Thursday, February 01, 2007

Which came first, the vomit or the faint?

Well, I think it’s pretty clear from the comments that I’m not the only one traumatized by my elementary school spelling bee experience. It’s just too bad we can’t all turn back time and demand a do-over to try and rectify the momentary lapses of spelling judgment we so sadly experienced, all of us Great Spellers of the World.

(sigh. L-A-C-E.)

In all seriousness, that 5th grade spelling bee debacle set me up for a lifetime of anxiety when it comes to speaking in front of people. Put me in front of a microphone, and I panic. My mind goes blank, and I forget to exhale. I remember to inhale, but forget to exhale, which makes it hard to talk when your lungs are FULL of oxygen and yet you’re still gasping for air like a beached fish. You might or might not remember that it took me until my 40th birthday, and a silo of amaretto, before I worked up the courage to do karaoke by myself in front of anyone.

Public speaking. It’s a situation I avoid at all costs. I LOATHE standing up in front of a group and talking. High school speech class? Hated it. College speech class? Practically needed valium. I even get nervous when I’m with a group that is going around the room introducing ourselves. Two or three people before it’s my turn, I start sweating, and getting a little hyper-ventil-y, and start cackling with this stupid nervous laughter because OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO SAY I’M GOING TO SOUND LIKE AN IDIOT I CAN’T REMEMBER MY NAME WHAT THE HELL IS MY NAME???? Like the women at a baby shower are going to point and laugh, do I really think that is going to happen??? … I get *that* nervous. Seriously. I even get this awful splotchy rash across my chest. You should see my wedding pictures; it looks like my boobs have roseola.

So imagine my extreme happiness and excitement when a representative from the AFLAC cancer clinic in Atlanta, where Kendrie received her cancer treatment, called me last month to ask if I would speak at a meeting of AFLAC employees from western Kentucky who had donated the most money to build the new clinic back in 2004. To ask if I would give a thank you speech of sorts, letting them know how much their generosity and kindness had benefited our family’s life.

And did I also mention that if I said yes, I would be giving my talk in front of 400 people?

That’s not a typo -- that’s FOUR HUNDRED!

Um, yeah. I would rather roll around naked, covered in tar, on thumb tacks and feathers, and have the entire thing played on YouTube. THAT'S how much I hate public speaking.

But how can you say no to a request like that? To saying a heartfelt and sincere “thank you” to the employees who donated their own money and commissions to help finance the clinic? The (did I mention?) $2.5 MILLION dollar clinic? I mean, am I really going to say, “No, I don’t want to say thank you. These people indirectly helped save my daughter’s life, but my tummy gets butterflies in front of a group, so I think I’ll pass. Thanks for asking!”

No, of course not.

I’m going to go, and make my speech, and most likely throw up on the podium.

Blaine gave me the always-helpful advice to imagine them all in their underwear. Honey, I don’t think Fruit of the Loom can even make that many at one time.

Last night, I told the kids I was nervous and asked if I could practice my speech in front of them, explaining how sometimes practicing in front of a crowd will make it easier when it comes time to do the real thing.

They responded with great enthusiasm, and even did their best job to help matters by courting me an audience:

Truly, have you ever seen a more rapt group of spectators?

Hanging on my every word?? Kellen counted, and there were 40 beings listening. Great, I’m only 360 short.

Oh, look, I mention the word “bald” in my speech twice. These two little girls should feel right at home.

Even the dog got in on the action. To be honest, they were a good crowd. Not one person heckled me or threw a tomato.

Please keep me and Kendrie in your thoughts tomorrow as we fly to Kentucky with the cancer clinic representative. First, that our plane not plummet to the ground in a fiery crash (you know how I feel about these things.)

Secondly, that if my only choices are vomiting or fainting, that I faint. I can always blame the pregnancy. **

Third, that the high-neck shirt that I’m planning to wear in an attempt to hide the blotches on my chest not constrict my airway any more than necessary. Otherwise, I really will forget to exhale and turn blue and pass out right there in front of all 400 people. I hope Aflac employees are required to pass some sort of CPR class, because I’ll most likely need resuscitation before all is said and done.

**No, I’m not pregnant, but my stomach is so fat I could get away with using that as an excuse. And hey, if I faint at the beginning, I don’t have to worry about forgetting the speech!


Anonymous said...

