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.


Besides my husband of course.  *disclaimer over*

Going to see the man today.  That’ right,.  Darren LaCroix, 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking and the man who inspired me to go big.  For reference of exactly WHO Darren is to me and why he means so much, see my SECOND EVER post.


I have really been stuck in the mud about what I am going to talk about in my Big Speech and I suspect am WAY overthinking it.  I am hoping this event will help kick me into gear.

I also plan on helping Darren sell his products after the event most of which I have. They are gold, I believe in them, therefore I am happy to help.  I wouldn’t do it otherwise.  Nobody can outsell me when I believe in the product.  (I need to re-read this later and remember that I AM MY PRODUCT.)
Even better than that, I’m staying overnight with my Opus Dei spiritual director whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in weeks and that is overdue.  I am excited to tell her about the progress I am making because of the small changes I have made  in my earlier bedtime,daily prayers and consciousness of my potty mouth.   It is going to be an excellent night.

English: Darren LaCroix

English: Darren LaCroix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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.

I believe I’ve been battling depression for a while.  I am preoccupied with my
daughter’s health issues, which are not life threatening but her quality of life has been affected greatly.  She suffers.  It affects all aspects of her life.  It then grates on me because of my feelings of helplessness and anger at not being able to find a diagnosis, let alone a solution.

I have had no joy in my life for weeks yet I intellectually know that I have much to be grateful for.  I have felt like a great slothful bear who wants nothing more than to hibernate and growl at anyone who dares wake me.  It has been very hard to care about the things I normally care about.  Even my beloved Toastmasters felt like a huge chore for the past few weeks.   The state of my mind and soul were very dark.  I have been struggling with my faith for months.  I actually took out St John of the Cross‘s “Dark Night of the Soul“.   Not that I had the energy to read it.

Cover of "Dark Night of the Soul"

Cover of Dark Night of the Soul

My spiritual director and I had a long, soul-wracking conversation this week over the phone.  I actually called her, which is something I don’t normally do.  She and I used to speak every other week until home schooling began again this September and we haven’t been able to carve out a regular time since.  We decided we needed to get regular again and I spoke to her last week.   At that time, she made a suggestion to me that she has made before.  Following through on this suggestion would completely change my life and my daughter’s life.

My spiritual director (I’ll call her Bernadette, like my husband’s motorcycle) is a woman for whom I have a great deal of regard.  She has hard-won wisdom and I respect her honesty.  It gives me hope.  I know she loves me and she knows me maybe better than anyone on earth except Lloyd.  The difference there is that Lloyd sees me live my stuff whereas she hears about it from me and helps me dissect it.

After I spoke to her, I waited for Lloyd to come home and then poured out my soul to him.  I also don’t like to bog him down so I don’t very often.  If he knew all the stuff that went on in my head, he might head for the hills.  lol  Lloyd believes in me.  He doesn’t just say that.  He really means it.  And that gives me hope too.  He “knows” I will overcome my issues.

Through all this time, I have prayed for my faith to be strengthened even as I wondered if I was an idiot for believing.  I know who I am with it though and as I told Bernadette, there’s no going back for me.  I know who I am without it and life makes no sense for me without God.  I could not bear life without meaning and I was struggling with my life having no meaning.  I was struggling with everything.

Bernadette suggested that I put Meaghan in school.

Can I tell you how seductively attractive and simultaneously terrifying that thought is?

I have issues.  And I am passing them on to my daughter because they are unresolved and I am a relatively selfish and immature individual.  Meaghan and I are together 366/24/7.  I added the extra day for the leap years.  It is obvious to anyone that we need some time apart.  To suddenly have some TIME for myself is an exciting thought.  But it’s a thought about ME.  It needs to be about her.  I undestand however, that it also IS about her because I am not at my best since we ARE ALWAYS TOGETHER.  We butt heads constantly.  We bicker.  I am impatient.  There is not a lot of joy.  There is not even a little joy.

She doesn’t have any siblings.  Yet.  Lloyd and I will never have any more because we can’t, but we haven’t discounted adoption and the next round of classes are coming up in February.  Locally.  For the first time ever.  We are signed up.  IF any of it happens, we are probably still YEARS away from a child joining our family.

