• Archives

    Essays & speeches by

    Phyliss J. McCarthy

    Gloom to Bloom

    written in 1975 for presentation to

    the Toastmistress Group of Orlando, Florida


    “Are you any different today than you were a year ago today?


    Did you bother to set any goals for yourself or are you satisfied to just drift along with the current?


    The purpose of our program tonight -- “What’s new with you?” must stimulate your thought processes. After all, self-evaluation is the “meat” of Toastmistress training.


    Just about a year ago, my husband brought some brochure home to me. He was visiting the Koni [sic] exhibits at the fairgrounds. He talked to one of our Toastmistress ladies there -- she explained to my husband the goals and purposes of this organization. He recognized this club as one that would help me build confidence and teach me to communicate better with others. One that had possibilities of lifting me out of the gloom of everyday thinking into the bloom of a whole new world. Smart guy, my husband!


    I really did want to improve myself but had no guidelines or direction. Isn’t that the way felt when you first considered becoming a toastmistress? Of course, I attended the meetings, joined the club, and hoped for a chance to contribute.


    While preparing this speech -- I took out my handbook and workbook and started to read. My goodness! What a storehouse of thought sand ideas. But how many of these ideas are being put to use? Is it all talk and no change? Had any of my learning habits been altered?


    At the risk of exposing my Leo ego, I must admit my ability to communicate has improved. To date, however falls far short of my expectations.


    What makes us want to improve anyway? You know each time I have to prepare for a part in our program, I practiced on my sister. She is my dearest critic! But even she says (as I stand there trembling), “Phyl, why do you put yourself through so much torture?”


    Well of course the answer is -- I want to become more successful -- I want to grow.


    Consider for a few moments some guidelines that will influence your growth, your success! How about believing in yourself -- remember, we are all blessed with a special gift. So many times we waste hours of valuable time being envious of others’ talents and we fail to develop our own.


    Then there’s always independence to consider. The ability to think and the act on your own regardless of the actions or opinions of others. This is a necessary commodity for success.


    How is your faith in others these days? You know, it’s imperative that we be loyal to our friends and family when they need us. Even when their difficulties are brought about by their own foolishness.


    Adaptability is a guideline too often forgotten. Life just doesn’t always go the way we plan. Sometimes you must bend a little to reap the best advantages from a situation.


    Add to this your belief in the future -- the raw courage to believe that you will succeed. And then clench it with bold ambition. What an exciting person you could be.


    However, in building this “new you” be careful not to destroy some of the “old you” that is part of your personality. For instance, don’t trade success in your job for failure in staying close to your family. Don’t use your ease and facility with words to find fault with others. Don’t exchange your new-found independence for an obnoxious approach to those around you.


    Beware of gaining knowledge and losing sincerity.


    And what good is boldness when you lose humility?


    And last of all what will you gain by becoming part of a new group at the expense of shutting out old friends?


    So tonight let’s challenge ourselves to set our goals high -- add to our present good qualities and really work on a “new you.” We’ll be assured then of having more ideas and thoughts to share with others than we ever dreamed possible.”


    Phyliss J. McCarthy

    Phyliss kept her drafts and speech cards in a handmade pink folder. 

    Small Miracles


    written in 1975 for presentation to

    the Toastmistress Group of Orlando, Florida


    The glaring lights overhead reflected the miracle occurring that very moment! The white, sterile, almost untouchable atmosphere surrounded a few intense and dedicated human beings. In an instant, the strained and sweat-beaded faces broke into grins from ear to ear -- as through the silence could be heard a slap, a gasp, and then a loud and helpless cry -- the miracle of life unfolded around this small group of people -- a Baby was born! Now what happens to you little baby?


    Ideally, of course, this tiny wisp of humanity will be placed in the arms of a loving mother. He will be nursed and cuddled and cooed-to -- he will be kept warm and safe, only to be whisked away in a few days to a great multitude of other outstretched arms eagerly waiting to hold and touch him. Daddy, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, friend -- all await the arrival home of the new infant. Anxiously and adoringly you look into his bright blue eyes. You watch his tiny fists clench, his legs kick, and his soft little mouth pucker into a sucking motion.


