The World Champion of Public Speaking 2013 is Presiyan Vasilev of Bulgaria and he was truly masterful.   I actually got goosebumps from his message.

(“To learn more about Pres Vasilev’s keynotes, training, and coaching, visit”)

I watched 2 of the semi-finals yesterday and what a joy it was seeing so many great speakers.  So much talent and wisdom.  I was also somewhat surprised that everyone wasn’t amazing.

I judged alongside the judges and in semi-final 4 I was totally of the mark about the winners but in semi 5 I nailed number 1 and 2.   It just goes to show that you never know and what might be great to me might be crap to you.  lol

So today I had some Toastmasters friends over and we watched the World Championship finals together.  It was so much fun being together and sitting there dissecting everyone’s speeches apart like we were experts.  lol  Also, as a bonus, one of the people signed up as a new member!  woo-hoo!

Presiyan was the clear winner.  But I loved Kingi Biddle in second place too.  What a character!  Must have been a rugby player at some point.   I also thought the hometown Cincy boy Chris Nactrab should have nailed third though.

I also thought contest chair Mohammed Murad was charming, highly entertaining and kind of adorable.  More of him please.

Also, I have to say I am shocked that Las Vegas is getting another World Championship in 2015.  Seems kind of incredibly stupid to me.  They just had one there 2 years ago.  Aren’t there a zillion other places that can do this? And want this?  Like Vancouver for instance?

I mean, personally, I don’t mind.  It will be seriously less expensive for me to go to Las Vegas than England or China or wherever else they could have had it but I thought TM was supposed to be going global here and they come back to a town they were JUST AT????  Makes no sense to me.


So, I guess this is it folks.  This is where we part ways.  Sniff.

Thanks for hanging out with me for 365 days.  You have been awesome.

Writing this blog has been such an incredible journey.  a life-changing journey.  I really can’t put into words what has changed because of this- you’ll have to read the whole damned thing and see for yourself.  I’m a very different woman than I was on August 24 2012.  And I have to say I like me way better now.  I’m ever so grateful for the lessons which have been imparted to me through so many different avenues.  My world is so very very different.

I have met so many new friends because of this blog, friends from Texas, Australia, New York, Ontario and California.  Even people just from Vancouver.

I’ve changed the way I thought and lived and worked because of the extraordinary people I have met through the ambitious goals of this blog.  I have seen miracles and I have been the recipient of much wisdom and love.  I have been abundantly blessed.

So, have you learned anything?

Yes, the relevant question is – what have I learned?

Well, I have learned how very attractive humility is and how I much I benefit from about 50 CC’s a day of it.

I have learned that you can reach out to people you thought might never give you the time of day and turn out to become friends with them.

I have learned that jealously has no place in friendship.  Except for maybe admitting it.

I’ve learned that everyone has a story worth listening to.

I have learned that I’m not as good as I thought I was and I have learned that I am better than I thought I was.  lol

I have learned that I have unlimited potential and I am just beginning to tap that mine.

I have learned how much my family supports me.

I have learned how hard I can work on a project I care about.

I have learned how to listen better.

I have learned how to write better.

I have learned how many people in my District support me.

I have learned how to say “I love you” to someone even when I’m scared to do it.

I have learned that my daddy really loves me and is proud of me.  That was probably the best thing of all.  That was the diamond in this mine.

I have learned that I still have a lot to learn.

Malaysia 2014?

I’m not sayin’ I’m goin’ for Malaysia in 2014.  I’m not sayin’ I’m not.  Whatever happens happens and all I can do is listen to my heart, listen to God and do my best.  The rest is out of my hands.   That’s something else I learned too.

I was holding on for a long time, and very tightly to something I thought I wanted.  But when I asked myself what my desires truly were, I saw that most of them HAD been met through this journey, even though the original goal of becoming the 2013 World Champion of Public Speaking had not been met or even come reasonably close to being met.

When I opened my hand to let go of that dream, God put something entirely different in my hand.  Something that is exciting and scary and satisfying intellectually, socially, and in the deepest part of my heart.

