Posts Tagged ‘Reflections’

This week, at Toastmasters, I attempted to pull off my first ever roast. ‘A roast’ is a speech that relies on wit, humour and satire to ‘poke fun at a person in a good natured way.’ Can you imagine? I can’t think of too many speeches that would be harder to pull off. However, in the Toastmasters system, you choose your projects and most come in bundled sets, so when you take on a certain manual or a pathway you take on every challenge in that bundle. I chose Special Occasions Speeches (from the old paper manual system), not realizing that one of the projects therein was “The Roast.”

I have a terrible track record with humorous speeches, having bombed abominably once or twice.

In conversation, I can raise a laugh, but I still don’t know how to use humour in speeches. In my nervousness, I over do it. I’m just not that funny. So, I avoid the humorous speech contests each year like the plague, and I never attempt comedic speeches. I know my strengths and humour is definitely not one of them.

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When I discovered there was a roast among the projects in Special Occasions, I was quaking in my boots. I wanted to put the manual back, but it was too late, I was already three speeches in. So I’m going to tell you a little secret. I repeated project 2, five times over a period of five months. I couldn’t bear to do the roast. So I put it off by repeating the project I preferred, “Speaking in Praise.”  At first, I wondered if I could get away with it, because surely people would notice I was doing the same project.

Strangest thing. No one noticed.

I spoke in praise of Charlotte’s Stitches, I spoke in praise of my father, I spoke in praise of Korucare New Zealand, I spoke in praise of Sam (my son with Downs’ syndrome), and I spoke in praise of my grandmother. No one said a thing!

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I could have gotten away with it longer probably, but I made the mistake of mentioning to one of the other members, last week, that I was scared of doing the roast.

He said, “You can’t not do a project just because it’s hard. You’ve got to do it anyway!”

The gauntlet was down. I was determined I was going to write a funny speech. I would ‘do it anyway!’ I determined that this week, I would roast our most senior member and club treasurer, at our Toastmasters’ meeting.

Did I roast him? Yes. Was I successful? I don’t know. I can’t seem to do funny conversational. I go immediately to clown and cartoon, and it often falls flat. My first two jokes didn’t get much of a response and I already had that sinking feeling. Various audience members told me afterwards they enjoyed my roast. I did raise a few laughs, but not anywhere near what I’d expected. Now, I know for sure that I’m not that funny.

However, what I do know is that I am brave.

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I am so proud of myself for doing that roast.

That’s a good feeling to have about yourself.

I don’t like to stretch my neck out any more than the next person, but I notice that when I do take a risk sometimes it reaps dividends. So, accepting a challenge is worth the effort, once in a while.

I was petrified of trying to roast someone. I did not want to do it. I would have procrastinated forever, if I hadn’t been hustled out of my cave. Roasting someone was something so far out of my comfort zone it was a new frontier. Yet, I accepted the challenge and went and did it anyway. Sure it wasn’t perfect. Sure, I didn’t captivate everyone, one guy looked down the whole time I was speaking and didn’t look up till the end. Sure, I didn’t bring the house down. But I did go out on the “stage,” into the bright lights, and deliver a bloody roast.

I think that’s pretty cool.

What about you? Have you ever thought of joining Toastmasters, or some other club? Have you stepped outside of your comfort zones lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Failures I consider valuable negative information – Dr. Goddard

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

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

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

When I started writing my present series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, prior to 2008, I had only penned the protagonist’s story. Then, I took a writing course with New Zealand writer, Lindsey Dawson. I stayed behind after class one day. Lindsey drew a diagram of a single vertical line. “This is the main thread of your story, the protagonist’s point of view.” Then, she drew a number of other lines snaking up around the vertical line, spiralling around it and crossing back and forth. “These are your antagonistic forces. Sometimes they cross and create havoc. You need all these elements to write a story.”

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I had never thought about writing the antagonist’s story before then. Lindsey’s words opened my eyes. The more I looked at rogues in fiction and in film, the more I realized how vital it is to portray them convincingly. In fact, you could go so far as to argue, that crafting a credible, powerful enough villain is the most important part of crafting a narrative.

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.”

