Abby’s Diary: June 8, 2018…. Me…. A Key Note Speaker?

I was recently honored by an invitation to be the “Key Note Speaker” for the Council of Catholic Women at my home parish of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, on May 17, 2018. It was their last meeting before summer break and they were having a dinner to celebrate and it was expected to be well attended as one of the biggest events of the year.

The invitation came about a month in advance via e-mail, from someone I had never met, and the invitation simply stated that my name came up in conversation, and that she heard that I had written this great book, and they would be so pleased to have me come and speak, and share my story with the other women in our parish. I immediately responded that I’d be delighted to do it and that’s when the anxiety and panic set-in.

I began writing my speech that day and spent every day for a month editing and perfecting my message. I even went to the April Bingo event they had with these ladies so that I could get a pulse on who my audience was going to be and what part of my story would be most relevant to them. By the time I was finished I had fifteen typed-pages of which I knew there was no way I could memorize. I then transferred those 15 pages to about 40 4x6 index cards but the print was so small that I was afraid that if the lighting wasn’t just right, and I was wearing my contact lenses, there would be no way for me to see what I had written. I finally had to accept the fact that I was not yet an experienced speaker of this type, and that if I had the typed pages and had to read them it would be just fine, no one was expecting me to be perfect. They just wanted me to be me and nobody knew that subject material better than me!

I had spoken in front of much larger and way more hostile environments than a polite group of church ladies in my thirty plus year career in sales but the difference was I was usually the boss so they had to listen to me, but in this case they were choosing to listen, and I was being promoted as a published author and Key Note Speaker, I owed them my very best effort.

The Saturday evening before the event I went to Mass as usual, picked up my copy of the church bulletin and there it was in print the event, my name, the date and those words again “Key Note Speaker”. I was feeling oh so proud and a twinge of anxiety for about ten seconds until I looked down to the next line which stated that the Council of Catholic Men’s dinner was the next week and their speaker was none other than Dave Caldwell, General Manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In my mind I envisioned a scale of the ladies being stuck with Abby Vega of Sno-Cone Truck Driver fame and author of Sno-Cone Diaries or Dave Caldwell GM of the Jacksonville Jaguars and decided that even I wanted to hear more about the Jaguars than sno-cones, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t a guy, and we were leaving that day for vacation.

I remember mentioning it to my daughter Alexis the next day when she called to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day and ever so clear and balanced she responded “well mom that’s one way to look at it or you can see yourself the way others do and that’s “simply amazing” and accept that the women are just as excited to see and hear you, as the guys are to see and hear Dave. I thanked her and told her I would hold onto her words to get me through on Thursday.

The big day came. I got my hair trimmed and blow dried, gave myself a mani-pedi, and even decided to wear a pretty dress and stop hiding the wicked scar left from my melanoma surgery last year on my left leg. As “Juan said you can’t be talking about courage and be hiding the scar from the biggest battle you’ve won to date!” He was right too!

Just so you know once I started speaking the words flowed from my body I didn’t need the 15 typed pages or the 40 index cards, this was my story.

I can’t say for sure how I did, except that the feedback has all been very positive, nobody got up and walked out, and at the end I received a standing ovation from the entire audience and I sold a few books, and have since had a few more people inquire about me speaking for them. I’ll take that as a huge win!

I also recently received an e mail from a follower of my blog while I was on vacation last week, asking why I had stopped writing entries because he enjoyed reading them so much and knew how many people I was inspiring with them, and was disappointed that I had stopped writing them in March. I made a bunch of lame excuses but the truth is I guess I felt like I was writing them and no one read them or cared. Dave thank you for that e mail and kick in the pants, they are worth writing even if you are the only one reading them because you never really know whose life you may be touching when they need it the most. And if that wasn’t enough motivation, today I got a request on LinkedIn from a complete stranger who asked to friend me and said her book club was reading my book this month and asked me if I would come for their next meeting and autograph their books. Of course I said yes, but please tell me how did you come to choose my book to read this month? She said one of the men in their book club heard me on a pod cast or on the radio and thought it would be a great read for their club. She said they love it so far and everyone is so thrilled for me to come, meet them, and autograph their books. Who knew? I dis-engaged from my dream and my readers are calling me back. I am truly blessed.

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