Friday, December 17, 2010


The dictionary states that the word Happy means - enjoying or expressing pleasure and contentment.

What makes us "Happy"?  Everyone is different in regards to happiness. 
Things that make us happy: life, love, family, friends, sunrise, sunset, money, food, pets and the list could go on and on!  "Being happy has to come from within and you certainly can't rely on someone else for your own happiness".  This was a statement made to me by my sister, Cindy, the other day and it got me thinking.

Happiness to me is giving.  Giving to others and to see their eyes light up, but does that not create happiness for them?  If so is this not relying on someone for happiness?  I think what Cindy was trying to tell me is that our own internal happiness can't come from an external place, which also goes back to the dictionary definition of happy as "enjoying or expressing pleasure and contentment".  I believe that before we can find that happiness in giving to others we have to be content with the person we are.

So in saying that, I think there are two kinds of happiness.  That internal happiness with your life, which goes right to your soul, and then the external things that make each moment of your life happy.

There is a wall hanging in my sisters house (which I gave her!) that says:

Happiness is not so much in having as sharing,
We make a living by what we get,
We make a life by what we give.

So my wish for everyone this Christmas is that you will all find pleasure and contentment in your own lives so that you too will find happiness in giving.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Welcome Home

-5 degrees celcius!!!  What a welcome home to Canada.  When we left Melbourne it was close to 30 celcius so the change was drastic on the system!  But welcome home indeed.

I love flying and love it even more when you get bumped up to Premium Economy.  Now for those out there who don't understand "Premium", it is not Business class but the seats are just as big and roomy with amazing service!  I had just become a member of the Qantas Club so I think that helped.  The flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles was 13 1/2 hours with an hour waiting on the tarmac in Melbourne because of the thunderstorm that was raging around us.  But that 13 1/2 hours absolutely flew by (no pun intended!).  Unfortunately we were back in the cattle class on our 4 1/2 hour American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Toronto and believe me that flight felt much longer than the first one!

The one thing that bothers me though...the cost of the flights to Canada were extraodinary, well over $3,000 each and we still had to pay for food on American Airlines!  Even had to pay for a blanket and pillow if you wanted one...what is with that?!

Upon arriving in Toronto I found that my suitcase had been absolutely smashed!!! the entire structure of the case was smashed and the only thing holding it together was the material.  So much for claiming on my 10 year warranty as there is no way I am going to be able to get it back home.  At least the zipper had held and all my stuff was still encased!

But after all of this the best thing is walking out of the arrival doors, you actually feel like a star coming through those doors...everyone waiting for someone.  We were basically some of the first out and it is wonderful to see smiling faces waiting for you!  I hadn't seen my sister Cindy, my nephew Chris and my neice Lea for 19 months.  Yes we had talked on the phone but it isn't the same as putting your arms around someone and really squeezing!  Mind you with all the coats and clothing they were wearing it was hard to find the body to hug!!  It was a wonderful feeling though.

We headed to my mom and dad's place, where we are spending our first 5 nights, and once again had the joy of hugging them!  I love "welcome home" hugs!  But to get there had to travel along Highway 401, well I forgot what it was like!  I have decided that we don't have traffic in all. 8 lanes going east and 8 going west...stopped!  Amazing.  But we finally did make it through and I have decided that I will never again complain about traffic in Melbourne.

The first few days have been a bit of a whirlwind.  The second day we were here there was a party with all my work collegues from the past.  People who were police officers, civilians and immigrations officers that I worked with in another life.  Some of them I hadn't seen in 20 years!  What a great night put on by my dear friend Deb.  It was great catching up with so many people that I hadn't seen in ages and it was amazing that it seemed like I had never been gone at all!  We just picked up where we had left off, other than catching up on what we had all been doing during those years.  I must admit though that there were a few faces I knew but the names had escaped me.  I just blame it on the MS when in fact it is probably just old age and passing time!  But it didn't matter because eventually all those names came back to me. (photos are soon to follow)

We are only on day 4 and already I feel like we have done so much, with so much more to do.  And the weather has decided that it is going to make it hard for us to drive anywhere!  There is a huge storm on the way with rain, freezing rain and snow and it isn't technically winter yet.  I don't think Russ is too impressed, but we will get through it! 

