Tag Archives: friendship

(362) Toastmasters

This is the “T” entry for Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.  It is my final entry.

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What It Is

Toastmasters International is a member-run organization that focuses on self-improvement through public speaking and its related activities. Local groups are formed and run by ordinary, every day people. Leaders are chosen by the clubs and everything related to club matters is done by the members. I belonged to a group called the Nordonia Gaveliers.

I joined Toastmasters because I had enjoyed debate and oratory when I learned it in middle school, and I knew I had an interest in that area. But the big reason I joined was because I was a business owner and felt that if I had to do any presentations, I needed to know what I was doing. In fact, I had given such a presentation to a Women’s Networking group and had an epic fail that really burned. Even after that, it still took me two years to get up the nerve to join. Besides being a big time commitment with weekly meetings, I was really going to take a big risk to get up in front of a group again.

I am forever glad I did.

My Experience.

Nearly every Monday night for ten years, I attended a Toastmasters meeting. These meetings consisted of three “official” parts — Table Topics, Speeches, and Evaluations. Table Topics enables members to practice speaking “off-the-cuff” about a topic they are given. The speeches are scheduled, planned, and practiced before being given. They follow a series of manuals that explain the elements needed in the speech, and a series of questions the evaluator uses to analyze how the speaker did on their speech.

I participated fully in the program. After my first 10 speeches in the “Communication and Leadership” manual, I was off and running into other specialized areas, including Storytelling, Special Occasion speeches, and Humor. It gave me a way to set goals, and continue to grow as a speaker.

TM manuals
Just some of the manuals that taught me a variety of ways to present.

Toastmasters is highly responsible for my ability to write in a way that is clear and concise. When giving a speech, everything needs to be clear so the audience can easily follow along.  I learned how to write my speeches vocally — rarely writing anything but a few key words down — which served me well for the speeches. However, it didn’t help me with the discipline of actually writing.  When I started college, I knew it was time to start putting things on paper. I guess the one thing I am sorry about is that I didn’t keep any notes.  The dozens and dozens of speeches I gave to Toastmasters are lost in time. There is no record.

Toastmasters taught me the importance of Roberts Rules of Order. It taught me how to deal with people when they are the most vulnerable. It taught me how to listen, as well as the importance of listening, and how nothing happens unless we listen well.

I found the most instructive part of the Toastmasters experience for me was learning how to evaluate others. Add to that, learn how to take evaluation. The idea of “constructive criticism” doesn’t set well with me, as the word criticism indicates negativity. In Toastmasters we learn how to evaluate fairly, always with an eye on those couple of things that could be improved. I also learned how to not be defensive about anything I said or did in a speech. I made my choices, and I took feedback for what it was — feedback. This has served me well in many situations in my life since then.

During my years with the club, I spent nearly five years as Vice President of Education, and a year as President. The club members waxed and waned, and yet a core group of us stood firm and kept things going. I never regretted any of the time I spent at Toastmasters because it gave more energy back than it required. I know that our club had some special elements to it that helped, and I’m grateful for that.

Relationships

Of course that big part about being with a group like this is that we are all in it to win it. We all want to do well, and help each other do well. It isn’t a competition.

I met my friend Iris because of Toastmasters. She was trying to get a club started in her community, so began to come to our club for inspiration. I also become lifelong friend with Stacy, who now lives in Safety Harbor, Florida.

Stacy&Helen97
Stacy and I  Toastmasters Christmas party 1997

Our club had a cool “wings and beer” event after every meeting, which helped us form our bonds much closer. One of the places we frequented for a few years was called Angie’s.  It had a bar with a bowling machine and a jukebox.  I cannot hear “Love Shack” or “Atomic Dog” without thinking of my Toastmasters buddies, as we drank beer, played the bowling machine, and danced around the bar. It was a perfect way to unwind on a Monday night.

My club rallied around me when I had my cancer scare. Many of us liked to golf, so they pulled together a golf outing in my honor a week before I had surgery. There is so much more I can say about the relationships I built through Toastmasters, and how these people influenced me in a million ways. This blog just isn’t big enough for all of it.

