Saturday, February 25, 2017

     Today, I will attend the Area Contest of our Toastmasters International Speech Contest. These contestants must give a 5-7 minute speech that will move and motivate the audience. I liken the challenge to a minister or priest’s task each week of addressing topics that have been discussed for centuries. How do you take something important like love, humility, kindness, strength and make it fresh and new for your audience? Somehow our International winner each year finds a way. Is it by humor, surprise, the exact fresh combination of powerful words, by the pregnant pause? What technique will win over the hearts and minds of those listening? 

     As a professional performer who has been on many stages throughout my lifetime, I am humbled by this challenge, and I’m always fascinated by the creative ways my fellow public speakers craft their talks. Fortunately, the pressure is off for me. All I have to do today is listen. What’s in it for me? Learning, applauding and supporting my fellow Toastmasters and perhaps coming home with new energy to tackle something I hadn’t even considered. 

     What could you say to someone that could send them home with new energy to pursue a task, follow a dream, create something life-changing? We all have something to offer. It’s just a matter of finding a way to communicate whatever the message is to the right audience. Have you ever had a brief conversation with a stranger that sent you home thinking, “Wow. She made my day,” or “I never really thought about it that way.” 

      Today, I will listen and learn. If I am not motivated by what I hear, I might be inspired by what I don’t. If I’m not energized by the presentations, I will ask myself what I need to add to my own to give the audience what I am seeking. If I have one refreshing conversation with one person, my morning will be worthwhile. If not, I will ask myself what I could have offered to make someone else’s pleasant. 

     What will you learn from the listening you do today? What words might come out of your mouth that could change someone’s direction?


     

Friday, February 24, 2017

     Yesterday, I had the privilege of judging a high school speech contest. What a thrill this was for me, a former high school speech and Forensics coach. It took me back to the days when I smiled like a proud mama every time I listened to my students (“my kids”) perform. There is something magic about being around young people who are striving to improve and who are courageous enough to step out of their comfort zones.

      There were four students competing—two in “Prepared” speeches and two in “Extemporaneous Speaking.” They were all very nervous speaking in front of just four adult judges. Trust me, as a person who has been performing her entire life and continues to do so, performing in front of a very small audience is ten times harder than standing before a
crowd of 500. You are more self-conscious, more distracted by movement and audience facial expression, and it is much more intimidating being able to see every person’s reaction to your words.

     I sat as a judge, a former teacher and coach and as a mom. I empathized with each shaking teen as they stood before us. As we listened and watched, (all of us experienced public speakers), we witnessed the blatant mistakes we all made starting out. We all know that sometimes we still make some of those same mistakes. 

     As each student came back into the room for feedback, I found myself wanting to tell them everything I ever learned so they could improve quickly. I had to be sure to compliment them on the good points, emphasize their strengths, and gently coach them on their weaknesses. It’s always a delicate balance critiquing anyone, as we never know how sensitive people are. I decided to go with “less is more.” One student said, “Is there anything else I can do to improve?” Aw, that struck a chord. I love students who are eager to learn. I found myself wanting to head right back to the classroom.

      The takeaway for me was personal. I love teenagers. I have always loved kids who want to learn, and I especially love those who appreciate what I’ve taught them. I was also reminded of what good teachers do. We model by example, and we influence most by our passion for what we do. These young people will all be successful not because they work harder than most but because they are willing to risk. The more they risk by putting themselves up for scrutiny and learning from their successes and failures, the more confident they will become, and along the way they will be modeling these traits for others to see. 


     I love kids!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

     I am married to “one in a minion.” Yup, “ONE in a minion.” I received this little key fob in a gift I purchased, and Mr. Wonderful and I have been using it for a week to show our love for one another. I started by putting it on the toilet paper roll in his bathroom. The next thing I knew it was in one of my shoes. Then it was around his toothbrush and then it showed up in my desk. It’s hilarious the games you can play and how silly love can be. So simple, but so necessary to chuckle throughout the day when there’s  not a lot to chuckle about  in the world these days.

