Monday, 10 August 2015

My TOFW experience

I've just had an absolutely amazing weekend, and feel so blessed to have had such an amazing experience as the local presenter at Time Out For Women in Sydney.  I felt so honoured to be asked to speak, and it was so lovely to know that they had faith in me to be able to do it.

During the week I had a lovely bunch of flowers delivered with a beautiful note from the lovely ladies who work at Time Out For Women.  It was such a lovely surprise. 
I've been so exhausted with the build up to it - having to prepare a introductory video (thanks again Alison!) as well as a talk and have felt a lot of pressure because I feel like it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to share things that have meant a lot to me over the past four years.   But even though I have been really stressed about it, I suddenly felt very calm on Friday and just started to feel excited about the whole experience.

My brother Eden and his wife Steph looked after the boys for me. I knew they would be fine, and was looking forward to a girls weekend, but also felt sad about leaving them.
It was so good to have so many friends going this year.
My friend Simone came with Mum and I. 

There's been a lot of emails going back and forth over the last month or so with different people who work at Time Out For Women.  I was all set to stay at my brother Chrish's house with Mum, Simone and my sister Nicki who was also coming up from Melbourne.  I then got an email to just confirm that I would be picked up at 6.30 am in the lobby of the hotel with the other presenters, to go to Olympic Park for sound check at 7.15 am. 

I hadn't been told that I was staying at a hotel, and then found out they had booked a room for me at the Pier One hotel at Circular Quay and had arranged for a driver to pick me up! I told them thanks anyway, but I was staying with my brother and would meet them at the venue for sound check, and sent a message to everyone laughing about how lovely it would've been, but that I had told them to cancel the room.

We weren't getting into Sydney till after 8.30 pm so everyone talked me into staying at the hotel and we decided it would be easier for everyone, as they wouldn't all have to get up early to come to sound check with me, and I could hopefully get a good nights sleep and meet the presenters before the event.

So Chrish dropped me off at the hotel after picking us up.  I was feeling very spoiled and overwhelmed with everything again, as I realised that in the morning I would be meeting the other presenters who had already been at the hotel for a day or so.
Even though we didn't get there until after 9.30 pm I couldn't resist going outside for a little walk before going to bed.  This was literally right outside the front door of the hotel!

The hotel was lovely and I felt a little sad that I would only be there to sleep and then have to leave at 6.30 am.
My idea of staying in the hotel so I could get a good night's sleep didn't happen.  I probably slept for about an hour, and was then awake for three, and then got back to sleep for another two hours, before finally deciding to just get up at 5am.  There were so many thoughts running through my mind - feeling very overwhelmed that I was about to speak to about 1800 people, feeling like I wasn't up to the standard of the other presenters at all, hoping I would remember all I wanted to say, and feeling nervous about meeting the presenters in the morning (even though I had been told to not be nervous and to just go up and introduce myself because they were looking forward to meeting me).

I was the first one in the lobby and was so happy when I saw Sandra Turley come out of the lift.  We had been commenting back and forth on Instagram for a couple of weeks, so it was lovely to finally meet her.  She was so friendly and straight away told me to not feel nervous.
Brad Wilcox and David Archuleta then came to the lobby.  Brad was so lovely and gave me a huge bear hug and David was also lovely and hugged me as well.   I was so nervous to meet David, but he was just so humble and quiet and even seemed very shy, so I straight away relaxed when I realised that they are all just normal people. 

David is very well known in the USA as he was a finalist on American Idol, but he isn't well known in Australia unless you are a member of our church.  He was telling me that he doesn't have a lot of fans in Australia, but I assured him that he would be surrounded by girls (and women!) all day long. He didn't seem very keen on that, but he is obviously used to it.  
We jumped into three different cars, and I was in the car with Elaine Dalton and her husband Steve.  They were so lovely to me and were excited to hear that I was from Tasmania, and told me all about when they came to Tassie.  Steve loved telling me how he went running in 'the canyon' (I'm assuming it was Mt Wellington) and saw a wallaby and was asking me about Tasmanian devils. 

He then asked me why I was chosen as the local presenter and I joked that I wasn't sure why, and Sis. Dalton said 'I've heard all about you, and hear you are an amazing woman' which was lovely. I then told them the short version of my story, and Steve was blown away and kept saying how strong I must be and said he was looking forward to hearing from me. 
Once we got to the venue we had a quick sound check, and I was excited to meet Laura who was the producer of the event (who had been emailing me a lot over the last few weeks). She took me up on the stage and ran me through how it will all work, and showed me the screens that are in front of the stage, and pointed out the timer which counts down your time, and shows which slides are up on the screen, and which ones will come up next. 