TMGolf
The Helen Sadler Open, July 21, 1997  Twin Eagles Golf Course

Where It Led

Without a doubt, my connections in Toastmasters increased the likelihood that I would find my calling as a teacher. And once I did, it was a Toastmaster that helped open doors for me. Dave was a middle school principal, and he hired me to run a weekly leadership group of 8th graders to teach them public speaking. This was a wonderful opportunity for me, and helped me grow in additional aspects of the program. Working with young people was quite different than adults! The group even came to our club to share the speeches they wrote for their 8th grade graduation. It was a super special night.

YouthLeadership
Youth Leadership group from Southeast Middle School comes to Nordonia Gaveliers Meeting, May 1998

In addition, Dave put me in touch with a 7th grade Language Arts teacher, Judy Wilfong.  Judy and I wrote grants so I could bring storytelling units to her classes. We were successful in securing grants twice to make this happen. What was cool was that Southeast Middle was connected to the elementary school, which made it easy for the kids to perform their stories for the younger grades.

All of these experiences led me to my teaching career and helped me firmly plant my feet into it. In the time I was a Toastmaster I went from business owner to a college student. Without a doubt, the love and support from those in my club helped me immensely in this direction. I simply cannot measure what those years have given me.

When I gave my final speech during my farewell meeting on June 5, 2000, I used this poem as my guide. I felt like it said everything I couldn’t about my experience with the people and the process of Toastmasters.

I Was Afraid of Dying

By James Wright

Once,

I was afraid of dying

In a field of dry weeds.

But now,

All day long I have been walking among damp fields,

Trying to keep still, listening

To insects that move patiently.

Perhaps they are sampling the fresh dew that gathers slowly

In empty snail shells

And in the secret shelters of sparrow feathers fallen on the

earth.

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(361) Unity

Today is my “U” entry for Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. I picked Unity for the subject today because it typically was a Sunday experience.

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What It Is

Unity School of Christianity was founded on the principles that Jesus’s ministry was one of healing. It takes a metaphysical, rather than literal meaning, to the bible and teachings of Jesus, opening up new ways of seeing and applying to our own lives.

I am not exactly sure how I started to attend Unity of Greater Cleveland. I think it was because I was already studying A Course in Miracles, and Unity had a study group. The minister, Joan Gattuso, had been raised Catholic like I was, so her experiences mirrored mine in many ways.

Although Unity Worldwide is based on Christian teachings in general, the Unity ministers have a lot of flexibility. This allowed Joan to teach from Buddhism, Taoism, A Course in Miracles, even Judaism as it fit the overall message.

My sister also attended Unity with me, as well as A Course in Miracles study group. It was a comfortable place to be on Sunday morning. What I learned to love best is that it was multi-cultural and inter-religious. People from all backgrounds could feel welcome at Unity, and there was something there for everyone.

The Five Unity Principles:

  • 1. God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere.
  • 2. We are spiritual beings, created in God’s image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good.
  • 3. We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.
  • 4. There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our awareness of God.
  • 5. Knowledge of these spiritual principles is not enough. We must live them.

My Experience

I began attending the services in fall  of 1991. In the spring of 1995, I received the church’s newsletter in the mail. I saw that they were looking for a new youth sponsor for the teen group Youth of Unity. I heard a “calling” at that moment. I tried hard to ignore it.  I tried to talk myself out of it privately, then talked to Jim and my friend Iris about it.  Instead of talking me out of it, they both urged me to pursue it.

The next day, I told my minister and within a month I was on a plane to Unity Village in Missouri with a couple of teens from our Y.O.U. group ready for the annual conference. I was scared out of my mind. This was the big event of the year, and I barely knew these kids, let alone anyone else. It was crazy.

But, oh, so wonderful.  A week in a beautiful setting, with the right focus, the right people, and the right lessons.  I was assigned to an all adult “family” where we learned the curriculum for the Sunday classes and also got to do some writing with a published poet.  It was pretty awesome. The music, the energy, and the things I learned — simply out of this world.

