Spent a lot of today trying to figure out what I want to say in The Big Speech, what my message is and I am feeling challenged.

I know what my keynote speeches are going to be about. They will be for a different audience and the content will be appropriate for them. I will be able to speak freely and at length.

My challenge for The Big Speech is that much of my life is inappropriate for Public Toastmasters Consumption. It’s not exactly ‘family viewing’ type of stuff, you know?

Darren LaCroix, 2001 World Champ says my message has to be me.  My experience, and what I have learned from it, how I got there.  I get that. So how do I tell these things to a TM audience?

Exactly 10 years ago tonight I was working at a strip club in Brampton, Ontario. It was my last night as a dancer.  Ever.  I didn’t know this for sure, but somehow, I knew this.  I even remember going into the club dressing room that night and having a conversation something like this with one of the girls.  I remember she was very tall and looked down at me as we conversed in the mirror.

“I’m going out to Vancouver tomorrow.”

“Oh yeah? Where are you gonna be working?”

“I’m not going out to work. I’m going out to quit.”

“What are you gonna do?”

“I don’t know yet, but I met this really amazing man a few months ago and I’m going to be with him. I’m not coming back.”

“Oh you’ll be back.”

“No I won’t. I won’t be back.”

I said it with certainty because I knew it.

Lloyd and I had been conducting our ‘relationship’ over the phone for about 2 and a half months- he in B.C. and me in Ontario,  3000 miles apart.  Although I didn’t really know him, he had shared enough of himself with me so that I felt I could trust him, as I had felt the very first night we met.

Lloyd had done something for me that I hadn’t experienced in my entire life.  He respected me. He did it through his actions.  One night when we were talking on the phone for one of our hours-long marathons during Christmas break, he told me that ideally, we should wait until we were married to be together intimately.

That suggestion literally made my heart flutter. I had to catch my breath and I grinned like a fool.  My poor brain though!  My brain couldn’t begin to comprehend it because I assumed values like that were not only dead, but better off so. I’d never met a single person in the world like that.  I didn’t really think they existed.

I couldn’t deny what that suggestion did to me though. It told me that I was more to him than I had ever been to any man before him.  He was different and it gave me hope.  It changed my heart.  It made me more brave.

Those last few weeks before I left for BC were amazing and incredibly difficult. Lloyd and I spoke at length about spiritual issues.  I was a practicing pagan who was slightly opening the door to a fellow named Jesus.  Lloyd was a Christian who wasn’t living the life he wanted to live.

I also found it increasingly difficult to dance for anyone as I felt I was betraying Lloyd but I had lingering doubts in the back of my mind and wanted to make as much money as I could just in case it wasn’t what I thought it was.

At the same time, my dancing on stage was the best it had ever been and I felt utterly electric. I knew it was going to be my last week and I was going to be the most miraculous dancer anyone had ever seen. I dug deep and gave away my soul every time I performed.

Now I wanted my last night as a stripper to be something of a celebration of the end of what I considered to be a legendary career. Born on July 4, 1986 and dying on Jan. 19, 2003, the caricature known as Red Hot Paula Scott was one of the best dancers in Canada and I wanted her to be acknowledged. I felt I deserved at least that after all I had done in and for the business.  (I had been the chair of the Exotic Dancer’s Alliance of Ontario and the editor of its newsletter for a few years also.)

When I look back now I’m relieved it was so anticlimactic. I needed for it to be because it can be easy to romanticize this job, especially with distance and time. It’s a good thing I recently went through those dozens of micro cassette recordings to remind me of just how much general crap I had to deal with, how often I got wasted, how often I cried and how much I hated what I was doing.

However, there had been some changes happening in me since the night I met
Lloyd, my future husband and His good buddy Jesus and I was recognizing different values. Something was happening to my spirit. On what I was certain would be my last night, I actively tried to recognize the value of relationship, the value of time, and the value of love as a verb that did not involve sex.

There was a young man named Harry who had been in the club once earlier in the week. He had invited me to join him, he bought me a drink and began to tell me the story of he and his wife’s breakup. I eventually asked him if he wanted a dance and he said that he didn’t but that he would pay me for my time sitting with him. (A dancer’s favourite score.) He was so incredibly sad that it was painful to sit with him. He truly felt that most women were
rotten (or so he said, anyway) and that they were just out to get what they could from men. (Kind of ironic since that’s basically the way I felt about 99.9 % of men at this time.)

