This was both a challenging and uplifting year for me as club President of Sunshine Toastmasters.  Note that statement has been disinfected for your safety.  But can we talk truth here?  It was a really freaking HARD year.  REALLY hard.  I was CRYING in January.  Was there a little pressure because the Big Cheese of the entire district is from my home club and is my personal mentor?  Not externally.  Completely INternal.  All from myself.
toastmasters president

and it’s not a pretty cry either….

January, being a typical dark and depressing month meant I couldn’t see out of the darkness.    I was feeling completely responsible for the success or failure of the club.  Not enjoying myself at ALL.  Not loving Toastmasters anymore.  Upset that it had come to that.  Ready to pack it in come June 30.

Cryin’ folks.
Why did I think that I had to save it all on my own?  And what did I think would happen if I didn’t?
Thank God for my talks with my friend Micaela that helped me see that my world wouldn’t explode if our club didn’t survive.  So I’d drive an extra half hour to go to another club.  It would be a shame for our town to lose it’s club but I realized that it wasn’t my responsibility to save it!!!!  It was insane!
That revelation shed about 50 pounds off my back.  Not caring was incredibly liberating.  Now I don’t mean I didn’t care at all, it’s just that I was ready to give it away.  And I did.  And it’s been sooooooo much better since then.  Stepping down meant that someone else had to step up.  And they did.  I took the leap and the gap was filled.  And if it wasn’t, oh well.  Not my problem anymore.  I had to make my family and my goals MY priority.  I’m psyched about doing that.
Our year started with a BANG last July.  Lost a key member right away and NOT in a good way either.  Twas not pretty.  We lost another 2 or 3 after that.  I was determined to counter it with FUN.  So we had our first Tall Tales contest ever.  It was a lot of fun.  I managed to figure out how to get free stuff from the community as prizes.  THAT was pretty fun too- let me tell you folks.  We planned joint meetings with other clubs.  They were fun.
I took members in my car over on the ferry to see Darren LaCroix and for officer training.  It WAS FUN!  In the fall, we got 4 new members right off the bat- VERY FUN!!!! and EXCITING!!!!!!  but…. they were all busy entrepreneurs and never really were able to make the meetings.  One day, two young women came in to the meeting as guests and an unseasoned member introduced them publicly like this: “the lovely and beautiful Jane  and her friend Leslie.”  Holy cow. Can you say NOT FUN????
Then winter came…. which is almost NEVER fun.  Not in the rainforest anyway.  Our VP Ed bailed on us half way through the year- not fun.   Our VP Membership put next to nothing into the role and left it to me.  Not fun.  And our Sgt at Arms never came at all so I did that role too.  Definitely not any fun whatsoever.
We were down to 6 people during meetings in the winter.  It was bleak and not at ALL what I had envisioned when I took on the job happily and excitedly last year on my birthday.  We even took a few weeks off in February because we were just so exhausted.  I didn’t see a way out.  We were just so tired and I was pretty close to not caring anymore.
In desperation, I asked Lanny, a busy entrepreneur himself, and a newlywed to boot, to be our Sgt at Arms and he immediately agreed.  I was buoyed by his support.   Ann turned on the leadership juice like never before, becoming our new VP of Education despite the fact that galleries were waiting impatiently for her work and she was helping me run the club.  Maureen came back after a 9 month hiatus and joined the executive which was a huge help.
We also asked for a coach and got the one we needed.   Sandy, Area 73’s Governor this year inspired us to visualise the future we wanted.  She helped us to see differently.  She was also FUN.  She came to almost every meeting, lightening our load and MANY of our sister club Gibsons Toastmasters came to our meetings and contests to lighten our load and let us know that we were NOT alone.  It was incredibly moving.   And it was getting to be fun again.
I can’t stress enough how it felt to know that these people cared enough to drive half an hour away to come to our meeting to help us out.  It meant SO much to us all.  The gift of time is a beautiful offering.  One that is irreplacable.  We recognized that these people, our Toastmasters ‘cousins’ so to speak, believed and cared enough to give us their time and that buoyed us tremendously. 
Despite the fact that it was becoming late in the toastmasters year, we decided to hold a Storytelling Event as a membership-seeking endeavour.  It was a big gamble because we didn’t have much money left.  We got some free pre and post event press which was a huge help and the event was a smashing success.  And man, was it ever FUN.  We even made a small profit and so far have 3 new members as a direct result.  And all the while, there was Sandy, rah-rahing, advising, listening to my bitching and my dreams for the club, helping me see “past the next meeting”.   Helping us to remember that if it ain’t fun, there’s no point.
I still feel like we’re on thinnish ice.  We’re not out of the woods yet.  But it’s better.  Waaaayyyy better.  Partly because it actually IS better but mostly because I decided to be responsible for my own happiness.  I decided to do what I want to do and no more than that.  As of today, I’m not the president anymore.  I’m just the person who stores the “stuff”.  I’m happy to give it up.  As happy as I was to get it a year ago.

