This was both a challenging and uplifting year for me as club President of Sunshine Toastmasters.  Note that statement has been disinfected for your safety.  But can we talk truth here?  It was a really freaking HARD year.  REALLY hard.  I was CRYING in January.  Was there a little pressure because the Big Cheese of the entire district is from my home club and is my personal mentor?  Not externally.  Completely INternal.  All from myself.
toastmasters president

and it’s not a pretty cry either….

January, being a typical dark and depressing month meant I couldn’t see out of the darkness.    I was feeling completely responsible for the success or failure of the club.  Not enjoying myself at ALL.  Not loving Toastmasters anymore.  Upset that it had come to that.  Ready to pack it in come June 30.

Cryin’ folks.
Why did I think that I had to save it all on my own?  And what did I think would happen if I didn’t?
Thank God for my talks with my friend Micaela that helped me see that my world wouldn’t explode if our club didn’t survive.  So I’d drive an extra half hour to go to another club.  It would be a shame for our town to lose it’s club but I realized that it wasn’t my responsibility to save it!!!!  It was insane!
That revelation shed about 50 pounds off my back.  Not caring was incredibly liberating.  Now I don’t mean I didn’t care at all, it’s just that I was ready to give it away.  And I did.  And it’s been sooooooo much better since then.  Stepping down meant that someone else had to step up.  And they did.  I took the leap and the gap was filled.  And if it wasn’t, oh well.  Not my problem anymore.  I had to make my family and my goals MY priority.  I’m psyched about doing that.
Our year started with a BANG last July.  Lost a key member right away and NOT in a good way either.  Twas not pretty.  We lost another 2 or 3 after that.  I was determined to counter it with FUN.  So we had our first Tall Tales contest ever.  It was a lot of fun.  I managed to figure out how to get free stuff from the community as prizes.  THAT was pretty fun too- let me tell you folks.  We planned joint meetings with other clubs.  They were fun.
I took members in my car over on the ferry to see Darren LaCroix and for officer training.  It WAS FUN!  In the fall, we got 4 new members right off the bat- VERY FUN!!!! and EXCITING!!!!!!  but…. they were all busy entrepreneurs and never really were able to make the meetings.  One day, two young women came in to the meeting as guests and an unseasoned member introduced them publicly like this: “the lovely and beautiful Jane  and her friend Leslie.”  Holy cow. Can you say NOT FUN????
Then winter came…. which is almost NEVER fun.  Not in the rainforest anyway.  Our VP Ed bailed on us half way through the year- not fun.   Our VP Membership put next to nothing into the role and left it to me.  Not fun.  And our Sgt at Arms never came at all so I did that role too.  Definitely not any fun whatsoever.
We were down to 6 people during meetings in the winter.  It was bleak and not at ALL what I had envisioned when I took on the job happily and excitedly last year on my birthday.  We even took a few weeks off in February because we were just so exhausted.  I didn’t see a way out.  We were just so tired and I was pretty close to not caring anymore.
In desperation, I asked Lanny, a busy entrepreneur himself, and a newlywed to boot, to be our Sgt at Arms and he immediately agreed.  I was buoyed by his support.   Ann turned on the leadership juice like never before, becoming our new VP of Education despite the fact that galleries were waiting impatiently for her work and she was helping me run the club.  Maureen came back after a 9 month hiatus and joined the executive which was a huge help.
We also asked for a coach and got the one we needed.   Sandy, Area 73’s Governor this year inspired us to visualise the future we wanted.  She helped us to see differently.  She was also FUN.  She came to almost every meeting, lightening our load and MANY of our sister club Gibsons Toastmasters came to our meetings and contests to lighten our load and let us know that we were NOT alone.  It was incredibly moving.   And it was getting to be fun again.
I can’t stress enough how it felt to know that these people cared enough to drive half an hour away to come to our meeting to help us out.  It meant SO much to us all.  The gift of time is a beautiful offering.  One that is irreplacable.  We recognized that these people, our Toastmasters ‘cousins’ so to speak, believed and cared enough to give us their time and that buoyed us tremendously. 
Despite the fact that it was becoming late in the toastmasters year, we decided to hold a Storytelling Event as a membership-seeking endeavour.  It was a big gamble because we didn’t have much money left.  We got some free pre and post event press which was a huge help and the event was a smashing success.  And man, was it ever FUN.  We even made a small profit and so far have 3 new members as a direct result.  And all the while, there was Sandy, rah-rahing, advising, listening to my bitching and my dreams for the club, helping me see “past the next meeting”.   Helping us to remember that if it ain’t fun, there’s no point.
I still feel like we’re on thinnish ice.  We’re not out of the woods yet.  But it’s better.  Waaaayyyy better.  Partly because it actually IS better but mostly because I decided to be responsible for my own happiness.  I decided to do what I want to do and no more than that.  As of today, I’m not the president anymore.  I’m just the person who stores the “stuff”.  I’m happy to give it up.  As happy as I was to get it a year ago.

paula howley toastmasters

I’m a little bit happy, yes

But tonight we made it.  TWENTY members.  Without cheating.  This was really important to us.  It was important for us to be honest in reaching our goals.  To do it without asking spouses or people who had no intention of coming to meetings to sign up to falsely inflate our numbers.  We made President’s Distinguished status this year and it is because we had an incredible team of people who never gave up even when they REALLY WANTED TO, who are creative geniuses and I am seriously NOT exaggerating when I say that, who were respectful of our values as a club and who really care about each other.  And man, do they know how to have fun.
It has been a privilege and a pain for me to serve as the President for the amazing people of my club this year.  I am, without question,  a better woman because of this experience.  It was awfully fun.  🙂
I am, without question, ready to move on to the next chapter.

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.