However the weather doesn't really matter when you get the time to spend with family and friends.  I love being "Welcomed Home"!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

There Really is a Santa

I feel like a little girl again!

It has been a long time since I was really, I mean REALLY, excited about Christmas!  I have been living in Australia now for just over 16 years and I still can't get used to a hot Christmas.  It just doesn't seem normal to me.  That is not surprising since I spent 36 years having a very cold Christmas.

Growing up Christmas was a really special time in our family.  The whole family on my mom's side would get together every Christmas and have it together.  That is my immedicate family, my mom's parents and her 3 sisters with their families.  All my cousins on that side were female, so the men in the family were outnumbered!  We would gather at one house all of us, sleeping wherever we could find a spot.  My four cousins, my sister and I would always put on a play for the family and it was always the same play..."T'was the Night Before Christmas".  We had this play down pat!!  Each one of us had our part and over the years we became experts at playing those parts!

Marg-Rheta the little one in front
Each year we gave the part of ALL 12 reindeers to my youngest cousin Marg-Rheta!  That poor kid had to be outside and run past a window of whoever's house we were at, 12 times!!!  It didn't matter how cold it was outside she had to do it.  I think the coldest was about -35 celcius!!!  But she was a trooper and did it every year!  Or maybe we just bullied her into it!  But I have a family who embraces Christmas and what it means to have a family that loves each other. 

I can still remember Grandma with my dad, leading us in Christmas Carol's, and remember the one year Christmas was held at our house that the power went off.  How do you cook a 30lb turkey with no electricity.  Nothing to worry about...just wait six hours for the power to come back on, then eat late!  What to do in the meantime...have a few drinks in front of the fireplace!  Grandma got a bit tipsy, but boy could she dance and sing then!!  I will never forget her leading her daughters doing the can-can!  And Grandpa upset that "His Betty" was tipsy!

For the first time in 16 years I am going home for Christmas!  I am so excited because everyone is going to be at my sister's for Christmas dinner.  My parents, my sister and her children, my aunts and uncles, my cousins and their children.  The only sad thing is that Marg-Rheta won't be there as we lost her last year to cancer.  But I can see her so vividly as each reindeer, still in my mind and I can see her singing, with her most amazing voice.  I am sure that there will be tears and there will be laughs and through all of it Marg-Rheta will be there with us in spirit.

Repeating what I said as I opened this entry...I feel like a little girl again.  I haven't been this excited in a long, long time!  I feel like there really is a Santa this year!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Things Don't Always Go According to Plan

As we are growing up and getting to the end of our schooling, deciding what we want to do with our lives we plan everything.  We decide things like...Do I go to university or start working or maybe travel?  What do I study?  What will I do for a living?

I did exactly that and had my whole life planned out...or so I thought.  But just remember...things don't always go according to plan.

I planned my working life, joining the Toronto Police Force, following in the footsteps of my parents.  Moving through different areas of "The Job" and thinking that this would be my life long career..  But remember...things don't always go according to plan.

I found that I was tired of "The Job", travelled to Australia to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and ultimately met my husband.  A move halfway around the world was the next step.  This was certainly not what I had expected in my life, but remember...things don't always go according to plan!

On April 23rd, 1998 at 2:15 p.m. I was bluntly told "You have MS, go home and put your affairs in order before you become incapacitated".  Boy things certainly don't always go according to plan!

With all these changes in our life's plan, the actual changes aren't important but the way we deal with them is.  We can decide to curl up and die or we can embrace them.  Some of the changes that we face are good and some are bad and life isn't always going to be fair.  How we deal with those changes is what is really going to make the difference.

So to all those parents whose children are about to embark on adulthood please make sure that they know that things don't always go according to plan.  But that isn't a bad thing.  Make sure they understand that it is important to grasp every opportunity that comes their way, never give in to self doubt, ignore critics and chase their dreams...

Because sometimes in life things can change and don't always go according to plan!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


How many of us are actually grateful for what we have?

My son-in-law's mother arrived yesterday from Canada.  In fact from my home town of Toronto.  Toronto right now is about to settle into their winter months where temperatures can get well below zero degrees celcius with lots of snow to add to it.

