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?

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.

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.

Oh, you thought this post was gonna be about you know what, didn’t you?  Hey!  Minds out of the gutter please.  I’m not that kind of blog.

 

Have I mentioned that I am my Toastmasters club president and that this has been the toughest year we’ve had since I joined 5 years ago?  We barely made it through this winter.

We used to have this spectacular venue where our local council meets.  Beautiful room.  Good size.   Acoustically perfect.  Room for our lectern, all of our stuff.  Small kitchenette so we could make snacks.  Nice tables, LEATHER CHAIRS.  Yeah.  Politicians met there.  It was called the “community use room”.  So you’d figure that, you know, the COMMUNITY could use the room.  Especially an organization like ours that serves the community.  IN the past 3 years, our club and its members are responsible for bringing the Youth Leadership Program to over 300 kids!  Not bad eh?

Anyway, for reasons that were never really made clear to us, they wanted us OUT of the room.  The community use room.  So they kicked us out last year.  %#@*!!!!!

We looked all over for a suitable new place and had a lot of trouble finding a space that could accomodate us.  We found one eventually at a Senior’s Activity Centre but the only available room was so small we were busting out of it.  (Which is a nice problem to have, right folks?)  We couldn’t comfortably or safely  meet in that room anymore and the only option we could embrace was changing the day of the week that we met so we could have a bigger room.  Well.  What a big freakin’ mistake THAT was.  It was like almost immediately folks couldn’t make it anymore even though we had polled people.  It just fell apart.

Anyway, like I said, we barely made it through the winter.  We went to every other week for a while because the few of us who kept coming were doing all the work and were exhausted.  I had really been looking forward to serving as President but it has been much harder than I thought it would be.   We changed our day back to our old day recently and that has brought some old members back which is good.  We are also having more fun again which is awesome.  People are giving speeches more regularly and the good vibe is there again.  I feel confident that we are past the worst of it and that things are looking up again but I ned to tell you that I have put a TON of work into our club this year and we’re not even close to finished.  We’ve decided to have a big public Storytelling event since they are all the rage now.

We have a different room now but this one is not big enough.  Five more members could not be accomodated comfortably.  And I AM expecing members because we have a pretty amazing little club.    We laugh so much and we push each other to be our best.  It’s a damned good combination.  So, I am putting the energy out there NOW for more members and for an amazing space to present itself to us.  You heard it here first folks.  lol   Thanks God.  🙂

Anyway, wasn’t this blog supposed to be about winning a world championship or something like that?   Yes.

The next step is this Saturday in Vancouver.  Division H contest.  Niiiiiiice list of 8 contestants I received today.  I recognized a few names.   One was the name of someone who I had heard from an acquaintance had done “the best speech I had ever heard!”    at the last level.  Ahem.

So I need to stay focused.  Keep practicing but not let it get too stale.  I gave my speech last night at my club and it was good to give and get energy from a live audience.  Taped it tonight and sent it to Rich again.  Just need to remember to connect.  See them and let them see me.  Tell my story.  Just tell my story.

I said this was going to be a quickie didn’t I?   Yeah right.

quickie

Tomorrow, Saturday, is the big day.  The Area 73 International Speech Contest.  Right now I feel good, happy and confident and not at all freaked out.  I feel eager to share my speech.   Of course the contest is about 36 hours away yet so ask me how I’m feeling ONE hour before the contest.  The aim is to still feel good, happy and confident and not at all freaked out.  To feel excited and honoured that I can give a message that has already made a difference in MY life, to a room full of people.  I can’t wait.

Would it sound cheesy to say I love my speech?   It is the best speech I have written yet.  I have put in a zillion hours, more than a few tears, sleepless nights, and a small fortune considering the investment of programs to improve my speaking from last year.   This speech now feels like a very comfortable piece of clothing that I really love wearing because it looks good on me.   The key now, is to remember to respect my audience by just telling them the story in the most honest and engaging way I can.

Yesterday,  I taped the speech one last time and sent it for a look-over from coach Rich Hopkins.  That brought a few more helpful tweaks that I was able to incorporate and remember on the first go.  VERY EXCITING to be able to do that.

Today, Friday, after I go to bed and get up again, (and after home school, which goes without saying) I plan on drilling 10 more times, Avery-style if possible, going for a hike to get good and tired and then getting a good night’s sleep.  I have a great outfit that I feel confident and pretty in but is not distracting.   And I have a new pair of awesome killer GOLD shoes that are lower heels than what I am used to so they will be ridiculously easy to walk in.  I had been fantasizing about wearing a pair of ruby slippers in Cincinnatti at the World’s.

These are the precursor.Speech Bubble

There is some real competition at this competition.  One competitor has even been to District finals before.  She is an excellent speaker.  She has also had the advantage (?) of having seen my speech at the club level whereas I have not seen hers.  I take nothing for granted but I am truly as ready as I can be.

I want to remember to enjoy the process and be aware of it; to remember my POWER POSE for 2 minutes before I go on so my body physiology is optimal and also to remember to record it!

I want to do my very best, which for me means connecting in a genuine way with my audience and giving them a hard-fought-for, important piece of myself.

And I want to move on to the next level to do it again.   Four more times. 

 

Rosanne Rosanna Danna

With Rosanne Rosanna Danna!  Hey!  I haven’t posted in 6 days!  Too busy!  Lloyd’s birthday was this week AND we had a party!  And THEN, we had people over for dinner another night!  And then, one more night,  I had a televised Toastmasters meeting to participate in an hour away!!!!  AND it’s Holy Week!  And I’m prepping my daughter for her first Holy Communion AND we have an entire YEAR’s worth of catechism to catch up!   Yeah! Whatever! Who’s NOT busy eh???

So, 2 weeks tomorrow till the Area contest and my drilling is going well.  I’m feeling pretty flowy with the speech now – it feels much more organically delivered than a couple weeks ago.  I am having FUN delivering it.  Not EXACTLY where I would like it yet but getting close.  I have also found an ending that I feel is solid, warm, catchy and restates the premise.

I practiced it 12 times today and set up a different camera with my computer so I could easily watch it afterwards every time.  There’s nothing like watching yourself because only YOU know how you want to give the speech and you can really see what to change and what works well. I HIGHLY recommend this technique if you want to improve.  I wish I had used it more frequently from the get-go.

The Area contest is not going to be a cakewalk by any means.  There is a former District finalist up against me as well as 2 other competitors.  I am taking nothing for granted.  My main concern is that I feel comfortable enough so that my priority is connecting with my audience.  I want to tell my story as naturally as I can.  If I am connected to them, I can ask for nothing more.

I had a chance to give the speech to a group of 10 people this week at Lloyd’s birthday party.  It was a great opportunity to have a chance to connect with people while giving the speech.  I’d like more opportunities to do specifically that so I am putting that energy out there.   I might have a chance tomorrow at an Easter gathering.  Next week I’m visiting a Gavel club at a high school in Vancouver and will be doing the speech there too.  Will be Avery Drilling as much as possible too.  Man, this contest feels WAY too far away.