Posts Tagged ‘children’

As a parent, your children pass so many milestones which at the time seem incredible and wondrous: their first tooth, their first smile, first step, first day at school, first night away from home, passing the double digits, and so on. As a parent of a child with CHD, Congenital Heart Disorder, you have additional, special milestones. Surviving the surgery is the first one.

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And it’s not a given. You come face to face with this brutal reality the first day you arrive in the Children’s Heart Ward for your child’s procedure. The specialists sit you down to explain the risks of open heart surgery. The real danger lies in what they call the “bypass.” The surgeons must stop the heart beating, and divert the blood, passing it through a machine while they work on the heart. This creates the threat of blood clotting. They tell you, your child may be permanently brain damaged or die. You have to sign a waiver at this point which basically says you agree to take these risks.

Next, the psychologist shows you a book of the photos of the surgery and graphic detail of the children’s chests afterwards. This is tough love; they say the preparation is necessary because otherwise, the shock for the parents is too great.

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By this stage, you’re quaking in your boots, trying to look strong and brave for your child. You have to be the parent, even though you wish you could run home to your own.

Therefore, surviving the surgery is the first milestone.

My son was an unusual case, and patching the ASD (Atrial Septal defect) did not entirely fix the problem. When they took him off bypass the first time, and closed him, the surgeons saw the blood coming out was still blue instead of red. Something was still wrong. They had to open the heart again, stop the heart and put him on bypass for a second time.

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They discovered an “anomalous” vein going down to the liver. This defect was “unique to him.” They replaced the patch so it covered the hole and the unusual vein. This time his blood ran red. My five year old had survived a double bypass.

He made it through that terrible first day in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. “OW! Mama it hurts!” were his first crying words. The second day, he said, “I need to get well!” He made it through the first few days in the High Dependency Unit, and taking his first painful steps walking in the ward. Surviving week one in recovery is the second milestone.

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Then we went home and he managed the first six weeks at home when CHD children must not fall over or take a blow to the torso and getting comfortable enough to sleep every night is the tricky part. Third milestone, ticked!

It typically takes CHD children twelve months to regain normal energy levels. My son had only just started at school when he had to have his surgery. When he returned to school a month later, he could only do half days and I had to give him a piggyback home every day, because he was too tired to walk. A year later, he was at school doing full days and walking both ways. Fourth milestone!

In 2011, we returned to the Children’s Heart Clinic for a check up. Most patients get “discharged” at this point. 95% of cases survive into adulthood which is a good success rate. However my son had been added to the “unusual case book,” and as such, the surgeons asked us to return in five years, so they could check on him again.

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This week, we went back for our second check-up. Returning to the ward brought all the memories back. We peeped in down the hallways. My son remembered that when I’d placed him on the metal bed in the operating theatre, he’d worried that the blanket wasn’t thick enough to keep him warm!

The nurse gave son a check up. We filled out a questionnaire. Yes, he still gets tight-chested sometimes when he runs, yes, he gets blue lips when he does a lot of exercise, and yet, that doesn’t stop him. He plays golf and soccer, he’s learning to play the drums, and he runs around as much as the other kids. He’s fit and healthy.

The nurse gave him an E.C.G. and then an ultra-sound. The heart surgeons conferred and finally announced he was officially “discharged.”

Son and I “high-fived” on the way to the car. Yes. He made the fifth milestone. “Onwards and upwards from here,” as my father would say.

What milestone has made your heart sing lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“It doesn’t hurt to be optimistic. You can always cry later.”

— Lucimar Santos de Lima

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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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

May Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

A colleague from Toastmasters referred to the series I’m writing as “magical realism” the other day, which I thought was a good description. I like to write of other worlds which are nevertheless based on Earth. For the upper middle grade series I’m writing currently, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, the characters are shape shifting insects. For this, I did research on the insect world, read up on some Maori and Japanese myths, and I read about Albatrosses, and I loved every minute of it.

