Who am I?  QUICK!!!!!!

Who am I? QUICK!!!!!!

I had what I think is a very good humorous speech put together for this fall’s contest season.  It was one of the drafts I wrote and discarded last spring while being coached by Rich Hopkins.  I loved the speech;  just didn’t think it had enough BITE for the International Speech contest, but I relished the thought of using it as a humorous speech with a message.  ( I may be re-thinking that now after hearing Vasilev’s “Changed By A Tire” speech.

In August, I sent the speech to Lance Miller, 2005 World Champ of Public Speaking for a critique and he gave me some ideas I loved and some I didn’t like at all.  He also showed me how to build a scene better – a skill I’m VERY grateful for and look forward to producing  again.  It will help me in ALL my writing.

After working on it for several weeks, I sent it to my friend and mentor, Jamie MacDonald who is an editing genius.  He pared it down so much  it actually lost some of it’s muscle so I fleshed it out to Paula Howley standards (or my bare minimum anyway) until I was happy with it – so long as I could stay under time.   I was really hoping to give it at the District finals in November.   I thought I had a better shot than previously because our Division H  is half the size it was last year, therefore, I only had half the competitors at that level which would have made  making District distinctly easier.

So I had the speech and I did some Avery Drilling in parks and on the ferry , but not as much as last go-around.  (Avery drilling, named after 2012 World Champ of public speaking Ryan Avery, is when you practice your speech  in public places to raise your discomfort level and to learn to deal with distractions.  I only Miller drilled once though.  (Miller drilling, named after 2005 World Champ Lance Miller) is when you…say…each…. word….of…..your….speech…. with a very brief pause between each word and with NO emotional inflection.  This helps drill the speech into your memory.

I also didn’t record and watch myself many times either.  The truth is, I didn’t feel the urgency with this speech that I have with the last 3.  And it was relieving to not have that feeling.

Now, further setting the scene, I have been struggling with my faith for some time now, I’d say well over a year, and this summer was particularly bad.  This summer found me questioning everything and all the existential torture THAT brings.   As a result, I was craving the drink like I hadn’t in 10 years.  I went so far as to open a bottle of rum and deeply inhale the aroma.  “You could probably have a glass of wine” – thoughts like that spun around my head.  Thin ice I tell you.

This being British Columbia, I smelled a lot of pot around me this summer too and there was a day on our family camping trip where I said to myself “If someone at this camp ground offers to smoke a joint with me today, I will do it.”  I just wanted to feel nothing for a while…just wanted to float away on a cloud of ‘everything’s ok’.   I found myself wondering if I needed medication and if I should just go ahead and self-medicate with marijuana.   Thankfully, that never happened or I would have been swimming in guilt on top of existential angst. Oh, what the mind will do to convince the body of what it wants!!!  It was a hard and lonely summer.

Simultaneously, and stupidly, I have not been regularly active in my prayer life for  a very long time.  Since early spring I’d say.  Some sporadic prayer here and there, mostly for others, but the well has been dry, my mind has felt tortured and I have limped along with anguish and hopelessness in my heart.  I felt like I completely lost myself or maybe never even  had myself to begin with.

I was in one of those places that are hard to get out of- the whole ‘why do I exist?’  ‘Who am I?’ place, and I had a hard time talking to anyone about it.  Thank God for one friend to whom I spilled my guts in late August.  What a relief it was just to speak this crap out loud to her and not fear judgement.

With all this going on, I booked  myself an autumn Opus Dei silent retreat soon after the gut-spill.  I had the money  then and I knew I needed  it.  I hadn’t been on retreat in two years.  Instead of retreats, I’ve gone to Toastmasters conferences because they always run at the same  time.  They cost about the same amount of money too and only going to one was a financially viable choice.   My priorities had shifted from growth to glory so it was contests all the way.

It’s becoming pretty obvious to me that it was after my first big win in November 2011, 3rd place at District finals, where my ambition started eating more time than my faith.  I’ve always known that I need to sacrifice more to be more successful as a mother and a human being in general.  It seemed to be hard enough for me to do it even BEFORE  the visions of glory in my head  helped me put the important stuff to the side.  After my ego took precedence, there wasn’t a shot in hell.