I do not think I am capable of parenting Meg AND another kid if I am home schooling them.  Not at this point in my development anyway.  BUT, I think I could pull it off if they were in school.  It would be a total game changer for 4 lives if we could adopt.

Meg is also lonely.  This is the saddest thing in the world to me.  She is this lively, imaginative, fun person to be with but she doesn’t HAVE anyone to be with.  Home school group once a week is not enough.  She knows all the kids at the school already and is friendly with them.

Academically, I can do what is called Afterschooling.  Which is basically home school after school.  I can also keep her home once or twice a week to teach her what I want her to know, which I know she will NOT get in schools.  Her education is so important to me but so is her relationship with me.  One of the main reasons I have chosen to home school is that I want to be Meaghan’s biggest influence in her life, not her peers, until she is mature enough to make life decisions herself.  To me, that is the terrifying part.

By the same token, if she’s so sick of me she can’t stand the sight of me by the time she’s 15, she won’t be listening anyway.  At this point I have to let reason rule.

I have not decided anything yet but Lloyd will back me up no matter what.

And so yes, I have been slogging through the mire of my mind for some time now and have not even had the energy or the desire to write.  I did call Bernadette that day though and she has been praying for me.  And although there was no immediate shift in my mind, there was a small one in my heart because I had finally spoken aloud my troubled thoughts.

Yesterday, I went to Powell river to finish Christmas shopping and I prayed to God that I could help someone because I knew that would help ME.  Well, I ended up leaving my lights on in the parking lot and my battery died.  I asked around if anyone had any jumper cables and no one did.  One of the young men though, actually called a friend and asked him to come which he did.  I almost cried at this kindness.  It turns out I needed to be helped.  And it turns out that I need to be helped even more so.  Being helped is hard.  Last night, I spent hours on Skype with a friend trying to help me out with Meaghan.  It was an old friend whom I lost to circumstance 5 years ago but she and I had the most incredible relationship I’ve ever had with a friend.  And it was ever so good to just BE with her last night.  I was able to laugh.

This morning, another friend Skyped to help me with Meaghan but God shifted things into another gear for both of us before our very eyes.   So now, Micaela Pennell, my Texas Toastmaster, my http://www.400daysto40.com  friend is going to be spending the next 3 months helping me through my “issues” as is her line of work.  Words can’t do justice to what this means to me.  I know these issues are damaging.  I’ve struggled for a very long time with them.  And you see, neither of us could have engineered it like this.  Because it wasn’t even supposed to be about ME.  And in the end, it’s not.  It will help everyone in my family.  Everyone in my life.

I felt God’s hand back on my life again this morning.  And the fog lifted.  And the joy returned.  And oh dear God, I am so grateful for the HOPE.  I am so grateful for the strange and funny ways you touch my life.  And I am even grateful for the darkness because it makes the light that much more magnificent.

Isn’t it interesting how this happened on the day the light begins to return to us?  Isn’t it funny how today is The End of the World As I Know It?

So yes, I am going to be very busy these next few months.

Question:  Do I care anymore about becoming the World Champion of Public Speaking?

Answer:  I care.  But it’s a pretty low priority right now.  I need to take care of my family.

God, I know you will show me what to do.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What a spectacular night at Toastmasters.  We had 2 Area Governors and a Division Governor (although the D.G. is in our home club so that wasn’t too tough to do) in attendance and 3 guests.  2 new signups.  Very exciting.  Both of our speakers coincidentally (not that I believe in coincidence- I think it is all brilliantly orchestrated)talked about what TM had done for them so far and it was like an awesome Toastmasters commercial.  It couldn’t have been more timely.

I got a note from someone important today telling me that they thought I could be the District Champ.  It’s up on my wall along with 2o stickies ad various other inspiring things.  It’s so unreal to hear things like this when I think about it too much.  I like the sound of it.

I Avery Drilled The Speech today at the gym while I was on the elliptical.  I did it three times.   The place was full of teenaged boys.  Can you say “idiot”?  I’m sure they did , over and over after I left!!!!!

Going to my Opus Dei circle on Friday and they will be my last audience before the Area contest on Saturday.  I am ready.  I am excited.  I can’t wait.

English: Cross of Opus Dei - based primarily o...