The idea of fleshing out the antagonist gave me licence to explore what was going on in the bad guys’ camp. And, when I finally did put out the first book in the chronicles, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, it was presented from both Aden’s and Chief Wako’s point of view, and sometimes with Wako’s henchmen taking over the bad guys’ point of view.

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Which did I enjoy writing more? Writing Aden’s story was fun, however writing about the bad guys was much more fun. Why? I think it’s because Wako could do and say whatever the hell he liked, pardon my French. Antagonists do not have to tiptoe around the “P.C. brigade,” by definition they don’t care whether they’ve said the wrong thing or offended anyone. Antagonists don’t need to think of the repercussions. They can act first think later because they don’t care about the consequences of their actions. They’re rebels, they don’t need to play by the rules.

It reminds me of actors/actresses saying they like the bad guy roles best because they get to really go wild. Similarly, in writing the antagonistic elements of my story, I could let my imagination run rampant, conjuring Chief Wako and his evil minions, imagining what over-the-top thing he was going to say or do next.

It was a liberating feeling. Whenever I wrote the bad guys parts, I felt so free. So energized. Antagonists are famous for not following the norms of society or adhering to the moral codes that bind the rest of us. It was nice to take a break from the sanctioned code of conduct and ride along with a character who makes up his own rules.

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Bad guys are typically self-serving. We’re taught from a very young age to share, and that being selfish is the worst thing you can do. When I write the baddies, I can be as selfish as the little kid in me always wanted to be! Whoopee. That’s satisfying, let me tell you.

Although my rogue was a nasty guy at times, I grew to love him, because he was bold and brave, and an iconoclast. In fact, it was so much fun writing Chief Wako’s part that I had to tone it down at times for fear he would outshine the hero.

For the subsequent books, I followed the advice of my critique group and changed the books to a single point of view. I stopped writing the bad guys because I was advised that young readers find head hopping very hard to follow.

I missed writing the bad guys so much that I think in the next story I write, I’ll revert to multiple points of view again. I miss the villain too much.

Which do you prefer to write, hero or villain?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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I got caught on the hop this week. I discovered on Tuesday that I was due to give a speech at Toastmasters the following day, and I had to come up with something in a hurry. I thought about Sam, my sixteen-year-old with Downs’ syndrome. In the four years I’d been in Toastmasters, I had not tackled the big issues. I’d spoken about all kinds of major things, but, I hadn’t had the courage to talk about Sam, and Downs’ syndrome, or anything about my life as a “special” mum. I still haven’t had the courage to talk about about my youngest son, who has Congenital Heart Defect, and the life and death surgery he went through twice at the tender age age of five. Similarly, I have yet to give a speech about my grandmother’s death, or those of my parents (both deceased within the last four years). I didn’t feel I could do them justice.

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But, when Toastmasters asked me to do my first speech of the year, I decided the time had come to delve a little deeper and share more of my personal stories. In Toastmasters, they say that personal stories are the most powerful, they are the speeches people remember. I decided I would share the story of Sam’s arrival in my life and being a parent of a special needs kid. The speech title, ‘The Road Less Travelled,’ comes from the last verse of one of my favourite poems, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I opened my speech by recounting the story of Sam’s birth, in more or less these words:

When I was pregnant with my second child, I was thirty-six. My doctor recommended I take an amniocentesis test, which tests for any abnormalities in the child. I agreed and booked in for the test.

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But, the night before I was due to go into the hospital, I woke up at exactly 11 o’clock at night, with an epiphany. I sat up in bed and asked myself,

‘What would you do if there was something wrong with the baby?’

I knew I could not go against my moral code and abort it. So, literally at the eleventh hour, I cancelled the test.

Some months later, after a difficult birth, my midwife handed the baby to me with the words, “I’m sorry, but I believe your son has Downs’ syndrome.”

My world, my life as I knew it up to that point, ended, and a whole new life began in a whole new world. It was one I knew nothing about, and I had a lot to learn!

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Downs’ syndrome is a genetic condition which results from a third copy of the 21st chromosome.

One in six hundred babies are born with Downs’ syndrome every year in New Zealand. The condition entails delayed development, low muscle tone, and this combined with a large tongue makes it very difficult for many Downs’ syndrome kids to talk clearly. 70% of girls with the syndrome will be understood by anyone outside their immediate family and that figure drops to 40-50% for the boys.

