Archive for the ‘Truth’ Category

This year my father’s 85th birthday passed by with dad seriously ill in hospital, suffering double pneumonia. If a person is a smoker, the rate of mortality from this illness among the elderly is high. As a non-smoker, and also a relatively fit person, dad’s chances of survival were better than average.

Nevertheless, none of the facts take the edge off, when you see your father that close to the final curtain. I remember how in those first moments of my first visit, when I saw his face with the cheeks sunken in towards his gaping mouth, I felt my heart clench. A keener sense of reality accompanied it. I felt even more love than usual for my father.

10599505_10202530643248555_4175807170543700148_nThat was a week ago.

Dad’s still recovering in hospital. The family has taken shifts to sit with him and my elder sisters are with him now. I shudder at the thought of what lies ahead. The shadow at the dinner party. The ghost at the gate. The pitch darkness that lies beyond the horizon.

It’s only been two years since my mother died. She passed away blissfully in her sleep, June 25, 2015, just four months shy of what would have been my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. It reminded me never to bank on tomorrow. My teacher always says to ‘live as if death’s at your shoulder’ because it is.

It’s winter here in New Zealand, and it seems fitting to face these thoughts at this quieter time of year. As without so within and all that jazz.

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It’s also the first week of the school holidays.

Normally, my brother and I would take our kids to stay with dad for some of the break. It was so great to see the kids get to do all sorts of adventurous things outside in the fresh air on those visits, stretching their legs and their wings as boys need to do.

Even my boy with Down’s syndrome, Sam-the-man, who gets quite put out by any changes to routine, always welcomed the chance to spend quality time with his grandfather. Sam appreciated that his grandfather would sit and take the time to play cards and board games and patiently explain the rules.

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In Sam’s writing books, brought home from school at the end of each year, I noticed the words ‘Grandpa,’ ‘beach,’ and ‘sandcastles’ cropped up in his stories often.

We’ve had a special time and there are many wonderful memories.

These holidays, instead of going to the beach, the boys and I travelled to spend a couple of days sitting beside grandpa in hospital. We make the next visit soon.

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It’s sad to see an old tree fall. This profoundly good man has sacrificed a great deal for his family. He has given selflessly to all around him. Now, all he asks is to go home. While he is still very weak, we’re hopeful that one day, he will return home, at least in some capacity.

In a few days, the boys and I take our next turn at grandpa-sitting.

My sisters say dad’s health has improved.

We might not have noted dad’s birthday as we’ve done before. But as soon as he’s home we will celebrate.

We’ve remembered life goes on. Hope springs. And the human spirit is irrepressible. Thank goodness, no matter how many crazy despots come into power, life does go on. And I’m reminded of those sage words someone said once long ago; it’s never too late to bake a cake. 🙂 Words to live by.

Love you, dad. Happy Birthday!

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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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A reality bloomed before us yesterday…one I didn’t want to see…that shocked me to my very core. My father is mortal. The superhero of our family – our fearless leader – who has never spent a day in hospital, apart from when he got bowled over by a truck, is lying in a hospital bed at death’s door.

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As dad said when he was still lucid, ‘I never get sick. I’ve never had anything wrong with me.’ He couldn’t understand why people started to fuss over him in his town a few weeks ago. A few worried reports filtered in, that dad’s colour wasn’t right; he was ‘looking blue.’

When I rang to check on him, Dad said he’d had flu for about four weeks. I said he must see a doctor in the morning. He promised he would.

My sister rang the next morning to check on him. She found dad was panting and fighting for breath. He still refused to see a doctor. Nevertheless an ambulance and friends in the community raced to side. My father is so fiercely independent (as the nurses keep telling us, also) that he fought being taken away by the ambulance. He didn’t want to go, and had to be persuaded in no uncertain terms.

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My father was transferred to Waikato Hospital HDU where he could be put on oxygen and have his levels monitored. The doctors said he had pneumonia in both lungs which accounted for his difficulty breathing.

In talking to him, dad admitted he’d “been a bit wobbly” for a few weeks when getting his firewood. He said he “had been struggling a little.” That’s understated dad-language for ‘I’m desperately ill and have been struggling a lot.’ No wonder the other people in his town were concerned.