David was so lovely and was happy to make a video to send to my boys.  We had watched his documentary about when he went on his mission to Chile and ever since Kobe has desperately wanted to meet him.  We also love his song 'Glorious'.  I figured a video was the next best thing to meeting him. 
It was fun to watch him warm up. He started warming up his voice as soon as we walked in, and was jumping around trying to loosen up.  His voice is incredible.
 After sound check we all went to have breakfast together.  Two women won tickets to have breakfast with all the presenters, and it was lovely to talk to them. They had amazing stories of their own, and there were lots of tears from everyone as they shared things that they have experience in their lives. It was a special moment. 

Brad went around taking some photos for me on my camera. I love this one of Jeff Swinton (Heidi Swinton's husband) and Steve Dalton. They were both such lovely men and were very kind to me. 

The time at breakfast went so fast, and before we knew it we were all due out on stage.  I was told about ten minutes before that I needed to speak for about a minute while all the presenters were on stage together. I panicked at first, but then realised it should be fine, and I could just share how I felt about being there and being asked to speak.

David sang his beautiful song 'Glorious' first of all, and then welcomed us all up onto the stage. Sandra was so lovely and grabbed my hand while we were backstage.   It was very overwhelming to be standing there with all those amazing people, and to be looking out into the huge crowd. David is obviously talking about something serious here, as we are all looking very somber!
When it was my turn to speak I took the microphone (feeling like I was about to pass out!) and there was suddenly this HUGE cheer from the crowd - it wasn't just one area, but was all over!   I  heard all the presenters behind me start cheering and clapping and yelling 'Go Lisa!'.

I was blown away and all I remember was putting my hands up to my head and leaning over in disbelief that I had so much support.  I was feeling so inadequate and like I shouldn't have been standing on that stage with the other amazing presenters, so it was so nice to feel like maybe people were looking forward to hearing me speak. 

I just said whatever came to my mind and Simone videoed it on her phone which was good. She missed the big cheer at the beginning. When we all came off stage Sandra grabbed my hand and said 'they love you!'.
One of the most exciting things about the whole day, was that my friend Alyson had flown all the way from the USA to come to listen to me speak! We became friends online after her husband Cade passed away 7 months after Aaron.   I'm always so jealous when I see photos of her together with some other friends who are also widows, and we always talk about how wonderful it would be to finally meet in person. I just never, really imagined it would ever happen.

When she joked about how great it would be to come to Australia to listen to me speak, I agreed but didn't think much of it.  Then a few days later she messaged me to say she had booked her ticket and was coming with her friend Holly, who is also a widow. When I read her message I just about fell of my chair in excitement! I couldn't believe that I was actually going to meet one of my widow friends.

I was able to reserve three seats at the front for family and friends, and because my sister Nicki had her baby Hyrum with her, she sat in another area with Mum, so Alyson, Simone and Holly were able to sit up the front. Even though I was nervous to get up on stage, I was so excited to finally see Alyson for the first time.  I spotted them straight away and gave them a wave from the stage.

As soon as we came off stage, I ran over to her and couldn't wait to give her the biggest hug. She said 'can you believe I'm meeting you for the first time like this!?' and I laughed and said 'it's crazy!!'.  It was so amazing to have them there all day.   Alyson has the dark hair - isn't she stunning!  Holly was so lovely as well, and even though I was busy, we kept chatting whenever we had a chance.

 I couldn't stop looking at them the whole time, not believing that she had flown all the way to Australia! She lives in Utah but has never actually been to Time Out For Women before, so it was fun to have her come to her first one in Sydney.

David was amazing and sang so many beautiful songs and spoke a lot.   I loved hearing his story about the Christmas concert he did and how he was in between Kanye West and Chris Brown and how he just felt like he didn't belong, and how even though he has all these amazing experiences, he has learned what is most important.

I wasn't speaking until after the lunch break, so I was feeling very nervous all morning.  In the first break it was fun to catch up with Alyson and Holly.

