The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘speech’

Toastmasters – Make Them Laugh

I’m working on the Entertaining Speaker series for Toastmasters and I recently completed speech number three: Make Them Laugh. I ended up going a fairly different direction than what I wrote here … but I’m too lazy to re-write this for the sake of the blog. Just know that a large part of the speech was the terrible joke at the end, which I have NOT written out because: 1, I already knew it, and 2, if I ever meet someone in person and they make the mistake of asking me to tell this joke to them I will relish the opportunity. It is truly a terrible joke, and I love telling a very long version of it.

Enjoy the speech?

 

Make Them Laugh?

This speech is for ‘make them laugh’ from the entertaining speaker series, and frankly, I find that ridiculous. Make them laugh!? Make them LAUGH? As though that is not perpetually my objective.

As someone who strives to be funny more often than not, I can tell you that it warms my heart when I get a good laugh, it makes me happy in the moment and later. But, I’ll add, as someone who strives to be funny, I have been not funny … A LOT.

A lot a lot.

Part of that is sense of humor – it’s a subjective thing, and I have something of an odd one.

I can’t tell you any secrets behind humor, or how to make a speech funny, but I can tell you two things: first, times I have thought, ‘this’ll be good’ … and it wasn’t, and having experienced that particularly cruel silence after a failed joke MANY TIMES, I can also tell you how to handle it like a champ.

I

I had managed, somehow, to successfully interview for something called the Engineering Leadership Development Program at my last company. It was competitive, and a fair amount of work. The program lasted three years, and during that time you worked your regular job, and then took night classes, and got a master’s, and had a big work project that was all on your own time. One week every year we had a conference where all these type A high-strung, highly competitive people would get together, take classes, and size each other up.

And also, I was there too.

The program was oriented towards young engineers, I think you had to have less than five years of experience to join. In one of the conference classes the instructor was telling us how we really had more experience than we thought … I found the lesson corny.

He had everyone say how much experience we had and then he wrote the number on a flip chart. ‘Four years, 1 year, 2 years, etc.’ Up went the numbers. Then he asked, with the skills of a very unmotivational motivational speaker, ‘and how much experience does that add up to?!’

I immediately answered, ‘three?’ Because that was SO CLEARLY the wrong answer … and that’s the joke. Right? (big sigh)

Welp. Instead he replied, with the tone of voice you’d expect someone to use on the slow kid in class, ‘oh, it’s higher than that, keep counting, buddy!’

There’s a bright note, though. Which is that I find it very funny, now, that I told a joke that failed so miserably in such an annoyingly competitive environment.

II

And my failures at humor continue to this day. Toastmasters speeches have provided me plenty of opportunities to reflect, after I leave the stage, and think, ‘huh, no one laughed at that.’

My favorite example of that was my Tall Tales competition speech. I know that is a unique environment because everyone is competing and it’s a tense situation … but I really wanted people to, most of all, find my speech quirky and amusing. In my speech I talked about my grandpa and I spotting a bunch of aliens coming to Earth, us going to investigate, and then, what do you know, I’m involved in an intergalactic dance off. And part of that I ACTUALLY DANCED.

I thought, ‘this is so weird! And strange! And fun! The audience will really enjoy this change of pace!’

In the back of the room were Liz, Melanie, Jodi, and my wife, smiling and offering encouraging vibes. But eeeeeeeveryone in front of them? Not so much. I found myself dancing, doing the ‘string knees’ as I stared out into pair of eyes after pair of eyes staring blankly at me.

It was very strange, and I am happy I got to experience that.

III

Generally my failed jokes aren’t in classrooms, or during speeches. The vast majority are conversational. When I told my wife about this speech idea I said, ‘I’m trying to think of times I told a joke and no one laughed’ and she said, ‘oh yeah! There was a terrible one you told the other day!’ She said that excitedly. Love, eh?

The good news is – there are ways to handle these situations.

You could take a sort of … aggressive, quickly fading to a small, simmering self-pep talk approach … ‘That was funny!! That was funny. Right? That was funny.’

You can try to join in with everyone else in not enjoying the joke … even though you just told it. (Step to the side.) ‘Dude … lame joke.’