I travelled to Waikato Hospital yesterday, along with my eldest son, and we were in for a shock. I saw dad’s mortality written across his face, and for the first time I faced the fact we could lose him.

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Holding dad’s hand, I stretched one of Ma’s crocheted blankets across his lap. He was counting erratic sequences of numbers in his half-sleep. His normally brown eyes, when he opened them, looked murky blue.

My superman had landed. I could have wept a thousand tears. But I had to hold it together for my son and my niece. I’m sure my father doesn’t want to see us grieving before he’s even gone, either.

Unfortunately, because it went on so long, dad let himself get very sick, and at this point, he is still no better.

Bless him, we were told he is a “flight risk” even so. He keeps trying to leave the hospital to go home. While we were there, if he wasn’t sleeping, then every few minutes he’d check his watch and say, “It’s time to go.” He was feeling anxious because he hadn’t laid the fire and ‘needed to get home to collect the wood.’ Yet, being so wobbly, he can’t go anywhere without a walking frame and someone holding him.

It was hard to leave dad at the hospital. I’ll take my younger boys to see him tomorrow.

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The call has gone out to the family. The time has come to gather from various points on the earth. We just need to focus on supporting dad through this and surrounding him with love. So that’s where our energy goes at this time, being there with him, no matter what.

We’re still praying he can recover and return to his beloved hometown. But, as one of my young nephews so sagely said, ‘Grandpa will never be able to go back to the way things were before.’ As a family, we have turned a corner. It’s just that none of us know which corner we’ve taken.

How do I approach the decline of this great man? Step by step. Moment by moment. There is no other way to do it than to let one’s heart be broken, petal by petal. That’s what it is to love, to surrender to the process of life. Yet, in all its suffering there is still sweetness and divinity. On the drive home from Waikato, the setting sun rimmed a burst of clouds with gold and sent out long apricot-yellow “fingers of God” into the deep blue sky. The scene was overwhelming in its pure magnificence. I looked with joy and I wept with tears of grief for my father.

How do we approach all of life with the same equilibrium? That’s something I’m currently pondering on…your thoughts are welcome!

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.’ ~ E.B.White

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“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche.

I missed the mark with a speech at Toastmasters this week. With a topic I knew well: writing, and raising children. I flubbed a few lines, got some words mixed up and forgot a key point, and felt it was an overall disappointment.

It was another one of those notches in the belt of life’s defeats, which turn into teachable moments only in hindsight.

I knew I hadn’t hit the mark even at the time I was speaking. I could feel the audience’s attention slipping. I didn’t have them in the palm of my hand, the way I do when I’m in the zone.

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After the meeting, instead of shaking my hand warmly, there was some avoidance. I came home and watched the video back. I saw that I started the speech with a sigh, which is never a good thing. I used the wrong word in a couple of places without realizing, and that had changed the message. I waffled on at the end. It was a disaster. No wonder people avoided me afterwards.

I felt disappointed. “You picked the wrong word,” I said to myself, watching the footage. “If only you’d stopped and taken a silent breath.”

I berated myself on and off for about half a day. After that, it wasn’t that I felt bad, I felt nothing. I was blank.

Which brings me to the point, how useful are the things we say to ourselves? What effect are they having on our lives?

In my case, I went to that giant therapist in the sky, Facebook, and shared via status update.

Normally, my posts about stuff on Facebook might garner six or so “likes.” When I went back online the next day, I saw that my post had 22 “likes” and there were comments: beautiful, heart-felt encouragement.

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Friends had taken the time to remind me of the steps forward I have taken. The words melted my heart. I sat there and wept into my keyboard like a baby, until my tea went cold.

Later, I dried my face, made a fresh cup of tea, and I could feel the difference within. The veil had lifted. The blankness was gone. I could feel again, I could smile again. I was free. Wow. What a revelation about the power of the right words and a good cry. Thank you again to all my beloved friends.

By sharing with others, by caring about others, and by practising the mindfulness of saying loving words to ourselves and those around us, all manner of ills in this world can be healed.

The right words at the right time can be good medicine.

