Category Archives: toastmasters

The Radium Girls

Below is another Toastmasters speech I gave – just last night, actually! It was inspired by a book I read recently, called The Radium Girls; The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, by Kate Moore. I’d known of the Radium Girls before, but I’d always been curious to know more. Her book is a very moving look at the lives these women led, many cut extremely short by their radiation poisoning. If you’d like to know more, I highly recommend the book.

Also –  I notice that when I write my speeches, they don’t really follow the same cadence that my writing does… maybe because I’m not writing for anyone to read it, but to hear it, and I find that when it comes to speaking, I’d rather use simpler words so my tongue doesn’t get tied up.


It was a beautiful spring day in 1922, but Mollie Maggia barely noticed the weather. She had been suffering for months with an intense pain in her jaw. It had all started with a toothache. Her dentist pulled the tooth, but instead of healing, the wound became a festering blister. More teeth began to ache; in fact, her whole jaw ached. Her dentist treated her for a common inflammatory condition to no avail. He continued to remove her teeth, one by one, until one day when a piece of her jaw came out in his hand. Upon examination of it, he saw that it was brittle and full of holes. He was baffled, and still, could offer nothing more than strong painkillers.

Mollie was a dial painter for the US Radium Corporation in Newark, NJ. She had been working there since she was 19. Now, she could no longer work at all, due to the blinding pain in her mouth. She would die months later, when the necrosis reached her jugular, and she bled to death. She was 24 years old.

By then, the dentist suspected that Mollie’s work with radium had caused her gruesome demise, but he couldn’t prove it. Her autopsy was performed by a doctor hired by the radium company, and the official cause of death was marked as syphilis.

Working for US Radium Corporation had been considered a privilege for the women who’d been hired there. This was the company that had invented Undark, the luminous paint applied to dials, watch faces, and instrument panels used by the military in WWI. The company had advertised for young women with “nimble fingers” to perform the delicate task of painting the small numbers and fine lines. The young women, ranging in age from 14-20, came from working-class, immigrant families. They felt fortunate to find the dial painting jobs, which was easy and fun work and paid well.

As for working with radium, there was no reason for them to be concerned. The girls had no reference for the hazards of exposure to radiation. Radium had only been discovered 20 years before and had been given positive monikers like, “The Wonder Element” and “Liquid Sunshine.” In fact, Radium was marketed as a tonic to cure everything from impotence to dull smiles. You could buy radium lingerie, radium butter, radium toothpaste, radium water and even radium-laced cosmetics. Of course, most of these products did not actually contain any radium, as it was far too rare and expensive, but it made for some great marketing campaigns.

Undark, the luminous paint, was mixed several times a day by the painters themselves. The recipe was simple: a pinch of radium powder, which was a mixture of radium + zinc sulfide, a dash of water, and a dab of adhesive combined in small crucibles at the workbench. Then, the girls would dip a fine-point brush into the mixture and settle into the task of painting the tiny numbers on the watch faces. Even a brand-new brush would soon lose it’s fine point, and so they were taught a technique called lip-pointing to keep the brush in top shape. It was simple – they’d just put the brush to their mouths and shape it with their lips, just as you’d point a piece of thread before putting it through a needle.

Many times, they asked if it was safe to do this, and each time, they were reassured that it was. Radium was not harmful, they were told. In fact, it would be good for them! It took a while to get used to the grittiness of the paint on their tongues and lips, but it didn’t taste bad, and so the girls soon became used to the routine – lip, dip, paint. Every few strokes repeat – lip, dip, paint.

The studio where they painted had a large expanse of windows and skylights, and so it was a bright, cheery room. The girls chatted happily as they worked, feeling positive about the direction their lives were going. Thanks to their salaries, they’d been able to ease the burden on their working-class parents. They were paying off debts and saving money for the future.

At lunchtime, the girls would put down their paintbrushes and push their work to the side. They were allowed to eat lunch at their work tables, as long as they didn’t get food on the dials. The dust from the radium powder covered everything in the room – the tables, chairs and floor continually hosted a light coating of it.

In order to check their work, the girls would bring their trays of painted dials into a darkroom to have them inspected. It was there that they noticed each other’s lips glowing in the dark, and that the powder that had fallen onto their dresses gave them a luminous, otherworldly glow.

Everything about the girls glowed – they were happy young women, at the cusp of their adult lives. Newark was a bustling city with a lively night scene. The girls would wear their best dresses to work so that they would be dusted with the luminescent powder, and at the end of the day they’d paint their fingernails and sometimes even their teeth with the leftover paint, so that when they went out in the evening, they would literally glow in the dark. On some occasions, they’d even bring the leftover paint home to share the novelty with younger siblings.