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When I first started out as a young writer, I used to be embarrassed of my “talking animals stories” because most people, especially publishers at the time, disregarded them. However, the popularity of fantasies about animals can be traced back to Aesop’s fables and beyond. Our fascination with them goes through Greek literature and can be seen echoed in fables from other cultures such as India, through the “beasts as spokespeople” of medieval writers, to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, to The Jungle Book and The Wind in the Willows. It’s a “live” sub-genre of fantasy.

“As a critical term, ‘fantasy’ has been applied rather indiscriminately to any literature which does not give priority to realistic representation: myths, legends, folk and fairy tales, utopian allegories, dream visions, surrealist texts, science fiction horror stories…” ~ Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy, The Literature of Subversion

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As they say in The Ultimate Encyclopaedia of Fantasy, “One of the problems in any discussion of fantasy is to decide just where ‘realistic’ ends and fantasy begins.” In the “variously fashionable sub-type” of magical realism, which is the strange grayish area of literature I inhabit, the realistic aspect of the story is balanced by the fantastical.

English comedian and writer, David Walliams said, “The only limits in a children’s book are your imagination.” This is exactly what I love about writing for children and the magical realism genre; they’re both about that freedom of spirit. I feel the sky’s the limit and that’s the way I want to feel when I write.

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To achieve “realism,” I always do a bit of research for every book. So for this story about insect shape shifters, I read books, articles, watched documentaries about insects. My dragonfly characters have six legs and four wings. I feel that being able to include the facts gives credibility to the world we’re creating for our readers. Realism adds depth and complexity. It locks the reader in so that they can fly with us on our leaps of imagination. They feels safe with us to explore further.

Once your reader knows the facts, you can then build on that basis to amp up the tension when the norm breaks down.

For instance, there are albatross in this series. The albatross is a sea bird and I discovered it nests right on the coast when it comes ashore at all. Armed with this information, I was able to use this one simple fact to anchor and skew part of the story.

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Because I write for children, who may not be aware of certain things, I needed to drop in a line of dialogue or two prior to this scene, to clue the young reader in to the way things should be, e.g. “Albatross should never nest far from the sea.” Then, by placing the enemy chief’s colony of albatross deep inland, far from water, this one simple anomaly gave the enemy compound an eerie, other-worldly, slightly “off-kilter” ambience that permeates the reader’s perception of the place from then on.

Without a doubt, the coolest thing about research so far has been the research itself, learning new things and supplying good sturdy foundations to the fantasy stories I write. It’s part of the work of being a writer and it’s fun!

How about you, what is your favourite part of what you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Fantasy is the fiction of the heart’s desire. ~ Unknown

 

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After months mostly spent indoors at the computer, my boys and I headed to the coast to spend Christmas with family.

It was a lot of fun. We stayed a whole week, with the boys going back with their father to the city for one day and night, to kayak with their other cousins. I surprised myself by swimming every day, sometimes twice. It was great.

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While there, I went from feeling the stress of Christmas to relaxing. My brother arrived with injuries, hardly able to move. Yet, by the time they left, he was looking like his old self. His partner suffers from an ongoing illness, and yet, while on holiday with us she had more “good days” than ever.

I pondered this as I holidayed, and I realized there is therapy in travel…in being somewhere ‘different’

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In fossicking about in rock-pools

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In connecting with the earth – actually touching it

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In making new friends

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In risking a little discomfort for the adventure

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In spending quality time with your cuzzies

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In hanging out with your siblings

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In being outdoors in the fresh air, sometimes doing nothing, sometimes climbing a mountain

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In fishing

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And swimming

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In snatching one last dip with the kids and nephews before the sun goes down

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There is therapeutic value in spending time with family. Full stop. Gathering under the same roof, especially during a festive time, helps to build and maintain those bonds. All the feasting and partying also expands the waistline! Never mind, the worry and guilt can wait till next year.

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These festive celebrations deepen the important connections in our lives. We feel the love. We feel plugged back into our families again.

I’ve returned to the city feeling refreshed, invigorated, calm and peaceful. I’m ready to work! I look forward with optimism to the year ahead. Bring on 2017!

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Talk to you later.