Well Harry came back to see me on my final night. I scribbled the following that night on a piece of paper which I still have:

Sat. night 9:45 p.m.

Harry, the East Indian guy came back. Third man to come back to see me this week- he was sad, so very very sad.  Still a mess from the breakup with his wife.  I had quite a long discussion with him.  He was aggressive about wanting to give me money – my intuition told me that it was to confirm his suspicions of the “evilness” and the “taking” nature of women.

He asked me several times “What do you want?” (In terms of money.)

I said  “I want you to take care of yourself Harry.”

He was quiet for a while, then he thanked me and tears were forming in his eyes. It was worth losing the money to restore a shred of faith in humanity.  I’m ok.  I don’t need more than that.

And here’s an actual glimpse into my world that night.  This is a direct transcription from my tape.  Bear in mind that I was still 11 months away from sobriety at this point.

Second last show (but I thought it was my last)- 12:30 a.m.

“Well, I’ve done what’s probably my last show ever- did the Beatles, of
course. And um, well I knew it was gonna be anticlimactic up there since
the place is dead but I kept reminding myself “No, no, do it for you, do it
for God, do it for people who care- even the ones who aren’t brave enough to
admit they care,” and there are SO many of them. Most of them actually.
Sad sad state of affairs.

Hmmm. I’ve had four glasses of wine, and I’m debating whether I should have
a fifth. *laughs*

I still have an hour and a half to kill and I really can’t afford it but I’m
probably gonna- sounds like an alcoholic to me. *laughs*

(sarcastic voice) Maybe I’ll join Lloyd at his AA meetings, we can go
together, how charming.   *laughs* (Lloyd had just informed me 11 days prior that he was getting sober.)

Yeah, I’m sure he’ll be real impressed with that……… Awww f***.

Anyway, I was just kind of… you know, the thing is, as a D.J. you should recognize things that are different and special and promote them and…..it’s been a 15 year career for me and this is the last day and ummm ….. I don’t think it’s cool that he didn’t acknowledge it in any way, shape or form at all. …….And so I will be rewarding him in kind. (Talking about my tip, or lack thereof for him.)

(So, it looks like although the money thing wasn’t as important to me, the
recognition thing was important enough for me to have taken retribution!!!! LOL!!)

Back to the tape 2:00 a.m.

(Imagine a slight drunken slur in all these words)

Hey, it’s almost 2 o’clock, they let me go early cause there’s nobody here.
But GUESS WHAT? Come on people, guess…. guess who had to do last show
tonight….Come on!!!! *laughs*

That’s right. Me.  Big surprise. So what did I do? I finished off with Tori Amos.

I thought my Beatles set was going to be my last set so I gave myself away to the people and it was brilliant….but oh….. the people’s response was kinda disappointing,  kinda poor!

Although I could see them wantin‘ to jam, they were just CHIC-KENS!

But ah, this time around, I found out like 5 minutes beforehand that I had to go on stage again and I said

“Oh.  S’gonna be Tori then.”

So I finished off with Tori to “Don’t Make Me Go To Vegas”, “Sweet Sangria” and uh….song # 11.  *laughs*

And I was there.  

I was SO THERE.

And then I was done.

And then I walked off stage and these guys asked me if I would like to “join their table” and I said
“No. No, I don’t want to join your table.”

And that’s all she wrote folks.

End of tape

Man, that part makes me laugh.  I can remember that final interaction and I was thinking “F you buddy.”  But I never said it.  I just wanted to get out of there and go see my man in B.C.

Now you see, GOD, in His infinite wisdom knew that I would cling to a memory of a great sendoff like a baby to his teddy so I am sure that He engineered that unremarkable evening for me and I thank Him profusely for that. For there have been some times since I quit when I have missed some things.

Mostly though, I miss the chats in the dressing rooms. Those were the most real of times. In the dressing rooms I saw people laugh, cry, sob, throw chairs, punch the mirrors, punch each other, secretly put flowers in someone’s locker, get high, hug, make out, attempt to steal, accuse someone else of stealing, scream, read, do homework, do taxes, do makeup, talk to their kids on the phone, get news of the death of a loved one, seek God, curse God, pound the floor in frustration, console, conspire, sing, eat, get drunk, pass out, philosophize, do crossword puzzles, despair, and hope.

