Welcome to Toastmasters, Make Yourself Comfortable.

Recently I attended the Spring Conference for Toastmasters. By my estimation, the group of attendees was a few hundred.  For sure, for me, it was a larger turnout than I ever imagined. This conference came across to me as a celebration. Distinguished Toastmasters, friends, and guests came to Manchester, New Hampshire from Maine, Vermont, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. There are in excess of 100 clubs in District 45 and this district is one of 87 districts Internationally.

If you don’t know, Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization operating clubs worldwide. The purpose of Toastmasters is helping members improve communication, public speaking, and leadership skills. Toastmasters International has a membership of 313,000 folks worldwide in 14,650 clubs, in 126 countries.

There is a special title of Distinguished Toastmaster. For this title, the Distinguished Toastmaster completed specific course work and completed the path of self improvement. This person took advantage of the plethora of opportunities available to members. The Toastmasters program builds communication skills as well as leadership skills. You think you are not a “leader” personality? That’s not true. Everyone has potential, it’s a matter of unlocking the door to your potential. Unlocking the door is what Toastmasters does best for those inclined.

The curriculum is easily customized for any person and it is solely the person who sets the pace to achievement. No rush, no harassment along the way, you go your own pace like you’re walking through the forest of a beautiful day.

There is no mandatory fee to attend meetings. That’s right, it’s free. However, to become a member and take advantage of club resources, the membership fee, or club dues, is due in March and September for semi-annual dues. No worries if you want to join between March and September, it is a simple pro-rated amount.

Getting back to the conference, you may wonder why would I be involved in such a conference? Well, I’ve been a member for about six months. I took a three-year break from my career track, and when I wanted to go back to work, I found I was rusty in some skills. I considered hiring an executive coach. Let me tell you, that’s a pricey way to try to get your mojo back and stay relevant in business today.

I immediately liked the members of Toastmasters when I first attended a meeting. They were honing their skills in a safe environment. My club, now officially named the Greater Derry Speakers Toastmaster Club is small by standards of many other clubs. I am confident that we will double our size, maybe even triple, in the coming months.

Over the conference weekend I spoke with various members in clubs of a range of sizes. Realizing the small size of my group nearly winded me to think about getting up to speak to a group of 40 or more regularly. Yet that’s why I do this. That’s why I signed up. To become better and expand my comfort zone. So the writer in me could share exponentially. Also so the business woman in me can hold her own in a board room, or be a leader at a time when a leader is necessary. Integrity, respect, service, and excellence are the values of Toastmasters International.

Toastmasters is a prime example of engagement in today’s social world. I felt awed upon arriving at the conference that so many people would travel far to meet and share. It’s like an AA meeting for socially awkward people. Attendance becomes addicting, but it’s a positive addiction. The best outcome is confidence, self-esteem, that glowing feeling of power and courage that comes from success.

Newbies are warmly welcomed and not encouraged to go any further than their comfort zone will allow at first. As a newcomer, relax and take it in, adjust, watch how people engage. Most important is to realize that those folks are just like you and me. If you would like further information about the organization or how to join, click here.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you are moved or inspired to reach your greatest potential.

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Conversation is both an art and a science today

I have to say upfront, most people are nice. I subscribe to the thought that there are more good people than bad in the world. Whichever way you think might reflect your upbringing, or the media channels, including social media platforms that you see every day.

I write on the topics of health and wellness, as well as business branding and marketing. While writing is something I do in a solitary space, much of my time not writing is being social, or socializing, as some still call it. Today, however, socializing has the sound of days gone by. Do you remember teachers hollering in school hallways to stop “socializing” and get to class? I do.

Three decades past high school the core of “social” remains the same yet the word has morphed into new contexts that may refer to any one of the many social media outlets. You are part of the social culture when you take part in social media.

In the context of careers and professionalism, it’s networking. I network online as well as in person these days, chances are that you do too.

Our devices are network operated through the vast, invisible Internet. One time, early in our relationship, I asked my husband to explain in simple terms what he does as a software engineer, “I work on the back-end of the Internet,” he said. Visualize that for fun.

We network to meet new people, explore new opportunities career related. Call it what you want, in its most basic form, we talk to strangers every day. We share and sometimes over share. That’s ok, though. It’s a blip in time and probably already forgotten. Yep, that fast. Those moments are forever on the Web, seconds in our head.


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Nutrition for Your Best Friend

Have you ever read a dog food label? Canine experts and nutritionists are teaching a new aspect of pet health by integrating fruits and vegetables in to the meat diet that dogs love. Yet it made sense to me years ago that the best nutrition is holistic, varied, and balanced.

About a decade ago, a good friend of mine said she chose not to feed her dog anything from the pet food aisle of the grocery store. Her beagle, Petunia, ate what the family ate at mealtime. That’s a great thing for those who make the choice however; canine nutrition needs are not the same as those of a human. With that in mind, my choice back then was to try balancing the two needs giving treats of carrots instead of ordinary brand name dog treats.

The balance part of nutrition lies in ratios of meat, vegetable, starch, fruit, fat. Does that sound familiar? It should, it’s in line with human dietary needs yet again, the ratios are different for pets, and even then, you need to consider the size and age of each pet.

Canine nutrition is a whole science in itself. That has always been the case; it’s just that the subject of nutrition is in the media every day for humans. Marketers and food developers have caught on to the opportunity. From there, consumers caught on too. Today’s pet owner seeks the best nutrition possible for their money and pets. Education about pet food is in order for any owner. Don’t be fooled by labeling of pet food, just as you are cautious about human food. You must read the label.