Happy New Year!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself.” ~ E.E. Cummings

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The week before last, my eleven-year-old son asked the dreaded question, ‘Is there really a Santa Claus?’

A friend of his at school had said he didn’t believe in Father Christmas because ‘it’s just your parents bringing you presents.’

My boy looked up at me. ‘It’s not you bringing us the presents, is it?’

I stared into his eyes.

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I explained I was doing my bit to uphold a tradition in our family which dated back in time. The original mythology of the big guy delivering ‘small gifts to good children’ comes from St. Nicholas or “Bishop Nicholas.” He was one of the most popular saints in all Christendom, especially in the East. He is said to have been a bishop of Myra (Lycia) in the early 4th century. He was related to doing good works.

Bishop Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a starving family, so the story goes, and the story of his kindness (one of many in his lifetime) spread. People everywhere grabbed onto the idea and began to hang stockings by the fire; in the hope Bishop Nicholas would visit them with his “magical gifts” in the night. Something about this idea caught hold in the human consciousness and took root.

As Brian Conway said, “A true hero of the people, St. Nicholas still delivers his magical gifts each year at Christmastime. The gifts Santa Claus delivers, gifts of hope and joy, bring the joy of giving to all the children of the world.”

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I thought this is the key time to talk about magic and those things that are beyond our ability to explain, before his facility to grasp the ethereal, the subtle is lost. The whole magic of Christmas, to me, lies in the power of possibility thinking. Anything can happen and probably will. That’s where the magic lives, in that gap we create with our minds, by saying, ‘what if?’

I asked, ‘Have you heard of the famous letter, ‘Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus?

‘No.’

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There’s a famous post from the column of Francis P. Church, who wrote for The Sun, in 1897.

The story goes that a girl called Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor. She said, “Dear Editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?”

Francis Church wrote in reply ~

“Dear Virginia,

Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be seen which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.”

“In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

“He exists as truly as love and generosity and devotion exist.

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(photography, Tracey Henderson)

“How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.

“There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

“Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe in fairies! The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

“Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in this entire world there is nothing else more real and abiding.

“A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

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My son smiled. He asked, ‘Was it you bringing our gifts all these years?’

‘Yes.’

‘I still believe.’

‘Me, too.’

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Talk to you later.

Happy Holidays!

Yvette K. Carol

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Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

 

 

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Ever since the first year my son Sam-the-man was able to sit unaided, I have photographed him and made a Christmas card for our family.

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Sam was born with Down’s syndrome. The card began as a way of celebrating him and his achievements. It created a small yet meaningful tradition for our family. Once his little brother came along, the card featured the two boys and it became another way to chronicle their lives.

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I think people gravitate towards things which are home-made. Those are always the favourite gifts from the kids. I send a parcel to the boys’ grandfather every year at this time. I send him gifts and the boys’ artwork, their calendars, stories they’ve written, as well as our Xmas card.  This is what the older generation, grandparents especially, live for.

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The card is simple, easy to make, creative, fun.

The Photo:

Any parent can tell you, the first and hardest step in any Xmas photo is the child-wrangling.

*Tip: Don’t leave it till December. Try to get the photo taken before the festive season.

I aim to get the photo taken in the last couple of weeks of November, as this gives me a leeway of time up my sleeve if the boys prove resistant to having their photo taken. Ha ha. *evil laugh, rubs hands together!*

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Once I’ve managed to coral them into one room with the box of Christmas get-up, then they must be persuaded with promises of treats, to dress up. After that, I snap as many shots as I can take before they start begging to be let out.

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The boys are fourteen and eleven respectively, this year, and it’s getting harder and harder to coerce them into the festive shoot. You’d think it’d be getting easier, but, no!

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The Construction:

Picture chosen, print up a dozen pictures at 10 cm x 7 cm, and trim them. I like to keep them to a small size because some people like to hang the cards on their tree.

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Then, I choose which cardboard to use. Originally, I used to recycle old cardboard. We have a saying in New Zealand, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle,’ which we try to adhere to as much as possible. Some years, I cut old Christmas cards down to size. This year, however, I sourced a small box from the Hospice shop which were the right size which was a great option as they came supplied with their own envelopes.