Relationships

The Y.O.U. gathering in Missouri brought me one of my dearest friends — Kate. Her son was in a Y.O.U. group from the other side of town, and she was the sponsor. She became my guide throughout the week. Kate helped me immensely with all things Y.O.U., and at the same time became a friend and confidante in many parts of my life. I simply cannot imagine life without her.

YOUKate
At the Y.O.U. Conference, Unity Village, July 1995

The best part, however, was the relationships I built with the young people who were in the Y.O.U. during the years I was a sponsor. I am on Facebook now with many of them, all who have grown into wonderfully principled people, pursuing their dreams, having families…it is wondrous to me when I think of who they were then, and who they are now.

Where It Led

I made the decision to stop being a sponsor about as quickly as I made the decision to become one. It was sometime in the spring of 1998 I decided to call it quits, allowing a few months time for them to find a new sponsor. (I knew at the time that my life would be going in a different direction, as I was going to pursue going to college.) What was weird was that my last day of being a sponsor we had the Wings Ceremony for three of the girls who were graduating and moving on to college. When I left Unity that day, I never returned. I never made a firm decision to leave Unity — I somehow just never went back. My friend Kate, always the wise one, said that Unity is a school and sometimes we graduate. I guess that is what happened.

I am convinced I would have never had the nerve to pursue teaching if it had not been for my time working with youth in this way. My commitment to Unity obviously was about that part of my journey. I grew in countless ways, found excellent principles to live my life, and can see the continuity with what transpired there in my every day life. I would venture to say that every day I have some memory related to my time with Unity. It was a wonderful foundation in which to build the second half of my life.

YOUcamp
My first and last camping trip ever was with Y.O.U. at Punderson State Park, July 1995
YOUreport
There were two rallies a year, besides the conference. The spring rally was held in Holland, Michigan at Hope College. Every chapter had to give their report. Zander is shown here giving ours. According to the back of the picture, he told the audience, “We wanted to go to Mexico, but went to Chi-Chi’s instead.”  June 1996
YOURally97
Rally at Hope College, June 1997.  Our group had grown!

(360) The Artist’s Way

image

Twenty-one years ago to this day, I began a journey that would be something that would have a profound impact on me. It was the WAY — The Artist’s Way — a book by Julia Cameron that started me on a path of understanding the true nature of creativity.  This is my “W” in the Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.

What It Is

The Artist’s Way is a twelve week program that helped me discover my creative self. It consists of some basic tools and then twelve weeks of exercises that help us, what Cameron calls, recover a “sense” of something lost — Safety, Identity, Power, Integrity, Possibility, Abundance, Connection, Strength, Compassion, Self-Protection, Autonomy, and Faith. It is based on her belief that there is a Great Creator who works through us, and our job is just to put the footwork in and the rest will follow.

I have found this to be true.

My Experience

Throughout the winter of 94-95, I found myself deeply involved in doing the exercises as precisely as I could to get the maximum benefit. I remember going out of my way to find different kinds of workshops to take — like maskmaking — and buying things I ordinarily wouldn’t buy and using, such as watercolor pencils. As I worked through the process, I discovered so much about myself that had been hidden.  This included acknowledging harm to my inner artist as well as uncovering the blocks that I put up to her.

I have a notebook just dedicated to what I wrote during that first time through. I subsequently put myself through the program again, I think two different times. But nothing has ever had the impact as that first year. There were many things going on in my life at the time, and this work grounded me and brought me a sense of myself I did not have before. That sense has never left me.

Relationships

A couple of years after I completed TAW (as it is called by veterans of the program), the internet came into vogue. I was on America Online, and found an online community for TAW. From that message board I became friends with two people locally — Carol in Akron and LuAnn in Bainbridge. I am still friends with these ladies today. There were others as well, and I recall in September 1997 we all got together for lunch.

TAW
Carol next to me, LuAnn across. Love my Artist’s Way friends!

