken, joined critique groups, and had the courage to instigate my email list and to release a monthly newsletter.

Best of all, I established a firm foundation of friends with whom to navigate the world of online writers, and to bounce ideas off along the way.

Some friends I met doing online writing courses and they’ve become my most faithful pen pals.

Some friends I made because we were always commenting on the same blogs and followed the same authors. Those beautiful souls invited me to like their pages in other places. We ended up becoming friends on Facebook and keeping up a steady banter and the usual well wishes at birthdays and in the holidays throughout the years. One cool gal I met through commenting on the same blog posts was a blogging queen. She ran three at once for her different styles of fiction.

She said, “I just love the discipline of sitting down each week and writing new posts.”

It was 2014. Though I knew Kristen Lamb and my friends in KiwiWrite4Kids strongly advised to write a regular blog as a tool for writers to reach readers and to practice their writing in a different format, I was too nervous to do so at first. I felt terrified of the idea of having to come up with something new to say every week. (Seriously, when do I run out of things to say?) I didn’t want to commit to readers and then be responsible to providing material for them. (Seriously, when was that not part of being a writer?) I feared falling flat on my face and no one liking or responding to anything I said. (Seriously, when was that not part of being a writer?)

But my dear friend from Writing for Children, Robyn Campbell, said to me, ‘If you write posts regularly, the people will come.’

And come they did. I started my blog. Week by week a few likes and comments trickled in. I didn’t fall flat as I’d feared. People literally replied to me and were really nice. Then a pal from Writing For Children, suggested I join IWSG, as she was a nervous blogger and had found succour there. So I joined. The joy of putting out a blog post each month and having a regular handful of people like it and comment was great. The joy of popping around a bevy of other bloggers and reciprocating was so fun it was infectious. I’ve met cool people, joined more groups and made more friends. What’s not to love?

Have you made friends through blogging?

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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Reach out to other writers, encourage one another, and come up with some new strategies. ~  Alex J. Cavanaugh,

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Being a parent is hard at the best of times. When you’re working as well you divide your energy between their needs and your own. And my kids are at the most dreaded age of them all. No, not the terrible two’s but the terrifying teenage years. You always hear parents complaining about their teens and I used to think, no, nothing is as hard as raising little kids. But now that I’m here, man, this is parenting on a whole new level. It’s not just about feeding, clothing, housing and nurturing them anymore, it’s also about a whole raft of complex emotional counselling to keep them on an even keel. It’s about offering day-by-day guidance as they navigate the choppy waters of hormones and the realities of impending adulthood.

The middle son has his trials but being special needs he mostly cruises through life enjoying himself immensely or sleeping. The youngest son is on a rollercoaster of a lifetime. He’s a cauldron of emotions and intense reactions and feels burdened by being the smartest person in the room. There is a continuous thread of school drama going on in the background and he suffers deeply over things that happen between his large group of friends. Every night he regales me with whom’s not talking to who, who has acted strange, who he hates, who said this, that and the other thing. He talks about interactions with teachers where they have treated him unfairly, where none of the teachers appreciate him, and no one understands him. He says he lost respect for them because he asks questions and they don’t have the answers. He says they can’t think out of the box.

The youngest son has what they call “an old head on young shoulders.” He craves adulthood for want of a decent conversation. Teenagers are terrible conversationalists, he says. Teens mostly talk about recounts of their gaming exploits and what they’re watching online. They bore the youngest, and he gets all fidgety.

Being fifteen, he’s living through the most phenomenal rush of growth hormones he’ll ever experience, and I swear he’s taller every week. He’s growing at an exponential rate. Poor thing, he doesn’t know whether he’s a boy or a man. His brain is trying to catch up with him. He looks all awkward and gangly. He’s long limbed and cack-kneed, like a newborn giraffe. He bursts through the front door after school, lopes into the house, flops on the couch, or sprawls in a chair. He is energy at 110% or he’s nearly catatonic and falls asleep.

