Posts Tagged ‘Reflections’

What a kid. My youngest son never fails to amaze me. He’s been a walking list of ailments his entire fourteen years of life. I have had to slowly peel away the “onion rings” of his symptoms in order to get to the source of his real problems. I’ve raised all three of my kids alone. With the middle son’s special needs and the complex health profile of my youngest son, I’ve found that there is help out there, however nothing’s handed to you on a plate. You have to go and find it. You have to ask questions. You’ve got to self advocate. And, you have to keep a watchful eye on your child, keep notes, and keep going to health professionals until you get over the finish line with the answers.

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My son started coughing at two weeks old.

There began the first part of our medical mystery tour together. In his first five years, we were in and out of doctor’s offices because of his cough. We got different diagnoses: hayfever, flu, childhood asthma, and he took lots of medicine. We tried different branches of alternative medicine: he was diagnosed with sour stomach, gluten allergy, and wheat intolerance, and we tried eating in many new ways. We tried Chinese herbal medicine as well, and they all did help a bit.

But nothing stopped the coughing. When he did catch the flu, he and I would spend long, frightening nights as I tried to keep him alive through his continuous bouts. We spent many nights at A&E.

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I kept taking him back to the doctor. He was put on nebulizers, and given a blue and orange inhaler to take daily. At one stage, when things were at their worst, I spent $600 taking him to the doctor in one month. I was determined to get to the bottom of it. And, we did. Finally, on the umpteenth visit, we got a doctor who listened to his chest, and listened again, and said, “I think I hear a heart murmur.”

Those words set us on the course to finally learning what he really had, which was Congenital Heart Disorder.

We were put on the short list for surgery. Four months later, the youngest son underwent double bypass open heart surgery to have a closure of the large Atrial Spetal Defect, and repair of a partial anomalous venous drainage.

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It was a harrowing ordeal he came through with flying colours. After the operation began a lengthy recovery process

It takes kids who have heart surgery a year to get over the anaesthetic, five years to get back to their pre-surgery weight, and ten years for their bodies to get back to their pre-surgery state.

My son had his surgery at the age of five, so next year he will pass the ten year mark. However, back in 2010, after the surgery had fixed his heart and healing was underway, he was still coughing.

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This time, the rounds of visits were confined to a doctor and a homeopath. I felt he was allergic to something, so I requested of my doctor that we be sent for allergy testing. The result was, he was allergic to cats, dogs, fish, dust and egg. On a scale of one to ten, he was allergic to eggs at a ten. Eggs were off the menu. He was put onto daily antihistamines. Our homeopath prescribed homeopathic tinctures to help him get over flus and colds. All good except he went on coughing.

Long story short, we discovered the youngest son had asthma, not the ‘childhood’ variety, but the real kind.

Leapfrog a few years to last week. After years of the youngest son being teased in the family for being deaf, I finally decided to have his hearing tested.

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To my surprise, we discovered he has a retracted eardrum and a loss of hearing. I thought, that makes sense of a lot of things. We’re seeing the specialist in four months, at Otorhinolaryngology.

This week, I followed up on another worry. I’ve always worried that the youngest son injures his ankles easily. A recent sprain wasn’t getting better, so I took him to a physiotherapist and a podiatrist. Turns out, he has a twisted pelvis with one hip more forward than the other. And he has an in turned foot. That explained a few things. Nevertheless, with daily exercises and an insert in his shoe, we can fix what could have been a developmental problem for him, in future. I’m so grateful. (I’m also thinking, what the heck with this kid?)

However, with each new diagnosis life gets easier. We gain new tools. Getting the answers is the thing. And from here, all is possible.

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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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Last week, my youngest son turned to me and asked in all earnestness, “You’ve never done anything wrong have you, mum?” This follows on from the week before last, when he asked me, “You don’t tell lies do you, mum?” He’s newly turned fourteen and we’ve entered the age of questions. You’ve heard of Kate de Goldi’s bestselling book, The 10 p.m. Question? Her son would come to their bedroom door every night with deep, thought-provoking queries. My son does the same thing.

I answered, that while I do my best, at times I make mistakes, too. I get angry at other drivers on the road. I sometimes forget why I went down the other end of the house. Recently I backed the car into a pillar at a friend’s house, which was in my blind spot, and I stove in my bumper. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes.