You'll do great, girl!

Marcia said...

Oh man, I feel sick for you, just thinking about it!!! I've been asked, countless times, to put on workshops at adoption conferences. I can feel my back tensing up just typing those words!!!! Hey, maybe you should get Kendrie to do to the talking. I'm sure she'd be amazing!!
Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I have absolutely no doubt that you'll do wonderful! Last week, ALSAC, the fundraising arm of St. Jude, called and asked if I'd speak to a group of estate donors at a luncheon this past Tuesday. I couldn't turn it down but having never spoken publicly before, I was scared $hitless. It was about 150+ there and not having any speaking experience, I didn't want to type out a whole speach and sound like a monotone zombie reading it off. I made an outline of Emily's sypmtoms/diagnosis/treatment and so forth. I started my speech with telling everyone how I've never done this before but I couldn't turn down the honor to thank all of them in person. Also, when I explained how after we were told Emily's WBC was 488,000 and we needed to go home and pack enough for two weeks, I flew home and packed 20 pairs of socks and two shirts. It completely settled my nerves to hear laughter. I know you can break the ice with your humor because you are good at that. The audience will be hanging on your every word, I am sure. When it was over with for me, everyone in the room was crying and the guy who introduced me was to speak again after me and he paused for about a minute or two. When you start telling Kendrie's story, everything will fall in place. Even your rememberance of those special like Catie. The outline helped me out tremedously, but also the travel kleenex that I carried to the podium was the most needed. My voice started cracking when I talked about friends Emily had lost to cancer and my nose decided to run like a faucet. So, besides the outline, make sure you bring your tissues.

Sorry so long here. I tend to do this, sorry! I know you'll do awesome!

Take care,
Tomika in Alabama

LEEANN said...

Bless your heart! Make sure you aren't wearing a turtleneck or anything else that makes you feel icky. Wear something comfortable and remember, YOU WILL ROCK!!!

Briana said...

Oh Kristie, you crack me up. I know that you will do absolutely wonderful! Let the thanks come from the heart and it will be just like thanking a friend (only there will be 400 of them). I actually enjoy public speaking, but I know lots of people do not. If you get nervous, just think of this and laugh: When I did my first marathon in San Diego with Team in Training, they had a mom speak at the pasta party the night before the race. She was there to share the story of her son (who was about 8 at the time) and how the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society had helped their family. He was standing next to her during the speech and kept getting closer and closer, distracting her from her speech. All of a sudden, he turned his head and bit her boob! We all had a good laugh, she recovered perfectly, and it became the talk of the race. Surely, Kendrie won't bite your boob. :)

kim said...

Kristie--Ooooh, yeah, I know how you feel...and I was in forensics, community theater, high school plays and gave talks to classes of future long ago all of that was and, I'll be damned if I know what happened, but now the mere thought makes me feel the exact way you're feeling! That being said, I agree with Tomika. Get up there and, first thing, tell them how nervous you are and about the rash your high-necked shirt is hiding, and you'll have them EATING OUT OF YOUR HANDS, BABY! They will all relate to what you're saying, they'll be in your corner, they'll laugh and then your natural wit, sincerity and thankfulness will come though. Really, it will. That, of course, is assuming that the plane doesn't plummet to the ground and you actually make it to your speech...MWAHAHAHAHA! I'M SORRY, BUT I JUST HAD TO!!!!! If my computer blows up or something like that the next time I try to sign your blog, I'll know you didn't see the humor...HA!

In all seriousness...humor, then heart. Winning combo. Just like you and Kendrie. I'll think about ya and say prayers.

Lisa said...

Wear something patterned. Vomit shows less on patterns!

You'll knock em out Kristie - and don't forget to blog the speech, I can't wait to hear it. You don't have to blog the puking sounds - maybe just a little "p" in the necessary places and we can imagine the rest :) Love and prayers for you all.

JoAnn said...

I love the pictures of your trial run "audience". Too cute! It is exactly something my own kids would do. And, think about this. You already have a tremdous knack for writing and you have legions of followers that hang on your every word:) You do! Look at everyone who reads your Caringbridge site and now your blog! Anyway, my point is- you will be fabulous! I will also pray that your plane does not go down in a fiery crash ( as I too, feel the same way you do about those things.) You will be great and I can't wait for the next blog entry to hear all about it:)

Clara Zimmerman said...

