My Icebreaker Speech- Toastmasters April 23, 2014

I won the Best Speaker Award this night and took it home to put on my office shelf.  The next week, when they gave out the awards they asked, “Does anyone know what happened to the Best Speaker Award?” Busted.  “I thought it was for take-home,” I whined and brought it back the following week. Here is my speech.

Hello my name is Judy Liautaud.

I’ve always considered myself more of a writer than a talker. Writing gives me the time to pull my thoughts together and I love the ever present silent listener. –no one sighing, rolling eyes, or tapping pens in boredom. The thought of which totally freaks me out.

It is time for me to learn a new skill.  Next January I will be speaking to 150 women on the topic of my recently published memoir, Sunlight on My Shadow. It is the story of my secret teen pregnancy: It was 1967, and I was sixteen.  I walked the halls of my all girls catholic school with my uniform skirt tied together with rubber bands so it could accommodate my expanding belly. When the bands could no longer hold, I told my mom and dad. Dad was very angry and wanted me to have an abortion, but it was too late because I was already five months along.

I was sent a hundred miles away to a home for unwed mothers. I gave the baby up for adoption…. and was told to never look back. If you have seen the movie Philomena, my story is similar.

I thought that I could just keep this nightmare in my past, cut it out like a rotten spot in an apple.

But as the years ticked by, I had to know what had happened to the baby I had given up, so I sought her out.  This is the content of my book . It is also the story of how I healed from the shame, regret, and grief in my adult years.

I am the youngest child of five. My mom had me when she was in her mid 40’s. I think I was an accident.  Being a staunch catholic, Mom was using the rhythm method. I think she lost the beat.  The sibling closest to me is Jeff, who is 7 years older so I spent way too much time rattling around the house with just Mom and Dad.

After I came home from the recovery of my “kidney disease”—this was the story we told to cover-up my pregnancy—I went to a few years of college and married my first husband, Dave Rodriguez.  He was a wild, carefree spirit.  A kind of Houdini who liked putting himself in dangerous situations and thriving on the challenge of escape. We back packed through south America for a year and a half and then we started a hang gliding school that we operated for 15 years.

I intended for marriage to be forever…. but eventually our values and interests mixed like oil and water. We ended up divorcing after 28 years. At which point I bought Dave out of the publishing company we started, City Creek Press, so I  have owned and operated that for the past 22 years.

Then I was single for 8 years when a friend who owned a speed dating company, called me up and said, “ Judy I am short on women for an event tonight, could you make it? I thought I’d give it a try. What happened was, I had five minutes to meet with ten men. After each conversation I wrote on a report card Yes or No.  Yes meaning I am interested or no—not so much. Then, at the end of the night , the owner tallied the yes’s and no’s.  If there are two yes’s for a couple, this was a match and you got an email the next morning.

That was the night I met Joe.  He was not what I had in mind for an ideal mate at the time but he interested me.  He asked good questions, he was good looking, energetic, and clever. I tried to ignore the fact that he was a bit overweight and left the event in a giant Ford pickup truck. A hard body in a Beemer or Harley would have been better —or so I thought.

Joe and I got married on March 4, 2006 and I must say that I had no idea a partnership could be so nurturing and fulfilling.  Each night,  I look forward to hearing the garage door open because it means that Joe has come home from a hard day of work at the Federal Reserve Bank. By the way, after we married,  Joe lost a ton of weight…. and he is a runner…. so I now have my hard-body—and he sold the truck.

Which just goes to show: that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

I have two married daughters and six grand children. The day my first grand child, Cora,  was born, I was shocked at how I loved her instantly like I did my own babies.  I can’t get enough of these kids.  Mainly because they live out of state—in Omaha and Gainesville, Florida, but we manage to get together several times a year.

In 1950 my father bought land on Bond Lake in Wisconsin so  I have spent many of my summers up there. I love swimming, skiing, biking, and walks in the woods.

I am excited to have found you my fellow toastmasters in a location close to my home.  I appreciate learning from you and hope it’s not too painful for you to watch me muddle through acquiring this new skill.  I would like to learn how to speak without reading and hope that will come with practice.  I look forward to your support and suggestions. Madam (Mister) Toastmaster.

Next Generation Indie Award Finalist 2014

Sunlight on My Shadow was a finalist in the category Biography/autobiography for the year 2014. There were 5 finalists named for this prestigious award. This is the largest not-for-profit award program for independent publishers.