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Part of the youngest son’s transition from childhood to adulthood, is realizing some hard truths. In the next decade, he’ll learn that parents are not perfect, that life is not fair, that the world is not kind, that the world is in fact a scary, dangerous, ruthless place. Some people call it taking off the rose-tinted glasses of childhood.

The baby of the family is currently readjusting his view of the world. It’s a shame and also a necessary part of growing up. Every child must go through this rite of passage of adolescence, during which time the parents formerly believed to be gods, become human, during which time the reality of life starts to dawn.

It’s a bit of a test.

Still, at just turned fourteen, the innocence of the child is lingering and it’s precious.

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As the youngest, I have treasured this son’s childhood. I have truly valued the untamed, free, fluidity of the child’s spirit. ‘Is there a limited number of times that a child will insist on remaining wedded to the moment?’ asks Russell Brand, in his excellent book, Revolution. Brand posits that kids lose their spontaneity as they grow up. ‘We condition our children and ourselves to enter into this spectacle, confining ourselves to a prescribed path.’

The youngest is still in contact with the wild freedom of the boy within, while at the same time he takes tentative steps forward, finding his way into the jungle of adulthood.

I see the same wonderful element of untamed spirit in my one-year-old granddaughter. The spontaneity, the pure fervour she has for life is a joy to witness. She is a long way off from constructing a persona with which to deal with the world.

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When my son asks me have you ever done anything wrong, I feel a reaction of wanting to defend myself. But I don’t want to dig myself into a false position, or as Eckhart Tolle put it, to ‘adopt a mental position then we identify with that mental position and it becomes invested with self.’

So, I respond as honestly as I can. That way, the youngest son can come back later – as he often does, after he’s thought about things – and we can continue the conversation.

The teenage brain has been proven by scientists to only be able to sustain attention on a few things at a time. If I overburden him with too much information at once it will be wasted breath. It is far better, and more effective, to converse with a teenager in short instalments. Sound bites, if you will. Then they can retain what’s been said.

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I know he will be fine as long as we keep the lines of communication open. I remember my grandmother was proud of her closeness with her son (my father) when he was growing up. She said, they could discuss ‘anything and everything.’

When he would come home from sea for short stints, as an 18-year-old seaman, he and Gran would sit chatting for hours.

Gran said she never had a moment’s worry with dad, because she knew they could talk and sort out any problem.

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That’s the way I like to be with my kids.

In our conversations, I try to stay honest, and I try not to have a reaction to the things they share with me, so they feel safe.

The other day I overheard the youngest playing with friends on Fortnite. He said, “If you ever have a question don’t go to your teacher, they don’t like it when you ask lots of questions. Go to your mother. Mums know everything.”

Okay, so I haven’t quite debunked his myths around me yet, but we’re getting there.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A child’s bucket of self-esteem must be filled so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry. ~ Alvin Price

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What’s been going on around here, lately? A whole lot of pruning of hedges and fruit trees. We usually try to get it done in autumn, but as I rely on the help of extended family, I must accord with their schedules. I like to keep as many of the big jobs as possible within our group. We work by a system of barter, goods or services given, in exchange for certain jobs done. We have some very useful people on board: with gardeners, a plumber, an electrician, and a budding architect.

This year, we didn’t get started on the tree pruning until the beginning of June, which means winter. Still, I couldn’t complain. I was just glad to see family with a ladder and a chainsaw.

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I think the idea of pruning in autumn, is that the trees are ‘sleeping’ (their sap isn’t running), and the weather is still mild. In winter, there is too much rain to make the job easy or pleasant for anyone.

Luckily, in the North Island of New Zealand, we have had a relatively dry autumn and winter, so far. And, we got the first part of the pruning successfully done. I have been dismantling the wood the rest of the week.

Outside at present, there are a number of big piles of branches down. I’m trying to get ahead of it. The other day, I offered my nephew forty dollars if he’d help dismantle one of the piles of branches. After three hours, he started looking into the cost of hiring a wood chipper machine.

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I took the job back again. Sometimes, when I’m working in the yard, I think of my parents. They were always out doing something in the garden. I don’t mind the effort. I find it therapeutic. In fact, I was reading an article the other day that related many health benefits of gardening. The Healing Power of Gardens: Oliver Sacks on the Psychological and Physiological Consolations of Nature

I have a fond memory of one time, when I walked up the path, and mum was weeding around the base of the plum tree in our front yard. She turned around and smiled, with white petals sprinkled in her hair. It was a moment so sweet it’s stayed with me ever since.