paula howley toastmasters

I’m a little bit happy, yes

But tonight we made it.  TWENTY members.  Without cheating.  This was really important to us.  It was important for us to be honest in reaching our goals.  To do it without asking spouses or people who had no intention of coming to meetings to sign up to falsely inflate our numbers.  We made President’s Distinguished status this year and it is because we had an incredible team of people who never gave up even when they REALLY WANTED TO, who are creative geniuses and I am seriously NOT exaggerating when I say that, who were respectful of our values as a club and who really care about each other.  And man, do they know how to have fun.
It has been a privilege and a pain for me to serve as the President for the amazing people of my club this year.  I am, without question,  a better woman because of this experience.  It was awfully fun.  🙂
I am, without question, ready to move on to the next chapter.
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Paula Howley

awesome ideas look like this in my head

I’ve had a revelation.  I guess you could just call it an idea but it feels pretty revelatory to me.  I’m pretty damned excited about it because it involves things I love doing:  speaking, working with kids, contributing to the community and making money.

(I am not writing the memoir yet though I plan to start in July once Meg and I have finished the bulk of our academic year. (We won’t be taking the summer completely off- we will still do math 3 times a week to keep it fresh, reading daily and a few fun science experiments) Yes, the memoir writing is something I very much want to do but I am taking care of school business first.)

In the meantime, I am seriously thinking about teaching a course for 11-17 year olds to learn the basics of public speaking.  I even have ideas for second year plans- a leadership based course and an advanced speaking course.

I have always loved teaching the Toastmasters Youth Leadership course and this year was no exception.  It is immensely satisfying helping kids to find their talents and help them get excited about expressing themselves with confidence.  And I love how the parents are blown away by it.  (This week at our year end homeschool campout/meeting, parents told me over and over that they felt the TM program was one of the best components of the entire year.  I was SO proud to hear that and it was wonderful to feel so valued.  The problems is, it is fairly time consuming to take on one of these courses.

A few of the kids’ parents from earlier this year have since been asking continually for some kind of kids speaking club but I knew that such an endeavour might be unlikely here because of the sheer amount of time involved in it.  I didn’t see an already overtaxed TM volunteer base taking on a few more hours every week of volunteer work- myself especially.

However, I thought to myself and was reminded by my husband, why does it have to be volunteer?  I believe I am qualified to bring the knowledge I have to kids.  I’ve been a Toastmaster for 5 years.  I have had a great deal of success with it, making it twice into the top 10 Toastmasters in BC and coming in 3rd once.  I have taught 3 Youth Leadership programs so far and done private coaching for kids.  I’ve MC’d large and small events.  I’ve judged contests at 3 different levels.  I’ve been on the exec of TM for 4 years including President this year.  I’ve been coached by Darren LaCroix and Rich Hopkins, 2 internationally known top speakers.  I have read a ton of books and seen dozens of videos about speaking.  I even have a background with kids, having coached gymnastics for a couple of years with the proper certification.

Obviously I couldn’t use the Toastmasters’ model but I know I can put something together and already have the skeleton of the formula in my mind.  There is a demand for it and I can meet that need.  It’s something I love doing and is something I’m good at.  MAN!  Do you know how much this excites me?  I am seriously psyched.  I am 99% convinced that I am going to do this.  I am 100% convinced that I CAN do this.

It was back in the fall of 2009 when I saw my first Toastmasters World Champion Darren LaCroix, that the actual thought of perhaps becoming a World Champion crossed my mind.  I knew I was a thousand years from it but something in me vaguely knew I could make it to that level of speaker.

