Posts Tagged ‘aging parents’

I think my father’s recent illness and brush with death has been a shock for everyone in the family. You are immediately reduced. Humbled by the experience. You know what’s important and what isn’t. Time seems to elongate and become meaningless. I felt how precious this person was to me. Here was my father, who was always hale and hearty, now gasping for air; his deep brown eyes faded to murky blue. He, who had nurtured me and supported me, now needed my support. I remember the feeling of desperate gratitude I had that first time I saw him in hospital, when I grabbed for his hand and it was still warm.

When my father slipped into delirium, he no longer knew who we were. I sat by dad’s bedside holding his hand, talking to him, while he recounted random sequences of numbers. It was terrifying.

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The family rallied, my sisters flew in from London and Austin. We kept a family vigil at his bedside, offering him constant drinks (which seemed to restore some of his cognitive powers), and we continued to have conversations with him and ask him questions. We kept him talking. My eldest sister had supplied us with information on how to help patients out of delirium. So we asked him questions: what his name was what day it was, how many children he had, where he was born and so on, to keep his mind active and the cogs spinning.

Within ten days, my father had made what the doctors termed a miraculous recovery. His lungs were clear in the x-rays, which they said would have been difficult for a twenty-five year old to achieve.

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The doctors were so pleased, that two weeks after being admitted to hospital with double pneumonia, my father was released home with a “fancy” walking frame and into the care of our family and local nurses.

We had gone in to dad’s home in between whiles and cleaned it from the rafters to the floorboards. Once we got him home, we showed him how to dry his home out in winter and we bought him a dehumidifier. We’ve helped him see he needs to light his fire during the day as well as at night to be warm in winter.

Dad admitted he’d given himself a fright. It’s hard to see his inner struggle as he works to come to terms with the fact that this has aged him greatly. A few days after returning home, the keys to the church were collected off him by another member of the congregation. The job of counting the collection money each week was also taken off dad’s shoulders and given to another member of the church. As he is unable to do these jobs at present it makes sense to delegate them.

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We keep telling him it’s temporary, when in reality, none of us know what the outcome will be. Yet, I think for a man of my father’s generation it’s particularly difficult when you have such a sense of pride. It’s hard for him to lose the ballast of that sense of “usefulness.”

We are aiming to help dad transition fully back to the independent life he once had, if possible. But he went a long way down and he still has way to come back up again. He lost a lot of weight and his appetite is greatly reduced therefore he needs to rebuild body mass, muscle and strength. Dad’s doing as well as can be expected for an 85-year-old who has been seriously ill. He’s still a bit wobbly. We’ve noticed he is bit more forgetful.

001 (2)As a family we want to keep dad in his own home as long as possible. Home is where he wants to be, where he can still make the fire each day, tend the garden and feed his wild birds.

Even so, my sisters, who have been nursing him, tell me dad is ‘down,’ the opposite of his normal happy self. My two younger sons and I will relieve them soon and take our shift to stay with him. The boys will cheer him up with their rambunctiousness.

Whatever happens, our family will move heaven and earth to make sure dad stays where he wants to be, in his own home until the end.

It’s our turn to look after you now, dad, as you’ve always looked after all of us….

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

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Since I put my name forward to compete in a Toastmaster’s “Humorous Speech Contest,” a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been working on the dilemma of material. Or, lack of it. The race has been on to write something funny.

I have spent days wondering what I should write about.

My hairdresser came over to give me a trim. She has her aging parents living with her, one of whom is blind, while the other has Alzheimer’s. The stories she told, of the mishaps going on in their household, had both of us nearly crying with laughter. I thought, ‘this stuff is priceless.’

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I thought about my own family’s hilarious stories, about my mother, and her dementia. I put it to the arbiters of taste in my circle. The resounding answer was, ‘No, don’t go there. Mothers are sacrosanct.’ Then, I read an article the other day, in which a woman, whose mother had died with Alzheimer’s, decried another guy, who had written a piece about his mother “going mad.” She said, it was ‘cruel and inconsiderate’ to mock those whose parents had dementia.