I remember back in the day, about twenty-five years ago, I read a small, life-changing book called “Creative Visualization” by Australian author, Shakti Gawain. https://www.amazon.com/Creative-Visualization-Meditations-Imagination-Create/dp/1511326948

That was when I became introduced to this idea of the manifestational juju of the words we say to ourselves. I learned we can radically alter the experience we have by changing our inner dialogue. Gawain taught about the benefits of saying positive statements to ourselves, which she called daily affirmations.

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In essence: we can aid and sustain ourselves by saying the right words.

Here’s a good example. About the FB post on the “failure” of my recent speech, friend Sharon Hinckley said wisely, “Could you lose those ‘high expectations’ and just go out there and have fun?” She altered my perception and let in the light by using the right words.

The right phrase can alter the atmosphere of our lives and elevate the tone.

The truth is, our inner dialogue is always going on anyway, and so we might as well use it to our advantage. The first step is to come up with some phrases which work for us. The next step is to remember to say them to ourselves a few times daily. *Tip: try making it part of the daily routine so they end up becoming automatic. *Tip Two: try thinking of three things each day you are grateful for.

To return to the question I started with: how useful are the things we say to ourselves? They’re potentially life-changing, if we use the right words. What we say matters.

Have you ever tried doing affirmations? Do share…

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“To transform your life, you must find a way of being grateful for what you have now.” ~ Rhonda Byrne

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Or, Editing Woes Noone Warned you About ~

The word “edit” in the dictionary means “to prepare for publication.”

For the author in the last stages of editing their book, the sheer hours spent bum-in-chair can become numbing at both ends of the spectrum.

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You see, no one tells you the truth about the writer’s life, either at school or in the way it’s rendered via popular media. As a kind of public service announcement, I’m happy to give you a “heads up” about the possible woes that lie ahead, if you’re thinking of turning that story in the bottom drawer into a viable commodity.

Here’s what to expect:

Editing Woes #1: Temporary Blindness

Stephen King once said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” There’s a good reason for keeping that office door open. Besides getting other people’s eyes upon your fiction, you need ventilation. You can succumb to writer’s fatigue. After sitting in a room on your own, staring at those dark marching ants across the screen for hours, you stop seeing the words.

Cure: Get some oxygen, head outdoors, look at nature.

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Editing Woes #2: Temporary Book Hate

“The first draft of everything is shit,” so said Ernest Hemmingway. However, given enough exposure to your own work, every other draft of your own precious story will start to annoy you, too. This is a temporary phase.

Top tip: Try not to throw the entire file in the rubbish bin.

Cure: Keep going. Do not give up!

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Editing Woes #3: Temporary Loss of Will to Live

There comes a moment, when you’ve just finished your hundredth edit of your story, and you realize you’re going to have to go back to the beginning and start again, that the apple begins to slide off the cherry.

I had a deadline to reach this weekend, my book needed to be submitted to createspace by April 15th. The material had been worked over so many times, but it still wasn’t done. When I found myself at 6.30 in the evening yesterday, and it wasn’t finished and I still I had to keep editing, I felt weak with stress.

The last yards to publication when you’re an Indie are soul destroying. Every time you think you’ve carved off the last word and discovered the last ill-placed comma, you find yet another error.

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On the fifth “final edit” I just wanted to put down the laptop lid, walk away and pretend none of it ever happened. I felt I could not read those words again.

Top Tip: This is normal. You will want to give up. You will want to curl in the fetal position. Don’t worry; it happens to all of us. It’s like childbirth or passing a kidney stone, it doesn’t matter how bad it becomes, you will get through it.

Cure: Eat treats. I took “feijoa breaks.”

Editing Woes #4: Temporarily Losing Touch with Reality

Yes, this is a common problem they don’t warn you about in writing class. When those sixth and seventh “final edits” take place, usually late at night, and you’re keeping yourself going by drinking coffee and eating sweets, the hours start to blend. One friend said, “it’s like a black hole that sucks time into it.”

This is true. The further you dive into your nitty-gritty polishes, the more hours disappear. When I finally lifted my head last night, I looked around and it was dark outside. The whole day had vanished. I was blinking like a mole, saying, where is everyone?

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Cure: Go be with human people. Exercise. Eat. Drink. Sleep.

The reward is that this really is the last hurdle.

Top Tip: just as with childbirth, it’s all worth it in the end. When the proud author gets to see their story presented in book form for the first time, it makes all the pain of editing worthwhile. The secret is to keep going through the gnarly last part!

