Archive for the ‘memories’ Category

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

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

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

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

Therefore, surviving the surgery is the first milestone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What milestone has made your heart sing lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

— Lucimar Santos de Lima

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This week, I took the boys down country and met my brother with his son. We stayed with grandpa for four days, as we do each school break.

Here’s the thing about visiting parents when they’re aging, there’s always a slight tension that never quite goes away. It’s like the prickle in your finger you can’t stop thinking about.

In between our visits, I worry about my father. He’s on his own now, mum having died nearly two years ago. I love his independence. He’s a potter-er. He has his aches and pains but he soldiers on. He makes his own meals and does his own laundry. I know he can take care of himself. I know he’s happy. I know he has a good life between his church, friends, bowls, volunteer work, clubs, and meetings.

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The last few get-togethers dad started complaining of memory loss. The last holiday or two, we have noticed changes. Some little instances of his not recognizing people he should have known, and so on. Since then, the normal mild tension one feels with a parent in their 80’s, became greater concern for his well-being. We’ve been keeping an eye on him. And now, each time we go, I’m hyped with stress, how is he going to be this time? Is he going to be worse? Will the decline be slow or steep?

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This visit was a relief for my brother and I because dad was fine. He showed no displays of memory loss beyond the ordinary things you or I would do. He was great. However, he is still different, more turned inward. When we saw a family friend on the last day, she asked my brother and I, how was your trip, and we both replied, “Interesting” in the same breath.

This holiday, dad, who is famous for his telling of jokes, and the offer of “a story,” had been silent. He didn’t tell a single joke in four days. That, in itself, set the tone for the difference. Dad also has his favourite things he likes to say, like how he was blessed with a lovely wife, a happy family and finding the land he lives on, and the story of how he found it. None of these stones were touched upon. And, that was unsettling.

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In the evenings, the boys would be playing cards (and dad joined in on many games), Sam would be playing his psp, and I’d be writing. I’d look up at dad and think, why isn’t he talking? He was busy with his Sudoku or he was working on his crossword, or he was reading the paper. If I asked a question, he’d answer and then go back to his crossword. He seemed deeply intensely absorbed in his routines and his things he likes to do.

Then on the last day we were there, I thought, I need to have a talk with dad.

I got up early. The instant I heard a footstep above, I rushed upstairs. I caught him before he could get started on his paper and I started him talking.

I engaged him, told him things about us and asked him questions. We had a conversation.

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He said, “I’ve been blessed with…” and I can’t tell you the relief I felt as he told me his familiar saying. He said, “And this place had only been open for development five days when we first saw it. I’ve told you the story, have I?” I said, “Yes, but tell me again!” I was so overjoyed he was back. There you are, dad. Whew!

Dad is simply aging naturally and as well as you can. He’s at the age and stage in life where he’s becoming more introverted. He’s looking inward which is the normal thing to do in the final stage of life. He’s got his routines and his set ways of doing things and he concentrates on them more so now than he did before as is natural. All is well with grandpa.

Yet, still I worry.

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The kids love to visit. My son with Downs’ syndrome loves grandpa, and Sam did spend a fair bit of time just staring at his face. Bless him, dad didn’t react but carried on as usual. I treasured him more than ever. I came home happy to report to the rest of the family (and Facebook!) that grandpa is going strong.

Now, how to manage the stress of worrying about him. What do you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius

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

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

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

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

In four days, I shall turn 52.

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

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

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

What does time mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you create enough time? Do, tell!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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15 September, 2002

The worst night yet for aches, pains, difficulty turning over and lack of sleep. I woke at 4.22 a.m. with the conviction the Braxton Hicks (false labour pains) had changed nature and were stronger. Fortunately, I remembered to breathe.

Some people dismiss keeping journals, however when you’re looking back at one of the major events of your life, after a period of fourteen years has elapsed, and you think, I’ll look that one up, you realize the wisdom in keeping a record of every day.

You have notes on the milestones in your life. This forms a precious record of your thoughts and words at that moment in time. Not sanitised by the mind, not romanticised by distance, but the fresh, raw “moment” captured.

