Erinn Diaz: Entrepreneur, Performer, Author, Optimist
I will bet that you already know what you need to do to achieve all of your goals, dreams and desires. So why haven’t you achieved all of them?
Let’s say for example one of your dreams is to get into shape. Besides some serious medical conditions, to do this, all you have to do is eat healthy and exercise. Educate yourself on health with the amazing resources available to you- most of them at no charge.
But chances are, you already knew that.
So why haven’t you achieved that dream? Excuses could include “it was somebody’s birthday and there was cake”, or “I just don’t have the time to work out” or “I needed to spend time with my kids” or “I don’t have the money for a gym membership”. But you’re stronger and smarter than that. For each and every “excuse” you have, find a solution. Don’t eat the cake. Make the time to work out by getting up earlier. Exercise with your kids and get them on a healthy lifestyle too. Do a free online exercise video instead of the gym membership.
Let’s say one of your dreams is to start your own business. Possible excuses could be “I don’t have the capital”, “I just don’t have time”, “My friends don’t think I have the knowledge” or “I don’t want to lose my security”…. To those excuses: find the ways to raise the capital, make time if it’s truly what you want, stop listening to the “naysayers” and realize that you have more security being self-employed as when you are employed you have the daily risk of being fired at any time.
For each and every one of your goals or dreams that haven’t yet come true, I’m sure you could sit down and make a list of excuses as to why they have not. But I’m here to promise you today that an excuse is nothing more than a waste of your breath and brain cells.
People will disappoint you. It’s OK. Just don’t disappoint yourself. Don’t let others not doing what they say they are going to do demotivate you or hinder you from reaching the highest potential you can achieve.
So today, I challenge you to find a way to become stronger than your excuses. Pick one of your goals/dreams/desires and RIGHT NOW do something towards making that happen. Instead of explaining to yourself or a friend why you don’t have what you want, take that same amount of time and (as Nike puts it) JUST DO IT. You are the only thing getting in your own way. And you’re worth it.
“It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small, and the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all”.
Any Disney fan will recognize that quote from the movie Frozen when the character Elsa finally unleashes her powers she had kept secret for years and walks into the unknown creating her future out of thin air.
Temporarily living in another country with my business partners has been the best thing for my businesses in the United States. First of all, the time change makes working very easy… since mostly everyone we work with is 6-8 hours behind, at the end of your working day theirs is just beginning, so you literally feel an entire day ahead! I also need very little sleep, so on days when we weren’t doing anything in particular, I would work throughout the night, getting some time when folks are working as well!
But more than the time change is the isolation and time to think and see things at a distance. There have been several projects and business challenges that seemed impossible while in them, but now that we’ve all taken the time to get some distance and talk about them with a clear mind they are so VERY possible. EVERYTHING truly is possible.
One of my favorite days in Italy so far has been bathing “under the Tuscan sun” at the natural baths in Tuscany. We went with some amazing friends, Lucy and Esteban, and the entire day was spent relaxing and talking about life in the hot and therapeutic mineral waters. The springs have been used for their curative properties since the time of the Romans, who believed that the Sulphur water came from Hades, God of the underworld. I can say it did smell like it was from the underworld! But blend of magnesium, calcium and Sulphur bicarbonate is so healing to your skin… there’s no way these natural wonders could come from hell. :)
When I returned to the apartment I had a new sense of clarity and renewed energy with a completely different perspective to all my challenges… which in fact weren’t challenges at all and are all sorted out now.
So, when you feel overwhelmed with life or behind in your work, the best thing you can do is to go against every instinct in your soul to keep working as hard as you can…. and step away. Not so long that you’ll not have time to finish your project on time or make your deadline, but long enough so you can get some distance…. to see clearly.
I was completely unaware of how beautiful olive oil is until living in Italy.
Last week, we had one of the most amazing experiences that a world traveler could ever dream of. Lisa’s friend of many years, Esteban who is a world-class sommelier picked us up in Perugia along with his colleague Matteo, and they gave us the true Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio EXPERIENCE!
The Italian countryside was beautiful that morning. We were in the Umbria region, which is famous for being green all year long. The culture is that of tradition, beauty and quality of life… and there are rolling hills with churches and castles on the hills that truly make it breathtaking.
Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio is proud to use only self-sustaining energy… we would call it “green” in America, but they truly take it to the next level. Their “360 Green Revolution” project is aimed at tackling the environmental impacts of the company and increasing the quality of life of the people working on their farm. Not only do they create all their own energy, but they have completely reduced their greenhouse gas emissions, AND they even provide bicycles and electric vehicles to their employees and guests.
We arrived at Monte Vibano and first visited the Olive trees located in the hills surrounding their castle. There are over 12,000 trees on the property, and some of them are over 1000 years old and still producing strong! The production varies from harvest to harvest every year, and only the best is developed. If it doesn’t match up to their quality standards… well they just don’t make as much that year. Not only that, but each process in making the oil is done BY HAND, so there truly is no room for mechanical error, and an amazing product is produced without fail every single batch. The part of the olive that isn’t used to make the delicious high-quality extra virgin oil goes into their cosmetics and beauty creams. The creams represent a new standard in antioxidants for the skin and are rich in polyphenols.
We took a walk to the beautiful Lorenzo vineyard, named after the CEO of the company, Lorenzo Fasola Bologna. The family still lives in the castle, and if you’re invited, there is an extremely exclusive wine club where you can purchase your very own private vine that a personalized wine is made from. Stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro are part of this club that is for true wine lovers, and is one of a kind in the world.
Each year, Monte Vibano grows eight different grape varieties, creating a wine that Bacchus, (the Roman God of wine) can truly smile upon. Like the olive oil, the process for making their exclusive wines is also done completely by hand. Upon a wine tasting, we discovered that the results were outstanding! Some of the softest and most delectable wine I have ever tasted. The entire team at the vineyard was truly special and you could tell there was a passion for working there. The day ended up with an outstanding meal with a panoramic view of the hills and castles in the region.
The good things in life are worth waiting for. Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio will always create a quality product… or no product at all. Other companies might cut corners or make excuses to allow their quality to suffer like not keeping up with production, but Monte Vibiano doesn’t put money first…they put quality first each and every time. And because of this, the success they have achieved is beyond the family’s wildest expectations. As you’re making choices this week in your own lives and businesses, try to adopt the policy of “quality or nothing” and hold yourself to a higher standard. After all… you’re worth it. :)
Myself, my husband Nelson and my business partner Lisa have been living and working in Italy since the beginning of the year, and so far, every day has included a different unexpected and wonderful experience.
This is my first time to the “boot” of the world, and when our friend Kyla came to visit this week, we decided to take a trip to Florence overnight. Nelson and Lisa had already been several times, so it was just us “newbies”.
We left our apartment in Perugia and took the mini-metro (an adorable space-like looking car that takes passengers down the mountain) and arrived at the train station. When we were waiting for our train at the bottom of the mountain, we had an interesting incident with two young men who followed us from the station café through the station, to the broken down ATM, across the street and around the grocery store, but thankfully we separated and lost them before getting on the train.