And it’s not really the business I miss. It’s the girls. It’s those women.  Those women that so often are left behind in the world. The women who don’t think they’re worth waiting for, who don’t think they’re worth much more than any monetary value. The women who shaped my life from 1986 to 2003.

I always wanted to go back for them.  I hope to one day.

Now isn’t that a great story?  And I’ve got a million of ‘em.  And they are part of my life and part of what shaped me.  So the question is, how do I make that palatable for Toastmasters Speech competitions and do I even try?

Isn’t that a great title?  It makes me hungry just thinking about it.  What does it have to do with today’s post?  Absolutely nothing!  but you’re here aren’t you?

chocolate happy

And now that you’re here, I’ll let you know what developments are taking place because we are HALF WAY THROUGH JANUARY PAULA.

God has miraculously and very coolly furnished me with a new friend and accountability partner.  Just out of the blue, this lady who lives around here and whom I like very much as she has such a good sense of humour, positive attitude and great hair to boot asked if I wanted to get together sometime and I thought, yes, I’d like that very much.  Now in normal busy every day life that usually means that yes, we like each other and maybe we should do something about it but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.  Well, not this time folks.

She called, we got together for coffee and we walked into a conversation like we’d been doing it since we graduated pre-school.  And not just fluffy ‘how’s the weather, what kind of stuff do you have in your house’ conversation.  Meaningful deep conversation that was fun and enriching.

It felt bigger than both of us.

So we have taken steps to become accountability partners which will cement time between us too so that our friendship can develop.  I am very grateful.  Because my daughter isn’t part of the school scene, I am not really a part of the tight circle of families around here.  Don’t get me wrong- the people here are lovely and friendly- I just don’t have extended time with any of them for a friendship to develop.  I have in the past but it seems there is too little time and too little commonality to draw us together anymore.  Not complaining, just calling a spade a spade.  Glad this is changing.  🙂

Another development:

MY DAUGHTER IS GOING AWAY FOR THE WHOLE WEEKEND!!!!!!  (Hallelujah dance!!!!!!!)  Woo hooo!!!!!!   YEAH BABY!!!

Ok, y’all know I love my kid but you know when the last time I had my house to myself for a weekend was?  The last time was when I could balance a near-beer bottle on my big fat pregnant belly SEVEN YEARS AGO.

so do you know what this means?  TIME TO WORK ON THE BIG SPEECH!!!!  yay!!!!!!  and helping Meg with her speech for the past few days has me chompin’ at the bit.

ALSO.  Another gift from God will be beginning soon via my incredible Texas Toastmaster, Micaela Pennell.  She will be embarking with me on a 100 day spiritual and practical journey to explore the depths of Paula Howley and help me scrape the dregs out of there so we can fill her up with happiness and sunshine!!!!  LOL

And as if THAT weren’t enough, I have discovered the financial wizard of my dreams.

Mr. Money Mustache http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/  is brilliant, hilarious, simple, and Canadian.  Did I mention he was brilliant and hilarious?  I have been reading his blog with growing excitment, knowing that Lloyd and I can seriously improve our finances with some practical changes that will only help everyone.  I am all over this guy.  He, like my daughter, is a badass.

I am also still going to bed on time, praying and not swearing (mostly).  My faith is stronger, I’m having fulfilling fun with the  Toastmasters Youth leadership kids and I’m getting ready to MC an event for the World Champ of Public Speaking, Ryan Avery.

Oh yeah!  This is also my 100th post of chocolately goodness!!!

Life if so amazingly excellent I can’t stand it.  I think I’m going to go have sex with my husband just to make it better.  Good night!

I’m reaching out towards my faith again, I feel it reaching back for me.  I’m not saying I’m good, I am saying I’m hopeful which is the most important thing.  Without hope, we are all lost.  Without hope, I am useless.

I have been stepping back from my Catholic faith this year, knowingly, unknowingly, afraid, ashamed, I don’t know.  Afraid of being judged.  Always that fear, fear of judgement no matter where I’ve been in life.  It has steered me so.  Fear is a poor place upon which to build.

