I’m always up for dancing a jig, but George, eh, not so much. His eyebrows are another story, though. Watch him in the video below.
George’s eyebrows aren’t the only entertainment at our place. LimberJack dressed as a leprechaun and tapped to a cheerful Irish tune. I’ve never seen his arms swing like this!
As you can see, we’ve been feeling festive at the Kelley hideaway. Leprechauns and shenanigans abound and life is good. I’m practicing a new speech for the Toastmasters International contest, and each time I get it right, I get up and dance around the house to celebrate. And get some exercise.
May the luck of the Irish be with you today and always.
Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Can you wiggle your eyebrows? What have you been up to? I’d love to hear from you!
Are you considering competing in a Toastmasters’ speech contest?
Last year I competed in the contest for the international category, which can be about any topic. The winning speeches are usually inspirational or motivational with some element of humor, but not necessarily. The main thing I would recommend is that you be passionate about your message.
If this is your first time competing, you probably have hundreds of questions, but I’ll only be able to help you with some of them since I’m fairly new at this myself. Please don’t be shy like I was, afraid to ask questions.
Find an experienced speech competitor, someone who knows the ropes, and ask them all the questions you need answers to. You will feel more prepared when the time comes to give your speech
Multiple Rounds in One Day?
Before I forget, I want to mention you only compete once at the club, area, division, and district levels. By “once,” I mean on the day of the contest. When I attended my first area competition, I wasn’t sure if I would have to win a first round, then compete in another round that same day.
Whew! What a relief to learn there weren’t multiple rounds. So, basically, you will give your speech only once for each level of the Toastmasters International speech contest.
After I won the contest at my club, my mentor, Roya Ferdosian, DTM, suggested I practice my speech again prior to competing at each level. That was helpful advice, since I had revised the speech many times along the way. I practiced at my club, Club 12 – Pomona Valley Toastmasters, a couple more times prior to competing at both the area competition and then the division level. Each time, club members offered helpful advice for improvement. I made many changes, thanks to their input.
After winning at the division level, Roya suggested I contact other clubs and practice at their meetings. She gave me phone numbers for a couple of them. I used Google to find other clubs in my area and left a voice message for some and emails for other clubs that didn’t list a phone number.
Unfortunately, I only heard back from three of them. One club leader explained over-the-phone that they only permitted their own club members to give speeches. Oh well. I moved on and reached out to other clubs.
I was thrilled when Beth, leader of Toast of the Town in LaVerne, agreed to schedule me to practice at one of their meetings. Then Lois Sickling of Club 110 agreed to let me practice at Speech Masters. Both Beth and Lois seemed genuinely happy to have me as a guest speaker.
Speaking at Other Clubs
Members from both clubs were welcoming and they took turns giving me helpful tips. Some of the suggestions included:
Use a hand gesture when mentioning “good news” and a separate gesture for “bad news.”
Some of the pauses were too long, as if I forgot what to say. (I hadn’t forgotten my lines, but I needed a better sense of timing the pauses.)
My voice was too high at times, a sign of nervousness.
When mentioning the part about “drumming,” tap on my legs at the same time to have more impact, rather than tapping after I say it.
Move across the stage more.
Describe my father or say something about who he is.
“I have good news and bad news” is cliche and is not a strong opening.
I used way too many exaggerated hand gestures.
Finally, Lois suggested I ditch my cute dangling earrings because they moved too much and were distracting. “Wear studs instead.” Then more helpful advice, “Tuck your hair behind your ears to frame your face. It makes us look younger, too.”
The best advice I received was Lois’s enthusiastic, animated comments about using the stage more, such as walk across it, step back or to the front or both. Take advantage of the space that’s available. Make use of different levels. For instance, get down on your knes or reach up high or outwards. Her final words, “This is it. Give it your all and go for broke.” She was supportive and caring. It lifted my spirits.
I considered everyone’s suggestions and applied some of them and passed on others, which I decided wouldn’t work for me.
Below, I incorporated a move to get down on one knee, point at someone in the audience, and cover my head with my other hand when I said the line, “Get ready to duck!” Lois’s suggestion to get down lower at some point was a valuable tip. That change was made the day before the contest.
Keep in Mind
An important thing to keep in mind when receiving feedback for improvement: Don’t take it personally. Most toastmasters want to be helpful and want to see you succeed.
You may feel like they’re picking on you or being petty. After all, they’re criticizing not only your baby, your speech that you spent long hours pouring your heart into, but it may also seem like they’re insulting you, yourself. If someone is intentionally belittling you, hey, they’ve got a problem. Shame on them. They need to learn how to be nice, but most members are offering their honest input in order to help you so you can do your best. Some people seem blunt, and they probably don’t realize they come across that way.