The last time I was in Toronto about a year and a half ago I was astounded by the amount of concrete!  Whether it had actually changed since I left 16 years ago I am not really sure.  Maybe it was the fact that I have come to enjoy the Australian landscape, even within the city.

Today as she walked around my very small house in inner Melbourne, looking at our front and back gardens she stated "You live in paradise!"  I had never thought of my house as being in paradise.  It is just our little house, yes we love it and yes it looks lovely right now with flowers and plants blooming.  But paradise?

We went to lunch at a local cafe and had the all day breakfast.  When she cut into her poached eggs she was amazed at the colour of the yoke!  She walked into a specialty food store and was amazed by the colours of the fruit and vegetables.  I just didn't see it, was I missing something.

After they left I gave her statements a lot of thought.  I realized that I take a lot of things for granted.  I remember the first time I got off a plane in Australia, recalling the colour of the sky, the smell of the eucalyptus trees, I could actually smell it and the friendliness of the people I met.  I think that complacency has taken over and I do take all these things for granted.  I have decided that I have to change my way of thinking and be really grateful for everything that is around me and in my life!  I am not going to take things for granted again.

There is a Native American saying which I want to share with you:

"When you arise in the morning
Give thanks for the morning light.
Give thanks for your life and strength.
Give thanks for your food,
And give thanks for the joy of living.
And if perchance you see no reason for giving thanks,
Rest assured the fault is in yourself."

Thank you Joyce for making me open my eyes to see what it is that is around me.  The sights, the sounds and the tastes that make this country the most amazing place.  For that I will be forever grateful.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chasing Dreams

What would you attempt to do if you knew that you could not fail?

Quite an important question to ask yourself!  Just imagine if the whole world thought this way what we could all accomplish.  Everything in life has a risk.  Simply having a could slip and fall.  Crossing the street...make sure you look before you step.  Leaving the contentment of a good comfortable job...starting a new more challenging career.  Meeting someone and getting married....will it last.  Leaving the comfort of the country you grew up in...starting a new life in a different world!  Everyday challenges and chores have a risk associated and we all do these things almost everyday.  Well maybe not move to another country...but you get the picture!

So why then do we not attempt to follow our dreams?  All dreams have risks, but that is the great thing about dreams.  If you chase your dreams and fulfill them it makes them all so more rewarding; the fact that you have overcome all the dangers and obstacles along the way.

I believe that most of us are scared to follow our dreams because of that first statement I made.  We are scared that we may fail.  But Thomas Edison once said "Many of life's failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

I decided a few years ago that I was going to chase my dreams and should I fail, then at least I have tried.  Chasing my dream of competing at the Paralympics, I have learned that I really didn't know who I was until I could see what I could do.  I constantly amaze myself at some of my progress.  And when it gets to the end of my dream, whether I achieve it or not, I know that I have given it my all.

You should pursue any dream you have at full throttle.  It is your life and your choice - dare to face your fears and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.  See every difficulty as a challenge, a stepping stone and never be defeated by anything or anyone!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two Little Words

I started rowing in December 2006 after being asked to take up the sport by the Australian Paralympic Committee through a Talent Search day.  Little did I know what learning to row would do for and to me over the next four years!

How many times do we hear the words "Can't" and "Never" growing up and even into our adult lives.  As children we are constantly told "No you can't do that" and as adults we are told "You will never be able to do that".  Well that is exactly what happened to me back in May 2007 when I was told that I would "Never" be good enough to make a national rowing team.  I believe that both of those words should be taken out of the english language.  Why should anyone have the power to tell someone that they "Can't" or will "Never" be able to do something, especially if they don't really know the person.  I went on to prove this man wrong and subsequently made the national team the following 2 years.

Although I haven't competed internationally this year, I am still aiming to compete next year and help get our crew qualified for the Paralympics in London 2012.  But because I wasn't competing internationally this year I had to find another focus.  I believe in goals, we need them to push ourselves through the pain and dedication to training.  I changed rowing clubs this year and it was probably the best decision I have ever made over the last 4 years of my rowing.

