Miracle in Mexico

Written by PJ Reece from Mexico

speaking in Mexico
PJ is second from the right.

There was a time when I might have begun this blog-post-in-absentia by apologizing for not being with you for the next four meetings.  But Toastmasters has taught me that saying “sorry” doesn’t serve the presentation.  Much better to push on with confidence.

To stand up with confidence—that just may be the most important skill I’ve learned at Toastmasters over the past three years.  Is the audience not nourished by a confident speaker?

Let me tell you a story.  It happened yesterday.

I was meeting with two other writers here in Mazatlan.  We were sipping our espresso cortados at a beachside café (sorry!) and discussing the annual Library Benefit event for which, this year, our writing group is responsible.  We are obliged to create some kind of literary discussion in which the audience can participate.  Since our critique group has no “leader” as such, who was going to moderate this tricky business?

After much humming and hawing and prevaricating from my two amigos, I replied:

“Listen, I’m not saying that I think I’d do the best job, but I will say that I know I can stand up with confidence.”

It’s true.  And yet, three years ago the very idea would have been anathema to me.  In fact, I couldn’t quite believe what I’d said.  I’d never said such a thing in my life.

But back to the meeting… Mike sat back in his chair and said, “Look, the palms of my hands have stopped sweating.  Thank you, PJ.”

Sue said something to the effect of, “Oh, God, what a relief.”

And there I am thinking, “Thank you, Morningstars, for this personal milagro, this miracle.”




The Promise and Breakfast

This post was written by PJ Reece, President and today’s Toastmaster

Our quizmaster this week, Sheila Cameron, asked: “What does Toastmasters promise?”

There were a few attempts to recall the official promise we utter when inducted as members—to attend meetings, fill roles, and so forth.  Later, I realized that Sheila was referring to my introductory remarks as chairperson.  I had suggested that first impressions are a promise.  A guest shows up and is immediately impressed (hopefully) by what?

Friendliness, enthusiasm, intelligence, humour, sincerity, opportunity…and, this week, breakfast.  Alas, we can’t promise breakfast every week, but “You will be fed,” I said.

That’s a Morningstars’ promise—you will be nourished, you will be fed.

I think that’s the answer Sheila was looking for.

Had Sheila then asked, “Were we fed this morning?” I would have answered, “Do dogs bark?  Does Edith Piaf sing?”  You bet we were nourished.  Let me explain:

John Gaudaur spoke about dogs’ eyes.  “What does Bowser see?” asked John by way of an introduction.  Apparently dogs aren’t much interested in television because their sight is so “fast” that 24 frames per second is too slow for them.  That and the fact that TV has no smell.  Clearly no doggy-nourishment in a sterile box.  I don’t think anybody in the room is going to look at Bowser the same again.  Well done, John!

Patricia Hetherington then spoke about “carpe diem.”  Just do it.  And above all, don’t look back.  No regrets, please.  “Je ne regrette rien,” sang Edith Piaf.  I regret nothing.  Well, Patricia speaks from experience.  Her passionate life is all the evidence you need that even mistakes nourish the organism.  Patricia is in constant bloom.

Regrettez rien—it’s a slogan worthy of a Morningstars’ banner.  It means, stand up and deliver, give it your best shot and no need to apologize.  Why?  Because even before you leave the hall you’re already working on strengthening your weaknesses.  Each of us is a work-in-progress.  When I see someone like John Gaudaur grow and improve and bloom as he is, well, I’m nourished by it.

We’re a group of many individuals, but we can’t do this alone.  We are evolving together.

That’s not a promise, that’s a fact.



Wild and Reckless

This is the latest in Reece’s Pieces: “Wild and Reckless”

ice cream
Wild and Reckless

“Wild and Reckless,” she said.

I had asked the counter girl at Mike’s Place to tell me which of their hundred ice cream flavours was the best-seller, and then I sampled a scoop.  It tasted like a combination of every flavour I’d ever eaten.  It tasted great!

“Flavour” strikes me as the appropriate word to describe the otherwise ineffable quality of our Morningstars club.  Every year I notice how the club changes.  Some months the place rocks with newcomers and at other times it hums with a quieter proficiency.  So what about this season?  What flavour will it be?