My father was famous for breaking the wood down into the smallest parts and not wasting any part of the tree.

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I’m the same way. I dismantle the wood completely. I spend weeks breaking the branches down into leaves for compost, twigs for kindling, and short logs, which I load into cardboard boxes. This weekend, I’ll deliver another carload of wood to a family member, who has an open fire. For the rest of the wood, I’ll put it on the free site, Pay-it-forward, on Facebook. (To find your local group, put ‘Pay it Forward’ in the search bar at the top of the page on Facebook, and search for one in your area.) I simply advertise ‘free firewood’ and people come by to collect the wood.

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It used to be, we had a lovely open fireplace. However, my husband and I built a wall over it, because it was dangerous with two babies in the house. I miss having the open fire. I used to sit entranced by the flames through long, stormy nights.

When I first moved back to this house as an adult, it was a little over twenty years ago. My niece and I used to come home on Friday nights, after salsa class in the city, and sit the rest of the night, with hot chocolates, toasting marshmallows and talking in front of the fire. You can’t do that in front of the air con.

I miss the way our home fire burned all the wood the property creates, and it saved us money on heating bills. Now that we no longer have a fireplace, I have to pay for the air con, and I have to figure out what to do with the wood.

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At present, my primary target is to reduce the stacks of branches into leaves for composting and the boxes of firewood. The clock is ticking, as the second half of the pruning still waits.

Hopefully, we’ll finish before the wet weather begins, and I can rest for winter knowing the year’s maintenance is done. As my nephew said the other day, ‘You’ve created your own secret garden.’ That’s exactly how I feel about this place, too.

Even a ‘Secret Garden’ takes a bit of effort and a bit of teamwork to bring to fruition.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” ― Percy Bysshe Shelley

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As I enter the final stages of editing my third book, The Last Tree, I find I’m often asked the question, “What are you going to write next?” The answer is, I don’t know. This is the third and last volume in my middle grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, and it has so engrossed every moment, I haven’t had the chance to look beyond it.

When I do look beyond it, I feel this irrational fear, which I believe is commonly felt among other writers. Will I ever write another story?

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For the last fourteen years, I’ve been fitting in writing the Chronicles around raising my two youngest sons. As a solo mum, with a house and garden to care for, and elderly parents, I enjoyed every chance I had to escape into my imaginary world on the planet of Chiron, whenever I was writing. It’s hard to imagine moving on. The thought of starting a new plot, a new world, a new dilemma, and new characters terrifies me.

It’s not me who writes the genesis draft anyway. Elizabeth Gilbert calls the process of inspiration, the ‘other’ energy that comes from nowhere and brings the stories with it, the muse; some call it a “genius.” The stories arrive from elsewhere as if they come on the wind. You have to be fleet of mind to grab them when they whistle by or you might miss out.

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I guess that’s part of the fun also of being a writer, living on the knife edge while you wait to be the instrument of the creative ferment. Once you start the process of formulating a story, you open your mind to ideas and wait for lightning to strike.

I haven’t had to do that in a long time. I’m nervous. Last night, I had a few nightmares. Thinking about them upon waking up, I could see the common denominator was fear. I decided, as we approach the winter solstice, that I would let go of all fear around writing the next book.

Every writer goes through this same anxiety at some point. Will I ever write again? Every writer has a different way of handling the period of not knowing that follows finishing a project and before starting the next.

My method is to craft notebooks for each potential project.

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This began back in the 1980’s, when I was writing my series, The Great Adventures of Splat the Wonder Dog. I put effort into creating a notebook of every background detail. The act of crafting images, making lists of story details and background and focusing in on the tale seemed to bring it to life in a whole new way.

The notebook also helped corral my thoughts and world-building.

In 2005, when I started writing The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, my notebook was a pad of old paper on the nightstand, on which I jotted down details of background, history, geography, characters, setting, mythology, religion, and plot each time I passed. There were no sketches or pictures pulled from magazines. I had two sons under the age of ten. I didn’t have time to shower or clip my own fingernails, let alone make works of art. Simple or not, the creative process was still seeded and propagated through the power of that notebook.

