Wake Up – Giving Gratitude

This speech was inspired by my mom’s miraculous and heroic recovery from a big-time health scare a few years back.  It woke me up to what’s truly important in life.

This speech was designed for a 2013 speech competition for Toastmasters International where I won at the Division level.  Even though the video was filmed by my friend and not a professional, it’s a great way to get the full experience of the story.

If you prefer the written word, below is the full script in its 16th edition :)



Speech Script - (This includes body language cues as well – a true script)

Wake up Sara – Wake up. Your phone just rang…


Wake up…rise and shine

Let me tell you something…This…does not rise and shine. What this does is rise and…grab a cup of coffee. But I begrudgingly get up and shuffle into the other room to find my phone.

6 voicemails and 4 texts from my dad?

What did I miss? (in a panic)

“Mom is in the ER”

“Mom is out of surgery”

“Where are you – call us“

There’s an ache in my stomach.

Mister Contest Chair, my fellow toastmasters and most honored guests. Have you ever had a moment when your life became one big wake up call? When you knew that your life would change forever?

For me December 2nd, 2010. It was the beginning of a series of wake up calls that taught me how fragile yet powerful life can be.

WAKE UP CALL #1 – Life’s a roller coaster – We need to prepare for those…unexpected turns.

I called my dad in California, I found out my mother was in total system failure. It started with gallstones, but her blood pressure BOTTOMED OUT. Her major organs…shut down.

She had a 1 in 4 chance of survival.

My DAD WENT ON TO EXPLAIN, The doctors thought that to best fight the infection was to induce…a coma…But EVEN THEN it wasn’t good.

After I hung up, and all I could do was collapse on my bed and sob and sob and sob (quiver in voice). But then I sit up – (wipe my nose and flick) wait a second – my mom’s a fighter. I have to fight with her.

WAKE UP CALL #2 We must never give up the fight.

I start my fight with a prayer. (get on knees) I pray and pray, and send her lots and lots of love.

(Get back up) As I continued, I had this vision – A LOVE CIRCLE – a circle of women surrounding my mom, breathing for her and sending her love. It was so real; I got goosebumps.

FINALLY I Flew HOME and As I walked into her hospital room, I could barely recognize her– swollen with fluids and medicine, tubes and machines everywhere. It was like I was watching A TV DRAMA but there were no hot doctors…This was real life…

I sat down next and held her hand, she squeezed back tight. She was still fighting. I had to keep fighting with her…but how?

The love circle! Now I know this sounds a little crazy and…even “Hippy…Dippy (head nod)”. But What can I say– I lived in San Francisco for 8 years—I’m a hippy …(adjust clothes and nod head) in disguise. Shhh

But I didn’t know if my aunts who flew in from Minnesota (with accent), home of the SPAM museum, were would be up for such a crazy idea.

I finally mustered the courage to ask, and they happily agreed…(thumbs up) Groovy!

So we circled around her – (Act out – holding hands and take a deep breath.)

A few hours later, 10 days in a coma, my mom woke up! We must Never ever give up the fight.

In the following days of her recovery, SHE HAD TO learn to walk again. She had to learn to do everything again. WAKE UP CALL #3 – Now’s the time TO STEP UP and focus on what’s really important.

I had never needed to take care of anyone in my family before. That was my parents’ job. Now is the time for me to be a mom to my mom.

As she fought her way back to health, I stepped up to tend to her every need. SO I WOULD adjust the pillows under her legs again and again and again. Surely, I…wasn’t this high maintenance when she took care of me… miss drama queen.

So I continued to step up day after day, doing everything I could. I even tried BURNing INCENSE to clear out the toxic energy… (hands on hips) but the cranky nurses put the kibosh on that one. Something about oxygen and open flames??? I don’t know. (shrug)

But we knew she was on her way to recovery when her hands that were swollen like sausages had returned back to their natural STATE… wrinkled. (with smile – clap with excitment)

When the doctors informed us that my mom would make a full recovery, it hit me how close I was to losing her. I almost lost her once, but Now I have a 2nd chance (smile).

I SAT DOWN next to her AND WE SHARED FROM OUR HEARTS. We shared our fears AND frustrations. SHE GETS FRUSTRATED THAT SHE NEVER WINS AN ARGUMENT with my dad…the attorney… I GET FRUSTRATED WHEN DAD TELLS ME TO BE “Smart” WITH MY MONEY…….tsk…whatever that means…

But most of all…we shared our deep deep love for one another.


Two years ago, that phone call changed my life forever.

Please, please don’t wait until you get that phone call.




Now is the time to…

Wake UP!

I am Woman, Hear Me Roar!

“I am woman, hear me roar.” That was my favorite song, when I was four-years-old. I can still see myself sitting in the backseat of my parents’ ’79 Toyota station wagon, I was singing my heart out to Helen Reddy’s “I am woman, hear me roar.” We were probably on our way to some Toastmaster conference in the middle of nowhere California. But that song made the trip worth it. I sang that song as often as I could.

Little did I know at the wise age of four, that it would be the Anthem of my life.

When I was growing up, you could definitely hear me roar. I was a fully expressed little girl: singing, dancing, acting, gymnastics. I was out there!

Then middle school and high school happened. Ugh. Like many other young girls, I chose to be accepted and belong over my self-expression. My roar, my voice was all but silenced at school.

However, there was one place where my voice could not be silenced – on the soccer field. I played soccer for over 20 years and in every position. My most infamous position was the fearless goalie on the high school varsity team. Whether you were on the opposite side of the field, on the sidelines, or in the stands, there was never a doubt, you would be able to hear me.

In college at Lehigh University, my roar grew louder, grew stronger. I primarily used my voice to advocate for others whose voice had been suppressed by society – women, people of color and the LGBT community. However, my voice for myself came out in my physical appearance with my piercings, tattoo, my dad’s personal favorite, the blue hair.

I became a middle school teacher to give my students what I never got – a chance to have their voices be heard. I worked tirelessly to provide those opportunities with a phenomenal partnership with the organization, Challenge Day. And in the process of teaching my students, I reclaimed my own voice at the very spot where it was first silenced.

It has taken several years to regain my raucous roar, but now it is stronger than ever.
Now much of my work as a life coach and motivational speaker is empowering women to reclaim their voices, own their roar.

One of my recent workshops was for female firefighters. In order to survive the male-dominated profession, they often had to quiet their voice. So much of the workshop was spent to give them an opportunity to share where and how they are silenced and give them courage and skills to reclaim their voice and bring it back in the firehouse.

It is these women who deeply inspire me to continue to work to empower women, to empower all people to use their voice, to reclaim their roar.

As Helen Reddy states perfectly:
I am Strong!
I am Invincible!
I am Woman!

Who is willing to join me?