Two hours later, we arrived in Florence which is one of the most gorgeous cities I have ever seen in my entire lifetime. We checked into our Air B&B which was lovely and walked through the door to the city (yes, an ACTUAL door that leads to the city!) and arrived at Gusta Pizza where we had a beautiful bottle of local wine and THE most incredible pizza. It was so good in fact, we went back to that very same restaurant for the very same thing the next day.
The first thing we thought we saw was the Duomo, but it was actually the Santa Maria Del Carmine. Once we noticed the difference we were in AWE. We made it to the Duomo just before sunset and our jaws dropped as we marveled at the beauty, size and detail of the cathedral. The Santa Maria Del Carmine is lovely, but goodness…. There’s NOTHING like the Duomo. I feel like that’s the way much of life is… looking at one marvel thinking it is the most incredible only to look in the other direction to witness something even more stunning. We enjoyed drinks at a rooftop that overlooked the dome at sunset.
There were so many amazing sights to take in… we strolled along the lovely Arno River and across the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, window shopped down Via de’ Tornabuoni, and enjoyed gelato and cappuccino in a small café in the city. Traveling with Kyla was lovely, especially since we had both never seen the city before and wanted to check out everything. It was a bit chilly, so we got some lovely scarves in the San Lorenzo Market that kept us toasty as we explored. I was surprised at the number of dogs that just jaunted down the street by themselves as if they were hurrying off to their work or families.
As we were walking just after dark down a quiet street, we saw a garden on the opposite side of the small road, and decided to peek in. The second I stepped into the street, I heard an incredibly loud scream and turned my head just in time to see a giant head of curly brown hair and a woman going at full speed on her bike CRASH right into me! The entire left side of my body was throbbing and her face was full of rage at this tourist who just walked in front of her on her way home. But then as I looked in her eyes she immediately looked at me and smiled, held my hand and we asked each other if we were ok for what seemed like 5 minutes, wished each other well and she rode off. The bruises on my arm will fade soon, but the look of that Italian woman crashing into me will always remain and make me laugh out loud each time I think of it!
We walked to the Gate of St Nicholas, and then to the incredible Piazza della Signoria where we saw amazing beautiful statues and sculptures, including Michalangelo’s David! Though it wasn’t the real one as we found out later. We had the most incredible experience eating dinner at Il Cantastorie, with a view of the Imbrattata statue di Fischer and the new Gucci museum. We indulged on amazing bruschetta, mouthwatering pasta and enjoyed a bottle of Modus, a beautiful deep Tuscan wine. We met some new friends who took us to The Red Garter, a karaoke bar that was definitely not my usual kind of hangout. I went onstage to sing, and the room that had started up just a loud party changed completely…. The balcony was filled with young men who were screaming and reaching out, the entire crowd was staring at me, singing along and screaming and taking pictures… one guy even reached up to the stage holding out his fingers and got so excited when I bent down to touch his hand. When I got off the stage, Kyla took a picture of me with some random Italians who wanted one…little did I know I was being mistaken for the famous Dianna Argon! So I just owned it, made everyone a little happier, and it was a BLAST.
We walked through the gardens all the way to the top of the Piazzale Michelangelo where we saw the most beautiful panoramic view of Florence. We also thought once again that we saw the real David, but it was just a larger, greener one. We also had delectable Gnocchi at a quiet restaurant made of glass overlooking the Piazza della Repubblica and on the way out, we made a grand exit as Kyla set off her personal alarm system!
Outside the Leonardo da Vinci museum, there was a stunning statue of Leonardo sitting on the steps of the museum. As I went to take a selfie with the statue, I put my hand on it and it moved and looked at me! I had NO idea it was a living statue and screamed at the top of my little lungs.
So far, public restrooms have been my only personal challenge in Italy. With rare exceptions, they range from inadequate to disgusting. In one ladies restroom in Florence, there was a two-way mirror with a man watching on the other side! But the worst thing of all is that in many of the public restrooms there are NO toilet seats. There’s also generally no soap and broken hand-dryers as well. The reason for this is that apparently, Italian people stand on top of the public toilet seats and break them. It reminded me how important it is to appreciate everything in your life, even the little things. I can tell you that this American woman will never take another toilet seat for granted. xo
When First in Flight Entertainment was first starting as a business, I was eager to grow our database of performers, and literally auditioned thousands of acts of all kinds…. dancers, singers, impersonators, hula hoop artists, clowns, storytellers, magicians, fire eaters… you name it, I saw it!
One of the most unique and amazing talents I ever saw (and have ever seen to this date) is a young man who has become my friend over the past 11 years, Erik Dobell. Erik is a mentalist… and what that means is that he uses his unique skills to give the illusion of mind reading and psychokinesis to awe-struck audiences.
It’s no surprise that Erik has achieved incredible success. Our family went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee this year for Christmas, and one of the highlights of our trip was going to see Erik’s standing show, “Impossibilities” at the Iris Theatre. It’s not every day that you get to experience comedy, drama and feats of mentalism all in one place!
With so many other acts out there, what is it that makes Erik such a success? If I had to choose one thing, I would say it’s his amazing ability to come up with his own material over and over and over again. I’ve seen Erik preform for years, and just when I think the show can’t get any better, Erik comes up with something new and completely original that knocks my socks off.
As an artist, I am constantly striving to find the “unique” in my performances, even though my primary art form is paying tribute to the artists of USO in the past. It is simply amazing that we live in a world with hundreds of thousands of singers, dancers, magicians, artists… even a handful of mentalists… and yet each voice- each act- each personality is so different that one could never see all of the beauty and art out there in a single lifespan. I am constantly in awe of humanity, and of naturally brilliant performers like Erik.
Today, onstage or offstage, I encourage you to find what makes you unique, and touch others as only you can. AND as a treat to your unique self… if you’re anywhere near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, go check out Erik Dobell and Impossibilities at the Iris Theatre (Click HERE for their website)!
I LOVE new years.
January 1st is an opportunity for everyone to hit the “reset” button, to reflect on the past year, to better themselves and to strive to be more awesome than last year. It’s the perfect time to be grateful for all you’ve done, and to write down everything you want to do.
I’ve had several folks ask me to share my goal setting “process” for the year, so here goes! I first suggest taking some time to go through your memories for 2017. Look at your pictures from the year, review your calendar and remember get-togethers or vacations, be thankful for milestones and think about the relationships you have and how they’ve changed. I love writing a short summary of the year in my journal and seeing just how far things have progressed.
THEN the real fun begins…. The goal setting! I challenge each and every one of you to take a notebook and give some serious thought to where you want to be next year at this time… What do you want to change about your life? What do you want to change about yourself? How do you want to help other people? How can you make the world a better place? Write it down in great detail…it doesn’t have to be long but do make sure it’s specific so you will know just when you’ve reached your goal.
One of our amazing performers, Tiffany Ashton just headlined at our Big Night Nashville event with her band in Tennessee, and the morning of the event, she did a television interview. While they were live, the anchor asked her what her resolution was, and Tiffany answered that it was to just take everything in her life to the next level….. personally, in her career and also with her relationships. And I must say, though I have a list of several goals I’ve written out, I believe Tiffany has the right idea. First, make sure you are on track for what you truly want, and once you are, just keep at it… and be more awesome than last year.