How about a diversion? (Point like you’re following a bird flying by) ‘Is that a change of subject?’

And of course any combination of weird noises … (Clear throat weirdly for a bit) ‘Hairball.’

IV

My point! If I even have one … Is that humor is ridiculous. ‘Make them laugh’ is ridiculous. There are tried and true ways to go for safe humor, any sitcom can show you that. A lot of those jokes rely on stereotypes and tropes that you’re already so familiar with that you can predict how a joke will end.

That’s not a bad thing, either. Sometimes it’s fun to go for a ride to the punch line even when you know it’s coming.

BUT! You also have to be true to yourself. If you don’t find your speech funny, how will others? Make them laugh is a gamble, make yourself laugh is much more fun. With that in mind, I’m going to close with a joke.

Let me warn you, I have told this joke a few times, and it has NEVER gotten a laugh. It’s gotten a few amused hmph’s … but no outright laughter. But I love this joke, and you all are stuck sitting there listening to me.

<high school prom joke>

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Love is Blind(ing)

Recently I gave a Toastmasters speech, my first one in a long while. I started on the ‘Pathways’ path so it was an icebreaker. My second one! This speech went along with about 6 pictures, so … apologies on that front.

 

Love is Blind(ing)

A little more than two years ago I gave my first icebreaker speech where I described myself by describing my ideal weekend. It involved a long jog, some reading, hanging out with buddies, some downtime.

Now I’m giving my second icebreaker, and this time it’s not about my ideal weekend, but about the newest version of myself – me as a dad.

The speech is called ‘Love is Blind…ing’ and I’ll give you three cases of love being blinding. One from a physical perspective, one from an emotional perspective, and one from a somewhat literal perspective.

I

This is my son when he was born. He was born early, about 33 weeks, and was a tiny, tiny fella.

He is almost a year old now and looks a little different.

Before I had my son I was of the opinion that pretty much all babies look the same. They can have different skin tones, sure, but they were all just amorphous blobs of goo oozing liquids and solids. Romantic outlook, huh?

My outlook quickly changed to view babies as tiny little packages of adorability and love and snuggles … but then … as time went on … I’ve kind of come back to viewing newborns as blobs of goo.

My wife and I have a few different friends with kids a few months younger than our kiddo, and one day a friend sent me a picture. I responded with an, ‘aw how cute’ but in my head I thought, ‘man that is one weird looking child.’ With the ease of technology I pulled up a picture of my own son at the same page and, what do you know, he was a similarly weird looking child at that time. It was just the big, weird-headed phase of life for a baby. See, look at this little mobster. Adorable, yes, but a bit of a blob of goo?, also yes.

Love changed my perspective, blinding me and tricking me into viewing this pooping, non-sleeping machine as the greatest thing ever.

II

Now let’s talk about how love has blinded me emotionally.

When my sister had her son I remember visiting her and thinking – THE WORK. THERE. IS. SO. MUCH. WORK. We decided to head to the grocery store which, I think, took about 7 years to do. She had to get him dressed, and then he was in the car seat and he threw up on himself, so she got him changed again, and then car seat again, and on and on. All I noticed at the time was the hard work it is to be a parent. I didn’t notice any sort of love fest.

I dreaded that work. And there has been work.

<the kiddo> has not been a good sleeper. When friends talk about their younger children sleeping through the night my wife and I hide our looks of disgust and envy. How dare their child be such a good sleeper.

And yet, it’s also a bit of a gift.

One night, it was 2 or 3 am, or who knows what time, and our son began to cry. I went in to comfort him, so I picked him up out of his crib, held him close, sat down in the glider to wait for him to get into a good sleep and then listened to this tiny, adorable, quiet, sweet, soft voice cooing in my ear, ‘dah dah dah … dah … dah …’ The little fella was feeling chatty, and despite the sleepiness, despite the night after night of sleepiness, I couldn’t help but smile and give the gentlest little squeeze to this little creature.

There is still work, but there is so much more joy than I ever would have guessed at that the work quickly fades from memory but the love stays like a branding.

III

Last, but certainly not least, is the somewhat literal case of love being blinding.

