Toastmasters: Breaking The Ice

In Oct 2017, I joined a local chapter of Toastmasters International — an organization well-known for allowing their members to develop their public speaking and leadership skills. Since then, I’ve written and delivered 3 speeches and performed countless club roles such as Ah Counter, Timer, Evaluator, Toastmaster, Grammarian, and Topicsmaster. The opportunity to practice speaking thoughtfully, articulately and confidently on a regular basis has polish my presence and I cannot say enough good things about the organization and my local club. I’ve decided to publish my speeches so I can chronicle my development, both in writing and in public speaking!

My Summer of Reading

According to folklore — and by that I mean my mom’s stories — I taught myself to read at 4 years old, which was the beginning of a beautiful relationship with reading. But I somehow lost that as I went through high school and college, and then the business of being an actual adult. In good years, I would read maybe 2 books the whole year.

Fast forward to 2017: An social activist acquaintance, Brooke, added me to her virtual book club on Facebook for the Seattle Public Library’s Summer Book Bingo. I used to participate in summer reading programs all the time growing up, and I nailed those things to get my free milkshake or whatever other prize awaited. As Brooke mentioned some books she had in progress, I thought, why not and checked out a book from the library for an upcoming plane ride I had.

This book club was extra special. See, the way Summer Book Bingo worked is that each square had a category, such as Graphic Novel or Washington State author. When you read a book in that category, you could mark that square and when you got 5 in a row, you got a bingo! On top of that, Brooke had challenged us all to broaden our horizons and only read books by authors that were women, non-white or LGBT. Suddenly, the overwhelming amount of books that existed were whittled down based on category, type of author and recommendations from a friend… and I was off!

The first book I read is still one of my favorites, called “Who Thought This Was A Good Idea” by Alyssa Mastromonaco. I learned from her memoir that even being President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff doesn’t exclude you from having imposter syndrome — or the constant feeling that you aren’t good enough, something that I suffer from too sometimes. She tells her story of being one of few women in the White House with humor and humbleness. 2m14s

One trick I had for maximizing my “reading” time was to listen to audiobooks — especially ones read by the authors themselves. Since I was already a huge fan of Trevor Noah, it was to choose the comedian’s autobiography about growing up in South Africa for my “About An Artist” square. As you might expect, it was hilarious and insightful, and it was eye opening to learn so much about living during apartheid. The story of Hitler (no not that one!) is one I won’t soon forget.

I read Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” and learned more about a personal heroine for my “Finish in a Day” square, and the hugely popular “The Hate U Give” for my “recommended by a young person” square, which told a story from the Black Lives Matter movement from a teenager’s perspective after her friend is shot and killed. It was easy to choose the audiobook version of “Hidden Figures” after being captivated by the movie, but the book was 10 times better in the richness of the story it told of women becoming professionals at NASA during the civil rights movement. 3m30s

These were just some of my favorite books from last summer. I rediscovered my love for reading and overall, I read 19 books and got 3 bingos! I slowed down in the fall and winter but closed out the year with a total of 24 books — not bad for starting in May. I watched a lot less tv, read a lot less facebook and was able to talk to a bunch of new people about why I did or didn’t like the books I read. But my favorite part of this was learning stories about people that are very different — or sometimes not that different — from me.

Even though 24 books sounds like a lot, it was actually not too difficult to achieve. I was amazed at how easily I could find time to read, especially if it was a book I was really excited about. I now love recommending books and this year, I committed to reading 40 books. So far, I have 3 down so only 37 left to go. I can’t wait to hear more unique voices, learn about other time periods and perhaps even have a few laughs. And, of course, get a bingo blackout this summer!