Learn to be Thick-Skinned
As a writer, I had to learn to be thick-skinned and listen to critiques of my stories, articles, and poems. It can be discouraging at times if there are too many negative points, but if we take everything personally and dwell on it, we risk letting it completely deflate us to the point we give up on our dreams. Take criticisms with a grain of salt. If a comment rubs you the wrong way, shake it off and move on. Believe me, most of us get our feelings bent out of shape at one point or another. Let it go and focus on your speech.
So, decide whether you want to apply any of the suggestions or not. You have the final say. It’s your speech. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a coach, then that’s another story.
Also, while looking for clubs to practice at after I had won at the division level and prepared to compete at the district level, I wanted to know what I was in for, so I started doing some research to find out what came after the district level. For instance, how many levels are there, and how much traveling would be required? How much would it cost? All these issues are covered in Part 2.
However, it was while watching a different video on YouTube showcasing some of the finalists preparing for the big day, and one guy (I don’t remember his name) mentioned he had to finish his second speech. A second speech? Huh? I pretty much freaked.
On a whim, I decided to reach out to Ryan Avery to ask him if contestants needed a second speech if they make it to the finals, and I also wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed his book. Honestly, I figured he’d be way too busy to answer me, but he’s a such a gem, he answered me right away and offered some very valuable tips. Here’s basically what he said:
Advice From Ryan Avery:
“I’m so glad you like the book Speaker Leader Champion. That is exactly what we wrote the book for, is for people who want to compete and be better speakers so they can champion any cause . . . Here are a few tips and suggestions and opinions solely from my experience of competing:
First Piece of Advice
“First, never think about the competition that’s after the competition you have, so don’t think about semi-finals. Don’t think about World Championship. Solely focus on district’s, because what happens is, too many people focus on the one afterward and they forget about being in the moment and delivering the message from the heart to that audience, and then they don’t even advance.
Second Piece of Advice
“My second piece of advice is to go early to see what the stage setup will be like. Know where you want to sit; know how you will go on and off the stage. A lot of people make the mistake of slowly walking up on stage or slowly leaving off stage after their speech, or they breathe deep after their speech.
Look at All the World Champions
“People are going to remember what they see first and what they feel last, and so if you send a signal of a sigh, that means you just tried to get through with it, but if you look at all the world champions, what they do is they will run off the stage and they’ll wave and they’ll be excited and they’ll look, and it will be a way to show the judges and the audience that, wow, you delivered the message that you wanted to deliver.”
Third Piece of Advice
“The third piece of advice I have for you is, speech lineup doesn’t matter. All world champions have been in all positions, from first all the way through ninth. So, be happy with the speaking order that you have.
“Make sure that you cheer on the other contestants, and also go to the conference. Be a part of the conference.
“Speak from the heart, have fun, and be in the moment. It goes by really fast.”
Is that awesome advice from Ryan Avery or what?
Notice he didn’t answer my question about whether I would need a second speech. He was right about how I needed to focus on the upcoming speech. If I won the district competition, then I could focus on what came next.
In case you’re wondering, I did learn semi-final contestants do need a different speech if they advance to compete in the finals. So, you might want to start writing a second speech, or if you already have one, work on tweaking it. Revise, revise, revise.
More tips from another World Champion of Public Speaking
The other night I went to a Toastmasters meeting in Covina, California to hear guest speaker, Darren LaCroix. He’s the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking.
It was amazing. Darren LaCroix is full of inspiration and offers guidance for anyone who wants to improve their public speaking skills. It was easy to connect with him. I was so impressed with his presentation and his message, I signed up for Stage Time University.
So far, I’ve only spent a few days on the site, but I’m so glad I joined. These classes are exactly what I need to grow and improve my skills.
Next, I’m going to share some videos that are well worth watching. There are plenty more on YouTube, so watch as many world champion videos as you can because you’ll learn a lot from them.
Below is a presentation by David Henderson, 2010 World Champion of Public Speaking. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, be sure to watch his speech, “The Best Doctor,” which starts at the 42:00 point.
Next, Ryan Avery’s winning speech. He won the World Champion of Public Speakers in 2012.
Last but not least, Darren LaCroix’s 2001 winning speech, “Ouch.” Many people consider this to be the funniest speech in the history of the World Championship competition.
Both Ryan Avery and Darren LaCroix tell us to speak from the heart. Your message should be one you are passionate about and want to share with others.
Cheers to you for taking the step to compete. Wishing you much success in your journey, and I hope you enjoy all the adventures along the way!
Are you looking for a fun game to play for New Year’s?
George and I got together with our kids and grandkids Christmas Eve, but then we went to my sister Cindy’s on Christmas Day, and we played Catch Phrase. I’d never played it before, but it was great fun. The category was “Everyday Life.”
Here’s a video below. At first, nobody wanted me to record us playing the game, but then my dad’s expressions were so funny, my mom asked me to get my camera out.