I realized that my first two ideas were hot-button topics! I decided “not to go there.” In a contest situation, the idea is to appeal to the audience, not turn people away.

What is funny?

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I have wracked my brain, and done a bit of research.

I’ve learned from reading various comedian’s blogs that humour comes from the unexpected. We laugh because we’re led to expect one thing but are given the opposite instead.

I began to experiment. Going back to the subject of raising kids for my subject matter, I wrote a short speech.

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According to what I read, one’s success with a “humorous speech” depends less on content than on the delivery. In the latest Toastmasters magazine, it was reported that the speaker, Palmo Carpino advised, if you want to go from good to great, is “It’s not so much about building a library as it is about building your reflexes.” Paul, who is active with the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, says, “This is what usually separates the “ok attempts” scribed into a written speech from the “memorable point illustrated in a memorable manner.”

The next time I saw my nephew, I tried out some of the so-called “funny bits” in my speech on him. He gave me one of those face-spreading smiles you give, when something isn’t really funny. My jokes had flat-lined.

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I reworked the speech completely, remembering the rule of the unexpected. I practiced it again and again, by standing up, marching about and testing the delivery, the pauses, the inflections.

That’s what you have to get just right, the sound and timing of your material.

I tried rearranging each piece so as to take the audience in one direction then, casting about for the punch line which turns the listeners in a different direction. Bouncing it off myself and others.

I’ve received some great tips and ideas from people. The top two would have to be, ‘Just be yourself and let your character shine through.’ A great resource, according to a writer/artist friend of mine, Steve Attkisson, is Gene Perret’s Ten Commandments of Comedy. This is ‘one book that has been instructive and entertaining.’ I intend to withdraw this book from the library, to read next. I know I need help.

Will the audience laugh? Only time will tell!

In the end, I’ll get it right. Meantime, I thought the lessons I’m learning along the way might be valuable. As I figure out how to write a humorous speech, hopefully, what I share via my blog might also benefit someone else. Ain’t the internet cool?

How do you write funny? Any tips to share? Send help. Please. Or chocolate.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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My advice? You wanna look 20 years younger? Stand further away. ~ Jeff Green

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July 8th. It was the end of the second term and time for our return visit to Grandpa.

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Being winter, I had the car packed with extra bedding, extra warm clothes, and extra everything. We left town at 10 a.m. The boys watched movies on my laptop in the backseat. We were due to meet my father in his favourite coffee shop for lunch, and by the time we neared the turnoff from the highway, we were making good time.

Then, we neared the bottom of the hill, a literal fifteen-minute drive left to Grandpa’s small town.

That was when we saw orange cones across the road ahead of us. Ominously, a council worker stood re-directing traffic.

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“The road’s closed,” said the earnest-looking young Maori man.

“Why?”

“Flooding. No one can get through. There’s been heavy rain and there’s a ‘King tide.’ The tide won’t drop till about 5 p.m.”

“What can we do?”

“Prestcott’s Garage is open. You can go along there and wait with the others, if you want.”

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We opted to go through the barrier, and drive a few hundred yards to the old-timey gas station. It was midday.

We sat waiting in our car, along with about a dozen other similarly-trapped people, stuck in limbo, in the pouring rain.

The laptop then ran out of battery power. The boys started complaining. It was one of those times when you, as the adult, wished there was someone you could complain to!

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We trailed about outside, and were very fortunate that after half an hour, it stopped raining. The kids were able to see it as an adventure then, rather than a punishment.

For the next two and a half hours, we played with a ball, and we took walks around about to look at the flooded fields.

I’d seen the low-lying countryside with lots of big puddles before, but nothing like this. There were cars stuck on the other sides of the roads in all directions, too, we were told. A tree was down across the road, also, for which a special kind of tractor was sent. A car was submerged and a truck had landed in the ditch. A local farmer had had to “teach her heifers to swim.”

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We were wet, cold and tired. Yet, we bided our time and watched the occasional emergency vehicle dash past.

