Posts Tagged ‘Toastmasters’

FRAMED DUCK copyAt a recent Toastmaster meeting it was pointed out that the lovely town that I live in has a relocation program for geese. Seriously, the Town of Oakville has a “Geese Relocation Program”. Forms are filled out, Town Staff gets involved and there are lots of rules and regulations on how to go about this. Apparently, there are people and businesses that actually make a living relocating geese. There were many suggestions that evening on “alternative” solutions (some included stuffing) and better ways to spend our tax dollars. I kept my mouth shut as the conversation brought to mind a couple of times that I ran afoul of some of our fine feathered friends.

While driving to work one day, along the QEW from Oakville to Burlington… a drive that in another world (one that would not include the always backed up QEW) would take 12 minutes, I was brought to a standstill just short of my exit. I could see the police vehicles across the full stretch of the highway and down the off ramp, lights flashing. This did not bode well. As always, I immediately got my patience in check, said a little prayer for whoever was involved in the certain crash, and thanked God once again that it was not me. Time does not fly by as you sit and wait these things out. I was able to make some calls to get things going at work as my car slowly crept forward onto the off ramp. “Ok, I’m on the ramp now and I don’t see any crash, so it must have been cleared away, I won’t be long now…
Are you freaking kidding me!?”
Needless, to say the person on the other end of the phone was a little taken aback at my break from protocol. There in front of me with a police vehicle on both sides and one behind was a family of ducks being escorted across the highway and down the ramp. When I relayed this information to my place of employment, they questioned the time of day being a “little early” for whatever I was on. After assuring them that I was clean and sober and disconnecting I called the local radio station to report the traffic situation. After they stopped laughing they put me on the air where I was able to give a waddle by very slow waddle report of the feathered convoy with the police escort for the next 20 minutes. Turns out that day must have been the day all the ducks decided to “get to the other side” because there were reports of these police encounters all day long. I’ll bet those police officers never thought they would be writing up duck reports when they graduated police academy.

Years ago when I was still making a living as a photographer I was sent on assignment to a farm in a rather remote area. I love shooting outdoors and was looking forward to the flower and fauna shots ahead of me. Appointments were always scheduled through head office in Toronto. Our assignment sheets would have the name, address, the nature of the shoot, specific things to look for, etc. If there was any kind of safety issue it was always noted big and bold and red. Farms in remote areas often have guard dogs, swamps or sink holes that can all be treacherous so I read my summary sheet carefully. Seeing no danger warnings I exited my vehicle and started to unload my equipment for the day from my trunk. These were the days before digital – nothing was small. As I draped myself with cameras, lights, lenses and tripods to trek into the site I felt a pain in my ankle. Thinking I had simply bumped into a stump or stone, I continued to take steps toward the doorway of the building. Again a pain at my ankle, again, again…both ankles were screaming out in agony now. I stumbled, but caught myself with visions of thousands of dollars worth of equipment crashing to the ground. The pain was excruciating. Something was hammering away at my ankles. There was a blur of activity as hands reached out to help me and I saw feathers floating in the air. Panicked voices…”You were supposed to wait in your car till we came and got you. We told the lady on the phone, make sure she stays in her car till we get there. She has to stay in the car, we have an attack duck. We’re so sorry. Let me take that. Here, we’ll help you inside”…
“Wait a minute, wait just one darn minute there, did you say you have…you have an attack what?”
“We have an attack duck.” “You have an attack duck. Of course you do. Who doesn’t have an attack DUCK?” After the trip to the emergency ward, the wrapping, the icing, the crutches and the prescribed pain killers I called my office. “Is there anything you forgot to tell me about that assignment today.” “No, you had all the information. I bet you had a great time, they had a really good sense of humour on the phone.”
“What do you mean?”
“They had us going trying to convince us that they had an ‘attack duck’. Can you imagine?” Well, as a matter of fact, City Girl, I can! I hung up and put my poor bruised and swollen ankles up on a pillow.

Duck, duck, goose…it’s all gone to the birds!


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Have you ever been in the position of really needing someone you can count on? Who would you turn to in a crisis for support? I think we have all had that moment in our lives when we really need support from another human being. Whether it’s because of illness, loss of a job, death of a loved one or just because you did something really stupid!

As you read this, I challenge you to discover who you would place in the front row of this theatre we call “life”.

Recently I attended a seminar put on by Canadian Women in Communications and the speaker offered us this very same challenge. At first glance it seemed like an easy exercise…at …first…glance. Who would I put in my front row?

In theory your front row is comprised of people who will back you up no matter what. No questions asked, they have your back. This row could be as small as one single person. Someone who will stand by you as you take risks, no matter how silly they may seem at the time. It might surprise you that, many people you would think at first blush would be there, don’t make it into your front row…like family members… close friends and sometimes, just sometimes even your spouse or significant other. (By the way a little suggestion here … if your spouse does not make it into the front row…keep it to yourself or believe me you will have a whole other set of “exercises” to go through… this is the voice of experience speaking on that one!…just keep it to yourself.)

It may be easier for you to figure out who is in your second row first. This row should contain people who you are close to but for some reason or other didn’t make it in your front row. They may be family going through their own issues. They may be friends who are too busy with their own lives right now. They may be that one person at work you always have lunch with but never see after hours. These are people who are in your support network or people who can help you achieve your goals, but, it is the “for some reason or other” part you have to pay attention to. There is a lot of pressure in that front row and there are times when those people need to be let off the hook.