In June this year I joined the Melbourne Rowing Club and started training with the Masters Women.  There are some amazing women at this club, some who have been rowing a very long time, some who have been rowing for about the same time I have.  My coach has remained the same as he came to the club as well. 

The focus of the women at this time of the year was the Head of the Yarra regatta.  This is the largest regatta in the southern hemisphere totally devoted to the "Big Boats", the eights!

With 5 crews to look after, 4 of those being female crews and one a mixed crew, my coach has his hands full.  I don't know how he did it, but he worked out all the crews, took all of them for training sessions and really made all of us believe in ourselves and our abilities.  We all took turns in different boats and in different seats and he finally came up with the combinations of crews based on rowing scores and ages!

When he finally asked me to stroke one of the crews (for those non-rowers this means to take charge of leading the other rowers when it comes to stroke rate and speed) I was very honoured but to be honest scared to death!!  I am sure there were a few of the rowers who were concerned that due to my MS I wouldn't be able to carry out the task and to be honest, I wasn't sure I would be able to do it!  I certainly didn't want to let anyone down on the day.

That day dawned yesterday, all the hard work had been put in, the blisters, the sweat and the sore bodies all for this one day and this 8.6km race.  I can tell you that I was extremely nervous even as we were carrying the boat down to the water, but once on the water my stomach settled, I focused and I knew what I had to do.  The weather wasn't exactly the best but for the time we were racing it was probably the best of the day.

We knew that we were starting off first in our category and had 16 boats that were going to chase us, so the plan was to get out really fast.  Row the fastest first 2km that we could possibly row because after 2km it becomes harder to pass due to the twists and turns in the river.  But the most dangerous place on the river in this race was Big Bend, a 90 degree bend in the river.  With all the rain that we have had the silt had shifted and gathered at this one corner, so to get around this bend without a mishap was probably going to be the breaking point of other crews.

By the time we hit Big Bend we had about 400 metres on the crews behind us. (Not bad for only a 10 sec head start)  Our coxswain Emma is so experienced that she took a fantastic line and we really zipped around the corner then drove our legs as hard as we could to get back up to speed.  At this point we still had about 4km to go, so it was up to me to keep a good rythm and stroke rate and up to Emma to keep us on our toes with our heads firmly focused on what we were supposed to be doing.

But with about 1km to go an almost unbearable pain started in my hip and I really had a hard time getting up the slide and even sitting up straight.  This felt like a nightmare about to start! The velcro on my right shoe had come loose right near the start of the race, so when my hip started to hurt I couldn't even use my foot to help pull me forward, as it was loose in the shoe.   I am sure that Emma could see it in my face every time she said to me "Sit up...sit up".  Believe me I was trying to.  When she realized that I had a problem she quickly yelled to everyone "Right bow 7 lets help Carol, keep it long, keep it strong! Let's all back her up" and with that I could feel the boat lift! All of a sudden I heard the finishing line horn, the most beautiful sound in the world, especially if you are in absolute's over.   I quickly looked at my watch and then looked ahead for the other crews.  It took almost 3 and a half minutes for the next crew to cross the line...that was a good omen, but we had to wait to see what the boats at the back had done.

It didn't take long to find out the results...we had WON!  Not only with the handicaps (due to ages) applied but on raw time!  All that hard work had paid off.  Not only that but out of the four female crews, 3 of them had won and the 4th was 2nd!  Our coach had done the most remarkable job!!

So I want to thank the women who backed me up in that boat!  You are the best!  Thank you for your friendship and your one can ever take away that win from us and no one can ever say to us those two little words...Can't and Never !  Through rowing I have two new favourite words; Teamwork and Friendship. 

You my friends have all made huge waves in my life!!

Melbourne RC Masters Women E Crew

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hard Act to Follow

The other night I had to speak at the Bayside Business Network at the Sandringham Football Club.  They had asked me to speak there because they had heard me speak for AXA Insurance back in August about what having Income Protection Insurance had done to assist me when I had to leave full time employment.  What I didn't know was that there was going to be another speaker that night who would speak before me.  We had the same amount of time to talk and when I saw who it was a couple of days before hand I just about died!  I had to speak after one of Australia's all time major Olympic Stars!!!  Duncan Free!