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At this particular point in my life, 14 years ago, I was newly married to my second husband, expecting my second child. My first born child had been delivered when I was a teenager, under crisis circumstances. I’d always had the dream of getting to experience a planned pregnancy, in a family situation.

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It was great to have my husband here, because I felt like a ‘space cadet.’ My head was spacey, my belly felt firm like a melon, my whole body seemed to be vibrating, the cells skittering. Throughout the day, the contractions fluctuated in time and intensity, sometimes bearable, sometimes unbearable. I didn’t feel afraid. Rather, I felt joy; at the “second chance” I’d been given.

Whew. This excerpt takes me back so clearly to this day.

After a long, difficult and traumatic birth, I remember, I climbed from the birthing pool into bed, at last. My husband and I waited for the baby to be cleaned up and examined.

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I wrote in my journal, Instead of our emotions rushing into euphoria, we both felt there was something wrong with the look of his face. Our midwife said she had to tell us, she thought our baby might have Down Syndrome and our emotions rushed into shock and fear instead. We held him and looked at him. He was born at 1.26 a.m.

My own words bring it all back so clearly.

I sit here shedding a few fresh tears at the memory of how devastated we were at the time.

The day followed in a blur of visitors, texting, breastfeeding, and talking, and at the end of the day everyone left.

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After dinner, I wrapped Sam in blankets and lay him on the bed in front of me, so I could sit with my legs stretched out on either side of him.

Watching my baby and stroking him, I began to truly connect for the first time and feel my heart start to break free of its bonds to stretch towards him.

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At 9 pounds 11 ounces, and long-bodied with it, he was a lovely plump size. And his nature was beautiful, compared to the other babies I could hear wailing and crying, Sam never cried at all, he radiated a gentle sweetness.

From that moment on, Sam and I began our mother-son bond, a connection that has steadily built with every day.

It has been a long and interesting road these last fourteen years with my middle child, my special boy.

We went from the grief and devastation of the early days, to the dawning realisation we’d been graced with a little Buddha in our midst.

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This masterful character who has a heart as pure as driven snow, a spirit as unbreakable as steel, and a wisdom that is as earthy and real and grounded as you’re ever going to meet, has changed us and our lives for the better, forever. None of us in Samuel’s immediate family or even range of influence altogether will ever be the same again.

Little did we know, in our “green” state back in 2002, the miracle that had taken place on that day.

On the 16th September, at 1.26 a.m an angel was born to us. And, we had been forever blessed.

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16 September, 2016

I woke this morning and my first thought was of my middle child, my wonderful son, Samuel, who turns fourteen today.

Happy Birthday, my darling son

You are perfect in every way

You teach me every day how to slow down, how to listen and be happy

Thank you

I love you!

Mama xxx

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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The thing about writing humour is that everyone has a different sense of humour.

I remember having a conversation about this with a friend. She said, their family had invited the son’s new girlfriend over, to join them for dinner. After the meal, they thought they’d watch their favourite show, with the idea that laughing would bring them all together. So they put on a comedy which they knew was side-splitting, ‘Little Britain.’ My friend said that she, her husband and sons were rolling off the couch, nearly crying with laughter, while the son’s girlfriend never cracked a smile throughout the whole show.

Humour is personal and deadly serious.

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I promised readers I’d share my journey towards the holy grail of engaging the funny bone. Let’s say, it’s been an interesting process, so far.

In my last post, there was a great moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth about having to write the material for my humorous speech.

I got some helpful pointers from a number of responders. With regards my first idea for material, which had been my mother and her dementia, a friend on social media – the wonderfully gregarious Lord David Prosser  – countered with a great comment.

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‘If you get the chance to read the Deric Longden story Lost for Words or get the chance to see the TV film that was made starring Dame Thora Hird you’ll see that the subject of dementia can be dealt with i a funny, charming yet sympathetic way. Because we see the humour in a situation doesn’t make us uncaring towards people suffering that illness, it just means the particular situation was funny.’ ~ David Prosser

Thanks, David.

However, for the upcoming Speech Contest, I decided to go with the same topic I covered last year, something I know intimately – being a parent. Since then, after many anxious, feeble attempts at writing it, and wringing of hands, I began to despair I’d ever be able to write anything good ever again!