I mentioned that <the kiddo> is not always the best sleeper, and about two weeks ago the kiddo woke up too early on Monday morning. I got him out of his crib, went downstairs, and sat with him while he started to play. He was a bit fussy, so I picked him up and sat down on a chair with him, thinking I would read to him.

His crazy, flailing baby arms had other plans. A hand came up and he managed to get me in the eye. It did not feel good.

I wandered slowly upstairs and handed the fighter off to my wife and sat with my eyes closed in the darkness for a while. After a little while of that I felt ok enough, so I got ready for work and drove to a doctor’s appointment I happened to have that morning. At the office I could hardly check in, I couldn’t keep my eye open and it watered non-stop. I went ahead and kept the appointment (a mole removed, don’t worry guys, it’s benign) and my wife came and got me and drove me to an eye doctor’s. We were fortunate enough to get an appointment first thing.

The doc started by dripping some numbing drop in my eye which was heavenly, and then looked at me with some very bright lights.

‘Oooh, he got you good.’ He showed my wife, ‘ahhhh! YIKES!’

Hmm. That’s all encouraging.

I am a wuss about eye stuff. It really freaks me out.

That week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday … I went to the eye doc. He wanted to check on me frequently to make sure it was healing ok (it took a while) and I changed eye drops often. One of them was this thick, viscous substance which was soothing, but I made the mistake of seeing how thick it was and then that freaked me out that I was dripping that stuff onto my eye. Blech.

One thing I learned in all of this is that there’s no better person to inflict pain on me than <the kiddo>. If my wife had poked me in the eye, an innocent accident, you can bet I’d be very annoyed with her. But <the kiddo>? Eh, it’s fine.

The next morning <the kiddo> had a surgery to get ear tubes to address his frequent ear infections, the docs at the hospital probably found me strange, one eye leaking, not making eye contact, randomly putting on sunglasses … but when the kid needs comfort, I’ll do what I can.

***

As my wife once said, the pool of love is deep and intense. And I can tell you that my blinding love is a gift, and a joy.

I remember a number of math classes where the teacher or professor would explain a concept and it was no more than nonsense to me. Absolute gibberish. And then, poof, something would click, I’d get it, and now everything was translated.

That same idea could be said for <the kiddo>. Before him I saw amorphous blobs, hard work, and crazy people obsessed with a little bundle of fiscal responsibility … now, I see that, sure, but I am at once blinded to it and able to see so much more.

Toastmasters Speech Four

Speech four in the Toastmasters Competent Communicator Manual (yes, it’s really called that) is “How To Say It.” The focus is choosing the right words to communicate your message effectively, using rhetorical devices to enhance and emphasize ideas, and finally to avoid jargon and unnecessary words.

 

You know that feeling when someone says something awful, or shocking, or heartbreaking, or flattering even – and you know the EXACT way to respond … about 40 minutes later.

It’s just funny to think about how many words there are to choose from, and yet I could spend all day thinking about the times that I failed to say the right thing.

BUT. I am in luck. I have good friends who are willing to listen to me tell long stories and then applaud me on what WOULD have been the perfect response. Knowing how to say something is best – being able to communicate something clearly and concisely – but sometimes for your own mental health, it’s also good to know how you SHOULD have said something.

Today we will time travel to three times, and you all will help me right past wrongs.

 

The time? One week or so until school lets out for winter break, my freshman year of high school. The place? West Point, New York.

What I said: “Mom? … … … My shoe? Is … in the basement … in the ceiling.”

Now, how about some context. I had gotten upset after talking to my folks and stomped down to the basement. For reasons known only to my high school brain, and maybe not even then, I decided to kick my shoes off to hit the far wall in the basement. I tried first with my right foot, my good foot, and I had the perfect mix of lift and distance and SMACK, the shoe hits the far wall. Next, my left foot, and the success was not duplicated. My shoe went STRAIGHT UP, through the cheap-y tile ceiling we had and sticks out … a trophy of my ignorance.

