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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyirBcKaIYI

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.

Anyway.

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?

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.
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.

I just can’t let this blog float around in cyberspace with no one to care for it.  I feel like I’m orphaning a child for crying out loud.  The original goal to document my journey to the World Championships is obviously not what’s going to happen but this blog is called A YEAR in the Life of a Toastmaster, not Nine Months in the Life of a Toastmaster.  And we have already established that the goal is not the goal.  So, I feel like I need to finish the year because that’s what I promised.  But, what is my focus now, Toastmasters or what Toastmasters has been leading to?

Well part of what Toastmasters has led to so far is more personal development.

My life coaching continues, though we are very close to finished.  Just two weeks to go.  I can’t rave enough about what I have learned and experienced through Micaela Pennell so far.  It has been an extraordinarily helpful journey and I am so grateful to God for bringing her into my life.  She has given me tools to continue tackling things that need tackling and I honestly feel like I am a very different person from 100 days ago.  My perspective is different, my attitude is different, my understanding is different.  I also have an amazing friend out of it.  If you have issues, and who doesn’t, and you are serious- I mean SERIOUS about tackling them, she’s your girl.

 

I’ve come to the realization that I have not been taking care of myself because I have been so busy trying to take care of everyone else.  Hoping that if I keep giving and giving and giving that my needs will eventually be met.

And because of that, because I am continually disappointed when people turn out to be like themselves instead of who I WISH they were and because I am soooooo bloody depleted and tired from doing everything, I have been very angry.   I have been allowing situations that TAKE from me, rather than situations that are enhancing my life.  My family has suffered.  I have suffered and even the people that I’ve been trying to take care of have suffered because they haven’t been given the chance to do things on their own.

The sorry truth is that I have not been meeting my own needs in almost ANY capacity for my entire life!!!!  No wonder I’ve been so pissed!

So.

That ends today.

Life is too bloody short.

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.

So, many of you have heard through the Toastmasters grapevine already and many of you haven’t that I placed second to Sharookh Daroowala.   Sharookh’s name was on the District Cup 13 years ago so I’m not embarrassed to have lost to him.  I also know he worked very hard on his speech and I consider him a very worthy competitor.

I’m still considering pulling a Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan on Sharoohk so he might want to watch his back for the next 2 weeks until District.

I feel pretty flat right now, flat as a pancake.   I feel like all the air has been let out of my tires.  I didn’t even want to go to church this morning but they say those are the best times to go.

Not really sure what to do with myself as I really hadn’t planned for this. I had envisioned my summer of working on this and my new speech.  I knew I was going to go to a Reds game in Cincinnatti, I knew my parents would have driven from Windsor to come and see me.  I really truly and honestly thought it was going to be my year.  Is that cocky or just stupid?

I guess I’ll give you a review of my day yesterday because it was interesting up until the losing part anyway.

I Avery Drilled on the ferry and it was really awesome.  I wasn’t freaked out or afraid.  I just enjoyed it.  And each time I went a little louder so as to challenge myself.  People walked right in front of me, some stopped to watch, some watched out of the corner of their eyes.  Some completely ignored me.  Some teenaged boys smoked some BC bud and hung out for a while and I’m pretty sure I tripped THEM out.  lol

creating the illusion of insanity

creating the illusion of insanity

I felt happy and grateful to be doing what I was doing and thought about where I was 11 years ago and how this never would have even entered my mind as a possibility of life then.

I drove to my spiritual director Bernadette’s house to have a chat with her since it’s been a VERY long time and it was wonderful to be with her.  I performed my speech for her and she was in alternating laughter and tears.  She really identified with the subject matter and told me she thought it was an important message for people to hear.  She also thought it was the best speech I’ve ever crafted and she appreciated the nuances of it.  Since I have lost my last 2 Division contests immediately after performing my speech for Bernadette, I have decided to NEVER SPEAK TO HER AGAIN.  lol

So, I got to the venue.  Nice and big.  Very big.  Probably about a 100 people there.  Greeted people, used the bathroom 50 times, found someone to record my speech.  I looked around at my competitors.  Ian Cunliffe.  He beat me last fall in the Humorous contest.  Sharoohk, limping with gout.  One of my competitors pulled me aside and said “You’re going to win.  You’re gonna go to District.”