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I watched footage of award-winning humorous speaker, Jeanne Robertson http://www.jeannerobertson.com (thanks for the link, Jenny), and read a post or two by my friends who write funny blogs, like the self-confessed undie chronicler, Jenny Hansen, https://jennyhansenauthor.wordpress.com/ and sweet blogger, Bun Karyudo, whose excellent “Lovingly Hand-Crafted Humor Blog” is always good for a chuckle.

I thought Bun’s recent post, Teaching My Son to Swim? It’s Just Not Going to Happen https://bunkaryudo.wordpress.com/2016/08/13/teaching-my-son-to-swim-its-just-not-going-to-happen/ was hilarious.

Here’s an excerpt, where his wife is convincing a reluctant Bun why he ought to teach their son to swim:

“When someone makes a promise, isn’t it only right to keep it.”

When someone made a promise, I nodded, it was only right to keep it.

“Right then,” she said, “I promised our son you’d teach him to swim. How can you possibly refuse?”

Bun, however, has a natural gift for turn of comedic phrase. I don’t!

Still stumped, I gazed upon these people’s brilliance and felt unable to produce anything of credibly feather-tickling value myself.

I’ve been having the same conversation everywhere I’ve gone, what makes comedy?

This week, a friend asked me, ‘Look at this way, what makes you laugh?’

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Terrific question. I can tell you, one-liners leave me cold; I prefer it when there’s a storyline, and the humour comes through what happens.

A light went on! I realized that my earlier attempts had failed, because each was basically a series of one-liners strung together.

Yesterday, my two youngest sons left to spend the weekend with their father. Last night, I relaxed and listened to some music, as you do. I was thinking about how different childhood is for kids these days, compared to say, when I was young, or say my parents, or their parents before them.

A few words wafted by me on the wind. If you consider that my grandmother was born in 1901. She lived in the “pre-nuclear age…” I thought, Gran had perfect recall, while I have trouble remembering something from one room of the house to the other… that’s a funny idea! Lucky for me, I was fleet of foot and captured the words before they flew on by.

I had the start to my speech.

The concept of comparing childhoods in our family, from my gran through to my youngest son, gave me the all-important narrative I needed. The rest flowed from there.

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Here’s an example of the content as it stands so far: ‘They say there are more crazy people on the streets these days than ever before, we parents get warnings to keep an eye on our children’s whereabouts at all times. I know my children’s whereabouts – couch one and couch two in our living room, where they can get the wifi.’

Therefore, the raw material for my humorous speech has finally been produced. A labour of love, no less.

Now, I just need to figure out how to deliver the speech to achieve maximum impact. Wish me luck! Any tips for comedic timing/inflection that works,  please let me know! There’s a chocolate fish in it for you (nah, just kidding).

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is impossible to look cool while picking up a Frisbee. ~ Peter Kay

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

I have spent days wondering what I should write about.

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

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

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

What is funny?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the audience laugh? Only time will tell!

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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My mother passed away a year ago, today.

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

‘What?’

‘She passed away in her sleep.’

‘@3$56&!’ I dropped the bags.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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If you let your writing reflect your world view, your passion, your issues and your sore spots, the result will carry an emotional truth and gravitas that will be undeniable. ~ Keith Cronin

Why doesn’t speaking in public ever get any less scary?

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I think it might be because you reveal more and more of yourself.

I have an upcoming speech on Wednesday. It will be my ninth speech for my Toastmasters club and my most self-revelatory to date.

The crowd of butterflies are already swirling.

Apparently I’m not the only one at my club who suffers. After canvassing a number of other club members, it came as a pleasant surprise to find that everyone, bar none, felt some form of panic before a speech – apparently, it’s perfectly natural.

Bruce, my adopted grandfather, tells me that nerves are necessary to bring us up out of ordinary mode.

‘Feeling nervous lifts us into a heightened state so we can go out and get our message across.’

As a firm believer in elevating a stage presence beyond the normal “conversational mode,” Bruce says, ‘it’s okay when you’re speaking in a small room, but, if you were in a big hall could you project the same message to fill the bigger space?’

These are the elements of speech craft which need to be mastered.

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So far, I’ve found speech-writing is very similar to writing story. Ever since joining Toastmasters on June 10, 2015, I’ve noticed many parallels between the two disciplines.

