In honor of our country’s upcoming birthday, Chris Nolte, the Toastmaster of the day chose the theme “Americana.”  Throughout the meeting he told us several interesting facts about the United States.  For instance, did you know that we have more than 600 national parks?  Just when you thought there was no new place to visit,  you find at least 600 vacation choices.

Our first speaker, Lina Draney, asked us, “Have you ever looked at something familiar, but suddenly saw it as if you had never seen it before?”  She described 2 such incidents which took place in her own back yard.  While standing in her garden, she heard an unusual sound and looked to see from where it was coming.  Some blooming flowers had attracted quite a number of bees.  Her immediate alarm dissipated when she realized the bees were not interested in her at all — they were just gathering nectar for honey.  She spied 1 bee sitting atop a flower and realized it was grooming itself.  It actually took an antenna and appeared to be washing its face.   On another occasion, she was watching spiders.  She suddenly noticed that different spiders weave different types of webs.  Some are triangular, others rectangular, yet others combine various shapes.  All are intricate and incredibly strong.  She brought in a plant she’d grown and said until recently she hadn’t noticed it had tiny flowers.  We all took the opportunity to look at the small plant and find it’s delicate little flowers.  Lina maintained, “It’s amazing what we don’t see as we walk through our day.”

Tu Duong asked us, “How many of you have cell phones?”  That brought a 100% affirmative response — everyone did.  His next question, “Do you use it the way you did 10 years ago?”  Another 100% response — NOBODY DID.  So much is different and Tu suggests in the next 10 years we will see even greater change.  Tu believes the Smart Phone will become our health monitoring center.  It will be capable of detecting heart rate, blood pressure, heart valve problems, diabetes. The information can be transmitted directly to your doctor and if you need assistance, your GPS will lead paramedics to your location.  OMG!  Of less importance, but certainly adding ease to the day, your Smart Phone will change the way you shop.  Your wallet and credit cards will no longer be necessary.  Your phone can take a picture of what you want and billing can be completed in the time it takes to click.  In the Virtual Shopping world, imagine seeing s suit you like and then pressing a button to see how it would look on YOU.  What would it look like in a different color?  Just click away.  Hmmm, is the Smart Phone becoming smarter than us?

Andres Del Corral presided over Table Topics.  What interesting Americana questions, and what remarkable responses.  All were splendid, but in voting for the best, our 3rd place runner-up was Maria Larrazabal, 2nd place was Sharon Patish and our WINNER was, our guest, a former Toastmaster, Virginia Jimenez.

Our Master Evaluator Sharon Patish and her team, Jim Hartnett and Luisa Herran gave us some pointers to think about when we next speak.  Here are some examples:

As beginning speakers, we are nervous and our anxiety often gives way to speaking too fast.  Take a deep breath and slow down.

Also pauses aid in showing emphasis.

Use visuals when possible.

Finally, our Grammarian, Ghislaine Demombynes, noted that in the past our first speaker had many “ums and ahs,” but during this speech there were none.  So listen as the Grammarian points these things out — then listen to yourself.

A big welcome to our guests:  Virginia Jimenez, Jason Raskin, Carlo Camargo, Melissa Blundell Osorio and Sylvia do Pico.  We look forward to seeing you again.


Our Toastmaster of the Day, Ghislaine Demombynes, opened the meeting giving us a theme of appreciation.  We are busy with jobs, family, friends and as a result often don’t take time to fully appreciate all these pieces of our lives.


How delightful to welcome a new member and listen to his Icebreaker.  Andres del Corral is a native Floridian, growing up right here in Miami.  As a youngster, he enjoyed watching “20/20″ and thought about becoming a TV Journalist.  His first opportunity came at Gulliver Academy, but he was behind the camera.  Turns out Andres had a fear of public speaking (too bad there wasn’t a Toastmaster’s Club at school).  In college he studied TV production and upon graduation headed out to California to follow his dream.  While at Intermedia Productions, he worked on a film  called,”Fear Factor.”  He asked if we’d seen it and receiving no response said, “That’s OK, no one else did either.”  As often happens, reality can be sobering and Andres missed his tropical Miami.  Oddly his decision to return had a political twist.  He decided if Arnold became “governator,” he was leaving California.  Arnold won.  Andres returned, went back to college receiving his MBA.  Today he is working in Commercial Real Estate and loves it.


Dominique Stauffer recently returned to our Miracle Mile family.  Since we last saw Dominique, she became a member of Guardian ad Litem.  Members of “GAL” are volunteers appointed to represent the interests of minor children in court.  In the United States there are 600,000 children  in need of Court appointed special advocates.  There are 3,000 right here in Miami.  They range in age from babies to teens.  Volunteers facilitate for the well being of children by advocating for, and investigating on behalf of them.  In addition, GAL members go to the homes, speak with teachers, therapists and doctors.  Results show, with these efforts, children do better in school, often spend less time in foster care, and are not as frequently moved from one foster situation to another.  Dominique has found volunteering to be rewarding and the benefits to the children are immeasurable.


Mike Molina once again stepped up to be our Table Topics Master.  How would you have responded?

How is appreciation important to you?  What triggers you into a feeling of appreciation?  Thinking of the public services we receive, which group do you appreciate the most?  What do you appreciate most about your kids?  What is the greatest contribution Toastmasters has made in your life?  What do you think we have in life that we take for granted?  What would you like to be remembered for in the world?

Wow!  It was pretty tough for our contestants, but three people got the most votes.  In third place we had Sharon Patish, in second place we had Chris Nolte and our winner was Chris Wolfe who, as a result of Toastmasters, established “Voices Of Time,” and appreciates how fortunate he is.