For everyone who is reading this, I truly wish you THE VERY BEST. Leave all of the negative that might have happened in 2017 and recognize ALL of the good that happened in the year. Choose your happiness and change the world. Love and peace. xoxo
This year, I wrote an entirely new holiday show for Letters From Home. One of everyone’s favorite parts of the show was not a song or a dance, but a monologue I wrote for Nelson that told the story of the Christmas Truce during WWII.
In the four years between 1914 and 1918, WWI killed or wounded more than 25 million people. The soldiers fighting in the cold trenches were familiar enough with the realities of combat to have lost much of the idealism that they had carried into war, and most longed for an end to bloodshed. The war, they had believed, would be over by Christmas, yet there they were in Christmas week still muddied, cold and in battle. But even through the devastation, there were still moments of joy and hope in the trenches of Flanders Field, and one of the most remarkable stories came during the first Christmas of the war.
The first signs that something unusual was happening occurred on Christmas Eve. At 8:30pm, an officer of the Royal Irish Rifles reported to headquarters, saying: “Germans have illuminated their trenches, they’re singing songs and wishing us a Happy Christmas. Compliments are being exchanged but we are nevertheless taking all military precautions.”
The evening went on, and the two sides began serenading each other with carols….. the Germans sang silent night while the British started The First Noel. A few scouts met cautiously in no mans land… the shell-blasted waste between the trenches. A young man named Private Murker met a German on patrol, and was given a glass of whisky and some cigars, and a message to send back saying “If you don’t fire at us, we won’t fire at you”.
Later that night, the truce began with a German soldier shouting: “English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas to you”!
For some little time the troops were cautious, and did not even answer. Officers, fearing treachery, ordered the men to be silent.
But up and down the line, the men started answering the Christmas greetings from the enemy. They did not resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though they knew what tomorrow might bring.
Blood and peace, enmity and fraternity…. War’s most amazing paradox.
Not a shot was fired.
The next morning, the war was on again, and there would be no further truce until the general armistice of November 1918. Many of those soldiers who celebrated Christmas together that year would not live to see the return of peace. But for those who did survive, the truce was something that would never be forgotten.
The holidays are a time to reflect, love one another and be grateful for the good things that we have and see every day. This holiday season, we hope that no matter what battles you may be fighting in your OWN life, that you’ll allow the spirit of the season to bring peace into your heart. xoxox
Today, in honor of the anniversary of prohibition ending on December 5, 1933, we visited the Wild Turkey distillery right along the beautiful Kentucky Bourbon Trail. What an experience!
The distillery is a true American icon and embodies a real tradition of rural craftsmanship of the highest quality. In 1891, Thomas Ripy built the Old Hickory Distillery in Tyrone, Kentucky, and after the prohibition, the Ripey family repaired the distillery and began to again produce bourbon. The Ripys sold the bourbon produced at this distillery to various wholesalers who bottled bourbon under their own brands, and the "Wild Turkey" brand arose when a young executive took some warehouse samples on a wild turkey hunting trip in 1940. The bourbon proved so popular among his friends they continued to ask him for "that wild turkey bourbon."
Outside the distillery, there were three silos, one of corn, one of rye and one of barley…. The silo for corn being the largest, because for whisky to be named bourbon, it has to be at least 51 percent corn! How “corny” is that? As we walked in the distillery, the strong scent like freshly baking bread filled the room.
The first room was where the “mash” was being made, mainly sugar water was being created from grain. My favorite room was where they mixed the mash with the yeast in these massive vats called “Wash Backs.” This is where yeast is added and the fermentation process begins! It was amazing to see the vats bubbling with the “live and active culture” that yeast is! The entire operation is run by surprisingly few staff, and they have it down to a science.
There is a TRUE family sense around the distillery- proven by the loyalty of employees like Jimmy Russell who holds the record as longest master distiller in the industry! He started working for Wild Turkey in 1954, and STILL comes to work 7 days a week at age 81! The family named a special batch of whisky after him that we got to taste called “Russell’s Reserve”, and it was smooth and delicious! We weren’t lucky enough to catch Jimmy at work today, but everyone speaks very highly of him!
We also got to walk into the warehouses where they actually keep the aging barrels. Currently, there are 700,000 barrels of whisky on the property! (And that is NOT a typo)!
The warehouses and surrounding areas have a black residue all over it, and it is a type of fungus known as “angels share fungus”… it’s not harmful, but it used to cause a heap of trouble during prohibition, as it would expose those illegally making moonshine! “Angels share” is a term that is used to describe the evaporation that occurs when the whisky is aging in the barrels.
The entire family is into the business… which is no surprise considering Wild Turkey makes so much money that they are paying 1.5 million dollars in TAXES alone EVERY 15 DAYS. Now THAT’s wild!
But one of the things that was just wonderful to hear from the staff is that bourbon and whisky distillers just love one another and don’t even bother feeling or feeding into the word “competition”. Many distilleries along the Kentucky bourbon trail are just one big family, and enjoy helping each other out and lending a hand when they can. I believe that “riches” come freely to those who do their work with an open heart and wish to see successes for everyone.
The moment we arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I felt right at home in my cowboy boots! We stayed at the beautiful Buffalo Thunder resort, enjoyed a Mexican breakfast larger than a regular week of meals, and wondered around the casino and shops. We also enjoyed a short visit into downtown Santa Fe before our show, where we saw the incredible Loretto Chapel that has a miraculous story!
In my travels, I have visited many beautiful houses of worship, but none quite like the Loretto. The chapel was constructed somewhere in the 19th century. After it was built, the nuns realized they had made a terrible mistake, as there was no staircase built to take them to the choir loft, and no way to build supports for such a staircase that was needed. The nuns began to pray, and after 9 days, a stranger knocked at the door and said that he was a carpenter who could help them build the staircase.
The young man went to work and constructed the staircase, all by himself, and none knew how the staircase could stand by itself as it did not have a central support. Then the carpenter, who did not use a single nail or glue to construct this staircase, disappeared without even waiting for his payment. The nuns believed that this man was St. Joseph himself. The staircase has 33 steps, the age of Jesus Christ.
Since then, the staircase has been called "miraculous", because to this VERY DAY, the identity of the builder is not known, and architects, engineers and scientists say that they cannot understand how this staircase can balance without any central support! Also, no one knows where the wood came from, as it does not exist in the entire region.
Life is good. And…. this is just more proof that magic truly is EVERYWHERE.
I very rarely say this about a film, but if you haven’t seen the new “Wonder Woman” movie yet, I highly suggest you make some time to do so. Not only is it action-packed with a great storyline, but how she saves the world at the end of the movie is a life lesson we should all consider.
I love facebook and believe it is an amazing communication tool. I get to see pictures of friends and family all across the globe that I rarely see in person, and it brings us closer together than ever before. My family that lives 800 miles away can all instantly see where we are on tour, and I can be a part of weddings or celebrations that I couldn’t fly in for. However lately, there has been a huge shift on facebook with many posts of hatred, much of the time towards politics and politicians.
Being a huge believer of the law of attraction, to me, these posts defeat the purpose of why they were posted. A lot of my friends say they are “fighting with love”, and yet still post negative and nasty words towards others they feel are being unfair or unjust. All this is doing is pouring energy into the thing that is “hated” in the first place. Have you noticed that the politicians who usually are the most disliked on social media are the ones who get elected over and over again? I believe that this is largely in part of a great deal of energy going into that person. Positive or negative, it’s still ENERGY, and things with more energy tend to grow.