As I watched Presiyan speaking today, I felt not a tinge of jealousy or sadness. I just felt joy that he had crafted such an incredible work of art.  I was so happy and so proud of my fellow Toastmaster whom I’ve never met.  I felt so grateful to have been given the gift of his message.  Reach out.  Ironically, I’ve never reached out as much in my life as I have in this past year and so I can attest to the beautiful validity of his message. 

The Weird and Wonderful World of Toastmasters

What a remarkable group we are, Toastmasters.  I think we’re all a little bit strange and kind of on the fringe and I LOVE that about us.  I love that we’re all so different and that all we have in common is that we want to be better and help each other be better and that we love hanging out with each other.  And I love our awesome potlucks.

I love that no matter where you go in the world, you can find a family in Toastmasters, no brag, just fact.  I love that you can go as a guest to any club and you will be embraced and feel like you’ve met a long lost cousin.

I love that my life has been utterly and completely changed for the better by this organization and the people in it.  I love that I had NO idea that would happen when I joined.

I love that there is SO much more joyful work to do and so many more people yet to discover who they can become.

Thanks are not enough.

And so, my deepest gratitude goes to good ol’ Ralph Smedley who started this shindig 89 years ago.  He must have had an inkling of the magnificence to follow.

And my deepest gratitude goes to my fellow Toastmasters, my brothers and sisters around the corner and around the world who dare to reach inside and bravely give so much of themselves – their very hearts- to help their fellow humans be the best they can.  What a truly remarkable gift.

What a remarkable group we are.  Toastmasters.

I love you all.

Toastmasters International

Weird and brilliant and beautiful. What more could you ask for?


Three letters.      P.M.S.

In all honesty, if one can survive the emotional hurricane that is pre menstrual syndrome in the Howley household, the rest of life is a cake walk.    I don’t know how bad it is for other women, but for me, about once every three months, I kind of lose my mind.  Today is one of those days.

At 1:30 I just said to Meg “Ok, home school’s done.  Go watch tv.”

“But we haven’t done math or science yet mum.”

Albert Einstein

“That’s ok.  E will still equal MC squared tomorrow.  I need some chocolate.  Where’s your Hallow’een candy?”

(No, we’re not studying Einstein’s theory in grade one.  Saving that for third grade.  Ahem.)

I actually had to take into account my cycle when I was competing.  I knew when I’d be PMSing which is the hardest time for me and I knew I had to compensate for it somehow.  Joy is harder for me to come by during this time, just ask my family.   If I get more alone time, it seems to help.  (They don’t seem to want to hang around with me then anyway so it’s all good.)

Of course there is the motherhood situation.  Last week we had a member bring her 4 year old to the Toastmasters meeting because she couldn’t get a sitter.  This week, I’m doing the same thing for the same reason.  My 6 year old daughter has been to so many Toastmasters meetings she can seriously put together a better Table Topics speech than many newbies.  She also knows how to behave herself.

I don’t like to bring her too often though because I don’t want members to feel censored by the presence of young and tender ears.  (I usually ask her to play in another room until the meeting is over.)

I remember one time Meaghan came to a meeting, someone was reading from the Interpretive Reading Manual and of course the “f word” was in that passage.  I can’t ask people not to read things that are important to them because there might be young people there who shouldn’t be there anyway.

Funny, Meaghan still talks about that day.  “Hey mom, remember the time Marilyn said the f word at Toastmasters?”

Last minute situations seem to come up for moms.  Do they come up for dads too?

Anyway, that is still a factor I believe, in the lack of women competing at the highest level.  The bottom line still is that we are taking care of the kids and kids refuse to adhere to schedules.  They will throw up whenever they need to, break their arms during the annual gala that you worked 6 months to put together; they will get a new allergy that takes 7 visits to the doctor to discern and 4 more visits to the pharmacist to find the right remedy.

As far as I know, women are still doing the bulk of this work although I do acknowledge that things are becoming more fair.

On the other hand, I have wondered, how have the MEN done it?  None of them were unemployed prepping for the World’s as far as I know.  I would estimate at least half of them had families to care for while they were prepping so they had to figure out a balancing act as well.