We drew numbers for speaking order.   I was there to compete in the Evaluation contest as well as the International speech contest.  Pulled number 4 for Eval and pulled DEAD LAST for International.  Yes!  It was meant to be, see? 

My stomach was doing serious gymnastics.  Waves of nausea came and went.  A couple of times I thought I might be sick.  It was worse than any District contest I’d been in.  (and this is my idea of fun, mind you)   I was glad to get up and give my Evaluation so I’d have a chance for my nerves to dissipate a little, to project my voice and use the floor a little before my “real” speech.   (no disrespect meant for the evaluators who are the backbone of Toastmasters)

I watched my speech competitors one at a time, enjoying the speeches.  Knowing what I’d have to do to be the best.  Knowing I was capable of doing so.   The poor guy who went before me blanked on his speech and quit in the middle of it.  I felt terrible for him.  He left and never came back.   I wish I’d had the chance to talk to him.

It was my turn next and YES, I was able to power pose for a minute before beginning.  I got out there and it took me a couple of minutes to really connect.  It wasn’t my best.  It was good, but not the best I could have been.  I was not as present as I would have liked to have been.  Tell you what.  You can watch it for yourself.  I’ll post the text below it in because the volume is too low to hear in some parts.  So, for the first time ever in blogland, here is Paula Howley with her speech entitled ” I Love You”

http://youtu.be/uocm1PKGOPI

Here is the text:

I love you!  Have you ever wanted to say those life changing words to someone?……But couldn’t get up the nerve?

If you’d been in my house while I was growing up, you would have heard conversations ending like this:

“I love you Dad!” 

“Thanks Paula”

Thanks???  You say “Thanks” when someone passes you the salt, not their heart. 

But love, in all it’s forms, isn’t always a walk in the park is it?. Sometimes it’s a terrifying trek complete with fire-breathing dragons that incinerate your heart.   Madam Contest Chair, fellow travellers, this is my dragon tale. 

My dad is 70 and he’s British too. That stiff upper lip makes saying “I love you” physically impossible.  But my dad is an emotional, expressive man who cries during Toy Story.

He says “I love you” to my mom, all the grandkids, the dog, and complete strangers after enough beer. But for some reason, that stiff upper lip still applies to me.

I love you dad.

Thanks Paula.

Heart versus fire breathing dragon.  After being burned countless times I stopped offering my heart to anyone. I wasn’t even sure I was worth offering. 

That mindset interfered with boyfriend after boyfriend…..  After boyfriend.

And it almost stopped the most important relationship I’ve ever had. 

I wish you could have been there the night I met my husband Lloyd.  So romantic.  It was a dim, smoky bar that smelled like stale beer.  We had a love at first sight experience, slightly enhanced by alcohol.  We talked for 7 hours!  It was like finding a long lost friend. Then, at the end of the night, out of nowhere, he looked at me with his beautiful bloodshot eyes and said “I love you Paula!” 

It was the craziest thing I’d ever heard.  But even crazier, I felt the same way!  I wanted to say it back!….. but I couldn’t.   Offering your heart means it might get burned. 

I spent the next few days agonizing over what might have been and realized that I was turning into my dad.  I was becoming a fire breathing dragon. 

I had to decide if Lloyd was worth fighting for. 

Actually, I had to decide if I was worth fighting for. 

So I collected my courage, took the chance of my life and offered my heart to Lloyd.  In a letter.  Hey he lived 3000 miles away. 

“You were so brave” my letter said – “And I believe that you love me….  You should know that I love you too.” 

Ten years and one amazing child later we’re the Howley family complete with fire insurance.  

When your heart gets burned it’s tender and tentative.  When your heart lets the dragons win, it’s never offered at all and that’s tragic. 

Some burns take time to heal.  I stopped telling my dad I loved him.  We’d see each other, it would be fine, and being older, I assumed that of course he loved me, but I couldn’t stand the thought of hearing one more “Thanks Paula”. 

Last year though, I started wondering if I’d get another chance. Lloyd’s father passed unexpectedly and he was the same age as MY dad.  What if?  I didn’t even want to think of it. 