For both writing speeches and fiction, you start with a germinating idea. You note it down. You wait. You get a few more ideas. You note them also.

A thought/song/movie/conversation comes to you and adds more material. This is the fun “gathering” stage. Or what New Zealand writer, Joy Cowley, calls the period of, ‘baiting the hook and waiting for the fish to come.’

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Then, one day, you start jamming it together like some sort of wonderful jigsaw that begins to make this miraculous transformation before your eyes into a lovely picture.

The resulting speech or story is a masterpiece you then get to marvel over. Art is a process of alchemy, turning a whole bunch of random things into a new form. I love it!

Being a worry-wart, I have to worry about the creation of each speech and story anyway, let’s be clear! The creative process is still a partially anxious one for me. I worry over each of my babies. Will they come out the way I want them to? Will they be perfect?

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I’ve been gathering bits and bobs for my ninth speech ever since the last one. James Joyce said, Mistakes are portals of discovery. When you’re in the business of learning public speaking, you need to be willing to make mistakes. While it’s scary, it is also rewarding!

Only in the last few days, has this speech finally begun to take its shape. I feel very uncertain about it indeed, as I will be sharing some of the emotional abuse I lived through during three of my marriages. I’ve been reading a lot of articles by intelligent people, espousing that within the safety net of Toastmasters, we ‘tell our stories.’ This is my story – I’m a survivor of abuse. But all three of these men are still living, so where do we draw the line?

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I’ve been writing this speech, trying to tell my story without dipping into the maudlin for the sympathy vote, or cheating the audience by skimming the surface.

I decided the only way to go forward with it was to take it from the point of view of my experience, without adding too many other words on top. What do you think?

What is considered slander and what is sharing my story? Any suggestions would be welcome!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Frank Baum. ~ The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.

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Friend, writer, Jenny Hansen, put me on to a great new blog site this week, ‘Blunt Moms,’ written by a happy collective of mommas telling it like it is.

The first post I read was by author, Anne Sawan, ‘Moms of boys, you are my people.’ Of course, this got my attention as I’m a mother to three sons. The post was so hilarious I nearly split my jeans laughing. I subscribed the same day.

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Anne Sawan wrote of discovering her boys running around on their icy roof in winter, ‘inches away from slipping off and cracking their skulls,’ and how, that night, she had to have ‘a large glass of red wine’ in order to get over the experience.

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I laughed in the grip of my own painful memories. My three sons have made my hair go gray which is why I have to dye it now.

I remember one time, when Sam was three and escaped the property. He took off in his plastic car down the middle of our street. He lifted his feet and whizzed down the hill, with me running behind shouting, “Stop! Stop, Sam!”

He shot out of the street, turning a corner into another road, still freewheeling. I braced myself for hearing a screech of brakes, which fortunately never came. I managed to catch up with Sam and yank him off the road before he met any traffic. His guardian angels must take home plenty of overtime, that night. In fact, all my boys have given their angels a run for their money.

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‘Boys are just a different breed from girls,’ wrote Sawan. I couldn’t agree more.

My sister’s darling daughter used to present herself to her mother each evening at six o’clock exactly, and say, “I’m ready for bed, mama.” How I envied my sister! My boys would still be strangling each other somewhere, with someone moments away from an elbow in the eye, or getting somehow mortally injured and roaring with pain. Or they’d be trying the old, I-can’t-hear-you routine. Oh, yes, boys are different, all right.

What goes on in a household of boys?

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A lot of yelling goes on in this household of boys.

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A lot of dressing up.

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Play-fighting.

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Birthday parties that would put adult all-night-ragers to shame.

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Hours spent playing digital games.

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More play-fighting.

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Suspicious silences.

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Wild air guitar-playing while only dressed in underwear.

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Yet more play-fighting.

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And of course, posturing.

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Did I mention the singing? They sing a lot as well.

Once you learn to roll with the rambunctious, noisy, chaos of living with sons, I am here to report; it is possible to live harmoniously with them.

Besides in the words of Anne Sawan, in the end, “we laugh knowing our boys are going to be marrying your girls, and one day, if they’re lucky, they may just have little boys of their own.”