It all comes down to discipline.  Nothing great can be done without a tremendous amount of discipline.  Without eliminating the fluff from your life so you can concentrate on the task at hand.  Without CONSTANT reminding of the goal, of what needs to be done to reach that goal.

This down time is good for me, necessary even but it feels dangerous.  It feels perilously close to inertia.  Yes, I am working on my Cincinnatti Championship Collage.  Yes, I am presidenting my club.  Yes, I am prepping for the Youth Leadership Program.  Yes, I am listening to Create Your Keynote, but….

Ok, writing this down was a good idea.  There are a few things in that list.  Plus all the home school stuff I’m doing (except today).  I guess this really ISN’T inertia is it?

No silly.  It’s P.M.S.

Time for chocolate.


And in an ever so casual by the way…….

2000 World Champion of Public Speaking ED TATE asked me if he could use THIS POST

in his new blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I said I’d think about it.

Yeah, right!




At the Toastmasters conference in bed, very tired; getting up in 7 hours!!!!   Good to see folks, GREAT energy, lots of love.  Good c0nversations, just not enough of them yet.  How to speak to EVERYONE in the next 36 hours?  How to have meaningful conversations in a limited amount of time?

Lots of people asking me if I’m competing.  As I tell them no, I feel a bit embarrassed, a bit remorseful.  I wish.

A few people asking me if I’ll give the speech anyway.  This…. this is lovely.  This is pretty damned cool.   So we’ll eke out 7 minutes somewhere tomorrow and I will give JAWS The Speech.

Had a pretty amazing day really.  I had my Opus Dei spiritual circle today before I caught the ferry.  So cool that I was able to fit it in.  Our focus was mercy and compassion.  Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.  I’d better ramp it up or I’m in big trouble.  I wish I could bring my spiritual director home with me to remind me every 3 minutes about how I want to behave.  lol

Drove a friend to the city and we discovered just how much we have in common.  It’s becoming clear that there is a purpose here and it is exciting to explore it.

I ducked out of the keynote halfway through and SKYPED my baby girl tonight and read a chapter of The Fairy Realm to her.  I was so glad to do it.  It made her SO happy and it made ME so happy to make her so happy.  I love being a good mum.  I should really try it more often.  lol

I should also mention my cravings for alcohol that always come at social settings like these.  I always have some physical pangs, some longing for wine when I see others consuming.  I’m dealing.  It’s cool.  Just breathe.  As my husband likes to say “We have, unfortunately, abused this privilege.”  As I like to say “I used up all my tickets already and I can’t ride this ride anymore.”

Lots to say, no time to say it. I need to go to sleep or I’ll be sorry.   Need time to reflect too and that is what I will do when I get home.  Thanks for your time friends!  Party on dudes!!!!!


October 30

I’m taking some time to BE. Doing some reading and some writing. I’d like to put together a club speech before The Big Speech.

I was listening to Craig Valentine, Ed Tate, Darren LaCroix and Mark Brown last night on World Champions Edge and they talked about what to do with a speech AFTER the contest. There was SO much great wisdom to be found there. I took a lot of notes.

Something Ed Tate recommended was to ask myself “What did I achieve along the way doing this contest?” and think that is a very worthwhile exercise.

So Paula, what DID you achieve along the way doing this contest?

I truly honouredmy audience’s time and strove to give them something worth their time in return.

I discovered how important it is for me to have FUN doing this.

I learned how important it is for me to be prepared pre-contest on contest DAY.

I got past my post-disappointing speech anxiety.

I asked for help from the best.

I encouraged and even helped my competition in the spirit of leadership and friendship.

I got a big healthy dose of humility. Three times!  Lol (Important one for me)

I truly enjoyed my competitors’ speeches!

I learned how to take more criticism.

I learned just how much I still need to learn.

I made my spiritual director laugh like never before!

I discovered that there are a heck of a lot of people in my corner that are ready to help me.

I discovered that people much more talented than me think that I haven’t even begun “to mine the gold inside of you”.

I saw how much my family loves me and are willing to sacrifice for me.