Dad’s visit months later was the last straw.  At the end of his stay, Dad hugged our daughter and said “I love you”. 

Then he turned and said it to Lloyd.

Really ? I thought. Really Dad?  You can say it to Lloyd????

He was coming towards me.  What should I say? I wanted to say nothing but what if….?

“Dad, I love you.”

I know dad loves me whether he says it or not.

“Thanks Paula.”

Yes it burned.  But I still said it.  I decided that I was worth fighting for.   And so was my dad.  And so are you. 

I love you!  Have you ever wanted to say those life changing words to someone?  Do it!  You are worth fighting for!   And so are your loved ones.   I love you.  And I’m not afraid to say it anymore. 

So, I have only watched it once and that was enough for me for now but I can see why I didn’t win.  I was not the best I could have been.  HOW am I ever going to get there????

So we finished and had to sit through the agonizing interviews of the contestants wherein I realized that I don’t have much of a life outside of homeschooling my child and Toastmasters.  I need a meaningless hobby big time.  If for no other reason than I will have something ELSE to talk about.

So they called up the Eval winners, 1,2,3 and I couldn’t have cared less that I was not up there.

Then they called Third place for the speech.  Ian Cunliffe.  I took a deep breath.  Then they called my name for Second place and I may or may not have said the word “shit” under my breath but loud enough for Al Piran next to me to hear.   Smile, I thought to myself.  Don’t be a jerky loser.  They handed me a lovely piece of paper that said “You Are Not Going To Cincinnati- however the fuck you spell it”.   I wanted to take that piece of paper, ball it up and toss it over my shoulder.   But social constraints were more powerful than the urge, thank God.

So they called Sharoohk’s name and up he came, double winner.  He’d won the Evaluation contest too.  I gave him a hug and congratulated him (incidentally, I had prayed for him on 3 occassions to heal so he COULD compete as well- think I might have been regretting THAT move?  lol)  then I shook Ian’s hand and congratulated him too.  I briefly flashed back to a time a few years ago when I placed at Division for the first time (3rd) and how thrilled I was to do so then and how different it was now.

Some friends who knew what I’d been trying to do did their best to comfort me and I am grateful for them.  For their perspective and their caring.  I just wanted to leave.   I had a terrible post-contest pounding headache.

I had dinner with a couple of the ladies who’d come over from the Sunshine Coast for contest and I have to tell you, YES, I WANTED A DRINK.  No, I did not have one.  Nothing will ever be that bad.  We hashed things out a little, talked about the speeches and of course I discussed how grave the miscarriage of justice was.  lol  Hey, don’t tell me YOU haven’t done the same thing.   Truthfully, the thing is, I lost to a good speaker.  The second thing is, I could have made it so much better and now I won’t have the chance to.  That really sucks.

I didn’t want to go up on the deck on the ferry so I mostly stayed in my car on the way home.  I watched the mountains and the beautiful waterfalls and tried to care about them and thought about the people in Boston and tried to care about them but in the end, I only cared that I was a big fat loser.  I felt like “The Biggest Fool in the World”.  Hey, I’ve claimed that title somewhere earlier in this blog, haven’t I?  I guess I really get to wear it now.  HEY!  Let me have my little pity party, ok?  I’ve been KILLING myself over this damned speech.

I picked up Meg from our friend’s house and she told me the most important part of the day and that was that she had gone on the BIG KIDS’ area of the bike park.  I agreed that it was pretty awesome and probably the most important.

Came home to my awesome husband who was already talking about next time (I can’t believe he’s willing to go there again) and that I have many more great speeches to write blah blah blah.  I told him how foolish I felt having made such a fuss, having put this blog out there, announcing my big dreams to everyone and then flopping on my face.   I wish I could remember all the wise and beautiful things he said but I know he said he is proud of how hard I’ve worked on this.

And how hard have I worked on this?  Well, you all have a pretty good inkling because it’s been documented for the most part.  I wrote a letter to myself a month ago using futureme.org to read AFTER the Area contest.  I forgot about the letter until last night and reading it helped me put things into perspective.  It was actually an exercise my friend and life coach Micaela encouraged me to use.  Here it is:

Dear FutureMe,

 

This is after the Area Contest.  You have almost certainly put in more time and effort than anyone else Paula.  No one has outprepared you. 