He’s pretty funny at the 30-second point of the video.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts about my Dad’s Alzheimer’s, and I wanted to say that despite having dementia, he was able to participate in Catch Phrase with a little bit of help.
He participated in various ways, such as guessing at other player’s clues and also giving appropriate prompts for us to guess his “phrase.”
He came alive and became fully engaged. A game like this is what people in early to mid stages of dementia need, in my humble opinion. It’s all about brain games, learning new skills, doing something different, and thus building and reinforcing new pathways in our brains. In other words, neuroplasticity, which is fascinating.
Dementia begins years before any symptoms appear. I’m 62 and old enough to be concerned about getting it myself. Any activities, especially new activities, that engage our brains are going to help us ward off this dreaded disease. So, I always appreciate opportunities to exercise my brain. The laughter is a huge bonus and is super healthy for us, too.
Keep in mind the game is geared for ages 12 and up, so it worked out well that the grandkids weren’t at this gathering. You can bet we’ll play it with them in the future when they’re older.
Catch Phrase can be played with teams or you can keep track of individual points. We didn’t keep score.
The other cool points about a game like this is that it’s not only inexpensive fun, but it gets people off their cell phones (somewhat) and strengthens family (or friendship) ties, not to mention making precious memories.
This is a parenting anecdote from my archives that I’ve turned into a vlog. It’s short (three minutes), but sweet.
Hope you got a kick out of that holiday parenting story. Below is a picture of Jim and Cindy. She’s wearing a zucchinibikini tankini.
Doesn’t my Santa cap look like an airhead hat? A good fit for me, eh?
What a bargain. I found it at one of the dollar stores a few years ago.
I hope you’re taking a few moments here and there for grins and giggles. With so much on our plates this time of year, it’s important to take care of ourselves, take a few breathers throughout the day.
Cheers to sweet moments in our lives!
What are your thoughts? Have you had any time to enjoy the sweet and simple things in your life? What makes you smile? I’d love to hear from you.
Hello friends! Are your spirits as bright as my dancing Santa LimberJack’s?
I hope you’re enjoying this holiday season and feeling festive and spunky. If I get enough sleep, I seem to be able to pull it off.
This old-fashioned toy which originated in Ireland has turned out to be so much fun. I found a Santa ornament for a dollar at the 99 Cents Only store, so I took it apart and decorated LimberJack. Here’s a video of him dancing as Santa Claus:
Of course, the grandkids think Santa LimberJack is charming. This little toy may mark me as the quirkiest Grammy ever, and that’s fine with me.
Here’s what LimberJack looked like when I bought him:
It’s a kick to dress him up in funky outfits. If I don’t have time to dress him as Baby New Year before the 1st arrives, there’s always next year, right?
I know everyone is busy this time of year, wrapping gifts or wrapping up projects and festivities. Whatever you’ve been doing, I hope it’s been good and that your last days of 2018 are merry and as bright as Rudolph’s shiny nose.
Hope you enjoyed Santa LimberJack’s snazzy footwork. Cheers to fun and light-hearted moments.
What are your thoughts? Are you keeping stress levels to a minimum? What have you been up to? I’d love to hear from you.
My Aunt Val is like a real life Mary Poppins character. She has a secret Christmas room, which is decorated all year long.
Last June I got to visit her and my Uncle Ron in North Carolina. Now, their whole house is like a museum, but it wasn’t until the last night when April and my grand darlings, Grasshopper and Ninja Doll, came to spend the night that I got to see the secret Christmas room.
First, she gave each of the kids a stuffed animal. Then she pulled back the red curtain, and, behold, a magical room decorated for Christmas. This was in June, mind you!
Antiques and Heirlooms
Auntie Val explained what everything was. The room is full of many antiques and vintage decor. For instance, below is a small crib, which my grandfather slept in as a baby.
The entire time, Aunt Val told stories or sang songs to the kids. For example, “Bushel and a Peck.” Clearly, this special room is her pride and joy. Her delight in sharing it was as precious as watching Grasshopper and Ninja Doll take it all in.
Here’s a short video:
The little chair was my Uncle Lee’s and Aunt Val’s when they were children. How special is that? Her home is full of family heirlooms.
I don’t know which part is my favorite, but that old-fashioned St. Nicholas ranks pretty high in my secret Christmas room book.
Below, the foo-foo girlie Teddy Bear in the antique baby stroller is quite charming, too, isn’t it?
I’m enjoying reminiscing about my visit and re-discovering the many treasures of this enchanting room.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever heard of a Secret Christmas Room? Are you enjoying preparing for the holidays? I hope you’re not having as many airhead moments as I’ve had! I’d love to hear from you.
Have you had any airhead moments during this crazy holiday season?