My heart has, for the most part, not been in my faith since, oh, I’m guessing at least last March.  Maybe longer.  There have still been some spectacular moments but I have largely ignored Opus Dei, the formation that has given me so much wisdom and strength for the past 5 years.  I used to read daily devotions from Father Francis Fernandez, they lined up with my life so often, gave me such deep wisdom but alas, I am freakin’ LAZY.  Nothin’ noble about that.  I am also selfish and prideful.  Once, twice, three times a lady!

Still reading my journals and I am up to 2009 and what revelations are in my past!  How is it that I can NOT remember so much of my life?  It is good to revisit those paths.  Everyone should keep a journal.  There is wisdom in me, I just have to look back for it.  I am learning, re-learning a lot.  I am re-membering my past.  I am re-membering who I have been, who I am.  Putting myself back together as I see me.  This is ALL happening for a reason.  God even uses my selfish desires to be a big shot to show me what I need to see.

I prayed a rosary today.  My first in a very long time.  Maybe almost a year.  Being a convert, I’ve never been crazy about the rosary because it takes sooooooo lonnnnnng.  And I am so selfish and lazy.

But when I do, and I really let my mind go to where God wants it to go, there are always revelations, there is always wisdom. There is always love.  I actually prayed it in my daughter’s room since Lloyd was sleeping and my little altar is in my bedroom.  She has her own ‘altar’ and it is much more simple and true than mine.  I used her rosary too.  I felt like a layer of the onion had fallen away when I finished.

I also remembered through my journals how much fun I had when I first joined Toastmasters.  How excited I was when I realized that I had a true talent that God could use.  NOt that I knew what it would be used FOR, but that didn’t matter.  I remembered seeing Darren LaCroix for the first time and thinking “I can do that.”

The past 2 days of reading just 2006-2009 have given me more ideas for speech topics than the previous 15 years which says a lot about the quality of my life and my intellect prior.  It is also reminding me of what is important to me, what has WORKED for me and what stupid things I STILL do and need to banish from my life.

Now I feel like I am riding a wave.  It is scary because it might not go where I want it to go but I gotta tell ya, it feels infinitely superior to standing on the dry shore with sand in my mouth.  I am shakily riding a wave of faith and if I can subject my will, which has been the great challenge of my life, I know it will take me where I need to go.

English: Statue of John Lennon in public park,...

English: Statue of John Lennon in public park, Vedado, Havana. December 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do these three things have in common?   December 8!!!  Mother Mary’s Immaculate Conception feast day is today, this is also the unfortunate anniversary of the day John Lennon was shot and………… it’s my 9th anniversary of sobriety.   Yay me!  I think I’ll have a drink to celebrate!

Yes, it has been 9 very long and very quick years since my last drink.  Going through my old journals as I have been (I’m in 1999 now) has really reminded me of how much I drank, how much I depended on it, how much I loooooved it, how much I hated and feared it.  What do you expect working in a bar every day?  And it’s different than bartending or waitressing because those employees need to be sober to do their jobs whereas dancers usually do better when indulging in some liquid courage.  And indulge I did.  Sometimes it was all I could do to face another day in the clubs.

But it started long before that for me.  I was running pretty hard with alcohol by the time I was 17.  Mostly on weekends.  It was all about the next party and getting wasted.  Aye yi yi.  Alcohol and boys.  I thought it made me grown up.  I wanted very much to be grown up.  Instead I was throwin’ up.

I met Lloyd, my husband, in Ontario in October of 2002 and we got absolutely plastered the night we met.  For the sake of brevity I’ll tell you that Lloyd had been visiting his mum in Ontario and gave me his B.C. address before he left.  I was planning on moving to England.  Long story short, I wrote him, he wrote me back and we began an over the phone courtship for the next 3 and a half months.  Instead of England, I bought a one way ticket to British Columbia.  2 weeks before I was to arrive in BC, Lloyd gave me a shock over the phone.

“Guess what Paula?  I quit drinking!”

You quit drinking????  Really??????”  (Then I thought “Well who the hell am I going to drink with in British Columbia then?”) ……. long pause…….“You didn’t quit smoking pot did you?”

“No.”

“Thank God for that!”

The party could still continue.  Whew!

Now my husband is almost 10 years sober- he will be in January.  See, he was READY to quit then.  Me?  No way Jose.  I still had a few more bottles to upend.

When I arrived in BC in January 2003, I hung out with my brother in Vancouver for 3 days and we had our own little booze fest.  I still smelled like alcohol when I arrived on the Sunshine Coast where Lloyd lived and was waiting for me with his brand new, two week old, ever so fragile sobriety.

