Ferry Crossing from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, B.C.

Even though I had the whole day to myself with virtually NO work to do, I felt kind of melancholy still.  Look, I have to admit, I’m a bit of a suck; I’m tough, but I AM a (Cancer) crab so my wounds are deep and take a long time to heal.  I thought I was over(ish) my poor performance on Saturday.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps someone should just kick me in the ass and tell me to get over it already.  (raises own hand for the job)

I took the noon ferry to Powell River today and the sun was glorious.  The Earl’s Cove to Saltery Bay ferry run may well be the prettiest, most breathtaking 50 minute ride anywhere in the world and I sat outside for much of it and basked in the sun.  But again, despite being surrounded on all sides by mountains, waterfalls, islands and inlets, there was no THERE there.

I prayed; it felt forced.  I was hoping to be inspired by the outrageous beauty surrounding me but it wasn’t touching my soul.  Or maybe…..maybe my soul wasn’t LETTING itself be touched.  Hmmmm.  Never thought of that till just now.

In any case, it may have been a very simple case of “you stayed up too late, idiot!”  and I’ll put 90% of my money on that.  Got off the ferry and pulled into the first provincial park for a half hour nap which was enough to sustain me.

Did a little bit of shopping, and then I went to one of my favourite parks in the world, Willingdon Beach Park.  Meaghan and I love this park for many reasons.  It’s a goodly sized bay but not so big that the water’s freezing in the summer.  The tide goes out forever so there’s a ton of sand for kids to play in.  Crabs everywhere.  Barnacles too- ouch!  There is a playground with every contraption you can think of and a separate one that is only for climbing and balance.  There is also a water park!  And of course, the expanse of grass and sand to sit on and watch the sun set into the ocean directly in front of you.

I went to Willingdon Beach Park for Avery Drills.  Lol.  I drilled the speech about 10 times and I’m pretty sure at least 50-60 people in Powell River think I’m certifiable.  The rest KNOW I am.

But seriously folks, the Avery Drills are like magic.  I started to feel better.  I got tripped up probably twice letting myself become distracted but after that, I didn’t care anymore and I was just having fun.

And then the fish started to jump out of the water in the bay!  I saw a least a half dozen fish jump a metre into the air and crash back into the ocean.  Spectacular.  The first time I saw it I said “Wow!!!” out loud and was able to keep riiiiiiiight on going with The Speech.  Little presents from God.

I headed to Toast to the Coast, a brand spanking newly chartered TM club in Powell River and saw some old Toastmasters friends.  When I travel to another club, I feel like I’m going to see my TM cousins.  It’s pretty damned awesome.  I SO love going to other TM clubs to see how they do things.  Just in that one meeting alone I got 3 new ideas which could benefit our club.   They made a big deal of me being there which was kind of embarrassing seeing as how I am so recently and thoroughly humbled, lol.  It was truly lovely though.

So!  I did the speech and I CONNECTED.  I was nervous, but I enjoyed myself and I connected with the people there.  They did not laugh as much as I would have liked!!!!!!!!!!   BUT.  They still said it was a very funny speech etc etc.  I got some excellent ideas about improving the execution of the speech and some minor re-structuring ideas which could give the speech more to stand on.  WELL WORTH THE TRIP.  My favourite feedback was from one lady who said “I felt like you were talking just to me and that we were having a conversation.”  That warmed my heart like you wouldn’t believe.   What was REALLy cool was how well the ending went over.  They really liked that it ended with a message.   I was thinking of messing with it because I thought I needed some more funny there but they seemed to like the poignance of it.  so, we’ll see.

Their theme tonight was “professionalism” and they pulled it off with spades.  I had so much fun!  I think TM’s newest club in Powell River is going to be a smash hit.   I think I’m feeling better.  I have OUR club meeting tomorrow so a double dose should do the trick.


Can I just start by saying how absolutely EXHAUSTED I am right now?  I could sleep for 3 days straight and I might just try for one anyway.

I started this day feeling truly wonderful.  I went for a run for half an hour in the sunshine and stopped to thank God for the beautiful mountain and inlet view just down the road from me.  Had some prayer time, a good breakfast, did the speech a couple of times and felt pretty solid about remembering the new ending.  (It is VERY exciting to get to a point where you are aware enough of yourself to know you can make a change that you WANT to make.)

Picked up my 2 fellow contestants from my club, (it was an hour away from my place) who looked fabulous and we went on to Gibsons to do our thing.

We 3 went outside in the sun to do an improv exercise to get the wiggles out but we were interrupted and told it was briefing time so we didn’t get to finish it.  I had to judge the other contest too so I had to stay for the briefing.  We picked our numbers and I picked 2.  I was feeling tense then, not relaxed.  I was not freaked out but I was losing the “I can’t wait to do this speech” feeling and I’m not sure why. 

