Archive for February, 2013

ToastmastersLogo-ColorTable topics is the impromptu speaking part of a Toastmasters meeting. It’s an opportunity for people to practice speaking off the cuff by responding to a question, statement or scenario while also attempting to meet specific objectives. Tonight’s meeting theme is charitable endeavours and I’m the table topics master/mistress. Try your hand at table topics, albeit without the group dynamic, by responding to one of my questions. Address it within a 1-2 minute time frame and incorporate vocal variety and body language in your response.

1. Many health research organizations raise funds through sporting events. Have you participated in any events or sponsored someone who has?

2. What type of causes most resonate with you?

3. Arts organizations typically solicit funds by holding high-priced dinner galas. Does this strategy of targeting higher income people imply that arts are not relevant to people of more modest means?

4. Food security specialists argue that food banks are a band-aid solution that hinders political reform. It’s estimated that only 25% of disadvantaged people use such services due to the inherent lack of dignity involved. Should food banks be abolished?

5. Crowdfunding sites such as indigogo are becoming popular venues for individuals to raise funds for a variety of small projects. Would you to contribute to a project that interests you?

6. Are you more likely to donate to a charity that focuses on international causes or local causes?

How did you do? Did you remember to enlist vocal variety and body language in your response?

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Al & Leona, September 1959

Al & Leona,1959

My Google calendar pop-up notice reminded me that my father’s birthday is coming up next week. He passed away in October 2011 and I should probably fix that calendar alert. The same day my daughter sent me a scanned copy of my parents wedding photo, which I had gotten her to scan for me back then. So, I guess it’s time to write something about them, or at least I’ll start with my dad today.

My father, Al, would have been 82 next week. He enjoyed country & western music and Hank Williams was his favourite artist. He loved to belt out songs but wasn’t particularly gifted as a singer. He was also big on whistling. When I was a kid one of the neighbours called the police about the whistling saying it was noise pollution that interfered with his dental practice. Al didn’t give up whistling. In his retirement years, once arthritis had limited his mobility, he’d get on his scooter to go for a ride around the neighbourhood, whistling all the way.

DadAl  loved being outdoors. His passions were gardening and wildlife. Roses were his favourite flowering plant although he had many hollyhocks in later years. Fruit trees and berry bushes were also dear to him and he took some of these with him when he retired and moved from Toronto to Orangeville. He nursed injured birds. He’d come across them at work and bring them home. As someone who liked singing and whistling, he also gravitated towards bird calls. If a bird crowed, he crowed back. When he passed away we found a Hank Williams cd in the car player and a bag of bird seed in the backseat.

At one time we had a couple rabbits. Al brought a couple hares home that he had found at work. We ended up with many rabbits and hares. One morning, to my horror, I went out back and saw two of the rabbits and two of the hares hanging from the clothesline. I screamed and ran crying into the house that someone had murdered them. I was told teenagers must have snuck into the yard and did this horrible deed. A day or two later I came home for lunch and was apprehensive about the unfamiliar smell that was coming from the pot. My gut told me it was rabbit stew. I was mortified again. My father denied it. How could he dare cook them. At this point I surmised he was probably the killer.

Al was born in Saskatchewan and this rural family included 18 other siblings. A few didn’t survive childhood. He was one of the younger kids. I thought the family had always been a farming family but at my father’s funeral my cousin, Myra, told me a different story. She heard this from her mother, who was twelve years my father’s senior. I’m not sure if it’s true or not but this is how it goes. … Back in the 1920s my grandfather had been a prosperous bootlegger. The family lived in a big Victorian house and life was pretty good. Then my grandfather got caught and spent some time in prison. The family lost everything and ended up on this 165-acre farm where my father was later born. Their Ukrainian heritage would have made life difficult in Canada at the time but I can’t help but wonder – what if they had been situated in Montreal instead of the prairies? They might have ended up being one of the country’s wealthiest families!

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