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This afternoon, I was doing the housework when an idea for a story setting popped into my head. It was a simple notion about an island I had read about years ago, in one of the old hardbacks in my parents’ home library. A few more ideas flashed by. I grabbed for my trusty moleskin and jotted them down. The muse was in flight.

The next logical step for me is to start collating these ideas into one place – a notebook. It’s so exciting! Whether it turns out to be a series or stand alone novel, that humble repository is where it will come together. While I’m still hard at work on publishing my third novel, the fourth will have time to develop.

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New Zealand author, Joy Cowley, said that she ‘baits the hook, drops it in the water and then waits for three to four years for each story idea to gather more ideas.’

I see my notebook method as being very similar to this analogy. Maybe someday soon, I’ll have an answer to the question, “What are you going to write next?” and it all begins right here with a pen and paper.

I’m ready for a new adventure to begin. Bring it on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have yet to meet a writer who wouldn’t rather peel a banana than apply himself to a pen. – Alice Thomas Ellis

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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 turned fourteen, last week. It was my first thought when I woke up that morning, ‘How can my youngest be fourteen?’ I’ve heard it said, that while a boy is thirteen and fourteen they still ‘have the boy in them,’ and after the age of fifteen and sixteen ‘the man starts to appear.’

Some of the other boys in the youngest son’s soccer team are already shooting up, their voices have deepened and their necks are already thickening. The youngest is not quite there. I looked at him today, feeling that the loss of childhood is impending, and yet cherishing in him the puny neck and curving cheek of the child. He will still be a boy for another year, thank goodness.

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His first term of high school, the youngest said, he tried hard to be accepted by the cool kids. For whom, ‘you have to do bad things to fit in.’ But the cool kids refused to let him into their groups. He had been miserable, feeling he would never make any friends. “What I learnt,” he told me, “was that all you need to do is be yourself and be nice to people and you just end up making friends.”

I thought, wow, I could never have figured that out on my own as a fourteen-year-old. He’s smarter than I am!

He’s a dedicated gamer, still loyal to Fortnite, though he branches out to other online games now and then. His mobile phone has morphed from occasional gaming to now being part of his daily arsenal, always close at hand, for gaming, emailing, messages and instagram. He would no more think of leaving the house without it than he would think of leaving without his pants. He navigates between the real world and the virtual one with seamless ease and is fluid with the language for both.

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He’s also the hippest guy in town. His conversation is rife with slang, “Yo, yo, yo” “Bro” “R.I.P” and “whatsup.” Virtually every second sentence is followed by, “I’m joking!” He laughs uproariously over ‘jokes’ that are not funny.

At fourteen, he’s going through periods of rapid growth in which he grows several inches in several months followed by periods of slow development. He’s hungry all the time. I don’t where he puts it, but the grocery bill is definitely growing with him.

He’s very talkative. I’m glad he still talks to me and feels he can tell me what’s going on in his life. When he confides in me I try not to have big reactions, like when he told me he’d been bullied, or when he cried for having no friends, I try not to over react in a way that would make him shut down or feel unsafe talking to me.

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My role is to listen and be as neutral as possible.

He doesn’t often want my opinion anyway. He’s convinced he knows everything. When I give advice, he usually won’t take it until he’s done it his way, figured out that doesn’t work and has come back, realizing he might like to give my idea a try after all.

Everything’s tested.

He has begun to socialize with friends in public places. So far, he’s independently organized three get-togethers with friends at the mall and at the cinema, where they were able to hang out while still within a lighted, relatively secure environment. Though I was nervous at first, he handled everything without a problem.

He’s flexing his wings and taking short flights from the nest. He’s discovering how far he can go.

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It’s appropriate he learns now that with turning fourteen and getting to do his own thing comes more responsibility. He can stay up later, but later bedtimes have to be earned. He’s got to make his own bed every morning and prepare his own snacks from now on. In return for extra chores, he can earn some pocket money. He’s learning that he can have more if he does more.

He can talk to me about anything, but he needs to be respectful and use clean language. If he snaps at me, he has to apologize. He can make his own snacks and food, but he has to tidy up afterwards. He can play digital games, but only once the chores and homework are done. He has his own computer, phone, and Xbox, but is only allowed to use them in the communal living room, and is not allowed devices in the bedroom. A balance of open-mindedness, love, and reassurance is best when it’s levelled out by principles and healthy limits.