So today, I encourage whoever might be reading to stop pouring energy into what you dislike, and instead focus hard on what you do want. Truly focus hard on love. If you are anti-war, don’t post about being anti-war… post about how you are pro-peace. If you don’t like something a politician is doing, don’t post about it and complain, instead find something that can help the situation and post about what you love about it.
I encourage each and every one of you to keep standing up for what you believe in, (and to appreciate the fact that if you live in America you CAN stand up for what you believe in because of our amazing freedom)! But instead of being anti-war…. be pro-peace. Instead of posting negative pictures and nasty things about politicians you don’t like, post about the good examples of the people and situations that are loving and making great things happen. Stop putting energy into hate, even if your intentions are pure.
At the end of the film, confused and disappointed in mankind, Diana (AKA Wonder Woman) has a choice. She is told from all angles that mankind “doesn’t deserve” her help. And she comes to the realization that it’s NOT about “deserve”…. It’s about what you believe. That’s when she chooses love over destruction, and (literally) saves the world.
Right now, take a deep breath, and a moment to find your inner happiness and love so that you can begin to share it. Think before you post and make sure you’re putting energy into what you want to be putting energy into. Every one of us has a small desire to be “Wonder Woman/Wonder Man”, and this is how to start.
November is a great month, as my two favorite holidays, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving both fall inside. When the entire country takes a moment to stop and be grateful, I believe that it truly changes the shape and path of the universe to allow even more abundance all over the world.
When we were in Texarcana (the city that is split between Texas and Arkansas) performing this week, we were invited to a Thanksgiving service at the Cowboy Church, a beautiful congregation built by the members of the church with a genuinely warm feel. One by one, each family in attendance got up to the microphone to say what they were thankful for this year. In under an hour, we heard close to 100 stories full of gratitude for engagements, new babies, friendships, everyday love, new jobs, new homes, foundations, pets, fulfilling hobbies and on and on and on.
The fact is, if we look around, we will always find there is so much abundance around us. Even if you might be feeling “lack” in any area of your life, when you sit down and appreciate all of your current bites of happiness, you will just keep coming up with more and more and more. Not only that, but I have found that the more I appreciate something, the more I receive of it. It’s like a brain wave that keeps subconsciously putting things out there… the more I am grateful for the love in my life, the more love I receive and feel.
As cheesy as it might sound, I hope that when you’re sitting around enjoying the company of others today on Thanksgiving, that you’ll share what it is you’re most thankful for aloud with a full heart. Stop and write down a list of all of the things you are grateful for since last Thanksgiving. I’ll post my “attitude of gratitude” list, and I hope that you’ll share yours in the comments below as well. But the first thing on my list is this: I am thankful for you… yes, YOU… sitting there at your screen taking the time to read what I am moved to write. I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart, and wish you all the love in the universe. xoxox
Erinn’s ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ List, Nov 2016-Nov 2017:
I can’t tell you exactly how many public restrooms I have used in my lifetime, but between my daily traveling in the truck and trailer with Letters From Home, the road trips I took with my parents growing up, and living in two different states, I guarantee you it’s plenty to make me an expert.
When I was a kid, my dad drilled into my head to always leave things nicer than I found them. Dad and I were always volunteering backstage at the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, our community theatre in town, and after helping to strike each show, we would make sure that every dressing room mirror was wiped clean, every corner of the rooms and stage were swept and all the light gels were put back in the proper place… even if they weren’t when we got to the space in the first place.
While driving through Texas this week, we stopped at a restroom that was a little less than our usual standards, and as I was tidying up, I caught myself saying in my head, “leave it just a little nicer”.
Earlier this week, while we were eating out in New Mexico, after our meal, I caught Nelson straightening up the table, putting the trash and extra food on one plate, picking up the straw wrappers and stacking items… just to make the server’s day “just a little nicer”.
I got a random email from one of my Spring Theatre kids this week, letting me know how influential my guidance had been to her, and how it helped make her who she was today. It came out of nowhere and was so sweet and made my day…. “just a little nicer”.
While we were at the American Legion in Arkansas this week, there was a beautiful memorial honoring all 5 branches of the armed forces in the front. Courtney and I walked the path that was lined with small American flags, and one had been knocked over by the wind. Courtney stopped, picked it up and secured it, making it…”just a little nicer”.
You hear folks talking about how “the little things” matter all the time. So today, I challenge you to make the world “just a little nicer”…... leave the spaces you visit nicer than they were when you got there, send someone a text just because, make a baby smile with a goofy face across the room, pay someone a genuine compliment, leave the public restroom just a little cleaner than you found it…
……and while you’re in the act of doing that, realize that you are literally making the world a better place.
Veterans day has become my favorite holiday over the years. A day of celebrating those who served so that we can enjoy the freedoms we do EVERY single day. It’s not a day of mourning or remembrance, but a day to smile, feel proud to be an American and shake the hands of our true heroes.
This veteran’s day was especially beautiful. We had the honor of being in the 21st annual Phoenix Veterans Day Parade in Arizona. This parade is one of the largest veteran’s day parades in the country, and it is truly a spectacle to see. There were over 45,000 in attendance, not including the 2500 participants who were in the parade!
Our float was sponsored by APS, lead by the incredible Terry & Deb Ricketts. They are wonderful, warm and vibrant people who feel like family the minute you meet them. The float was surrounded by over a dozen clowns dressed like Uncle Sam and a beautiful eagle with a moving torso and head!
As we were waiting for the parade to start, we had a few hours to meet so many of the parade participants. Active military, Korean war veterans, Vietnam veterans, Reenactors, The Miss Arizona's, and so many of the country’s supporters, including Colonel Martha McSally, who is now a congresswoman, and was the first woman fighter pilot in history! Martha flew in combat following the 1991 lifting of the prohibition on woman combat pilots, and flew the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt 'Warthog' close air support aircraft over Iraq and Kuwait during Operation Southern Watch.
One of the most amazing honors of the day was hugging and singing to Ray Chavez, the oldest living Pearl Harbor veteran who recently had his 105th birthday. Ray was in the United States Navy, and if you’d like to watch a short documentary the History Channel produced on him you can CLICK HERE. My hands were shaking as I met this true hero.
As the parade started on it’s route, I was overcome with emotion. My dad would have been so happy to see so many patriots showing nothing but LOVE for our country. Not only were they honoring our veterans, but they were excited about America. Little kids, teenagers, adults and seniors alike were lined up on the streets in their red white and blue with genuine happiness, thanks and love towards our country. Even passing by the veteran’s home, there were dozens of men and women in their wheelchairs smiling, waving flags and saluting.
It’s this kind of love that I talk about in every show. With things like the news and facebook trying to get into our homes and hearts with negativity, the beautiful acts of love are not always featured on the news and in the media like I believe they should be. Our lives are our own and free because of those who put their fellow man before themselves. I am a humbled, proud American and so thankful for our veterans every day. xoxox
Our country is outstandingly beautiful.
