Happiness amid gray skies

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It rained almost all day today, but when it finally stopped this evening, Jazzmin and I set out on a walk. The air was chilly as autumn air should be and the leaves of almost every kind of tree have started to change.

Although the skies were still gray and the road damp, I was happy and content because my pup and I were out enjoying the fresh air and getting our exercise. Jazz would be happy walking in a blizzard (I know because we’ve been outside in one) but I prefer snow-free walks.

Autumn is my favorite time of year and I intend to cherish it for as long as it lasts. Cooler temperatures mean it’s time to bake and soon my kitchen will be filled with the smells of apple pie, homemade bread and various cookies. Yet another reason I love to walk in autumn, to burn off all those yummy calories! 😉

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Darling Daisy and the Dark and Stormy Night!

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Daisy napping in my desk chair after her adventure.

It was cool and rainy this past Saturday night when I let my oldest cat Owl out for her usual hunting in darkness. Unfortunately, and much to my dismay, my youngest cat Daisy ran out the door at the same time and disappeared under the deck before I could stop her. Not only was it dark and rainy, there were fireworks going off somewhere down the hills. Apparently that didn’t scare Daisy into coming back inside though.

Owl is an indoor and outdoor cat but Daisy is supposed to be strictly indoors. Several months ago, the girls took Daisy outside on a leash a few times and she discovered a love for the outdoors that she acted on last Saturday night. I soon found myself outside in my pajamas in the rain with the house flood light on and a flashlight trying to chase down a little cat that had no interest in coming back inside. I’m sure if any neighbors saw me out there, they were quite amused.

After several minutes of me trying unsuccessfully to coax her to me or back in the house, Daisy took off behind the house and I was forced to give up and come back inside. I left Owl out and told her to retrieve her sister. It seemed unlikely she’d fulfill my request since she’s not fond of either of the rugrats, but it didn’t hurt to try. I went to bed praying to every deity I could think of that Daisy came back inside the house the next day and fell asleep with her unconcerned litter mate Angel snuggling next to me. Feel the sisterly love!

As soon as it was light the next morning, I went and opened my deck door and the first thing I saw was Owl coming up the steps proudly carrying a red squirrel. I was annoyed because that’s not what I asked her to bring me and wondered if that’s what she considered her sister. The next thing I saw was Daisy coming toward the front door from the side of the deck and I was so relieved! I opened the door slowly and called her name sweetly and she came running in with her tail all poofed up and wide eyes. Thankfully, she’s something of a pig so her hunger had overpowered her need for adventure and she ran straight to the food bowl.

By this time, Owl had disappeared back under the deck with the red squirrel. I don’t know how she even caught one of those! They’re like lightning fast and she’s 9 years old! She’s always been a good hunter and I did name her after a nocturnal bird of prey so I guess I was just asking for it.

I swear sometimes that if these things didn’t actually happen to me I wouldn’t think they’re true, but they do so I know they are. I’m hoping there aren’t any further adventures like Darling Daisy and the Dark and Stormy Night, but one never knows in my life…

Channeling Rambling Into Public Speaking

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Holding my cat Owl who is almost as talkative as I am.

There’s a very good reason the address for this blog is “ramblingjulie” and that reason is that I ramble. As I’ve said in previous blogs, one of the my father’s favorite pieces of advice to me was “Talk slower!” and he said that because I talk quite fast when I’m excited about the topic, when I’m happy, when I’m nervous or any combination of those. I am an exuberant and energetic person and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

For this past term at SNHU online, I was taking Public Speaking, which involved writing two speeches and recording them. I found the writing part challenging but not impossible as I type quite fast and am an efficient researcher. However, when it came to speaking them aloud and recording them in front of a camera I was extremely nervous! I’m not sure I’d survive a Public Speaking class in an actual classroom setting because I’d probably melt into a puddle of anxiety and embarrassment.

Regardless, I did my first speech (an informative speech), turned it in, received a good grade and some suggestions about going less from my notes, shooting it in an area with better lighting, looking at the camera more and using more gestures and body movement. I used my laptop webcam to record that speech and the only place I could put it where it was at a good height was on the shelf in my daughters’ bedroom where the lighting wasn’t the best and I had to stand between their two beds to give it. Lighting and movement were definitely lacking and honestly, the prospect of me memorizing anything with my constantly-subject-jumping-mind is rather slim. Even so, I was pleased with my grade and hoped to do better on the next speech.

For my second speech, a persuasive speech, I chose a topic I was very passionate about (attending Pow-wows) and writing it out was no problem at all. After my first speech, I had a good idea how pages translated into minutes of talking and I had the speech ready to go in less than an hour. That was the easy part. The hard part was finding a good place to record it and then actually performing it. Using my point and shoot digital camera on a tripod, I tried to record it outside first but it was too breezy and the wind kept blowing into the camera microphone drowning out what I was saying. Moreover, it was 85 degrees in the shade and I was already sweating from being nervous so that was just a bad idea.

I then moved the “recording session” inside my air conditioned house and decided to stand in front of my coat closet door because there was plenty of natural light. With my daughter’s music stand set up as my podium, I started recording my speech…and was almost immediately interrupted by my “evil twin” cats Angel and Daisy tearing through the house. I paused the recording to wrangle them somewhere out of the way and then looked at what I’d recorded. I realized a hair and wardrobe change was in order after that preview and a couple outfits later, I was happy with one of my off the shoulder blouses and my wavy brown hair cascading down over my shoulders. My original glasses-wearing librarian with her hair in a bun just hadn’t played well for the topic of my speech.

Content with my setting and appearance, I started recording my speech again and it took several recordings before I got something I was sure I could edit into something reasonable. Luckily, doing my first speech gave me needed experience using Windows Live Movie Maker so I knew how to edit and add things, but it was still a time-consuming process. Incorporating visuals was necessary for this speech, but as I couldn’t figure out how to keep the sound going over the slides, the pictures just popped up for two seconds following the sentence I spoke leading up to them. I’m sure with a better movie-making program, it would have been less choppy, but I got everything in that I wanted to.

The required length for the speech was 5-8 minutes and mine wrapped up in just under 8 minutes so I was quite pleased with myself. Even so, I wasn’t overly confident I’d receive a good grade because I kept looking at my written speech and didn’t incorporate much body movement (what the heck does one do with one’s hands when they’re giving a speech???), but I know I’d given it my best shot. I turned it in, awaited my grade, and didn’t have to wait long. The next morning I checked my grades and stared in disbelief at my grade of 170/175! I think my exact reaction was to exclaim “Holy s**t!” and thus scare Jazzmin out of the room and wake both inside cats from their naps.

The fact that I had managed to channel my rambling into Public Speaking speeches that made sense was astounding to me. Not only that, I’d actually spoken slow enough to be understandable and for anyone who knows me really well, that’s quite an accomplishment! I was extremely happy with my grade (the five points off was for still not incorporating enough gestures and body movement) and I knew that my dad’s spirit (the former Toastmaster) was looking on in pride. I do tend to underestimate myself and life has a way of slapping me upside the head when I do that, but I also think that’s there’s nothing wrong with being humble. Eventually I’ll figure it all out and stop doubting the limitless potential in this Rambling Julie. 😉