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Episode 51: Manny's Wet Gift: Story #5

“Manny” (not his real name) has an odd request. This episode is about learning to be grateful, even in surprising circumstances.

Jen Vellenga’s “word” for 2023 is CONSISTENCY. Co-host Jennifer Rettele-Thomas challenged her to tell a story on the Speak with Presence podcast every day of 2023 starting on January 19, 2023.

Can Jen V. do it? JRT doubts it. 

Even if she’s not perfect…how many stories can she tell and what structures will she use?

Prefer to read instead of listen?

Read the transcript below

Manny comes into my studio theater with no shirt on, completely naked from top to waist. He’s holding a wet, drenched shirt in his hands. It’s been a torrential downpour in Miami. He asks me if he can dry his shirt in the faculty microwave. It’s Monday, January 23rd. I’m Jen Vellenga, co-host of the Speak with Presence podcast and co-founder of Voice First World.

This is Story #5: Manny’s Wet Gift. I’m completely confused because I’ve never dried anything in the microwave before. I’m pregnant at the time and I have no more ability to make decisions. And I’m like, yeah, I don’t care. Go dry it in the microwave if you think you can. Of course, I’m horrified that there’s other faculty around that are going to know I let this guy in to dry his shirt.

He comes back into class and sits down without the shirt. Completely naked again from the chest down to the waist. The rest of us try to focus on the class, but it’s very difficult with Manny, who was not a model figure by any means. We got through the class. He checked on his shirt several times. Then after class, he said, can I speak to you? And I think, oh my goodness, what’s going to happen now? Manny comes to my office, and he hands me a gift in gift wrap. And I’m like, well, what is this for? He said, well, this is why I had my shirt off because I was trying to protect this gift. Well, now I feel like a complete jerk.

He says, I know you’re going to be having a baby soon. And I didn’t know what to get you. By the way, he didn’t need to get me anything. Students don’t really get things for their teachers. Some of the girls, I remember Maura quilted a blanket like a playmat, and I remember Rachel and some friends got together and got a fleece yellow blanket that was really sweet.

But typically, students don’t need to get their professors gifts for having a baby. Manny hands me this package. Mostly dry, a little bit wet. I open the package and it’s newborn diapers. Like, very newborn diapers. And I’m thinking, diapers? What is he, what? Okay, yeah, babies need diapers. And he says, I asked my sister who has a couple of kids, what I should get you. And she said, well, you can’t go wrong with diapers. That’s true. But I’m thinking to myself, they’re newborn. Who knows how big this baby is going to be. Anyway, all the things were going through my mind, but I said, thank you very much. I wasn’t going to see him again, probably before I went on maternity leave.

So fast forward to just a couple of days later, I went into labor. Didn’t actually go into labor, was induced a month early because of preeclampsia. I got to the hospital and thought they were just checking on me. They said we’re putting you in the hospital. I said I’m not ready. I just finished exams at the University. I was planning to nest this next month. I still had a month to go and that was over the holidays and my break from the University. They said well, the doctor asked do you have a car seat? And I said, yeah, we have a car seat. Do you have a camera?  Yeah, because it was back in the day when you had an external camera instead of your phone. Then she said, do you have diapers? And I thought yes, I do have diapers. This baby is going to be a month early so probably that newborn size is perfect. The moral of the story is that you never know what’s going to happen and how somebody using their voice and speaking up is going to affect you in your life in very surprising ways. 

Thank you to Manny, who I haven’t seen for 19 years, for bringing me diapers. They were much appreciated and needed. Use your voice in whatever strange way you need to use your voice. You never know how it might impact another person. Say thank you, be grateful, and act on your instincts.


Jen V. & JRT

Jen Vellenga and Jennifer Rettele-Thomas are the co-founders of Voice First World®, a communication and executive coaching company. They train executives and leaders on the Presence Paradigm™, a communication technique created from Jen V’s decades of training actors to perform authentically, with presence, on stages, on audio, and video. If you want to learn more about how to speak and lead confidently, book a discovery call at

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Jen has been magical in helping me to identify my voice and my VOICE! The ways that she has holistically addressed my strengths and my areas of improvement have all made me feel so much more confident.

-Cate R.
Politician, Chicago, IL