How I Dealt With a Fear of Public Speaking

I remember the first time I had to give a speech in front of a classroom.  It was 1972 and I was 13 years old and in the 8th grade. And I was terrified.

It was supposed to be a persuasive speech and I was giving my speech on a “miracle pill” I had invented called “Weight-Off.”  I was to persuade my fellow students to lose weight by taking one of the miracle pills.  Silly, huh?  Especially since none of my classmates were overweight in the least.  I think as a prop, I used a bottle of silver cake beads that I found in my mother’s kitchen cabinet (that I labeled with my own handmade label).

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I was so terrified I was literally shaking and my mouth was so dry, I could hardly speak.  During the speech, my brain froze and my mind went totally blank. I remember standing there for what seemed like an eternity, not being able to speak a word.  I just stood there like a bump on a log, staring at my classmates who began squirming in their seats. I felt embarrassed and humiliated.  I couldn’t seem to regain my composure and started stumbling over my words when I did try to speak.  I think I finally said something like, “I can’t do this” and went and sat down in my seat.  I wanted to die.  Remember I was 13.

Needless to say, I didn’t get a good grade on that speech.  

Recently, I came across my old diary from 1972.  I read an entry from that infamous day when I gave that speech, and it brought back all kinds of unpleasant memories of that experience.

When I was getting ready to start college, I remember the day I was looking at the course catalog at a list of required courses for an animal science/pre-vet major.  And how my heart sank when I saw that Fundamentals of Speech was a required course.  I remembered back to my 8th grade experience and I started dreading that speech class.

I happened to be in the University bookstore one day standing in a check-out line when I heard two students in front of me talking about having to take speech.  One of them was talking about how she had dreaded it and how she ended up getting this really good teacher who made the class fun.  The other student said, “Oh, I’ve heard such good things about her!”  I wrote that teacher’s name down in the front of a notebook and I never forgot it.  When it came time for me to register for that dreaded speech class the fall semester of my junior year, I made sure I signed up for that teacher.

That was almost 40 years ago and Dr. Pearl Gordon was an exceptional teacher.  She understood having a fear of public speaking.  She gave good advice before our speeches and helpful feedback after.  In the class, I remember having to give a demonstrative, a persuasive, an informative, and an Impromptu speech.  She advised when it came time to picking the topics of our speeches to go with something we knew about and loved.  She told us to pick topics pertaining to our major if we so desired.  So I did.

The most helpful advice I got during those days was to practice, practice, practice my speeches, preferably in front of an audience.  And if I didn’t have an audience, then make one!  Someone suggested piling up stuffed animals on a bed or couch and stand in front of them as if they were an audience.  I was told to run through the speech over and over, practicing good eye contact, and appropriately adjusting the tone and volume of my voice until I developed confidence.

So that’s what I did and I remember feeling pretty silly the first time I rehearsed my speech in front of a group of stuffed animals who I aligned in rows on my bed. But I couldn’t believe how much it helped.  Soon after that speech class, I remember having to write a paper for an agriculture class and give a presentation in the agriculture auditorium on that paper.  My presentation was on the round purple USDA stamps that were applied to meats at inspection and whether that purple dye was safe if consumed.  I remember how surprisingly calm I felt just prior to my presentation and I knew it was because I felt prepared.  I had practiced and practiced my presentation.  I remember the first person who came up to me after my speech and told me I was a really good public speaker and how taken aback I was to hear those words, words I never thought I would hear after the horrid speech experience in that 8th grade classroom.

classroom-1699745_960_720Later on in veterinary school, I practiced again in front of those stuffed animals when I had to get up in Grand Rounds and present cases.  I was nervous then, not necessarily because I was speaking in public, but because I was speaking in front of not only fellow students, but veterinarians who were specialists in their field, and some of whom were world-renowned.  And who after my presentation would quiz me on my case and topic.  

I made a good strong A in that speech class in college and I actually enjoyed the class. If anyone would have told me that a course called Fundamentals of Speech would end up being one of my favorite classes in college, I would have laughed in their face and thought it preposterous.  I learned a lot in that class though that would last me a life time.  I learned that preparation and practice makes all the difference.  I learned good teachers make a difference.  I had not adequately prepared or practiced for that 8th grade speech.  And it was disastrous!

