Conquering the Monsters of Life

How often do you get asked to say something nice about yourself, or to promote your best attributes, and find it one of the most difficult subjects to talk about? Granted, not everyone will find the subject of promoting themselves difficult, but many, including myself, find it a route full of potholes, bumps and barriers, because of the monsters we are born with.

Deep down inside, I’ve always wanted to be on a stage, the spotlight directly on me, in front of a room full of people focused on nothing else but me! It’s a desire I’ve had since one of my first school teachers, without asking, told me that I’d be playing the part of The Mad Hatter in the school’s Christmas production of Alice In Wonderland. My heart sunk when she called out my name, yet inside of me was a feeling that I’d come to a well-maintained part of the road that I would later go on to call life.

One by one, Miss Banks told us to read out a part from the script she’d written. The Mad Hatter appears during the middle part of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, and I was relieved that I had time to get myself together and to do all I could not to stutter when reading out my lines. Often, for no reason, I would start to stutter when talking face to face to somebody, or when in a group, but I’d never been asked to stand up and read out loud from a book or a script in front of an audience. In my mind, while taking little notice of the other children reading their parts, I went over and over reading the lines Miss Banks had chosen for me to say.

When I stood up that day and started to stutter, a group of children in my class started to snigger and laugh. I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up, or my Mother to suddenly arrive and take me away from one of the worse first experiences of my life. However, Miss Banks was having none of it and, after giving the children who were laughing a stern look, she told me to take my time and to pretend that she was the only person in the room.

Fast forward to the evening of the school production, not only had I experienced my first bit of stardom, but I overheard my mother thanking Miss Banks for giving me the part of The Mad Hatter.

“No problem at all” she told my mother. “I wrote the part especially for Hugh. I’m not sure if you’re aware or have noticed anything about the way Hugh writes or reads, but he seems to get a little muddled up sometimes. He’s told me that some of the letters get mixed up and that he can’t pronounced some of the words. I’ve not seen this type of thing with any other children before, but I have mentioned it to the Headmistress.”

Unfortunately, my mother was having none of it and, later in my school life, many of my school teachers would tell her that they put it down to me being a slow learner or that I was not a very intelligent child. My mother never spoke to me about it, yet I somehow knew that she and I knew that what they were saying was not the case. Why? Well, because even when some of my teachers dropped me down to classes with children a few year’s younger than me, I was still experiencing the same problems.

Fast forward again, this time to 2014, and I found myself starring at a website called WordPress. Over the years, since playing the part of The Mad Hatter, my desire to write had grown and I’d secretly written a few short stories that nobody else had ever read. Now, right in front of me, here was a chance for me to finally allow my passion to become a published writer to be unleashed.

Pressing that ‘publish’ button was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I had the same feelings I’d had the day Miss Banks had asked me to stand up and read out some lines. Then the sound of her voice telling me to pretend she was the only one in the room came into my mind. I had more flashbacks of not only the day I stood up in front of my class and read out some lines Miss Banks had written especially for me, but of the evening of my first school play. I saw my parents standing up in the audience clapping their hands and cheering along with all the other parents, brothers, sisters, and relatives of the school children who had just put on their first school play. I pressed the publish button, walked away from my computer and went for a walk.

The day after I stood up in front of my class and read out the lines of The Mad Hatter, the monster I called ‘stuttering’ stared to retreat. I was starting to find confidence in myself and in talking directly with other people, yet in class the letters still got mixed up and I found certain words hard to say.

The day I pushed the ‘publish’ button on the first post on my newly created blog, I started to conquer the monster I called ‘Dyslexia.
’ Even to this day, I still cannot pronounce the word ‘dyslexic’ properly; yet today I have a self-published book of short stories under my belt, and a successful blog which attracts thousands of readers every month.

My monsters may still live with me and be with me until my ‘best by’ date comes up but, when I do walk over the rainbow bridge, one of the first people I am going to look for and thank is Miss Banks.

Hugh

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From Retirement Reflections: Thank you to Hugh (and to Miss Banks) for reminding us that we can put our monsters behind us and achieve things that we never thought possible! Please join us again next week when we welcome Liesbet who will inspire us with a life less ordinary!

