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Sunday, March 24, 2013

You don't know what you can do until you have to do it!


There I was sitting at the area speech competition for Toastmasters International, waiting for my turn. A few minutes ago, I had just received news that the Tall Tale speech that I had practiced at my club to rave reviews, was too long. At the practice run, I had clocked in at 6 minutes, 4 seconds, which was great when I thought the speech was supposed to be 5-7 minutes long. However, I was just informed by the competition official time keepers that the Tall Tale speech is 3-5 minutes.   Currently the speech I had prepared for was over by 1 minute 4 seconds, instant disqualification.
There were two other gentlemen that were in the Tall Tale Competition as well.  The first man started pacing back and forth quietly lamenting that he thought he had 5-7 minutes as well to give his speech. The other man confidently announced, “That’s what I planned for!”  He reminded me of Sergeant Harvey Walden IV from Celebrity Fit Club.  This former Marine sergeant was always barking tough, motivational  phrases to the contestants like “Mind over matter! If you don’t mind, it don’t matter!”
 I basically fell in between these two men’s reactions. My stomach dropped when I heard the time constraints. However, when the Toastmaster (who is in my club and knew my speech would be too long) whispered to me, “Can you do it?” I answered back quite assuredly before taking my seat, “Yes, all I have to do is edit.”
Emeril Lagasse has said in cooking you can always add, you can’t take away. However, the exact opposite is true in writing—it is much easier to edit your story rather than add more to it.  Luckily, someone up there liked me-- I was the last one on the agenda. I was able to use my waiting time tightening and brightening my speech.  
When it was my turn, I took a deep breath, stepped onto the stage and delivered my edited speech. I was so relieved to see the green card (that indicates the three minute mark) appear by the Timer when I was about to wrap up my speech. Yes!! I had made the designated time allotment! Also, and most importantly, I walked away with my area’s 1st prize award.
In the next couple of weeks, I am preparing to give my speech again in the Division competition. Just the thought of it gets the butterflies going in my stomach, but all in all I’m pretty excited. I mean, why else did I join Toastmasters International for, if not to write and give speeches?
Outstanding!!  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Poor Vincent!


Vincent Van Gogh had never been one of my favorite artists. I never could fathom why his artwork was raved about, especially Starry Night. I could not understand all of the swirls in the sky. Why would he make the night sky appear this way? I have seen many a night sky adorned with stars and it never looked that that! A few days ago, I changed my mind.
I happened to see an article on line where a photographer was able to take pictures of the night sky that was able to slow down the path of the stars. 
As I looked at these remarkable pictures, I couldn't help but think I've seen these images before. Then I searched the image of Starry Night.
 Granted, the pictures are not a complete match, but they did have eerie similarities.  As I looked at the oval brushstrokes, I wondered how did Vincent Van Gogh ever think to paint a night sky like this? Did he perhaps see the night sky in a different way than all of us did?
I remembered back in my school days learning that Van Gogh suffered from mental illness. The reason he cut off his ear was because he heard voices and his tortured mind thought this would stop him hearing them.  Being young, I was totally unable to overlook the whole cutting off his ear and didn't want to know any more about him or his artwork.  Unfortunately for me I completely shut down.
Now, I feel empathy for his horrible struggle through life. How awful it must have been for him to only have the canvas as his true companion. The one good thing was that the canvas didn't judge him, but humbly offered itself to his swirling paints and unusual images.