In the fall of 2011, I made it to the BC finals, the District 21 Speech finals for the first time, placing third in the humorous speech contest.  That’s when Jamie MacDonald (Jamie has been to the World Stage twice) approached me and told me he thought I could make it to the top.  That’s when the dream crystallized into something real.

In the spring of 2012 I made District finals again and knew that I had an actual shot at going to the World Championship.  That was the first time I met Darren LaCroix and realized how much more work I needed to do to be as good as I wanted to be.  I did not make it but I launched myself into another echelon deliberately, knowing that I had to.   That was when the crystallized dream began to take shape.

It wasn’t until Ryan Avery won the Worlds in the summer of 2012 that I actually vocalized my goal of becoming the 2013 World Champion of Public Speaking.  I did so because I knew that announcing it would put pressure on me to do what I needed to reach that goal.

When Ryan won, I contacted him and told him about my goal.  He was encouraging and realistic.  He asked me “Why do you want to win the World Championship?”  and I gave him a whole bunch of reasons.  At the time, I thought the dream looked like a trophy and a title.

It wasn’t until November of 2012 while working with women’s life educator Micaela Pennell that I really examined my reasons for wanting to win.  Knowing why you want to win is really as important as the win itself because there is always a reason behind the desire.  The reason, I have found, is what the trophy represents to me, what it means to me.   As Micaela always says, the goal is not the goal.

So let’s look at the reasons that I came up with back in November, 5 months ago.

Paula Howley, why do you want to win the World Championship of Public Speaking?

quick!  what's the answer??????

quick! what’s the answer?????

What  would you feel about  yourself?

i.     I would feel worthy

ii.     I would feel amazing

iii.     I would feel proud of myself

iv.     I would feel satisfied with myself

About others towards you?

i.     I would feel that people are proud of me.

ii.     I would feel that people are happy for me.

iii.     I would feel that people admire me.

About your attitude towards life?

i.     I would feel that I would leave a mark with my life.

ii.     I would feel that I can get on with the real stuff in my life.

About your relationship with God?

My  attitude towards God – no change

What would you believe?

  1. About yourself?

i.     I would believe that I am capable of the discipline necessary to achieve something difficult.

ii.     I would believe that I am very good at something of worth.

About others?

i.     Others would believe I am a good speaker.

ii.     They would believe I am someone worth listening to and hearing.

iii.     They would notice me and take note of me.

iv.     They would admire me.

v.     They would believe that I am a person known for talking the talk and walking the walk.

About life?

i.     I would believe that if I set goals for myself, I can achieve them.                                                                  ii.     I would believe that I can become someone more evolved through a learning process.

iii.      I would believe that even the things I thought were out of reach were not necessarily out of reach if I leaarn how to reach for them.

About God?

i.     I would expand my relationship with God

Expression of your talent – what are you naturally good at?

I  would see that I entertain people.

I would see that I impart messages of value while entertaining.

Development of skills:

I would develop my Writing skills

I would develop my Thinking skill

I would develop my Disciplinary skills

I would develop my Communication skills

I would develop my Interpersonal skills

Meaning

  1. I would know that I can do the hard stuff.
  2. I would know that my voice matters.

So, those are THE reasons that I discovered about me wanting to win the World Championship.  There are others, more concrete, things like wanting to make up for all the lost years and screw ups of the past, but they all filter down into these somehow.

So, let’s see if anything has happened in my mind and in my heart since November, a hundred thousand lifetimes ago.

  1. What      would you feel?
    1. About       yourself?
    2.   i.     I would feel worthy

This is an interesting statement.  I would feel worthy.  Worthy of what I wonder?  Worthy of life?  Of happiness?   Aren’t we all?  But I guess maybe I thought worthy of the title.  It’s a title that commands respect imo and one should be worthy of it.

  1.                                                   ii.     I would feel amazing

Well duh.  I feel pretty good right now I must say.  I am not devastated by my loss.

  1.                                                  iii.     I would feel proud of myself

I feel proud of myself now.  I feel proud of the insane amount of work I put into this process and how much I have learned.  I feel proud that I reached  for the TOP.  I feel proud that I asked for help from the best.  I feel proud that I took chances and grew tremendously.