    Thoughts race through your mind as his tiny fist unfolds and wraps around your finger. What helplessness, you think, what beauty!! The sight of a baby affects even the strongest, burliest male much the same way it does the softest, most loving female. This wee little imp can but wiggle his nose and smile -- and reduce you to “mush.” So as baby enters the world of “family,” he grows and thrives on the love and care being showered upon him. Long before his eyes begin to focus he senses the security that is his. With the deception of an occasional DPT shot or diaper rash -- this child feels pretty certain he’s been given a good deal in life. So while this fortunate individual is growing strong in mind and body, while his future is being planned & cared for -- and barring any ill-fate -- he will mature into a happy, useful adult.


    What might have happened to another baby born that same day? A baby perhaps with slanted eyes & yellow skin. In contrast to our first baby, this child may be considered just another burden -- just another mouth to feed. Although a mother’s love, for the most part is instinctive, circumstances of poverty and desperation can cut into that love until there is little left but a gnawing ache! This baby, born in the semi-sterile atmosphere of a mission hospital is taken home to the dampness & mustiness of a bamboo shack! The floor is dirt, the room is dark, the sun struggles to enter the small opening in the wall. There is no clean, white crib, no stacks of soft warm kimonas [sic], no eager arms to hold him.


    The lifestyle that surround this baby is poverty. His Daddy is away, fighting a war he does not understand. His mother must leave him alone to find whatever way she can to make enuf money for food. He’s not even sure she will come back to get him. Life itself is not considered too important. the survival of the fittest rules this society, and there is little concern for the other guy. War has kept his baby’s homeland separated and devastated for years.


    There’s another baby that went home that day, too. This tiny life was transported into the world of living Hell! There are many voices in the small, dingy room where the baby lies. The TV blares, the smell of scorched food fills the air. A man sits slouched in a beat-up arm chair -- unshaven & dirty -- a row of beer cans line the floor beside him. Other children play in that room, and a child’s argument breaks out -- the father frowns and angrily yells, “Shut up!”


    The children continue their argument. The father, enraged by the noise and confusion, dulled by the alcohol he’s consumed, gets up from his chair. The children become silent as he lumbers menacingly toward them -- then out of the strained silence -- the baby cries!! As the tearful and defeated mother walks through the hospital emergency room carrying her bruised and beaten baby, we wonder why?? We ask how??


    For you see, all babies in this world are not born into a downy, pink and blue marshmallow cloud! We see their sadness staring out at us from almost any magazine we pick up. The picture of a starving, desperate child -- fear and uncertainty etched in their tiny faces. the newspapers echo the cries of the children and hospital rooms depict the torment thousands of children live with each day -- and many die with!


    The TV screen recently has brought very close to all of us the suffering imposed upon the children of Vietnam. Very vividly we see their terror & as we sit safely in our homes, thousands of miles removed from such danger, our hearts ache for the tragedy and helplessness of these children. AS we sit across the dinner table from our own children, watching as they fill their bellies full, we ooh and aah about how unfortunate those poor children are. At times we even brive [sic] our children into emptying their plates by saying, “The children in Vietnam would sure like all that food!”


    But do we really care -- can we go beyond all the ceremonial-like comments we make and really “pitch-in” for humanity? We shouldn’t be asking why and how all the tragedies beset these children. Only God knows the reasons for such suffering, and we can’t question His plan for our Universe. But, He did endow us with one characteristic that at least separates us from the beasts. He gave us a will -- a will to choose, a unique ability to think. We can choose to sit idle or pitch-in and help our fellow man. We should be asking What, not how & why, but What can I do to help? What can I do to teach my children the joy of helping others less fortunate? By my actions, do I show my children I care what happens to others? children are almost impossible to “fake out” you know -- they see right thru your falseness and insincerity. But the miracle of life does not end in the delivery room. Each of us is responsible for what becomes of that life. Of course, you can’t control the fate of every baby born in the world. You can’t take under your wing every waif that comes along. But, you can pitch in & volunteer your time, your money, your prayers for the improvement of unliveable conditions. For you see, we were born to be our brother’s keeper. If you don’t think so, just put the shoe on the other foot. Put your baby, your loved one, your small miracle in one of life’s tragic situations and just watch how quickly you pitch-in!!