If I were to try this again, I would maybe say something like,

“Mom. Dad. I have to admit, I’m struggling. In just a few weeks we’re going to be moving to Georgia and I’m scared, and nervous. A move in the middle of the school year? Everyone will already have their social circles and routines and I’m supposed to be cool enough to get embraced? You guys know I like books about magic and knights and stuff like that, right? I’m not exactly ‘cool’ freshman material. And on top of that! I’ve got finals this week! I need to do well on all of these tests so my grades are good! I guess I’m saying all of this because I want to say sorry in advance for how moody I’m going to be while I deal with a tough move …

Oh, and, speaking of mistakes anyone could make, I tried to kick my shoe off to kick it against a wall, which was dumb of me, I know, but I sorta kicked it UPWARDS and it pierced the ceiling. We could head to the basement to take a look … Please let me know what I can do to help fix this problem.”

I asked my mom recently if she remembered this and she had NO memory, clearly it impacted me more than my parents. Although I think the most impacted of all was … the ceiling.

 

Now we will travel even further back in time.

The time? One week or so before the end of 6th grade. The place? Leavenworth, Kansas, specifically, East Middle School.

What I said: “…Sure? … I guess I can be your boyfriend?”

Did you notice how that could be improved?

First, of course, some context.

I was confused by this girl asking me out for a couple reasons … 1, someone liked me?, 2, I was moving in about two weeks so why would someone want to date me?

Here’s how I might approach that now.

“Wow! I am so flattered! I didn’t think anyone liked me … But … In case you don’t know, I’m moving in about two weeks. To New York. That’s pretty intense for a couple 6th graders. I can get your address though, and I can mail a letter when we get there and I know what my address will be?”

Not ideal, but better than the eventual phone call we had where I casually mentioned my upcoming move, only to find out she had no idea. Whoops.

 

Last but not least, we travel to just a few years ago.

The place: my favorite grocery store, HEB, in Houston, Texas.

What I said: “…….WHAT?”

I was in line at the grocery store with two people in front of me. Checking out was a woman wearing a burka, and behind her was a woman in workout clothes. The woman in workout clothes was CRITICIZING! the woman in the burka for wearing a burka, and based on the body language of the woman in the burka, this had not just started … she seemed calm, neutral, and ready to be done with her grocery shopping as soon as possible. The workout clothes woman said that it was a disgrace that she was wearing a burka, she didn’t need to be persecuted and she had the freedom to wear whatever she wanted so she should not wear a burka.

The workout woman turned to me, apparently assuming I would be on her side, and she said, “don’t you find that offensive?” ‘That’ meaning the choice of clothes.

This led to me less than ideal response, a shocked “WHAT?”

Sometimes debate is pointless, people are so entrenched in their beliefs that attempting to pull them out only leads to them digging in deeper. Like a car stuck in mud. I have a feeling I would not have been able to convince this woman to open up her mind to another viewpoint, but perhaps there was someone else thinking quietly to him or herself a similar, if less aggressive, thought. For that potential person, I wish I had been able to find better words.

“I understand that sometimes if you look at someone who looks very different, or acts in a way that is strange to you, or dresses in some new way that can be scary. And that might make you want to hold on even tighter to what is comfortable and known. But those differences could also be looked at and seen as potential. What ideas, what way of thinking, are typical to that person that you or I don’t yet know? We should ask questions, not questions asked as a form of judging someone, but questions asked to learn.”

Now, I know that is a pretty unlikely little speech for someone to give at a grocery store. But like I said, sometimes you do the right thing for an unknown audience.

 

I’d like to thank all of you for joining me in time traveling.

Ah, to be a freshman in high school again … kicking shoes into ceilings. Or a sixth grade Romeo, stumbling through being a boyfriend. And finally to Texas, righting social injustices one ice cream and cereal run at a time.

I’d like to think that, as I get older and hopefully wiser, I will have more times where I need to think about how to say something, and less times where I will think about how I SHOULD have said something … But, come on. I can however take comfort in the fact that I have kind listeners for when I need to rewrite the past.

Toasty Toast – Mindfulness

When you join Toastmasters you get a book called “Competent Communicator.” In this book there are prompts for ten speeches, and it’s a good thing to get all ten of those knocked out.