Do you have a fear of public speaking?  How do you deal with it?  Have you ever taken a speech class?  Was it a good or bad experience for you?   

Gail ♥  

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It’s Chilly Outside, So Let’s Have Coffee! (Virtual Coffee #4)

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If we were having coffee today, I’d invite you in while the coffee brewed.  It’s chili weather and you’ll probably smell the pot of chili on the stove.  I’d tell you how my cats are in heaven now that cooler weather has descended on us.  I can hardly get them to come in from the screened in porch.  Today is the first day we’ve seen the sun in many, many days and so they’ve been sunning themselves all day.  My kitties always get friskier this time of year.  I’ve noticed that with other pets over the years.  I’ve always wondered what it is about that chill in the air that makes them go a little nuts.  Are they just like me in that the high heat and humidity we experience here in the summer just drains their energy and so when cool weather comes, they’re just so darn happy to have some relief?

If we were having coffee, I’d confess that even though my kids graduated from high school in 2007 and 2011, and have long since graduated college, I still miss the “starting back to school” days in the fall.  It always feels like something is missing in my life in this season.  It was always such a busy time, but a fun time.  I miss those days…. still.  Will I ever get used to my empty nest?  I’m beginning to wonder.

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If we were having coffee today, I’d probably warn you that I’ve been somewhat of a grouch over the past week or so.  Here it is October 17th and I have yet to put up any fall decorations.  I’m procrastinating in the worst way this year.  I always like to clean the house before I drag out all those fall and Halloween boxes and I just haven’t been in much of a cleaning mood so the decorations still sit down in the basement.  Last year I remember wondering (as I was lugging box after box up the basement stairs) if I’m perhaps just getting too old to do all this decorating thing, as it does seem to get harder and harder each year.  I have always decorated my house for fall and Halloween and then Thanksgiving.  When my kids were little, they always enjoyed taking part in the festivities of decorating.   Now that they’re grown, I sometimes wonder why I’m still decorating for Halloween, but I know the answer to that.  I love fall and I love Halloween.  It always lifts my spirits to get the house all decked out in cozy fall colors. I love to fill my house with fall scents and burn fall candles at night. We take the red white and blue lights down from the porch at the end of September (which have been up since Memorial Day) and replace them with orange string lights.  Oh how I love my orange lights!  I did purple one year and didn’t like it as much as the orange because from a distance the purple lights looked pink.  Not too Halloweeny looking.  So yes, I went back to orange lights.

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Do you decorate for Fall/Halloween/Thanksgiving?

I’m amazed at how the stores get earlier each year with bringing out all the Christmas decorations.  I used to think, jeez, can we please  have Thanksgiving first?  Now, I’m like, what happened to Halloween people?  I was in Kohl’s last night and noticed all their Christmas trees and Christmas decorations are up.  Here we are two weeks before Halloween and there wasn’t much Halloween stuff out.  Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year.  I usually can’t even think about Christmas until right after Thanksgiving and it turns my stomach to start thinking about it here in mid October.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you my husband and I have our annual physicals on Monday. We’ve gone together for that for the past several years.  I’m dreading it because ashamedly, I’m at my heaviest weight ever.  With the horrid heat we had this summer, I totally quit my walking routine.  And man, did the pounds pile on.  I haven’t exactly been eating like I need to be eating either.  This is probably contributing to the grouchiness of the past week as I remember last year after my physical and blood work, I said I was going to work hard to lose weight and get in better shape for next year’s physical (which is here).  It didn’t happen and I have no one to blame for that but myself.  Actually, I’m doing more than blaming myself, I’m beating myself up.