My dad let me know how much he believes in me.  And always has.  (Even when I made it difficult)

I was able to take my work ethic to a hugely new level.

I went to a brand new club.

I made some new friends.

“JAWS The Speech”  was ironically written as a result of a sad event.  Having this speech on my mind so much prompted me to remember to pray for the person in the sad event.

I know there are many more but this is a good beginning.  No process this fruitful is ever wasted.  It was a good run.

I gotta tell ya though, I sure as hell wish I was on that big stage this weekend.

Good luck to all the competitors.  Looking forward to a good laugh!





I got 5 hours sleep, had words with my husband and drove 7 hours total for him.  Was it worth it?

Let me answer in this way:  It wasn’t really about Ed Tate.  Ed is a great speaker and yes I learned a few new things, and it was veeeery good to sit directly behind him (thanks Other The Man!) and soak in that World Champion vibe.   But………

It was really about making sure that I got back up.  Despite the fact that I fared fairly well emotionally after the contest, I was still and AM still disappointed that I don’t get to give “JAWS-The Speech” to the B.C. District audience.  As I rode home after the contest, exhausted on the ferry on Saturday night I thought “There’s absolutely NO WAY I want to do this again in less than 48 hours.  I am NOT going to see Ed Tate on Monday night!  I’m wiped out emotionally and physically.  I’m going to see him for the whole conference in 2 weeks anyway, we just bought a house, I shouldn’t be throwing $ away on things that aren’t necessary, I’m sick of driving a for three hours at a time and I just wanna STAY HOME and eat a big bag of chips.”

The words that I got from “The Other The Man” AFTER the contest, the man who back in the spring publicly claimed me as a future world champion were instrumental.  They were pivotal.  Having people who believe in me is everything.  People who believe in me validate my belief in me.  I was the one who had the idea in the first place.  But it’s only an idea until you take the next step and make it a process.  And when others believe in you, it makes taking that first step not only easier, not only possible,  but giddily joyful.

I’ve always had a troublesome ego that aspired to big things.  Problem is, I never used it to aspire to anything worthwhile.  I just shot my mouth off and let it lead me through general idiocy with impressive looking falls and fireworks.  I never really had much to back it up with.  As I slowly began to grow up, (and this was less than a decade ago mind you so I still have a lot of maturing to do) I began to realize just how much I didn’t know and just how very little I had contributed to the world.  My ego was finally confronted with reality sans alcohol.

I was confronted with my nothingness.

And so for the past ten years, my heart and mind have been healing, slowly repairing the synapses in my brain, struggling to break out of patterns that have previously buried me.

And I lived in this teeny tiny town for 9 years.  Staring at the stark snow-capped mountains, next to the vast waters of the peaceful Pacific, reminded always that I was just a very small part of it all.

Isolated from the world at large, slowly, slowly, ever so slowly,  I have learned who God is and who I am and what I can do about it.

God has been masterful in his slow revelation of the world to me.  Placing me on the outskirts of isolated little Egmont, population 150, while the initial gaping wounds began to heal for a year and a half.  Then slowly, he moved me into the little town with slightly more interaction, and church.  He gave me a best friend, a woman who was my friend AND my mentor, who helped guide me through the new world, the ‘normal’ world.  What we experienced was extraordinary and to this day I have not had a friendship match the miraculousness that was us.

Then finally Lloyd and I married and having Meaghan expanded my circle outside of the church and our little town.    But the loss of our second child and accompanying near death experience changed my life completely.  It was the kick in the ass I’ve talked about previously, that ever so effective tool of waking me up.  It forced me to acknowledge the truth in my life and brought me to a wider spiritual circle in the Catholic Church and beyond it.  And then, my dearest friend moved away, leaving me in my own space again, very lonely, but more whole than before I knew her.

By ‘fluke’ he next brought me Toastmasters, an organization I had NEVER heard of but my husband instinctively knew would be good for me- “You’re good at talking and you need the intellectual stimulation” he said.

It was my introduction into the public world again, albeit slowly and delicately.   The prodding of my mind and heart with every speech gave me a public voice again and made me discern what was truly important to me and what exactly I wanted to spend my time and energy on.