The TAW group from all around the country supported me throughout my surgery, sending me messages which I printed out and had in a book in the hospital, as well as painting their toenails purple as a show of solidarity for me through the cancer scare.  I felt their love and support and prayers from afar. It was miraculous.

Where It Led Me

What I learned was that once you remove the blocks to your creativity, anything is possible. In the Introduction to the book, Cameron says the main things to learn are: Get out of the way. Let it work through you. Accumulate pages, not judgments. This put into practice consistently in the many years since has made me a believer. Cameron believes creativity is a spiritual experience. Given what I have witnessed in my own life, I would say it is mighty fine religion. I am grateful that this book exists. It always makes a list of the top books that changed me and changed my life.

In her Basic Principles on page 3, Cameron says “As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle and powerful changes are to be expected.” Rereading that just now helped me see that putting myself through this program twenty-one years ago was opening up a channel. I cannot describe any direct, earth-shattering event that happened as a result. What I can say is that once the channel opened, it has never closed. And that has been the best gift of all.

(353) Best Day Ever

I went to school yesterday with apprehension. Typically when we have a day where the schedule is askew and/or is right before a holiday break, it is extremely tough to deal with students.  Given that they also are eating way too much sugar on these types of days..well, it has often been a recipe for disaster.  I’ve seen even the best kids off their game.

But yesterday was different.  It began when former student, Isabella,  stopped by and gave me a box of chocolates, a “Best Teacher” ornament, and a huge hug.

Then I went into my room and found the following note on my computer keyboard:

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This is from a student who is really too old to be in 7th grade, but has been held back because of missing a lot of school. He often has to stay home to take care of younger brothers and sisters. He wrote me the note/poem because he is moving and is still unsure on whether he will be coming back to our school after break.  I cannot even begin to describe how it breaks my heart to see this intelligent boy reduced by his circumstances over and over again, living with such uncertainty, yet applying himself day after day. I truly hope he does return.

My students are almost all with my double blocks, so the plan was to spend some time outdoors letting the kids play; rain set in making it impossible. I quickly pulled together a game of “What Am I?” After we did Author’s Chair, where several students and myself read our personification poems to the class, the kids played the game.  It was so wonderful to see them all engaged and having a good time, trying to figure out, through questions only, what each person was.

Because of our winter concert assembly, our schedule was discombobulated, bringing my 3rd period to me with the promise of them returning later when it was finally 4th period. All week we had worked these kids, promising them recess during 4th if they completed all their work. This is the same class that has caused me to cry twice in the last month, I mean really cry, like for hours. They put up every resistance they can, are fairly cruel to each other and to their teachers, and simply will not comply with the simplest instruction — such as “get in a quiet line to walk to lunch.”  Even into December it is still a daily battle with this class. They have flummoxed me, my co-teacher, other teachers, and even the administration.

So when they arrived 3rd period, and it was raining, and the forecast still said it would be raining when they returned later for 4th, I knew we needed a miracle. I asked them if they believed in magic?  Some said they did. So I pulled out a “magic” technique I had witnessed work at a conference one year.  We went out on the bus ramp and we used our fingers as scissors to “cut away” the clouds. While some cut away, others danced a “reverse rain dance” in the sprinkling rain, asking the clouds to go away for 4th period.

We came back in the room and some of the kids performed their poems, which were more like raps and were a lot of fun. Then we sent them on their way until later.

My 8th graders came in, and we revisited an idea I had brought them from the Sanibel Island Writer’s Conference. I suggested we put together a book of our own personal “Top 10” lists, which was something done at SIWC to celebrate the 10 year anniversary.  We brainstormed all the ways they could do their lists, put our resident artist to the task of creating the cover, put on some Christmas music (with permission of the Jewish and Muslim students in the room), and projected a fireplace fire video onto the smart board. This was the quietest I have ever heard these students work when they are still allowed to talk! They were deep into creating their top Ten lists, among them the 10 best EDM music genres, 10 best restaurants to get chicken dinners, and 10 pieces of advice for surviving middle school.

top 10

We went to lunch late in the period, and after that played the “Who Am I” game, which ended up involving this one girl who usually is pretty checked out and doesn’t say much. It was fun to see her personality shining through as we played the game.