If we were having coffee today, I’d ask you what books you’ve been reading and if you’ve read Jane Eyre.  I’m still trying to trudge through reading it.  It was on my list of books to read for the summer and it’s definitely been my least favorite book on the list.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t like it and I’ve contemplated abandoning the book a million times but haven’t.  I guess since I’m already 300 pages in, I hate to stop.  Part of me feels like I should go ahead and finish it since it’s a classic and well-loved by so many.  But then I wonder why in the world I’m wasting my time on a book that I just don’t care for.  I never read it in high school like so many of my friends did.  It’s always been hard on me to abandon a book I’ve started.  I can only think of a few books that I just couldn’t finish.  I actually liked the first part of Jane Eyre.  Her character evoked so much sympathy from me in the first 1/4 of the book when she was living with her abusive Aunt and then gets sent off to the charity school, where she again runs into more abuse.  When she leaves the school and takes a position as a governess, is when the book gets terribly boring to me.  Sorry to all you Jane Eyre fans out there.  I’ll probably finish the book.  I’ve already renewed it once from the library and it’s due back this Saturday.  If I don’t finish it by Saturday, then I don’t finish it.  I won’t be renewing the book a second time.  I’m ready to move on to my fall reading list.  Good Lord, what makes me feel so guilty about not liking a beloved classic?

If we were having coffee, I’d share with you that my husband has started requesting his hot lemon tea again at night when I have mine.  So fall must really and truly be here.  Unlike me, he totally gives it up in the summer and wonders how on God’s green earth I can still drink hot coffee and hot tea in the summertime.  I drink both year round.  I’m the only one in my family who likes coffee.  My husband and two sons all think coffee is disgusting.  They like to smell it but despise the taste of it.  Really, what’s wrong with them?!   I love my sweet (iced) tea (diet sweet tea that is) and drink it year round too.  I’m weird like that.

If we were having coffee today, I’d probably admit to you that this personal challenge I’ve taken on to post a blog every day in October has been quite challenging for me.  I’ve done pretty good except the day our Internet service crashed when I was ready to post and kept me from posting that day.  That couldn’t be helped.  I’ve learned that posting daily is not my cup of tea and I’ll return to posting just 2-3 times a week after October.  I love writing and love blogging and wish I did have the time it takes to post daily, but I don’t.  I think I’d eventually run out of things to say if I had to post on a daily basis.

If we were having coffee, what things would you tell me? 

Until next time,

Gail 

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Dental Tarter in Pets

I hope you will bear with me while I step up on my soapbox for just a bit concerning a veterinary topic that is important to me– Dental tarter and teeth cleanings in pets.

I know you’ve probably at one time or another seen animals with yellowish-brown or brownish colored teeth.  What you’re usually seeing is a buildup of dental tartar.

Dental plaque is a sticky colorless film that continuously forms on the teeth and forms within hours of eating.  If left untreated, plaque will eventually harden into tartar.  Dental tartar (also called dental calculus) is a combination of various mineral salts from saliva, bacteria and organic debris from food particles.  It’s bad news because it causes tooth decay, gum inflammation (gingivitis), periodontal disease, tooth loss, and dental infections.  It can also cause some serious bad breath or halitosis. It forms heaviest on the canine teeth, the premolars and molars.

Tarter is never normal.  Know that when you see it, there is a problem. 

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photo credit: vetharmony.org  This dog has severe periodontal disease.  Notice the exposed tooth roots, the pus around the gum line and tooth roots, the gingivitis and the heavy buildup of dental tartar.

Dental tartar is nothing to be taken lightly as it’s full of bacteria and an animal with a build up of tarter is continuously swallowing that bacteria.  The bacteria can eventually seed in the blood stream, where it can then travel to vital organs like the heart and kidneys.  And that’s never good.  The tarter also pushes up on the gum line, leaving a space between the gum and the tooth where food and bacteria get trapped. This can lead to a tooth root abscess.  

Pet owners often ask how often they need to have a professional dental cleaning done on their pet.  That depends.  Some animals form tartar faster than others.  Brachycephalic breeds (dogs with short noses and flat faces like pugs and bull dogs) and toy breeds seem to form tartar faster.  Older animals with systemic illnesses can form tartar faster.  It can also depend on the animal’s diet.  Animals fed a soft diet or a diet primarily of canned food, will generally develop tartar faster than those on dry food.