That’s called karma, folks!

Do you have any stories of the differences between raising your sons and daughters, or any hair-raising parenting tales to share?

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Talk to you later,

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Raising children is one of the most significant things that a person can do. It matters a tremendous amount, and women who choose to do it should be held in high esteem. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was a token of great respect for a man to address an older woman as “mother.” That might be a good thing to bring back.’ ~ Paul Rosenberg

 

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‘I have decided to keep a full journal, in the hope that my life will perhaps seem more interesting when it is written down.’ ~ Adrian Mole

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‘Loneliness is a mist

Surrounding me

Enveloping me

Chilling me to the bone!’

(The first stanza from a poem I wrote aged 16)

Always having been interested in writing, I started keeping a journal and recording things on a daily basis from the age of sixteen.

Have you ever tried keeping a journal, a daily log of your life? Here are six very good reasons to start…

1: ‘By putting the thoughts swirling around your head all in one place, it can help you think more clearly about your life circumstances.’ 

It was Joe Bunting, of TheWritePractice who said this quote. He also said, ‘Writing in a journal is a great way to get your thoughts recorded. Although it might not always be the prettiest writing, journaling often provides insight and perspective.’

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2: Journaling is a viable way of doing your “daily pages.”

The teacher and author, Julia Cameron, advocates writers do “the daily pages” and Kate de Goldi, one of my teachers was the same, advocating writing “non-stop for twenty minutes a day,” to keep the writing muscles lubricated and the muse flowing.

3: Keeping a journal gives those of us with overactive imaginations a place to safely vent and release, to process our past, and marshal our thoughts.

One of my former writing tutors, Joy Cowley actively encouraged us to write daily entries, as a way of exorcising the demons and ghosts of childhood. These things needed to come out, she told us. “I see many sad, lonely stories coming out in people’s writing. These sad experiences are still within us, but its therapy writing, these things need to come out. Even accomplished writers will write bleak books that are directly from their own painful childhoods.’

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4: A journal is also an effective tool for getting some perspective on our own selves and insight to our own lives.

I remember an elderly friend of my mother’s, who upon hearing I kept a journal, praised me roundly. She said, ‘It’s a great practice because then you can look back and see patterns in your life and relationships.’

5: And also, our diaries are potential material for future stories or books.

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As Joe Bunting said, ‘Just like your mind is often racing, so is your character’s. If you’re looking for an alternative way to tell a story, there are a couple reasons to try a diary or epistolary format.

‘Writing with a diary or with letters as the story framework can be a good way to challenge yourself and explore different writing formats while continuing to move your story forward. Just be sure that the story structure continues to make sense, and the plot development moves logically in the context of the existing story.’ ~ Liz Bureman

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6: Journals are a terrific way of storing memories.

They keep people alive in a way. How’s this entry I found upon opening my journal from 1994: ‘Tanya rang this morning and after just talking to her for a short while my spirits are soaring. She’s an inspirational woman. She reminds me it’s easy to be happy.’ Although I had no way of knowing at the time, eight years later, Tanya would be dead. Reading snippets about her like this bring her to life and refresh her memory in a whole new way.

*Rule of Thumb*

Yet, in amongst all the happy journaling lies a hidden danger. Be responsible and intelligent about what you’re committing to paper or digital diary.

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I read this cautionary tale over the weekend, in an old magazine I found at my father’s house. ‘I never dreamed of destroying my journals until a friend accidentally discovered a three-page rant his mother had scrawled many years before she died. “My children are takers,” she wrote. “They’re not good-natured. They’re selfish, self-centered, self-indulgent, and only need me when they want money.” ~ Mary Pleshette Willis

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Let this be your “rule of thumb:” only commit to a journal things you’d be happy with your child accidentally reading.

It is therefore wise to cull one’s collection of journals regularly. I haven’t kept all of them. And some of them I’ve taken great glee in burning on a bonfire at New Year’s! But the important diaries I’ve kept. I will continue to love them, to revisit them. And of course, I continue to write in my current journal every day. A good habit should be hard to break, and it’s how I do my daily pages!

Do you keep a journal? Have you ever kept one? Do you keep yours or throw them away?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.’ ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

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