Sunday, June 20, 2010

Speech ~ So Far

Speech class has felt very much like boot camp. Monday through Thursday from 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with two short breaks for three weeks. My boss has been kind enough to support my efforts and so I’m working an afternoon shift for these three weeks. We are already done with week one, and I have given two speeches: A short introduction and a personal narrative. It went much better than I thought. It felt ok, even sweeping around the class, trying to make eye contact with the whole class, which in the past would have thrown me off and brought me to an immediate standstill. The only thing I observed is that my heart started pounding right before I knew I was up, and then it went back to normal, leaving a few butterflies in my tummy.

With only the night to prepare for my personal narrative, I woke up the following morning at 4 a.m. to rework it, I read it aloud over and over with an online stopwatch, so that I stayed within the 3 to 4 minute allotment. I stayed at the computer for three and a half hours tweaking, re-reading, pretending to look around the classroom. How difficult could this be—I was talking about myself, my solo trip to New Orleans. It was very difficult! What I had written out was what I would submit for a written story, but when I read it aloud, it didn’t sound natural. I stumbled and made modifications based on how it would be as a speech that should sound natural, opposed to a piece of written work, made simply for reading quietly or aloud word for word. Such a different animal for me. A very challenging one.

The day of my presentation, I walked up to the front of the classroom of about 27 students that sat in a U shape. The people in the back seemed so far away. I started off fine, looked up from my paper. When I got to my second point, I had to look down at my paper again. I had highlighted certain spots, so that I wouldn’t have to fumble to find a key word to get me back on track. What I realized is that I was changing certain words and phrasing and left out a few details— how I had originally planned on presenting my story. It felt strange. Why did I do that? What happened? I suppose it was nerves. By my closing point, I started feeling that lost feeling. I paused, I looked down, looked back up and was able to give my conclusion, which was to not let anyone discourage you from doing something you want to do, no matter how big or small; and to not be afraid to do something alone because you might be surprised by what you learn about yourself. I had at least kept my conclusion pretty much on par with what I had originally intended and had written. The important thing is I got through it! It felt amazing to actually complete the speech and not feel too nervous.

When each of the speakers finished, the instructor had our fellow students first give feedback to us and then he would give us his feedback. I was surprised that one person said I looked comfortable up there and that I had good eye contact. Another said she liked my “moral.” One student had a very helpful comment. She said that I could speak up a bit and not be afraid and to yell at us is how she put it. “We’re not mean, just let it out” she said. Interesting. Yes, that would be tricky. To get comfortable enough with the audience to be more expressive and change my tone, as I am when I am comfortable. It was a good start to the week and not as scary as I thought it would be. Already, I have accomplished more than I could have asked for.

My next speech is on Tuesday and I have been busily working away on it. This is the most time consuming class I have ever taken, and of course that has a lot to do with the condensed version. I also think it has to do with my need to feel comfortable enough with what I’ve written down to be able to recover if I lose myself up there. I have spent so much time thinking and rewriting this next speech, and for this one, I’m not even writing it as I approached my other speech, which is to write it out in essay format first. This one, I’m writing and tweaking strictly as an outline. I’ve already changed it up and reordered one point based on reading aloud and realizing that I need to try and inform the best I know how in 4 to 6 minutes with visual aids. I still haven’t decided my visual aid delivery: PowerPoint or poster boards. I may have to do both because the instructor said to have a backup plan if the technology isn’t cooperating that day.

The instructor told us to select a topic we’re passionate about, but since it’s an informative speech, our opinion doesn’t matter and shouldn’t really come into play. This is a great exercise for me in presenting objectively about something I am passionate about, which is astrology. I thought it would be a fun topic and something different. It’s also a challenge because I have to narrow my focus down and at the same time try to make it useful in such a short amount of time. Maybe there’s a lesson there: Don’t choose such a broad topic to begin with.

Lastly, one of the assignments to prepare for this speech, which was fun, was to come up with a survey of 6 to 10 questions to gauge our audience’s interest and knowledge level on our topic. We then would take these anonymous surveys and adjust our presentation’s based on this feedback. One of my survey questions was, “What is your overall impression of astrology? Nonsense Useful Fun.” And I asked them to circle all that apply. Another question was to rate their curiosity level on a scale of 1 to 10. Out of the 27 students, most are curious, but there are at least 6 people whose impression of astrology is nonsense with a curiosity level of 2 to 3. And that’s ok. For the curious to very curious, I hope not to bore them and to present something new.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


More pieces to my puzzle emerge as thoughts fly in—a young girl reading aloud to herself—the backs of shampoo bottles, memorizing, acting the words out with gestures, sometimes in a British English accent. And of Junior high, how this girl and her friends would call other friends and pretend to be a radio station calling with a prize, and other little scenarios begin to surface. This girl had forgotten and at the same time she still does it, but doesn’t even realize it sometimes, she will fall into character when she’s speaking of what someone has just said and say it with their voice.