Our Division Governor was there which was really great.  She went to about 6 area contests this week.  It’s a lot of work.  She had to catch a ferry to come to this one.  She told me something that I thought was…well, I don’t know….unexpected.   She told me that people in our Division were talking about me all week.   She said “they were like groupies or something”.   It was kind of confusing, kind of exciting and very scary at the same time.  What was going on?  Am I creating a monster??????  AM I a monster already?????

A lot of my friends came to watch me too.   It was so beautiful.  There were people from my homeschool group and from church.  Eleven people! They had to pull more chairs out for them all!  I have to tell you too, that it was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day outside and they decided to spend 2 hours of it indoors to support me.  It’s pretty incredible to have people like that in your life.  Was I feeling pressure because of their presence?  I don’t know.  They have ALL seen me speak before though so it shouldn’t have been an issue.

I had my “connect card” out to read before I was to go on, the one with the 4 questions that DarrenLaCroix says you should ask EVERY time you speak:

1. What is my intent?
2. Am I present?
3. Will I have fun?
4. How would I give this presentation if I knew it was my last one ever?

I was reading it…but I was not even connecting with my connect card!!!!! LOL!

I lost sight of these 4 things and only regained ONE of them with about a minute to go in the speech.  I lost sight of my intent………I wasn’t present……… I didn’t have FUN (and this is the toughest one to take too because if I’m not having fun, what the HELL is the point?)  ……….and it was more PERFORMANCE than speech.  It’s a speech, and a good one at that, but I performed it.

I did not connect with the people there, I did not appreciate the humanity of each and every one of them; I did not honour their time the way it deserved to be.  I looked at them, but I wasn’t really seeing them.  I did not take the time that I should have taken to get their vibe and be prepared to return love to them.  It was just paper.  It was a paper performance.  I really feel like I let a lot of people down.

On the other hand, let me tell you about my friend and competitor Ann.  I only say her name here publicly in this post because this contest is public record now.  Ann and I joined Toastmasters at the same time and she is one of my favourite storytellers.  She gave her speech today and was TOTALLY present.  She was having fun and it showed.  She didn’t step on a single laugh and there were a LOT to step on!  It was magic, truly.  I was very happy for her…I knew it was the best speech she had ever given and I felt such pride in her.  She pulled it off beautifully….and WHEN IT COUNTED.  I wish you could have seen her.

I was pretty sure that she was going to win when she finished.  I had the same feeling I did when I watched Carol Carter last spring when she won District.  You just know.

There were some troubling errors that happened.  During the first contestant’s speech, someone’s phone went off for a lonnnnng time, and then about a minute later, a latecomer came in the door and was ALLOWED in, in the middle of the speech.  The latecomer walked RIGHT in front of the contestant and down the middle aisle.  A huge distraction that took everyone’s focus off the speaker for a good 20-30 seconds.  I felt awful for the speaker.  To his credit, he held it together pretty well.

So let me tell you where my mind was going just before the results were announced.  It was funny because last night in my journal I wrote “what will you do if you don’t win?”  and I wrote “who knows?”  Go on with life of course, and start on the international speech a hell of a lot earlier.  lol  but it really wasn’t something that I even CONSIDERED and not because I didn’t think anyone could beat me, oh no, I knew Ann was fully capable of that, but I just didn’t consider that as an option!  Truly!

Is this delusional thinking?

So I was sitting in the back by myself waiting and thinking “well, I won’t have to go into Vancouver now for the Division finals on the 20th so I won’t even go to my humorous club the night before.”  Because I was planning on staying overnight at a friend’s.  And then I was thinking “I don’t even want to go to the conference anymore.”  I’m not proud of these thoughts but I’m sharing them because this is where my head went.

They called my name for 2nd place, and I grimaced, turned it into as gracious a smile as I could pull off, shook everyone’s hand and sat down.

When they called Ann’s name for 1st place, I whooped and hollered because she bloody well deserved it and despite how I felt about myself, I was very happy for her.

A former Sunshine Toastmaster won Table Topics and our other friend Margaret F. came in 2nd so it was pretty much a sweep for our club.   I have to point out with some pride as our club President that Sunshine Toastmasters has sent the representative to Division in every contest but one since 2009.  We also are the home club to the District Governor Margaret Page, so we are small but mighty.

Well after the contest, I introduced some of the homeschool kids and parents to Margaret F. who will be facilitating the Youth Leadership Program for our home school group in Jan and Feb.  I will be assisting her.  I wanted them all to meet and just get a face in their minds.

