Posts Tagged ‘FAMILY’

Every year around this time I have two mammoth jobs that need to be done. My sons and I bake the massive Christmas Cake, which is a rich fruit cake to feed about sixty-four. We also do the photoshoot of my two young victims sons, whom I make dress up in festive gear at the start of December. Then I pick the best photo from the shoot and make our Christmas card for friends and family. We did the photoshoot this weekend. The boys get a bit grumpy about it these days, which I think is quite cute. I had fun making the cards all day. It’s creative, it’s fun and it involves glitter. What more do you need to know?

When I first started this blog, my middle son – who was born with Down Syndrome – featured by himself on the card. Three years later, his little brother came along and the pair got to feature on the next family card and so it has gone on.

Here is how you can make your family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Once you have your photo, reduce it to a small size. Figure out how many people you are making cards for. Print out the photos on regular A4 paper and cut them out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the thrift store) and cut them down in size. I use the same “guides” for the layers which I made myself out of cardboard, so they are all the same dimensions. Start with a guide for the size of the card. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper and iron them towards the following year’s cards. Make a guide for the interesting saved paper, or any fun paper you like, as your next layer. It must be smaller than the card and larger than the photo.

Now you have the items you need for your cards: a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible), the rectangles of saved wrapping paper, and a stack of your cut-out photos.

My next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix” which is a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product where you are. The fibres come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper then iron on a low heat until the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly material. I cut out small rectangles of Hot Fix, one for each of my cards.

Begin construction by gluing the saved wrapping paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends.

Then glue the photo on the top.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile weights on top.

The best part is adding the embellishments! It is time to decorate the front of each card with glitter and crystals and stickers to your heart’s delight.

Inside each card, I include a surprise, usually gift tags, or I also have a set of miniature antique postcards which I bought in a thrift store once, and I’ll include a couple of those with each one. Match your card as closely as possible to the size of the envelope. It looks better that way. Write a special message inside each card and post it to family and friends.
It’s homemade. It’s personal. It’s crafty fun. What’s not to love?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


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The other day, upon entering our garage, a bee zoomed towards me. It circled, flying towards me again and again. I thought, what odd behaviour. Two days later, we caught three bees inside the house. Odd. Then, I was weeding when I heard buzzing and looked up. There were hundreds of bees flying in and out of our chimney!
It turns out, I learned later, that the first oddly-acting bee was the “scout,” sent to find a new location for the swarm.
The bees’ new home was in our chimney stack.

Cue the frantic Google search. The first beekeeper I spoke to expressed dismay. “Chimneys are particularly difficult,” she said. “We may not be able to remove the bees from there. You may have to call the exterminator.” I said, “I don’t want to harm the bees.” She asked, in all seriousness, “Could you live with them?” I didn’t have to think about it. I quickly replied, “NO.”
I love bees. But if there is such a thing as too many, then this was that situation.
The beekeeper recommended The Bee Club. I contacted their website. The next day, a nice older gentleman arrived. It was like seeing the cavalry coming in. I was so pleased to see him, let’s call him Don.

Don walked in armed with a bee suit, handheld smoker, a ladder, and believe it or not, a vacuum cleaner which he had attached to a clear plastic box.
I told him about the lady asking if we could live with the swarm. Don said, “That’s not a good idea. The honey and the wax attract vermin. The hive will grow until it’s too big for the chimney. After the swarm departs the hive will die, attracting more vermin. And once you’ve had wax in your chimney, it attracts more scouts because the bees smell the wax.”
Happy days. Not.
Don took one look up and said, “I don’t know if I can do it. That’s a tall chimney, and I have to be able to see down into it.”
Oh boy! I was “thinking the right thoughts” over that one.

Don looked up again. He said if I had a ladder, he could climb onto the roof then put his ladder against the upper stack. I brought ours out of the garage. Gamely, he went up to our rickety old ladder. From the roof, Don set up his collapsible one against the stack and was able to get high enough to look inside. Lifting the metal plate that sealed the stack, he peeked underneath. “Okay, this might be possible.”
Thank you!
We handed him all his equipment under strict instructions to only hold the smoker by the bellows as it is hot. Then we stood back to watch the show.
First, Don used his smoker, burning a mixture of humus material and pine needles. He puffed under the lid and around the chimney top. He lifted the lid slowly. “This hasn’t been here long. Maybe two days at most. They haven’t made any wax.”
Whew. What a relief.