His voice has changed completely, too. Isn’t it funny how you get what you wish for? The dear boy had wanted a deep voice for years. In fact, I overheard him several times at fourteen-years-old, when playing on his X-box, pretending his voice was deeper than it was. Now his voice has broken it’s taken a lower timbre than any of his friends and he gets teased about it constantly. Now he wishes it wasn’t as deep as it is. Dude, decide!

The ever flowing, evolving form of his language changes like a chameleon. As he and his mates game together online, I hear the interchange of effortless “teen speak.” His tactics were ‘soft’ or ‘stale’ and if he’s doing badly in the game, he’s ‘choking.’ When luck is on his side, he’s ‘clipped it’ or ‘smacked them,’ in which case that was ‘cracked’ (truly awesome). And the favourite way of swearing without swearing is to put ‘frickin’ before everything.

The youngest son is a marvel. He has three modes: talking, gaming, or staring at his phone. Don’t get me started on the phone! What sort of monster did we create? I can remember his father and I discussing whether he was ready for his own phone at eleven. We bought him his first mobile at twelve. Cut to three years later and it’s permanently in front of his face. Their father took the boys to the South Island at Christmas and he confiscated the youngest son’s phone several times just to get him to look at the majestic scenery and take part in the family outdoor vacation. Otherwise the phone remains attached to one’s hand, or occasionally stuck in one’s waistband so one can stay plugged in to friends’ conversations while gaming.

I definitely underestimated how difficult parenting teens can sometimes be. I stand corrected.

Have you survived raising teenagers? Please send notes!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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90% of parenting is just thinking about when you can lie down again. ~ Phyllis Diller

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

The unthinkable has happened in my world. The family has sold my parents’ home, the land we’ve owned, worked on, developed and made our little slice of paradise in the Coromandel Peninsula- my father’s log cabin by the sea. They have sold this plot we have tended and populated during the happiest days of our lives, the “creative wellspring” where I have gone seeking inspiration for my stories. Mum’s and dad’s home by the sea has featured repeatedly on this blog over the years. After my mother’s death in 2015, I wrote posts about the “boys’ trips” my brother and I took with our sons to visit dad every school holidays, A Visit to Grandpa, A Boys’ Trip! A Winter Trip, and so on.

Growing up, I didn’t know how lucky we were.

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Mum and dad bought the section in 1963. Dad told us the story many times, about how he had sold his bread business and the buyer could only afford to pay  £20 a week, “So I said to Shirley, we could put the money in our back pocket and carry on living high on the hog, or we could invest the money in a section for a bach.” The trip to the little Coromandel township on partly gravel roads over perilous mountains took my parents four and a half hours in a little old Ford with four kids. But as soon as they drove down out of the hills and saw the seaside town laid out before them, “it looked like paradise and mum said, this looks more like it.”

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They bought the section for the equivalent of a year’s wages, £900.

Growing up, we would start every vacation there with “the hundred bracken” game, we spread out in a line as a family across the property and we moved up the slope pulling bracken out stem-by-stem. Once we reached a hundred stems, we were let off the hook and could play. We developed the section slowly over many years from a bare plot of earth on a slope into a lovely retirement home for the last twenty years for mum and dad.

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There were views of the entire district from the peak behind their house, there was forest walks, fishing, rock-pooling, swimming at the surf beach and off the wharves, there was a grassy reserve below the house, there were playgrounds and basketball courts, a great little community with facilities and our favourite cafe where my family has gathered to dine for years.

The place had everything a child could want.

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I spent my childhood in kiddie heaven. In our holidays we could go wild, running free, riding down hillsides on cardboard boxes, jumping in the long grass, making tunnels through the bracken, taking off into the bush, exploring, climbing, trekking, and bird watching. In the early days, there was no electricity or running water.