How delicious that DDP will be AFTER you have finished your speech in front of so many people! You will have earned it! I, too, get very nervous, my hands shake, and I feel vomitous. Maybe the audience part will be darkened and you won't be able to see anyone's face because of the spotlight on you. You can always look at the wall at the back of the room. People will think you are making eye contact. And, as for the speling beeze, I go nuts when I see typos. Why can people not learn the difference between your and you're? It's not that hard, people! I have the hardest time biting my tongue when I notice someone has made an error. Good spellers unite!

Anonymous said...

OH. MY. GAWD!!! I thought I was the only person with the blotchy affliction to go along with the "no public speaking" rule. At my wedding, I could FEEL the heat rising from my chest to my chin!!! It was awful! My wedding pics are reeeeal lookers! Good luck, we're all countin on ya!! Be safe and can't wait to hear how it goes!

Teresa Core
Nashville, TN

Amy and Jason said...

Kristie - You'll do great! They aren't expecting a professional speaker, they want an honest view of cancer from a Mom. Guess what? You're it!!! I am so proud of you for doing something you HATE doing because it is the right thing to get points in Heaven for stuff like that. :)

Love ya...will be praying and thinking of you ALL day,


Jane said...

I feel the same way about public speaking and flying! Good luck and bundle up, it's cold in KY!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and BEST of luck to you! I am right there with you...I can't even think about speaking in front of people without breaking a sweat. I don't even like to speak in front of the kids at our church youth functions! Nope...won't do it...don't like it.
Good luck!!

LeeAnne said...

Kristie: I'll bet that the number of people that actually LIKE to speak in public is very, very small. I HATE it and wont even read the Bible lessons in church because I get so nervous and shaky and have a dry mouth. But you'll do great! Your sense of humor will have them captivated and your story and honest thankfulness will come through loud and strong. Be sure to blog it ~ ~ ~ cant wait to read all about it! Good luck and have a great flight!

Anonymous said...

I loved all the suggestions.. and they're right.. funny (which you are the best at) and then the heart. I had to speak at my best friends funeral -- I was terrified, but how do you say no? I opened up with the truth.. haven't spoken in public in 14 years, since I quit work to stay home with my oldest child. They were all so welcoming, smiling and listening intently.. and I know that you will get the same courtesy. Please do blog the speech, we'll have our tissues ready!

You're in my prayers... wish I could be there to hear you...

Mary from Albany NY

Sue said...

Kristie, I love the picture of your practice audience! Of course, my kids would leave all the stuffed animals and dolls in the family room for me to put away when I was done "playing" with them. By the way, how is it that you have 3 kids and only 40 stuffed animals? Didn't the clinic give Kendrie 2 to 4 animals per visit, and extra if she was being extra brave? Or is it just our clinic that tortures me with MORE stuffed animals?

You are a tremendous writer! I'm sure that you will get through your speech fine. Write the whole thing out in advance (forget what your college speech teacher said) and go with the flow. As for imagining the audience in their underwear, do you know ANYBODY that that has EVER worked for?

Sue (ALL-Kids)

Anonymous said...

You'll do fabulously. A few tears are OK, 'cuz that's what makes it real.

But for Sue (Katie's Mom) ... Imagining that the driving instructor was wearing his underwear is what put Marcia Brady past her fear of driving... Kristie, just imagine the whole audience is in their underwear and you'll fly girl!!!

Best of luck.

Frances, Mom to Lucas
Lucas' page

Kerry said...


I regularly speak to groups of 50-500 and though I enjoy it, the big groups can be daunting.

You will do great because you are an amazing storyteller, have such a great stroy to tell and are one of the funniest people on the internet.

I agree with the recommendations to start with the honesty and then bring on the humor.

Good luck. Your first audience was fantastic!! and you will wow the second one too!

Tucson, AZ

Cindy said...

Kristie, I used to be just like you. High school Public Speaking - hated it. College public speaking - I still have the tape I made and I've never seen a lovelier shade of green! It's a wonder I didn't vomit on the video. But you have to remember, in those classes, someone was judging us. Someone was deciding if we did a good job and what grade we were worth.

In this case, no one in the audience is going to judge you. They are all there because of love, and anything you say is going to be like adding the cherry to the top of their ice cream sundae. They already know they did a wonderful thing. They want you there not because you are going them with the wisdom of the ages, but so they can see they did a nice thing (and want to do more!). Let Kendrie do some of the speaking, let them know how much you love her, and let them love her as well.

