The Courage to Communicate

It’s the weekend before a huge mid-term election in the United States where millions of voters will let their voices be heard.

As I celebrate my 28th year as a communicator in Toastmasters, I am keenly and closely watching and listening to my fellow citizens boldly and bravely expressing their thoughts and opinions about what is happening in their communities.

It takes a lot of courage to openly communicate political preferences and policy priorities but more and more people are doing it in 2022.

FILE – In this July 26, 2016, file photo, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Gabbard says she met with Syrian President Bashar Assad during a recent trip to the war-torn country. Appearing on CNN, she says there is no possibility for a viable peace agreement in Syria unless Assad is part of the conversation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

It’s been intriguing and entertaining to witness the rapid change taking place at Twitter since Elon Musk bought the company last week. So many opinions are flying back and forth- I find it a fascinating and exciting time.

Free speech and democracy are on everyone’s minds. It will be a roller coaster of emotions and declarations next week and I am looking forward to the open dialogue that hopefully will occur as a result.

We can’t solve problems if we don’t communicate and listen to one another. Courage and humility will be needed in heaping portions as we enter into a new phase of political balance.

The Courage to Communicate is the subtitle to my first book- Strong Words and Simple Truths but this week it is the Headline!

Here are some triads that I wish for everyone in the coming week:

Strength, Tolerance, and Respect

Balance, Perspective, and Agility

Gratitude, Serenity, and Joy

Truth, Knowledge, and Common Sense

This Is Me: Family and Foundation

I watched the award-winning speech twice, first with my right brain and then with my left.

The first time I viewed the 2022 World Champion of Public Speaking, Cyril Junior Dim, I sat back and enjoyed the story, the humor and the emotional drama. The impactful message resonated with me and inspired to write this article.  My creative mind was activated.

During my second observation of the speech entitled “Ndini”, I used my left brain to analyze the structure, word usage, and delivery techniques. Click here to view the speech.

It is with both sides of my brain (with help from my corpus callosum) that I write this article.

The foundational phrase of the winning Toastmasters speech by Mr. Dim was “This is me” which translates to Ndini in the Bantu language Shona.   The repetition of this powerful message struck a chord in me and caused me to reflect on my own family and identity. 

Cyril Dim wove a powerful story around self-acceptance, family and tradition as he reflected on his middle name which came from this father’s language.  He boldly asked the audience, “Have you ever hated or been ashamed about some aspect of yourself?”  I wasn’t proud of my answer to that question but knew that this was an important topic and worthy of further contemplation.

I suppose that before I can proclaim “This is me!”, I need to ask “Who am I?”.

More than a result of the human reproductive process of my mother and father, I am a Heinz 57 blend of genes and traits from my ancestors from numerous countries across Europe (UK, France, Germany and Italy).  I am also a US citizen who represents the values and ethics of my family and friends.  My parents and home environment growing up surely shaped me and made me into the woman I am today.

I love and respect my parents and wish they hadn’t left the earth so soon. 

My parents pinning on my 2nd Lieutenant bars after the Army Commissioning

Who I am is strong and solid thanks to the love, support and encourage of my parents, my siblings and extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins.

Me and my siblings

My foundation is a resilient and durable patchwork quilt of genetics, experiences, traditions, and values.

I lived at home with my parents until I graduated from college and received a US Army commission.   In retrospect, I should have spent more time with my parents and thanked them more for all that they sacrificed for me but, like most adolescents

 I didn’t appreciate what I had.  During my teenaged years, I wasn’t as proud of my Mom as I should have been and was often embarrassed by her hearing impairment and her simple words. It pains me to think of how badly I treated her when she couldn’t understand me.  My impatience and rudeness were horrible, and I am embarrassed by my immature and selfish behavior.  It wasn’t until I moved out on my own and was married that I fully appreciated who my parents were.

Like Cyril Dim, I came to embrace and be proud of my family name and my parents’ values.  I know that they are responsible for my strong foundation, my work ethic, and my patriotic spirit.

The words below were read to me recently by my Yoga Therapy coach, Nancy Martch, and truly hit the mark on idea of Ndini- This is Me.   

I am steady, resilient, direct and complete.  

“Foundation Stones”

by Danna Faulds

Here is my past—

what I’ve been proud of,

and what I’ve pushed away.

Today I see how each piece

was needed, not a single

step wasted on the way.

Like a stone wall,

Every rock resting

On what came before—

No stone can be

Suspended in mid-air.

Foundation laid by every

act and omission,

each decision, even

those the mind would

label “big mistake.”

The things I thought

were sins, these are as

necessary as successes,

each one resting on the

surface of the last, stone

upon stone, the fit

particular, complete,

the rough, uneven

face of these rocks

makes surprising,

satisfying patterns

in the sunlight.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Coming Out of Lockdown

No one in the world was ready.

Not a single person was perfectly prepared for the tsunami named COVID- 19.
Some early warning was given, some was heeded, some ignored.  It was the Lunar New Year after all.

The consequences of so many leadership decisions worldwide in January and February 2020 will be analyzed and scrutinized for years. The unintended consequences will be felt for decades.

man standing on seashore

Photo by Sean Sandoval on Pexels.com


The past 100+ days have been a challenge for everyone. The world is united in its suffering and we all are experiencing it our own unique way. Our own personal lens and experience defines how we view and perceive the dreaded coronavirus.

I’ve been hit harder on an emotional level than I thought I would be.

My writing had ceased. My creativity was squashed. The pandemic lockdown rocked my perspective.


I know I am not alone. My problems are not unique. I’m not a snowflake but I do feel more fragile than ever.


I am not alone. This sucks for a lot of people on the planet. But what choice do we have? We survive, we cope, we endure, we adapt. That’s what humans do.


I’m writing again, and you are some of the first people to read my words this year.
I am writing again and it won’t be perfect but it will be real, raw and heartfelt.


The reality is that I feel a rainbow of emotions each day. Some warm, some cold, many are red hot.


I’ve recently resolved to be more positive (it’s also part of a Toastmasters level 3 Pathways project) and I have to confess –  it is extremely difficult to be positive in the world today.


I’ve never had to isolate so much and sever my physical connections from my family and friends. It hurts.

But now, as July approaches, I have new resolve and clearer focus!

I endeavor to pay attention to these 4 areas:

  1. Creativity
  2. Grounding
  3. Writing 
  4. Discipline 

I was inspired by a great quote from Ed Latimore which proclaims “Self discipline is freedom”.  I like that since the only thing I can control is myself- my own behavior and habits.

And so, I work on myself and my reactions to the external and often negative input and stimulus.  I work on my own thoughts and actions and I pay attention to what I consume (digitally, emotionally and physically).

I don’t know what the future holds but at least I am writing again and I hope that this messages reaches a few people around the world and lets them know that they are not alone in their suffering. We are not alone in our difficult challenges.

I may not have been ready for this pandemic but I am certainly adapting and modifying my thoughts and behavior to survive the storm.

In closing, I’m looking over at the wall hanging in my office which says,

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass,

It’s learning to dance in the rain”.

– Vivian Green

I’m dancing and I’m writing and I hope that you will join me.

beach-dark-dawn-39853

 

Mighty Gumby and the Importance of Flexible Strength 

Ouch! Traveling can be painful. Three weeks of planes, rental cars and unfamiliar beds have wreaked havoc on my back muscles. Plus, I was foolish and did not heed my own advice which is the key point of this article.

Flexibility and Strength are not mutually exclusive and should be worked on in tandem as much as possible. I am thinking of tattooing this reminder on my arm.

Are you one of those naturally flexible people who can do touch your toes without too much trouble? I have always admired this ability since I am not the most limber person in the world. When I was seven years old I struggled more than the other girls at the bar in ballet class. My muscles just didn’t seem as gumby-like as the graceful ballerinas. I was envious and realized that I wouldn’t be joining the circus as an acrobat anytime soon.

After my traumatic dance class experience I longed to be a combination of Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman. The power, adaptability and super hearing abilities were alluring to me. I also longed to possess a “Truth Lasso” for obvious reasons.

Though I wasn’t able to touch to toes as a child, I did have strong leg muscles so I gravitated towards sports like soccer, track and cycling. I started weight lifting in college and ultimately joined the army where the goal was to do as many push-ups I could in a two minutes. Strength trumped flexibility because it was easier. Little did I realize how this one sided focus could cause imbalance, restriction and injury. Why did my lower back always get pulled into a painful knot? Why would my neck become so tight that I couldn’t look up?

Photo by Nancy Martch who is pictured below

Neck strain and back pain are so common in our stressed out and hectic world that Yoga centers are popping up everywhere to help unwind, relax and balance the masses.   This year in Austin I’ve been practicing yoga with a steady frequency and I was feeling great. In retrospect, my vacation plans to visit friends and family for my birthday should have included stretching and breathing exercises to keep me in balance. Oh when will I ever learn?

Many people don’t fully understand and appreciate the importance of balancing flexibility and strength. Here’s a good, simple way to think about it:

  • Increasing flexibility without strength results in joint instability.
  • Increasing strength without flexibility results in soft tissue tears, sprains and postural changes.

Thankfully three strong, lithe friends came into my life over the last 15 years and introduced me the power and healing benefits of the ancient practice. What Heidi started in San Diego in 2002, Nancy and Clarissa continue to inspire me to reach for my toes and beyond.

img_3987

Photo by Barry Staver

Elastic power leads to balance and stability, helping us physically and mentally in our personal and professional lives. Being grounded and level headed makes you a confident more assertive speaker and leader.

Here’s some great advice I received in yoga class: Flexibility needs to be supported by strength and stability.

Now I happily compliment my push-ups with the all -important child’s pose. My weight lifting reps are interspersed with the ever helpful downward facing dog.

Over the years I have come to marvel at how much yoga has improved my bicycling skills and strength and how my core strength has made my yoga poses so much more grounded.

Too much of any one good thing can lead to trouble and a wonderful blend of complimentary things can launch us to higher levels of achievement and satisfaction.

 

IMG_3596

 

 

Strong and flexible muscles are happy and less prone to injury.

So be like a mighty Gumby- your back and neck muscles will thank you!

 

Knowing What We’ve Got

Being sick while on vacation has put me in a philosophical mood.  Yesterday I reflected on the labyrinth.

Today I was well enough to fully appreciate an easy jog on a cactus-lined trail.  My senses were heightened as I savored every minute of my normally routine and bland morning exercise.    The old adage “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” kept repeating in my formerly stuffed head.


Then I started branching my thoughts and thinking of other things I have taken for granted and don’t appreciate enough.

Things like Integrity.

Honesty. Liberty.  Respect.

Things like Health, Happiness and Serenity.

Priceless things like Gratitude, Friendship and Honor.

I take none of the things for granted and cherish them more each day.   It’s amazing what a clear head in the desert can do for you!