Then the 4th period students returned. It was still cloudy outside, but the sprinkling rain had stopped. This was a special day in this class because it was the last day for one student, Prentice, who is moving to Houston.

My co-teacher, Shannon Richardson, took most of them outside, and a couple of girls stayed behind. I put them to work cleaning my white boards so they would be fresh and ready for the new year. Soon, some of the other students started trickling back into the room, and they proceeded to write on the freshly-cleaned white board. I looked to see what they were doing and lo and behold! I was surprised — they were writing some very sweet “good-bye” messages to Prentice.  A girl named E’Nazhae was running the show, and everyone was doing their part. We put a student on “watch” for Prentice to return, and when we saw him and the other boys coming, E’nazhae snapped them all into a line.  Miracle upon miracle!  They DO know how to form a line. (I’m being sarcastic, I know, but really…I had never seen this phenomenon before.)  They yelled “Surprise” when Prentice walked in. We took some pictures. He was totally overwhelmed with love and affection.

prentice

When I told Shannon about E’nazhae getting them to line up straight, she said, “Maybe we should just have her do that from now on.”  It’s a thought.

By now I was totally in love with all my students again. I had some time during 7th to finalize all my preparations for when we return.  I’m never this “on it.”  I knew when I walked out at 4:00 that I was totally ready for break.

My 8th period students came in — this is a small class with many English Language Learners. They had a blast playing the “Who Are You?” game. I got to see them in action in new and different ways. One boy that had been really struggling has taken a leap in his engagement and ability to answer questions. We went to the concert and they gave me a million hugs before they left. My heart was glowing like E.T.’s after this day, I swear.

And I’ve learned something, too. I went with my gut a lot yesterday. I rolled with whatever was thrown at me. I persisted a little where I thought it was important. I gave choices. In other words, I did all the best things teachers can do. It can be so difficult when constantly barraged with mandates and hammering of standards to take this approach. I got to see again how truly effective it can be when students can have some time and space. I saw love, connection, engagement, empathy, connection, and downright FUN.  This is why I say it was the best day ever!

 

 

(333) 18 Years Ago

Today is the anniversary of the day I opened up to a new adventure in my life.  It wouldn’t be until about a month later that I actually accepted the idea into my heart. November 29, 1997 still lives vibrantly in my mind. I wrote an essay about it in 2004 and it was published in a book called Sacred Waters in 2005.  Here is my essay to commemorate that day:

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Under the Surface  (2004)

On a new moon Saturday in late November, the skies over northeastern Ohio were gray and the air had a chill.  I walked the trail through the woods near my home, a winding path through deciduous trees and pine forest.

I strolled along, kicking the leaves, taking in familiar sights and sounds. The trees were bare and the leaves were ankle-deep on the ground, pungent with the woodsy smell of rot as they returned to earth. In the distance, I heard the honking of wild geese as they migrated to a brighter place for the winter. I had only more gray days to look forward to, more cold, and probably plenty of snow.

At the end of the woods sat a lake surrounded by trees and picnic tables. My usual course was to walk right past the lake and straight to my car, drive home, and record in my journal what had transpired on my walk: usually a message from within, a creative thought, or a course of action I might want to take. On this Saturday, despite the cold, I found myself sauntering over to a table alongside the lake.

At age forty-two, I was beginning to feel the effects of midlife. The previous few years had been chaotic and demanding, and I now felt myself at a place where I could choose a new direction.

This was a solitary act if I ever knew one. I was certain I could figure it out, even though I had only a vague idea of what it might look like. I was convinced that whatever it was would come to me in a blinding flash, so I just had to wait for that moment. The wide expanse of lake reflecting the somber skies seemed to match the murkiness I felt about my own direction.

As I sat there, I watched six wild geese floating about randomly. They gathered together in a group and began to create a united voice, swimming from one lake edge to the other.

Listening to their calls, I was reminded of what poet Mary Oliver says about the sound of the wild geese — “harsh and exciting,” announcing their place in the family of things.