The trick to speaking in front of a large group has nothing to do with underwear. It has everything to do with holding a conversation. You aren't speaking to a huge group. You are speaking to two or three people. Just that the other 398 are hanging around outside your little circle and listening in. Pick out three people in the audience who look like kind souls. Talk to them! You can have a conversation with three people. Be sure they are sitting in different areas of the room so you can turn your eyes on them and the others will think you're talking to them to. Just 3 people is all you have to talk to.

I have overcome my fear of large audiences using this theory. I can speak in front of anyone now - a class of high school students, a room full of convention attendees, and yes, even Congress. They are all just people. And none of them are grading you.

Oh, and btw, there is software that will read your blog to the blind. That software can't read the slanted letters you have to type to verify a post entry, those letters that keep the trolls at bay. Hence blind "readers" can't post without help. That's the real reason for the handicap symbol.

Cate Crowley said...

I feel your pain. If I ever stopped to think about how many people listen to my show everyday, I'd puke every time I went on the air. It's thousands, but I don't want exact numbers.

When I have to emcee a concert or special event (which happens way too much) I always just focus on one person. Getting up on a stage is so much easier for me than it used to be. Sigh. I guess you do get used to it.

I was at the St. Jude Country Cares Radio Seminar in Memphis a few weeks ago and the moms and dads who shared their stories were wonderful even though one of the moms admitted to being scared to death. She only spoke before 1000 people. YIKES!

Remember, it's a captive audience who want nothing more than to hear about your kid. It's a parents dream. Have fun with it...though you might want to leave the colorful metaphors for this site only and not your speech...but crap sandwich and suckfest need to be in there!

Good luck,
Bend, OR

Anonymous said...

If you faint, you will NEVER EVER LIVE IT DOWN!! :)
I know you'll do great, and my BFF gets all splotchy when she speaks, but I never noticed until she told me.
Debbie E.
Peachtree City, GA

Kylie said...

Hey Kristie!

I have followed you here from Kendrie's Caringbridge page :)

I just want to wish you luck for the big speech. I am sure you will be great. I do public speaking and debating for fun (you must be thinking 'she's crazy!' right? hehe) and I was in comps all the way through school.

The biggest crowd I have spoken in front of so far was 13, 000 (yep, thirteen thousand!) people! I didn't really feel nervous at the time, but when i watched it back on video, my hands were shaking so bad!

Anyway, good luck with it all 9including the plane trip!) and hugs to your family!

Love Kylie (in Australia)

Naidne said...

How dare you write a blog entry about vomit, just days after learning that nearly half of your readership are vomit-phobes??? Now we're all hyperventilating, breaking out in our own boob-rosacea, and worrying that we might have to read details about your vomit, which might cause us to vomit ourselves, in some bizarre symbol of cyber-solidarity.
Praying for a plane crash-free, vomit-free, rosacea-free, and faint-free speech. Forget the underwear, picture them all with biggee sized DDPs in styrofoam cups with pellet ice. You go, girl!

Anonymous said...

You will be just fine...just imagine your blogging instead of speaking because you have the best blog ever!!! Thats awesome that you and Kendrie get to have a little adventure at the same time too! Enjoy and god bless you !!!! I will be thinking of you !

Erin From Long Island

Lisa From Hamilton, OH said...

You will do a fabulous job!!! If your speech is anything close to your blog, they will give you a standing ovation. :)

erunginung said...

I'm cracking up over your youtube video!! And your audience for your trial run was hilarious.

I also hate public speaking. But I know you'll do a great job!

Anonymous said...

Good luck tomorrow - I don't know which I would do first either, faint or vomit. Actually, I would probably just break down and cry. Anyway, I'll be thinking of you tomorrow; especially since we will actually be at clinic for chemo and a scan review. Tell the Aflac employees thanks from us too. We are nearly at our 100th day spent just at the clinic, and Joshua still loves to go there because of the games, etc. What can I say? He's a kid & ya gotta love that perspective. I can't wait to hear the story when you return.
Julie Metz

Anonymous said...