There are certain dental diets and dental treats to feed your pet that will slow down the development of dental tartar.   Brushing the pet’s teeth will also help prevent tartar.  Some pets tolerate brushing fairly well, while others won’t stand for it.  It helps to start brushing the pet’s teeth at a very young age to get them accustomed to the brushing.  And then there’s the question of how often one should brush their pet’s teeth?  To be really effective, it would be best to brush twice daily, just like what is recommended in people.  But let’s be realistic.  There aren’t many people who are willing to do that.  Surveys have shown that only about 1% of dog owners and less than 1% of cat owners regularly brush their pet’s teeth.  I used to recommend two to three times a week which is slightly more feasible for most people and still effective.  If you do brush your pet’s teeth, make sure you use a soft bristled brush and an enzyme based pet toothpaste, NOT human toothpaste, which is not designed to be swallowed and will upset digestive tracts if ingested.  Also the minty flavor and the foaming action of human toothpaste is disagreeable to most pets.

Sometimes pets require professional dental cleaning.  It does involve general anesthesia and endotracheal intubation  because most veterinarians use an ultrasonic dental scaler that shoots out a stream of water and uses an ultrasonic vibration to break off the tarter (and believe me, that dental tarter is some seriously hard stuff-–it’s like chipping off concrete).  You don’t want that water to go down the trachea.  Also, most dogs are NOT going to sit still for a cleaning.  Most vets also use a machine to polish the teeth too, like the dentist uses on you.  We can’t explain to our pets that what we are doing to them is for their own good.  They don’t see the benefit of it like we do.  They aren’t going to understand and it’s not as if we can tell them to sit still for 30-45 minutes with their mouth wide open so we can clean their teeth.  Forcing them to undergo this procedure while awake is scary for them and stressful, not to mention hard on the person trying to clean their teeth.  Animals with severe periodontal disease can be painful and can react to that pain by biting.  And, it’s dangerous having them jerk around with metal instruments in their mouth.  In order to do a thorough cleaning up under the gum line of all the teeth, which can be a tad bit uncomfortable, they need to be anesthetized.  A thorough dental exam will be performed during the cleaning as well as an examination of the entire mouth.  I’ve seen cases of oral cancers which were discovered on routine dental cleanings that the owner wasn’t even unaware of. Catching an oral cancer early before symptoms even appear can save lives!

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The teeth on this canine appear healthy and white with no visible tarter

I know people don’t like their animals to have to undergo anesthesia.  It’s probably the number one reason people don’t have their pet’s teeth cleaned.   I’m the same way and so I understand that COMPLETELY.  But I’m a BIG believer in dental cleanings.  My last cat lived to the ripe old age of 19 1/2.  From about the age of eight, I had to have his teeth cleaned a minimum of every two years.  He would not tolerate me brushing his teeth.  At.  All.  I even tried the dental wipe pads on him.  He hated that too.  It was a battle to use them.  It ended up being more stressful on him and what I certainly didn’t want to do in his old age, is stress him unnecessarily.  So yes, I anesthetized him when necessary and I cleaned his teeth.  He was more of an anesthetic risk in his old age but it was riskier NOT to clean his teeth than it was to clean them.  In other words, the benefits far outweighed the risks, in my opinion.  I want to believe that keeping his mouth and teeth in good shape prolonged his life.  I have two cats now who just turned four years old.  I examine their teeth and mouth periodically and their teeth are healthy with no tarter formation yet.  I feed them dry food daily and they also get special treats for dental tarter.  Whether this helps, I really can’t say.  But I can say that when they require it (and I’m guessing it will be in the next two years), they WILL have dental cleanings WHILE UNDER ANESTHESIA.

If an animal has a particularly bad case of dental tarter, most vets will recommend a few days of antibiotics prior to the cleaning and for several days after.   Why?  Because remember, that tarter is loaded with bacteria.  The gums are usually inflamed too and bacteria and inflamed gums don’t go together.  Bacteria released into the bloodstream can head right for the valve leaflets in the heart causing a bacterial endocarditis and this can be deadly.  I do not believe in putting all animals undergoing dental prophylaxis on antibiotics, but if I see an animal with advanced tarter buildup or periodontal disease, then yes, I reach for the antibiotics.  And if I cleaned an animal’s teeth which had a lot of dental tarter, you can bet I wore gloves and a mask with an eye shield.  Because I didn’t want to be inhaling the bacteria I was releasing (or touching it) as I scaled the chunks of tarter off.  And I certainly didn’t want said bacteria to splash up into my eye.  In the clinic I worked at, the owner was very strict on mandatory gloves, masks, and eye shields for the dental cleaner, whether it was a technician or a veterinarian doing the cleaning.  And for good reason.  While practicing vet med, I saw some mouths that were so full of infection and oozing pus and literally smelled so bad, that they made me gag.  I felt so bad for those animals.  How horrible to have an aching tooth and painful gums and not be able to tell anyone you’re in pain.  How horrible to be swallowing that nastiness every waking minute.  Cleaning nasty teeth was always rewarding to me.

