I gave another speech at the last Toastmasters’ meeting last month. This one was on Qi Gong, a Chinese breathing/warm up exercise. The speech was titled “Chillin’ with Qi Gong.” I was a little worried that when I demonstrated the sound you should make when exhaling (like the surf breaking so it is called Ocean Breath) that it would be hard for everyone in the room to hear as often there are people talking in the back rows. But when I did the demonstration everyone could hear just fine because it was dead silent. I was not only happy that everyone could hear but I realized at that point that I had everyone’s undivided attention. Even though I didn’t direct people to breath along with me most everyone did which set a nice relaxed tone for the whole meeting. *smile* The outside volunteer who is my assigned mentor was very impressed with all aspects of my speech though I didn’t even get one vote for best speech for that meeting. 🙁 I pick my topics to meet the Toastmasters’ objective for that speech while others just speak on whatever topic they want and don’t care much about the learning objectives. So we get a lot of personal, emotional speeches, which the audience remembers value more than a speech on calming breathing techniques. I guess what I should take away from that is that I need to work on my emotional engagement of the audience. *chuckle*

My next speech is supposed to focus on the use of visual aids so I am going to teach people to make a simple origami picture frame that they can use in their cells for family photos. Not only will I have some sample folds drawn on the board but I will also hope to have handouts with the full instructions and I will be demonstrating the folds in front of the group. Given the objective of effective use of visual aids, it is a great topic but once again I’m sure I won’t get any votes for best speech that night. *sigh*

I am pretty proud of the second issue of our quarterly newsletter. We finalized the masthead and I’m proud of my Grammarian’s Corner. *grin*

I am also preparing my 3 min. business pitch for the Defy graduation and pitch competition on Aug. 20th. Now that one I plan on winning. *chuckle* Getting everything I want to say into 3 min. is exceedingly hard. Anyone who knows me will agree that I am not always as concise as I could be. Ha! I’m gaming the system in my favor though. Not only am I writing a pitch that will directly appeal to the kind of judges that would volunteer to come to a Defy competition, but I have also written an under 5 minute, one-act play to depict the Defy experience. It is titled A Midsummer Day’s Dream, The Defy Experience In 4 Scenes. Yes, it is derivative of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I even have a choral character who introduces each scene that is a take on Puck, except mine is called Shank (or maybe Shiv or Punk because the guy playing that role knew someone who went by Shank and didn’t like him. Haha!). The reason for doing the play though it just to increase my name recognition amongst the judges. *grin* I’m also making a business card/pamphlet that Roz showed me how to fold that will contain financial details and has a logo that I had someone in here draw up for me. Lots of nice Marketing collateral, but the target market for these are the judges. Know your target audience, whether giving a speech or writing marketing materials, right? *grin*

We had a rehearsal for the graduation and pitch competition last week and they even had a few volunteers there as mock judges. Since there weren’t enough volunteers to cover all the groups we were broken up into I only got to pitch to the inmate-facilitators from GP who had previously taken the class. Luckily, Johnny, who was in the group with me, asked if we could get some feedback from a volunteer so we got shifted around to do a 3rd practice pitch in front of one of them. I had a young recent graduate from Creighton who had started an entrepreneurial club there before he left. He seemed impressed not only with my ease of presentation but with my actual business idea too. I did make my ask, which I had failed to have time to make in practice in class, and I asked for donations to Defy but I didn’t want to show all my cards to the other students so I didn’t end my ask by saying I would lead by example and donate half of whatever I earned in the competition back to Defy. I also played down the compassion angle which I hope to hit harder in the actual competition. Founding the business and everything it does on compassion should appeal to judges who volunteer to help Defy. *smile*

I’ve also written a mini-play that 3 of us will perform at the graduation ceremony. It’s 4 scenes of 2 guys meeting and discussing Defy over the course of the 6 month program. It is titled A Midsummer Day’s Dream, The Defy Experience in 4 scenes and is based of the Shakespeare play. I even wrote a choral character to explain transitions. He’s name is Shank and he’s basically Puck. *chuckle* I even wrote his lines in rhymes, which was very difficult for me. *smile*

Our cohort (or class) was set to have the highest percentage of graduates of any Defy class yet. Out of the starting we had 2 guys quit after the first week and only 1 guy has left since then and that was because he paroled. Unfortunately, one guy who was in Defy just got taken to the hole (I think) because of violence. He was even a friend of mine but I won’t use his name because these get read when I email them out. *chuckle* I’m disappointed that he messed up with just 1 week left till graduation. He not only won’t get to have his young son see him graduate but he has probably lost visits for a while now. *sigh* It makes me sad to see guy backslide like that, especially after investing 6 months of hard work in the Defy class. :/

On a personal note, I have achieved a personal goal. I have managed to slow my practice of the taiji long form down to 45 minutes, regardless of whether I do it mirror image or not or whether I do it blind or with my eyes open. I had succeeded in doing the blind mirror image in 45 min. but when I would open my eyes or do it the regular direction I would speed up for some reason. I realized that having my eyes open allowed me to be distracted by irrelevant things around me and that loss of focus would cause me to speed up. When I did the form in the regular direction I would speed up to the pace that I used to practice it with Gary and Roz. Muscle memory can work against you too. *chuckle* I would have to fight myself to slow down, much like reigning in a horse when it is headed home. But now I don’t fight myself (as much); I just relax and focus on the movements in greater and greater detail and not on my speed. I’ve also learned to relax about the exact direction I’m facing. I’ve realized that even if a single step is off by a few degrees that on average they all even out and I still end up facing the correct direction. Besides, there might be reasons to not step at an exact 45 degree angle, like when I practice in the grass and there are depressions and lumps that I have to adjust for. Practice is VERY relaxing now. *smile*

Between my improved taiji practice and my now almost 2 years of yin yoga practice for 1.5 hrs every day I shouldn’t have been surprised when the nurse told me my blood pressure was 128/50. For someone over 50 years old that’s pretty darn good. *smile* Oh yeah, I went to see the nurse because before I was sentenced I had tried to get a colonoscopy but the schedule didn’t work out so I wanted to get one while in here since I’ve got over 4 years to go before I can parole and get one on my own. The doctor said he’d put me in for one but he couldn’t say when it would be because when they first opened up TSCI someone asked for a colonoscopy, which you need to be prepared for in advance, and he used that forewarning to try and arrange an escape. *rolls his eyes* So now I guess they’ll just pull me out when they’re ready and try to flush my system as quickly as possible before the procedure. That doesn’t sound too pleasant. *yikes*