Like A Phoenix

Current Status

I haven’t really blogged here in the past year and a half other than mentioning Kirby’s passing a few weeks ago.  A lot has happened in that time, things I always meant to post about as they occurred but didn’t.  With that in mind what’s going on with me these days?

1) Last June, I rejoined Toastmasters.  I’m taking it slow.  I missed the environment it provided but I’m trying to avoid becoming as involved as I once was.  I’m putting less pressure on myself as a result which is good.

2) I wrote a weekly blog, written in character by a nearly 200 year old Vampire.  I did this from June of 2015 until November 2016.  At present the gathered posts are going through the various stages of editing with an eye towards publishing it as a book later this year.

3) I began a book review blog in March 2016 over at Writefully Written. I used to do book reviews for the church newsletter when I was much younger and I’m enjoying doing them again.  Plus, I like bringing attention to authors that aren’t as well known.

4) My NaNoWriMo region got divided into smaller sections and I became the inaugural liaison for the newly-minted region that I resided in.  That was quite an eye-opening experience and I enjoyed it.  I particularly enjoyed that it allowed greater focus on the writers in this area in providing them more oppurtunties to gather as a group.

5)My health has been not at its’ best the past few months.  The doctor is doing his best though to help figure out the cause and help me get better.  At this point, it’s a minor nuisance most of the time and having to wince in agony for a few moments the rest of the time.

There’s more stuff to talk about but I’m going to end this post here.  I’ll delve into more specific topics in upcoming posts.

March 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

R.I.P. Kirby

It has been a long time since I posted an entry and a lot has happened that I want to talk about but today I just want to talk about the biggest change in my life. On January 19, 2017 at the age of 17, only a few months shy of 18, my wonderful cat Kirby took his last breath.

I know the Veterinarians all said I did everything I could have, that I shouldn’t feel guilty about being unable to do more, but that doesn’t mean there is a feeling of failure hanging over my head. I’d been owned by him since he was a kitten, the reality that one day I wouldn’t have him in my life just never occurred to me. This was despite a near constant worry any time he went for a check-up.  You see, since the spring of 2011, Kirby had been diagnosed with and been treated daily for diabetes.

kirbbay

He had lived with me through 5 different moves over the years and always settled right in at each new location. He preferred, if in his carrier, to travel by bus and on more than one occasion other passengers  would ask if there was really a cat in the carrier because he was so quiet and relaxed. He loved to lay on me if I was sitting or reading and even in his final days would still run around and jump up on counters and get into trouble.  He never let age define him, he was still that kitten at heart.

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A couple of years ago, the vets and I had agreed that it wouldn’t be the diabetes that would be his end, it would be something else.  The diabetes was under control and as managed as possible.  Kirby and I had that stuff figured out.  It turns out we were right.  When I rushed him to the vets’ office on the morning of January 19, 2017, it had seemed as though his blood sugar level had dropped but that wasn’t the case. No, what we learned is his chest had filled with fluid and his blood pressure had dropped extremely low, that he had possibly suffered a heart attack. No matter what they did, Kirby was dying right there faster than they could help.  I did the only thing I could do and  held his head in my hands, looking him in the eyes as the vet put him to sleep.  My best friend, my baby boy.

I have an urn of his ashes sitting next to a digital photo frame now.  It cycles through numerous pictures I took of him over the years and it is within easy view of the computer so I can in a sense still have him nearby physically. As hard as saying goodbye to him might have been, there has been a  slowly dawning realization that for the first time since I was 21 I have to get through adulthood without him.

Rest In Peace Kirby – April 27, 1999 – January 19, 2017
urn

February 9, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Defeating Self Doubt

Worth a read, not just by those who write but by anyone who has ever had to deal with self-doubt dragging them down

January 28, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Your Arguments Against NaNoWriMo Are Invalid

Just well said. I’ve done NaNoWriMo for 4 years now. I especially think folks need to pay attention to her final point.

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rediscovering A Passion

The past few years have seen writing once more take a central focus in my life.  That I let it slide for so many years is a disservice I did unto myself.  Now I find that like much in my life I’m now in the nearly perpetual mode of “catching up”.

When I was in Toastmasters, I had hoped that preparing speeches would at least keep me writing somewhat.  At first this was the case but over the many years I was with that organization I found I was doing this less and less.  I was still preparing speeches but I was writing them less and less often, opting instead to prepare them almost entirely in the mind.  In part, this allowed me to look less at notes when speaking but also to have greater flexibility base don how the audience responded.  While this worked great in Toastmasters it meant I was not writing.

It took my grandfather’s death, as mentioned in a previous post, to cause me to  really look at whether I truly  wanted to write.  The answer in my mind was a resounding “Yes!” and through participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time I “jump-started” my writing once more.