A series of contradictions seize me—that of a painfully shy child collide with a mischievous side and one that perhaps liked a bit of the dramatic—or so this is what it appears as I look back for a peek into how it is I am here at this most interesting fork in the road. It seems the fork will always be there for me. I don’t see a definite fixed line. My roads and forks seem more chaotic and sometimes they seem to be going nowhere, but I have faith in my road and enjoy every bit of the ride, however small it seems.

The theme that emerges is creativity, expression—bodily and other—and fun. Comfort with behind the scenes, yet curious about what it’s like up front, pulled out from behind the curtain.

The seed began to germinate when on St. Patrick’s day, I felt spunky, and when I greeted my co-worker, I said, “Good mornin ta ya laddie,” in my best Irish accent. I was in a silly mood. He laughed,and because when we’re talking of our office mates, if I’m recounting what they say, I revert to acting it out in their voice, with their gestures. I can’t help it. It’s just happens. So he said, “I can see you playing a character for an animated movie or something.” I then laughed and told him that it sounded like a lot of fun.

I always like to scan the adult education brochures and the community college schedules. One never knows what new offering they will add. I came across a two-hour section called, “Introduction to voiceovers” that was offered on May 10. When I read the description, it sounded interesting, and I had the seed slightly planted from my co-worker’s comment. At the end of the course, we had the choice of receiving a detailed voice evaluation.

A week had gone by and I wasn’t so sure after hearing my voice. It seemed a little flat for the script that I read, but of course this was my first time doing anything like this. I received an email that the voiceover company was backlogged and hoped to contact me soon with their evaluation of my voice. Honestly, since I had not heard back, I had put that idea out of my mind and moved on. It was a fun two hours and now it was back to reality.

On June 9, I got the call for my voice evaluation. I received the call at work. The person left a message and I was so excited to hear the feedback that I asked the boss if I could go into the empty office and “clock off” to make a phone call. He said, “Yes…Do I have a choice?” And I said, “Of course. You could say no.”

“Go on, I’m just giving you a hard time,” he says. He can sure be a rascal. I briefly told him what the call was about. He furrowed his brow. He said it sounded like a scam because I had told him about the “Masters class,” which is not cheap. It’s an intensive weekend. You learn more about how to “make it” and you walk away with a demo and support.

One of my many life lessons: Continue to learn to take compliments better and to “own” whatever strengths I may have and find ways to do good with them, however that may translate.

I must say I was pleased and felt energized after receiving my evaluation. The instructor that recorded us made detailed notes while listening to our voices and gave her opinions about the type of work she thought would be good for our voices. She said I had a tranquil voice. For narration, she could see or I should say hear me narrating educational software, telephone greetings, e-learning, instructional self-help books. For commercials, she hears an all American mom, which was a shock to me. She could see me doing child care, non-profit, health care, herbal teas and any type of natural, organic foods. She said that I could would on my inflection—I need more peaks and valleys in my voice for commercial work; and I also needed to work on bringing the emotion into my voice. It could sound a little dry. I told her it would be fun to do a Pixar movie. She said she most definitely could see me as a toy or one of the animals. Children’s books too. I would love that!

After I received the evaluation, I felt compelled to do some more research. I came across an article that suggested a person take improv classes to improve with delivering dialogue and really honing their acting ability as it applied to voiceover work. I felt a new found excitement. I found a local improv class; however, the time didn’t work with my schedule. The good news is that now I have a new door to explore, one that I probably would have never even known about or even walked toward, had it not been for a silly day and a comment, an inadvertent nudge from a co-worker. And this is something I would pursue for the sheer fun of it. I’m not looking to “make it big,” but of course if that happened, I won’t say no. I’m also in no rush. I did go out and buy a microphone and have read a few pieces aloud to get more comfortable with my voice. I’m sure everyone has a microphone by now, sometimes I’m a little slow in catching up with technology and such.

Public Speaking class begins on Monday. This is my first step, as some of you know, of taking that dragon by the horns and walking right into my fear—a fear that I have held my whole life and in many ways has stifled my ability to move along and grow in certain aspects of my life with swiftness and grace. But, I’m ready. I don’t feel as scared this time, and I owe a lot of that to the support that I have received here at Red Room, so thank you from the bottom of my heart for your constant support and kindness—I don’t forget and I carry these shared kindnesses with me.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I draw close—a bee sipping nectar, an ant drowning in sweetness, pink veins and yellow stamen—each flower, each individual, different—yet a certain sameness that binds.

Each, a unique beauty, expressed in a million and one petals falling softly on open palms.


I don't know the real names...

Seeds and Fluff

Flower Pod

White Star

Pink and White

Cherry Pink

Blue Jewel

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tufts of Cotton

It’s Wednesday. I like being in the middle of the work week, balancing between Monday and Friday. This last week I felt slightly off balance, though. Before I left home, I crouched down to the lower shelf of the bookcase near the hallway to find a book to take for the BART train ride. I looked, pulled out Celtic Magic by D. J. Conway. I reflected back on when I found this book. I wasn’t looking. It was in a used bookstore and it was only $2, so I decided to buy it. I haven’t read it yet, only peeked inside from time to time. I put the book back on this Wednesday. It wasn’t the right book for the day. The next book I pulled was Thich Nhat Hanh’s Our Appointment with Life: Discourse on Living Happily in the Present Moment. A very slender book. Yes, this was the one I would select. Whenever I feel a little off kilter, I can count on Nhat Hanh to breathe perspective into my life. I looked up and began my walk to the train station, headed for work. As I looked out into the hills and up into the sky, the clouds looked as heavenly as ever. They were splayed out like long strands of love. I had the feeling that God was having a fine day, a light and airy day, filled with grace.