Don lifted the lid, and hanging beneath it was a cluster of bees, somehow hanging together. I imagine they were surrounding the queen, keeping her safe. We onlookers gasped. By holding the plate above his plastic box, Don gave it a sudden bang on the side of the box, and all the bees fell in as one. He put the lid over the top, and he had bagged the queen and most of the workers. It was amazing.
Then Don switched on his magic vacuum and started vacuuming bees out of our chimney to join the others in the plastic box. After five or so minutes, he said, “I could keep on vacuuming two hundred more bees, but if I do, the ones in the box will asphyxiate.” So he sprayed fly spray inside to kill the bees remaining and laid a concrete block over the hole.

Don had rescued most of the swarm, even the queen. He had rid our chimney of bees. Thank goodness. And all of this is voluntary work for a man in his golden years. Wow.
What was he going to do with our bees? Don told me he was taking them to a new beekeeper who lived nearby.
I got an email from him yesterday, and he said our bee swarm is settling in nicely to their warm hive. We should expect a jar of honey in our mailbox soon. Happy days.
When I put this story on Facebook, I got quite a few responses from friends who had had similar dramas happen with bees and wasps on their properties. Have you ever had trouble with beehives or wasp nests? What did you do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When traumatic events happen, you deal with them as best you can. Times goes on. You assume the event is safely in the past. Then, you enter a situation that is similar to the traumatic event and have a panic attack. This is what happened to me this week, and it took me by surprise.
In some cases, life-changing experiences can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a mental illness triggered by peak levels of distress. It can be treated and brought under control with help from a doctor, therapy, and professional guidance. A good friend lived through the big earthquake that rocked Christchurch in 2011. Diagnosed with PTSD, she suffers recurrent nightmares and over-reacts when she hears loud noises.

In my case, what I went through this week was not PTSD but a flashback. A flashback is when you feel drawn back into the traumatic experience as if it is happening all over again.
This week, the youngest son was scheduled for an adenectomy and to have grommets inserted. Surgery is a last resort in my book. But in my son’s case, the specialist believed that his oversized adenoids were causing the loss of hearing in his left ear and inability to breathe through his nose. So it had to be done.
We sat in the hospital waiting room and worked on our crossword, chatting and laughing.
A nurse said, “We’re ready for you now. Follow me.” We followed her along the winding corridors through a pair of heavy blue doors. As the nurse and my son stepped aside, I got my first sight of the room. I took in the surgeons, the anesthetists, the nurses, all in masks and gowns, the skinny operating table, the machines, and the lights. My stomach immediately dropped sickeningly. My skin prickled with goosebumps, and my heart was pounding. I was freaking out. But I couldn’t show it. My son needed me, and I had to be strong for him.

It was scarily like that other time, in August 2010, when he was five years old, and we followed a nurse into a stark white operating theatre. I was straight back there. No time had elapsed in between. In 2010, I looked at my little boy, and I looked at that operating table and felt as if I would throw up with fear, knowing my baby was about to undergo a heart bypass and open-heart surgery.

However, as a parent, you are the captain of the ship. Captains don’t get to freak out. Your job is to stay at the helm until the bitter end.

I had to be calm that day in 2010 and smile for my son. I murmured, “You’re okay, mama loves you,” when he fought the gas mask, and the doctors made me lie on him until the anesthetic took effect and he went limp beneath me.

On Tuesday morning this week, I walked into that operating room, took one glimpse, and stepped back ten years to the scariest time of my life. On Tuesday, my son was only undergoing a minor medical procedure. Yet, I was staring into the white light and hearing angels as if his life was on the line.

As a mature adult today, I have lots of tools to help me weather the storms of life. Whenever something stressful happens, I calm down with meditation, affirmations, yoga, and breathing techniques. But for the private panic attack, I suffered in that hospital room this week, none of my tools helped. I was physically reliving the helpless terror I felt in that other theatre room. According to Rothschild, ‘A flashback can mimic the real thing because it provokes a similar level of stress in the body. The same hormones course through your veins as did at the time of the actual trauma, setting your heart pounding and preparing your muscles and other body systems to react as they did at the time.’

That describes my panic attack perfectly. I stayed with my son until he had fallen unconscious. In the waiting room, I did the only thing I could do. I rang my family and talked to people who cared, and it helped so much.