83 Replies to “Conquering the Monsters of Life”

  1. Thanks so much for inviting me over to be part of this fantastic feature, Donna. I really enjoyed reliving this early part of my life and the events that helped me to start conquering those monsters.
    Have a great week.
    Hugh

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    1. Hi, Hugh – Thank you so much for guest hosting, and for sharing so openly and honestly. I believe that your story is a great inspiration to others. We need more models of people bravely facing their own monsters….and we need more teachers like Miss Banks!

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    1. Thanks, Kate – I agree that there is much more awareness and support for dyslexia in schools today. However, with a whole host of different conditions interferring with learning, sadly many students still fall through the cracks. We can all learn from Miss Banks and help encourage the children around us, even if we don’t fully understand what they are going though.

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  2. What a moving post. Miss Banks was a caring and thoughtful teacher. I worked with student teachers for many years (as a librarian) and can testify to the amount of attention given to dyslexia and other learning difficulties in their training. Hopefully fewer children slip through the net as a result. (Caring and thoughtful is harder to teach though.)

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    1. Thanks, Anabel. Yes, things are much different now for those that have the condition. However, I do hear stories of children and adults who do not want to admit to being dyslexic. I know how they feel, as I refused to believe I had the condition long after I was told that I had it. Now, I’ve learned not to allow it from stopping me do anything.

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    2. Hi, Anabel – ‘Caring’ and ‘thoughtul’ are hard to teach. But they can be effectively modeled. I am grateful for the many Miss Banks who do just that (regardless of their individual professions). Thanks so much for stopping by to read Hugh’s post.

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  3. Welcome, Hugh. Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. Being dyslexic shouldn’t stop anyone from fulfilling their dream. When I first started writing, I read an article about a successful New York Times best selling author, Debbie Macomber and her struggles with dyslexia. Despite the challenges she’s gone on to write over 100 books. Reading her story inspired me to continue writing. Thanks for hosting Hugh, Donna!

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    1. Thanks, Jill – I fully agree that any of our individual differences should not stop us from pursuing, and fulfilling, our dreams. Thank you for sharing the story about Debbie. Hugh’s, Debbie’s, and the story of so many others are wonderful models of inspiration. I am also very grateful for Miss Banks, and those like her, that help us all to reach our true potential.

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    2. That’s a great story and example to share with us about Debbie, Jill. I hope other people who are dyslexic read your comments. Since I started blogging I’ve only come into contact with a few other dyslexic writers. There must be many more out there, but perhaps they are too afraid to chase their writing dreams. I hope they read your comments and my story and begin to conquer their monster.

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  4. We grew up in a harsher time when everyone either fit in to the basic curriculum … or they didn’t. Those who didn’t, fell by the wayside.
    Bravo to Miss Banks. It’s obvious that she made a difference in at least one child’s life … and congrats to you for staring that monster in the face … and overcoming it!

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    1. Thanks, Joanne – Somehow I believe that Miss Banks went on to make a difference in the lives of many children. At least I hope that she did! 🙂

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    2. Thanks, Joanne. It was a long fight for me, but I hope others will be inspired far more quickly. It took me too long to overcome being dyslexic, but Miss Banks certainly started the ball rolling for me. I’ll always be grateful to her.

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  5. What an inspiring story! It’s a tribute to your spirit, Hugh, that you didn’t let yourself retreat when faced with those challenges. Miss Banks is also to be commended for giving you a chance to shine… and shine you did!

    We all need to spend more time conquering our personal monsters rather than letting them control us. Life is too short for us not to hold our breath and hit “publish” every day.

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    1. Hi, Janis – You always make the comment that I wish that I had made! “Life is too short for us not to hold our breath and hit publish every day.” I absolutely LOVE that!

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    2. Agreed, Janis. I’m so glad that a family member told me about WordPress. If they hadn’t, then I certainly would not have self-published my first book or started to write again. I hope I do bump into Miss Banks again. I’ve no idea what happened to her, but I do believe she went on to help many other children.