Though I’m definitely a city girl at heart, there’s no doubt that the vast land of the west is truly a sight to behold. We left the theatre in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (see my previous blog about English River Outfitters and all they do for veterans!) and went to Kansas City, Missouri, where we had a small and meaningful show at a community known as Riverstone. Outside the tiny theatre, there was a wall of tribute to all of the veterans that were residents at Riverstone, complete with active duty photographs of these men and women when they were young adults. It was so emotional to see the wall, and to meet so many of the veterans in the audience. I’ve said it before, and it still stands true…. We truly have the greatest seat in the house when we perform Letters From Home. Sometimes we’ll see a memory flood back, sometimes tears of joy or remembrance will creep into the corners of their eyes. Young men who are now in their twilight are suddenly 19-years old again in their hearts. My cousin, Debbie and her family came to the show as well, and after we all went out to celebrate her birthday and taste some famous Kansas City barbecue.
We left Missouri and went to WaKeeney, Kansas... a very small town… so small in fact that we only saw one car pass the entire time when we were loading in at the auditorium! This show was a joint venture put on by the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW and the American Legion and was for all veterans and community members. And what a FUN crowd! We found out after the show that one gentleman we pulled up onstage had just recovered from serious health issues and his smile was broad as he beamed onstage. Some folks came from 5 hours away for the concert! It was wonderful to be in a new area with new friends. We had the opportunity to visit the stunning Kansas Veterans Cemetery as well.
Yesterday’s show was in Dodge City, Kansas… tracing it’s origins to 1871 when rancher Henry Silter built a sod house west of Fort Dodge to oversee his cattle operations in the region. With a population of only 27,000, Dodge City is rowdy in spirit and old western heritage! Our performance was at the American Legion, and not only were several community members and veterans in attendance, but there was a busload of incredible veterans from the Kansas Veterans Home. These men and women all had their own unique story, but one in particular, Lewis, was a Prisoner of War from 1961-1980. It was an honor to meet such a hero, and what a strong man to survive everything he was put through for so long. A visit to the Boot Hill Casino & Resort after the show for dinner made for an enjoyable end to the evening.
Well, we got out of Dodge (literally!) and traveled through Oklahoma! Courtney and Nelson cringed as I played the Oklahoma soundtrack along our way. The land was rich and beautiful with nothing but farms and oil drills for miles upon miles. We stopped at an adorable little place called Margarita’s for lunch and met the owner (Margarita) who made the most delicious warm, doughy sopapillas I have ever eaten! And now we’re back on the road… listening to some western music on the way to New Mexico where we’ll be stopping later this evening. Wishing you all a beautiful sunrise, health, wisdom and light.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa is an outstanding city!
We arrived yesterday afternoon, and went to load in at the stunning theatre located inside the Veterans Memorial building in downtown Cedar Rapids. What an incredible building! Not only does the building host a amazing theatre, but there is a museum in the front, and a memorial to Spanish American War Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, AmVets, The Marine Corps League and veterans of WWI.
This show was a concert to benefit “Healing at English River Outfitters”, one of the most effective and humble organizations I have ever been honored to perform for. Healing at English River Outfitters (HERO) started on the belief that there is healing in nature, and they emphasize an outdoor experience where veterans can fish, hunt, and hike in the woodlands surrounding their facilities. Veterans with physical disabilities are able to participate fully using all-terrain wheelchairs that HERO provides.
HERO all started in May 2008 by 23-year military veteran Chuck Geertz, During its first year, English River Outfitters hosted just 6 veterans. The property was a very primitive site with no buildings, electricity, indoor plumbing or water. It was so effective and there was such a need that during the next 5 years English River Outfitters experienced tremendous growth. The site now features a finished lodge that is 30 x 40 and can accommodate 10 veterans at a time. In addition to having running water and electricity, the facility also has a deck and patio with a fire pit and fishing pond for families to enjoy, and the grounds have numerous trails and woodlands for hunting and hiking.
Now, over 2400 Veterans and their families have been served by HERO, 3 families have avoided divorce through HERO’s peer-to-peer approach, and 19 veterans with PTSD who were considering suicide experienced healing and restoration at HERO!
There were Korean, Cold War, Golf War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in attendance, and I was especially excited to see so many lady veterans at the show who were a part of HERO. There were shared tears of remembrance, laughter and honor. My heart explodes with love for these men and women, and for humans like Chuck Geetz, who truly make a difference in this beautiful country.
Support Chuck and his efforts at HERO by visiting his website at www.englishriveroutfitters.org
In jobs that I had previously to being an entrepreneur, I could never understand the emotion of jealousy that went on in staff meetings with other companies. If a competing organization would have a success, I clearly remember on several occasions my bosses and co-workers getting bitter about their success, seeing it as a hurt to their business. But I don’t see it that way at all, and never have.
The principle of working together is why I started the North Carolina Triad Theatre League. Almost three years ago now, I invited all of the theatre producers the Piedmont Triad to Spring Theatre, (my non profit company), so we could all sit in one room together to see if there was an interest in creating deeper relationships between each other. What has developed since has been a beautiful thing. Rosina Whitfield of The Drama Center of City Arts came to that meeting, and expressed that she had a genuine interest in something like this for years.
And so… the NC Triad Theatre League was born!
The league is an alliance of theatrical organizations who have come together to unify and sustain our collective missions, to be inclusive of the entire Triad community of all ages and backgrounds, and to provide collaboration and resources for a stronger arts community. Our members have come together to share resources such as costumes, prop pieces or storage, and we have become a resource to each other for hiring actors, designers or directors.
Every other month, the theatre producers all sit down and discuss upcoming theatre news and needs and ways to strengthen our theatrical community. This year was the first year that we had an official organizational and individual membership, and the league received much press. Some of the events this year included producing unified auditions at Triad Stage, where actors could come and do one audition for over a dozen theatres at one time, and the Triad Theatre Festival at GTCC, an entire day of celebrating theatre on two stages to create performance opportunities and gain new audiences. The league also produces also an e-newsletter, a facebook page, a forum, workshops, and networking events for members such as potlucks. You can also see what’s going on anytime in the Triad by visiting www.TriadTheatre.com for dates and upcoming shows from all our members.
This Sunday, October 29th at 6pm, we’ll be hosting a season kick off at Wolfgang Puck Restaurant at Friendly Center in Greensboro. This free event is open to the public, and dinner is included! If you’d like to get involved with the NC Triad Theatre league, this is a perfect opportunity. We welcome all ideas, and will also be signing up committee members for our various 2018 endeavors! It’s also just a great way to network with fellow producers and performers in the area and show your support of the arts.
Hellen Keller once said “alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. If you’re struggling to achieve your goals in life, you might want to look for like minded individuals who have the same goals, and see what you can do together. After all, individually we are one drop, but together, we are an OCEAN.
If you take into account all of the millions of people that reside there, Hong Kong is overall an extremely clean city. The public areas are kept wide open to make room for the massive waves of business associates, residents and tourists that pass through on foot every single day.