One can only be fuelled by such a start for so  long before old habits return though.  I had supporters and friends form my family and Toastmasters but was that enough? I needed other writers to relate to, to motivate me, to help me keep that new fire lit.  In time, I’d be able to be more self-motivated but in those newly taken baby-steps as I rediscovered writing? Support and encouragement was going to be needed and I knew it.

That was a few years ago.  I’m writing still, sometimes even daily.  Ideas being explored, stories being woven, characters  finding life… all of it enriching.  Some day I’ll finish a project, see it through fully and share it with all of you.  In the meantime though, I want to end this post by mentioning that in the weeks to come I’ll be doing my  part to help promote others in the writing world.

To be more specific, one of the writers I made the acquaintance of early on when I got back into writing is Kelly Blanchard.  She has not only been incredibly helpful when I have questions but also maintains a weekly blog to help other writers.  I’ll provide a link at the end of this post.  She’s also undertaken a new project: conducting very unique author interviews as well as interviews with a character created by each of those authors.  These interviews can be found at another blog Kelly has set up.

In closing, this post is a thank you to everyone out there who has encouraged and supported me  the past few years as I got back into writing.  I hope I am able to do all of you proud in the months and years to come.

Kelly’s Blog on Writing:  Cinemagraphic Writing
Kelly’s Interviews with Authors and their Characters: Interviews  (Not your typical interviews.  be sure to check them out to see what I mean)

June 25, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Giving Back

Giving back.  It’s a term many tend to use to explain why they do a good deed.  I mention this because it was the result of giving back that ultimately led to what I find an interesting occurrence the past few months.

Every year, the city of Cambridge, where I reside, honours people in the community who have shown passion in their contribution to arts and culture in the city.  Named in recognition of the late city councillor Bernice Adams, the Bernice Adams Memorial Awards are awarded in several categories pertaining to the arts.

In late February, I received a phone call from a friend who was filling out the nomination form as he intended to nominate myself in the category of Literary Arts/Communication due to my years of work within Toastmasters.  My own growth within that organization and subsequent moving on to help strengthen and expand the local clubs so that more people could benefit seemed to be why they thought I should be nominated.

A letter arrived a few weeks later revealing that I was no longer just a nominee but was one of four finalists in my category and the date of the awards. I wasn’t sure what to think.  I had merely done what seemed the right thing to do within Toastmasters, namely give back to it after all it had done for me as far as helping to grow my self-confidence.  To learn I had not only been nominated but was also a finalist for such a major award from the city for doing so…it left me wondering to say the least.

That awards night came this past Friday, May 22.  I saw a great number of familiar faces and met several individuals I had only ever heard about before.  There was great entertainment from talented musicians, great food, and great coffee.  The importance of the evening further reflected by the presence of the Mayor, the entire city council, and our local member of the provincial parliament.  It was thrilling to watch so many deserving people be honoured by the city.

While I was not the eventual recipient of the award in my category this year, I am grateful to have even have been considered.  It left a further lasting impression upon me of the fact that we rarely have any idea of the lasting impact we can have on other people’s lives with what we do.

I am left with one final task coming out of these awards.  Who can I nominate next year so they too can be recognized?  After all, what better way to give back to the people who believed in me then to show my belief in someone?badams

May 23, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More Than Expected

A little over 11 years ago I went to my first Toastmasters meeting at the behest of my boss in order to improve my self-esteem and fight my social anxiety.  Everyone was so much older than I was but they stood and applauded after I spoke, they talked with me as though I was an equal, and in time I began considering them friends.

After so many years, I still think of them that way, even when I meet a Toastmaster for the first time.  I joined for self-confidence and self-esteem reasons and got so much more out of it than I could have ever expected.

The first presentation I gave at one of their meetings, I gripped the lectern so tight, the claw marks are still  evident today.  I looked at the floor, I looked at my notes, and my heart was racing far too quickly to be considered healthy.  The evaluation I was given afterwards was  glowing in its’ praise of all the things I had done well and gave me minor suggestions for improvement.  With each presentation that followed I got a little bit better, the notes stopped being needed, the eye contact  became more regular, the vocal variety improved, and I even eventually stopped gripping the lectern for dear life, opting to step away from it and incorporate body language.

After 6 speeches in the first manual of speech projects had been completed I was given a certificate, and encouraged to keep going.  I did, and I joined the club’s executive committee.  A certificate for Toastmasters World Headquarters came when I finished that first manual of 10 speeches.  I felt confident and so I kept going and started working from the advanced manuals that specialized in various areas such as storytelling, speaking to inform, or humour.  I kept taking on greater and greater responsibilities within  the club and soon lost track of the achievements I was accumulating.

