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Palm Trees & Capris February 9, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, Mindfulness, Writing & Writers.
36 comments

Today’s WordPress prompt, Describe Your Dream Vacation, reminded me of this story ~ written just before we moved to Florida.

Writing about how I would spend my last 24 hours  inspired us to head to Florida for vacation that winter.  And our dream vacation inspired us to make permanent changes and create the life of our dreams.

Enjoy the journey . . . as the path unfolds before you, moment by moment.

* * * * *

Blurry-eyed, I sat down at my computer with a cup of coffee, noting the promise of another cloudy, wet, dreary, dismal winter day.  Ugh.

Before I jolted the computer awake, an e-mail flashed onto the screen:

URGENT!  REPEAT . . . URGENT!

You have only 24 hours to live.  Make the most of them!

See you soon, GOD

Shocked, but pleased to have 24 more hours, I ran down the hall, “BFF, call Habitat and tell them you have a family emergency ~ we’re going to  celebrate my last day on Earth!”

Startled, he looked at me, “What do you mean?”

“No time now.  I’ll fill you in on the way to the airport.”

Back in our bedroom, I grabbed a small carry-on and filled it with essentials.  Before closing the case, I tossed in a few extra items for BFF, in case he decided to extend his stay in paradise.

Five minutes later, I returned to the kitchen, “OK, let’s go!”

In denial, BFF stared at me.  I tapped my foot, “C’mon! Time’s a-wasting.  I’ll answer your questions in the car.”

Lifting Tigger to give him one last hug, I buried my face in his fur, inhaled his scent, and listened to him purr, “I’ll miss you, buddy.”

In the car, I relayed the exact wording of the e-mail.  BFF shook his head, “It’s got to be a prank.”

“I don’t see how.  My computer wasn’t even turned on.”

He looked over, “I don’t want you to die.”

“Of course, you don’t.  But I don’t think we have a vote in the matter.  So, let’s not waste time with frowns or tears.  If this is my last day, I want to spend it with a smile on my face.  Let’s talk more on the plane.  I’ve got something I want to do for you.”

I popped Petty in and blasted it:  Time to move on.  Time to get going.  What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing.  But under my feet, babe, grass is growing.  Time to move on.  Time to get going. 

With Petty playing and BFF driving, I jotted down account info, passwords,  cremation instructions, and then wrote BFF a letter to read . . . later.

At the airport, I booked two seats on a flight scheduled to land in Ft. Myers at 10:30 am.

Perfect!  We’ll make it to Captiva Island in time for lunch. 

At the gate, I checked the weather on Captiva ~ 80 degrees and sunshine!  Perfect!

Then, I called my parents and siblings.  Each wanted to resist the “what is.”

“Sorry, guys.  The what is, is.  You can shake your fist at the sky all you want, but you’ll never stop the rain.  Dry your tears, fly down to Ft. Myers, and join us for dinner on Captiva.  Our treat.”

After boarding, BFF and I chatted about past, present, and future.  Before long, we landed beneath glorious azure skies!

Crossing the causeway to Captiva, BFF slowed the rental car, captivated by  pelicans dive-bombing for lunch in turquoise seas, “This is great!”

At South Seas Plantation, I booked the Honeymoon Suite for us and five  rooms for my family ~ one for each couple and one for our nieces and nephews to share.  Then I asked about the evening’s entertainment.

“We have a Sunset Cruise at 4:30 this afternoon on the South Seas Sailfish ~ it accomodates up to 25 passengers.”

“Can we reserve the entire boat?”

Checking the log, and seeing no prior reservations, the desk clerk nodded, “As a private charter, you can adjust the departure time to suit you and your guests.”

Then, glancing at a Sun chart, she added, “Sunset is at 5:15.  It takes about 15 minutes to reach a good vantage point.  Do you want to sail at 5?”

“Probably.  Let me check back with you later.”

“Of course.  We generally offer a cash bar and assorted hors d’oeuvres to passengers, but we can serve whatever you want.  Any requests?”

“Hmm . . . definitely a case of Moet and Chandon White Star Extra Dry, and an open bar.”

“Food?”

IMGP3178b

“Assorted cheese and crackers, fresh pineapple and whatever else is in season, and a decadent chocolate fondue.”

Finally getting into the spirit of this final adventure, BFF added, “Lobster rolls.  Shrimp Newburg.  Crab Egg Rolls.”

Taking notes, the clerk nodded, “Anything else?”

“We’ll get back with you after lunch.  What about entertainment?  Would it be possible to have a guitar player on board?”

“Certainly.  We’ll be happy to arrange that for you.”

That settled, we stopped by our room with a view, changed into bathing suits, and headed back to the beach.

As we passed the front desk, the clerk called out, “We set up chairs and a cooler of assorted drinks for you.”

“Great!”

Outside, a guy in khaki shorts and a bright tropical shirt approached,  “I’m George.  I’ll be your Beach Butler this afternoon.”