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      1. I hope you try to find her. I am not a teacher, but I can’t imagine an educator feeling any greater joy than having a former student tell him or her about the positive difference they made. Just a couple of years ago, I was in a group of six or seven 59/60-year-old women who took our amazing 1st grade teacher out to lunch. She was thrilled.

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  6. I so enjoyed reading your post Hugh and what an inspiration you are. I was there with you when you were scared about the play and also fast forward to publishing your first post. Thank you for raising the awareness of dyslexia and proving you can overcome any obstacles that life throws you. Lovely to meet you and thanks Donna for introducing Hugh.

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    1. Thank you, Sue. Dyslexia still seems to be a subject that many shy away from. Since I started to blog, I’ve had a few people contact me and tell me that they also have the condition. I’m sure there are many more out there, and I hope that by continuing to talk and write about being dyslexic, I can help many of those people overcome their fear of believing they can not write. I’ve had a few not very nice comments about being dyslexic, but the good ones far outweigh them. I certainly intend to strive on.

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    2. THanks, Sue – It has been my absolute pleasure to include Hugh’s guest post on my site. I agree that his story offers incredible inspiration to all of us — regardless of what our obstacles or challenges may be!

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  7. A very inspiring story, Hugh. Thanks so much for sharing it. I wish everyone had a Miss Banks, but sadly I’m afraid only a small minority do. How wonderful you did! I look forward to reading your blog.

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    1. Hi, Marty – I am delighted to be able to introduce Hugh’s blog to you, and yours to him. It is surprising how many bloggers that I have featured have already known, and been regular followers of, each other! 🙂

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    2. Thanks, Marty. Miss Banks is a hero of mine, although there is now a lot more help out there for people who have the condition of being dyslexic. Even though it was not a recognised condition when I was at school, Miss Banks could certainly identify that it was there.

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  8. Hugh, I’ve known you for a while now, you are on my “not to be missed” list of bloggers, but I read with awe your young journey as a performer and writer. Your Mrs. Banks was a visionary and without her encouragement, we may never have met the wonderful person and writer you are. Just loved this! Hi Donna, thanks for featuring Hugh today!

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    1. Hi, Terri – I totally agree that Hugh definitely belongs on the ‘not to be missed’ list! Thanks so much for dropping by and visiting his post here.

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    2. What a privilege, Terri. I don’t think anybody has ever told me that I’m on their ‘not to be missed’ list. That makes me feel very proud of what I have done since I started to blog.
      I’m sure that had Miss Banks not written that part for me, then I would have developed into a person that would have carried on hiding all the writing I wanted to do. It’s thanks to her that I can now call myself a self-published author. She made a dream come true.

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  9. What a heart-warming story, Hugh. And by being determined and following your passion, you have achieved so much the last few years. From becoming a published author to organizing blogger bashes to maintaining a very popular, diverse, entertaining and informative blog. Do what you love, love what you do! You are a perfect example of that quote. 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much, Liesbet. I love your quote. I certainly enjoy blogging and all that it brings. It’s now an important part of my life and has certainly helped me with conquering being dyslexic. I would have hated departing this life and not have developed my love of writing.

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    1. Hi, Debbie – Thank you so much for stopping by to read Hugh’s post. I am always amazed by the heartfelt candidness of writers in this corner of the blogosphere. Hugh’s honesty and courage is incredibly inspiring!

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  10. Thank you Hugh for sharing such an inspiring, personal story of perseverance and life-long learning. We all have our monsters, don’t we? Thank goodness for people like Miss Banks who help us along the way. I’m also impressed by the support of the blogging community for each other. I’ve loved reading all the comments here.

    Thanks also to Donna for introducing us to so many great blogs!

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    1. Hi, Christie – Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I agree with all that you have said here. I also agree that the bloggers in this little corner of the blogosphere have so much to offer and are incredibly supportive of each other. For this, I am incredibly grateful!

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    2. It’s a pleasure, Christie, A big thank you to Donna for asking me to write a guest post for her. I thought this was the perfect place to share my story of Miss Banks.
      I have to agree with you about the blogging community here. It’s the heart of soul of blogging. Without a community, many bloggers gave up and move on. I enjoy belonging to many blogging communities and, of course, love the one I have over on my blog.