This is why you have won:

A) Preparation: To reiterate: No one has out prepared you. 

1. Spiritual:  You have prepared yourself for this contest in every spiritual capacity that you can think of including the scariest one of all: facing dad and asking his blessing.  You have been working with Micaela since the end of January, you have prayed, you have written, you have talked to God and you have learned a TON about yourself.  Rich has been a part of your spiritual process too and God is using this to make you an amazing and effective speaker.  He is also teaching you so much about yourself.  You have dug very deeply.  You have asked the scariest questions you can ask yourself and you have touched the darkest parts of your heart as well as the most hopeful.  You are focusing on seeing yourself doing an amazing job and seeing yourself victorious.  You are sending energy to the right places.  You are tackling every issue you can THINK of Paula!  You have people pulling for you and PRAYING for you!  YOu are a totally different person than when you began.  Even your attitude to your life is different.  You know you have big goals to pursue when this is all over.  This is just the beginning!!!!  The goal is not the goal. 

2. Mental:  As of today, March 23, you have put in at least 100 hours of preparation JUST ON THIS SPEECH.  Since then, easily 30 more.  You have Avery Drilled all over town so you can get over any discomfort and practice connecting with people!  You have Miller Drilled.  You have dissected the speech and looked at every aspect.  You know it and feel it inside and out.  YOu started training for this at last spring’s convention when you spent a thousand dollars in LaCroix products to begin investing in your future self.  It paid off girl.  You have also gone to dad to tell him what’s going on and left the ball in his court.  You have been respectful and asked for his blessing.  YOur head is IN THE GAME.  YOu are leaving no stone unturned. 

3. Physical:  You have been eating healthy for the past 3 weeks and getting more exercise.  You have been going to bed on time and getting enough sleep.  You are strong and you care about your body being strong enough to deliver a strong message.  YOu look great and feel great. 

 

B) You are proud to share the content of your speech with the audience because:

It is well written. 

It is funny. 

It is tough subject matter that everyone deals with at some point. 

It is true. 

It was a scary thing that happened to me.  Dealing with my dad has always been somewhat scary and uncomfortable.  Taking that chance and saying “I love you” was VERY hard for me.  It represented a change in thinking for me.  My thinking became more outwardly focused.  Less focused on me.  I was able to overcome- literally push PAST my very tangible fear and say what I NEEDED to say to dad just in case it was the last time and to show that I COULD. 

I am proud because I have worked with one of the best speech writers in the business, Rich Hopkins, and he has helped me write my best speech so far.  He thinks it is a great speech.  He thinks I am a star.  I am proud to share it as a Work of Toastmasters.  As a work of my heart. 

I am proud to share it with my friends who are getting to know me better.  I am proud to share my failings, my successes and my process with Toastmasters of all levels. 

I am proud because I truly think this speech could spur people on to life-changing action.  Even weeks later. 

I am proud to share this content because it is meaningful and heartfelt.  Because I have lovingly combed it and shaken it for more.  I am proud to share this content with my audience because it is an important, intimate and real part of me that can help my fellow human beings.

C) This content is uplifting for my dad because it will help him think about things differently.  I know Dad is being affected by my prayers and the very ENERGY of this speech.  His blessing to give this speech is proof of that.  All the energy I am putting into understanding and loving him and forgiving him is changing the energy of who he is, who I am and who I am with him.  This speech will give dad courage to be more than he thought he could be. 

This speech is uplifting for my dad because it represents his daughter taking the greatest leap of her life, working on something truly great and I know he wants that for me.  I know he wants me to succeed.  I know he loves me.  It would be a release for him to release to me.  This speech is uplifting for my dad because it is a tribute to my love for him.  That I do love him after all is said and done.  This speech is uplifting for my dad because he will learn from it.  He will glean much.  This speech is uplifting for my dad because it can set him free. 

Let me explain a few things.  I thought I was going to Cincinnati.  My folks live nearby and I KNEW they would come.  I didn’t want my dad to be blindsided by this speech so I sent it to him and asked for his blessing.  It was SCARY AS HELL.  3 days later he sent me a message back:
“Paula, I love you more than you will ever know and you always have my blessing.”