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Glue a sheet of paper cut to a couple of centimetres shorter than the card to the front of the card stock. This will form an edging like a frame for the picture. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. I like to see a little of the construction in crafts.

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*Tip: Every year, on Boxing Day, I do a ritual of taking the discarded gift-wrap and cutting up the beautiful or unusual wrap into small, clean pieces for later craft projects. In this case, I have some rather special rescued reindeer, snowflake, and red-chequered print paper.

My mother used to buy me a crafting material called “Hot Fuzz,” coloured synthetic fibres which bond together under the heat of a warm iron (through paper). I cut a dozen rectangular wedges of a sheet of Hot Fuzz, for the dazzle. You could use holographic cellophane just as well for this.

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Stick the photograph on top of the recycled paper, trapping a wedge of Hot Fuzz/cellophane between the layers.

*Tip: use a glue stick as “wet” glue can stain the paper. Press the cards under something flat and heavy between each glued layer as it creates a flatter, more pleasing finish. Make sure each layer is fully dry before you add another.

This year, I bought a “Card Kit” of decorations at the Hospice Shop. It included diamante leaves, silver stars, silver bows and transparent beads. I also sourced some finer glitter.

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*Tip: When you add the glitter, make sure to place the card on a small tray as it’s really hard to collect and re-use the left-over sparkles otherwise.

On top of the photo, in the same corner as the Hot Fuzz, apply embellishment, be it a delicate bow or a star. In the lower right corner, on a sweep of glue, drizzle more glitter and add beads or stickers.

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The last step is to write a personal message inside. Then, post it, yes, via snail mail. It still exists.

I posted ours to the lucky recipients. One Facebook friend – who had requested a card – responded, she ‘couldn’t take her eyes off it.’ Yay!

A Christmas craft project completed feels wonderful. This year, I even had enough left to put one on our own shelf. Joy.

Do you have a festive family tradition? Do you enjoy crafting? Do share in the comments below!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. ~ Albert Einstein

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I’ll never forget a school trip we did once. When I was seven-years-old we visited an old folks’ home. An octogenarian said, ‘I was young once, like you. I thought I was Peter Pan. You’ll be old like me, too, before you know it.’ I remember a chill going down my spine.

Time and the way it passes is a strange thing. It may be explained in a theoretical way, by a source like Wikipedia, ‘Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.

However, for most of us, we observe time in a personal, subjective way via a passing parade of birthdays and rites of passage.

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Both my youngest boys make the transition from junior schools to the next level of their education, next year. In 2017, my middle child will move from Intermediate to High School, and my youngest boy moves from Primary School to Intermediate.

In four days, I shall turn 52.

I suddenly become aware of time, in a new, more acute way, it seems as if time has ‘sped up’ and ‘gone by fast.’

I was seventeen when my eldest child was born. I looked ahead at our lives like an endless path. Twenty years went by and I had my subsequent children. When I looked ahead with these babies, I saw a different picture, a shorter road.

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I’ve celebrated more birthdays with zeroes on the end. I’ve taken to dyeing the roots of my hair to cover the greys, and to wearing heels and lipstick more often to draw attention away from the gathering “crow’s feet” and “smile lines” on my face.

What does time mean?

According to Wikipedia, ‘Periodic events and periodic motion have long served as standards for units of time. Examples include the apparent motion of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the swing of a pendulum, and the beat of a heart.’

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Yes, the beat of a heart. My boys have lost their baby teeth, they’ve passed the famed “double digits milestone,” learned to read and write, learned how to look after pets, play sports, and do basic chores. There has been a rhythm to the changes.

‘Currently, the international unit of time, the second, is defined by measuring the electronic transition frequency of caesium atoms.’ Why does time seem to go more slowly when we’re growing up and then seems to “speed up” as we age? I believe there is a scientific reason for it which has recently been established although I haven’t read the hypothesis, yet.

However, such things as this Wikipedia definition of time and the Gregorian calendar are relatively recent inventions.