I had spontaneous conversations with all kinds of interesting folk. There was the 95-year-old who had travelled down with his 70-year-old wife, to view a property in the area, and had only been intending a day trip, to travel straight back to the city afterwards. There was a young businessman with neat coiffed hair and immaculately-pressed shirt and slacks, on his way to meet friends. The truck-driver who told me, he would attempt driving through anyway, but he was worried because if he didn’t make it, ‘the insurance won’t cover you if you’ve travelled on a closed road.’ An elderly blue-eyed gentleman blustered, ‘We only just moved here from Auckland. I’m beginning to wish we never had!’

We stood around, talking and commiserating.

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Finally, an authoritative-looking man came from the direction of the flood, and announced, “There’ll be nothing getting through for the next two days. The bridge has moved.”

I phoned dad. He said, “But, couldn’t you come around the long way?” A trip around the top of the Coromandel Peninsula would take another three hours. Yet, we had no choice!

I had never driven the journey in question before, and upon querying others at the station, was told, ‘just follow your nose to the turn off.’ At 3 p.m. we set off back the way we’d come, over the Coromandel Ranges, chased by the pouring rain and howling gale.

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The road lived up to the terrible reputation Kiwi roads have gained overseas. After an hour of hair-raising twists and turns winding up the coast, we headed into the mountains; a route of 25 – 35 km tight twists and turns. This particular trek includes the only “15 km” hairpin bend I’ve ever taken. As the gathering dusk turned to evening, I prayed we would make it to our destination.

Additional to this litany of woes, was the fact I was stuck wearing my dark prescription glasses. My glasses for night time driving were somewhere in amongst our luggage. I was trying to see where the road was going, as it bent and twisted in front of me like a pile of wet spaghetti in the pitch dark!

Another two hours later, we limped into my father’s small town. 6.15 p.m. The first day of our mid-winter break had been an instrument of torture!

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Later, my brother arrived with news the bridge hadn’t moved after all. Someone had gotten the wrong message through to the crowd of us waiting at the garage. 95% of the people waiting had turned around and returned home, while a few of us hardier types had weathered the trip the long way round. Either way, it had been, as a burly blond guy at the scene had said, ‘A bloody mess!’

My father said he was going to talk to the Mayor. The fact that all roads into the Coromandel had been reduced to a single lane for a whole day, and yet, there were no road signs out on the highways, to warn travellers, was “pathetic,” he said. The fact there was no clear authority in charge, once there were holiday goers stuck in limbo, was “hopeless management.” These were serious issues which needed to be addressed by the Mayor and the council, dad said. My thoughts exactly. Bravo!

Thanks, dad. You’re my hero! 

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Talk to you later.

(p.s. The rest of the holiday was great!)

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The hero’s redemption (and ultimate victory) hinges on their transcending their self-concern. And it rarely happens unless the writer brings the hero to the point of despair. ~ PJ Reece

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My mother passed away a year ago, today.

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When my brother rang me on the afternoon of June 25th, 2015, I was in the driveway, unpacking groceries from the car. I remember it was grey and overcast; I noticed the clouds and made a mental note to get the washing off the line. As I lifted out two bags of groceries, with my ear pressed to the phone wedged between my ear and my shoulder, I heard my brother say, ‘Have you heard the news? Mum died.’

‘What?’

‘She passed away in her sleep.’

‘@3$56&!’ I dropped the bags.

‘I know. This morning Dad woke up and tried to resuscitate her. When he couldn’t wake her up, he called for an ambulance.’

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My brother says I was swearing like a sailor. I don’t remember it. Goodness knows what the neighbours thought.

Ma was in her eighties, a survivor of six “mini strokes,” it was not unexpected. Yet, the news still hit me like a ten pound weight to the chest.

In the year preceding, my mother had taken to talking a lot about dying.

On one visit, she was talking about her departure and I felt this need to truly thank her for everything. I thanked her for letting me return home and pursue my dream of being a writer in the early years. When I gave up freelance journalism at the age of 25, to pursue my dream of being a writer, my parents let me return home for a few years. Ma had always believed in me. I said I wanted her to stick around and see my first book published. I wanted that full circle moment, not just for me, but for the three of us.

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So, when my brother rang me with the news, I thought, she can’t have died, our milestone moment hasn’t happened yet. No full circle moment. Life sucks sometimes.