  1.                                                  iv.     I would feel satisfied with myself

Without question, I feel satisfied with my efforts.  I must say in honesty, I am not satisfied with my performance at the contest but I am satisfied that I can improve exponentially.

    1. About  others toward you?
  1.                                                     i.     I would feel that people are proud of me.

This might be the coolest part.  I do feel that people are proud of me.  I know my dad is and that means the world to me.  My husband is particularly proud of me.  So is my daughter and I know the awesome people in my club and area are too.  Jamie MacDonald is proud of me and so is Rich Hopkins, my coach, a world class speaker.  And so many others who have spoken to me and written to me.   It feels pretty amazing.  Hey!  I guess I got the “I feel amazing” part after all!

  1.                                                   ii.     I would feel that people are happy for me.

I do feel that people are definitely happy for me even in their disappointment FOR me.  They are happy that I am pursuing my dreams and trying to become more than I am.  There are some people who are pretty regular readers and even good friends who understand on a very deep level what has happened for me on this journey and they are thrilled for me and the miracles that have come about from this process.

  1.                                                  iii.     I would feel that people admire me.

I find it both humbling and hilarious to find that this has become true.  Now of course, I’m not fool enough to think that this is universal, in fact, I’ll bet my daughter’s allowance that I annoy the shit out of many.   The crazy fact is though, that some  people have actually TOLD me that they admire me so either it’s true or they are liars.  My optimism demands I believe that at least some of those people are telling the truth.  At the same time, it makes me uncomfortable because I know who I am but it inspires me to try harder to be better.

    1. About my attitude toward life?
  1.                                                     i.     I would feel that I would leave a mark with my life.

I always thought that the best marks, the most important marks, were the BIG ones.  I love drama, I love flair, I love the BIG stuff so it makes sense.  I am finding however, that small marks are what impact people.  For example, I REALLY dig doing the Youth Leadership Program with Toastmasters.   The kids I work with are so grateful for the help, the parents are so grateful and enthusiastic and it really MEANS something to me.  It really MEANS something to them too.  It’s not a big thing but really, it IS.  Lives are changed when kids get this kind of confidence.  And the most important mark I’m leaving with my life is with my daughter, who deserves so much more than I can give her.  But this whole process of learning who I am because of Toastmasters, because of my faith and because of my friends is helping me to even be a human being.  That’s the most important mark of all.

  1.                                                   ii.     I would feel that I can get on with the real stuff in my life.

In the words of Barack Hussein Obama, “Yes I can.”   I am very excited about doing what I have been talking about for a VERY VERY VERY long time now and that is WRITING MY BOOK.   I know I have the discipline to do it now and I know I have the talent.  I know that I can find help when I need it.  And I know that I’m not too stupid to admit when I need help.  Lol  I’m also looking forward to having a fun summer with my little girl and making sure I have AT LEAST a monthly date with my awesome  husband.  What else?  My keynote.  The message that I am here on this planet to give.  I am excited to be walking in the direction I’m supposed to be going.  I am excited to say  “Come To Me”  to the rest of my  life,  in the words of Jamie MacDonald.

    1. My attitude towards God ?– no change

Interesting, isn`t this?  I thought that winning the World Championship would not change my attitude towards God.  I think I am happiest about that.  If anything though, my faith needs deepening.  If anything else, this process has helped me through a challenging spiritual time.

What  would you believe?

About yourself?

i.     I would believe that I am capable of the discipline necessary to achieve something difficult.

This has been  one of the best parts of this.  I have discovered  that I can be a workhorse.  I’ve always had a good work ethic; even when I was a stripper I busted my ass if you’ll pardon the pun, but living this kind of discipline has been a great blessing.  It sets me free to do other great things.

  1.                                                   ii.     I would believe that I am very good at something of worth.

I don’t think I’m great yet but I believe I WILL be.  I believe I will be at my best when I can deliver the message of ME that God has given me and that will require more than a 7 minute speech.  I believe that when I begin to really give myself away  for the benefit of others, I will be the communicator and the woman I want to be.  It’s coming.  I feel it in my very bones.  I’ve sort of been on auto pilot for a while as I learned how to gear up but that is all about to change.

    1. About others?
  1.                                                     i.     Others would believe I am a good speaker.