It was time to go then and I thanked my friends for coming and wanted to apologize to them all.  I felt like such a loser.  And NOT because of my 2nd place finish, but for the performance I gave.  I wish I’d had the presence of mind to do better for them.

I felt like I wanted to have a drink.

And then Ann said to me “Paula, I can’t go to Division finals.  I have a family reunion that day that has been in the works for years and family comes first.”

I asked her if she could do the speech and then go to the reunion, asked where it was.  It’s far away.  On an island.  She can’t go.  She deserves to go.  She worked her ASS off- she AVERY DRILLED, she got feedback from our club, she used some Lance Miller techniques, she put together the speech of her life.


So God’s giving me another shot.  And I am VERY grateful, because I want to figure out what I am doing wrong so I can fix it.  Better lucky than good sometimes, eh?

I got home and showed the speech to Lloyd.  I taped it.  He could tell it wasn’t me being me, but me trying to be someone who I guess I think I should be.

Lloyd thinks I am putting too much pressure on myself.  He says other people are putting pressure on me and I am letting the FUN get squeezed out.  He says “you have lots of time Paula, you don’t have to win it all THIS YEAR.”

No, I don’t. But every year I home school requires more of my time…. each year will add an hour extra every day, at least until Meg is old enough to be directed and can and will do research on her own.  That is at least 4 years away.    I guess that IS pressure then, isn’t it?

So the REAL question is……why are you doing this Paula?  What’s the point?  Ryan Avery asked you these questions…are the answers true?

These are the actual answers I gave him:

I want to make my father proud of me.  I have an ugly past and I want to redeem those years for the people I hurt and shamed.
I want to show people trapped in the world I left that anything is possible with God.  I want to help them.
I want to do it to see if I can DO it.  I need to see if I can do it.  If I don’t try my hardest for this, I’ll have ants in my pants for the rest of my life.

I want to set an example for my daughter.
I want to help my husband support this family because he is an aging landscaper whose knees are starting to go.
I want to bring the trophy home to District 21, the people who have transformed my life and inspired me to reach for things I never thought possible.
I want to show everyone how Toastmasters can change ANYONE.


Those are my reasons for wanting to win the World Championship.  I think those are good reasons.

And what would I do with it?  I don’t really know.  Do I have to know?  I’m a home schooling mom, for crying out loud.  Does everyone have to be a friggin’ life coach?  I have some vague fuzzy ideas but is it dishonouring the process to say “I want to win the world championships because I used to be an idiot alcoholic stripper for 15 years and even though I wasted a decade and a half of my precious life, can’t I accomplish one truly worthy magnificent thing, one thing of which I can be truly proud??????”  Do I have to have an AGENDA TOO?????

Is it even ok for someone like ME to reach for such a thing?  Would it be of any value anyway?  Would it be wasted on me?  Would I be an embarrassment?  Am I a fake?  Am I manufactured?  Should I even TRY?????  What, truly, in God’s name, do I have to share that is of any value?

I’m not building a business here.  I don’t have a message that IS my life that I am trying to get out there.  I am someone who is shocked that others believe in me for some reason.  I don’t know why.  I’m not who they think I am.  This is who I am:

I’m just a homeschooling mom with a tremendously fucked up past, the gift of gab and enough humility to keep me alive.  I have a man who took a chance on me and a daughter who deserves better than me.  I am lucky to have those things.  Who am I to reach for something so magnificent without having a DAMNED GOOD REASON????

Good God, this isn’t a speech contest, it’s a fucking existential crisis.  I must be PMSing.

Existential crisis

Existential crisis (Photo credit: quinn.anya)


What a spectacular night at Toastmasters.  We had 2 Area Governors and a Division Governor (although the D.G. is in our home club so that wasn’t too tough to do) in attendance and 3 guests.  2 new signups.  Very exciting.  Both of our speakers coincidentally (not that I believe in coincidence- I think it is all brilliantly orchestrated)talked about what TM had done for them so far and it was like an awesome Toastmasters commercial.  It couldn’t have been more timely.

I got a note from someone important today telling me that they thought I could be the District Champ.  It’s up on my wall along with 2o stickies ad various other inspiring things.  It’s so unreal to hear things like this when I think about it too much.  I like the sound of it.

I Avery Drilled The Speech today at the gym while I was on the elliptical.  I did it three times.   The place was full of teenaged boys.  Can you say “idiot”?  I’m sure they did , over and over after I left!!!!!

Going to my Opus Dei circle on Friday and they will be my last audience before the Area contest on Saturday.  I am ready.  I am excited.  I can’t wait.