     When did we adults stop being silly? I never stopped. It’s in my DNA. Mr. Wonderful tends to be a pretty serious guy, so it gives me great joy to bring out his silly. Are you silly? Do you like silly? I only like it when I think it’s funny. I never tolerated silly much as a parent; I just endured it. As a teacher, silly was my norm. Without silly, I would have been a bore. 

     When we can allow ourselves some silly, it makes us  chuckle, and if we’re very lucky, it can make us laugh. Laughter heals. Laughter caresses the worry, lowers the anxiety and reframes the negative. We need laughter. We need silly. Go out today and spread the silly. See how you feel at the end of the day.

     Remember my original:  Laughter is contagious. Spread the virus. 



      

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

    

                                     TOO POLITE? STAND AND DELIVER!



       “We need to stop being so damned polite!” said a friend at dinner last night. Is there such a thing as being too polite? I think so. In my note to my friend later, I said, “Our being polite could be construed as cowardice in the name of kindness. Enough!” Mr. Wonderful and I are always careful not to interrupt, not to one-up, not to contradict without selecting our words carefully. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop some of the people with whom we engage from doing that to us. The result is us doing most of the listening, and others dominating the conversation. Sometimes it leaves us bored to tears. But whose fault is that? 

     I was brought up to be respectful to my elders. I was taught that interrupting is rude and that saying something unkind was not ladylike and very unbecoming. Rude was wrong. Disrespect was not tolerated. One-upping was for the insecure, not the enlightened. Well, guess what, I am becoming enlightened in my golden years. Decorum and refinement are, unfortunately, passé in our narcissistic, entitled world. If the “too polite pack” doesn’t step up and demand that good manners and kindness become the norm once again, we are all going to suffer. 

     I don’t care what you thought of the political platform of our last President. He was a role model of refinement, class and dignity. He was a model father and husband, one whose venom was aimed at those who were endangering our country, not those who got in the way of his agenda. I was proud to call him my President, and it was easy to point to him when explaining good manners and respect to my grand-children. He represented all I was taught growing up.

      Whether it’s fighting for a cause, holding your own at a dinner table or refraining from  criticizing when it will only hurt not help, those of us who are too polite need to say, “Enough!” We need to stand up to the conversation bullies, push back the hate mongers and stand up for those being harassed. Standing by is no longer an option. We need to stand and deliver. If the enlightened never show their light, there will only be darkness. 



      


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Never stop dreaming of my dream car!
2017 update
Getting ready for my Gershwin one-woman show.

Mr. Wonderful captures Lido Beach susnset.

Maman and daughter march on St. Pete Beach

New friends bring joy.

Forever friends visit.

Soul mates connect at Ringling.

Music bonds beautiful friendships.

Fun with friends on Lida Beach.

Always striving for the next certification no matter what. 

My new oasis.

Mr. Wonderful never disappoints with "Ma Belle."
Getting ready for April shows. Photo by step-daughter Sue Richardson, Timeless Images, Belleville, Michigan.
Always missing beautiful daughter, Chris, but we talk every week.

Words to live by!
Watching baby daugther on TV 

Monday, February 20, 2017

     If you only had one week to create a legacy, what would you do? Would you continue business as usual? If not, how would you reframe, restructure, remodel your lifestyle to serve as a legacy for your family or for mankind?

      I was thinking this morning, I would like to make this the best week of my life. How could I do this, and who would benefit? The first answer would most likely be, “It would benefit me.” That’s a choice.  What if, however, I wanted to do something, change something that would benefit someone or some group of someones as well as myself? What would or could I do?

     Here are some random ideas that came out of my caffeine consciousness:

  1. Put a small gift on a neighbor’s porch. (Not identifying the sender gets extra points)
  2. Walk up to a stranger in the grocery store and give them a copy of your favorite inspirational book.
  3. Send a letter to a soldier.
  4. Volunteer to do something at a nearby school where you are surrounded by young children.
  5. Send a round-trip airline ticket to one of your grandchildren, and plan a week of life’s lessons for ____-year-olds.
  6. Send a birthday gift to someone with whom you never exchange gifts.
  7. Send a prayer to someone sad, even if they don’t believe. 
  8. Send a thank you note to the produce manager at your grocery store.
  9. Leave a thank you note for your postal carrier. 
  10. Leave a 50% tip when you go out for breakfast.
  11. Write a thank you note to your son or daughter just for being who they are.
  12. Write a “Save the Date” invitation to your spouse for a night out with surprises.
  13. Give a theatre ticket to someone you know can’t afford to purchase it.
  14. Treat yourself to a day with no “To Do” list. 
  15. Put a love note on the steering wheel of your spouse’s car.
  16. Send a thank you to a special friend.
  17.  
18.
19.
20.