This gesture from my father is, as far as I’m concerned, the greatest act of love he has ever shown me (though he would probably disagree and say that feeding, housing and taking care of me was his greatest act of love).  This speech displays one of my father’s shortcomings and it took humility for my dad to bless my efforts to disclose the effects of this shortcoming.   I think my dad has an inkling of how important this has all been for me and him giving me his blessing was the biggest “I love you” I’ve ever gotten from him.  It meant I was free to give this speech without fear or guilt, without reins.   This, has probably been the greatest effect of this speech.  Nothing really, could have been more important.  It’s unfortunate that I have this tunnel vision that has a tall lucite trophy at the end of it.

When I visited my spiritual director Bernadette yesterday, she talked about how prevalent this trait is among the British.  This stiff upper lip.  Where did it come from?  How many are affected by it?  She recognized the importance of overcoming it in her life too.

After giving my speech yesterday and after the awards ceremony,  a lovely, lovely man named Mike approached me.  Mike has one of the kindest faces I’ve come across in the entire world.  He is a person that one feels instantly attracted to because of the warmth emanating from him.  I don’t know him very well but I like him a lot.  Mike congratulated me and then he said:

“Paula, I’m 70 and I’m British too just like your dad.  I’ve really been thinking about what you’ve said today.  I never thought about how important it was but I am going to go home today and call my daughters and tell each of them that I love them.”

Why does it make me cry to write that?

That’s what it’s supposed to be about, isn’t it?

Someone else is going to be the World Champion of Public Speaking for 2013.

Big fat juicy cuss word.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do next.  I think for a while, I’m just going to do nothing.  Not sure if I know how to do that but I’ll figure it out.  Just gimme a second.

you are not going to Cincinatti

you are not going to Cincinatti

TED (conference)

By noon today, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that it took a great deal of energy for me NOT to walk down to the Powell River beachfront and have a REALLY good long power sob.

As it turned out, I held it down to a few sniffly tears because of social constraints, although I believe it would have been healthier and more honest to let it all go.

In any case, I heard God speaking to me all morning long using many different voices and my heart was touched very deeply.   Here are some stream-of-consciousness snippets of things that travelled through my brain and managed to seep into my heart at TEDx Powell River:

The opposite of war is art. (never stop creating truth and beauty)

Where there is judgement there can be no inspiration.  (keep your heart open)

There is a big difference between motivation and inspiration.  (do versus be)

Know your values.  (value your values)

The lizard brain always judges and is never satisfied.  ( I still live very much in my 3 year old lizard brain)

Remember to remember.  ( tough one)

Wake up to my inspiration and values.  (trying…do or do not; there is no try)

Little victories shape our character.  (they are gold dust)

Examine your motivations.   (doing)

Pray for a homeless man in Toronto with the initials J.C.   (coincidence?  i think not)

For Christ’s sake, someone help.  (yes, for Christ’s sake, do it)

There has to be a better way to be a better human being.  (see all above)

“Touch” is from the latin “Tocare” which means ‘to strike a bell’.  Touching another person, truly touching them, resonates truth inside both of you.

DON’T KEEP YOUR DISTANCE.  (be vulnerable)

Estrangement is our illness.  (be vulnerable to give others strength and courage)

Stand close to the people who frighten you.  (be vulnerable to teach others how to be vulnerable)

Beauty is nature’s protection.  We protect what we fall in love with.  (love more)

Oh.  (your attention is caught)

My.  (connection to your soul)

God.  (connection to God)

This is not just another day.  This day is a gift, GIVEN to you.  And the only appropriate response is GRATITUDE.  (strengthen me Lord)

The more you invest in a relationship, the more people will forgive you.  (good thing for this one)

the truth that comes out of people when they laugh is beautiful.   (Amen, hallelujah)

Put determination ahead of fear.   (more yes than no)

Write out loud.   (hello???!!!)

Tell someone how great they are.   (thanks Mrs. Gorski)

You look lovely.  Like a spring goddess.  ( cherry on top)

Friends.  Love.  Truth.  Challenge.  Gratitude.  Family.