At midnight, I had the manuscript, the cover art, a professional headshot, the back cover blurb and three great peer reviews ready to go, and I submitted the whole package to Createspace. I felt immediate relief and joy. Now, I await the first “proof” which is exciting.

But here’s the thing, no work of art is ever truly finished.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.”

I had to choose the point at which to let go. When do you let go? When do you say enough’s enough?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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

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

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

I stared into his eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

‘No.’

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

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

Francis Church wrote in reply ~

“Dear Virginia,

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

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

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

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

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(photography, Tracey Henderson)

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

‘Yes.’

‘I still believe.’

‘Me, too.’

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Talk to you later.

Happy Holidays!

Yvette K. Carol

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

 

 

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Things do not change; we change. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Quantum theory has proven what metaphysicians like Thoreau were trying to say, that when we change our thinking and our views, then our experience shifts.

In light of one of the most divisive U.S. elections in history, a lot of people are feeling upset and/or unsettled. The ripples carry on spreading throughout the rest of the world. Even at our Toastmasters meeting this week, one of the speeches given was about the presidential election.

Our challenge is to take the “high road.”

A teacher of the Hawaiian Kahuna Arts, Erin Kawaihululani Kropidlowski, relates “the high road” to ‘honesty, morality and integrity.’

Despite the confrontations and soap-boxing going on at present, in my belief, the most vital action we can take is to stop looking beyond ourselves and getting caught up in the maelstrom of fear.

After imbibing yet more inflammatory social media today, the term peaceful warrior came to me. I thought, the peaceful warrior takes the high road. I want to be one.

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It is up to each warrior to realize, as Thoreau posited, that we are the ones who need to change. It starts with us. Within our own circles, our families, our friends, our neighbours, people we meet. We must do everything we can to spread the love. That might mean changing our attitudes or approach, or surrendering a little of our fear. Yet, as peaceful warriors, as flowers in the garden of life, it is up to us to show our sunny side up.

This does not mean turn a blind eye. No.

We are even more keenly aware and watchful of those in power than ever before. We hold them to the line. We monitor what is happening. We say something and shine a light on injustice and corruption when it needs to be done. However, we don’t get drawn into hate or fear ourselves.

We always remember love, and we are all of us in need of kindness. We do little things to spread goodwill. We do good deeds. We give of our hearts and minds to those around of us; we give what we have to share.

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As the wonderful, world-renowned yogi and teacher, Gurudev Hamsah Nandatha, said, ‘Your role is to gently encourage everyone.’

My grandmother, the well-known head of the Women’s Voluntary Service in England lived by a motto, a small two word verse from the bible, ‘Be kind.’

Yes, indeed, this is a time of chaos. Yet, as Erin says, ‘when everything is in flux, you’re in the time of greatest creativity.’

Remember, things do not change, we change. The most profound action we can take right now is to refuse to take into our cherished souls the darkness we sometimes see. Are we going to be infected with the virus of negativity going on at present? Do we want to make that thing our new reality? Are we going to then add to that insanity by feeding it with more arguments?

No.

We rise above it.

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We remember we are peaceful warriors and the only way forward is to recognize the heart in others. All others. We stay true to who we know we are inside. We stay true to the better future we choose to know lies ahead.

*The signs of a peaceful warrior:

We choose to take the high road.

We change along the lines of the change we wish to see in the world.

We watch those who are in positions of power and hold them accountable.

We are kind.

We remember to gently encourage everyone.

This is the path to having what my grandmother would call, ‘having the right thoughts,’ and what Gurudev would call ‘thinking which is for the benefit of all sentient beings.’ Yes. I’m in! Who’s with me?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘There are two things the world cannot destroy, the love you cultivate and the highest expression of yourself that you insist on being. Every single person in your field are characters, there for the opportunity for you to love, and to walk the high road.’ ~ Erin Kawaihululani Kropidlowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This mama is speaking my language.

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

You go, Hayley!

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

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

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

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

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

What are your feelings on who gets to be human?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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#justaboutcoping, #worldwithoutdowns, #worldwithdowns

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

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

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After rashly deciding to join in with writing pals, Teresa Robeson http://teresarobeson.wordpress.com/ and Catherine Johnson http://www.catherinejohnson.com/ on the SelfieArt Day challenge seven months ago, I now find myself part of a regular artistic quest to capture one’s own features. An elusive, multi-fold quest.