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We had to take everything with us in our caravan. We cooked over an open fire, went digging for pipis to bait our fishing rods, we fished off the beach or the wharf and then cooked our fish on the fire, boiling the remaining pipis to eat on thick buttered crackers called cabin bread. We couldn’t all fit in the caravan. I loved sleeping under the awning. My brother and I would lie in sleeping bags on stretcher beds. We’d peek out the awning flaps at the moon shining on the black ocean and the immense vista of stars and talk for hours into the night.

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My sons and I went there to say goodbye over the weekend, along with other family members.

We pored over mum’s and dad’s memorabilia, photos and records. Dad had kept all his scouting books, and his scouting achievements, just as my mother had kept her dancing certificates, charting her childhood progress in dance class. Dad’s rise from apprentice to 1st mate in the merchant navy, recorded in his “Seamen’s Record” book, noted that Terence stood 5 foot 9, had brown eyes, brown hair and that his complexion was “fresh.”

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His marks were always “very good” and every year he achieved “very good” in “sobriety.” It was a little window into my father’s life. He had kept every letter of commendation received on his rise through the navy, even the epaulets from his uniform.

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We walked up the mountain; we played basketball, and we ate at our cafe. Then we packed up and shed many tears saying goodbye for the last time.

Farewell creative wellspring, farewell to our little slice of paradise. We remind ourselves we will get through this together. How about you, how are you doing? Any major changes in your world?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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!!!

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April 1 question – The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in a crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

We’re in the North Island of New Zealand, where the whole country has been on lockdown for nearly two weeks, with two weeks still to go, unless the end date gets changed. It’s been so strange, almost haunting, as if one had gone back in time to one’s youth. The air is clear of the usual traffic fumes and jet exhaust and smells different. Clean. The streets ring with the sounds of children playing and adults talking. There are more cyclists than cars on the road, and there are families out walking along the footpaths in droves.

It reminds me of growing up here in the 1960s.

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Yet, it’s not like the memories I keep of my childhood because this bucolic idyll is fraught with tension and a keyed-up state of general anxiety. As my friend said the other night, in our virtual drinks, re the Covid-19 virus, “I could have it, you could have it, we could all have it,” and that’s the uneasy truth we’re living with. Every visit to the supermarket, every outing, we feel we’re literally risking our lives. And we are.

Those of us who are parents are also trying to help our children deal with the stress. I have three boys. My two younger boys, my nephew and I are in our “bubble” over here, and my eldest is in a bubble with his own little family on the other side of town. At present, I’m worried about my eldest and his twenty-two-month-old baby. My darling granddaughter has a fever and they’re not sure what it is yet. I’ve been receiving constant updates and staying in contact with them.

Thank goodness for the Internet.

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My youngest son has immersed himself either in online schoolwork or in gaming and watching anime. He practices the trombone and drums. He’s not worried about a thing, he is as happy as a sandboy.

My seventeen-year-old Sam has Down syndrome and does not understand the pandemic or anything about lockdown. All he knows is that everything is suddenly different. His weekly chart of activities went from being full with school every day, and extracurricular activities, dance class, gym training, and basketball at night to being stuck at home on endless holiday. For a special needs person, they thrive on routine, and they like things to be the same every day. All Sam knows is the personal disaster of everything changing and becoming different suddenly. His reaction is to act out, to do silly things, or to freeze up and refuse to cooperate with even the simplest of requests. As Sam can’t speak, bad behaviour is his way of expressing himself. However, he’ll get used to the new normal given time.

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I’ve been enjoying the virtual meetings. I’ve been attending Toastmasters’ meetings via Zoom every Wednesday. They’ve been a lot of fun. It’s so nice to see everyone and see they’re doing well. I think connecting in whatever ways we can is uplifting. I also attend Friday night virtual drinks with old friends, via Zoom. We’ve known each other since schooldays. We’ve called our soiree “cocktails & pigtails,” and we wear our hair in pigtails, too, for the laughs. I’ve been so grateful for my friends, and I’m on the phone daily with my family. We’re checking up on one another.