Speech topics influence the Morningstars experience.

Right now we’re getting a taste of Ben Rusiusiak’s passion for quantum physics.  And Sharon Borosevich’s search for meaning.  And Sheila Cameron’s yearning simply to be standing in front of us.  There’s no flavour sweeter than that!

A changing membership alters flavour.

In the last three years I’ve seen some powerful members take sabbaticals—Patrick Muncaster, Charlie Jeffrey, and now Kate Wotton, to name just three.  And they tell me that Margaret Page was once a Morningstar, is that true?  In the meantime our ranks have been bolstered by returnees like Bill Baker, and of course the lifeblood of any group—new members.  Nothing spices up our club more than NEW MEMBERS!

And what about the fact that we’re all evolving?

In a single year, Katherine Scott and Sharon Borosevich have evolved into true leaders.  David Elstone has become an impromptu speaker extraordinaire.  And what about John Gaudaur?  He now holds the keys to the joint!  As for myself, Patricia Hetherington recently congratulated me on creeping out of my shell.  It’s true.  I’m learning to step through the invisible veil of self-consciousness to connect with my audience.  We all are!

Speech competitions are feasts of new flavours.

All right, I confess that most of you gagged on my speech about “killing my mother,” but I’m cooking up something more palatable for the upcoming Humorous Speech Competition.  Elstone better show up with his speech about “salads,” since he’s already teased us with a nibble.  And if you’re not aware of Greg Lewis’ sophisticated sense of humour, you’re in for a treat.  Bill Baker is a riotous flavour all to himself.  Where does he get all those goofy hats?

All in all, that’s a lot of flavour scooped into our Wednesday morning meetings at Harmony Hall.  What should we call our unique and ever-changing essence?

“Wild and Reckless” works for me.

Evolving Together – Shaping Our World

As  we move into the new Toastmaster year on Sept 4 our new club president PJ Reece has graciously accepted the arm twist to write a monthly dispatch. This is the first.

Rose Pointe Poet's Society (8)As a final tribute to the slogan that’s been hanging over our heads for the past year, I decided to “step up to my next level” and take on the President’s role.

Ironically, one of the first jobs as President is to devise a new slogan for the coming year, and “Evolving together” appeared immediately and out of nowhere.

I let it marinate in my doubt for a couple of weeks and then put it out to the rest of the executive.  The result is something more meaningful:

“Evolving together – shaping our world”

I’m sure it means something slightly different to every member, and I’m looking forward to hearing our many different interpretations.  In Inspirations and Speeches and maybe even Jokes, we should feel free to put our own twist on it.

For starters, here’s what it means to me:

There’s power in togetherness.  I know, I know, our North American culture loves its independence.  Look at me living the life of the solitary writer.  And I love it!  But what is independence all about?  It means freedom.  Well, it turns out that independence may be one of the greatest obstacles on the path to freedom.

I have come to see the truth of this by pondering what is it that we want freedom from?  Freedom from what?  What prison am I in?

Clearly, unanimously! I want freedom from the outmoded habits that prevent me from growing.  I need freedom from what I call my “small self”.  That’s why I joined Toastmasters—to bust out of my fear of public speaking.  My fear is a lazy old habit.  The good news is, I’m shedding that fear.  Frank told me as much after last week’s Poet’s Society meeting—thank you, F.C.

And, of course, I’m not doing this alone, am I?  And for that I thank you all.

So I’m glad that in some small way I’m evolving.  But what good is evolution if it doesn’t help nudge our culture toward more inclusivity?  I’m trying to do that in my writing, and more significantly in my public talks.  Perhaps I’m suffering delusions of grandeur, but I’ve been volunteering speeches all over the map.  And without Toastmasters I wouldn’t have known where to begin.

That’s the long answer to the question “what does our slogan mean to me?”  Here’s the Tweetable version:

“For us to evolve—as individuals and as a society—we need each other.”

NOTE:  Katherine Scott has suggested that this short dispatch serve as the first of a regular monthly feature from the club President on our Morningstars website.

Sounds good to me.

A la prochaine.

PJ Reece