You’re your third row consists of people who you are not close but who will be helpful regarding information or other contacts so that you can reach your goals. These would be people who you don’t know well but have met through your networking channels. Personally, I have several of these groups. I belong to HAPPEN, a group for people in transition, WIFT – Women In Film and Television, CWC – Canadian Women in Communication and of course First Oakville Toastmasters.
How many of you have heard of LinkedIn? This is a new internet networking tool for business people. Yes, you actually meet and have professional relationships on line! I must admit at first I was a little skeptical, but I have LinkedIn with or “met” some of the most helpful, talented and gracious people this way…without even leaving the comfort of my own home.
Each one of these groups that you belong to can lead you to meet people who can help you achieve your goals. Often, you meet people during these networking sessions that you develop a connection with and become closer to. Guess what? One of your first two rows just got fuller!

Now, let’s talk about those people who would be in your fourth row. This row consists of people who you should avoid. They are the people who are poisonous to your dreams. These people shouldn’t actually even be in the theatre, never mind a row.
Here is the rub…it may just be a question of timing. These toxic people may normally be in another row but perhaps their circumstances affect their attitude.
I am reminded of one brave young woman who shared that she and her husband always had each other’s backs. No matter what they supported each other and would figure it out together…until one day when she was 8 1/2 months pregnant, her husband came home and said he was very unhappy with his work and wanted to quit his job. Looking down at her baby mountain, her hormones kicked in and she simply said, “No, you can’t do that! I can’t get on board with that!” She seriously, left the theatre!

Keeping that in mind, timing and circumstances, that is. Who would make your front row? They are there for you. They encourage your dreams. They don’t laugh at your ideas (unless of course they were meant to be funny). They don’t question your sanity. With no hesitation you feel their full support.

Now, That’s your front row!


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A month ago I decided it was about time to start blogging. I had procrastinated for some time because I knew (and had been warned over and over and over again) that it was very important to be faithful in updating a blog. If you truly wanted to have a successful blog you had to have fresh material posted at least weekly. The first week of March I finally bit the bullet and wrote my first blog, posted it and then sent out links informing everyone that I had “crossed the line and there was no turning back”. That was March 6th…one month ago. Well, as they say “timing is everything”!

March 11th I ended up in the emergency ward with the man of the house. As we all know there is no such thing as a quick trip to the emergency ward. We arrived at 5:00 pm and when I left at 12:30 am he was finally being given treatment. In the wee hours of the morning he was admitted to hospital. Three weeks, two surgeries, anesthetic, morphine, blood transfusions and eight catheters later he finally came home. That was two days ago. For those of you holding your breath he will be fine after some lengthy recoup time. But, as I said timing is everything…

Around Christmas time a close friend of mine who suffers from MS and is in a wheelchair sent out an email for help. He needed someone to watch over his blind 92-year-old mother in Niagara Falls while he went away for a much needed rest during spring break. I wasn’t working and was feeling the Christmas Spirit, and also thought it would give me a chance to catch up with people back home, so I volunteered. My friend’s timing for asking was perfect. Couldn’t have been better. The hospitalization of the man of the house, on the other hand, was really bad timing (although not his fault). Couldn’t have been worse. For 10 straight days I spent the day in Oakville hospital and drove to Niagara Falls each night to stay with my friend’s Mother. My first night I was able to sleep back in my own bed, I put my feet up and turned on the TV to veg. The phone rang at 10:30pm. My Father had been taken into emergency in St. Catharines. Talk about timing! The third week of March, First Toastmasters of Oakville, the club which I attend, had their theme set…”Timing is Everything”…Come on, you have to see the irony here. Really, it’s hysterical…perfect timing! It was also the week of my birthday (and St. Patrick’s Day). Lousy timing. Then of course, let’s not forget the “concert of a lifetime” that had cost us a fortune in December – our tickets for Fleetwood Mac were for March 26th. Hmmmmmm, timing.

Perhaps I picked a bad time to start a blog. Bottom line, you can plan, you can time. You can plan the time. But sometimes, no amount of planning can control the timing. My plan is to continue blogging, when I can… and when the time is right.


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Every day we hear of more cutbacks, job losses and hiring freezes. The broadcasting and communications industry seem to be at the lead where this is concerned. Simply put, it’s cold out there…very, very cold!  People who are employed wake up every day, feel the chill and no longer complain about their job. Now they are just happy to have one.  But they worry how about when they might lose it. Will they be the next one out in the cold?  Whether they are next or not, my suggestion would be to start preparing now.

The number one way to keep your feet warm, is to network. Learn to network properly and don’t ever stop. (voice of experience here − I’ve learned my lesson).   As a member of CWC (Canadian Women in Communication), WIFT (Women In Film and Television) and Toastmasters, I have a very good foundation to start with − one that I have only recently utilized.  I have, however, stumbled across one of the best kept secrets in networking. HAPPEN. HAPPEN is Canada’s largest networking group for executives in transition.  There’s that word…”transition”.  I prefer to use “between engagements”. 

From the second you step into a HAPPEN meeting you know you have come in from the cold.  Through weekly meetings at in Toronto, Mississauga, Burlington and Vancouver, HAPPEN members participate in career-building seminars. They share business contacts and job leads, personal and professional experiences, approaches and insights and one can gain access to many unadvertised positions. HAPPEN offers a warm, inviting, professional atmosphere and is completely run by volunteers who are dedicated to bringing together and supporting people in transition.  I receive words of encouragement on a daily basis. I hear anecdotes of experience, get suggestions and advice, and often receive contacts or job leads from HAPPEN members and former members who are now employed.  When questions arise, they are put to the group and within minutes you could have a dozen solid answers. Every member has one goal in mind ­– to find you a job. While we’re helping one another, something else can “happen” – you may find what you need. It makes me warm just thinking about it.

For more about HAPPEN or to find a meeting in your area visit www.happen.ca


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