Now that a year has passed since that day my family’s life changed forever, it’s a different kind of grief. It’s softer, not as sharp-edged. It’s settled onto a deeper level. Someone said somewhere that it was the little things they missed about their mother the most. I have found this to be true.

A woman who had talked our hind legs off her entire life, with whom we could never get a word in edgewise, had turned into a focused and intently interested listener in the last five years or so of her life. As I said in my eulogy, ‘She had moved on from only ever being the one doing the talking, to being the one who could also sit and listen.’

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Mum had developed a real keen interest in my stories. She would ask and then really pay attention to me spinning my worlds. Mum had a childlike way of going there with me, which was deeply rewarding.

I miss our conversations. I miss her bright, watching eyes. I miss her laugh. I miss her spontaneous silly moments. I miss her sudden silly dancing. I even miss her crochet!

The loss of a parent is a cumulative sadness. I think my friend, author, James Preller expressed the compound nature of grief for a parent best, in a recent post on Facebook, when he said,

A day late, but this is my old man. I find that the day he died was not so bad; these things happen; but I miss him more now, feel it more now, ten years later. The missing accumulates, sedimentary, takes on heft over time. That weighty absence. And yet, and yet, an enduring presence too. My father. Still here, still gone.

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The “weighty absence yet, enduring presence” is such poetry. I couldn’t possibly improve on this as a way of encapsulating my feelings about my mother, who passed away a year ago today.

I rang my father this morning, we spoke for a while. He’s okay. We’re okay. Yet, his wife of 65 years is gone. Ma’s still mourned. Still missed. Still loved.

On this, the first anniversary of her transition, my mother is, as James said, still here, still gone.

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Raising children is one of the most significant things that a person can do. It matters a tremendous amount, and women who choose to do it should be held in high esteem. ~ Paul Rosenberg

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Ever since mum died, my brother and I have met up at our father’s home with our kids every school holidays. We travel from different parts of the country to meet in the lovely seaside township where dad has retired. With me, my thirteen-year-old, Sam (who has Down Syndrome), and my ten-year-old, Nat. My brother, Al, brings his eleven-year-old, Riki. We regularly reunite to spend quality time with grandpa.

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I noticed during this holiday Sam literally followed his uncle around. And, it made me think about the need our young people have for positive role models. Young boys can be like homing missiles, sometimes, seeking those role models, to look up to and show them the way.

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My boys are lucky. My brother and I are lucky. The amazing side benefit of gathering to visit grandpa is that it regularly brings three generations of the males in our family together. We have each other, and the older family members can guide the younger.

In the greater communities and society, however, the dearth of fathers in the home is a sad reality.

There are ‘men deserts’ in many parts of our towns and cities and we urgently need to wake up to what is going wrong. – Christian Guy

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In 2013, in a research project on male role models, a post was published. More children growing up without male role models says new report, shared details of the report released by the Centre for Social Justice which claimed the increasing rate of lone parent families was creating ‘men deserts.’

The Centre’s director, Christian Guy, said, ‘For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom. This is an ignored form of deprivation that can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development.’

Grandpa and Nat

What can we do?

*Appreciate the importance of positive male role models in our own families.

The happy side effect of gathering around Grandpa has been gathering the guys for a few days, every couple of months, to fish and golf and play cards. And, they’re all benefiting from time together.

*Initiate/participate in ideas like the brother/buddy systems.

Recently, a friend of mine mentioned he’s involved with an initiative run by his church where the older guys are paired with fatherless boys, to do activities and spend time with them. This sort of thing has such positive effects  in our communities!

*Encourage and vocalise the idea that we need more male teachers for our upcoming boys.

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In the “Conclusions and Reflections” of the report published in 2001, Social Learning Theory and the Influence of Male Role Models on African American Children, Rhonda Wells-Wilbon and Spencer Holland stated, ‘The role and contribution of males in the classroom cannot be ignored. At minimum, they make the classrooms more manageable so teachers can teach. At their highest level, they instil positive values, pride, and the desire to want to do the right thing even in absence of the role model.