The things that our normal babies take for granted, like sitting up, standing, walking, none of these things come easy for a special kid. Every step is hard won. Sam was three-years-old before he could crawl, five before he could walk, eleven before he was potty trained during the day and thirteen before he was dry through the night.

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We special parents say, ‘it’s like taking one step forward, two steps back.’

Therefore every milestone achieved, every hurdle crossed, with these kids is such a triumph. You feel so proud of them you could burst. I know how hard Sam has worked to learn how to do every little thing.

Being a special needs parent has enriched my life. Sam has taught me so much; I have gained so much from his example. He’s taught me humility, patience, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and how to care for the underdog. I would say most of all, he has taught me how to be present. For Sam, there is no future. He doesn’t have the ability to look ahead and imagine outcomes, there is only right now.

Sam is always present. That lesson in itself has been a gift.

The road less travelled by continues to reap dividends, and I am so grateful I accepted the challenge.

Thank goodness. Imagine what I would have missed out on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“There’s not one path. There’s not even the right path. There is only your path.” – Nietzsche

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

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

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

I felt sucker punched.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Yvette K. Carol

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

 

 

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

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

I’ve had many creative outlets over the years: photography, dress design, and dance, however, I would say art has been the most constant. In fact, I started out writing for children as an author/illustrator. In the margins of the first fictional story I wrote, as a seventeen-year-old, I doodled what the characters would look like. That set the stage for illustrating my own picture books, a time when I juggled the jobs of developing the pictures and writing the story.

Then, in 2005, a pivotal moment happened in my life.

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I went to a children’s writing workshop, with the award-winning author, and teacher, Kate de Goldi. After showing her one of my picture book manuscripts, Kate said, it was good, however, she felt I needed to focus on either writing or the illustrating.

I took the advice to heart. About half a year after taking the course, I finished illustrating my story, and I packed the paints and brushes away into the cupboard. Within another year, I was writing up a storm.

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Kate’s sage advice helped me to funnel all my energy into my writing and from there, wonderful things began to happen. Coincidentally, this lesson about focus became one of the story themes in the resulting trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. The hero, Aden, is taught by his wise mentor, Geo, to focus in order to prevail. It’s a lovely full circle moment.

By focusing on the writing, I became more productive:

I found my genre, middle grade (or junior fiction).

I wrote a middle grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I went “Indie” and self-published my first two books, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta and The Sasori Empire.

I had an essay included in a book for writers. I also self published a short story, along with a group of authors, in a children’s anthology titled Kissed By An Angel.

I built a mailing list and started a monthly newsletter.

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In both The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and The Sasori Empire, I included two of my own pen and ink illustrations.

Art and writing have gone naturally hand in hand for me, however, I feel like I’ve found a way to make them complement one another.

I still enjoy drawing to bring my own characters to life. I also do illustrations upon request for certain projects. I painted the cover art as well as the colour illustration to go with my story, Grandpa and Loor, for Kissed By An Angel. The difference is, instead of the art absorbing all of my days, now with small art projects, I’m more in control of my time.

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The thing about painting – and probably any kind of art – is that it’s a time suck.

I remember an old landlord, Arthur, when he saw me at work on one of my illustrations, said, ‘Ah, painting, the thing that sucks time into it like a black hole.’ It’s true. It’s the kind of hobby you do, that you look up and realize its dark, and you wonder where the day went. I loved it, but once I was raising my two younger two boys and writing, there wasn’t time left in the day for art.

Being able to surrender my illustrator’s hat has been a significant improvement in my life. These days, I do what I love to do most, which is to write. Then I dabble at my art when I have the time and the inclination. It works.

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(artwork by Si Kingi)

I’m also more productive. This year, I intend to self publish the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, The Last Tree. I’ll need to figure out which drawings I’m going to do for it within the next few months and get them done before then. But, that’s okay. When art isn’t asking for every spare minute, you feel you can relish getting little jobs done like that.

A life in balance, between my writing, art, and the rest of my life, that’s my ultimate goal for 2019!

