Me & My Muse – Day 664: Toastmasters District 62 Spring Conference Aftermath – A Novel

Alright.  I’m just kidding about the recap being a whole novel.  But you will get a story out of it.  I promise.

The story that I’m about to give to you is a story that has been written into my heart.  A story that reflects every event that has transpired during the weekend Toastmasters conference.  The story of a city.  The story of a hotel and conference center.  The story of a charming southern belle that held my heart in the palm of her hand.  And while she held it, I was caught in a perpetual state of suspense.  When I opened my mouth, all I could hear was laughter.  Laughter that made my cheeks pink and my ribs sore.  I laughed until I nearly peed.  Her red hair was wild, like the words that came out of her mouth in every direction.

But before we get to the story, we need to back up.  This story needs to start from the beginning.  So from my place of solitude, I give you my recap of the Toastmasters District 62 Spring Conference.

I and my brother get in the Buick LeSabre, which is black as night.  I drive down M-30 before I even knew what was going on.  Where was I going?  What was I doing?  Was I going to a conference?  With the loud synthesized music of Family Force 5 flooding the car, it took a while before reality finally returned to me.

About two hours later, I spotted the Holiday Inn in the distance.  It sat at the bottom of a steep hill, surrounded by a valley.  A cliffside estate in reverse.

I enter with my brother and check in.  I call my mother while I was waiting in line.  The trip to Jackson was successful.  After all, the tires were brand new and the oil was good.

After checking in, I was greeted by familiar faces as I waited by the registration desk.  Faces that looked friendly.  Faces that looked eager.  Faces that were ready for a weekend of learning.

Then I saw a face that wasn’t familiar.  One that wasn’t from around these parts.  Not known by District 62, but only by a few.  She wheeled her luggage bag through the hall, which I swear could easily fit me inside.  She had flowing wavy red hair with twin pony tails, and fake looking eye lashes.  The kind that looked like they were drawn on with a marker.

She wheeled her bag into the conference room and I approached her.  “Are you the keynote?”

She nodded.  “I am!”

Her accent added another layer of mystery to who she was.  It was a southern drawl, with her southern charm to accompany it.  This was Kelly Swanson, a name that I never heard of.  I was told that she told stories and was funny, but that was all that I knew at the time.

A little later, I met Mohammed Murad, the president of Toastmasters International.  Not just the president of a club, but of the whole organization.  A president of over 300,000 members in 126 countries.  My first encounter with him was a nervous one.  I simply introduced myself and walked away.

Then the conference started.  After getting dinner, the keynote began.

Kelly Swanson began her story, unraveling it faster than what you could unravel a ball of twine.  A story about a woman named Star.  A woman whose life was changed by four motivational speakers who ate at the diner that she worked at, due to a grounded flight.  When she finished the story, I noticed that my heart was missing.  Kelly was holding my heart in the palm of her hand.

But it wasn’t held in the way that would resemble abuse or harm.  She held it with care, as if there was something that had to be fixed.  Something that she wanted to change for the better.   The southern belle held my heart in the palm of her hand, leaving me in a state of suspense.  I could only laugh.  I could only smile.  I could only applaud when when she finished her carefully handcrafted story.  Handcrafted just for me.

After the keynote, the reception began.  I pretty much wandered the room, making my rounds to the various familiar faces through out good ol’ District 62.

As the reception ended, the District Governor spoke up.  An invitation.  “You are all welcome to come to my room to continue the reception.  235.”

With 227 being my room number, the decision was an easy one.  I went to my room, dropped off my belongings and entered the District Governor’s suite.

With there being plenty of wine, I knew that the stories that I would hear that night would be interesting.  Helping myself to some trail mix and Martinelli’s Sparkling cider, I listened to my district leaders share some interesting stories about their childhood.  Stories that would make Kelly jealous if she were to hear them.

After the late reception, I retired to my room.  It was 1 in the morning.  Almost 1:30.

The next morning was a blur.  After getting ready, I whizzed with my brother over to the Commonwealth Commerce Center in downtown Jackson.  There was breakfast and there was the morning keynote, presented by Mohammed Murad.

After that came the choice of two breakout sessions.  I went to Alan Headbloom’s “Working Internationally: Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Global Gal or Guy?”  After this session was the evaluation contest, where I heard an excellent target speech, followed by 8 excellent evaluations.  Jack Pyle won the contest, and before I knew it, it was lunchtime.

I helped myself to lunch and listened to the DTM Ceremony, led by Mohammed Murad. Four new DTM’s were given out, each of which were well deserved.

With the DTM Ceremony ending, the moment came.  The event where I had a very important role to play.  The Semi-Annual Business Meeting.  Holding my 3 ballots, I sat in Mohammed’s spot during the meeting.  I read the District Mission at the beginning and was the steward of the mike throughout the meeting, while casting secret ballots and carefully making sure that all the blanks in the script were filled in.

When the meeting ended, it was time for the International Speech Contest.  The winner would go to the semi-finals at the International Convention at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.  The end of the contest was really close, and the person that I wanted to win ended up in second place.  Deandre Carter came in first.  Fred Johnson III came in second.