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Most veterinarians will examine your pet’s mouth yearly when it’s time for their routine vaccinations/physicals.  They’re checking the gums, the teeth, and the throat for any abnormalities and determining if a teeth cleaning is needed.  If they don’t examine your pet’s mouth at least once a year, then request it!  Never be afraid to ask your veterinarian questions.  That’s what they’re there for.

Gail ♥ 

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Internet Service Down

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Well, so much for setting a goal to blog all 31 days in October.  Halfway into the month and feeling like I might just accomplish this goal, my good intentions were thwarted yesterday when we were unable to connect to the Internet.  After being unable to get on for hours on end, we contacted our Internet Service Provider and received a recorded message that there was “an outage” in our area.  But our next door neighbor still had Internet and he has the same provider we do.  We hung on the line to speak with a technician, but after hearing elevator music for a solid 30 minutes, we hung up.  It was late and we were tired.  I told my husband, they might get me to hold a little longer if they played some Ed Sheeran music instead of their yucky elevator music.  At midnight, we still were unable to connect and my day was gone (as was my chance at getting a blog posted), so we decided to just go to bed. Service has been coming and going today.  So I may or may not get a post done today.  My Internet nerves are a bit frazzled.

Oh well, I tried.

Gail ♥

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Sunday Glory

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From The Book Of Common Prayer

On Sunday

O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Gail 

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Camping Memories

I have a book of writing prompts and I was looking through it for ideas today since I’m at a loss as to what to write about.  It actually has some pretty good prompts.  Here’s what I chose for today.

Write about a memory you have related to a campfire.

I was in Brownies and Girl Scouts and both my sons were in Cub Scouts, so I have sat by a few campfires in my time.

When my sons were in cub scouts, the camping trips were always family camp outs so our whole family attended.  My sons camped a lot at a place called Boxwell Reservation in Middle Tennessee.  It’s a beautiful place with over 1,100 acres that sits on Old Hickory Lake.  There’s beautiful rolling hills, hiking trails, and of course the lake.  The kids canoe, fish, swim, and hike.  At night there was always a campfire and we roasted marshmallows and made S’mores.

I love campfires.  

It was always so peaceful sitting around that fire at night getting to know the other parents, sharing funny stories or singing along to someone strumming a guitar.

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photo-1503445159514-8113a1d748d8One night at camp, the adults had congregated around the campfire.  The camp site sat next to a large field that sat down in a valley and some of the kids got out green glow sticks and ran to the field area to play with them.  Slowly, more kids joined them.  And then a few more stragglers.  Some time passed and suddenly, I heard one of the adults say “WOW!” They pointed to the field and what I saw just made me gasp.  There were hundreds of kids playing with green glow sticks.  I think they come in all colors now but back then they all came in green.  Most of the kids had tied strings around them and were swirling them around.

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It was absolutely beautiful and a sight to behold!  It looked like a zillion fireflies gone wild.  I wish I had a video of that night.  It was one of the coolest things I had ever seen.  The kids had a blast that night and it was fun for us adults to sit by the fire and soak in that beautiful sight.

Do you have any special campfire memories?  What’s your favorite campfire treat?

Gail ♥ 

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are quick, easy to make, and very delicious for all of you pumpkin fans!  They’re very light and fluffy.  I used light brown sugar when I made them tonight but I think they’d be even better with dark brown sugar.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter, softened                                                           1 cup quick-cooking oats

3/4 cup sugar                                                                           1 tsp. baking soda

3/4 cup packed brown sugar                                                1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 large egg                                                                                1 cup canned pumpkin

1 tsp. vanilla extract                                                               1 1/2 cups semisweet choc. chips

2 cups all-purpose flour

In a bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Combine flour, oats, baking soda and cinnamon; stir into creamed mixture alternately with pumpkin.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350° for 12-13 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 4 dozen.

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Gail 

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