And then after a year of Toastmasters and seeing Darren LaCroix and the other greats, the secret desire in my heart of seeking the World Championships, thinking it was 99.99% pie in the sky.

Each one of these events was a ripple in the pond, getter bigger as it got farther away from that initial drop in Egmont.  Winning contests and moving up a level each year, meeting Toastmasters from Vancouver and the rest of BC, beginning to feel like I could pull off fitting in, and sometimes, actually even fitting.

The latest growing ripple was this past year, an actual physical move to a new home, half an hour closer to everything, making travel easier, making networking more frequent.  And then, making B.C. District finals twice and having people like Jamie MacDonald and Darren LaCroix in my life, encouraging me- telling me things I only dreamed about before.   Giving me the chutzpah to say something like “I’m going for the World Championships” and really mean it.

Through it all though, even in my revelation of nothingness there was always still that little spark of ego that Lloyd would see and close friends would see but for the most part, I muted because I wasn’t aware there could even BE an alternative for me, though my dreams told me differently.  It was the WORDS that made it all possible.  The validation of my beliefs.

It’s miraculous, isn’t it?  And if you look at your life, you will see the same thing, the miraculousness of it.  The perfect way things happen, difficult things and wonderful things, scary things and curious things, the marks they leave on your life, the signs pointing to the places you’re meant to go or at least meant to walk towards.

There’s this quote I like. It goes something like “You don’t have to have the will to win, everyone’s got that.  You have to have the will to do what it takes to PREPARE to win.”  That’s what going to Ed Tate was about, although it didn’t start that way.  For me I think this entire battle is going to be with myself.  Against those voices in my head that doubt me and say “WTF?  What do YOU think you’re doing girl?”

And so YES.  It was worth the time and energy and effort and money and words with my husband to go and see Ed Tate, the 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking.  It was worth it to hear those words, “One day, you’ll be the World Champion.”  and know that they were said with sincerity.   And to once again, in a time of vulnerability, validate my belief.

One of these days, I’ll give you the short answer.  Promise.   🙂



Well, THIS was weird!  I didn’t work on a speech today!!!!!!!  lol

Today was the celebration of the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, North America’s first Aboriginal saint (and dear to Meaghan’s heart) so we went to the Native church here to honour St. Kateri and Lloyd and Meaghan’s M’iq M’aq ancestors.  We ended up staying with Father D and 3 of his friends for lunch and well into the afternoon.  We got home at 3:00.  It was incredibly pleasurable to spend time with people and not have any kind of agenda whatsoever.  We talked about everything under the sun and just enjoyed each other.

Today I got a lot of love.  People emailed, facebooked and messaged me and lifted my spirits and touched my heart so deeply it moved me to tears.  How incredibly blessed I am!!!!

Today is also (even more importantly to us) the 10th anniversary of the day Lloyd and I met.  When I think about who we were 10 years ago and who we are now, the difference staggers me.  We truly are different people and God used us to rescue each other.  It was a perfect fit and the only one that could have worked for each of us.  If someone had told me at the beginning of that day that 10 years later I’d be a happy practicising Catholic, I’d have laughed until I burst a kidney.   Then I would have drank myself to death to prevent it from happening!

The tale of how we met is pretty strange and epic and I’m not up to telling it just now so it will have to wait for another day.  (I know, pretty rotten eh?)  Suffice it to say, “So how did you two meet?” is a question we still have trouble answering.  Once in a while, just for the shock value, I’ll tell the entire story to a stranger and they usually need a drink afterwards.  lol

The 6 giant pieces of whiteboard are staring me in the face, just waiting to be fixed to the wall.  I am eager to begin mapping The Big Speech.  We have to trim them a bit more to fit the 2 big sliding doors in our bedroom and Lloyd seemed apprehensive….  “you want it to cover both doors?”

“Well, yeah honey, I want a WHOLE wall and this is the only available wall we have so we have to do it.”

It’s nice that the house is OURS now and I don’t have to ask the landlords!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Getting out my big list of big ideas.