Drew Ginn & Ducan Free

Now for those of you who may not know who Duncan Free is, he is one of Australia's best rowers ever!  He was a member of the quad sculls crew in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics.  After Athens in 2004 he took a year off and then switched to sweep rowing and in 2006 and 2007 won Gold at the World Championships with Drew Ginn in the pair.  Then in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics he and Drew won that elusive Olympic Gold Medal in the pair.

So I figured that was going to be a hard act to follow!  He started with a video of their Gold Medal winning row which was fantastic and so inspiring to watch!  He then talked about set backs, dedication, persistence and attitude.  Upon hearing what he had to say I started to realize that what I had to say would just reinforce his ideas! 

I was feeling much better with the fact that I was going to follow on from him and realized that what I had to say was just as important.  Persistence and Attitude is what life is all about.  We all have set backs in life, but you really have to pull through and take the good with the bad.  Our world is full of challenges and opportunities and we are lucky to have such a big choice.  Life can be so exciting, so don't waste one moment.

Duncan did give us a formula:
a  b  c  d  e   f   g   h   i   j   k    l    m   n   o   p   q    r   s    t    u   v   w     x   y   z   =
1  2  3  4  5  6  7   8  9 10 11 12  13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22  23 24 25 26

He then gave us some words and what percentage those words add up to in life:

T    R   A  I  N   I   N   G  = 92%
20  18  1  9  14  9  14  7

D  E  D  I  C  A  T  I  O  N  = 84%
4  5   4   9  3  1  20 9 15 14

A  T   T   I  T   U  D  E  = 100%
1  20  20 9 20 21  4  5

I think the last one says it all!  You can have everything else right no matter what you are doing but it is your attitude that counts!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turning Problems into Solutions

I watched a short video this morning called "Pink Bat".  It was done by a man called Michael McMillan and it teaches us that many problems really aren't problems at all.  He talks about turning problems into solutions, like mould being used to invent penicillin or an apple falling on your head teaching you about gravity.  Now we all know about these things, but do we really know how to turn our own problems into solutions.

We all share the same world but we don't share the same reality.  What may be a problem to me won't seem such a big thing to someone else and vice versa.  But when we do have a problem we forget that there really is a solution out there somewhere, we just have to look for it.

I think we all just expect solutions to come along, we aren't conditioned to think outside the square or look for other doors to open.  We all tend to focus on one part of the problem and forget to see anything else.  So tomorrow when you wake up I want you to realise that you have two choices:

1. You can make the decision to wake up with problems
2. You can make the decision to wake up to a world with solutions.

Try it, you will be amazed at how different your day might be!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Life's Challenges

Life can throw us numerous challenges both good and bad.  Everyone has their own challenges but it is the way we look at them that make them either good or bad.  I have always looked at the glass as half full instead of half empty.  I am sure that this drives some of my friends nuts at times, but I believe it is how I have learned to cope with living with a disease like Multiple Sclerosis.

It was a devastating diagnosis, 3 years into a marriage, a move 16,000 km's away from family and a whole new way of life.  With the support of my husband, family and friends I have been able to move on with life and accomplish things I never thought possible.  I have decided that life is like a game of cards, its not being dealt a good hand but more so the ability to play a poor hand well.  I have certainly learned the art of doing just that.

A lot of people talk about what MS has taken away from them, but I like to talk about what MS has given me.  It has given me the opportunity to become an Ambassador for MS Australia and as most of my family and friends would tell you, I like to talk!  It has given me the opportunity to become an elite athlete, representing Australia in the sport of rowing, with an aim to competing in the Paralympics in London in 2012.  It has given me the opportunity to start a charity event called the 24 Hour Mega Swim, which is now expanding throughout the country, giving people with MS the chance to apply for scholarships to follow a dream.  And last but not least it has given me the opportunity to really start to like myself.

That's not saying that I didn't like myself before, but I believe that being diagnosed with MS has made me not put things off, try new things, look at all that happens around me and enjoy my life.

I honestly believe that the happiest of people in the world do not have the best of all, they simply appreciate what they find on their way and the most exciting moments in our lives come to us when we are living and doing for others.  I believe that the greatest gift we can possibly give to another is a portion of ourselves.