What about you? What are your creative outlets?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places. ~ Paul Gardner

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

 

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

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

I hoped my son would find his friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“There’s not one path. There’s not even the right path. There is only your path.” – Nietzsche

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

It’s interesting living with young men, as you never quite know what mood you’re going to find them in. The sixteen-year-old was a drama a minute all of last year. Myself and the rest of the family were exhausted by Christmas. Yet, this year, he seems to be settling down and finding his middle ground.

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The youngest is on the cusp of adolescence. At the gullible age of thirteen, he takes everything so seriously, and lately, he has become even more into online gaming. These summer holidays, he was forced to take a two week break from gaming and spend time with family. But the last couple of weeks he’s been home and playing online most of the time. I offer him other activities. He says gaming is his way of relaxing.

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Apparently, most of his friends have moved on from constant Fortnite to other games like Call of Duty and Skate 3. They’re still ‘hanging out,’ just the same way I would have started doing with my friends at his age, but they’re doing it in digital form. The gamers follow one another in herds. All the friends who play regularly together, move by word of mouth to the games where the other kids are. All the time they’re playing they’re keeping up a constant conversation. In fact, if there are kids who are new in the group and they’re not talking, they get asked to speak because if they don’t, everyone else ‘gets sketched out about it.’

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I listen to the youngest son’s conversations sometimes, as I do sanction eavesdropping (not constantly, but on occasion) while a child is under the age of sixteen. A young person can easily be led astray without even realizing its happening. And this is such a potentially scary time for parents of pre-teens and young teens as everyone is so accessible. I admit I have nightmares about it sometimes. I worry about my boys often.

The other day, I heard my youngest son repeating some very unsavoury words, that he was obviously parroting someone else saying to him. I said, “WHAT are you talking about?”

He said, “I was talking with so-and-so (one of the people he plays online with) and he just randomly started saying these strange things.”

I said, “Unfriend and block him.”

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The youngest son did so. It surprised me that he had no idea what was going on. That’s where I feel a little parental guidance and supervision is required, at times.

He’s doing fine navigating things himself, yet he needs a bit of course correction now and again.

Apart from that, I can see the attraction. The kids are playing these super fun games from the comfort of home, yet, they’re still having this socially bonding experience with their friends. They’re all “What’s up, G?” “Let’s go!” “Yo!” and when a move taken in a game is a bad one “That’s cancer!” and when someone wins the game “You’re a god!” They talk the same lingo, and yet the words of choice change every week. What started out one week as ‘bro,’ turned into ‘bruh,’ then into ‘brr’ and, as of this week, they’re saying ‘bro’ again. You’ve got to be in the clique to know which words to use. One time I overheard the youngest son ask someone, “Why do you sound like you’re thirty years old?” They can tell when you’re not one of them in a twinkling.

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I can’t complain. If all this fun online stuff had been available in my time, I’m sure I would’ve been into it, too. I just worry that my boys don’t get out into nature enough. I want them to get outdoors more often. Throughout the holidays, I’ve invited the youngest son outside for rounds of badminton – formerly our favourite game – and he has declined the offer. Although I did convince him to joining myself and his brother for a number of swims.

I bought the youngest son a really good teen novel for Christmas to encourage him into reading. I want him to read at least one page every night this year.

I know he will come through this fixated, over dramatic, friends-are-everything stage, just as his two brothers did before him. Nevertheless, I try to stay vigilant in guiding and protecting him. I tell him he can always talk to me, that I’m always here for him.

The best advice my grandmother gave me for parenting was, ‘keep the lines of communication open,’ and that’s what I endeavour to do. What about you?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

 

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Raise one foot and you get ten feet of wind. – Chinese Proverb

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There is something therapeutic about doing nothing, isn’t there. And there’s a real art to it. Some are better at it than others. I have friends for instance, who declare when they’re on holiday, that they’re ‘very good at doing nothing at all.’ Whereas I’m a bit more on your tightly wound scale of things, I like to have things to do or I end up inventing things to do.