Kids need both love and rules to thrive.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth. ~ Peter Ustinov

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

I was watching a terrific program on the National Geographic channel the other night about the rise of interest in Cryonics. Apparently there’s great interest in the idea of preserving the body (or sometimes, just the head) after death by low temperature freezing, with the hope that science progresses far enough to bring the person back to life in the future. Many people have already paid good money and booked in to have their bodies preserved in this way.

This sort of preoccupation is nothing new.

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There are myths that have grown up around the idea of eternal life like that of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Of the plot, according to Wikipedia, ‘Newly understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul, to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied amoral experiences while staying young and beautiful; all the while, his portrait ages and records every sin.[6]

Myths like this were very much cautionary tales, warning us about the folly of chasing immortality. Yet, the quest continued.

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People still sought to extend their lives by whatever means possible. There were mythological places like the legendary island of Bimini in the Bahamas where the Fountain of Youth gave everlasting life to all who drank from it. Over the centuries, the fountain was much sought after but never found. The famous Spanish explorer Ponce de León reportedly set out to find the Fountain of Youth in the early 1500’s, although modern historians say that too is a myth.

Yet Wikipedia says, ‘There were longevity myths in the bible mentioning individuals with lifespans up to the 969 years of Methuselah. The ancient Greek author Lucian is the presumed author of Macrobii (long-livers), a work devoted to longevity. Most of the examples Lucian gives are what would be regarded as normal long lifespans (80–100 years)’. So, people still believed in the real possibility of prolonging life.

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In Medieval times Nicolas Flamel was reputed to have created a “sorcerer’s stone” that was then used to produce a potion, the elixir of life, said to make the drinker immortal. The idea so captured the public imagination of the 1300’s that other well known scientists – even the esteemed Sir Isaac Newton – attempted to replicate the results, without any luck. People have been obsessed with the idea of immortality and living forever for centuries.

According to Adam Gollner in The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever, ‘The twenty-five-year old Emperor Ai of Jin died in 365 CE, after overdosing on longevity drugs. He wasn’t the last leader to die trying to live forever. The fascination with chemical immortality reached an ironic apogee centuries later, during the T’ang dynasty (618-907 CE), when elixirs poisoned those hoping for precisely the opposite effect.’

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Today, I celebrated the 101st birthday of a dear friend. Not only is he hale and hearty, he has a quicker sharper wit than anyone else in the room. And, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. I remember at his 100th birthday party someone in the crowd asked, “What is your secret?” He said “Well, the only thing I can say is I went vegetarian twenty-five years ago.” As a friend, I would say his secret is his positive attitude. He’s still a member of a handful of clubs, he has many times more friends than I do, and his attitude is always positive. It’s been proved that those who have a good attitude about aging lived more than seven years longer than those with negative attitudes, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, something I read about over on the blog of Karen Salmansohn.

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This is very much in line with something I’ve always believed, that a healthy long life is all in the attitude. I saw the magnificent Sophia Loren interviewed once, when she was in her glorious 80’s. The admiring interviewer asked her, “You are truly ageless. What is your secret?” Loren replied, “I always have something to look forward to.” I’ve remembered that great advice ever since and I employ that idea in my life. I’ve also seen it called “plan de vida” or “reason to live.” Plan de vida, says blogger, Karen Salmansohn, ‘is a common practice of peppy elders living in Nicoya, Costa Rica, a famed centenarian hotspot. In Nicoya, residents credit their longevity to living with a purpose.’

The Quest for Immortality Continues…

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Sophia Loren, 2014

Talk to you later!

Yvette K. Carol

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“I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.” – Virginia Woolf

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

I was “Toastmaster” this week at my Toastmasters club, a role which basically means you MC the entire meeting. Have you ever heard it said that if you don’t know the answer to something, ask your grandmother? In one of my turns speaking at the meeting, I came up with the idea of passing on handy tips to the audience. I thought I’d share helpful tips I’ve gathered along the way in the form of grandmotherly advice. You never know what might benefit someone else.

Here are a few of the tips I shared with fellow club members during the meeting as “Nan’s Advice.”

Handy tip: Put the special gifts you love in your car.