*According to the site, Trauma Recovery, here are some ideas for managing the situation if you get stuck in a flashback:
NAME the experience as a flashback (example- this is a memory, NOT a recurrence of the actual event)
Use LANGUAGE that categorizes the flashbacks as a “memory” (example- I was attacked, rather than I am being attacked)
Use the SENSES to GROUND self in your CURRENT environment:
Name what you see, feel, hear, smell, etc.
Rub hands together
Touch, feel the chair that is supporting you
Wiggle your toes
Favourite colour- find three things in the room that are “blue”
Name the date, month, year, season
Count backward from 100
Use an object as a grounding tool
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I’ve kept a note of these points in case any of my loved ones need escorting into theatre in the future.
Have you ever suffered a private panic attack or a flashback? What did you do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating
Yvette Carol
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“I have laid my son on an OR table and kissed him as he fell asleep. I have handed him to a surgeon knowing they would stop his heart and prayed it would beat again. I am a Heart mum.” ~ Suzanne White

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

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

You’re welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funny how the vantage point of time changes things.

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

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

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

Huh? Jaw drops to floor.

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

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

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

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

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

They’re mature, considerate kids. Who knew?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The place had everything a child could want.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

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

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

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

Baby me with sisters

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

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

Thank goodness for the Internet.

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

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

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

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

What about you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Life is the love that reaches out, building bridges across gulfs of uncertainty to touch hands, hearts and souls in the experience of union,” – P. Seymour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

I’ve been running around all week like a flea in a fit. The youngest son has been home from school, suffering from his allergies, and as any parent knows when a child is sick it creates a ton of extra work. Also…he likes to talk. He’s one of those people who once he gets going on a topic that interests him can ramble on and on, making it hard to get away. So each day, he’s lain on the couch, sneezing, talking, and watching anime, surrounded in a cotton cloud of spent tissues, while I’ve tried to get all the usual stuff done as well as look after the patient. These are the times you need to clone yourself.

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I suspect the youngest son has an active mind. The other day he said, “Do you know what I’m looking forward to the most about growing up?” A number of things went through my head like leaving school, independence, money, etc. He said, “I’m looking forward to having rational conversations.” I think my jaw hit the floor. Say what? Yes. He said he gets tired of the ridiculous things his friends say and it drives him crazy. I was amazed by that. I hung off every word my friends said when I was his age like a brainless gibbon. I had no such discernment.

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Since he was a tiny child the youngest has always been wise for his age. And decisive. While I’m dithering about on a decision, like what to name a new pet, the youngest son will deliver a verdict immediately. As the years went by, I started to rely on his instantaneous decision making because he always seemed to make the right choice. He’s fourteen and to him things are very clear. It’s a quality I envy at times. To me things are very grey never black and white, however, I may have gotten jaded with time.

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Over a month ago, he begged me to take him to an information evening about junior space school. The $10,000 price tag for two weeks at Space Camp didn’t faze him. He negotiated with his father and has started working every weekend with him as a builder’s hand. He’s saving the money steadily. “I want to do this more than I’ve wanted to do anything else in my life,” he told me. I believed him and want to support him in fulfilling his dream in every way that I can. The other day, in a questionnaire for school, he said they asked what he wants to be when he grows up. “I wanted to write astronaut but thought it would sound stupid.” “It’s not stupid to have big dreams,” I told him. “Dream as big as you like and anything is possible.”

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I admire him because I know how far he’s come. I guess when you’ve faced death on the operating table at the age of five it changes a person. But the youngest son survived his double bypass open heart surgery, without brain damage or the possible side effects of paediatric heart surgery like emotional/developmental/behavioural difficulties. He came through perhaps a little weaker physically than his peers. Otherwise he is no different except for his high level of intelligence and a well of compassion as deep and wide as Lake Taupo. I would say he’s an extraordinary individual. If anyone could grow up to be an astronaut, it’s him.

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I tell friends, “he’s fourteen going on forty” as a way of saying he has an old head on young shoulders. I remember we were driving back from his physiotherapy one afternoon, and the boy racer in the car next to us screeched to a halt half a car’s length over the stop lines on the road. The youngest said, “Why do that? He’s just showing off. It’s silly.” I thought if I closed my eyes that could be my father speaking, you’d never think it was coming from someone nearly eligible to be a boy racer himself.

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It’s humbling being a parent. As Kahlil Gibran said in his famous book, The Prophet, your children are not yours, they are the arrows and you are the bow that sends them forth into the world. As a parent you want the best for your children. You create them, raise them, guide them, love them and then you let them go. Yet, with my youngest sometimes I’d swear he’s the one raising me.

What about you, do you know a child who seems far older than their years? Or are you the old soul in your family?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. ~ Kahlil Gibran

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