    Phyliss J. McCarthy

    Family then & now ~ 1996(ish?) & 2019

    A Diet for Living

    written in 1975 for presentation to

    the Toastmistress Group of Orlando, Florida



    You are what you think you are! Have you ever taken time to think about that? You are what you think you are. Let me tell you a story that will illustrate this statement:


    Food for Thought: “The Man Who Sold Hot Dogs”


    There was a man who lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs.

    He was hard of hearing so he had no radio.

    He had trouble with his eyes so he read no newspapers.

    But, he sold good hot dogs.


    He put up signs on the highway telling how good they were.

    He stood by the side fo the road and cried: “Buy a hot dog, Mister?”

    And people bought.

    He increased his meat and bun orders.

    He bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade.

    He finally got his son home from college to help him out.

    But, then something happened.


    His son said, “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio?”

    Haven’t you been reading the newspapers?

    There’s a big depression.

    The European situation is terrible.

    The domestic situation is worse.”

    Whereupon the father thought, “Well, my son’s been to college, he reads

    the papers and he listens to the radio, and he ought to know.”


    So the father cut down on his meat and bun orders, took down his advertising

    signs, and no longer bothered to stand out on the highway to sell his hot dogs.

    And his hot dog sales fell almost overnight.

    “You’re right, son,” the father said to the boy.

    “We certainly are in the middle of a great depression.”



    I’m not suggesting that “ignorance is bliss” or that you should stop reading the newspaper or listening to the radio. What I am suggesting is really a well-known fact of life (but sometimes seldom used). That is, “Your thoughts control your actions.” If you feed negative thoughts into your mind, your body functions will respond negatively. Regardless of the fact that the “hot dog man” was deaf and had trouble seeing, he thought positively. He knew he had a good product and he set about the job of selling that product. And sell it he did! Up until the time someone else fed him negative thoughts. Then because these thoughts were transferred to his mind, he physically acted defeated. You are a product of your thoughts. What are you feeding your mind??


    Love? Tolerance? Patience? Faith? Cooperation?




    fear, criticism, doubt, hate, and animosity??


    Sometimes we forget that obstacles are only placed in our way to see if we really wanted something or just thought we did. The food you feed your body is important but don’t neglect watching even more closely the food you feed your mind. For you are indeed the sum total of your thoughts.

    This story reminds me of a Lao Tzu that hung in Grampa's office: 

    “Watch your thoughts, they become your words;


    watch your words, they become your actions;


    watch your actions, they become your habits;


    watch your habits, they become your character;


    watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

    ― Lao Tzu

    Criticism is finding fault.

    Evaluation is finding value.

    Phyliss's speech note & prop cards 


    written in 1975 for presentation to

    the Toastmistress Group of Orlando, Florida



    Madam President -- I have been waiting a long time to “air” this pet-peeve of mine and with a theme like “spring break” this may be the perfect time to “air” it. It seems to me the simplest, most non-descriptive lethargic-sounding adjective I’ve ever heard being used over-used is the word nice.


    hold up nice card


    I believe it would be a real challenge to this group of intelligent, sophisticated ladies, desirous of self-improvement in speech to “tickle their brains” a little and try to come up with a descriptive adjective to use in place of “nice.” I have passed out papers with 7 common nouns -- see what adjective 1st comes to your mind to modify these nouns and write it beside each word.


    call off nouns



    In conclusion, I would like to believe tonight’s lesson in lexicology left you wtih a -- not nice but rather stimulating feeling. What a perfect way to give your vocabulary a “spring break.”

    More coming soon...

LEARNCURIOUS.COM | ©2021 Jessica Robinson