I felt a kind of communion with the geese as they toured the lake.  Once they reached the opposite edge, they turned around, again in unison, and it appeared they were going to swim back to where they came, like lap swimmers in a pool.

To my surprise, they suddenly took flight, in complete unison, the singing and calling continuing for several minutes afterward, as they flew toward new destinations, to warmer climates that would nourish them in the months to come.
***
I spent nearly an hour by Longwood Lake that day, coming to no conclusions about anything. Once home, I dutifully recorded my encounter with the geese, then promptly forgot about it as I got on with my day. I was a member of a local club and had some phone calls to make to members. One person I called, a friend named David, was home, and we got into a conversation on career matters.

“Helen, you should go back to school and become a teacher. You’d be so good,” he said.

I quickly denounced the idea as unworkable. After all, I had no college credits to my name, and with my current financial situation, the thought of attending college was completely outside the bounds of my imagination.

Yet, David’s suggestion didn’t leave me. For a month, I struggled with it, fought with myself over it, and loudly cursed him in the dark for mentioning it. Something under the surface was rising, something I could no longer deny.

One afternoon, desperate and alone, I found myself in my car, the heater running full blast, windshield wipers beating back wet snow, looking out across a frozen Longwood Lake. Snow lay on the surface and on the picnic table where I sat watching the geese just a few short weeks before.

I honestly don’t know what drew me to the lake — I don’t even remember deciding to go there. I shut off the car and made my way through the falling snow to a wooden fishing pier. I climbed the stairs slowly, methodically, marking my way in the snow.

I looked out across the white lake and thought about this thing bouncing around inside me, the long-held dream I never dared to dream: my desire to be a teacher. It was as if a thick layer of ice held it under the surface for more years than I care to recount.

With one swift stroke, David had broken through that ice. I had spent a lot of energy trying to fix the hole he made, instead of looking at what was seeping up to the surface. In a moment of surrender, with swirling snowflakes surrounding me, I softly said, “Yes.”
***
I live in Southwest Florida now. No wild geese visit me here. Instead, I am graced with great blue herons, snowy egrets, bald eagles, and common moorhens, all of whom come to the water for nourishment. Nearly seven years have passed since those days by Longwood Lake. Like the geese, I have found a warmer climate, a place that deeply nourishes my spirit. I have also found much more.

As I reflect on that November day in Ohio, I am convinced that mysterious forces were at work, causing a major change in my life. My time by the water created an opening, and along with the right words from a friend and a great deal of inner struggle, I found something that wasn’t lost, but was hiding.

I discovered this simple truth: finding one’s passion is a sacred act because it happens communally. No blinding revelations are required — just an open mind and a willingness to listen to that thing that calls to you from the depths.

This year I graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree, and I will begin teaching middle school. The lake on which I now live continues to teach me about the family of things, the life we don’t expect, the places at which we never thought we’d actually arrive.

Like the wild geese, we may seem to be floating randomly on the water of our lives. But our Calling calls to us, causing us to lift our wings and fly, singing in unison with others, beating our way toward our previously unimaginable dreams, and the pursuit of our fantastic passions.

(268) Allowing

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Yesterday I wrote about getting back to flowing like a river (metaphorically.) There were challenges in my day, but I think I made some progress.

Then today I read this poem by Danna Faulds called “Allow.”  It is exactly what I needed to hear:

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream, and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in—
the wild with the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

I had some moments yesterday when I felt that I was an alien just visiting this planet. I had moments where I lacked confidence or wondered how I am being perceived.

I do not like when doubt creeps in.

But then my wonderful writing group grounded me back. It is so wonderful to have friends, colleagues, and partners in the writing and teaching life that know me. We speak the same language. God blessed me with them and I am forever grateful.

I move on with allowing myself to be who I am — in the classroom, on the page, as a musician, as a wife, a sister, an aunt. It is easy to be swayed by those who live by fear. But living authentically is all I’ve ever really wanted.

I start again. Today.