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    1. Hi, Ritu – Thank you for stopping by and reading Hugh’s post. I agree that our past monsters make us who we are. Hugh is an amazing person. I am delighted that he agreed to share his story here.

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  11. Hi, Hugh;
    I’m glad you had a Miss Banks in your life. Proof positive that one person can make a difference.
    My grandson is starting sessions next week to hopefully help with his stuttering. It’s so painful to watch him struggle to speak. I hope he can overcome his “monsters” as well as you have done 🙂

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    1. Hugh’s story bears strong testimony to the remarkable difference that one individual can make. It is so painful to watch loved ones struggle, especially children. Sending positive vibes to your grandson. Wishing that he too has ‘angels’ in his life that give him strength and encouragement when he needs it the most.

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    2. Occasionally, I will start to stutter, Aimer. When it happens, I close my eyes, relax and start counting to five slowly. I hope your Grandson overcomes his stuttering quickly. I’m sure the help sessions will be great. You may already be helping, but getting him to sit next to you and read to you will also help. Then, next time, get somebody else to join you and start building up a small audience as his confidence grows. 😀

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  12. This was such a moving story, Hugh and brought a tear to my eye. I knew that you were dyslexic but not about you getting the part as The Mad Hatter. What a wonderful woman Mrs Banks was and I bet she would be so proud of what you have achieved, Hugh as I am sure she could see your potential.

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    1. Hi, Judy – Thank you for commenting here. It would be wonderful if Miss Banks could know of the incredible impact that she had on Hugh’s life.

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    2. I never thought of her seeing me as having potential, Judy. However, you could very well be right. She knew there was something wrong with both my reading and writing, and I’m just very glad that she decided to act on it. I enjoyed playing the part of ‘The Mad Hatter.’ I think it’s rubbed off on me. 😀

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    1. Hi, Teagan – Reading Hugh’s story, I now know what an incredibly brave action it was for him to actually hit ‘publish’. Like you, I am so glad that he did!

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    1. Thanks, Willow – I am so glad that Hugh shared this post with all of his readers as well. His background makes his amazing accomplishments even more amazing!

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    1. I continue to find so much inspiration in Hugh’s post. Facing our fears can indeed lead to wonderful things. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing here.

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    2. Thanks so much Diana. Miss Banks played a big part in this, but so do many of you in the blogging community (you included). Without the support and encouragement from many of you, I’d have given up blogging a long time ago.

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      1. Hi, Hugh – Thank you so much for being a part of this series, and for reposting it on Hugh’s Views and News. I second your statement about the support and encouragement of other readers/bloggers. I had originally planned to run this Sunday Series until October 1st. Due to such the support and generosity of other bloggers, it is now running into November…and perhaps beyond! I remain very open to any other bloggers who would like to join in!

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      2. Hi Donna, you’re very welcome. I was honoured when you asked me to be a part of this series. I’m so thrilled to hear that you are carrying the feature on for at least another month.

        I always republish and share any guest posts I write, although I always give it a couple of weeks after the post has been published before sharing it on my blog. This gives the original post extra ‘legs’ so to speak and is something I learned from other bloggers. Spreading the post out over several weeks (rather than reblogging or sharing on the same day) always seems to work much better.

        Many congratulations on this excellent feature and for allowing other bloggers to tell and share their stories on your blog.

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      3. Hi, Hugh – Thank you for your kind words. Your post has been a very big hit on my site!! I greatly appreciate you sharing it!

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  13. What a beautiful and inspirational tribute. I loved reading about your journey and that very special someone who has been such a big part of your life. We are all lucky you decided to hit publish even though it was difficult at the time.
    Keep coming..:)

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    1. Hi, George – Thank you for stopping by to read Hugh’s post here. I agree that it is very inspirational — an excellent example of courage and perseverance!

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    2. Thanks so much, George. I’m so pleased that many people are finding inspiration and guidance from my guest post here on Donna’s blog. I’ve certainly no plans to stop writing. I think I owe that to Miss Banks.