After that, it was time for dinner.  At this time, I started to get nervous.  During the business meeting, I was not given E Division.  This made sense since it would’ve been too much of a stretch for me.  That left the Installation after dinner.  I would either get Area 15 or Area 16.  But what if I got neither?  These doubts started flooding my mind and invaded me like a legion of demons.

After dinner and hearing Amy’s speech, Lorrie got on stage and began the installation.  Actually she didn’t.  She presented a speech reflecting her journey through the different offices.

After that, she began the installation.  Here we go.  Area 3, Shawn Elli.  Area 4, Randy Snow.  Area 5, Tammy Slavik.  My heart was beating out of my chest.  Area 8, not sure yet.  Area 10, Mark Mills.  Area 11, not sure yet.  Area 12, Spencer Van Roekel.  Area 13, Nick Dybas.  Area 15, I have not decided yet.  Area 16, Kyle Walker.  Phew!  That was close!  Having heard that, my lead heart became lighter than a feather.

Following that, we heard a local hero accepting their award, following by Mohammed Murad, who gave another keynote on leadership.

After that, it was Kelly’s turn again.  The southern belle reclaimed our hearts and brought us all to a state of suspense.  We all laughed until we cried. We cried until we laughed.  Sides split open and ribs were in pain.

And then I heard Kelly say something that I will never forget.  “This is wrapped up, just for you.”  Kelly delivered a heartfelt message at the time where we needed it the most.  Someone was hurting, and somehow, Kelly just knew.  When the profound truths came out of her mouth, her quiet whispers of “yeah…” sent chills down my spine.  I didn’t just hear her words.  I felt them.  Every one of them.  And I can imagine some of the audience wondering “how did she know?” Those words of hers were not just for crafting stories.  But they were therapeutic.  They were healing.  It was chicken soup for the soul.  And when you have some of that soup, it makes you feel a lot better.  Yeah…

After the second round of laughter and the lesson, it was time to go back.  My day at the Commonwealth Commerce Center was over.  But the night wasn’t.  Amy invited everyone to her room again.

After getting back, I dropped my things off at my room and went to Amy’s for night 2.0 of the reception.  There was a couple more people, besides the ones from last night.  Mohammed Murad even paid a visit, which was a different Mohammed than what I recognized.  A Mohammed all unwound and in workout clothes.

And with that, the wonderful stories continued.  Stories that would make Kelly jealous.  Because if you ever have a story that is better than Kelly’s, watch out.  She has your number.  And your heart, too.

The reception ended a little earlier and I went to bed.

The next day, everything came to an end.  I checked out and had breakfast.  I heard Jan Janke and Craig Carrel’s “Are You Surviving or Thriving?” breakout.

After that was round three.  Kelly spoke again, sharing all her secrets to how she gets booked everywhere.  It’s got to be her humor.  Either that, or it’s her humility.  Or her humanity.  Or could it be her passion or uniqueness?  Or is it just the power of the story?  Actually, it’s all of them.

After answering some quick questions, Kelly gave all of our hearts back.  And I noticed something different about mine when I examined it.  It felt brand new.  It felt rejuvenated.  It felt complete.  I am not certain what it is.  But I am certain that you just heard a story.  A story that has been written into my heart.  A story that reflects every event that has transpired during the weekend Toastmasters conference.  The story of a city.  The story of a hotel and conference center.  The story of a charming southern belle that held my heart in the palm of her hand.  And while she held it, I was caught in a perpetual state of suspense.  When I opened my mouth, all I could hear was laughter.  Laughter that made my cheeks pink and my ribs sore.  I laughed until I nearly peed.  Her red hair was wild, like the words that came out of her mouth in every direction.  And after meeting her, my heart is different.  And while I still don’t know what it is that she did, I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt.  My life will never be the same.  And if you ever meet her, neither will yours.


Muse:  *sniff* *sniff*  That…was wonderful!

Wonderful?  No.  That was a story.

Muse:  But it was a wonderful story!  I loved hearing about Kelly Swanson and her powerful stories.

So did I.  And with that, I’m burnt out.  I work in the morning tomorrow.  Back to a pizzeria.  A pizzeria in the old parts of Midland.  The dough is made fresh and so is the sauce.   In this pizzeria, there are a couple of teenagers sheeting out dough.  A couple more are at another table.  Saucing and cheesing.  Pepperoninng and placing them in the oven.  Another is by the oven, taking each pizza out and carefully landing them onto the table, with a set of tongs and a spatula.  The one by the oven does it swiftly and quickly.  Taking out four at once.  Placing them into boxes and cutting them into eight slices.  Then they go in the warmer, where they wait there to be bought…

Muse:  Alright.  I’m going off to bed…

You don’t like the story?  Hmph!  I think it’s pretty good…Wait.  She really did leave, didn’t she?

Time to end this post.  Today’s high is going to be 80 degrees and the silver lining is having the rest of the day off.

To those of you who are enjoying your Sunday, I hope that you all have a fantastic day.


Muse:  I liked his story about Kelly Swanson and the conference.  His one about work, however could use some work…