‘While school is considered the place where children learn the skills to be productive participants in the workforce, reading, writing and math alone are not sufficient for preparing the next generation.’

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Therefore, changes need to be put into place within the education system to encourage more young men to take up teacher training, to fill the current deficit.

The teacher, Erin Lees said, ‘If father is not there, the child looks to fill up with other male role models.’

According to Wells-Wilbon and Holland, ‘Mentoring programs and other volunteer programs that bring men into the classroom, and that are well structured for consistency and modelling positive behaviour can be a valuable resource.

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‘In this study, there seems to be a relationship between structuring a program that focuses on values and important life skills as well as tutoring and academic support. Children like adults learn and function best when they have a strong foundation of values and feel valued as important people.

Modelling and teaching important life skills is the foundation for building academic achievers.’

With such positive thinking, there is hope for the future.

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On the last day of our holiday, we took our late afternoon walk with Grandpa. At the end of the trail, I asked my thirteen-year-old Sam to bunch up with Uncle and Grandpa for a photo. Any doubts lingering as to the value of male mentors in a boy’s life can be answered right there.

Have you any stories to share about effective mentorship?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. ~ E. B. White

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A few weeks ago, I took part in a blog event, invited by friend, author and illustrator, Teresa Robeson, to show a retrospective of my art. In the process, I discovered old school projects. I was astonished to see the leaps I had taken in the presentation and effort that went into my projects over a number of years at school. The revelation gave some insight like a bird’s eye view on my younger years. I saw how I am who I am and how I am today because of striving to earn the approval of my father.

Take a moment to think about it, how did your father shape your life as a creative person?

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Growing up, I learned to work hard to win dad’s praise. On my school assignments I put in enormous effort, seeking to receive a pat on the back. Will he say, well done? I’d wonder. Dad would say, “There’s a spelling mistake.”

The praise flows from my father now that I’m grown. He’s a wonderful man. When I was growing up however, he felt his role was to teach, therefore, he had to point out whatever was incorrect so that I would learn.

And, I did! Sometimes, when I’d worked really hard on a piece and dad found flaws, I was disappointed, yes. But, it only served to fuel the desire to work longer to get to that “well done” moment. I used each failure in a positive way, to spur me to try harder on the next project.

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I began to think more deeply about answering the questions on school assignments. I began to pay more attention to my artwork and upgrading the layout.

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Each project gained an A grade from my teacher, but dad would always find a flaw, no matter how small. I started writing original thoughts, and working harder on the illustrations. My school work and grades improved.

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Every beautiful essay I showed my father was picked apart. He didn’t mean to be unkind. Dad would have been wounded if he’d known how much it humbled me.

Nevertheless, each homework assignment, I put in more effort. I was learning major lessons in concentration.

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The last project I did at junior school, before I moved on, and past the need to show my father everything I produced, was a book review.

I produced my review of, ‘A Commune on the Pearl River Delta,’ in a round format, with tissue paper glued in between each page. There were in all a dozen round pages with words and images, crafted in dense colour pencil and pen. It begins with the “tour guide,” Mr. John Know-it-all, introducing himself to the reader, and then, John leads the way through the review as if through the Pearl River Delta itself.

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It was a work of art. A triumph. The first time I ever got A++ What did my father say when I presented it to him? “China is spelt with a capital C.”

When my son was born, thirteen years ago, my parents came to meet their grandchild. I recall my father shaking my husband’s hand. Dad said, “Welcome to fatherhood!” It was such a poignant, sweet moment, like a passing of the baton, and a reassurance that the path ahead was worth walking. Dad has cherished his role as father. He was so happy for us to be starting a journey together as a family.

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When I think back on my own childhood with my father, I could look at his withholding of praise as a negative. No, I don’t see it that way at all. I look at what it produced. By the time I started at high school, I was a creative ideas machine. I could crank out essays and artwork at the drop of a hat. I was always willing to put in the extra work. I’m still like that today. I believe my ability for perseverance came from my childhood strivings, therefore are directly attributable to my father’s influence.

Take a moment to think about it, how do the qualities which define you today relate directly to your father? It’s wonderful when you start to identify them.