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About ten years ago, my father gave me a small white posy of fake flowers and wished me “Happy Mother’s Day.” It was the first time he’d ever said those words to me, and I was so touched I’ve kept the posy in my car ever since. People give you gifts and they’re wonderful but things get lost in the detritus of life after a while. Or, you don’t notice them anymore. However, putting a special gift you’ve received in your car means you see it every day. Each time I get into my car, I see the posy of white plastic flowers and I feel warmth, remembering my father giving it to me and saying, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

It’s a spirit lifter.

It’s a simple thing and it works every time.

Another handy tip: Turn off your Wi-Fi.

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My sister and I, have been doing this thing lately, of turning off the Wi-Fi connection at the wall as often as possible. I never used to think about it, the Wi-Fi was just on all the time. But my sister said why? When we know it’s been proven to have harmful effects on our health, we should limit our exposure as much as possible. I decided to try limiting our use of Wi-Fi and became hooked.

Now, I view my day differently. I think of what needs to be done online and when. For me, it’s best to go online first thing in the morning and download all the documents I need to read to Word documents. Then, I can go offline the rest of the day and turn off the Wi-Fi. It might be my imagination, however there is a more relaxed feeling in the house now that the Wi-Fi is turned off for long periods. If in doubt, why not give it a try yourself once in a while? See if it feels any different.

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Last handy tip for the week: Leave your old vegetable plants in the ground longer.

After they’ve finished producing, leave your vegetable plants in the ground for as long as possible, and you may find they grow again. In the past, when my old veggies began to die back, I would rip the plants out of the ground and throw them onto the compost heap straight away. But, once or twice in recent times plants have been left in the ground far longer than usual, and to my surprise, in some cases, plants started growing again. I had cut the heads off the broccoli and didn’t get around to taking out the stumps and two months or so later, they started growing new broccoli heads. Instead of the central stalks, each plant is sprouting lots of smaller heads but they’re still yummy to eat. Now, the same thing has happened with the celery, the stumps are sprouting deep green stalks. My great discovery I pass onto you.

You’re welcome.

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I called my handy tips ‘Nan’s Advice’ because I’ve officially decided to change my ‘grandmother name’ from grandma to nan. In our family, we tend to use grandma, gran, nana or granny. Everyone called me grandma when my first granddaughter was born. Yet, for some reason, I found the moniker wasn’t coming to the lips easily when referring to myself. Then, I overheard my nephew and later my sister talking to the baby and when they referred to me they said ‘nan.’ I found the term sat more favourably. It felt more like me. Is it a coincidence that it’s the same name my beloved grandmother took as her own? I think not. So, nan, it is. I have finally settled on my grandmother name.

It was Louisa May Alcott who famously said, ‘A house needs a grandma in it.’ A nana will do, too. What about you? If you’re lucky enough to be a grandparent, what name do you go by?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Grandparenthood brings yet another dimension of unconditional love that, once again, changes everything. ~ Cheryl Saban

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A good friend said to me a few years ago, that entering one’s “middle years” was like fall, in that ‘things started to drop away from you like leaves from the tree.’ I think that is a handy analogy for this season of life I find myself in. After losing both my parents in the last two years, as well as a good friend, thinking of this time in my life as ‘being like fall’ helps me achieve the right mindset. That way, I accept loss as the natural order of life and the way things go.

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I put this realisation into my work-in-progress, a middle grade fantasy novel called, The Last Tree. Because of the youth of the characters, the realization becomes an initiatory one. I was able to use my recent experience with grief to write more realistically about the grief we feel as kids when we first take those first tentative steps towards adulthood, and we start to leave childhood behind. I can clearly remember being that age of twelve to thirteen and not wanting to grow up.

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Our young hero, Aden Weaver, was eleven in book one of The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series and each book covers the course of a year in his life. The Last Tree, being the third volume in the trilogy, includes the final battles, and the flowering into fullness of the child character/s must transpire.

As Aden Weaver is thirteen in The Last Tree, he is therefore on the cusp of change, walking that fine line of the transition between boyhood and manhood. He would naturally entertain his first thoughts about mortality. I did this through having his beloved mentor start to age rapidly. The thin line I had to walk was to have Aden experience loss while not dwelling on it to the point of being morbid.