I’ve been busy, more so than ever, since lockdown. I’ve been an editing machine and in two weeks, I have edited the entire manuscript of my work-in-progress twice! I’ve also been communicating with the book designer and figuring out how we will redo my first two books and do the design for the third. With luck, I’ll stay on target for publishing The Last Tree by June. I’m still going after my dreams, despite my insecurities, virus or no virus, lockdown or no lockdown.

What about you?

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Keep Writing!

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

The city has gone quiet and the noise from the motorway barely audible. In New Zealand, we are officially on lock down as the government helps everyone in the fight to contain the Covid-19 virus. We have four weeks ahead of self isolation and with luck the government will step the nation down from a “Level Four Alert” to a Level Three. It’s okay. I can hear more of the bird calls and the songs of the insects. It sounds poignant. Some people say they don’t like the quiet. I love it. I haven’t seen the streets this quiet since I was a kid growing up here in the sixties. The stillness feels peaceful, which is just what we need as we curl inside our family “bubbles” and prepare to hibernate.

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Essential services are still running. I ventured out yesterday to do the grocery shopping, and it was nerve-wracking. Police outside the supermarket, hazard signs, and perspex barriers between us and the checkout operators.

How do I cope with going out in public? I take preventative measures.

There are face masks available at some local chemists. I’m doing my best to follow all the preventative measures. The boys and I are washing our hands regularly and using Hand Sanitizer. We keep a distance of two meters from others in public. When we get home we shower, wash the clothes we were wearing and put shoes and coats out in the sun. We wash all the groceries, fruit, vegetables, and the packaging of processed foods in warm soapy water. There are many things we can do to minimize the risk.

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It is still scary. Every day we hear about new cases of people infected. I hope my family will be okay. But yesterday, while in the supermarket, two men sneezed and did not put an elbow over their faces. In another aisle, an online shopper was putting goods in his basket and did a sneeze over the goods he had collected. Horrible. Though sneezing is not a symptom of Covid-19, when there is a deadly virus around, any sign of illness is off-putting. If they’d had face masks on they wouldn’t have shared their illness with us. I realized how little control I had over the situation and for the first time I was afraid. There is an invisible danger every time I leave the house, and yet I still have to enter the supermarket and grocery store to get supplies each week.

How do I cope with the fear? Deep breathing helps. I sometimes say a mantra. I find meditation helps me stay on an even keel, so I’ve been meditating more than usual.

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After this week’s sneezing incident, I’ve taken the boys’ father up on his offer to do the shopping for both households for the duration of the lock down period. The fewer people out there, the better.

Yet, as social animals, we still need social interaction. It can get lonely in isolation. Thank goodness for modern technology. People have been reaching out to each other, face timing relatives on Skype and meeting with friends online. I’ve heard from friends, family, and Toastmasters colleagues. I’ve had videos sent to me via Facebook of friends singing. My old friends from schooldays are meeting up via Zoom room this Friday night for “virtual drinks.”

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This week we had our club’s first ever online Toastmasters meeting, and it was great fun. In among the fear, there have been positive things that have come out of this extraordinary time as people find new ways of connecting and supporting one another.

However, there’s also such a thing as being too plugged in. With world news at the moment, I think less is more. I sat and watched the BBC news with my son the other night and afterwards I felt almost unable to function. Stress lowers immunity function. I think for now, a light touch with the news is necessary for one’s well-being.

If we give in to the fear, we spiral downward. We have to stay strong mentally and emotionally and physically. That’s the only way we can be of service to our families. We have to persevere, keep our spirits up, the morale high.

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How do I keep my spirits up? I gravitate towards things I enjoyed doing as a kid.

I read books, watch movies, draw pictures, doodle, write stories, listen to music, sing, dance, go outside into the garden, plant things, and spend time with my family.

The boys and I have done their schoolwork together, gone for family runs, and we’ve played board games. I’ve seen whole families out biking to the park, couples walking dogs.

We’re reminded we can get through this together, and we will. How about you, how are you doing?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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 * There are free counselling services in New Zealand. Call or text 1737. Check what’s available in your area.