Then at a holiday party while I was club president, more than one person who had been involved longer than I had suggested I try for the role of Area Governor, and that they felt I had what it took to fill that role.  That was a big step, it would mean overseeing several clubs as well as the fact that it wasn’t a position I could be elected to.  I had to be appointed by the District Governor, which meant a vote of confidence on the part of someone  many levels above myself.

When I got the phone call that following May and was appointed, not to the Area the club i had been in belonged to but rather another Area full of clubs I knew very little about, i felt  amazed at the level of trust.  Over the following year, I learned a lot from the 6 clubs in that Area, one of which formed during that time.  I also helped  another new club in my home Area get through their first year as a club, and was holding membership in two clubs as well.  Needless to say I was heavily invested.

One of the amazing things that came from that year and the earlier achievements is that when my term as Area Governor ended I was only a few projects away from achieving the highest level of recognition that a Toastmaster can receive: The Distinguished Toastmaster designation.  In November of that year I received a plaque from Toastmasters International and was recognized buy the District in front of my peers at their Fall Conference with a medal.

What to do then having achieved far more than I had set out to? I started focusing on  going through the projects again with new ideas and being held to a higher standard. I took on the role of Club President again for a year and now with that term over, I’m taking what I feel is a well-earned hiatus.  A full list of achievements can be found at the end of this post.

I will forever recommend Toastmasters to everyone.  For improving self-esteem, bolstering your presentation skills, managing meetings, anything at all, it can help improve you in those areas.  As human beings we thrive on communication and Toastmasters provides a means by which we can become the best communicators we can be.

Thank You Toastmasters.

Record In Toastmasters:

Communication:

Competent Toastmaster designation (10 speeches) – November 2004
Advanced Communicator Bronze designation (10  advanced speeches) – June 2007
Advanced Communicator Silver designation (10 advanced speeches plus two education topic presentations) – June 2009
Competent Communicator designation (10 speeches) – January 2011
Advanced Communicator Gold designation (10 advanced speeches, large education presentation, mentor new member) – August 2011
Competent Communicator designation (10 speeches) – June 2012
Competent Communicator designation (10 speeches) -March 2013

Leadership:

Competent Leader (old) designation (serve on executive for 6 months, present two education  projects) – June 2006
Leadership Excellence designation (completed High Performance Leadership project) – July 2009
Competent Leader designation (completed Competent Leadership manual) – February 2011
Advanced Leader Bronze designation (serve on executive for 6 months, present two education  projects) – March 2011
Advanced Leader Silver designation (served as Area Governor for 1 year, Mentored new club, completed High Performance Leadership project) – October 2011

Executive positions held:

Sergeant at Arms (Cambridge Toastmasters) – July 2004 – June 2005
Sergeant at Arms (Cambridge Toastmasters) – July 2005 – June 2006
VP of Membership (Cambridge Toastmasters) – July 2006 – June 2007
VP of Education (Cambridge Toastmasters) – July 2008 – June 2009
President (Cambridge Toastmasters) – July 2009 – June 2010
Area 61 Governor – July 2010 – June 2011
Mentor for Com Dev Toastmasters – April 2011 – April 2012
Secretary(Cambridge Toastmasters) – February 2012- June 2012

President (High Noon Toastmasters)- July 2013 – June 2014

Sponsored 4 New Members (High Noon Toastmasters) – June 2013

Distinguished Toastmaster – October 2011

(earned Advanced Communicator Gold designation and Advanced Leader Silver designation)

 

October 1, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Grandfather, My Friend

Two years ago my grandad passed away. He was so much more than my grandfather though.

He was a hard worker, a family man, and proud.  He was easy to talk to and always genuine and a terrific listener.

My mothers parents were divorced and when my grandad married for a second time, introduced his second wife to us grandkids by only her first name, Kaija.  As a result we have never called her any term related to the term grandmother.  It also makes it hard to refer to her when mentioning who she is to others.  This isn’t about her though.

Whenever my family went to visit him and Kaija, he found some way to keep me occupied, usually by way of a book and fhere was a room I could sit in to do so where I wouldn’t be disturbed. As i grew older, i would more often be sitting in the living room with the adults listening to them talk but he made sure to include me in those conversations.  He always gave off that aura of genuinely caring about what you thought and said.  He’d remember and inquire the next time you talked and always  showed that genuine interest.

He was encouraging and positive and his jokes would be low key but effective and you almost never saw him without a smile.  He made sure I understood that you need to always be learning because when you stopped doing so you had stopped living.  For someone such as myself who was studious but also very introverted when younger this was important.  It became even more so as I got older and was fighting through the hardest times of depression.

Gifts were books and puzzles and anything to challenge the mind.  If he saw you cared about something than he cared too and would be sure to ask.  He focused on the positive and when he did have concerns he was careful in how he brought them up, maintaining that degree of positiveness.

He always came across to me as much more than an older relative because of all of this,  He was a friend and a great one at that.