The first Sunday we spent in Hong Kong was quite a shock! Nelson’s son Max told us we would be surprised but didn’t tell us why. When we left the apartment that morning, we went towards the IFC as we regularly did, and as soon as we got to the public areas where there was usually just open space, we could see thousands of people living on the street in makeshift cardboard rooms! Block after block we walked, and block after block saw more and more people in these temporary homes. They were eating, doing their hair and nails, singing, playing cards, sleeping…. There were even church services and dance parties happening in some of the more crowded areas and some streets were completely closed off to make room for all of the mini homes.
We found out that most of the upper-class business people of Hong Kong that have children have live in nannies. Monday through Saturday, these nannies take care of the kids and the house for their boss, and Sunday is their only day off. With nowhere else to go, every Sunday a community is born from cardboard, and their day is spent off together.
It was surreal to see, like Hong Kong had turned into an alternate universe. The best part was witnessing the attitudes. Everyone was smiling, being productive or just enjoying fellowship with their co-workers, friends and family. Thinking back on the experience, I don’t think I saw one unhappy face in the entire bunch. These individuals who were spending their day in a piece of cardboard in the blistering heat were happier than many folks I have seen relaxing on vacation at 5-star luxury resorts.
I believe it’s because the only handicap anyone truly has in life is bad attitude. It doesn’t matter what cards you’ve been dealt, what physical limitations you might have or how challenging your work might be. It doesn’t matter if you live in a mansion or in a piece of cardboard once a week. It’s all about your attitude, and the most wonderful thing is, attitude is also the only thing in life you’ll always have 100% control of.
No matter how much good one does in this world, you should never think for an instant that you are “owed” anything for your actions. I was raised to believe that rewards should be something you are grateful for, not something you expect.
My husband often recalls a story of when he was on safari in Africa. While the group had stopped for water, a small animal came close to the vehicle, and a woman on the tour got excited at how sweet the animal was.
“Do you have anything I can feed him?” she asked.
“No, mum!” the tour guide replied curtly.
“Oh, but he’s so cute. Why?” the woman retorted, disappointed.
“Animals are just like people” said the guide. “If you feed them, they will keep coming back for more and will never learn how to get their own food”.
I love how this simple story is such a great example of how easy it is to have an entitled mindset in our modern society. You’ll often hear, “you deserve a break” or “you’re entitled to a discount”. This mindset that is drilled into us every day can give us a sense of entitlement, and for some makes it so they want or expect something for nothing.
While it’s very positive to EXPECT great things like reaping what you sow and finding the good in others, there’s a fine line between entitlement and expectation.
Personally, I found this mindset to be a huge challenge in my business when I first started hiring ten years ago. I had trouble when employees would come to me asking for additional paid days off, or telling me they were entitled to a bonus. I handled it poorly at first, as I would give them everything they wanted and sometimes more, thinking it would boost morale and productivity in the business! But alas, sooner than later the employee would just come back, this time with a more demanding attitude asking for more and never being satisfied.
In business and in life, I believe now that no matter how much you might want to “give away the farm”, you simply can’t. Not because you can’t be generous, but because when you give something not earned, you are depriving the recipient of the challenge of earning it and the satisfying feeling of reward from accomplishment.
I love to travel. And it’s a good thing, too, since I spend so much of my time doing it. I just finished calculating, and by the end of 2017, I will have spent a total of 66 days in my own bed (give or take 2-3 days that are still in the air)!
Experiencing different cultures first hand every day and adapting to different climates and living situations on the fly is a life experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Around every corner a traveler can see things from a different perspective, and most of the time will automatically begin sharing those experiences with everyone they encounter. I believe that when you enrich yourself through globe-trotting, you inadvertently begin enriching those around you through storytelling.
While chatting with a dear friend yesterday, he made me realize why I enjoy peregrination so much. It’s not the rush you get going to a new place for the first time, the excitement from trying a new food or the reflection of looking back on your photographs (though those are wonderful side effects)! The reason I love travel above all is that through it, one can enlist enlightenment.
You never know how much a story or an experience that you pass along can change someone’s world, attitude or entire outlook on life. So share your stories with the world! I hope to share several in the coming days on this very blog. I hope you’ll be reading… and hope that some of you may be enlightened as well!
Lately, it seems like anytime we turn on the news, check our facebook page, tune into the radio or pick up the phone, there is so much negativity and “bad news” out there that instantly floods into our homes and our hearts. Everywhere you look, you can find politics and negativity that the media reports each and every day. I have witnessed many friends feel sad and hopeless after “tuning in” for any length of time.
While I am not blind to the terrible things that are happening in the world, I would like to share with you my perspective on life that I hope sheds some light on what would appear to be the darkness of the world.
For the past several years, I have had such a unique opportunity to travel all over this planet, waking up in a different city almost every day. Throughout my travels, absolutely everywhere I go, I see thousands of amazing moments that you will never find on the news. Even at this very moment, somewhere in the world there are thousands of smiles, fundraisers, celebrations, charitable events, friends helping friends, hugs, works of art being created, stories being told and other random acts of kindness that the news just doesn’t report. Why? Because the good of the world is the RULE. The EXCEPTION is what they put on the news…. after all, that is what makes it “news”.
If you truly look around, you’ll see that love and kindness is everywhere. One of my favorite places is the airport. While waiting for my checked luggage, it is pure magic to look around and witness different kinds of love from friends and family being reunited at baggage claim. You can literally see smiles, hugs, tears of laughter and happiness all around you through different kinds of relationships and human interaction.
So, when you come across negativity and “bad news”, whether it be on facebook, the news, or if it just comes up in conversation, I encourage you not to feel discouraged. Because even with the faults of human kind, I promise you, there is much more good than evil in today’s world. There is much more positive than negative. I have seen this first hand everywhere I go.
There is a wonderful website out there I discovered a few years back called “The Good News Network”. On there you will find a lot of the good stories that the other media stations will not be covering. Check out their good work at: www.GoodNewsNetwork.com.
Everyone who knows me well knows that Mary Tyler Moore was my idol. Today I hope you’ll leave this blog humming lyrics to the theme song from her show, and remember that “love is all around”.
Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well, it’s you girl and you should know it.
With each glance, and every little movement you show it.
Love is all around, no need to waste it!
You can have your time, why don’t you take it?
You’re gonna make it after all.
This week, Letters From Home had the privilege of sailing and performing once again on the beautiful S.S. Legacy down the majestic Columbia and Snake Rivers on the west coast of the United States. If you haven’t been on an Un-Cruise Adventure, it’s something to put on your bucket list. The different adventures they provide are truly one of the most unique experiences you can encounter on earth.
The mission of Un-Cruise Adventures is to provide guests an enriching adventure travel experience and inspire an appreciation of local cultures and the natural world... and they do just that! This particular trip on the river is a truly beautiful one and the views are incredible. Around every corner is a different terrain, and as you open your window to greet each new day you never know what you’ll see outside! I have traveled on this itinerary 4 times with Un-Cruise, and have gotten to experience vineyard tours, Nez Perce storytellers, wine tastings, fish ladders, dams, locks, high speed jet boats, museums, waterfalls and wildlife.
While each of these experiences are lovely, what TRULY makes the trip isn’t those things at all….. it’s the company culture that an amazing leader, the owner of Un-Cruise Adventures, sets into place. I first met Dan Blanchard in 2013 when the S.S. Legacy first sailed from Seattle, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. Since Dan was a kid, he has always been around boats, and truly lives his passion for adventure. Dan has set a company culture of kindness and teamwork that is so strong that you can feel the love from each and every crew member from the moment you meet them to the time you disembark.