I got lost on the freeway driving home from my daughter’s. Missed my turnoff. I have a knack for doing that, but this time I was tired from babysitting two of my grandkids into the wee morning hours. Chatty Girl is three and Little Man is five weeks old now. So, even though I’ve made that drive many times, I was overtired and got lost. That’s a whole other blog post.
This is my version of making lemonade out of lemons. The video of my dancing Santa LimberJack turned out awful. The lighting was poor, the quality of the video wasn’t good, and it’s pretty much a dud.
Here’s what LimberJack looks like with the Santa outfit I dressed him in:
I found a Santa ornament at the 99 Cents Only store and used the face and hat for LimberJack’s head. Then I cut up the coat to cover his body, arms and legs. Small pieces of card stock worked to make a belt with a buckle and boots for his feet.
Mistakes Can Force Us to Be More Creative
George shot the video for me, but it just didn’t turn out as I’d hoped, so we’ll redo it today. However, it would be a shame to waste these clips, so I played around with them in iMovie’s special effects options. The x-ray feature looked kind of neat. It doesn’t look like Santa, though, so he became the dancing elf from Dimension X. Haha! By slowing the clips down, LimberJack is easier to view. The music is added after the video is edited.
Poor little elf had an accident at the end of the clip.
If only I’d thought to play around with those skeleton clips in iMovie’s special effects. I wonder what it would look like? Hmm, it’s not too late to try it. If it turns out, I’ll feature it in a future blog post.
I’m taking part in Vlogmas 2018 on YouTube. We’re supposed to post a video each day. While many of the other blogs are long, some 20 or 30 minutes, mine are all short. We’re all busy this time of year, so shorter is better. If you want to follow me on YouTube, the link is at the very bottom of the sidebar.
Do you make lemonade our of lemons? How do you handle projects that don’t turn out the way you planned? I’d love to hear your story. Isn’t it rewarding to turn things around and find a satisfying solution?
What are your thoughts? Are you super busy these days? Have you had any projects run amuck? I’d love to hear from you!
I designed a quick and easy centerpiece that can be customized for any occasion.
My Toastmasters club is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year. The party is this week, so I volunteered to do the centerpieces for the tables.
I had planned to use real flowers, probably roses, to put under the wine glasses/goblets, but then I discovered pinecones with glitter in the Christmas section of the 99 Cents Only store, and I decided pinecones would be much easier.
No worries about them wilting. Two pinecones for 99 cents was great. The light reflecting off the glass and the glitter of the pinecone looks beautiful.
Next, I needed to decide what to put on top of the upside-down glass. Perhaps a real rose would look pretty. Then I went on YouTube and looked for a tutorial on how to make a paper flower. I found a super easy paper rose.
That video didn’t have leaves to go with the paper rose, so I found another tutorial showing how to make paper leaves. The leaves in that tutorial were jumbo size, bigger than the crafter’s hand.
I went with the same idea, but scaled it down to using a piece of 4×4 inch card stock.
Each centerpiece will be set on two stacked books. I took the covers off some of my hardback books, but I didn’t have enough, so I bought 11 more at the Goodwill for less than $10.
These are the books I already had:
Got all the books I’d need, so now it was just a matter of finalizing the details.
Both the paper rose and leaves were quick and easy to make. Wow! But perhaps the women planning the 85th celebration party would rather have a candle as the topper, so I bought candles for 99 cents each and sent them this picture to decide which centerpiece they preferred.
They like the paper flower better, so I got to work.
For the bottom of the centerpiece, I thought a nice cardboard coaster would work or even a piece of heavy card stock, just to hold the pinecone in, but thanks to the holiday season, I found a pack of five glitter star ornaments for 99 cents. They’re flat, so I decided to use those.
The star ornaments worked out great.
While I was at it, I decided to make a tutorial. These centerpieces are so quick and easy, I thought other people might want to make them, so I uploaded the tutorial to YouTube:
If you want to make one, here’s what you will need:
Wine glass or goblet
Pinecone that fits in the glass
Piece of 8×8 inch card stock in the color you want your flower.
Two 4×4 inch pieces of green card stock for the leaves
Flat ornament or cardboard coaster or heavy piece of card stock for the bottom
Baby’s breath flowers (optional)
Candle if you choose to use it instead of making paper rose
There are so many options to customize this centerpiece. Have fun, and let me know how yours turned out.
What are your thoughts? Do you like DIY projects? Do you like the paper rose or the candle version better? Or neither? I’d love to hear from you.
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Writer of fiction for children and slice-of-life pieces for grownups, Master Certified Health Coach, mother of four, grammy to six grand darlings. Goofball. Subject to laughing jags. Co-author of Monster Moon Mystery series under pen name BBH McChiller. Altered art scrapbooker, Toastmaster, YouTuber, and recovering court reporter.