Lloyd had a bottle of wine in his fridge for me but I never opened it.  It stayed there like a sentinel for almost a year.  I felt like drinking in his (our) home would be rubbing it in his face.  It became clear that he was serious about quitting so I was going to help him.  I never drank a drop for all of February, March, April, May and June.

In the meantime, I had been undergoing a spiritual awakening/conversion of sorts at the time and it was very intense.  I had also begun to re-integrate into normal society again and found a job waitressing in the teeny tiny community of 150 at the local pub.  Yeah, I know, talk about setting yourself up eh?

So as can almost be expected, it was glorious B.C. summer time, and I took to having a glass of wine on the patio, overlooking the ocean and the mountains after my shift was over.  I wrestled with my conscience over that first glass- I had to justify it to myself, had to tell myself that I wasn’t the one who had quit drinking, my months of not drinking that spring had proven that I had a handle on things and what’s the big deal about having one little glass of wine anyway?

I let myself move up to two glasses after work.  I remember how excited I was about those second drinks.  I felt very giddy and powerful because I was drinking like a normal person and not getting drunk.   There was this feeling of moving back in with an old army buddy who had been through the war with me.  An old army buddy who had kicked the shit out of me numerous times, but I was going to make sure it was different this time!!!!  We could get along!  I really, really wanted to be able to get along.

This continued throughout the fall until tourist season was over and my shifts disappeared.  I made plans to go back to Ontario for a month- the entire month of November and early December.  I was going to take the bus and stop off and visit everyone one at a time.

My first stop was in Sault Ste. Marie to visit my favourite Auntie and Uncle.  I stayed there for three days and nights.  On the first night, I was happy to join them in a glass of wine.  On the second night, I was even happier to join them in two glasses of wine!  On the third night, I was positively giddy to be taking the next step- the step that often defines how your night is going to be.  Are you going to hang out where you are and enjoy that lovely glow or are you going to take that ball and run like hell with it?  Well, of course I ran like hell, duh.  I had the third glass and to me, that was the ultimate proof that I had CONQUERED ALCOHOL and could proceed without any more caution.   The logic of an alcoholic.  Go figure.

My next stop was to visit my brother and his new girlfriend in Ottawa and I stayed there for about 5 days.  We immediately went for something to eat and drink.  Every day we went out for drinks.  I LOVED it.  On the last night we went to a Canucks/Senators hockey game and I chugged a whole bunch of beers in a very short time and ending up falling backwards over one of the seats right onto my ass.   The guilt returned.

I moved on to Windsor, my last stop where my parents and little sister live.  My folks always have a stocked bar and are generous hosts so of course the party was ON!  We went out a few times to the pub and I worked my way up to the magic 3 drinks line again and actually had an extra one back at my folks’ house on top of it.  Take that alcohol!

And then my sister dropped a truly worthy bomb.  She was pregnant!  Well folks, you know what THAT means, don’t you?  That’s right!  It was time to celebrate!  We went to the pub for drinks (to “wet the baby’s head” as the English say), we went out for dinner and had more drinks to toast the baby and we went back to my parents’ place and drank some more.   And my dominant thought that night was NOT “I’m going to be an Auntie for the first time ever!”   No, it was more along the lines of “I wonder how many bottles of wine mum and dad have in that cellar?”  And I remember bugging my mom to open another and ANOTHER when it was clear that we’d all had enough.  I’m not sure how many bottles I went through that night but I know I awoke the next day, December 8th, with the worst, and I do mean the worst hang over I’d ever had in my 20 plus years of drinking.  I couldn’t move my head for 3 hours.  I felt like death.  The guilt was like poison coursing through me.

And I finally knew.

I knew that this was where alcohol and I had to part ways.  It was obvious that I couldn’t have a few.  I didn’t know how to stop.  My new life demanded new habits and new ways of thinking.  I didn’t begrudge anyone else their drinks, I just knew that I could never have another drink for the rest of my life.  And I was willing to try and live that reality.   When I got back to B.C., I finally took that bottle of wine out of the fridge- the one that Lloyd had bought for me and had been standing guard for 11 months.  I opened it and I poured it down the sink.