Fill in the blanks.

      Yesterday, we learned that a very lovely acquaintance from our former home town lost her sister to a devastating disease. Almost monthly, we hear of some tragic loss among our circle of friends and acquaintances. 

     Yesterday afternoon at a tailgate, we met a couple who could not be more than 45 years old. He had just suffered a heart attack which resulted in a three-way bypass. She had “botched” surgery on her leg, and lost it from the knee down. They asked us if we wanted to share their wine and cheese with them.

      Tragedy is so random, and crises appear out of nowhere. There’s really few ways that we can prevent many of them, so what can we do? We can stay grounded in the gift of giving selflessly to others in whatever way we are able and in being compassionate with ourselves when we fall short of our own expectations. 


     It all seems so simple. It isn’t. At some point, we realize that the banal clichés are true. We utter them, but we don’t really believe them. Life is short and sometimes complicated. The only way to make any sense of it is to know our purpose, figure out our unique path and follow our hearts. Sometimes we lose our purpose, take the wrong road and feel our hearts breaking. That’s when we need a good strong cup of coffee and a burst of creative energy so we can come up with new ways to ground ourselves in the good.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

     One of our visitors used the term, “PIP, a couple of weeks ago. I asked, “What’s that?” He responded, “Previously Important Person.” He said his golf group doesn’t allow any “PIPs.” What does this mean? It means that some people, even in retirement, have to remind us of how important they were. I assume because they are no longer important. Moving to a new state and meeting new people on a regular basis, I have found many “PIPs.” They are not pleasant, and they remind me of the newest trend in narcissism:  “I’m much more important than you, and I always have been.” 

     If you have to tell me how many boards you were on, how much money you made, how much your house in the Hamptons cost, then you don’t belong in my personal space. You are pathetic, self-consumed and out for yourself. You are obviously so immersed in your own accomplishments and lost in your ego, you couldn’t possibly have room for friendship. Good-bye.

     I empathize with people who leave their identities behind when they retire, move, or change careers. I left my classroom of over 40 years kicking and screaming. But when I refer to my past, and that is rare, I always say things like “I really miss the kids,” or “When I was teaching, we used to laugh about teacher tummy or August teacher jitters.” I didn’t list my credentials, my degrees or the positions I held over the span of 40 years. Who effen cares? I don’t care about that part of your career, so why would you care about mine? 

      Retirees sometimes like to replace their number of board positions by how many countries they’ve explored or how many cruises they’ve taken. Do you really care where I’ve traveled or how many times I’ve climbed the Eiffel Tour or descended into the Grand Canyon. I doubt it, so why would I want to know that about you? If you’re curious when I tell you about an upcoming trip, you might ask, but if I run on to you with my hour by hour itinerary, I guarantee you will glaze over. So please don’t bore me with the details of yours. Give me a highlight or two that doesn’t make you look like a rock star. Tell me funny things that happened or scary close calls you’ve had with a grizzly in Yellowstone, but don’t try to impress me by telling me you paid $773 a night at the Jenny Lake Lodge. 

     What is it about us that we feel we need to one-up others? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to answer that one. We’re insecure. We’re without a title, without a strong sense of self, so we have to create a fake one so people will like us or think we are special. Am I insecure? You betcha. Do I brag? Rarely, but sometimes I  flaunt when I shouldn’t. Our new President has raised the Lovemelovemelovemeworshipme bar. He has made bragging a national sport. No matter how much you flaunt your talents or riches, fake or imagined, you will never be as wonderful as him. 

     Are you a “PIP?” Do not come near me. Turn on a tape recorder, and listen to yourself. I guarantee, you will be amazed at how pathetic you sound.