The Un-Cruise culture features the values of the company and maintains the direction of all of the team in the office and onboard. Due to the fact that there is such a strong culture, the company will always attract better talent and more importantly retain their crew.
The love for this company from all their employees is genuine. Since we are performing onboard, we get to hang out with the crew when they aren’t “on” in front of the passengers, and it is so nice to see that the kindness isn’t just a façade… all of them love the people they work with, and their job. These trips also have open bridge policy and I would spend many nights on the bridge looking at the stars and watching the crew navigate while engaging in conversation.
After that first trip on Un-Cruise adventures, we returned home and re-wrote the culture statement for First in Flight Entertainment. Every time we have a new hire, we go over this statement in detail, and we all abide by these cultures in our daily work. Un-Cruise has inspired what we do in First in Flight Entertainment, and as our company continues to grow, it will help us never lose sight of the importance of culture in everything we do.
I would like to share our culture statement for First in Flight Entertainment with you. If you are a business owner of any size, I encourage you to find a company culture if you don't already have one. It has really changed so much about the way we do business, and our staff is more excellent every day because of it!
First in Flight Entertainment 14 Points of Culture:
I view my life as a journey to be enjoyed and appreciated and I create an atmosphere of fun and happiness so all around me enjoy it as well.
I give myself and everything I commit to 100 percent until I succeed. I am committed to the Vision, Mission, Culture, and success of First in Flight Entertainment, its current and future team, and its clients at all times. You will always recommend the product and services of First in Flight Entertainment prior to going outside the company.
I am truly responsible for my action and outcomes and own everything that takes place in my work and my life. I am accountable for my results and I know that for things to change, first I must change.
I always speak the truth. What I promise is what I deliver. I only ever make agreements with myself and others that I am willing and intend to keep. I communicate any potential broken agreements at the first opportunity and I clear up all broken agreements immediately.
Good enough isn’t. I always deliver our product and services of exceptional quality that add value to all involved for the long term. I look for ways to do more with less and stay on a path of constant and never-ending improvement and innovation.
I speak positively of my fellow team members, my clients and First in Flight Entertainment in both public and private. I speak with good purpose using empowering and positive conversation. I never use or listen to sarcasm or gossip. I acknowledge what is being said as true for the speaker at that moment and I take responsibility for responses to my communication. I greet and say goodbye to people using their names. I always apologize for any upsets first and then look for a solution. I only ever discuss in private with the person involved.
I totally focus my thoughts, energy and attention on the successful outcome of whatever I am doing. I am willing to win and allow others to win: Win/Win. At all times, I display my inner pride, prosperity, competence and personal confidence. I am a successful person.
I learn from my mistakes. I consistently learn, grow and master so that I can help my fellow team members and clients learn, grow and master too. I am an educator and allow my clients to make their own intelligent decisions about their future, remembering that it is their future. I impart practical and useable knowledge rather than just theory.
I am a team player and team leader. I do whatever it takes to stay together and achieve team goals. I focus on cooperation and always come to a resolution, not a compromise. I am flexible in my work and able to change if what I’m doing is not working. I ask for help when I need it and am compassionate to others who ask me.
I have a balanced approach to life, remembering that my spiritual, social, physical and family aspects are just as important as my financial and intellectual. I complete my work and my most important tasks first, so I can have quality time to myself, with my family and also to renew.
I always look to the system for a solution. If a challenge arises I use a system correction before I look for a people correction. I use a system solution in my innovation rather than a people solution. I follow the system exactly until a new system is introduced. I suggest system improvements at my first opportunity.
I am consistent in my action so my client and teammate can feel comfortable in dealing with me at all times. I am disciplined in my work so my results, growth and success are consistent.
I am a truly grateful person. I say thank you and show appreciation often and in many ways, so that all around me know how much I appreciate everything and everyone I have in my life. I celebrate my wins and the wins of my clients and team. I consistently catch myself and other people doing things right.
I am an abundant person. I deserve my abundance and I am easily able to both give and receive it. I allow abundance in all areas of my life by respecting my own self- worth and that of all others. I am rewarded to the level that I create abundance for others and I accept that abundance only shows up in my life to the level at which I show up.
If there was a particular culture point that resonated with you, please let me know why in the comments below!
Life is always good, but some weeks are definitely more challenging than others.
As a business owner and artist, I am able to experience some rare life opportunities, and meet incredible people who I am proud to call friends all over the world. When folks read or hear about some of my endeavors in life, I am quite often told “you’re so lucky”! While I am grateful beyond words for every adventure and blessing along the way, “luck” is not the thing that I attribute one bit of any success to.
One of the companies I am most passionate about is my nonprofit theatre in North Carolina. While we produce some community theatre productions each year for all ages, our specialty is quality youth theatre and confidence building through the arts. When I first started the company, I was teaching private lessons there for tap dance, voice and drama, and several times would get students ready for upcoming auditions. Auditioning is one of the most challenging parts of being a performer, and even after the perfect audition, if you aren’t the right height, weight or look the director is going for, you are rejected.
I remember an occasion where a student came to me in tears after she didn’t get the role she had so desperately worked and prepared for months in advance. She knew she would do an amazing job given the opportunity to shine onstage, but the role still went to someone else. I told her at that time what I have told hundreds of students and friends over the years…. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
When you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, many of them have a solid idea and want to follow their passion- whatever it may be- and yet 15 years later when it’s time for them to go to college and start living that dream, they choose a different profession that they feel will give them “security” in life. Even those who DO choose to follow their dreams, many will quit after a few job rejections or bad auditions and slip back into a comfort zone or a job they are not as passionate about.
It took me years to get to a place in my business where I didn’t feel like I was drowning every day in it. All my organizations have started out with too much to do and not enough time. We have had hundreds of successes- not because we’re lucky- but because we’ve had thousands of failures along the way. You have to get into the mindset of taking your roadblocks and turning them into stepping stones to allow you to see more than you ever would without your failures.
Being a performer is not “easy”. Being an entrepreneur is not “easy”. Following your dreams is not “easy”, especially since there are so many easy paths out there and ways to make money by working for someone else. But even though it’s not “easy”, I can honestly say I have not worked a day in over 10 years, because I have created my “work” to be what I would do every day – even if I didn’t have to work. I love every minute of it and always look forward to more.
Happiness and success is never about “luck”….. as my husband says “it’s funny, the harder I work the luckier I get”! Succeeding comes from a lot of failure and rejection and never giving in to the “easier” path of life.
If you follow your heart and your passion with your entire being, you will not only succeed at what you want to do in life and always look forward to each and every day, but the money and extreme opportunities to enjoy in life will follow. The best part is, when you are practicing your passion, you will inadvertently change the lives of those around you, and (for lack of sounding like a Miss America interview) you will brighten the world and make it a better place. It will NOT be “easy”, but when you awake from the coma of everyday life and run your own dreams you will never go back.
This blog comes to you live from the monkey’s observatory, as I decided to work from the Lincoln Park Zoo today! One of the best things about having a mobile office is just that…. As long as there is an electrical outlet, you can be productive from anywhere in the world, so long as the environment is positive.