Each speech has a purpose, the first was just to get you up there (the icebreaker). The second is to focus on organizing (in case you just rambled the first time up, I suppose), and the third is called, “to the point.” In this speech you have a general and a specific purpose (not as in The Jerk’s special purpose).

I think I feel more comfortable when I start talking and no one expects to leave feeling as though they have a purpose, because that means I can jabber endlessly without a purpose – and I clearly enjoy doing that.

 

Mindfulness

Today on my drive into work I didn’t really notice the mountains. I didn’t really notice the sky. I didn’t really notice my house, the neighborhood, or just how short and nice my commute is.

That’s kind of disappointing, isn’t it?

Just a few months ago, when I moved out here, every day I drove into work it was practically a gift. My commute here is MUCH shorter than it used to be, and on top of that, it’s about as beautiful a backdrop to a commute as someone could ask for.

And yet here I am, already taking all of that for granted.

My speech today is supposed to have an objective. ‘What do you want the audience to be able to do after listening to your speech?’

When I was trying to think of what to talk about, I realized that I didn’t have any particular purpose that I wanted all of you to leave here with – but I did know something that I wanted to work on. And that’s to be more mindful, because it is far too easy for amazing and beautiful things to become normal, to become things that can be taken for granted or seen as normal.

If any of you also want to try and be more appreciative of the present, I’d like to share three things that I’m going to try to help achieve a little more mindfulness.

The first thing is a trick to put myself in a better state of mind.

It’s almost summer now, and with that we will soak up those rays of sun, enjoy warm weather, being outside, maybe getting to work on some outdoor project. One thing I’m excited about is being able to take a kayak out on a lake with a little packed lunch. I could paddle out to a spot where I’ll feel isolated on the water and stare at the mountains as I chomp down on my food.

During those times, life is good.

But I know myself. I know that not long after it’s continuously warm I’ll be thinking, “all right warm weather … that’s a BIT much. Let’s take it down a notch, eh?” Soon I’ll be fantasizing about fall, the colors of fall, pumpkin-flavored everything, heck, pumpkin pie itself composed of about 60% whipped cream, the return of long sleeves, and crisp air that cools my face as I jog.

And then from there I’ll think of winter. The walk from my house to the mailbox and back is the perfect distance to put you in the right mood for hot chocolate.

There I’ll be, baking in the sun daydreaming about the nice parts of winter. Which is fine, but it’s not making me appreciate the fact that I’m in the middle of the kind of daydream I was having only a few short months ago.

The trick, then, is to take myself to the past, but not to fantasize it. I want to think about the past where I was hoping and wanting this very moment. I’ll think about the bad parts of the opposite season – and then it makes me appreciate what I have in this moment. I need to remember that biting cold of winter – waking up in a cold house, the sky being dark at 5:30 pm, and my hands were dry and my feet could practically be ice packs when I get in bed at night.

And that could be applied to so much more than weather. Don’t focus on where you are now and compare that to where you want to be next, focus on now and where you’ve come from to get here.

Next up is mealtime. Talk about an easy thing to take for granted.

Think back on the last meal you had. After you took a bite, what were you thinking about? The news? Conversation? The next bite? What you need to get done? Did you put your utensils down?

One trick for appreciating your food more is to put your utensils down between each bite. If you keep the fork, or whatever, in your hand, you’re thinking about your next bite. The meal is not something you are enjoying and appreciating, but something you are getting done. Putting the utensil down also gives your body time to realize that you’ve already had enough to eat – you don’t need to go for it on those last ten bites.

Vegetables are one thing I should be more appreciative. When I was a kid I assumed the only reason grown-ups liked them was because all their taste buds had died.

There was one time, my whole family was at the dinner table. I only had broccoli left on my plate … this was the only thing keeping me from desert. When I was sure no one was looking I snagged the broccoli off my plate and started to slouch down in my seat. I was being pouty so this was just emphasizing my mood. As I slouched further and further I was finally able to reach the floor – I quickly shoved the broccoli under the leg of the table then sat back up. “I’m ready for desert now, please!” My WHOLE FAMILY saw me do that! They ALL knew I was lying!

And now I actually request broccoli with dinner. I really ought to be more appreciative of how far I’ve come there. If you had similar feelings toward vegetables – enjoy them more! Appreciate where you are!