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I find myself longing for more stillness. In an article by Colleen Long, Psy.D. over on Pyschology Today, The Art of Doing Nothing Why Italians, Not Americans, Get This One Right, Colleen argues for the benefits of relaxation, citing the Italian term, “La Dolce Far Niente,” which means- the sweetness of doing nothing. Colleen asks the pertinent question of us, when we get home at the end of the day, ‘instead of checking your email one last time to see if anyone else is needing you to do something, instead of using your free time to check your bank accounts or pay that cell phone bill- What if you just did nothing?’ Provocative question isn’t it!

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What gets me confused is that on the one hand, I want to take the foot off the pedal. On the other hand, summer is ideal for achieving things and making progress with plans and careers. When I’m warm day and night, there is lightness in that. Instead of having to brace against the chill and either do things to provide heating or layer up the clothing to become the Michelin man, I feel more at ease, I’m comfortable and with less material between me and life. I feel things are more immediate. I feel more ready to respond to the demands of every day. I feel more energy, and the days are long enough in which to go on adventures, or travel long distances, or to get more done.

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I find it hard to do nothing. I  always remember my gran at the end of her life, the change she found the bitterest pill of all, in her words, was ‘not being useful.’ She couldn’t bear having all the jobs slowly taken away from her as she grew older and became frailer. She’d prided herself her entire life on being the busiest woman in her community, a lady who could be relied upon to get stuff done, and doing less as she aged made her feel “useless.” I’m cut of her stock. I like to be productive. I am also my father’s daughter, a man who was busy serving his church and community in whatever ways he could into his dying days. It’s a challenge for me, each year in the holidays, to put down my pen – that’s the hardest wrench of all – to put away my gardening tools – I worry about my garden while I’m away – and this year, with my boys in the South Island – I worried about them, too – I got to take off my parenting hat, as well.

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This summer, I was child free for a ten whole days, and in that time, despite myself, I slowed right down to “island time.” I enjoyed it so much! Every day was a study in bliss with my eldest son and his family and my nephew, either swimming or visiting friends, or eating somewhere special every day. After that, I came home to the city so rejuvenated, I thought this slowing down, this art of doing nothing is an art I need to learn more about.

I gather the best place to start is with meditation. In his article, Why Should You Meditate? Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka relates how Harvard clinical studies have proven meditation to have physical, mental and emotional benefits.

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Recent studies from Harvard University found that long-term meditators have increased amounts of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, and the auditory and sensory cortex,’ said Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka. ‘When you meditate, you enter a space of internal expansiveness, calm, and joy. The result is feelings of expansiveness, calm, and joy in waking life, which has an effect on our interactions with others and the world around us.

There seem to be many benefits of meditation, and since it’s all about doing nothing, I feel challenged, and yet, I’m in!

Here are the links to some recommended resources:

How to Meditate for Beginners – 30 Tips, Tricks and Tools

Guided Meditations – Our 12 Best Meditations Now Free on Youtube

These are on my list of goals for the year ahead. In 2019, I intend to meditate! I want to do more nothing! And to have fun!

What about you, how good are you at doing nothing? Have you tried meditation? Tell me more!

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Talk to you later

Yvette K. Carol

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“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence. ~ Herman Melville

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. I usually start my posts apologizing for being a day late. This month, I apologize for being a week late. Sorry! I’m putting it down to the holidaze.

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

Oh, this is a good one. Believe it or not, I’m most often asked about my income. I don’t know why, but people seem to think its okay to ask writers about their pay rates when it’s not a question normally asked of other professions. I guess people are fascinated by the idea of writing books. I’ve heard many authors say, that in making school visits, the question they get asked the most often is, ‘How much money do you make?’

I think of Jack Nicholson’s famous movie rant, “You can’t handle the truth!”

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People imagine they will be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers. People see the blinding success stories of people who write a book and sell millions and become famous. Whereas the truth is those elite writers who make the most money are in the top 5%. The rest of us need to keep our day jobs.

Whenever I talk about authors and making money on social media, I drag out a beloved quote by one of my fellow authors on the children’s collaboration, Kissed By An Angel. Ellen Warach Leventhal said her favourite response from a fourth grader was, “You work hard, you don’t know if you’ll ever get paid for it, and you aren’t rich? Man, not sure I want to do that.”

That’s right. The reality is not very romantic.