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As a teacher of the Kahuna tradition, Erin Lees says, ‘The ancients followed the natural cycles. Life then followed that observation of nature.’ In other words, our ancestors heeded the seasons, plants, animals, migrations, the tides, the stars, the movement of the sun and moon for their sense of time.

The ancient peoples were consummate astronomers. ‘Temporal measurement has occupied scientists and technologists,’ says Wikipedia, ‘and was a prime motivation in navigation and astronomy.’

These days, we have become more and more “time poor.” Everybody rushes around saying they ‘don’t have time.’ You often hear the term, ‘time is money,’ and ‘there just aren’t enough hours in the day.’

‘Time is of significant social importance, having economic value as well as personal value, due to an awareness of the limited time in each day and in human life spans.’ ~ Wikipedia

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Therefore, to my mind, my task is to make the most of the time I have.

To do this, I need to find a balance between work and rest. The onus falls on me to find the methods of relaxation which suit me best.

There are many ways of stepping outside of the stress and slowing down. In order to return to some of that timeless experience of youth, we can utilize age-old relaxation techniques.

After trying many different things over the years, these methods work for me: daily meditation, which I learnt from the yogi, Gurudev Hamsah Nandatha, (e: adivajra@xplornet.com), daily discipline practise, I do Ka’alele Au, a form of martial art from Hawaii, which I learnt from the teacher, Erin Lees, (e: romikapalele@rocketmail.com), daily yoga, and I attend a local satsang group (also run by Erin). These are the things which keep my feet on the ground and my chin to the wind.

(p.s. on my birthday, I also gorge myself on cake!)

How do you create enough time? Do, tell!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. ~ John Lennon

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time

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Back in 2002, when I was expecting my second child, I was 36-years-old. My doctor at the time advised me to have an amniocentesis test, which is the form of pre-natal screening we have here in New Zealand. The doctors test for Down’s syndrome by inserting a long needled into the womb and extracting amniotic fluid.

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I panicked. I thought what if the results come back as positive? It was a decision I simply couldn’t make. I decided against taking the test.

In New Zealand, we were told at the time, one in 600 babies were born with Down’s syndrome.

In the UK, between 1989 and 2012, 20,000 babies were diagnosed through the new non‐invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). Of these, 92% were aborted. And, being classified as a ‘severe disability’, abortion can take place right up until birth.

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I’m so glad I somehow found the strength to resist the pressure of the medical professionals around me at the time, because my second son was born with Down’s syndrome. Sam-the-man, The Sam. As my mother said at the time, he has more God in him than anyone else. It’s true. It bothers me deeply to think of the pressure I was put under during the early stages of my pregnancy to get tested.

The NIPT is expected to drastically improve the rates of diagnosis of Down’s syndrome in England, which they project will result in 102 more babies with the syndrome being detected each year. When abnormality is detected, the only counselling offered to women after diagnosis is usually heavily pointed towards abortion. In Britain, the only counselling charity the National Health Service directs women to is, Antenatal Results and Choices, formerly known as Support Around Termination For Abnormality.

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These sad facts came to light recently, through actress Sally Phillips recent BBC documentary; ‘A World without Down’s syndrome?’ The acclaimed actress, mother to a daughter with Down’s syndrome, dared to ask the question, ‘What’s so dreadful about Down’s syndrome?’ Phillips travels the world and speaks to various people, including, ‘Emma’ who despite having been firm in her decision not to be tested for the condition ‘had to constantly justify her decision to medical practitioners.’

Why do we need to justify wanting to keep our unborn child?

On the award-winning Down syndrome blog, Downs Side Up, Hayley Goleniowska has a mission. That of ‘Gently changing perceptions of Down syndrome from within people’s hearts.’

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This mama is speaking my language.

Hayley: My mission is now to inspire new parents, show the world that many incredible things are possible for our children, and shout out that Down’s syndrome truly is wonderful and that life will carry on, there will be challenges, but you will not regret or wish to change any of it. 

You go, Hayley!

Her daughter, Natty, was the first child in Britain with a disability to appear in a Back to School Campaign.