It wasn’t until Mollie Maggia died such a horrible death, that the girls began to really question the safety of radium. By then, many of them had moved on from the US Radium Corporation and were working in banks or stores, or had gotten married and stopped working altogether. Many, like Mollie, began having tooth and jaw pain, while still others found themselves with inexplicable aches and pains in their hips and knees. These once-radiant young women were becoming decrepit, as if they had aged an entire lifetime in just 5 years.

The Radium Girls in New Jersey were not alone in their plight – there were also radium dial-painting factories in Waterbury, CT, as well as outside of Chicago. The conditions were the same – the girls all lip-pointed, and worked in ignorant bliss of the dangers of the radioactive paint.

In each case, it took years before the true cost of their professions would be realized. One by one the girls became ill, and eventually it became clear that the common denominator in their afflictions was the radium paint. It may have been too late to save themselves, but they would not go down without a fight.

Filing lawsuits against the powerful radium companies was not easy. Each company fought back hard, their lawyers using every trick and loophole they could to evade responsibility for the girls’ troubles.

Nevertheless, the Radium Girls persisted. Groups in Newark and Chicago rallied together to fight for compensation. The newspapers chronicled their plights, giving the groups names like “The Ghost Women” “The Living Dead” and the “Women Doomed to Die.” It took years, and many of the women died along the way, but in the end they won compensation and brought light to the issue of workplace safety. These women championed women’s rights, workers rights, public health and environmental justice. Thanks to the Radium Girls’ efforts, there began a legacy of labor standards that persists today.

Touchy Feet

My next toastmaster speech project is supposed to be a “touching speech,” It’s practicing  how to convey emotion through storytelling. Instead of just saying “Billy felt sad because he wasn’t invited to Joey’s birthday party”, you’d tell the story of Billy watching his friends pass by on their way to Joey’s party and wondering why he wasn’t invited.

I’ve been trying to decide what to do for my touching speech. I thought about telling my Color Me story, about the time the girl at school rudely suggested I use markers to give my hair some color. But then I had a crazy idea. Something that would really push me beyond my comfort zone in a big way.

I could tell the story of that day at the water park when that boy made a scene over my alien feet. I could talk about how ever since then, I have gone to great lengths to hide my feet – not only from strangers, but even from most acquaintances.

The kicker (see what I did there?) of it all would be that I would either walk up to the lectern in my bare feet, or I would wear shoes I could easily slip off to reveal my feet as I told the story.

But I’m not sure…. is it cheating to use my body as a prop? Is it overly dramatic? Would I be able to do it without peeing my pants in front of everyone? I practically hyperventilate at the thought of it, yet that only makes me want to do it more.

I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.

What would you do?

A Tale of Two Squirrels

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Toastmaster speech. Last night I gave speech #3 from the Advanced Communicator Series – Storytelling. The project was to tell a story with a moral. The examples they gave were The Tortoise and the Hare and another one about mice and a cat. I struggled to think of what moral I should share, and how to tell an original story. I floundered for about a week, before finally settling on the idea of two squirrels as my characters, and giving them the relatable storyline of eating too much and being lazy and getting fat over the winter.

The night before I was to give the speech, I looked at the book again and realized that the story was supposed to have a twist! A TWIST! As if it wasn’t hard enough to come up with a silly story with a moral, now I had to scramble to think of a twist at the last minute. (I know, I should have read the instructions more thoroughly, but I have a bad habit of reading things real quickly and then being like, yeah, yeah, I got it…)

So, below is what I ended up with… what do you think of the twist?

A Tale of Two Squirrels

Once upon a time, in a forest not far from where we are now, there lived two squirrels. Filbert and Marshall were the best of friends. They had grown up chasing each other up and down the trees, and playing hide and seek behind the fallen logs and rocks of the forest.

Over the years, they continued to keep each other company – spending their summers finding and sharing delicious fresh fruits and leaves and working together to store up food for the winter. One winter, they discovered birdfeeders hanging in a backyard not far away, and every afternoon the two of them would gorge themselves on juicy black sunflower seeds. Then, their bellies full of seeds, they would head back to their nests to take long cozy naps. After several winter months of stuffing themselves with their stored acorns, plus the rich birdseed, and spending the rest of their time asleep in their nests, Filbert and Marshall had grown quite fat!

Spring was just around the corner, and every year, the forest animals would celebrate with a big party. It was Filbert’s plan that this year he would meet a nice female squirrel to settle down with. He was not about to show up at the party looking flabby and out of shape. As he sat in his nest one chilly afternoon, he counted out the weeks left of winter time. “Hmm,” he said, as he consulted his calendar, “only three weeks until Spring… I’d better get to work!”