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  14. From the moment I ‘met’ you, Hugh, I knew you were the real deal. Not only have you found your writing voice, you are so generous with other writers. I can’t imagine what it is like to overcome dyslexia to become a writer, but Miss Banks was not going to let you languish on the sidelines because of it! What a lovely story.

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    1. Thank you, Molly. Miss Banks certainly knew there was something wrong. I think she did what she thought would help me overcome the problems I was having. Afterall, there was no help at the time I was at school given that dyslexia was not a recognised condition. I certainly have a lot of thanks to give to Miss Banks.
      Thank you so much for your lovely comments.

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    2. Hi, Molly – I agree that along with Hugh’s ‘writing voice’, his generosity with other writers is remarkable. To me, he models what effective blogging is all about.

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  15. This post brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written and expressed. Ah, how true it is. If we look at the monster in the eye, defiantly and with strength, we can conquer it, and anything else that tries to slow us down. So many congrats to you. In the creative writing for fun classes I teach, I’ve had a few students with dyslexia who have ‘let loose’ and discovered they can write! The latest one is an MIT scientist who thought she’d have to keep her stories within herself, but through writing creatively, and ‘for fun.’ she found her words opened up. She’s having the time of her life. 🙂

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    1. Hi, Pam – Thank you for sharing about your students who have overcome their restraints and unleashed their personal stories. This is such great inspiration! You have so eloquently expressed how we can stare down our monsters — so true, and so motivating!

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    2. Thanks so much for reading my post and for your comments Pam. I never expected to hear that my story would bring tears, but I’m so very honoured that you told me it did because it tells me that I really was writing from my heart. I don’t know why I’ve never told this story before because I’ve written about living with dyselxia quite a lot. Then, when Donna asked me to write a guest post, it seemed the perfect place to share the story.

      I’m so very pleased to hear firsthand from you that other people with the condition are not allowing having dyslexia get in the way with their creative writing talents. I wish the lady in question continued success and fun with her writing.

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  16. Thanks for sharing that intimate part of your life Hugh. It’s often things we experience in childhood that follow us into adulthood, whether fear or any other emotion stirred by incidents. Look at you now my friend! You’re a star in my books! 🙂 Big hugs! xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Debby. I really appreciate your lovely comments. I have to say, though, that if it were not for many of you in the blogging world, then I certainly would not still be blogging. Many of you (you included) have supported and encouraged me so much. To me, you’re all Miss Banks. 😀
      xx

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  17. It was very brave of you to share this, Hugh. I could only imagine how hard a time the kids at school gave you for stuttering. I was stutterer too in school – each time reading time came around, it took me some time to get to the end of a sentence. The kids would snicker.

    So encouraging of Miss Banks. She sounds like every student’s favourite teacher. I am sure a lot of the audience thought your performance was amazing. She believed in you right from the start, and look how far you have come. Many more books to come from you, and you have such a wonderful engagement with others here in the blog world. You earned it 😀

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    1. I’m sorry to hear that you also had a stutter monster in your life, Mabel. Kids can be very cruel sometimes, and I remember well the laughs coming from many of the children in my school class when my stuttering kicked in. Miss Banks really helped me get over that problem, though. Today, it’s very rare that my stuttering monster shows up.
      Thank you for your lovely comments about me. I sometimes wonder why people read what I have to say, but I’m so very grateful that you all join me in my writing journey. It would be such a different place without you all; one that I would not have stayed in.

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  18. I loved reading this Hugh. A very personal and beautifully written post. Well done for pushing that Publish button not only for you but for selfish reasons as I love your blog posts! They/you are so helpful to a newbie blogger such as myself 🙂 Thank goodness for Miss Banks too!

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    1. Hi, Sam – Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting on Hugh’s post. I agree with all of your reasons for gratitude in Hugh ‘pushing the button’ — including the ‘selfish’ ones! 🙂

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    2. Thank you, Sam. I enjoy helping out other bloggers where I can. Not everyone agrees with some of the things that work for me, but I enjoy sharing my blogging tips. If I had not started my blog back in February 2014, then I certainly would not have achieved a lot of what I’ve done over the last three and half years of blogging. Then, of course, I also have Miss Banks to thanks. 😀

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