Our youngest daughter Natty is a clothing model, pioneering for children with disabilities everywhere. She is a true ambassador in her own right, opening doors and forcing companies to be more inclusive in their approach to advertising.

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The writer, Ciarán Kelly commented sagely on the issue. ‘The new NIPT test has its roots in the Idea that some people’s lives have little or no value and therefore should be screened out from society. This is profoundly wrong. Unborn children are perhaps the most vulnerable people in our world and need to be protected. All human beings are made in the image of God and have a special, intrinsic value regardless of how young or how old, how able-bodied or disabled they might be. This does not apply only to those with Down’s syndrome. Neither does it apply only to those whom parent, family or society has deemed ‘makes a contribution’. It applies to us all.’ ~ Ciarán Kelly

http://www.affinity.org.uk/downloads/The%20Bulletin/issue-33/4)-a-world-without-downs-syndrome.pdf

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Exactly. When something happens to one of us it happens to all of us. I had an incident happen within my own family this week, where I had to stand up and defend Sam against a member of the general public. And it made me aware once again of how little people really understand about these amazing gentle people. It’s such a shame. We are none of us, not Trump in the White House nor Natty the child Down’s syndrome model, any better than the other. We are all equal. That’s what my son reminds me of every day. We are all human. We all deserve to be here.

What are your feelings on who gets to be human?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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#justaboutcoping, #worldwithoutdowns, #worldwithdowns

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‘The value of human life does not lie in its contribution to society at large, or even to the happiness of a particular family’ ~ Ciarán Kelly

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“There clearly is a myth about boys and reading as so many people seem to think that the gender gap in reading is bigger than it is, but research shows that the number one factor that determines your reading ability is how often your parents read out loud to you and the number of books in your house, which is connected with social class”. ~ Jennifer Dyer skully jensen @catagator

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I’ve been a long time believer in the positive power of a bedtime story.

We grew up with our father reading a story to us, last thing at night, every night. The bedtime story formed a warm, loving, stable pillar of our childhood for my siblings and I.

While my middle child is an avid reader, my youngest son didn’t gravitate to reading for pleasure, so the nightly ritual of reading the boys a few books neatly filled the gap.

The kids and I have started reading Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. Sam-the-man is finding the transition difficult; he needs to babble quietly to himself the whole time I’m reading. I’m reassured he is enjoying it nevertheless, as when I asked him if he’d like me to keep reading, he said an emphatic, yes!

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Mortal Engines has my youngest son, however, riveted. He is driven to talk about what has happened in each chapter we’ve read. During the toothbrushing/toileting before bed phase of the evening, he’ll be asking deep questions and pondering on the chapter. I am seeing first-hand, how a really good book can open and broaden a child’s mind. He’s prompted to look at things a little differently and ask some of the bigger questions.

I wonder if this has inspired the budding writer in him. In the past, I’d been impressed by my youngest son’s obvious talent for imaginative story. Yet, somewhere along the way, unbeknownst to me, his writing skills had languished. I was shocked to be called into school for a talk with his teacher, earlier in the year, to discuss ‘below National standard writing and English skills.’ His punctuation, use of descriptive words, and grasp of basic story structure needed work.

You can imagine how fired up I was. In the following holiday break, I spent time with Nat, reading stories and talking about them. We sat and made stories up on the spot a few times. On more than one occasion, we used making up stories to stave off the boredom of waiting for appointments.

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This week, Nat brought home three typed pages for me to read. Titled, ‘A Wizard’s Journey,’ it was a story he’d written and read aloud in class. I read it and was knocked over by everything. He had it all: structure, descriptive words, active words. I felt a rush of admiration for his talent. Moreover, I felt proud to see he had applied himself and improved.

He said, “A very beautiful thing happened today. My teacher said my story was the best story she’d ever heard in class.”

He was melting. And so was my heart. What a joy!

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Here was a boy who used to have no interest in reading for pleasure. His writing skills were under par, and yet, through the tradition of the bedtime story, we happened to hit upon the right sort of book, at the right time, to light up his inner storyteller.