He thoughtfully planned out his diet and exercise routine; penciling everything onto his calendar so he wouldn’t forget.  Once he had finished, he called out to Marshall, who was curled up and napping in his nearby nest. “Marshall – if we start today, we can easily burn off our winter weight by springtime!”

Marshall lifted his head and opened one eye. “Um, no thanks bud. I’m sure the weight will melt right off once the weather warms up and I don’t need the extra insulation.” Then, he covered his face with his tail and went right back to sleep.

The next morning, Filbert ran laps up and down his tree until he was out of breath. Marshall watched him from a neighboring tree, chewing on an ear of corn that he had found in someone’s compost pile. “Dude. This corn is really sweet – I’ll share if you like!” Filbert ignored him and began doing some pull ups on a small branch by his doorway.

That afternoon, when it was time to raid the birdfeeders, Filbert treated himself to a few sunflower seeds, but then he made his way over to the birdbath and took a several big gulps of water. “Hey buddy,” said Marshall through a mouthful of seeds, “There’s plenty of food here for everyone!”

Later, while Marshall fell into his post-meal coma, Filbert practiced yoga in his nest. At the end of the day, he looked at his calendar again, and put some checkmarks next to each of the tasks he had accomplished. He smiled to himself, knowing that he was making progress toward his goal.

This went on for the next three weeks – Marshall continued to live and eat like it was his last day on earth, while Filbert stuck to his plan of daily exercising and being conscious of how much food he ate. Marshall made fun of Filbert for being so worried about his body. “We’re squirrels!” he said, “Our metabolism is so high, we can eat whatever we want!”

Soon springtime arrived, and Filbert was looking better than ever. He proudly inspected his reflection in the pond. His diet and exercise plan had worked! Not only had he lost the weight, but he’d even built up some muscles! He felt great, and was looking forward to flaunting his new body at the party.

The night of the party, Marshall and Filbert inspected each other. “Does my hair look ok?” Marshall fussed, as he tried to pat down his cowlick. Filbert picked a few crumbs out of Marshall’s fur and brushed him off. “You look fine,” he said, “how about me?” “Man, you look great,” said Marshall, “I should have followed your advice and started taking better care of myself weeks ago.”

“Failure to plan is planning to fail,” said Filbert, puffing his chest out proudly.

All of a sudden, a hawk swooped down from above and snatched Filbert away so quickly that Marshall could hardly comprehend what had just happened.

As this is the kind of fate that regularly befalls small forest animals, Marshall mourned the loss of his friend, but went on to the spring forest party without him. There he met a beautiful lady squirrel, and they fell in love and lived happily ever after.

The moral of this story is that you can plan all you want, but you never really know how things are going to turn out in the end.

Toastmaster Speech #10 – Go Play Outside

Last night I gave my 10th and final speech in the Toastmaster Competent Communicator book. It was an inspirational speech and had to be between 8-10 minutes long. 

I really struggled with this one. I think I felt intimidated by the idea of speaking for 8 minutes straight without notes. The previous speeches were all 5-7 minutes. 

I surprised myself by actually memorizing most of the text below. I did end up going off track a couple of times, but for the most part I stuck to the script. 

My dad came to watch me speak, and as weird as this sounds, I think that may have made me more nervous. But I was happy he was there. 

Anyway, here it is. Below that is a list of the other speeches I’ve given. It has to be submitted to TM headquarters and then I’ll get a certificate to prove that I’m a Competent Communicator. Hah. I think I have a lot more work to do before I really feel competent!

Good evening fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Take a moment to think back to when you were a kid. I’m willing to bet that one of the phrases your mother used most was, “Go play outside!”

If you were like me, you played outside in any season and any type of weather. Like me, your mother may have had to call you in out of the rain or the snow for fear of you getting sick. If you were like me, you could have stayed out in the elements, no matter what. There was so much to do and explore outside. It was exciting! We rode our bikes every day. We spent hours playing games and inventing imaginary worlds. We could be as loud as we wanted – yelling and laughing was acceptable outdoor behavior. Even I was alone, I enjoyed exploring the great outdoors, pretending to be a scientist or a researcher like those I saw in National Geographic articles. I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid who loved playing outdoors.

Fast forward to your current age. How much time do you spend outside now? How often do you go play outside?

As adults we get sucked into lives that keep us indoors. In this day and age, there is so much to distract us from the natural world. If you have a corporate job like I do, chances are you are stuck inside from morning till night. You’re entitled to a lunch break, but often times it’s easier to stay at your desk to catch up on work, or, if you’re like me, your co-workers see the lunch hour as just another time to schedule meetings.