Slow down at meal times, put your utensils down between bites, and the meal will be better.

The last, but certainly not least, trick for appreciating the life you have is to help others. This doesn’t even need to be volunteering – help can be given everywhere you go.

And you’re surrounded by people who need help. Is there someone relatively new to work around you? Smile at that person. Recognize how scary and new everything is. Do you have some hobby and someone you know is trying to learn that? Make it known if you’ve got advice if they want it. Helping people can make you appreciate what you have – skills, kindness, patience, whatever it is, you’ve got something.

I can tell all of you who were here when I joined – that you certainly helped me. I’m going to let you in on a secret – software engineers are not the most socially engaging, welcoming, warm crowd. I was new here and missing my friends from back in Texas and I came to this club and everyone was smiling, and friendly, and nice. That was great, and I bet all of you did it without a second thought.

The next time you’re kind to someone, or you help, even if it’s in the smallest of ways, take a moment to pat yourself on the back, and think back on a time when someone showed you some kindness, and just appreciate how, despite it being such a simple thing, helping people can generate such a great feeling.

Mindfulness. It’s tough. Living in the moment, all the time, would be incredibly draining. It’s somewhat of a shame, but we’re simply too busy to be appreciative all the time.

But that shouldn’t stop you, or me, from taking time to be appreciative.

Think about your past self, and how much you looked forward to the point where you’d be where you are today. Take time to think about that, instead of always where you want to be.

The next time you eat – slow down. Put the fork down, close your eyes, and focus on that bite.

Think about helping others, in big or small ways, recognize that help, and seek opportunities to continue to help.

Hopefully everyone will leave here today remembering at least one of these little tricks to help with being mindful of the present, and you can be a little more appreciative and happy.

Student of the Toast

Recently I joined Toastmasters … If you knew me (and if you’re reading this you likely do), you’ll know that’s not an expected move. I don’t particularly like public speaking unless I do well. Toastmasters, hopefully, will increase the odds of me doing well. Thus, the reason I signed up!

(Nah, the real reason? I am new to an area and this is always when I’m my most social and outgoing. What better way to meet people than to stand in front of them and say um a lot?)

The first speech you give in Toastmasters is an “ice breaker.” The objective is just to stand up in front of a group of people and talk, and the secondary objective is to see where you stand as far as public speaking goes. I was told that I need to vary my pace and add pauses. Apparently I speak like one of those ‘text to talk’ computer programs?

Because I am a lazy blogger I will most likely be posting my speeches … why go to all that effort and then just share with one audience?

Anywho. Here I is, folks, this is I.

***

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is DumbFunnery, and today I will be talking to you about … myself.

When I thought about the icebreaker speech I wondered what would make the most sense – a bunch of facts summarizing my life?, some of my favorite short stories about my friends and me?, there are a lot of ways you can introduce yourself to a group of people.

In the end I decided to describe myself by telling you what I would consider to be an amazing weekend. I now transport you to the magical place of Saturday morning, 6:30 am, in the land of ideal DumbFunnery.

I’m up and dressed for a jog, eating a banana that is at the perfect ripeness. A perfectly ripe banana is a wonderful thing. I’m also sipping water and doing a bit of stretching – today is an easy day. I am capable of jogging let’s say 16 miles, but today I’m only doing 10. I head out the door, turn on my phone to a new CD that is some funky, poppy goodness, and I’m going. Today’s jog is fantastic – it’s one of those ones where I’m in a groove, my pace is awesome and I feel like I could just go and go.

When I get back home I have my favorite granola cereal, which is difficult since it’s this one that a local grocery chain in Texas makes, but my in-laws are kind people and they have recently visited and brought a few boxes to feed my addition. I have my cereal with some blueberries in it, watching the local news and laughing at how corny they can be.

After breakfast I bathe and sit down to write for a little bit. Normally at work I focus more on the logical side of my brain, writing allows me to be weird and nonsensical, which is fun. Today the words are flowing out of me and before I know it I have something that is actually pretty good! All right! It’s weird, I think it’s funny, and it flows well. Not too shabby.