The regular rhythm of the bedtime story provided the opportunity for that key moment in a reader’s life.  This may be the first book he remembers – the first one that makes him look for the next book in the series or that the author has written.

With a bit of luck, Mortal Engines has sparked my youngest son’s genuine interest in reading. All I can say for sure is that his writing skill and ability has leaped forward. He’s asking bigger picture questions. These things go hand in hand with increasing literacy.

Author and former teacher, Michael Morpurgo: It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children. When I was a boy I didn’t much like reading either, but it was my mother reading to me and my brother Pieter at bedtime that kept stories and books alive for me.

Do you read to your kids? Do you believe in the gentle benevolent power of the bedtime story?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Everything in a good book (perhaps even in a bad book) is a new truth, a new revelation to a child, whose experiences are, as yet, so limited. Therefore writers for children need to be extra careful about preaching, about filling in those empty spaces for a child. -Jane Yolen

 

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insecurewriterssupportgroup

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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

November’s Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Everything!

But mainly, this thing of nourishing oneself and others through the medium of the written art.

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Recently, our famous movie director, kiwi icon Peter Jackson, announced his next project which will be based on the Philip Reeve debut, Mortal Engines.

This week, I got hold of a copy of Reeve’s book.

First published in 2001, it received rave reviews. The Daily Telegraph said, ‘Philip Reeve’s debut novel, Mortal Engines, seems to have leapt fully formed from a startling imagination…a gripping yarn.’

Let me tell you, Engines lives up to the hype. The pace gallops along. You don’t have time to stop and think. You don’t have time to question. You don’t know what the heck is going on or what’s going to happen next, you’re in for the ride. From the first page, there was never any question of putting the book down without finishing it. This is the sort of book you read by flashlight after you’re supposed to be asleep, because you need to know what happens next. It’s almost a visceral experience, it’s that good. An instant lesson in effortless style and storytelling heft, it’s a wonder to behold.

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A young writer is an explorer. She knows she wants to get somewhere, but she doesn’t even know if the somewhere even exists yet. It is there to be created. In the process of creating it we find out how varied and complex we are.’ ~ Colum McCann

Being a writer means constantly learning, or as Ernest Hemmingway put it so eloquently, ‘For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment.’

Mortal Engines takes your mind out to a new universe where you find yourself looking back upon humanity and our modern world with a different view.

The delight of reading a story is an individual experience. Unlike seeing a movie, or something on TV, where the imagery is offered to you, and you adopt someone else’s vision, the singular action between the written word and the brain when you read a book, stirs up the imagination, and you conjure your own unique and beautiful or terrible worlds.

A book can change your world view.

Reading fiction serves to break you out of your box of living, and remind you of the greater truth and vision. What a wonderful, freeing, fabulous thing, to be freed of the oppression of our minds for a while.

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Why do I love to write? There is intense joy in heeding the call of the muse and following the dappled trails of my daydreaming.

To recapture the ‘lost Eden of childhood,’  is the way my writing teacher and hero, Kate de Goldi  described it in her oft-repeated speech, given at the Spinning Gold, children’s writers and illustrators conference, of 2009.

‘I believe the compulsion to write comes from a deeper place,’ said Kate, ‘I don’t write about or for children, but I write for the once and always child in myself. When I’m writing for children, I’m chasing down a lost Eden, that hopeful springtime, to approximate the pleasure I had in those shaded, imaginative places. The lost Eden of my childhood.’

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With effective fiction, a happy cycle gets instigated between writer and reader. I believe the restorative power of the writer’s bliss goes around and translates to the reader and everyone benefits.

I am captivated by the delightfully dark Mortal Engines so far, and have decided to start reading it to the boys. The story is so powerful maybe it has the juju to jumpstart my youngest son’s reluctance to read for pleasure.

What greater fortune could there be than this, to be employed in seeking my own lost Eden on a daily basis? Then, through the alchemy of capturing it in words, I can share stories and hopefully inspire others with their own giddy escapes from this insane and toxic world. It really is a blessing in so many ways.