As adults, we make excuses for not spending more time outside. Even those of us who have a great love of the outdoors can find it a struggle to actually get outside and enjoy it. There are projects to work on. It’s too hot/too cold/too buggy/too humid. If I go out now, I won’t have time for some other thing I need or want to do. I often find excuses to remain in front of my computer until it’s too late. Even in the morning, many well-intentioned alarm clocks have been silenced because I would rather sleep a little longer than wake up early enough to grab a walk or a half hour in the garden before it’s time to get ready for work.

“Well, so what?”, you might be thinking. Grown-ups are supposed to work, be responsible and not be running around outside building forts or collecting bugs, right?

I’m here tonight to tell you that there’s a very important reason why you should make the effort to go play outside every day. And that is: Nature is good for your health!

Think about all the stress that builds up every day from sitting in an office, being bombarded with emails, demands from your boss, that never-ending to-do list, not to mention all of the mental clutter from constant stimulation of your cell phone. You’ve heard that exercise can help alleviate these stressors, but if you are exercising in a gym while listening to music on your phone or watching something on a screen, you are not getting as much stress relief as you could.

Playing outside has a positive effect on your physical and mental health. Disconnecting from electronics and immersing yourself in nature improves mental functioning by decreasing stress, anxiety, anger and depression. Exposure to natural light improves sleep by regulating your internal clock. Not to mention the increase in vitamin D that comes with sun exposure. Getting outside and getting moving helps relax those tense shoulders that come with being hunching over a computer all day, and of course, physical activity helps with weight loss and overall health.

Not only is spending time outside good for your body and mental state, it goes even deeper than that. Being in nature strengthens our connection to our life source. Whether you believe in creation or evolution or something in between, there’s no denying that we are all part of nature on a biological level. We’re not robots. Being in the great outdoors and taking time to observe the world around you can put you in your place. Think about laying out under a shimmering sky of stars, or walking beneath a canopy of tall trees. You can feel just how grand and magnificent nature can be. To me, this is a great reminder that the stress I’m feeling or the problems I am up against in that moment are really temporary and minor in the grand scheme of things.

There is a reason that so many hospitals and nursing homes incorporate beautiful gardens in their campuses. Nature is healing. All that greenery is soothing. It is relaxing & comforting. Nature can also be invigorating – think of being outside when a storm is brewing – you can feel the tension in the air. The gusts of wind and darkening skies awaken a primal energy within us.

Going outside doesn’t require any special kind of skill or talent, and it doesn’t even have to cost anything. You simply open your door and step out. Here are 5 things you can to make it a habit:

1. Set up an area to sit outside. Even if it’s just a folding lawn chair, it will do. Having a designated space to relax will remind you to take some time out of your busy day to unwind. You can even make it a policy to eat meals outside when the weather is nice.

2. If you work at a company that is as meeting-happy as mine, you can mark an hour in your calendar as “busy” or even “out of office” to prevent people from scheduling meetings with you during this time. I like to take my lunch breaks in a park that is close to work. It allows me to take a break from the stress of the office, even if it’s just for a short time.

3. Bring your exercise routine outdoors. Many of the things you’d do in a gym can be brought outside. Walking, running, biking, hiking and swimming are just a few outdoor activities that allow you to enjoy being outside while also getting your exercise. Our state has many beautiful parks and hiking trails where you can get a workout while enjoying the great outdoors. Remember, nature is the original gym – and you can bring dog!

4. Make outdoor experiences a part of your social life. Invite friends for a hike, or choose restaurants with outdoor dining areas. Right here in Wallingford we have Gouvia vineyard, where you can bring a picnic lunch, buy a bottle or two of wine and enjoy the views at any time of day.

5. My personal favorite outdoor activity is gardening. It gets you outside and gets you focused on something tangible. You can choose to do as little or as much as you like. You can start small, by growing a few plants in pots on your deck, or you can go all out and have a huge vegetable garden. Much of the fun of gardening is trying to grow different things and learning from the experience. Planning and caring for a garden is a great way to get in touch with nature in this busy, high-tech, high-stress world we live in.

So while the weather is nice, make sure to step away from your computer, put down your phone and go outside. Look up. Notice the contrast of the green trees against blue sky. Listen to the birds. Take a deep breath. Let yourself feel like a kid again. You won’t regret it.

Toastmaster Speech – Minimalism – Paring Down to Get More Out of Life

This is the text of the minimalism speech I gave at a Toastmasters meeting in April. I got a lot of good feedback, mostly of people who agreed that they wanted to part with a lot of their crap. A couple of guys insisted that as Connecticut Yankees, they could not part with their stuff because they were sure they’d need it at some future time.