Others do believe this.  Some more than others.  Some less than others.  Some are probably and rightfully wondering what the big fucking deal is.

  1.                                                   ii.     They would believe I am someone worth listening to and hearing.

Another great blessing.  This blog might be more responsible for that than anything.  The response I have received has been encouraging to say the least.  Especially with the revelation of my past as a sex worker for the first time.  To see the number of people who actually READ this blog is stunning.  It makes me want to give something really worth reading.  I value the time of my readers so very much and am SO grateful for your support.  I have learned that others DO think I am someone worth listening to and hearing.   I cannot adequately express what a gift of freedom this is to me.  People like me are normally laughed at and dismissed as unimportant and even ridiculous but I have been told here that what I have to say has meaning and is important.  Wow.

iii. They would notice me and take note of me.

Two different things I believe.  Anyone can be noticed, you just have to be loud, as I have been for much of my life.  People taking note of you…that can happen because of volume too but I find that people take note of you when you begin to display a measure of substance.    Perhaps I am beginning to do that, finally.

  1.                                                  iii.     They would admire me.

This one must be important since I’ve got it down twice.  Lol  Kind of embarrassing.  The truth is, it matters to me.  A lot.  Probably too much.  Truth is, I’m frequently an asshole in real life.  Just ask the people who know me and love me best.

  1.                                                  iv.     They would believe that I am a person known for talking the talk and walking the walk.

YES.  This one is important to me.  I HATE it when people don’t walk the walk.  As I always say to my daughter “Talk is cheap.  Anyone can talk.  You have to back it up with your actions for it to mean anything.”  I have walked the walk in this case and I am proud to own that.

About  life?

i.     I would believe that if I set goals for myself, I can achieve them.

Even though I did not achieve my goal per se, I have achieved many,  if not most, of these.  This process opened up (again!) another realm  for me, another realm of thinking and believing.  I have other goals that are important to me that I fully believe that I will achieve.   I am happy and excited to begin the next chapter.

  1.                                                   ii.     I would believe that I can become someone more evolved through a learning process.

Without question.  Holy mackerel.  Rich Hopkins was a brutal son of a gun who made me cry on more than one occasion (not out of cruelty but by pushing me farther into the truth than I thought I could go) .  I learned to respect this process by giving it everything I have.  I learned how to respect my audience by giving them everything I have.  I learned  how to jump through the biggest hoop of fear, I learned how to ask for what I want, I learned more than I can possibly write here.  I am still learning with myself and God and my family and Micaela and my Toastmasters family and know that this process, thankfully, will never end.

  1.                                                  iii.      I would believe that even the things I thought were out of reach were not necessarily out of reach if I learn how to reach for them.

I love this one.  It’s dramatically  liberating to discover that you have oodles more potential than you thought.  In fact, it’s almost scary because there really aren’t an excuses anymore.  Lol  Knowing that people are always there with their hands extended in friendship gives me courage.  I know to go to the best and that they are not the scary arrogant people I may have feared that they were.  I have been genuinely rewarded for asking people to show me how to reach.

    1. God?
  1.                                                     i.     I would expand my relationship with God

I hope this one happens always no matter what.  We tend to dive in when things are not going well and it’s important to remember to go deep with God when things ARE going well too.

  1. Expression of my talent – what are you naturally good at?
    1. I entertain people.

For sure I know this is true.  This is something I’ve always liked doing but having the stage of Toastmasters has given me the opportunity to hone this skill.  MCing the Ryan Avery event this winter was a big boost to my confidence.  It was my first opportunity to steer a large ship with important passengers and I know I nailed it because I genuinely had fun and felt everyone else having fun too.

    1. I impart messages of value while entertaining.

Yes!  Learning to.   As Sharookh would say “What is the take home?”  lol  As Margaret Page would say “What’s in it for me?”  As I am learning to say “ What can I give to my audience?”  When people give you their undivided attention, they deserve the best you can give them.  My last message was of tremendous value IMO.

  1. Development of skills
    1. I would develop my Writing skills

YES!  Absolutely!  Not just speech writing skills (because I wrote 3 versions of the 1st speech and then 2 versions of the 2nd speech and then about 18 versions of “I Love You” with endless tweaks and revisions), but my writing skills period because of this blog which I have come to love so much.   I have fallen in love with writing again and that makes me ever so happy!