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They say that we get the parents we need. They also say there are no mistakes. It makes sense to think that by viewing what we’ve been given in each of our unique circumstances, as being exactly the springboard we needed in our lives, that we enable ourselves to move forward to better things.

This week, my youngest son said to me confidently, “We get 25% from our fathers and 75% from our mothers.” Cute but wrong. We get DNA 50/50 from our parents. Our fathers are just as important as our mothers, and just as influential. How we use the paternal influence as we go forward, however, is up to us.

What do you think has been your father’s greatest influence on you? His legacy?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“When a child is born, a father is born.”― Frederick Buechner

“What we think, we become.” – Buddha

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The launch of my first book at the weekend was a tremendous success. The good vibes and happy feelings continue to ripple outward. This post is for all those who were unable to attend the event in person. Even my close-knit family and best friends were unaware of the ‘whole story’ of my journey so far as a writer. This address was my chance to step out of the shadows of my writer’s cave, and share what it’s taken for me to get this book ready for the world….

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“A dream”

A long time ago, I had a dream of being a writer and publishing a book.

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When you are living the creative life, you carry this little torch inside, of hope that your work will reach the public one day and make a difference. You’ll get to stand up and be counted.

I set a glass ceiling for myself, when I wrote my first novel at the age of 17 that I would get a book deal.

At the age of twenty, I took a writing course. I remember the tutor, Maria, said to me, “Put down your pen, and stop writing. You’re too young. Go out and live your life, then you can write about it.”

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I did my best. I raised my son. I studied fashion design and photography, I managed a bar in town and a drycleaners, among other things. Yet, in my spare time, I was always writing. Sorry, Maria, but I never gave up.

From the time I moved home in my late twenties to live with my parents and work on my fiction, to the time I spent writing on the side-line while raising my children, to writing as an escape from the gruelling anxiety over my boys’ health troubles – steadily working on the craft has ever formed the backdrop of my life. Writing and submitting stories and being rejected a hundred times. Year-after-year, I persevered.

Initially, I wrote chapter books for early readers. Then I moved on to writing and illustrating my own picture books. I have a number of beautifully-painted manuscripts stacked in boxes underneath my desk from those days.

That book deal, you see, was proving elusive.

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In 2005, I attended a children’s writing workshop with Kate de Goldi. Kate challenged me to decide what I was, an illustrator or a writer. She wanted me to choose a path.

I chose writing. I stopped illustrating then, not out of slavish abeyance but because I really felt in my bones she was right. And looking back, I realise I needed to do just that. It’s a powerful thing to pinpoint ones focus.

In that workshop of 2005, Kate asked us to write non-stop for a regular period each day. To my surprise, I found I was writing a novel for 9-13 year olds. I didn’t have to worry about continuity. Every time I picked up my pen, the story would carry on from where it left off. The story flowed, and the characters that came out in this fully-formed world were the same insects who had peopled my picture books, but they were slightly older.

I wrote every night after the kids were in bed, from then on, and for the next few years. I ended up with a vast epic, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, which I chopped into three. ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ is the first book in that trilogy.

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Then, I ventured into the world of social media. I started my online group, “Writing for Children,” and my American friends encouraged to set up a website, to start my own blog and to join with writing partners and online critique groups.

Because the development of this book was done through critique and endless rounds of edits with my American friends, the terms, the spelling, everything gradually evolved, and what started out as a fantasy adventure firmly rooted in an alternate NZ became a story more and more suited for the American market, making this story a rare hybrid.

When I finished work the first time on this book, I sent it to acclaimed kiwi author, Fleur Beale, for her assessment. She said, ‘Excellent story, but lose the insects!’

I couldn’t lose the insects because it was the fact that The Chronicles of Aden Weaver was set in this microscopic world that made it so unique and interesting. However I came up with a new concept – of making the characters shape-shifters – able to move between human and insect form.

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Eighteen months later, after a major overhaul of the script, I met Frances Plumpton, NZ representative of The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. I gave the Tane Mahuta novel to her to assess. I’ll never forget what she said. “Every writer has that book in their bottom drawer that should never see the light of day. This is that book.”