TOMORROW I’m going to see Ed Tate,    the 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking (yes, I am taking a ferry back into the city, having been home for a whole 25 hours now).  Ed is the creator of my second favourite World Speech “One of Those Days”!  I can’t wait to meet him and hear what he has to say.

I have 2nd row seats thanks to another “The Man” who believes in me.  I don’t know what’s going to happen but I know it’s going to be good!

This is exciting.  An idea showed up and then another knocked on the door and then they gelled and became “The End”.

It didn’t happen all at once.  A microscopic idea came this afternoon after we lost our power.  I muscled it into the speech’s end.  It made it slightly better which is better than not better at all.

I took a break and watched a bunch of the World Championship videos for inspiration.

I watched Lance Miller’s “the Ultimate Question”  and really relished his style.  Funny and charming,  confident but humble at the same time.  Great smile.  One of the best lines ever delivered in a World Championship speech:  “You know what’s wrong with me?  You know what’s wrong with you?  You know what’s wrong with the world?…………………………………………..WHO CARES??????    It takes no special talent to find things that are wrong with people!”  It took people a couple of seconds to CATCH that line but when they did, they LOVED it.  It was applauded.

I watched Ed Tate’s “One of Those Days”, maybe my favourite story ever told.  It’s not a ‘classic’ speech and I like that about it.  Told with such a style and wit, such a satisfying end, so much laughter.  Hilarious really!

I watched Darren LaCroix’s “Ouch!”  for, no kidding, maybe the 25th time.  An all around work of genius. with one BUT.  It is over time.  there was a glitch with his timing lights, unbeknownst to him at the time so he was not penalized and his speech was almost EIGHT magnificent minutes long.

I watched Craig Valentine’s “A Key To Fulfillment” and I found that I REALLY liked the FAST way he spoke.  I didn’t have any trouble understanding him and it added so much to his style.  I could identify with that as I really enjoy that kind of playing with words and speed.  I also forgot how funny he was.  He’s also got this “I’m pretty damned handsome, don’t you think?”  thing going on.  It’s hilarious.

I watched Brett Rutledge’s “My Little World” and HE just PACKED the laughs in man.  He was flippin’ hilarious.  He may have had the most laughs per word of any of them.  Brilliant craftsmanship and mimicry.

Anyway, I felt great after watching them all and then the power came back on so I was forced to feed my family.  lol

I played UNO with Meaghan after supper and when she went to the bathroom once, I totally stacked the deck and gave myself all wild cards and +4’s.  I gave her all yellow cards and one blue.  The game was over in 3 minutes.  LOL!  I of course, came clean but I did it to see if she would notice and suspect anything about the incredibly spectacular hand I had.  It’s nice to know she’s so innocent that it wouldn’t even occur to her.  Or that she WAS so innocent anyway.  ahem.

So, the family’s in bed, I’m up WAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY too late again but sheesh, what are you gonna do eh?  I can’t sleep anyway when ideas are all bouncing around in my head .  It’s SO hard to shut the brain off.

BUT!!!!    But that microscopic idea from this afternoon met a good idea from tonight and they MATED and produced EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR.  The END PUNCH was delivered by my deliverer 🙂 .

It tied in with the theme, it added a laugh AND a philosophical statement (that’s not too heavy) and it lifted the FEEL of the entire end.  It was getting too damned heavy.  After all , it IS the humorous speech contest isn’t it?

So I puzzled it all together, and I tried it all out loud and then I SQUEALED WITH JOY when I finished!  It fit!!  It fit!!!!!!  It FIT!!!!!!!    I danced and spun around the living room and scared the claws off my cats.

I practiced so much I’m losing my voice.  It’s time for bed and I’m pretty sure I’ll sleep tonight.  There might be nothing LEFT in my brain.  lol

I am SO excited.  I just want to remember how fun this is right now and never forget it.

Thanks for praying for me my friends.

Glory to God in the Highest!

Lands End Sunrise

Lands End Sunrise (Photo credit: Camerons Personal Page)

(What a roller coaster eh?  Welcome to my husband’s world!)