(237) McCartney and Wings Over America, 1976

I received the phone call at work, quite unexpectedly, on May 10, 1976.  It was my brother John.

“Do you want a couple a tickets to the Paul McCartney concert?”

Of course my answer was yes, and I scrambled to find someone to take one of the tickets, as the concert was that night.  My friend Debbie was available, and we made the sojourn to Richfield Coliseum.

To put in perspective, the Beatles had only been broken up for 6 years.  John Lennon was still very much alive. McCartney’s tour in America was highly anticipated. Why I had not bought tickets myself, I’m not sure. At the time I was an avid concert attender. I had fallen deeply in love with the Band on the Run album, playing in incessantly in 1974. Paul was the first Beatle to tour America. Why I didn’t pay more attention, I don’t know.

But the spontaneous nature of attending the show definitely had an impact.

After dealing with tons of traffic, we got to the concert hall and immediately hit the bathroom, which was jammed. When Debbie and I went to find our seats, the concert was about to begin. The lights had already dimmed and the early strains of “Venus and Mars” were starting. We hadn’t quite found our seats — which were horizontally placed not too far right of the stage up in the bleacher area — when we froze. Something overcame me in that moment. The entire Coliseum was ROARING. I had been to many concerts there, but had never heard this before.

It was Beatlemania.

The band hit the stage and were were mesmerized and screaming ourselves. The usher came and shuffled us to our seats. Once seated, I was able to catch my breath, but the mesmerized feeling lasted. My favorite part of the entire show was McCartney’s acoustic set where he sang “Richard Cory,” “Bluebird,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Blackbird,” and “Yesterday.” We were thrilled by the unexpected explosions during “Live and Let Die.” At the time stage shows like that were just coming into vogue, so this was a new and unexpected twist.

All in all the concert lasted two hours. I felt he had given us everything he had to give and more. Paul McCartney could have done the simplest show and it would have been great. We felt that his showmanship — and the band’s as well — took it to an extra level. We loved it.

Above is a link to the concert video called Rockshow that was produced in 1980 from the show. It includes the set list. Watching the video simply cannot capture the intensity the audience felt being in the presence of the great McCartney. Yet, I am grateful for this video that mirrors the show I saw on May 10, 1976.

Here is the set list from the show:

  1. Venus and Mars” +
  2. Rock Show” +
  3. Jet” +
  4. Let Me Roll It
  5. “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” (lead vocal Denny Laine)
  6. “Medicine Jar” (lead vocal Jimmy McCulloch)
  7. Maybe I’m Amazed” +
  8. Call Me Back Again” *
  9. Lady Madonna” * +
  10. The Long and Winding Road” *
  11. Live and Let Die
  12. Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)” *
  13. Richard Cory” *
  14. Bluebird” +
  15. I’ve Just Seen a Face
  16. Blackbird
  17. Yesterday
  18. You Gave Me the Answer
  19. Magneto and Titanium Man
  20. Go Now
  21. My Love” *
  22. Listen to What the Man Said” +
  23. Let ‘Em In
  24. Time to Hide
  25. Silly Love Songs
  26. Beware My Love
  27. Letting Go
  28. Band on the Run
  29. Hi, Hi, Hi
  30. Soily

(231) Gift

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Artist: Pam Malafronte

This collage hangs in my writing and music studio. It is a gift made just for me from my friend Pam. She gave it to me when I received my Masters degree in 2006.

I met Pam when we were both going in to take the English 6-12 Teacher Certification Exam. We discovered we both were going to be entering the Teacher Immersion Program, and needed to have the exam under our belts.

We became fast friends, and are still friends to this day. I have a few friends older than I am, and many who are younger. Pam is just about my age exactly. This gives us a shorthand. We were doing the same things at the same time. There is so much that does not need explaining.

Pam pulled this together from gift cards, gift wrap, some glitter, and her own unique hand. The words she wrote were ones that related to me. I am grateful for this unique and thoughtful gift, hanging here where I create my ordinary life.

Yet, I can’t help but reflect on how extraordinary some friendships are. For that I have another G = Gratitude.

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