    1. I  would develop my Thinking skills

Not my strongest skill I think (ha ha) but I have certainly pushed  myself for ideas and new thoughts.  It has been exciting exercising a muscle that needs exercise.  It is thrilling coming up with an idea that FITS in just the right place at the right time.

    1. I  would develop my Disciplinary skills

In one way, I failed tremendously because I have NOT kept up my new year’s resolution of going to bed by 11:30.  This is not what I’d call discipline.  I am so much healthier and happier when I do but it is SO difficult breaking a 40 year long habit.  In another sense, I made myself work on this project constantly- almost every day for hours a day,   not sure I’d call this discipline.  I think I still have a long way to go for that.

    1. I would develop my Communication skills

This is a no brainer.  A lot of this is happening through my work with Micaela.  I am still learning to ask for the things I need which I find difficult to do (as I’m  sure it is with many women or moms).

    1. I would develop my Interpersonal skills

Not as much as I mostly worked on my own through this project.  This is something that still needs work and attention.

  1. Meaning
    1. I would know that I can do the hard stuff.

I CAN do the hard stuff but I’d like more opportunity to do harder stuff.  And more fun stuff.  I feel like I’m made of the right stuff.

    1. I would know that my voice matters.

I am discovering something that I had always suspected and had always hoped.  I am just a Voice of One who’s Greater than this…but I am still a Sacred Voice, I will not be dismissed.

Got a message from a fellow competitor today- very surprising.  It was the contestant about whom I’d heard “That was the best speech I`ve ever heard!” from a mutual friend.   We will be competing together on Saturday.  Anyway, this person messaged me saying they didn’t know they were in the same Division as me until yesterday when we were sent a list of the competitors and jokingly wondered if they should bother showing up.  I messaged back that I’d had the same thoughts about them!  Seriously.

The last time I went to Division I not only didn’t win, I didn’t even PLACE and I was pretty …. well, upset would vaguely cover it.  I am taking nothing for granted.  I know there are people in this competition who have been working hard on their speeches for months.  I know there is some great talent and it will be an excellent competition.  I need to be my very best so far.

A great turn of events today.  Someone from the Area competition RECORDED my speech and they sent me a copy of it!!!!  I was so thrilled to be able to see it.  Until I watched it that is!  Holy cow, it’s SO incredibly STRANGE, to feel SO in the zone and feel like you are connecting with people but then watch it and think “Wow, is that all there is?  I really felt like it was BETTER than this!!!”

What a serious motivator.  I wasn’t happy with almost ALL of it, except the sincerity.  THAT I felt, I knew it was there and I was happy with it.  The rest of it needed some hard core polish.  I worked on it tonight after Meg went to bed.  I have to wait until she’s sleeping too or she’ll never get to sleep.  So I performed and recorded it tonight, watching each time afterwards and making notes about what I liked and didn’t like about each one.  Then on the next performance I would incorporate the changes and watch it again.  I did this 6 times.  I really felt like I got some bugs out tonight.  I also performed and recorded a few specific sections that I felt needed attention.  I even checked out my outfit to see what would look best.  I just need to solidify these minor delivery changes in my mind and heart and I will be ready to go for Saturday.

I plan on Avery Drilling on the ferry over that day (I love Avery Drilling on the ferry!!) and hoping later today at the home school group I can make a chance to perform happen as well.  Putting it out here in my blog so I won’t chicken out…call me on it folks….I’m going to stop at the mall on the way home and do my speech right SMACK in the middle of it so EVERYONE can see how freakin’ loopy I am.

Hoping to see my spiritual director just before the contest on Saturday too.  She lives very close by the venue.  It would be wonderful to have her calm and loving presence with me for a while beforehand.  Did I mention that 2 friends from church are going to be praying a rosary for me on Saturday?  And  I didn’t even ASK!  They just volunteered!  And one is a former Toastmaster too so she knows EXACTLY what to pray for.  LOL

Have I covered every angle?  If you can think of ANYTHING I’m missing, MESSAGE ME because I must leave no stone unturned.  As Darren LaCroix says, I may not be the best, but no one will out-prepare me.

surely it's not the last one

surely it’s not the last one