It’s interesting how atmosphere changes not only the way you work, but your entire attitude! When you are in an environment of disorganization or uncleanliness, no matter how hard you focus, your work becomes more challenging to complete.
This is the first time in my life that I have felt like I have real true balance. When I started First in Flight Entertainment over ten years ago now in our small garage office in Pfafftown, North Carolina, I did EVERYTHING myself. Scheduling, website, marketing, business development, sponsorships, production, event coordination, writing the shows, networking and every small job you can think of. The pattern continued for me when I started my nonprofit organization, Spring Theatre… for every single show at the beginning I would direct, music direct, choreograph, costume, stage manage, market, design the posters, hire everyone for the shows, oversee the tech, get sponsorships and even make the program. At the time, I was proud of the fact that I did it all.
It wasn’t until I changed my atmosphere and got out of the physical office of both businesses completely that they started to grow. In fact, the biggest reason that I feel successful at this moment in my career is because I finally learned the importance of working ON the business and not IN the business. Though I still “work” an average of 17 hours a day, the work I’m doing is more creative and visionary, and not as many small details it used to be because of my amazing team and our amazing growth together. It’s a daily dance with temptation staying on top of something you’re so very passionate about, but I realize now that being involved in the details does nothing but hold me back from doing all that we are all meant to accomplish together.
If you’re feeling like you are drowning in work this beautiful Monday, I challenge you to change your atmosphere. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as working from the zoo, but you can straighten up your desk, work from another room, open a window, go to a coffee shop, or if you’re working from home even just change your clothes. You might have some insight on how to stay on top of your tasks today instead of allowing your tasks stay on top of you.
My dad worked for Piedmont Airlines, and they used to give him this “blue book” of tickets which allowed us to fly standby on any flight. Being homeschooled, mom and I would get up in the morning, fly to Washington DC, visit the museums and memorials for the day, and fly home just in time for dinner when my dad came home from work. DC has always been one of my favorite cities because of the amazing energy, the history and knowledge that abounds everywhere, and the sheer number of amazing things to see!
Though I did visit as a kid, In May of this year, I visited the Arlington National Cemetery for the first time as an adult. We have several hero friends that have been laid to rest there the past few years from WWII, and also wanted to visit the grave of a friend’s son who is a gold star parent.
The minute we walked into the cemetery, I felt like a weight was placed all over my shoulders and heart. The heaviness of it was unexpected, and became heavier when I saw a grave of soldier who had been killed in Iraq when he was only 21 years old. Beside the white headstone, there was a basket of flowers that had been sent to the site, and on it was a simple card that read: “Love you. Miss you. –Mom and Dad”. The tears just wouldn’t stop after reading that, and looking around at the massive amount of sacrifice that is represented in those grave for our freedoms.
When I returned home, I wrote to Arlington, and asked if Letters From Home could be a part of the ceremonies at Arlington. To my honor and surprise, I heard back from them just a few days later, and they invited us to lay the wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier!
We would have gladly flown in for the experience, but, as the universe would have it, it just so happened that our time was scheduled for the morning after a performance we had in DC!
It was still a bit surreal when we arrived at the cemetery that morning. We had the wreath sent there the day before, and it was already delivered right to the guards at the tomb, so we hadn’t seen it. We were sent to talk to one of the guards who instructed us on how the ceremony was going to happen, then we were sent to the top of the stairs to wait. The time was going by so quickly. After the changing of the guard, another Marine came out holding the wreath. It was the first time I saw it in person and I was overcome with emotion… it was red, white and blue with a ribbon on it that said “Letters From Home”.
The guard walked with the bugler to the side of the tomb, and then Sgt. Ruth Hanks (who is the 4th female sentinel who has ever had the honor of guarding the tomb) started walking up to us. She was so perfect, not one thing was out of place on her or her uniform. My heart started racing.
We followed her in step down the steps towards the tomb as the other guard announced what the ceremony was about and what it meant. We got to the wreath, placed both hands on it and walked it across the path that is walked every hour of every day to the tomb. After the wreath was laid, hands over hearts, the bugler played “Taps” as we looked at the tomb remembered.
The feeling of standing there on the steps at Arlington and being a part of such an important ceremony is truly something that changed my life. I cannot imagine a higher honor in this world and my gratitude for those who have served our country so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we do every single day is deeper than ever.
Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hill, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.
When people ask me where I live, my general answer is that I spend about 250 days of the year on the road. Though I spend a lot of time in Winston-Salem where I have Spring Theatre (my non-profit theatre company), and in Chicago (where we have the main offices of First in Flight Entertainment and our restaurant the Shore Club), the truck and trailer is where I spend the majority of my time.
I never get tired of the road, and it also allows us to have many “home away from home’s” through First in Flight Entertainment and especially Letters From Home. The family I have grown to love on the road is something indescribable, and something I am so grateful for.
Three Oaks, Michigan is one of those places that is a “second home”. Our bombshell duo show has performed there for the past 2 years on Flag Day, and this year, we had the honor of participating in the Three Oaks Flag Day Parade (the largest flag day parade in the WORLD)! On that trip, we won the “most patriotic float” award that proudly sits in my dance studio in Chicago. The town is beautiful, patriotic and warm.
Mike Shannon and his beautiful wife Chrissy are some of the most beautiful souls I have ever met, and are the ones who invited us to Three Oaks two years ago with the assistance of the incredible Tracy Jones. Mike is not only the commander of the American Legion, but him and his wife both run an amazing restaurant in downtown Three Oaks called the Viola Café. Looking much like the handsome actor Sam Elliot, Mike is a life-loving individual with a great heart. If you’re ever in the area, you’ve got to go by their place for breakfast…. It’s incredible!
On flag day this year, we spent time with the most recent Medal of Honor recipient, James McCloughan, who spoke at the opening ceremonies for the parade. His patriotism would give you chills and move you to be a better American! His Army awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device and Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, the Army Valorous Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with “60” Device, the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with palms and one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Medical Badge, and the M16 Expert Rifle Badge. It was amazing to have him at our show, and get to know him throughout the weekend.
Another amazing man from the area is Roger Batton, who has a company called Indigan Storytellers. His mission is to create an enduring, supportive community of individuals who gather for the purpose of storytelling and to advance the art of storytelling, and he does just that! Roger not only does his own storytelling, but encourages others through his popular workshops for all ages. He’s currently performing abroad, but will be back in the states in October… you can (and should!) check him out at www.indiganstoryteller.org.
One of our favorite fans from Three Oaks is a young man by the name of Aydan. Though he just turned 9 last week, when you speak to this young man, you realize you’re talking to an old soul. We were coming back from a tour on the East Coast this week, and Nelson, Lisa and I made a special trip to Three Oaks to surprise Aydan for his 9th birthday… and he was truly completely and totally surprised! His family told him he was just stopping by the American Legion to visit his grandpa which was a regular thing they did, and the face he made when I turned the corner and came out singing was priceless! To know a 9 year old who truly appreciates not only the music but understands the history of the 1940s is simply beautiful.
One of the main reasons why I love living on the road are places like Three Oaks. I will never tire of those smiling faces, warm hugs and good hearts of my touring family.