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For September’s SelfieArt, I used the photograph taken yesterday of my sister and myself, at my nephew’s 21st party.

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I started with a faint pencil outline of my face.

I know – yawn! I admit it. I got started on the SelfieArt challenge, imagining I’d be stomping about in a different medium each month, going buck wild in there. But, something tells me I’m a bit more staid these days than my imagination likes to think I am. I see myself, in my mind’s eye, as a Poppy-Longstockings-Pocahontas, whereas in reality, I’m a mature stay-at-home mama with a slight touch of OCD.

I find myself drawing my SelfieArt each month in plain old HB pencil. Nothing less, nothing more, and going, “That’ll do.” Oh, the complacency of age!

You can see how the challenge of the SelfieArt challenge is multi-fold, because the process continues to be self-revelatory.

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#SelfieArt for September

Done, baby!

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Art is essential to life, it feeds the eyes with the aspirations of life.’ ~ David Prosser

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

 

 

 

At this same time last year, the president of our Toastmasters club asked us, “Who wants to enter the Humorous Speech Contest?” Out of the twenty-five people in the room, four people put their hands up. I put my hand up, too. I’d only joined Toastmasters the month before and I had no idea what was involved. Yet, a number of people I liked and admired, had put themselves forward, and I felt it was only right I should join them.

Evaluation Contest

In my mind, I imagined we’d be delivering our talks, as we did each week, to one another, in the usual club setting. Have a laugh. A cup of tea. End of.

Little did I expect what was to follow.

When I trucked up to our club rooms to give my speech in the contest that day, I was surprised to find the room was full of people. And at least half the people there were strangers. This is always a big step up for any aspiring public speaker. That moment when you go beyond the friendly faces and atmosphere of your club setting.

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My reaction was to go into panic and meltdown.

No one had warned me. I had had no idea that this contest was on a big scale. Turns out there are four big contests in Toastmasters a year, and all of them work to funnel the best speakers in the country to the top of the pile. At the end of each year, the best speaker from New Zealand goes over to the Annual International Convention, this year being held in Washington D.C, to compete against the best speakers from all around the world. Like, it literally couldn’t be any bigger. So, for the club level contests, there have to be guest judges, a contest chairperson, tally counters, the works.

Now, I’m not a competitive person. I never have been. I only entered thinking I was participating in something a bit fun within my club. Once the event was under way, I was terrified, thinking about the scope. I was waaaaay out of my comfort zone. But, it was too late to back out.

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Long story, short, I ended up winning. The moment they called my name, I thought, Oh, crabapples, now I’m going to have to compete at the next level. I tell you, there is no way I would have put myself forward into that position, if it hadn’t happened completely by accident like that. So it was a comedy of errors to get to that point. Like a row of dominoes.

Anyway, on the night of the next level of the competition, my nerves were off the charts. It was the only time I’d experienced a panic attack. When I started speaking, my nerves got worse and worse rather than weaker and weaker. So much so, that I ground to a halt twice during the delivery and went completely blank. I felt I’d flubbed it. But I won second place.

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I came home, shakily, needing a week to recover. I had never been more afraid. I had never felt more exposed. I had never felt more adrenalin. I said to myself that was one of the worst experiences of my entire life. I’m never doing that again!

This week, at our club meeting, El Presidente asked, “Who wants to enter the Humorous Speech Contest?” and I found myself putting my hand up. I know it’s going to be utterly terrifying. I know I’m going to want to kill myself for putting myself in that situation, on the night of the competition. Yet, I put my hand up.

Why?

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Because it’s like I’m in competition with myself: I have to do better than I did last time. Not to come first. But to deliver the whole speech and not to freeze up when I felt so previously stricken.

Yeah, that’s the crux of it: I want to do better than that.

It’s a personal challenge. I’ll let you know how I go.

Which personal challenge are you the most proud of overcoming?

Yvette Carol 2

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I think my securities far outweigh my insecurities. I am not nearly as afraid of myself and my imagination as I used to be. ~ Billy Connolly

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‘Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think.’ ~ Brené Brown

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A year ago, I lived with a debilitating fear of public speaking. In other words, I was paralyzed by the fear ‘of what other people think.’