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I knew I had to handle everything about the final book with care. In The Last Tree, Aden Weaver says goodbye to people he loves. It is a graduation story after all, and with graduation comes leaving people and places behind, so while there is bliss there is sadness. That’s life. It’s how we handle what happens that defines us.

It’s vital for the reader’s sense of resolution that Aden displays the depth of character at the end of the series absent at the beginning.

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The protagonist must demonstrate a growth arc and become that thing that was promised in book one, the wannabe must become the warrior, the hero, the more evolved, more complete version of themselves.

Aden, must taste the bitter fruit of reality and grow up a little and move on with new maturity. It’s a delicate piece in the mechanism of the coming of age story. However, I don’t prefer writing morbid fiction for children. You can see in the success of series like The Hunger Games that this generation of kids has high tolerance levels for death and violence. I read the Hunger Games trilogy to my boys earlier this year, and I was shocked at the content. It’s that sort of thing I couldn’t do.

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I want to do my story and characters justice in a potent way without the gore.

To me, there should be some reflection of life’s difficulties in our children’s books, and it also needs careful treatment. When you are writing for the 9-13 year-old age group, this acknowledgement of the child grasping the intransience of life needs to be touched on in some way, to be authentic to that stage of life. It’s about our passage over the threshold, from the first phase of life to the next. It can be symbolic, through leaving town, or changing schools. It needs to be present but not at the forefront, and not put in a way that is irresolvable for the immature mind.

Life’s tragedy can be delivered in junior fiction in a way that enriches the story without overwhelming it, if it’s done well. Just think of Charlotte’s Web.

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In writing about loss for young people, you must, also offer hope. Just as we do in real life, seek a counterbalance. The aim is not to leave your young audience devastated. We have a responsibility to reveal the glimmer of light along with the darkness.

At the end of The Last Tree, I sought to redress the balance back into the light. I only wrote the triumphant scenes a couple of months ago, and now they’re among my favourites in the whole book.

Hope is restored, as it should be. Life does go on.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Good stories are about the getting of wisdom; let your children grow up.’ ~ Jane Yolen

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Last week, we finally managed a get together like the boys’ trips we used to do in school holidays past. My brother and I brought together our youngest sons at our parent’s old home on the Coromandel Peninsula.

While we still have the use of the old cabin by the sea, it’s precious to spend time together under the same roof, in the school holidays.

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Here, in New Zealand, there are four terms in the school year. Each term is separated by a two week holiday which stretches to about six weeks over Christmas, in summer. Middle of April, we had our first school break. It felt great to go back and spend time as a family under the dear roof dad built with his own two hands.

I like to create memories each holiday, if I can.

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Despite nearing the end of autumn, the water was still warm enough for swimming and the weather was still mild. We had two and a half days together at the beach. It was wonderfully idyllic. I expected it to be bitterly cold (as it can get when you’re exposed to the ocean) but the temperatures were relatively balmy. We managed to fit in some fishing which made my youngest son very happy indeed. He’s one of those young boys who always hanker to go fishing.

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My special needs son, on the other hand, has never shown the slightest bit of interest. He usually plonks himself on the wharf to watch resignedly, or he and I kick a ball on the street. But, this time, with a bit of encouragement, he tried holding the rod for the first time, to help us in catching some sprats for bait. He caught a sprat within five minutes, and it was the biggest fish we caught all morning He got such a kick out of that!

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Of course, no trip with the boys is ever complete without numerous rounds of basketball. The boys were delighted when my brother agreed to play a round of two on two with them. Then he managed to shoot the only hoop of the match. He continued to remind his long-suffering son the rest of the day and evening that he was the ‘undefeated champion.’ It was hilarious. My brother has a great sense of humour, and the boys all rib each other all the time, which I gather is part of the male bonding experience.

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Mornings and evenings were spent playing scrabble and cards and sitting around talking. A lot of time at family get-togethers is typically spent making food, eating, cleaning up from eating and planning what’s on the menu next. It’s time to share boxes of chocolates and a glass of wine or a beer, to cook big dinners and indulge in desserts. Every night we stayed up way too late, talking, and it took me about three days to recover, after we got home. To my mind, that’s the way it should be. As an adult, you don’t get the chance to hang out with extended family very often, so you have to make the most of it.