You might notice this is a lot of text for a 5-7 minute speech. I always write more than what I actually say, because I tend to panic and forget half of what I wanted to say once I am in front of the crowd. This was the first speech I presented without using any notes. 

Have you ever stopped to think about how much stuff you own? I recently saw a statistic that stated that the average American household contains over 300,000 items. Our culture places a lot of importance on stuff. There’s a perception that the more stuff you have, the better off you are. The more stuff you have, the wealthier you are. More stuff equals more happiness, right? Our society is constantly encouraged to be buying and acquiring more stuff. Americans have a lot of stuff, yet America ranks #1 in rate of depression the world over. Could it be that we’ve gotten our priorities a bit mixed up?

In my own life, I have fallen into the trap that more is better. As an artist, I was always eager to acquire more art supplies. When I was young, I had basic art supplies. I used them all the time, and I enjoyed them. As a young adult with a job, I enjoyed collecting art supplies, imagining the fun I would have using them. Through the years, I have tried many forms of artistic expression, from drawing to painting to sculpting to jewelry making. As a result, I have boxes and boxes of supplies for each of these activities. You would think this would make me happy, but it doesn’t!

Now I have so much stuff that I don’t know where to start or what project to work on. It’s overwhelming and discouraging. I spend more time trying to organize my stuff than actually enjoying it.

Does this sound familiar to you? Perhaps it’s not art supplies, but your children’s toys, or the endless piles of laundry you’re folding and sorting and putting away.

Before I even heard of minimalism, I knew there must be a better way. I wanted a simple life, but I needed a little help figuring out how to get there. There are endless websites and magazine articles out there that tell you how to organize and store all your stuff. But that doesn’t get to the root of the problem – that you just have too much stuff!

That’s where Minimalism comes in. What exactly is Minimalism, you ask? Does it involve running off to live in a cabin in the woods for a year, like Henry David Thoreau? Does it mean you have to get rid of all your stuff?

No! Minimalism isn’t about depriving yourself of anything. Minimalism is the intentional focus on the things you value most and the removal of anything that distracts you from that. It’s about taking control of your life and not letting your stuff take control of you. It’s clearing away the physical clutter, but also the mental clutter that comes with it. It’s about living mindfully, being conscious of what you’re choosing to buy and why.

The more stuff you have, the more your stuff controls you. When you have less stuff, you have less to worry about, less to insure, less to clean, less to organize. Imagine being able to find anything right when you need it, because you have just what you need and you know exactly where to find it because everything has a home.

Declutter your home and consequently your mind, and have more space to play, to create and to enjoy the important things in life, like family, friends, relationships. So where on earth do you start?

It can be daunting to look around your home, at the overstuffed bookcases, the attic or garage filled with boxes of old things, your wardrobe overflowing with clothes.

It is suggested that you start by minimizing stuff in a small space or relatively simple area, such as the bathroom. A simple rule of thumb is, if an item is not essential, remove it. If you are trying to decide whether to keep or purge certain items, put them in a box with the date clearly marked. If after a few months you haven’t needed them, it’s likely you can live without them. A handy tip for decluttering your closets is to put all the hangers backwards. After you’ve worn something once, put it back in the closet on a hanger that is facing the right way. At the end of the season whatever is still hanging on the backwards hangers is something you did not wear, meaning you don’t really need or want – so get rid of it.

What do to with all this stuff? You may pass items along to family or friends if it will be useful to them. You can also turn your old stuff into cash. In addition to garage sales, there is Ebay and Craigslist. You may prefer to just donate your old stuff by taking it to the Goodwill, but a local homeless shelter or women’s center would be thrilled to receive quality items. Of course if the items you’re getting rid of are too worn out to resell or give away, there is always recycling or trashing them completely.

Once you complete the challenge of paring down and decluttering, there’s the additional challenge of keeping it that way. It requires some mental effort, but this pays off. Remember, the more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you. The fewer things in a home, the easier it is to clean. Personal belongings are not the key to happiness. Learn to enjoy things without owning them by making use of libraries, museums and parks.

When you pare down your possessions, you simplify your life. When life is simple, you are less stressed, and when you are less stressed, you can focus on important things like spending time with people you love instead of spending time organizing or cleaning all your stuff.

If having a clutter-free home doesn’t appeal to you, maybe this will: You can’t take it with you, and so someone else will be going through your stuff after you’re gone. Save them some grief by keeping it simple.

When you go home tonight, take a look around your house. Is it a calm and welcoming place? Or is every day a battle to contain the chaos? If you don’t feel relaxed and peaceful when you arrive home, perhaps it is time to try a minimalistic approach.