Yet, two weeks ago, I delivered my ninth speech, ‘The Phoenix,’ at Toastmasters. I achieved something I thought impossible, through the help of my local Toastmasters club. I thought, yes, I’m doing so great. I can memorize a whole ten minute speech. I can get up on stage without falling flat. Yes! I’ve made it. Uh, no. You haven’t. Why? Because there’s always more to learn.

Part of the Toastmasters leadership program is the “CRC” system, or “Commend, Recommend, Commend,” by way of oral and written evaluation. My evaluator’s “recommendation” after watching, ‘The Phoenix,’ was that I looked like I’d rehearsed to a mirror and had simply written and learnt a speech by rote. I needed to learn how to connect with the audience.

5 Speeches Award, 2016

I’d never thought about it that way before.

My sister sent me a bunch of links for incredible talks on the TED channel. I could see the difference and began to understand what the next level of speaking could look like. My evaluator was absolutely right.

I realized I had bumped up against another of my own self-made limitations.

At our club’s 20th anniversary celebration the other day, founding member, Bruce Powell, gave a speech about the formation of the club. He told us stories, like the one about the girl who, upon hearing the “recommendations” of her evaluator, burst into tears and ran out of the room, never to return. Or the one, about the aspiring politician who joined our club, he later became elected to parliament.

Swearing in on the committee

It’s true. Even on a good day, the “recommendation” part of the process can be hard to stomach. I had worked so hard on my speech, and when I got my evaluation it felt as if he burst my balloon. Yet, sometimes, a bit of balloon-popping is just what we need. You can either run from it and stay the same, or you embrace it and grow.

It’s good to prune the ego sometimes, to go, ‘hey, I’m not always right.’ That’s a stable, balanced way to go through life.

It’s wise to cultivate within ourselves, the ability to say we’re wrong. Not to just to pay lip service to a nice idea, but to really then put in the work as well, to make change.

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At the moment, I’m taking a free writing class, Story Fundamentals, with Daniel Jose Older. The brief for our writing assignment was given during the video presentation, and then, we were to post our efforts in the online classroom. There, our beloved, sweated-over prose would hang out in the public forum, waiting for “likes” and/or “comments.”

The assignment was to write a short story. My least favourite form of fiction. My taste lends itself to the epic form, I like to sink my teeth into a meaty book or writing project. I’d also traditionally shied away from writing short story, believing I wouldn’t do it justice.

But, sometimes, I think when we have an instant, “no, I can’t do that” reaction, this can be a pointer, a sign-post to a hidden limitation we’ve held about ourselves.

My dear friend, writer and artist, Steve Attkisson, said, ‘Someone told me that the stuff you try to avoid makes for the most powerful literature.’

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I decided to go boldly forth and tackle this assignment, regardless of whether I wanted to or not. I sweated over my short story, ‘Birdma, she Taniwha’ for two days and posted it. I’ve returned and edited the story every day this week. Still no likes, no comments. Sigh! Yet, despite the lack of response, I still feel good. Victorious, even. Because this story represents yet another hurdle I’ve overcome. Another thing I said I couldn’t do.

These personal milestones are what we live for. Or they should be. Because, it’s in proving to ourselves first that we are worthy that we disengage from that old fear of ‘what other people think.’

It starts to become more important what we think of ourselves.

Fear is a Gift

Some of our self-made armour comes off with each limitation we overcome. Is it frightening? Yes. L. Frank Baum once said, ‘The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.’ Even a single display of bravery towards oneself carries rewards, and brings more courage. We grow incrementally. We start to build our first real foundations of self-confidence. Know thyself. Healer, heal thyself.

If you think of the opening statement, by Brené Brown, that our armour was keeping us from really living into our gifts, then we’d imagine that by releasing some, and putting ourselves out there, we start to achieve things. We can connect with an audience. We can write a short story.We can get elected to parliament. We gain the forward positive momentum we want in our lives.

Just think of all the unexplored adventures ahead! What do you want to achieve?

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See you in the funny papers!

YC

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Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.  ~ William S. Burroughs

The hero’s redemption (and ultimate victory) hinges on their transcending their self-concern. ~ PJ Reece

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