I had few people came up to me to say hello that I didn't know, and gave me big hugs and wished me well which was so nice.  It was lovely to meet lots of people who say they read my blog and follow me and comment on Instagram, so it was lovely to put faces to names.  This family was so beautiful.  Everyone was just so lovely to me.
It was fun to catch up with old friends and I couldn't stop laughing when they asked me for my autograph. We had to capture it, because my friend Alison said she was sure that people would ask me for my autograph, but I said no way. 
We had quite a laugh about the whole thing! Thanks for making me feel famous Naomi!
It was so lovely to catch up with my friend Chrissy who I met for the first time five months ago, when they came on holiday to Tassie. She has always been so kind to me, and it was so nice to meet her beautiful girls and friends.
During the lunch break all the presenters had lunch together, and it was nice that I was able to invite Mum and my sister Nicki to have lunch with us as well. 
It was a nice chance for them to chat to the presenters without the crowds of people around, and made up for them not being able to sit up the front. 
There was no way I could eat very much, as I knew I was just about to go up on stage to give my talk.  I was really feeling like I was going to vomit, but everyone was so supportive and kept reminding me that people wanted to hear what I had to say, and I would be fine.  This popped up on my Instagram feed during lunch, and it said how they were looking forward to hearing from me after lunch, which made my heart race even more!
Alison put together a beautiful introductory video, so I didn't have to spend my talk time telling 'my story' and while it was showing on the big screens I was backstage getting my headset microphone on.  David was also backstage with me, and was jumping around a lot again. I felt like jumping around too and my heart was racing!   This is my introductory video which was shown. 

I was petrified and so nervous the whole time, but I knew I had done all I could to prepare.  Because I hardly got any sleep my voice was so croaky and I felt terrible as I had to clear my throat in the mic as it was a headset.  For a moment I thought I was going to lose my voice!  A friend took this pic from her seats at the back.  It looks even scarier from this angle! I could see lots of people, but not really faces.

I survived and didn't faint on stage ;) and David was so lovely when I came off stage and said I did a great job. The AV guy was also lovely and said it did well. You can read my presentation here and watch it by going here

When I walked back to my seat, all the other presenters and their husbands grabbed my hands and hugged me and told me it was incredible. I don't know if it was incredible, but I did it and got through, and hopefully the message helped someone, somehow.   I could then relax a little, but felt like crying because I felt so relieved, so sad, and so happy all at once.  It didn't help that David sang 'In the Arms of an Angel' straight after which was incredible. Bro Dalton was so kind to me and kept hugging me and said 'that's especially for you'.

It was nice being able to then relax and to listen to the amazing music and speakers.  Sandra was incredible and both her and David just sounded amazing.  We were very blessed to have them both there.  Sandra performed in Les Miserables on Broadway so we were very lucky to have her sing a medley.
 In the afternoon break, so many people came up to talk to me, get photos, give me hugs, and even get my autograph or asked me to write in their journal for them.  It was so nice to feel so much love and support and I kept saying how strange it was to have so much attention and feel a little bit famous for a second.

It was nice to have a big group hug with my friends from Tassie. I was so glad that they were there for it.  I also loved being able to introduce Alyson and Holly to all my friends and family from home.

At the end of the day lots of people continued to come up to say hello and I was touched to meet a lady and her daughter whose son also had hydranencephaly, and passed away 20 years ago.  I also met a lady who has just been a widow for 14 months and it was lovely to be able to introduce her to Holly and Alyson and to all talk to her together. She made me cry, because I just felt so sad for her to know the journey she is on, but I was so glad that Alyson and Holly could also give her some love and support.  My friends have been amazing, but having Alyson and Holly there just meant so much, because they really know what I've been going through and I just couldn't talk to them enough.

David had a lot of girls line up to get photos with him after it was over, and Alyson and Holly were very keen to meet him, so I used my presenter privileges and took them backstage to meet him before he left. He was so lovely and kind and came and spoke to them for a long time. He was so genuine and was saying how nice it was that we could all support each other.

He had been given some Tim Tams from my friend Chrissy and her daughters, and he was asking me how he should have them, as he heard you had to have it with hot chocolate.  I had fun explaining to him about Tim Tam slams, and he was excited to try it.  

Brad and Sandra also came along to get ready to leave, and spent some time talking to all of us.  It was a special time, and I was happy that they got to meet some of the presenters and spend time with them, after coming so far.  Brad was hilarious as Holly absolutely loves his books and said she wanted to be his BFF. He said does that mean I'm a 'big fat...' and Alyson said 'freak!' and we all cracked up.
Alyson and Holly have been in Australia since Wednesday and I wished so much I could've gone up to Sydney to spend time with them earlier, but it was too hard to figure out with the boys.  We had such a lovely time talking afterwards, but just didn't have enough time together. They flew out this morning to spend a few days in New Zealand, before flying home. I wish so much we lived closer so we could see each other regularly, because it's just so easy when we get what each other are going through.   Thank you for flying out here Alyson - it meant more than you will ever know and I'm so glad that you had a fantastic day.   I really think it was the best TOFW we have had in Sydney so far, and it wasn't because I was a part of it! :)

We stayed at Chrish's house last night and enjoyed some nice non alcoholic wine that a lovely lady gave to the presenters, and chocolates from my friend Chrissy. We felt very spoiled.

It was so nice to meet my cute nephew Hyrum for the first time, and to spend some time with him, Nicki, Chrish and Mum today before flying home.  It was such a lovely sunny day, so we made the most of it and got some vitamin D on the beach.  Mum is staying with Chrish for a couple of weeks, so we left her there.