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In essence, that’s why millions of people try their hand at penning their first novel every year and why only a small percentage of them will ever attempt a second. They quickly realize the truth all long time writers know; there is no money in it. Think of an author as like being a musician or an artist, or an actor. You do the work for the love of it, because you can’t NOT do it, despite the fact the recompense is uncertain. You supplement your income with other things. You find ingenious ways to save your pennies, you grow your own fruit and vegetables, you shop at thrift stores, you recycle things, and you make life work.

You don’t do this job for the money.

When people ask what my yearly income looks like, I go pink. I can’t answer the question in any way that comes off making me look good. I can’t say, ‘I don’t make very much money from my books, and yet, I keep publishing them,’ or I’d look like a prize idiot. It’s hard to reply to this question in social settings. It’s a lose-lose situation, folks, so please don’t ask authors this question.

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My discomfort with this stinker is swiftly followed in second place by those who ask, ‘How many books have you sold?’

Now, come on people, do I ask you how much product you moved today? Do I ask you, how many lives you’ve changed? Or anything remotely in that vicinity. This question always makes me feel like being grilled on a hot plate. Just back away, now.

However, if we’re talking about my favourite questions to be asked, they would definitely be, ‘What inspired you to write your book?’ with ‘What’s your book about?’ Because then I’m being asked about my inner process and the creative life, which is my passion and my bliss. I can soar away into these higher thoughts and let my imaginative life come to the fore.

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Chasing the muse is always exhilarating to think about. I feel this sort of information is far more valuable to share, and is of greater service, because those who are truly called to write will take positive juice from it and use that to fuel their own writing endeavours. Then, one feels one is being of service. I would far rather speak to that than the money, because the only answer I have is, ‘I write for the love of it and make income in other ways.’ Hardly motivating.

What about you? What are your favourite and least favourite questions?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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There is no other feeling like that.
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with
fire. Charles Bukowski

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A couple of days ago, my family and I returned from our summer vacation. Summer in New Zealand heralds Christmas and the long break from school. It’s the annual chance to escape from the city for a while and take a breather.

This year, my two younger boys travelled with their father to visit the other half of their family who live in the lower South Island.

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I decided to spend the holiday at the beach with my eldest son and his family. We travelled to stay at my father’s former home (now holiday accommodation) with it’s spectacular view of the sea.

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This meant I got to spend ten days in the company of my first grandchild, a squeezable six-month-old baby girl.

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I had looked forward to it for months, as I’d only spent time with my granddaughter for a few hours at a time prior to that and it hadn’t been long enough to form a proper bond with her.

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It was such a heart warming experience to watch my son with his daughter. His life is coming together. He qualified as a plumber and gasfitter in 2018. He’s met a terrific partner; they’re engaged to be married. She already has two children and they’ve had their first child together, and they make an excellent team. It’s gratifying to witness your child being a responsible parent. He’s a great father and takes care of his family. What better sight is there to see.

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There’s something special about the summer holidays, isn’t there? When you get to spend time with family under the same roof. It was relaxing and wonderful to hang out together for an extended period. It was even more fun having a new baby in the family. We had the very great joy of introducing her to some things. I relished introducing her to Kiwi classic children’s books by Lynley Dodd, The Nickle Nackle Tree and the Hairy Maclary series.

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We took her to the beach for the very first time.

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We gave her first whole fruit to herself, a nectarine. She noshed big chunks out of it.

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We introduced her to badminton! She was a dab hand, straight away, at bashing the racket on the concrete and making dings in the rim.

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We taught her the art of selfies.

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We showed her how to wear a fetching Santa suit at the beach and make all the females swoon with adoration.

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Suffice to say, my granddaughter and I have bonded at last. I think it was better I was on holiday without the younger boys because it gave me the chance to focus on the baby.

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I returned to the city to collect my two youngest sons from the airport, and we were all home safe and sound by the evening of New Year’s Day.

I have had a little think about my intentions for the next twelve months and written them down in a notebook, which feels like a way of making myself accountable. Despite the doomsdayers and naysayers, I feel optimistic and excited about the year ahead. Life is what you make it, as my dear old dad always said, and I’ve started 2019 feeling refreshed and revitalised in every way.

Happy New Year to you and yours! Here’s to a rockin’ 2019!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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On the seventh day, God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town. ~ Gene Perret

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