Toastmasters International Competentent Communicator book, Speech #9 – Persuade with Power

My Happy Place

After a good month of not doing any Zentangles, I finally spent some time over the weekend making a couple.

 Usually I just draw them in black ink and then use a pencil to shade and add some depth, but I decided to experiment with color again.

I love color, but sometimes I find it hard to work with because I want to use ALL THE COLORS!  

Using all the colors can get a bit murky though. Or it can become an assault on the eyes.

Last night, our Toastmasters club held a speech contest. We had three really great and inspiring speakers. When I got home, I was pretty wired, so I decided to bang out a quick drawing before settling in for the night.
I really like how this one came out. It really just flowed so easily.

When I got in the car today and heard on the radio that Brussels had been attacked, I kept thinking about this drawing and how soothing it was for me. Weird, right?

I wish the terrorists would lay down their arms and pick up some art supplies. Maybe that will be my life’s purpose- to encourage art, not war.

It’s Only Tuesday

I’m not one to wish the days away, but going back to a full work week after two nice, long holiday weekends is rough.

Last night I gave my 6th Toastmaster speech. I might be starting to get the hang of it. I spent a ton of time preparing a PowerPoint presentation to accompany my speech, which was on the art of Zentangle. One of the slides was a mini slideshow of some of my favorite pieces. Other slides showed the various steps of creating a Zentangle. It was gold.

One of many Zentangles

I arrived early and took pains to rearrange the room so we’d be facing a blank wall where I could project. We got the projector out of the closet and set everything up. The projector had one of those old connectors with the weird trapezoid shaped plug with all the little prongs in it. My computer doesn’t have a port for that kind of plug.

My heart fluttered for a moment. But wait! There was a USB cord in the case with the projector!

The projector was on, shining it’s bright blue glow on the wall. My computer was on, with the PowerPoint open and ready to perform.

But no.

The cord did not seem to comprehend that I wanted it to transmit the presentation to the projector. Various meeting attendees offered suggestions. Try Windows P! Function 8! Hail Mary!


There would be no presentation to go with my speech.

If I wasn’t still chilled from the 9 degrees outside and if I had functional sweat glands, I would have been sweating like a sinner in church.

Instead, I contemplated my choices. One, I could gather my things and leave at my earliest convenience. Or two, I could work with what I had.

Fortunately, I had considered the possibility of technical difficulties while I was preparing my speech, so I brought the book I had planned to mention, plus my Zentangle travel kit and a bunch of tiles.

Because I’d been rehearsing my speech so much, and also because Zentangle is near and dear to my heart, talking about it was easy. I was still pretty nervous with having to think on the fly and I really had no idea how I was doing on time, since I’d timed my speech to go along with the slides. But it all worked out okay. I used the book as a prop and I used the items from my kit as props, and of course, the main attraction, the Zentangle tiles.


During the break, I spread the stuff out on a table and a handful of people came up and looked at them and talked to me about it. So that was cool, and by then I was so glad to have gotten the speech over with that I didn’t care about the technical issues. Ok, I cared a little. I spent a LOT of time putting that presentation together and no one got to see it.


All in all, I’m happy I completed the 6th speech and I realize the fact that I got thrown a curve ball only served to educate me further in the importance of being prepared for anything. Only four more speeches to go and I will get my Competent Communicator Certification! Woo hoo!

I’ll close with my brilliant closing line from my speech last night:

I hope this brief overview has inspired you to try your hand at the art of Zentangle!

Embrace the corny. 🙂

Two Years!

Today is EEC Chick’s Two-Year Anniversary!

What a long, strange trip it’s been.  Ok, not really. I have yet to exceed 100 posts. That’s rather sad. I had envisioned this blog becoming the next Dooce, except with less poop references. It’s probably a good thing I haven’t gone viral though – I don’t know if I could handle it.

If I can say this without sounding too full of myself, I think my blog is pretty great, even if it hasn’t won any Bloggies (yet). The fact that it led at least one family to the NFED and to the wealth of knowledge and support they found there means that my efforts have been worth it.

As I review a handful of my posts I am realizing that I spend a lot of time saying that I want to write more / I will write more at some future date / I would write more if I could only find the time, etc. Well, that’s got to stop! If I bore myself reading it then I’m sure its boring you!

So let’s get on with life. It’s been two weeks since I last wrote, and I will tell you why. First, Dave and I have taken on a ridiculous number of home-improvement projects that we wish to complete before winter comes.


It started off when I simply wanted to paint the kitchen. One thing led to another and suddenly the kitchen was gutted, we were laying down a new floor and painting everything. Now that it is almost done, I’m really glad we did it, but it was a bit difficult for a few weeks there while the refrigerator was in the living room and all our kitchen items were scattered like chaff in the wind. We ate a lot of takeout.