I have to admit I was glad to read no one actually had vomited in your house - I shudder to even see the word being the vomitphobe that I am. Then I got to the pregnancy sentence and had to take a break. I was shocked - then got a good laugh. I hope for you a vomitless day and a safe trip with Kendrie.


michelle adams said...

Good Luck, you'll do great. It's funny, I get those red splotches also. I have something nerve racking myself coming up on Feb. 11th. Our church is having it's annual Valentine Banquet. This year we are having a Gong Show. Me and my 2 aunts are going to be the Supremes. We are singing the Great Pretender. I'm sure my husband will die of embarrassment. We are about the youngest couple in the church. (small country church)The 2 aunts that I'll be doing this with are in their late 60's... they are so fun and are always coming up with great ideas. We'll probably have about 100 or so people there and get gonged right in the middle of our song. But it'll be fun (so I keep telling myself!)

KathyA said...

OK, Kristie, I do this (public speaking, or rather, professional storytelling) for a living. Words of wisdom:
Know that everyone, even those of us who do it professionally, gets those butterfles too. (I know, no real help, but then again, there is strength in numbers)

When you start your speech, fix your eyes on a point in the back of the room and talk to that point. I usually look for a clock on the wall or some other "diversion"

Whatever you do, SLOW DOWN! Most non-professional speakers talk too fast and you can't understand what they say. The only thing this does is that it gets you through faster, but doesn't get your point across.

Find something funny to say to open. Try something like "To write a speech, get on a plane when I hate flying, and stand here talking to 400 strangers terrifies me. Before I left home, my children tried to help by listening to my speech. They also gathered every stuffed animal known to man and put them on the sofa and on the floor so that they, too, could listen to my speech. If you don't mind too much, I'm just going to think of all of you as beanie babies and stuffed rabbits."
That'll get them laughing, your brain will say, like Sally Field did at the Oscars, "They like me, they really like me" and you'll do the rest of the speech just fine!

Just in case -we'll be saying prayers for you here.

Two Kids and a Husband said...

I burst out laughing at your 'crowd' Gotta love kids... I am hoping your speach goes off without a hitch, or barf or head hitting floor at a high speed! I have confidence you can do this... Just remember to breath look OVER the crowd not at them and pretend you are giving your speach in your livingroom to a bunch of dolls! Good luck

Tracy said...

You are going to do wonderful!! Just speeak from your heart and everything will be fine.

I have to say, I am with you on public speaking.... CAN'T.STAND.IT.

I will be thinking about you and sending you positive thoughts.

Patricia said...

Gosh...that is too funny. You will do a great job. When talking about something you have SO much passion about (your kids and the CURE that is out there somewhere waiting to be discovered!)I'm betting that your nerves surprise you how they subside. Keep us updated on Blaine and this never ending saga of trying to get someone to give you answers. Ugh.

jean said...

(My first post on your new blog - I'm so glad you have kept writing!)I can SO relate to your last two posts! I could get a perfect score on the school WRITTEN test, but put me up in front of a crowd, and my mind went blank!

I think I forget to breathe altogether when I'm speaking in front of a group - I even had notes the last time I had to speak, and STILL forgot some things! UGH!

Hope you have a safe trip, and that everything goes well. I like Marcia's idea of just putting Kendrie up in front of everyone... :-)

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I have that same fear of public speaking (whether its 5 people or 50). The difference is, that rash you get on your chest, I get on my face. I can't hide that!!! Good luck, you'll do fine and it'll be over before you know it.

Ali in CO

Kristin Hicks said...

You will do great! I know you will be awesome even though you are nervous.

I'd love to hear where exactly you are going. My husband's family lives in Kentucky and we travel there several times a year. We both graduated from the University of Kentucky and are true fans of the Bluegrass state!

Kristin in NC

Donna said...

Kristie, I never even made it into the spelling bee, so I am very jealous even of your early exit.

Also, my husband is mad at you for linking to Pioneer Woman and Dad Gone Mad because now all I do is talk about even MORE funny blogs I am reading.

Anonymous said...

I find it almost impossible to believe you can write so well and with such wit and be so terrified to share your thoughts in front of others. But, I guess l-a-c-e can cause more problems than "itchiness." I'm sure you will do an amazing job. But, I am LOL over the comment of using the pregnancy as an excuse for fainting. That is what I call finding the silver lining. Hang in there. I can't wait to hear you did it, were amazing and that Kendrie was so proud! Rene in NC