Following that my wife and I have lunch and scheme on our afternoon – finishing up a house project. We have a house and are slowly learning how to do this and that, and today we have the last piece of a project that is great, and grand and … most importantly, within our limited reach.

Many high-fives, and of course Facebook posts later and we are heading out or hosting friends for dinner and a board game or two. We have a good night talking, playing games, and soon enough we’ve been laughing and smiling so much that our mouths hurt.

Then it’s bedtime and suddenly it’s Sunday. Because this is an ideal weekend we are our good, ambitious selves, and we have signed up for a volunteer project. If it’s my choice it’s something manual or working with kids, if it’s my wife’s choice it might be a food bank. Or maybe we’re handing out water at a run, cheering folks on, and also jealous that we’re not taking part (or, depending on the run, happy we aren’t taking part).

Realistically, at this point or some point we would have had to go run some typical errands that are magical time warps. You enter a grocery store with two items on the list and you leave forty-five minutes later with twenty things. How does this happen? But don’t worry, we’re in an ideal land.

Instead of running errands we head straight home and enjoy coffee and the news. Or coffee and a book. Or coffee and sitting around talking. Whatever it is, we’re sipping coffee and relaxing.

At the time I’m toward the end of a book that I have been enjoying so much I can’t put it down, but at the same time I don’t want to finish it. It’s either hysterical, or gripping, or it’s making me think thoughts I hadn’t thought to think before.

I finish the book and sit back and breathe out a deep sigh. I read one time that after you read something you shouldn’t immediately jump to doing something else – especially if you are trying to learn what you just read, or if it’s a complicated matter you need to let your brain digest for a while.

I think a lot of weekends suffer from time travel, and this one is no exception. It’s dinner time suddenly and while getting dinner ready I think back on the afternoon and wonder what I did that lead to this day being so close to over.

Dinner is something simple and delicious, but the most exciting thing is the ice cream after dinner. A big bowl of ice cream is a long time friend of mine, and we have spent many nights together. And to go with that ice cream is a quirky, oddball movie that is sweet.

There you have it. Me in the form of an ideal weekend – there’s jogging, writing, reading, helping people, adding to our house, being with friends, and also a good chunk of non-activity. I think, with love as the theme of the week, this whole weekend represents doing things that I love.

Thank you.

Don’t Mess Up

This week I had a fancy work event which I was very nervous about. Generally at work I never do any public speaking. I will sometimes speak to a group of about 20, if it’s at a meeting for my manager … But that’s a casual atmosphere where I know everyone. And I am not doing any actual presentation.

On Tuesday morning I had to introduce my boss’s boss’s boss (I think it sounds more fun to say it that way than with titles). I was pretty nervous about this. I practiced the very brief (30 seconds or so) introduction to the point of memorizing the speech.

There are a few ways that seemed like ways I could mess up introducing Miss Boss’s Boss’s Boss:

  • In the middle of the introduction, revert to what I would often do while practicing, which was to say “blaaaaaaah!! I don’t wanna DO THISSSSSS!!!”
  • Accidentally imply she’s a cyborg
  • Wonder aloud how the audience thinks I’m doing
  • Picture the audience in their underwear (I’m not saying there weren’t good looking people there, but overall that would be a bad move for my vision)
  • Set an oscillating fan beside me, and mimic the fan’s behavior while speaking (you know, look to the left part of the room for a few seconds, gradually shift my gaze and look in the middle a few seconds, you get the gist) … Then at the conclusion of my introduction I would say, “Yes, it’s clear (so and so) is an impressive woman. I guess you could say I’m her biggest … fan.”

Thankfully I didn’t do any of those things. My boss’s boss told me I looked far too serious (which makes sense, I was nervous). I plan to ask him how I did overall … I have a feeling that’ll lead to a lot more jokes, but it’ll be good.

Weekly Wacko (37)

Big congratulations to the bro and new sister-in-law. I headed to Vegas on Tuesday night, the wedding was Wednesday, and then I hung out with my family until Sunday when I flew back to Houston.