Last weekend, as I was finishing painting the kitchen, Dave had already moved on to the next project, which was painting our wooden deck and ramp that leads to our front door. It’s not technically a wheelchair ramp – the guy who lived here before us was a cyclist and I guess he kept his bike in the house and then rode it gleefully down the ramp, rather than carrying it down the stairs when he left. Anyway, I’m digressing. So Dave began power-washing that last weekend, and then this weekend we painted it. We started on Thursday evening and finished today. Technically the balusters still need another coat, but they will have to wait.

Last night was the Super Harvest Blood Moon Eclipse (did I get that right?), which was beautiful. Once the moon was totally red/orange, my eyeballs couldn’t seem to comprehend that it was the moon. It just looked like an orange ball in the sky for a while there. Also, when it was not being eclipsed, it was so bright I could barely look at it. Woo!

Last week – no wait – the week before, I gave my 5th Toastmaster speech. I wrote it two days before giving it, so my delivery was not as smooth as it should have been. I ended up looking at my notes way more than I should have. I’m signed up to give another speech next Monday. Have I written it yet? Nope.

Last week (for real this time), I had to present a work project to the Steering Committee. It was my first time presenting to the President and the CFO, plus a handful of other important people. I don’t normally sweat very much, thanks to EEC. Even if it’s hot as Hades outside, my armpits will be as arid as a desert. However, there are apparently different sweat glands associated with the cold sweat that breaks out when one is stressed. Because I was sweating bullets before I went up to the board room. But once I got up in front of the group, clicker in hand, PowerPoint slides gliding across the screen, I was fine. One of my colleagues told me she was really impressed with my delivery. Yay.

Up next on our home improvement project list is to finish painting the cabinet doors and put them back in the kitchen, and then move on to painting the living room. I’m crossing my fingers that the living room will be fast. If it is fast then I might re-paint the bathroom too, but that might be pushing it.

Up next in my work life is preparing for a trade show I’m going to in Vegas at the end of October. I’m pretty excited that I will get to go out west again this year, and I’ve never been to Vegas before. I’m hoping I will have some free time so I can go out and explore a bit. I should have time to see a show at least one of the nights I’m there. I’ll be sure to blog about it like I did with the Colorado trip.

Well it is past my bedtime here, and the end of a glorious 3-day weekend for me, so I should wrap this up.

Thanks for stopping by! Let’s keep doing this!

Toastmaster Speech #4

Last night I gave my fourth speech at Toastmasters. As usual, I waited until the last possible moment to write the speech (guess how I spent my 4th of July?) I was editing it up until an hour before I had to go live. I even had to use my notes because I was afraid I was going to forget several points I wanted to make.turtlespeech

That being said, it apparently turned out really well! Either that, or everyone at my Toastmasters club is just super nice and accommodating.

I was going to post the speech here, like I did with my Icebreaker Speech and my Tribute to the Cavalier. My third speech was essentially the umbrella story, so I didn’t bother to post that after I did it.

Anyway, I was going to post my speech, but I was thinking about it as I lounged in bed this morning and I realized that this one might be one that I go back to and revise, rework and improve.

The title of the speech was “Why I Volunteer for the NFED”, and I briefly touched on how I am affected by EEC and what that means. Then I talked a little about how the NFED got started, and how I started out in denial about my issues, but then finally decided to get involved. I talked about how I volunteer as a liaison, a blog manager & contributor, and also about my own blog.

My conclusion was about how I volunteer because I want to give back what I have received from the NFED community over the years. I explained how nice it is when someone contacts me to tell me that my writing has inspired them, or that my example gives them hope for their child’s future.

I also put together a little handout with a brief description of EEC and ectodermal dysplasias, a photo of me and some of my EEC friends at a conference, and then links to the NFED site and blog, and to my own blog. I brought the latest copy of The Educator, the NFED newsletter, and I passed that around too.

Of course, as often happens when you wait until the last minute to do something, you realize you’ve left out
details, or that perhaps you could re-phrase something, or throw in a little anecdote or two.

So I think that’s what I will do… and then maybe I’ll even get someone to record the speech next time and I’ll post it here.

I think it’s interesting that the more I talk about EEC and ectodermal dysplasias, the less shy I am about it. It’s pretty cool to think back over my life and see the progression I’ve made with it… that I used to turn pink with embarrassment if anyone so much as suggested that I was different in some way. Now, I stand up in front of people and actually point out my flaws. Whaat!?

PS. I am now the VP of Public Relations for my local Toastmaster Club. Doesn’t that sound so official?