And so I have lived sober for nine years now.   And God has blessed me with the most fruitful years of my life.  A husband who is a friend, a lover and a fellow spiritual traveller, my companion to the end.  The amazing daughter whom, if I had made a list of all the things I’d desire in a child, she’d have filled them all.  Satisfying, challenging (unpaid!) work.  Brilliant, funny friends who love me from near and far.  A spiritual mentor who is wise and humble.  A home of my own.  Accomplishments of which I can be proud.  A chance to re-educate myself.  Challenges for the future.  An awareness of the daily miracle of life and the beautiful details that bring joy to my heart.  True growth and evolution.  True love.

Happy December 8th everyone.  🙂

 

Mary, mother of Jesus, as the Immaculate Conce...

Flower & pot

We buried our beloved cat Patchy today.

Meg and I bought flowers as Lloyd stayed with Patch for the last moments of her life.  He did the very same thing with his own father not 8 months ago.  He did for us what must be done.

My beautiful husband found a beautiful black boulder to mark Patchy’s grave in the front yard of the house we now own and will live in for a long time to come.  We brought her home, wrapped neatly and lovingly by the vet in the towel that my baby brother bought me the day he and I were both baptized in English Bay.

Meaghan asked if she could put Patchy in the grave and we let her.  I gave Patch one last kiss and handed her over to Meg who, with much effort, gently placed her in the deep grave.  I almost helped her, instinctively reached out but then quickly pulled back my hands as I sensed how important it was for her to do this important thing “on her own”.  Meg did for us what must be done.  We prayed together with sad hearts.

Lloyd covered her up and placed that massive monument overtop and Meaghan ‘decorated’ it with small stones and leaves.  She finally placed flowers on the stone and that was it.  One minute Patchy was alive and the next she wasn’t.

 

For the past week I have been completely out of the groove of our lives.  Meaghan and I have not done school for a WEEK.  I have never done this before.  I didn’t intend for this to happen but it has happened and it can’t continue.  We must  get back to work.  We have to do what must be done.  However, Meg is still having some medical issues that are not serious but are definitely troublesome to her and we still haven’t gotten a diagnosis.  It is affecting her life on a daily basis.  We have been to the doctor numerous times in the past month and that alone kills most of a day for us.

What needs to happen now is that I have to make changes in the way I choose to live my life or nothing is going to change ever.  Bottom line.  One of my favourite quotes that I used to have on my old computer was “The definition of INSANITY is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.  Certifiable.

I KNOW that I need to go to bed at a reasonable hour every night and get up at a reasonable hour every morning and yet I persist in indulging my night owl tendencies at the expense of my family, my health, my dreams.

If I want to be able to have ample time to school my daughter every day, get my prayer time in every day, get some exercise with Meg every day, get our business and home work done every day, get my Toastmasters work done every day AND train to be the World Champion, then I need to DO what must be done.  There’s nothing else FOR it.  More time is not going to magically going to appear on the clock.  I have to do what it takes if I want things to change and it is as simple as that.  My daughter deserves it if nothing else.  I know I am a better mother with enough rest.  I know I am a raving lunatic without.  Case closed.  Or it should be anyway.

There are many changes I need to make in my life but this is the most important because it affects SO many other things.

What I need is an accountability partner who will hold me to this.  I am putting this out there.  If anyone out there is interested in being this for me, I, and my entire family, would be indebted to you.  I have to do what must be done.  And I need some help doing it.  Thank you.  🙂  God bless.

 

“If I were still reading astrological charts, I’m sure there would be some kind of massive conjunction of planets happening right about now.”  I said to Lloyd today.

“There always is.”  he said.  “It just depends on your perspective.”

My husband is pretty brilliant.  I’m glad I married him.

Yes, it has been pretty active, pretty jumpy in my life as of late and I’m kind of looking forward to things being ‘normal’ again.   This weekend was one of inspiration for me in many ways but there comes a time to put all that inspiration into daily life; the truly challenging part.

I didn’t know what to expect going in but it was ever so worth it to go to the Toastmasters conference.  I got to know some friends on a much deeper level, something that gives me a great deal of happiness.  I feel so privileged when people trust me with the stories of their life.  I really connected with some new friends and loved affirming the positives that I saw everywhere.

I enjoyed people recognizing me from the past 2 contests and the platform that gave me.  I worked hard to be positive, honest and appreciative from that platform.   It made me  have to think intentionally, something beneficial for anyone who has a tendency to shoot their mouth off.