I wrote a speech for the wedding, which I didn’t end up giving. But you know what? I like the speech. Thankfully I have this self-centered blog that revolves around me. So blog, do your thing. I changed my sister’s name to E$, like you do. And the bro’s name to: T.

***

I didn’t know if I had to make a speech or not, and I didn’t want to ask T because that’d be too easy, so I asked mom and E$ and they said write one just in case.

So that’s the opening line of my speech.

Anyway. I’m going to tell you a story about T and I. The family all moved out to Arizona because we figured Dad was lonely, and we wanted to teach him to never make that mistake again.

One day, everyone was gone but T and I. We were bored.

We’d probably already been in the pool about 20 hours that day, and watched plenty of TV, so we found a new distraction – two-square. Like how 4th graders do. We were on the driveway going back and forth, trying to set a record. One tap. Two taps. Three taps! Dang, messed up. One time I accidentally hit the ball to the ‘yard’ – which consists of small, sharp rocks. T, the athlete, jumped after it with abandon, killing his feet. He saved the ball, but I was too busy laughing at him sacrificing his body to react. He and I cracked up at the fact that T just wrecked his feet for stupid two-square.

Life was good.

E$ was gone when that was happening. She was here in Vegas actually. She got back and she later told me she was ‘disgruntled’ because T and I got all buddy-buddy and were ganging up on her for a change rather than E$/me or T/E$. E$ is very much a good middle sibling, peace keeper. She’s a very good listener, at least she tells me that – like daily – so T and I talk to E$ much more than we talk to each other.

I guess what I’m saying is E$ more of a best man than I am. Look at her. All manly and such.

No, I’m just kidding I guess.

T has had a very big impact on my life. Emotionally. You know. Like with emotions. For example, a lot of you may not know this – I didn’t either, until I made this up when I wrote this speech (just kidding) – anyway, I didn’t like reading when I was growing up. My dad taught me that books are for sissies. But then one day, T, the coolest sissy I knew, gave me ‘The Sword of Shannara.’

I read that, and it’s a book about dudes with swords and magic and all that nonsense. And I think a large part of my not having a girlfriend until college was because of that. But a nice thing was that I really liked the book. And it’s like 800 pages. Nothing to sneeze at. So I read the book, and I loved it, and then I read the next one, and the next one, and so on. I was crazy for the books.

I still remember T’s favorite character was Panamon Creel. He had a hook for a hand. Yeah. There was another character who was a ninja (my favorite), but T chose the guy with a hook for a hand. Take that as you will. I’m also picturing that the character T liked wore sequins. No, I’m kidding about that part. But now that you know T chose a pirate over a ninja, sequins probably fits the bill for him.

Anyhow. When I moved to Houston recently it was very daunting and scary and a little squishy, emotionally that is, and so I did what has become a norm for me ever since that summer I first read ‘The Sword of Shannara’ – I escaped in books about dudes with swords and magic and all that nonsense.

So I appreciate T more than he realizes. And I would thank all of you to not acknowledge the fact that a genuine compliment was given in this speech, because I am a WASP and it is against my religion to acknowledge the showing of emotions. ‘And God said, shut your pie hole about it,’ Job 3:14.

But T has been a huge part of my life, and I am much the better person for it. He’s ocasionally sprinkled some knowledge my way, and in return what did I do? I grew to be taller than him. I’m not very nice, am I?

Anyway let’s all raise our glasses and toast the newly married couple – T & H [his wife], their future, and of course let’s also toast dudes with swords.

***

Below are three lovely photos from the enjoyable week with the fam.

The bro, sis and I. Plus Jozy (sp?) making an appearance on the left.

Couple o’ studs.

They don’t bring you free drinks when you sit at a slot machine and read. Especially if the book is meant for 8th graders (ironically enough, given the speech above, it was a Terry Brooks book).

The fam, sans T and the newbie.

What happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas. At this fancy club I went to at the Wynn, there were stripper poles. And apparently, you get a bunch of Vegas hooches together, get the booze flowing, and girls turn into strippers. Vegas, huh? This particularly lovely lady, right after this picture, went BAM right to the ground on her back. Even better? The stripper poles, at the base, had a sort of fountain. Soaking wet, drunk, and full of shame – classic Vegas.

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