The day felt as though it was off to a good start. I felt calm walking through what to my imagination was the ocean floor, with the brownish red dirt and little weeds and tall weeds with colorful caps, sea creatures, shells and rocks, that were my path. I looked forward to reading on the train. I have read this short discourse before, but it was great to revisit the wisdom, to be reminded about compassion, impermanence—living in the present—without a tight hold on the past or the future. I needed this on this particular day. So many gems in the commentary, one of which says:

“In order to return to the present and to be face to face with what is happening, we must look deeply into the heart of what is and experience its true nature. When we do so, we experience the deep understanding which can release us from suffering and darkness. (pg. 35).

At work, I took the clouds and sun with me. I felt cloaked in peace, smiling more than usual, walking with a lighter, slower gait, compared to my usual quick step. I was in my element with the seaboard, the sunshine, the earth.

The workday came to a close. I grabbed my backpack, said goodbye, and made my journey back home. As I was approaching a stoplight, I had noticed an Asian woman coming from the opposite direction. I stepped up on the pavement to wait for the signal to turn green. I set my backpack down and leaned down to get my cap out because the sun was so strong on my face. As I stood up I heard, “Excuse me.” I turned and it was the Asian woman. I thought she was going to ask me for directions. Instead she held out a coin the size of a fifty cent piece and said, “Would you like this?” I took the coin with writing on it and began reading and then I said, “Oh” out loud. I was thinking, she’s going to want money, which I didn’t have, and she may begin going into a long discourse, but instead, because I stayed fixated on the coin, trying to read the print that reflected the bright light, she said, “Do you read Spanish or English?” That I took so long reading, may have indicated that I couldn’t read the English words. I should have said both, but I said, “English.” On the first side of the coin it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16.”I was about to give the coin back to her when the light turned and she said, “Keep it.”

“Thank you.” I stood slightly speechless. I flipped the coin around to the other side and read, “Dear Heavenly Father, I believe that Jesus Christ your Son died on the cross for my sins, was buried for three days and rose again. Thank you for giving me eternal life through him. Amen.”

She hurried along toward the BART station and I trailed slowly behind, turning the coin in my hand and feeling touched, blessed in some way.

There were two other people in the intersection. What made her decide to give the coin to me, I wondered. Did I have a certain look on my face. Did I look in need of the beautiful words on the coin?

On the BART train platform, headed toward home, the clouds—still speaking to me— looked like tufts of cotton that a child has pulled into rays of light; and also they were patches of cotton, smoothed across the sky with a painter’s knife, textured, varied, and then I saw an opening like an eye down the center of this wondrous skyscape.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Zebras and Flowers

When I woke up Saturday morning, I had the desire to visit the Oakland Zoo, a zoo that I have not been to since I was a little girl. When I drove up to the gate to pay the car parking fee, I felt giddy inside and could not remove the smile from my face.

One thing I do appreciate about myself is that I truly have no problem revisiting a place, a time, an experience with the eyes of a child. I hope this never leaves me. My gut tells me I will always have this quality. I will one day be the little old lady, with the same childlike qualities and fine and deep wrinkles with just the right amount of agelessness that is revealed in my smile and in my eyes.

And the little girl says, "Mom, is this the jungle?"

The mom replies, "It's not the jungle. It's just the zoo."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Audubon Zoo – New Orleans

For one of my excursions, I took a streetcar into the garden district to the Audubon Zoo. It was nice being able to sit back and look at the beautiful homes that we passed. I took pictures, but it was a challenge to capture the beauty of the homes on a moving car. The spot on Canal Street where I hopped on the streetcar felt as though I could have been in San Francisco. The long city road with street cars in both directions, some high rise buildings and hotels, workers and tourists walking--the dizziness of a big city.

Here are a few of the residents of the Audubon Zoo. They seemed happy and well cared for. Since I was there close to closing, I saw some of the animals being taken to their night quarters, and you could tell that they enjoyed their routine and had a good relationship with their keepers. It made me feel good. I felt as though I had the zoo to myself because I got there just as large groups were leaving. I actually only had two and a half hours until closing, so I had to take it in at a medium to fast pace. I wish I had more time. I missed the petting zoo and the carousel, but I had a wonderful time being so close to the animals.

I love flamingos and I don't get to see them often.

I didn't write down the name of this bird, but isn't he cute? I love his hairdo.

Moss covered trees are quite a sight. The moss is so soft like silky seaweed.

A few familiars.

Louisiana Swamp.

Pretty flower and feathered beauties.


Happy Parrot Drum Dance. This parrot was so playful and started dancing, so I turned my camera to video.