My next writing partner was an author and musician. He said, my story “went clunk” and “sounded like the equivalent of riding over cobblestones on a horse.” His advice was scrap the whole thing and start again. And so it went on. The knocks in this business are legendary.

In fact, there’s a wonderful site, called literary rejections dot com where I discovered I was not alone. To name a few, Louisa May Alcott, who wrote Little Women, was told Stick to teaching.” Richard Bach, author of Jonathon Livingston Seagull was told, Nobody will want to read a book about a seagull.” L. Frank Baum was told, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, was Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.”

Thankfully those authors didn’t listen to the naysayers! And neither did I….

Though a couple of years ago, I went through yet another crushing defeat that did stop me in my tracks for a minute. I had submitted this book to an international contest for the prize of publication. I didn’t hear back from them. Then, on their website, the organizers said, those who don’t hear back are the finalists. Whoopee! This was cause for great jubilation! Until upon further enquiry, I discovered that not only had I not made it to the finals, but the organisers had not received the manuscript at all, due to my fatal error in calculating the time difference between countries.

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In my mind, I had thought I was this close to breaking through that glass ceiling. Instead I was back at square one. AGAIN. Devastated, I fell into a black hole that lasted for seven days.

At the end of that week, I got a phone-call. I heard my mother’s voice. She said, “The darkest hour always comes before the dawn. You may think all is lost right now, but it isn’t. This is just the start of great things opening up for you. You’ll see!”

Ma, I always hoped you’d be here for this, and yet I know you’re here in spirit.

Even though my mother was failing in her later years, she always knew when to ride in on the silver horse!

I have to thank my parents for so much. I know that my journey to publication has been a long and winding road. And yet mum and dad still believed.

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When, as a writer you feel everything is taking too long, and the frustration mounts, there’s this expectation of you and yet you’re not delivering, you could literally wallpaper your house with the rejection letters – you actually do need more than financial assistance to keep going sometimes, you need love. My parents gave me both.

Thank you to my father for driving up from Rotorua just to be here today. Thank you to those who have postponed personal milestones to help me celebrate mine. To you I say I am humbly grateful. Thank you to my friends for your patience, for putting up with me when I miss all the get-togethers, or on the rare occasion I do show up, that I’m always the first to leave. Thank you, Simon, for bringing Aden Weaver to life. I really appreciate you all being here to help me mark this moment, this crossing of the threshold. I am sure a great many of you – don’t worry I don’t need a show of hands – had begun to wonder if I’d ever publish anything. You might have been forgiven for wondering if this day would ever come.

The only reason this day is here now is because I stopped waiting to be picked up by a traditional publisher. Along the way, I had realized my glass ceiling was holding me down. So I let it go. I let the dream of a book deal go, but I didn’t let go of the book, nor the insects, nor the vision of how I wanted it to be. The dream is still alive in a new form, and it’s even better, I have total creative control.

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One of my writing tutors, Bob Mayer, once said, “Failure is the start point for future success.”

Hugh Howey had ten novels in print before he published “Wool” which became a big hit. The estate of Jack London, the House Of Happy Walls displays some of the 600 rejections he received before selling a single story.

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In other words, the only thing that separates the published from the unpublished author is deep determination and a touch of insanity. Lucky for me, I’m endowed with both.

It was Sir Winston Churchill who once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

By those standards, I’ve been WINNING for the last 33 years!
A long time ago, I had a dream…of being a writer and publishing a book. Today that dream has become a reality! Thank you for being here with me to witness this moment.

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Awaken to the brilliance in ordinary moments. Tell the truth about yourself no matter what the cost. Own your reality without apology. Be bold , be fierce, be grateful. Be gloriously free. Be You. Go now,and live” Jeanette LeBlanc.

My family and I are taking turns at the weekends to go and stay with my father. Dad lives in a fairly isolated spot on the Coromandel of New Zealand. It’s been just over two months now since Ma died. As one of the younger and wiser members of the family said, “We don’t know how much longer Grandpa’s got; we want to spend time with him. He’s a pretty amazing guy.”