When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease it pained me.  To say I was selfish when it reached the point where he was placed in care is an understatement.  I didn’t go to see him after that point, clinging desperately in my heart and mind to the idea he would get better, that doctors would find a way that he could beat it,,that he would still be that man I had grown up knowing,  I didn’t want to see him and have my heart absolutely break if he didn’t know me.  

When he passed away it ignited in me a renewed need to live up to what he had taught and instilled in his understanding supportive way within me.  I revisited with a renewed vigour those things in my life I had once loved and put aside.  I would show his support and encouragement was well-placed

He was an incredible man and I only knew a very small fraction of what he had achieved in life,  No amount of words I could write would ever be enough to get across what a truly amazing and inspiring man he was to know.

Two years ago the world lost a good man, a great man.  Kaija lost a husband, my mother and uncle lost a father, my family and my uncles family lost a beloved part of their family.  I know his passing affected us all in ways I can not comprehend.

For myself? I lost and said goodbye to a grandfather who was also a friend and confidant.  A man I truly felt heard me when I spoke and who believed in me and wanted me to succeed no matter what it was at.  We shared birthday celebrations as we were both September babies and we chatted and bonded over coffee and good food.

My grandad was a great man.  His legacy and his influence and his memory will be with me always.

grandad

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not An Ending But A Change

In my last post I had mentioned I had finished up with Cambridge Toastmasters.  That did not mean that I was done entirely with Toastmasters itself at that time.  Far from it actually.

At that time I was still Club President of High Noon Toastmasters and I had no intention of walking away mid-way through my term.  My term as Club President concluded at the end of June and I have since then been the immediate Past President.  Those on the Club Executive at the time I was finishing my Presidential term knew I would be leaving soon after my term concluded.

What I am doing is quite simply choosing not to renew my membership when dues come up again.  The dues period runs from October 1 to March 31 and from April 1 to September 30.  Now the fact that I left Cambridge Toastmasters at the end of one of those periods and am leaving High Noon Toastmasters at the end of the current one, well that might lead one to believe it is motivated by finances.  While it may play a small part it is by no means the driving reason.

I came to Toastmasters to improve my self-confidence and self-esteem.  Along the way I learned a great deal more though and am by no means the same person I was when I started.  Now for as long as I can remember my grandad (Edward) had instilled in me the idea that when you stop learning you stop growing.  Soon after he passed away two years ago I came to a bit of a realization.  I was moving in place more than I was learning and growing.

With that in mind (and motivated by a fairly new friend), I turned my attention back to writing with the hope of someday being published.  I found myself growing quickly in this area as I began to focus on it, an old passion once more ignited.  I was learning and I was growing.

I was still running in place though when it came to Toastmasters.  The longer that continued the more I realized that I wasn’t just running in place but that I was feeling burnt out.  I needed a break.  I needed time to recharge.  That’s what I’m doing now.  I’m taking a break from Toastmasters.  I’m going to recharge and while I do that I’m going to increase my focus on writing, give it all the attention it deserves.  I’m going to learn and hone my craft.  I’m going to grow as a writer and when I feel that itch, that drive again I’ll be back at Toastmasters.

September 8, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Just Shy of 11 Years

In June of 2003 I joined Cambridge Toastmasters and slowly worked my way through the Communication and Leadership Tracks, occasionally speeding up when I noticed I was close to a recognition level.  When I earned my DTM, the highest level of recognition that Toastmasters offers I was ecstatic and eager to earn it a second time.

I have always been of a mind during my time in Toastmasters to step back when possible and let newer members move forward.  I want them to grow, to achieve everything they want to in Toastmasters, and so often that meant I took a step more towards being a guide, a mentor, and offering encouragement.

I’ve seen growth in so many of those members who came along after I did and have made life long friendships in the process.  

I have never tried to kid myself though that if it came down to it that financial challenges might some day put a halt to my ongoing journey with Toastmasters.

The realization that this time had arrived came in early 2014 and so when it came time to renew my dues in March, I made a very difficult decision and opted not to renew with a club I had been with for just under 11 years.  My last night as a paid member I had made sure I was signed up to be a speaker.  I wanted to share everything that night that Toastmasters had done for me.  I wanted those in attendance to know just how much it had changed my life and how much I believe in the organization.

Lapsed members came out in support.  The Toastmaster I was mentor to was on the verge of tears, and my evaluator was one of the best in the club and a longtime member who had joined not too long after I had.  In short it was what I wanted.  As close to a final meeting as I could have hoped for.

Some day, when things are better financially I know I will return and have already proven I can’t stay away as I’ve visited the club 3 times since March.  After all I still need to earn that 2nd DTM.

Thank you for an incredible 11 years Cambridge Toastmasters

September 6, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment