Happy Friday the 13th!

I haven’t written in a while so I have a lot of notes of topics to talk about. Recently¬†one of the things I’ve been spending a large portion of my time on is bead weaving. My hobby order finally arrived and even though I had some beads in an early hobby order I didn’t have thread thin enough to make more than one pass through a bead so I could only sting beads, not weave them. Now I can actually make beautiful patterns with multiple stitches, all of which I’ve learned from books in our library: peyote stitch, brick stitch, ladder stitch, netting, RAW (right angle weave), and all kinds of combinations and variations.

My first piece was a bracelet for Roz in shades of red using a combination of RAW and peyote to make little rosettes. When I gave it to Roz I told her that it was my first piece and had its flaws and imperfections, much like me, so it was all the better a memento of me. LOL! Unfortunately, it is too loose for her and keeps unclasping and because I can’t get it back I can’t adjust it. I told her I’ll make another piece for her, maybe a necklace which is easier to size. I have also made a Pride rainbow bracelet for McK. *smile* As gifts, I wanted to “present” them nicely so I made hexagonal origami boxes out of decorative paper to “wrap” them. The last 3 pieces I made are going to the local Toastmasters officers who are hosting a fundraiser next week to raise money to help cover the semi-annual Toastmasters International dues for incarcerated members, like myself. They have a big event in Omaha on the 18th and they wanted artwork and crafts from us to auction off but I think I’m the only one that has even attempted to get them anything. Granted, it is complicated because we can’t just give them the items and outside volunteers can’t have contact with us directly or indirectly except through the club coordinator but I’m at least trying to get them something to use. Now I’m going to work on some projects using these pretty square beads called Tilas. They will make more masculine bracelets that will make good gifts for friends (I hope).

At our last Toastmasters meeting in June we had a special guest. I had tried to get our volunteers to invite John Krejci to come to our charter ceremony but either they didn’t reach him or he was busy at that time. Being the VP or Public Relations it is my job to do outreach to the “public” so I promoted the volunteers to re-invite John and this time he came right away. I don’t know if he had ever been inside any NE prison before, except at visiting, but he said he had never been to a Toastmasters meeting anywhere before. I was surprised at how quickly he got approved to visit us because volunteers must go through a vetting process but it turns out that John had dinner with the Director of Corrections, Frakes, and convinced him that the vetting process shouldn’t apply to him. Ha! So John is the only volunteer who’s been known to corrections for so long that they don’t really need to check on his past and he was able to come to the very next meeting after being invited. I was happy to finally get to meet John face to face as I have read several of his articles in the Nebraska Criminal Justice review and even corresponded with him personally. I sent him some of my Christmas origami last year and he sent me his family Christmas letter. *smile* He’s an old man who is used to getting his way but he’s a strong voice for incarcerated people so I’m glad to have his attitude in our corner. *chuckle* John was VERY impressed with inmate led programs like Toastmasters because we not only participate in them but we run them. He passed his praise of the TSCI Toastmasters group on to the Director too. *grin*

I finally was able to deliver my Machu Picchu Memories speech at the first Toastmasters meeting in June. I wish I could have delivered it when John was there. It was a success though not as much as I would have liked. I arranged to have a speaker in the room so I could play El Condor Pasa (Flight of the Condor) to add atmosphere. I purchased the song, had it on my tablet and had someone in the audience start and stop the music on que (though he accidentally started it early once). It would have been nice to practice with the music but that’s not possible in here. If I had practiced I would have realized that fading the music out slowly rather than just turning it off would have been more appropriate for the lifting of the fog amongst the ruins. The speech objective was to use colorful, descriptive language and I think I painted a good picture of Machu Piccuh with my words…and the music. *smile* My next speech objective is to use effective body language so I am going to give a tutorial on Qi Gong, a Chinese breathing and warm up exercise. I can’t teach Qi Gong without using my body. Haha.

A few weeks ago we had a special visit. The Sumit String Quartet came to do a mini concert for us here at TSCI. We had to sign up well ahead of time and were only approved if we were writeup free for a certain amount of time. Luckily, I haven’t had a writeup…ever. *grin*¬†I was excited to attend a performance by a string quartet, especially here. I have to give Associate Warden Bulling-June credit for arranging such positive events as this. It’s a shame that she is apparently resigning at the end of this month so there goes all the positive programming we’ve been getting. *sigh* The performance was amazing. I’ve seen plenty of musical performance, even classical music and even a string quartet before (Kronos) but it was such a break from the typical day here that it was like a meal you eat when you’re starving. It was emotional, moving, and inspirational.

I also finally got to see Captain America, Civil War because it was on TV. Woohoo! I had already seen Black Panther which means I saw them out-of-order which made certain plot elements a bit muddled but I was happy to finally fill in that chapter in the Marvel story. As everyone out there has already observed (I’m sure) it was quite surprising who ended up on which side in Civil War. I must say the character development was well written but I did object to the “villain.” Though his motivation was completely believable the outcome of his evil plot was not. He had no control over the world governments trying to force the Avengers to take their orders which was the actual cause for the split he was trying to make between the Avengers. He also had NO way of knowing that Iron Man was going to come to the secret compound that he lured Cpt. Am. to, as a matter of fact there was every reason to believe that Iron Man would NOT be with Cpt. Am., so how could he plan to show the video to cause the climactic battle? Comic book coincidence I guess. *chuckle* Now I hope that TSCI will show Infinity Wars. *smile*

Besides frantically beading to get things done for the Toastmasters fundraiser I’ve been busy with Defy. We are entering the last month of the course (out of 6) and preparing for the Shark Tank style pitch competition. I am definitely planning on winning the competition, not only because it gives me a goal to work towards but because there’s a grant for the winner. There are 3 rounds of pitching. Everyone is in the first round, in groups of 3-4. The top 15 go on to round 2 and the top 5 go to the final round which is pitched in front of the judges plus our guests. The final 5 all get a grant, $100 for 5th up to $500 for 1st plus there’s $100 for the winner of the votes by guests and another $100 for the winner of the votes from our fellow class mates. That means someone could win up to $700. I will be mildly disappointed if I don’t get the max, and sad if I only get $500. *chuckle* Hey, set your standards high or don’t even bother, right? In addition to polishing my 3 minute pitch…yes, only 3 minutes to cover our entire business plan…I plan on preparing a nice visual aid with a professionally done logo and having business cards/pamphlets with financial details for judges to browse at their leisure. If I can’t cover all the details in the 3 minute speech I can give them the data in handouts and impress them with having already prepared some marketing material like my logo and pamphlets. If you want to win it’s about more than just the speech. *grin* Aug. 20th is the graduation/pitch competition and I’m hoping Roz and McK will be able to attend. I can use their votes. Hahaha!