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I’ve literally just walked in through the door, having returned from my visit with Dad. I realized that instead of putting my jacket away, I was carrying the jacket around with me as I unloaded the car, and unpacked my bags. I remembered that it was originally one of Dad’s old coats – Ma didn’t like it so she gave it to me, she liked snugly-fitting jackets on men, and this is made of thick corduroy, lined with quilting. It’s a sturdy all-weather coat. I love it. I’d taken it on the trip with me and worn it home, and was reluctant to put it in the closet.  I realized I was a bit teary-eyed and was wondering if I’d ever see my father again.

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Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape. ~Anonymous

Will that be the last time Dad regales me with his jokes? “Do not argue with an idiot. He’ll drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.”

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Dads are…special.

And I was thinking of one particular moment…Dad had shown me a pamphlet from stonemasons, showing various shapes and styles of headstones, and we discussed the kind he’d chosen for Ma’s burial plot. We are going to have a family gathering and commemoration on the anniversary of her death, June 25, 2016, for the “unveiling” of the headstone.

I asked, “Have you planned what the dedication will say?”

Dad said, “No. It’ll only be written on half the stone of course, because I’ll be buried there, one day.” He looked down at the pamphlet and then away out of the window.

Normally, I can pride myself on figuring out something to say, even if it’s the wrong thing. But I just sat there this time, looking at him, helpless, unable to summon a single thought.

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Dads are…special.

We had a lovely time together. We ate lunch in “his” cafe. We took a nice hearty walk around the top of the mountain behind his house. We ate together, played cards, and sat talking over many cups of tea and sweet things to eat.

And of course he has his little rituals. Dad likes to show me when he feeds the birds in his garden – a little ritual he does for the local wildlife every afternoon at three on the dot – for the waxeyes, gold finches, tui, blackbirds, sparrows and thrushes, he puts out (very carefully) sliced banana, apple, pear, grapes, halved mandarins, and a big spoonful of firm dripping fat.

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The deafening chorus of the flocks as they started to gather in the trees before the feast suddenly went quiet the instant Dad appeared at the front door. They waited in respectful silence while Dad performed all the different steps. Not a peep. Once he was gone, the birds swooped in and cleaned every speck up in about ten minutes flat.

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On my stay, Dad and I watched television. We sat side by side, companionably, comfortably occupied each doing our own thing for an hour or two here and there as well. He was doing his cryptic crossword. I was doing a pencil sketch, which would form the basis for a pen & ink illustration, to go in my book, upcoming release, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ and it was really nice.

I drove home thinking, will there be another time?

Will there be another chance to listen to his jokes, “The shinbone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room!”, or another chance to hear him count his blessings, “I am SO blessed to have all my family coming to see me,” another chance to play Cribbage and hear all his funny, little, old English sayings that get attributed to counting every hand: “Five’s alive,” “Eight’s in state,” etc, and the always funny, “One for his knob”?

Another chance to laugh at Dad’s cute protestations, with raised eyebrows, when I started to streak away from him on the peg board in Cribbage, “You’re not going to beat your poor old dad, are you?” he asked with hand clutched to his heart. Ha ha. I think we all got our funny bone in this family from Dad. He’s a fun guy to be around.

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I’ve returned from a very pleasant time and yet I feel sad….

This has only started to happen since Ma died. I didn’t used to come home swamped in pathos and nostalgia. But now, I am. I’ve stared at the unflinching reality of my mother leaving her body. Now, I’m staring at my still hale and healthy, 83 year old independent father and I can’t help but be fully in touch with the impending reality that looms.

Ma was also 83.

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Dads are…special.

 

So I hug my coat, and I write blog posts to my friends and online family. I will turn to my artwork, next, as a source of solace. Whew. I have set myself the challenge of finishing another pen & ink illustration for my book this afternoon, and then hopefully, I’ll get to write.

How do you deal with the challenges in life? Do you have a creative outlet?

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Happy Father’s Day to all the dads in this neck of the woods, for tomorrow! You are loved!

Talk to you soon,

Yvette K. Carol

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‘You have to accept whatever comes with the best you have to give.’ ~ Eleanor Roosevelt