Therefore, in summary, my favourite aspect of being a writer is everything!

How about you, what is your favourite part of what you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘When you’re a writer, you’re never quite like other people — you’re doing a job that other people don’t know you’re doing and you can’t talk about it, really, and you’re just always finding your way in the secret world and then you’re doing something else in the “normal” world.’ ~ Alice Munro

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My youngest son asked me a new question on the drive home from golf, yesterday.

He asked, “Are you happy?”

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I sat stunned for a moment or two. I thought, my boy’s growing up. This was the first time, as far as I knew, that his perception had gone beyond himself to thinking of other people. Then, I felt sorry for him. He’s the little worrier in the family.

Next, I felt incredulous that anyone close to me could think I was unhappy. I get to bring up my lovely boys, be with family and friends sometimes, and then I get to write, and be alone. What could be better than that?

To walk the path of the writer is not easy sometimes, because a lot of people just don’t get it.

I can see how in the “world’s” eyes, I might be miserable. I’m divorced. Single. A stay-at-home mum. A writer (the loneliest profession of them all!) and a “card-carrying” introvert!

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In fact, there are more single women these days than ever before, in the U.S, single women account for half the female vote, 56 million, up from 45 million last year, and in Australia, single women make up 42% of the adult female population. Yet, there’s still social stigma around doing certain things on your own, like going to the movies or eating alone. The writer, Christina Ling, wrote a fantastic piece for the Huffington Post, Don’t Feel Bad For Me Because I Do Things Alone. It echoes my feelings exactly. I rejuvenate through time alone, that’s how I recoup my energy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-ling/the-stigma-of-doing-things-alone_b_9239900.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

As Christina puts it, ‘Being alone with your mind, however, is one of the best things for your soul. More importantly, I think we are perfectly entitled to simply not be in the mood to entertain someone throughout an activity or socialize, in general.’

 

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After being mama to two rambunctious boys for five days of the week, I look forward to my 48 hours break, when the boys spend time with their father. Even though I work alone, I still crave that solitary time, in which to recuperate fully.

Carol Bainbridge, the Gifted Child Expert explains the need of introverts to withdraw, ‘Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective.’

http://giftedkids.about.com/bio/Carol-Bainbridge-19284.html

The lucky thing is, my job is directly suited to the introvert. And, I can’t imagine a job I could enjoy more than I do mine. I get to write fiction for young persons and those of the eternally youthful mind. It’s so fun, it’s the best job on the planet, hands-down.

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Murphy’s Law and the laws of randomness usually apply to most of us, and therefore, there may never be more than a penny or two in it for me. I may never build up a fan base beyond that of my family and pet fish. But that’s not the point. Doing what you love is the point, and as long as I get to write, then I shall still be the happiest mama within a five-mile radius of my son at all times!

I understand how my eleven-year-old looks at me, and he probably feels I must be miserable. Introverts only make up about 25-40% of the general population. There are not exactly a lot of introverted role models to look up to.

I had to assure him, “Yes, I am happy.” I don’t know whether it’s a “boy thing” or whether it’s the age, but that answer was enough. He took me at my word and carried on to the next subject.

I was still fascinated with the subject of happiness and what it means. He’d brought it up and I wanted to talk about it. However, I could see he’d already moved on. I let him take the lead, and we talked nonsense the rest of the way to his father’s house.

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After dropping my son off, I drove home to my weekly respite, and I pondered further on this delightful question my son had asked, Are you happy?

No one is happy 100% of the time, that’s just not natural, however, would I say I was predominantly happy? Yes.

What I was left with, was the sensation that my son cared. It takes emotional health and depth to ask another person how they are feeling. Therefore, I had a sense of my son’s developing emotional wellness, and his humanity.

It was a lovely, poignant, parenting moment. One of those, ‘he may act banana-pants crazy half the time, however, he’s going to turn out all right’ moments. It was one of those reward moments, when all the hard work of parenting is blissfully worth it.

What about you, what great questions have your kids asked you? Would you say you’re predominantly happy? 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom. ~ J. G. Ballard

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