My own experience lies in the last 20 years. In that time, I have rescued 12 dogs, they in turn, adopted me. Not one of them died of cancer. In fact, they lived beyond their expected life span, to 15 years of age, one in particular made it to 18. I credit that in large part to a varied and balanced diet.

I have four dogs living now and eating dog food that lists ingredients of which I am familiar. I can read the names and know that they are real nutritional ingredients. I have high standards for my dogs and myself. Processed food is no good for any one. When you read a dog food label, avoid ingredients you can’t name, such as, Ethoxyquin and Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA). Would you eat that? You wouldn’t want your dog eating it either.

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Inspiration for the Yogi in You

Like many people, I turned to Yoga when I was having a difficult time and needed balance. How do you know if you’re out of balance? It’s time to refresh and enlighten your spirit when life is leaving you feeling run down. Prior to my first lessons in Yoga, I did not know about finding peace within me.

Learn your Chakras

Chakras are to Yoga what a pulse is to our physical being. Chakras are the spiritual pulse. By name, the chakras are the Root Chakra, the Sacral Chakra, the Solar Plexus Chakra, the Heart Chakra, Throat Chakra, Third Eye Chakra, and the Crown Chakra.

Yoga sessions typically start with sun salutations and end with a prayer posture honoring the crown, the third eye, the throat, and the heart. Yoga postures, practiced with commitment, exercise each of the Chakras. You know when you have achieved that balance because your heart opens to the magic of your body. This was my experience. You set up that important mind-body connection for peace within you. You emanate peace to all whom you interact with in your day. This happens with time.

Yoga emerging today

Yoga comes to us by way of India thousands of years ago, a natural part of Hinduism. Indeed, transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau was a Yoga master in his lifetime. In fact, if you are familiar with Thoreau’s work, including “Walden Pond,” you know he sought a simple life that included abundant nature, as well as time in solitude with nature. Thoreau, in his late twenties, turned to solitude and meditation, devoting himself to the practice of Yoga at Walden Pond.

Today, approximately 20 million Americans practice Yoga to find similar inner peace, heal and create space within the body, and discover beauty for the mind. Yoga studies conclude significant health benefits to those who practice with consistency.

Why Yoga?

A study published in the International Journal of Yoga confirms that Yoga enhances muscle strength and body flexibility. Practicing Yoga also promotes and improves respiratory and cardiovascular function. Yoga helps in recovery and treatment of addiction, stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Yoga also improves sleep and enhances overall well-being. Yoga is a practice in which there is always room to grow physically, mentally, spiritually. Being mindful of the Chakras will bring strength and good health to the yoga practitioner. Establish your practice with a commitment to encourage peace and light to all.


“Chakra Cleansing.” Chakra Cleansing. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2015, http://chakracleansing.net.
Woodyard, Catherine. “Exploring the Therapeutic Effects of Yoga and Its Ability to Increase Quality of Life.” International Journal of Yoga 4.2 (2011): 49–54. PMC. Web. 7 Mar. 2015.

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Exposure to guns at home

My dad was a gunsmith when I was growing up. He was an avid gun rights supporter and subscribed to the NRA. There were guns in our house, expressly contained in his den. I recall many Thanksgiving holidays interrupted by deer hunting expeditions.

My younger sister and I grew up with stern commands to not go into his den when he wasn’t home. The door stayed open most of the time. Looking back, I marvel at the memory. From the doorway, I remember rifles and pistols, and ammunition everywhere in his den. Usually, he was repairing them or adjusting them for someone else. In spite of this exposure, I don’t know a great deal about guns. What I do know, is how much more prevalent they seem in society today, and that tragedy often occurs in homes with guns.

Many say that gun related tragedies in the home are not more prevalent today than, say, 30 years ago. It is just that we are more enlightened due to widespread use of the Internet. I agree. With more awareness of needless fatalities, the subject is a hot topic for politicians and researchers.

However, last week, a three-year-old girl died in an accidental shooting. Her father had cleaned his guns in the living room. He did not store them safely before leaving for work.

This is how accidents happen today. It may well be why such a tragedy did not happen to my family back in the day, when my dad worked on his guns in one exclusive room of the house. Kids are curious, and even the most well-behaved child is tempted at times. Childlike curiosity is one of the reasons parental vigilance is critical.

Today, society is gun radical. People feel the need to carry open or concealed, depending on state gun laws. It is more about being afraid today, a perceived need for protection.

In addition to that little girl, an eight-year-old boy died by an accidental gunshot wound by his 11-year old brother. The brothers were playing in the basement with firearms that were left unlocked and loaded, according to Capt. Doug Hunter for The Daily Record.

In June of this year, Everytown.org reported that at least 100 children died in unintentional shootings between December 2012 and December 2013. That is two deaths per week. Think about this.
Accidents in the home, involving guns occur too often to go unnoticed today.

I want to avoid overuse of statistics here. I also want to refrain from the implication that Washington needs to do more, or that laws need writing.  I have nothing against responsible ownership of firearms.   In my opinion, these tragedies are child endangerment, death resulting.  Yes, it ought to be a crime. Frankly, if two dead children per week are not sobering enough to engage gun owners to unload and secure their weapons, I don’t know what is. I don’t have faith that Federal or State government can make our private homes any safer.

What do you think?

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