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There is a sense of amplified appreciation of the property my parents bought sixty-odd years ago, a sense of how precious it is, now that they’re not here. It’s a slice of paradise. I suddenly realize how fortunate we’ve been to have had a gathering place all our lives. Sure, as a family, we gather sometimes at one another’s houses for birthdays and milestones, and the big occasions throughout the year. But, it’s when you get to live under the same roof with family, that you really get to relax in one another’s company, and do lots of different activities. You have time to have all the conversations that need to be said.

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For townies like us, it’s a real tonic being in the countryside for a break. I think it’s the only time I ever truly unwind. I love the walks in nature. There’s a lovely walk through native bush we take to the mountain peak behind the house. I am always invigorated by walking among trees.

In Japan, there is a practice called ‘tree bathing,’ which is essentially walking through the forest. It comes from the belief that trees absorb negative energies from us, and that they have healing properties. Apparently, tree bathing has been proven to reduce stress, improve feelings of well-being, boost the immune system, and even to lower heart rate and blood pressure. I can attest forest bathing is zen. I came home to the city replenished and calm again.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden” – Goethe

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At the moment, my eldest son is painting the exterior of the house for us. It’s been great. Because not only is the job getting done, but I get to see him regularly and sometimes he brings my granddaughter with him. At first, the idea was for my teenage boys to help me babysit her while the eldest carried on with the painting. But, after a couple of hours on the first day, the youngest son said, “Mum, I don’t think I’m responsible enough to be babysitting.” I had to laugh. At thirteen, he’s not quite ready to be a caregiver. He realized it takes constant vigilance to look after babies.

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He went back to his online game. My sixteen-year-old went back to watching YouTube. And I went back to following the path of her adventures. My nephew, who boards here, said to her, “Is it you who’s been pulling things out all over the house?” She just looked at them with those big blue peepers and we all laughed.

For me, as the grandparent, babysitting is a joyful vigilance. I’ve been absorbed in watching her and singing nursery rhymes, and reading baby books. It’s been a lot of fun and a wonderful bonding time with my granddaughter getting to see her for whole days at a time.

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Prior to my granddaughter’s birth, I was looking forward to being around a such a young child again. Even so, I had forgotten how special they are. When you’ve been here less than a year, the world is a vast and truly fascinating place. Everything is new waiting to be explored.

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They want to know what lies on top of every table and cabinet.

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They want to know what it is about these gadgets we find so fascinating, my granddaughter is never more animated than when she manages to get hold of a phone, or a tablet or a remote for a minute. They’re attracted to things they feel they probably shouldn’t be playing with.

There is one feature here at my house I had hoped to keep the baby away from, a Jade tree on the front porch which features little tiny pebbles and smallish glass butterflies.

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The jade tree was the first thing the baby noticed and she made a beeline for it. Babies are uncanny that way. They hone in on what you don’t want them to find. We played a fun game of Nana saying no, ‘you can’t eat that’ until I could distract her to something else.

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Luckily, we have loads of toys and everything a child could want here because I saved so much of the boys’ stuff, from their best baby toys and the best of everything over the years since then. Baby and I have a lot of fun playing with the musical instruments, playing with a bucket of water outside, blowing bubbles, reading picture books, stacking blocks and rolling a ball. But, what she’s really motivated to do is explore her world.

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One minute we’re playing the next minute she’s off, crawling at great speed to see what’s around the next corner. She wants to go into every room of the house, and pull herself up on the chairs and tables to see more.

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Every item she can get her hands on needs to be carefully examined and then sucked on. ‘Everything is intrinsically interesting’ as Shaun Tan said. This is the viewpoint of babies. I love how babies and little kids have to physically engage with their environment in a thorough way. It makes me see these same things anew.

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If there are stairs or different levels under fives have to go up and down and around and if possible through. They engage with things in every possible way. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is tested and known completely. It’s not enough to take things out of the drawer; one must get in the drawer.

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So far, I have found this window into early childhood absorbing. Now that my two youngest boys are teenagers, life is different for us at home. I don’t have to have everything out of reach or locked up tight. Whereas, when there’s a baby around, anything you don’t want lost or broken, or that might be a potential hazard, has to be out of sight. We’re rediscovering the delights and dangers of the world again through her adventuring.

I’d always heard being a grandparent is fabulous, now I can attest to the fact. It’s the love for family enhanced by the benefit of time.

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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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