It's really hard to come back to reality again after such a huge build up and high.  It was nice to see the boys again tonight and get huge hugs from them. They had a lovely time with my brother and sister in law.

I feel so blessed to have had such amazing experiences this year with the Mother of the Year awards and now Time Out For Women, but it's always hard to come back to my reality, because even though my reality is getting easier, it's still very hard and not the reality I want.

I feel like I need to have something to look forward to, but it's going to be hard to top the last few months.  A lot of people told me I need to write a book, but I can only imagine how much work there would be in that, after how long it took me to prepare a short talk!  For now I'll just stick to blogging and hope that there will be a lot more highs to keep me going until I'm back with Aaron and Noah again.


  1. I was deeply touched by your introductory video and all the experiences and perspectives you share on your blog and Instagram. My husband has an illness that will likely shorten his life and I hope that I will be as brave as you have been. You have chosen to keep faith in the things that matter most in spite of a broken heart. You have chosen to be grateful for all you have and make the most of each day even though part of your heart is in heaven. Your example has been powerful to me. Thank you for sharing your heart. It's made a tremendous difference to me.

    1. Thank you so much. I'm sorry to hear about your husband. Lots of love and prayers to you xxxx

  2. From someone who attended..Shes amazing, she is absolutely AMAZE-ING
    When I asked how You went. So I think I'll give you a ten. Well done. Looking forward to the NZ one on Saturday. You would think they would fly you in for that, tassie is part of NZ, as mainland Aussies always say that!

    1. Lol! Oh that's so nice to hear and a ten! That's pretty awesome! :) you will love it on Saturday! Sandra and David are amazing! Wish I could be there.

    2. oh wow, it was soooo good! david...mmmmm, mmmnnn!! music was superb huh. had the BEST day. just brilliant. Elder Brouwer from my town is serving in Tasmania, I just heard. My son and Elder Brouwer are serving in Oz together. Get him to show you a kiwi Slam....

    3. I'm so glad you went and loved it :) David is so lovely and his voice is beautiful. I also loved Sandra's voice. I was messaging Melanie (the local presenter in NZ) a lot leading up to it, and was hoping it all went well for her. I'll keep an eye out for Elder Brouwer :)

    4. Yes, she is amazing. They all really were ay!! Melanie was in my old stake in chch, she looks a bit like you. Better accent though...

  3. Lisa, You are an inspiration to all women. I loved meeting you.

    Lyn Wroe (from Brisbane)

  4. Lisa, you were amazing. I was so looking forward to hearing from you. I am glad you had a great experience.

  5. Oh you should've come and said hi! Thank you xxx

  6. What a beautiful video and tribute. You amaze me with your strength and perseverance. You deserve all the blessings that come your way.

  7. What a beautiful video and tribute. You amaze me with your strength and perseverance. You deserve all the blessings that come your way.

  8. so so cool lisa! i almost felt like i was there!
    can't wait to read your talk x

  9. I've beeN to 2 tofw's, in Sydney...wishing I had gone to this one!! But I'm glad I got to watch your introductory video - it made me cry! Your story. What a powerful example of a woman of faith, loved it. I also enjoyed reading your I like to blog (been a bit slack, but i still enjoy it)
    Love to you and your family, Krystal from all the way in Alice Springs (u may know Aunty Jackie Webster, send our love...and we currently have a Sister Criste serving here -shes absolutely lovely!!)

    1. Yes Sister Christie is a great friend of mine! Tell her I said hello :) And I do know your Aunty. Thanks for your lovely comments.

  10. I'm so glad I got to see your blog post. And esp. watch your inspiring made me cry. What an amazing story you have shared, thankyou. I love your example of faith and 'enduring to the end!'
    We have a Sister Criste currently serving here - Alice Springs, and u may know my Aunty Jackie Webster they too live in Tassie! Much love your sister in the gospel, Krystal xo

  11. You are SO gracious and humble. Love the way you gave details and your experience...makes us feel as if we were there. Excited to read your talk! Very beautiful video also, couldn't help the steady stream of tears.
    P.s. What is the right way to eat Tim tams? : )

    1. Thank you. So in Australia we have something called a Tim Tam slam (I'm assuming you aren't in Australia!?). You bit a corner off each end - but diagonally so the opposite corners are bitten off. Then we have something called Milo which is a hot drink similar to hot chocolate. You dip one end of the tim tam in and suck the milo up through the tim tam like a straw, and it starts melting. Then you just shove the whole thing in your mouth :) I did a blog post about it a long time ago with a video, to show our American friends :) You can see it at


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