Tribute to the Cavalier

I participate in my local Toastmaster’s club. Toastmasters is an international organization that helps people develop speaking and leadership skills. Here is the latest speech I gave, shortly after I bought my new car.


Recently, I bought a new car and while this is a good thing, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad in saying goodbye to my old car. And so, here is a tribute to the Cavalier.

I was so young and naïve when we first met. I was only 21 years old and had little experience making financial decisions, much less in the art of negotiation. After a few awkward visits to dealerships to test drive cars, I asked my Dad to help me.

I decided I wanted you pretty quickly. The price was right, and I liked how you looked, with your shiny alloy wheels and sparkling forest green paint. The fact that you came with a moon roof pretty much sealed the deal for me. Your cute coupe body, with the little spoiler on the back seemed young and sporty and cool. I would later lament your lack of back doors, and the absolute enormity of your front doors, which made climbing in and out nearly impossible at times.

Despite some of those minor complaints, I think that you and I had a good long run. We were together nearly 13 years. And what a difference that time has made.

In the course of 13 years I have lost friends and loved ones, and made many new friendships along the way. Your passenger seat held many special people in my life, from former boyfriends to the current boyfriend, all of my family members and nearly every friend I’ve had. You’ve even put up with a few dogs and cats scratching up your seats over the years!

Together, we drove far and wide. Early on, we took some lengthy trips – the longest being a trek up to Niagara Falls (the Canadian side). We also drove up to Maine and through New Hampshire. We visited Cape Cod, and of course innumerable trips to Vermont. You even climbed Mt. Washington! We took a few trips down south too – to visit Gram in New Jersey, and even to the Jersey shore.

Of course we shared lots of less exciting times together, like the all years of commuting to and from UConn, where crumbs collected around your driver’s seat from all the times I ate breakfast on the way. We’ve endured many a traffic jam together, and you really impressed me with your ability to forge through snowy, icy weather, even as I clutched at your steering wheel with white knuckles.

I’ve worked at multiple jobs, all of which you sat patiently through all kinds of weather until I emerged from the building at the end of the day. Seeing your familiar shape in the parking lot was like seeing a friend waiting for me. I could relax once I was in the seat with the door closed and my music playing.

You patiently tolerated my mood swings. Your steering wheel withstood blows from my fists during moments of anger or frustration, and your windows remained intact despite my loud, off-key singing in moments of happiness.

You did not make it through 13 years unscathed. I scraped your rims against curbs while attempting to parallel park in many a city. The lower part of your front bumper was scuffed and eventually cracked and broken, thanks to repeatedly being parked to close to the curb. There were plenty of scratches and small dents from other car doors and grocery carts in parking lots.

Towards the end, your paint job really showed it’s age. I sometimes joked that you had eczema because of the dull, white circular patches that covered your hood and roof.

Once, we lost control while driving on a snowy road and rammed headfirst into a guard rail. I tensed myself and waited for the airbag to inflate in front of me, but it didn’t. Instead, we came to a stop and I pulled to the side of the road to inspect the damage. There was a slight dent, and one headlight had popped out, but otherwise we were unscathed. Or so I thought. The next weekend, you overheated while I was driving home from a weekend in Vermont. I later found out that you had a cracked cylinder head.

Normally that would be a death sentence for a car, and it was then that I first seriously considered saying goodbye. But I wasn’t ready to part with you just yet. Instead, I paid the mechanic a lot of money to fix your engine, and soon you were up and running again. You ran nearly perfectly for the next 5 years. Of course there were occasional issues and repairs, but nothing that broke the bank.

In the end, you had over 160,000 miles on your odometer. The CD player no longer functioned, thanks to my drink spilling into it the day we hit the guardrail. The lower edge of the driver’s side was terribly rusted, due to a careless moment when I scraped you against something and wore your paint right off.

Despite all of that, your seats were comfortably worn, and the various stickers in your windows were reminders of places I’d been and experienced I’d had. You fit me like a glove, and were as familiar as a family member.

You taught me many lessons, such as that I should be more diligent about cleaning the road salt and snow from a car so that the bottom doesn’t rust out, and that routine maintenance and preventative care will keep a car happy for a very long time.

And so, as I drove away from the dealership in my new car, I glanced over at your familiar form sitting alone in the customer parking area. I know that most likely you will be sold to a junkyard, where you will be taken apart piece by piece, or worse yet, crushed into a giant cube of metal and plastic and sent to a recycler.

Of course I don’t like to think about that. What I will think about is all the good times I had with you, and how you gave me the best years of your life and more. If you could speak, I hope you would agree that our time together was well spent and that we’d had a good long run together.