English: Cross of Opus Dei - based primarily o...

Was finally able to sit down and work on The Speech around 8:00 tonight.  I watched my first 3 recordings of it, wrote down where I got the laughs in each, where I needed pauses, where I was flat, what needed changing up.

Thinking about what a fellow Toastmaster said yesterday, that the ending was flat, and I know what he meant by that.  What I want said is AT the end already though, so I thought, what do I do?

I took note that my delivery of the ending was different at the second taping and got a better response.  Instinctively, I think that’s what needs to happen.  The ending needs to be DELIVERED with more punch.  Laughs don’t just come from words, they come from the eyes, a nod of the head, a hand gesture.  So this is what I will work on.

It seems you can work on a speech forever I think, but it’s important to know when to quit.  I’m going to tape myself tomorrow (hopefully I can remember all my new words!)  and send it to several TM’s and get some more feedback.  Then I’d like to spend the week just drilling the new version till I can say it in my sleep.

I can’t recommend this enough.  If you are serious about wanting to get better, tape yourself.  Brutal, but effective.

Must do some serious Avery Drilling this weekend.  Going to be difficult.  I’m MCing an AGM on Saturday, then I have to head to the end of the Coast to join my daughter (already in progress) and the rest of the homeschool group in our beginning of the year ‘get to know you’ day and I am busy most of Sunday too.  No excuses.  I have 8 days.


I’ve made some significant changes to The Speech, good ones, ones that I think make the speech funnier and more powerful.

Too bad I couldn’t remember what the heck they were tonight!!!!!!!

I’m the president of our club and I knew we were having several guests coming tonight so I wanted to do a great job on my speech.  I knew our Secretary, who is competing with/against me would be great and she was.  She has made notable improvements in the past week too.

(It is so amazing to be able to give a speech over and over because it is the only way it will get better.  This is Toastmasters’ one deficiency, in my opinion.  There is no focus on this.  Normally, you do a speech, get feedback and move on to the next speech.  Now feedback is good, in fact it’s great, because there will be errors one makes generally in ALL speeches, but after a while you GET those general errors and need more refined feedback, more specific and demanding feedback depending on your speech.  The only way to do this in TM now is to go in, AND WIN, contests.)

This was the third time in a week I’ve been able to give this speech to an audience (that was expecting it!  Avery Drills notwithstanding!  btw, I Avery Drilled on the elliptical at the gym today.  Hilarious.  Teenaged boys thought I was mad.).

I totally FROZE.  I forgot my new 3rd last paragraph.  I couldn’t think of a bloody thing to say.  I couldn’t even FAKE it.  I was pretty upset with myself.  I had a good flow going and then I blew it in the end.  After my freeze, I was just going through the motions.

It was like that Russian gymnast in the Olympics this summer.  She was doing beautifully on the balance beam until she had a fall.  Then she just gave it all up.  You could SEE that she had given it all up.  NEVER give it all up.  A fall doesn’t mean the end of it.  Shame on me for doing something that I HATE!  Lesson learned.

The good news is I got great feedback from our group.  We had a round robin evaluation and the general consensus is, my catchphrase needs to be more clear, my ending is weak and I need to generate more excitement.  The latter I can do.  Once I know this puppy.

GREAT meeting.  Time well spent.

Listening tonight to Darren LaCroix on how to craft an amazing speech.  I took advantage of a 50% off sale he had this week to get the last of the stuff I wanted from his catalogue.  This, besides OWN THE STAGE is proving to be incredibly valuable.  Tomorrow I HAVE to spend a couple of hours going through Meg’s curriculum again but later, going over The Speech again and seeing what I can do better.  I’m also going to send the video to a few trusted people who I trust to rip me apart so I CAN get better.

SO EXCITED to implement all this LaCroix gold.

I also have been given a valuable hand up from someone I esteem very much and who has claimed me as a future World Champ.  This person’s statement I find both humbling and rabidly encouraging.

When I stop to think about it, I can feel and see God’s hand around me so much sometimes.  I am in awe of my opportunities…and of people’s faith in me.  I want very much to live up to that.

I’ve also decided that because I have so few opportunites to speak at clubs because of our remote location, Avery Drilling is going to have to be MY stage time.  For now, anyway.  I am going to seek out at least one opportunity every day to Avery Drill, embarrassment be damned.  (I feel most vulnerable and silly here, in my small community for some reason and MUST learn to push past it. (another Averyism.))  Very scary.

I have invited all the moms from our homeschool group to come and watch and support me at the Area contest.  It would be great to see some friendly faces!

English: Darren LaCroix teaching Public Speaki...

English: Darren LaCroix teaching Public Speaking skills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)