I didn’t get an opportunity to perform “Jaws-the Speech” but I will be giving it at a benefit at the end of the month so I will tape it and post it for you all to enjoy

Cover of "Jaws (30th Anniversary Edition)...

then.

I feel such a strong bond with these people.  If you ask me, Toastmasters’ structure has a lot in common with the structure of the Catholic church.  Could be why it’s so strong.  See, no matter where you go in the world, like Mass,  a Toastmasters meeting is essentially the same.  Oh sure, there’ll be some cultural differences and not everything is exact, but you know what’s going on and can follow along and feel like you’re at home.

But now I AM at home and have to deal with things of home.  Like today.

I took our 17 year old cat Patchy in to the vet because she’s been drooling and keeping her mouth open all the time.  Well, it wasn’t 5 minutes into the visit when Dr. Smalley said “It’s cancer.  It’s all in her mouth and jaw.  We’d have to amputate her entire jaw but that’s not an option.”

His recommendation was for us to put her to sleep in the next day or two.  “Don’t put it off.  She’s in a lot of pain.”  So tomorrow at 3:00, Patchy will take her last breath.  I hate to think of it.

God, it was a hard day with Meg.  To explain this to her was so difficult.  She has known Patchy her whole life.  To explain euthanasia was particularly hard.   She always asks a lot of questions.  Like her mum, she needs to know the WHY of everything.   The vet’s office gave us a book to read which was lovely…about how pets wait for us at the Rainbow Bridge until we arrive with them and we all go to heaven together.

We talked a lot.  We spent a lot of time with Patch.  We cried a lot.

Tonight the local fire department put on a fireworks display over the harbour to make up for the hallow’een rain cancellation.  Meaghan felt like she didn’t want to go but she loves fireworks more than candy for crying out loud so I cajoled her, bugged her, commanded her.   I’m so glad I took her and gave her something beautiful to behold and forget her sadness for a while.  I told her “This is our celebration of Patchy’s life honey. This is how God feels about Patchy and how much we love her.”    She liked that thought.

English: Fireworks Display Stanford Hall

We all prayed tonight as a family.  Thanked God for Patchy’s life and for giving her to us for as long as we had her.  She’s been such a great cat.  I will miss the clicking of her nails on the floor, the way she always greeted me with a meow or two and her sweet company.  I will miss her a lot.

And less than an hour after the vet visit, I got a call from Margaret Page asking me to MC the “Ryan Avery comes to Vancouver” event which will be going on in February.  “You’re ready.”  she said.  I’m honoured.  I’m excited.

SO much life.

I got the whiteboard cut.  Or rather, Lloyd did.  It’s still sitting in giant pieces in my bedroom, uninstalled.  I have been doing crazy things like life.  I don’t feel guilty that I am not watching all the old World Champ DVDs or anything Toastmaster related.  I have to make sure Meg’s home schooling needs are being served.  I need to take the next few weeks to make sure that’s happening.

We have a new reality around here and it’s one we’d better get used to.  There is, all of a sudden, thanks to our new home, $250 more in expenses every month and no new money to match that.  It’s also our slowest landscaping time.  So we need to make some adjustments.

One adjustment that I have made that was sad but necessary was to bow out of my Advanced Toastmasters Humorous Club.  It only meets once a month but I really enjoyed the people in the club immensely and it really widened my TM horizons.  I had to be honest about whether it was worth it for me to continue though.  The entire day it took to get to Vancouver and back, the parking, the gas, the food, the sitter costs, etc.  Too much of a luxury and not enough of a benefit.  I’d benefit more by joining the second local club here, which you never know, might happen in the spring when the money makes an appearance again and I go into wacko contest mode again.

Oddly, to immediately counter this, I have been asked by my church to be a Lector,  a a reader of Scripture.  It will be approximately once a month.  Funny eh?  Except I don’t have to travel for 4.5 hours to get there.  And it’s slightly more nerve wracking.  Which is good.

I have no TM meeting again until Nov. 7 since we are taking Hallow’een off because of our trick or treaters.  Nice to have a breather.

Next weekend is the Toastmasters Fall Conference.  First one I’ve been to in over a year where I’m not competing.  It will be odd to just be able to enjoy it.  Hmmm.  this sounds a lot like down time, doesn’t it?