I read my journals from the past 2 years this week and I can literally SEE my spiritual decline.  The private writing of my journals became less frequent, my time and energy was all about winning public speaking contests.  I’m not even sure it was to be the best speaker I could be- if it were, the aspiration of being a great speaker was likely just a by-product of wanting the big prize.  It was so obvious it would be funny if it weren’t so damned pathetic.

Anyway, I’m on a ferry right now on my way to the retreat.  Yes, there is a twinge of regret that I won’t be competing tomorrow but I know I am doing the right thing for my soul and my family and I have complete peace about it.

It is HARD WORK for an ambitious woman to set aside ego.  In fact, it’s bloody exhausting.  But I’ve discovered in the past two years that it’s even more exhausting to short change my family and myself.

I’ve still had a lot of growth in the past 2 years.  God uses even my ambition and selfishness for the greater good because….well, that’s just the way it is.  It will be interesting to re-discover who I am and who I am going to be.  I know I will be blessed with clarity through this choice.

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?

Lance Miller and I at TLI- getting some of that Champ vibe

Lance Miller and I at TLI- getting some of that Champ vibe

I sent some speech feedback to our Toastmasters District Champion last night. A few weeks ago, we had a big Officer Training session where Lance Miller (2005 World Champion) was our special guest (it was inspiringly awesome!) and our Champ gave his District winning speech and the speech he hopes to take to the finals.

I video’ed his speeches and sent him the links to them as I know how much it helps to see oneself. I felt a faint stir in my bones, one I recognized as the wish that I was the one working on my speeches for Cincinnatti.

To be honest, I thought my speech, “I Love You” was as good as his (though my presentation needed a lot of work) and I would have loved to be on the District stage with him. I would have loved the challenge of putting together a second speech as well. But alas! I may just have a life-changing career instead!!!!!! I look forward to watching him via the internet at the finals. He has worked very hard to get here.

I have been tooling around with my humorous speech- one that was written by accident when I was working with Rich Hopkins. I wasn’t going to compete but come ON! Who am I KIDDING?????? It’s written already so what the hell. My membership to World Champion’s Edge runs out in one month so I am going to fire it off to them for a $50 evaluation from a Champ. I think I’m going to let my membership lapse after that. I think it was a good investment for the year however.

Spent last week camping with my family so I worked on NOTHING all week. In fact I read 2 full novels and 3 National Geographics. it was awesome. But we’re back to the grindstone this week. Lots of work to do. I still have to register Head Start as a business, finish curriculum, website, get business cards made, a banner, supplies, talk about advertising etc. SO! Even though a part of me wished I was working on my World Championship speech last night, I was thoroughly satisfied that I am stepping into my future in the right place and time. I am happy.

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!)

 

Eerily quiet last night since my girl was at a sleepover.  Lonely, but got lots of work done.

Tonight I probably gave The Speech 3 more hours.  2005 World Champ Lance Miller

gave some great advice today at World Champions Edge on practising and drilling your speech.  I am getting close to that point now as I am pretty much finished writing it.

One really valuable tip he shared was NOT to start your speech all over when you make a mistake.  Just push past the mistake and keep going and you will better learn how to deal with this WHEN it happens in your real life speeches.  I have ALWAYS started over, wanting to do it perfectly.  But real life doesn’t give you many do-overs so it’s a smart strategy.

Another thing I have had weighing on my mind is that my FIRST story in my speech wasn’t until almost HALF way through the speech.  I know that Darren LaCroix and Craig Valentine (1999 World Champ) would w say that’s WAYYYY too late and I agree.  I just didn’t know how the heck I was going to re-structure it.  I didn’t WANT to restructure it.  It had a flow.

But I put the speech on the computer screen in front of me so I could see the entire thing at once and began to see some possibilities.  Seeing the big picture helps in so many ways.  I moved things around and pretty soon, the flow was better AND I had a strong closing.

I think I might be finished.

I gave the speech for Lloyd tonight and he loved it but said he thinks it needs more funny.

I said “honey, you’ve heard it 20 times already, that’s why you’re not laughing anymore.”

But of course, THAT will weigh on my mind.

I’d like this solidified by Saturday.  I’m doing some more mindless repetitious work on Saturday, perfect for drilling and practising a speech.  God is good.