Our Master Evaluator, Alex Moreira and his team Jody Johnson and Jim Hartnett left us all with some suggestions on how to improve our speaking skills:

1) Use pictures or other visual objects to draw attention to strong points in your speech.

2)  Watch what you do with your hands — you want movement but too much can be distracting.

3)  When possible, end your speech with a call to action.


Jerry Bailey, our Toastmaster of the day, began the meeting welcoming the vernal equinox, which occurred last Friday, at 6:45 pm.  This is a 24-hour period in which day and night are nearly equal in time (both almost 12 hours).  To us in the northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox means SPRING IS HERE.  For many cultures and religions it is a time of rebirth and new beginnings.


Our first speaker, Ghislaine Demombynes is a life coach and our resident author.  She is in the process of publishing her new book, “Not Too Close, Not Too Far,” which deals with her experiences and observations in child rearing — not just youngsters, but adult children as well.   The title describes the “dance” a parent performs — trying to hold a child close, while allowing  them freedom to grow and explore.  Ghislaine identified several traits that have a high impact on children.  For instance, a parent’s vision of failure may prevent a child from attempting something new because it is difficult.  However, that very struggle gives one the opportunity to acquire, modify, or reinforce skills.  Did you know that worry impedes nurturing and loving your kids?  Often worrying over children is considered a way of loving them.  However, worry begins in the head — not the heart.  An interesting and dynamic talk.


Leisha John discussed the confusion many have, when it comes to understanding our planet’s climate problems.    Recently a politician threw a snow ball in Congress and criticized those who speak of global warming because it’s March and we are still having blizzards.  Our own Governor Scott banished the term global warming when having discussions with him.  Here is something neither of these politicians seem to get — CLIMATE CHANGE IS GLOBAL, WEATHER IS WHAT’S IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD.  The reality is that “global trends” indicate that the climate is getting warmer.  This causes higher evaporation over land and sea.  On our continent, California is almost out of water, and in Texas cattlemen are looking to move herds because of water scarcity.  The arctic melt is causing sea levels to rise.  Ground Zero for this harmful situation is right here in Florida.  So, what can we do?  Leisha suggested the following:

1) First, learn the basics of climate change.

2) Find out what people seeking political office know about the climate and environmental issues.

3)  Get out and vote.  Vote for the environment.


Mike Molina, our Table Topics Master, surprised members with some interesting questions:  1)  What does spring mean to you?  2) What outdoor activities do you enjoy in the spring? 3) What do you recall about springtime when you were growing up? 4) What calls you to the cold mountains in spring?  4) What benefits do you derive from going on vacation?  5)  Looking back on your youth, what are you most ashamed of?

There were some mighty good answers.  Our winners were:  Third Place – Sharon Patish; Second Place – Paula Hesch; First Place – Chris Wolfe (OMG, did we laugh! Imagine something to do with college students, smoking and General Hospital).


Susan Racher mentioned that shortly after joining Toastmasters, her husband said, “You know, you listen a little better these days.”  But, of course.  That’s what a Master Evaluator does.  Susan and her team, Jennifer Garcia and Nick Zwemer, listened carefully and reminded us all to:

Involve the audience.

If you are not giving a manual speech, let your evaluator know on what to focus.

Bring positive energy to the room.

When you are a speaker, arrive early and make sure the room is set up correctly.


This week’s Word of the Day, was “illuminate.”  IT WAS USED 22 TIMES!   Attending our next meeting?  See if you can top that!

Steven Covey’s First Habit Revisited

In his best seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey urged the first habit to cultivate is to “be proactive.”   Our Toastmaster of the day, Chris Camacho, chose the that Habit, as his theme for the day.  As often happens, even our speeches dealt with proactivity.

Are you planning a kitchen or bath remodel in your home?

A member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Paula Hesch encourages that we take the environment into consideration when building or re-building.  Paula, owner of PAULA HESCH DESIGNS, her interior design business, asked if we are planning  remodeling projects, particularly those that involve, ceramic, stone, marble or granite.  If that’s in your future, she suggested that we take some ideas from her “tool box.”  Here are some:  Use Green Criteria Selection such as 1) Manufacturer Technical Information; 2) Check out the manufacturers’ standards and find out what certifications they have received (Standards: ISO, ANSI) (Certifications: G-2 Square Certified, PTCA); 3) Be familiar with the Natural Stone Council, Marble Institute of America, Tile Council of North America.  Paula’s speech was jam-packed with information enabling us to be better informed and more proactive in beginning a remodel.

How many of you have been a victim of a crime?

Both of our speakers began with questions.  Jim Hartnett asked everyone to stand and then asked several questions such as, “have you been a victim of a burglary?”  If your answer to the question was “yes,” you were to sit down.  At the end of the questions, only two people were left standing.  Frightening?  Of course, but you can remove some of the fear if you are proactive.  Become aware of what’s going on in your neighborhood.  Be observant.  What kind of cars do your neighbors drive?  Who works?  Who is home during the day?  If you see something out of character, call the police.  Work with your neighbors to start a crime watch.  Hmmm, perhaps we should all consider crime watch where we live.

Tu Duong was our Table Topics Master and he delivered some excellent questions having to do with the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Our most “effective” response came from Jason Hesch, our newest member.  Congratulations Jason!

So, what did we learn today?

Our Evaluation Team led by Chris Wolfe included David Nunes and Dominque Stauffer, left us all with some excellent and innovative strategies to use when planning our speeches.  Here are a few:

1.   Use a device to grab your audience in the first 30 seconds to one minute

2.   How does what I speak on affect me?  Facts give us information, stories convey feelings and emotion.

3.   If possible, bring your title, back into your speech at various times.

4.   Give your audience an assignment.

What a great meeting!  Wish I could have gone into more detail, but then, YOU REALLY HAD TO BE THERE.