“Excellent.  We’d love to have lunch on the beach.”

“What would you like?”

BFF grinned, “Pizza with peppers.”

I laughed, “That’s my boy.  I’ll have a lobster roll and french fries.”

“Wonderful.  Our lobsters are flown in fresh each morning.  Anything else?”

Taking a peak into the cooler, I shook my head, “Looks like we’re all set.”

After George left, we wandered down to water’s edge, holding hands, and watched the terns as they shied away from the waves.  Overhead, pelicans and gulls soared, looking for lunch.

I pointed down the beach, “Look!  Parasailing!”

IMGP3134b

Following my gaze, BFF said, “I’ve always wanted to try that.”

“No time like the present.”

“You got that right ~ there’s no time BUT the present!”

Aah . . . that’s better! 

What about you?  If you knew you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do?  Where would you go?  Who would you want to spent that time with?

Does thinking about how you would spend your last day cause you to question how you’ve been spending your time?

Related posts:  Laugh When You Can * Just Leap . . . And the Net Appears * Self-Fulfilling Prophecies * The Last Post: What If . . . Press On? (Mirth and Motivation)

7 Keys to Effective Public Speaking February 9, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Mindfulness, Word Play.
45 comments

The other day I came across an absolutely perfect example of how NOT to persuade people to your way of thinking.

Instead of building from point A to point B to point C, the speaker in the video went round and round in circles ~ like a dog chasing its tail without ever getting quite close enough to catch it.

The video-taped argument was like listening to a broken record:  . . . the needle’s stuck . . . the needle’s stuck . . . the needle’s stuck . . . 

Eventually, I turned my attention to something else entirely.

If you need to present a speech, talk in front of a group, or persuade others to your way of thinking, here are a few keys to effective communication, to ensure that you don’t sound like a broken record:

1.  Know your audience.  If you are talking to beginners, start with the basics.  If you are talking to professionals, don’t insult their intelligence and waste their time by beginning with Intro to Widgets 101.  If you’re uncertain, ask a few questions to find out how much your audience knows about the topic under discussion.

2.  Dress comfortably.  If you are tugging on your hemline, smoothing out wrinkles, or acting like you’ve got ants in your pants, you will distract folks in the audience (especially those with ADD) from the focus of your talk.

3.  Watch out for nervous mannerisms.  Practice the presentation in front of a mirror to see whether you have any habits that need to be nixed.   You do not want audience members laying side bets on how many times you’ll sweep your hair out of your face, or jingle the change in your pockets, before you finish speaking.

4.  Introduce the topic and 3-4 key points.   Example:

Today, I’ll be talking about how to grow tomatoes.  We’ll address:  Planting, Feeding, and Harvesting.  By the time you leave today, you’ll be able to . . .

Why do this?

Because I said so.  I think it’s a good idea.  And I believe that I know what I’m talking about.  That’s why I said it.  Some people may not agree with me, but I know I’m right.  If you don’t agree with me . . . then you’re just stupid. 

Oops, sorry.

Those are the notes from the video I watched the other night ~ the “What NOT to do when Public Speaking” Video.

The reason to introduce the overall scope of your speech with 3-4 key points is to give your audience an outline to hang individual facts on.  It helps them to follow your train of thought, and retain the information you’re sharing.

Also, if someone is in the wrong room, it gives them a chance to get up and leave before you get into the central focus of your presentation.

What?

It happens.

5.  Outline key points on an index card.   If your mind goes blank and refuses to cooperate, having a bullet point outline on a small notecard lets you pause, regroup, and refresh your memory.

6.  Take a sneak peak.  Before winding down, take a quick glance at your outline to make sure that you’ve covered all key points.  If your presentation has been lengthy, summarize the topic and your 3-4 key points.

Done?  Good.  One last thing . . .

7.  Ask for Questions.  After you thank the audience for their time, but before you sit down, look around the room and see if there are any questions.

Don’t be afraid of questions.  They give you a chance to see into the minds of those in attendance, and clarify points.  The more hands waving with questions, the better your presentation.  It means that you have engaged your audience.  They are thinking about what you said and want to know more.

These basic tips will get you through speaking engagements and business presentations with reasonable finesse.  Of course, the more experience you  gain, the more comfortable you become ~ in time, you will no longer need to picture your audience naked in order to relax in front of the microphone.

Quotes to Ponder:

* “No one ever complains about a speech being too short.” ~ Ira Hayes

*  “There are only two types of speakers in the world:  1. Nervous speakers and 2. Liars. ” ~ Mark Twain

* “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” ~ Jean Giraudoux

No rules.  Just write!

What about you?  Do you enjoy public speaking?  Or view it as a fate worse than death? Some people do, you know.  When asked to rank fears, many people identify #1 as Public Speaking, and #2 as Dying.

What tips do you use to give effective presentations?  Humor?  Visual Aids?  Other?

Related posts:  Preferences, Predilections, and Propensities * The Price Of Greatness * To Agree Or Disagree . . .