Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Giver

Deep breath. Relax. I do not like this frozen state I am in...and I am not talking about the weather. It is my observant nature to notice the needs of others, to feel their suffering, to do everything I can to help. I seriously think that if I were to win the lottery, I would stash away enough money for my kids college education and the rest would go towards helping others.

I have always been a sensitive soul and believe, as I get older, my purpose is being defined as
The Giver.

Christmas is approaching like a bullet train running full speed ahead and instead of divulging in the chaos, I just want to be still and soak in every cherished moment.  I am noticing that I am withdrawing from the madness. I refuse to go to the mall. I haven't a clue what my Christmas card will be this year. I haven't started writing my annual letter. My shopping is slowly being done with a grudge. The commercialism of Christmas is what I cringe.
It makes us greedy and compare each other to our friends. I try to avoid Facebook on December 26th because I really don't care what diamond necklace you received or if you gave your kid the latest version of the Xbox or iPad.

I resent the fact I have to buy a zillion Christmas gifts and a society deadline/pressure to send out my Christmas cards. I wish the holiday season made us focus instead on doing random acts of kindness, volunteering and relishing the time we spend with our precious family & friends.
Gifts are nice when they are given as a choice, out of love. But these gifts should be given spontaneously, year round, and they shouldn't be focused on "material things." The gift of your time is priceless.
This resentment does not come from jealousy or an inability to compete for giving the best present. It simply stems from a desire to give back, to make Christmas more than about you, to be a giver to those in need, who are less fortunate.

I'm realizing that when life has thrown the biggest hurdle at you and then you are given the grace to get back up again is when you truly understand the concept of what life is really about. None of the material things matter in the end. It is about how you gave back the goodness given to you, with love, kindness and faith.

Take a step back and examine your giving ways. How can you give back this holiday season? How will you focus on the importance of the season instead of the best gifts you can buy? Will you collect winter coats for the homeless? Volunteer at a shelter? Collect food from the neighbors and donate to a local food pantry? Organize a community event and have the donations go to charity? Cook a meal and deliver it to a friend who is having difficulty this holiday season? Write letters to our servicemen/women? Bake cookies and deliver them to a nursing home?
I challenge you to find a way to volunteer, to participate in a random act of kindness or to make a difference in someone else's life, who is not as fortunate as you. Better yet, if you have kids, get them involved too! They are never too young to start learning about how to care for others and to feel empathy. Together, we can celebrate the Reason for the Season and make the world a better place.
"The one thing you can't put in a box and wrap with a bow is your time, love and friendship."
~ quote from my 10 year old daughter, who brings joy to everyone she meets and is always seeking ways to help other's

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#Giving Tuesday

Today is a very special day.  A day for you to give back to your community. I have organized a fundraiser for #GivingTuesday to benefit the National Capital Lyme Disease Association.

I NEED YOUR HELP! My goal is to reach $2,000. And as a lone fundraiser, this is a lofty goal. No donation is too small and every single $$ is appreciated! *This link will remain active after Dec 3rd. Please help me Take A Bite Out of Lyme Disease!!*

The CDC has confirmed 300,000 cases of Lyme Disease in the United States. It is crippling lives and it does not discriminate.  Are you or know someone who is battling Lyme Disease?

My Story and Why this Cause is So Important to Me ~
I have been fighting my own battle with Lyme Disease since I was 25 years old when I woke up one morning feeling paralyzed. It was terrifying not being able to walk. I remember having to fall out of bed and crawl to the bathroom, the morning when my life as I knew it, would drastically change. I spent 6 months on crutches and battled chronic pain and fatigue. I missed work. I couldn't drive because my neck was stiff. I developed iritis in my eye, a painful, inflammatory eye disease. I saw numerous specialists, had gallons of blood drawn, x-rays taken, a CATScan, and a MRI done, and they all came back with no conclusive answer on why I felt like I was dying at such a young age.

I was misdiagnosed. Over and Over again.  First, it was "all in my head" then I had "ankylosing spondylitis" and finally, it was determined I had "fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue," even though I did not technically meet all the criteria for a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I was given an RX for Celebrex which I chose not to fill. I was told to give up running and to take up a new sport, like swimming. Throughout the years, I would have good days and bad days and kept the crutches close by my bedside.

Finally, in 2010, my Lyme Disease diagnosis was confirmed. I was treated with oral antibiotics for 2 weeks and was discharged from my doctor.  However, a couple of months later, while training for my first marathon, I was extremely fatigued and my wrists and elbows hurt which was a new pain symptom. I was referred to an infectious disease doctor who prescribed oral antibiotics for 30 days.  When I finished the 30 days of antibiotics, supposedly I was "cured."

In 2013, after a year long episode of annoying, unexplained foot pain, I advocated to my doctor for re-testing of  Lyme Disease. The same 3 bands came up positive on my Western Blot that were positive in 2010. My doctor didn't think I had been cured. She said I was battling chronic Lyme Disease. I have taken oral antibiotics for two months and have had to advocate for continued treatment. It is difficult for a doctor to believe you have Lyme Disease symptoms when you can run marathon's. I am currently exploring holistic treatment options and have found acupuncture to be helpful. My infectious disease doctor has said the next step in my treatment plan is IV antibiotics for 30 days. I am hesitant to begin this treatment because I'm signing myself up for 30 days of no running or cross training. These are two key components that I have discovered to help me live a productive life, unlike so many individuals, living with chronic Lyme Disease.

I started running the distance on Thanksgiving Day 2009. It is a significant day in my life because it was the day that I decided it was time to move again. I saw my husband putting on his running shoes and joined my husband on a run, which had become a foreign concept to me. At each 1/2 mile, he nervously asked me if I wanted to turn back and I said "Let's Keep Going!" I ran 5 miles that day and ran my first marathon less than a year later. I believe that running has saved me from a life of pain. But I battle symptoms of annoying, unexplained foot pain, neuro symptoms -such as brain fog and overwhelming fatigue and my gut is so messed up, I only eat protein, green veggies and that is about it. I can't tolerate sugar (sugar is in EVERYTHING) and even my morning cup of java is not enjoyable to sip anymore.

BUT I CAN RUN THE DISTANCE!! My infectious disease doctor says it is "Unbelievable" that someone with chronic Lyme Disease is able to run a 50 Mile race!!  I just completed my 2nd ultra marathon, the JFK 50 Miler on 11/23/13, to raise awareness of Lyme Disease and to fundraise for the National Capital Lyme Disease Association. Here is the link to the fundraiser that will be active until the end of the year:

Will you please help me "Take a Bite out of Lyme?" Please donate TODAY using the CrowdRise link and let's find a cure to this disease that is destroying lives.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

National Capital Lyme Disease Association Fundraiser's - 11/22 Sweet Frog Chantilly & JFK 50 Miler Race 11/23

"Taking a Bite Out of Lyme, One Race at a Time!"
I am a long distance runner living with chronic Lyme Disease. I believe that running is my "natural antibiotic" and it has given me the ability to run the distance and not live a life of pain and inactivity. I am one of the lucky ones.

This Fall, the CDC announced that there are over 300,000 confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in the United States.

Lyme Disease is a growing epidemic that needs attention! I have partnered with the National Capital Lyme Disease Association to raise money for this organization. 
I am running the JFK 50 Miler on 11/23, to bring awareness about this horrible disease but to also bring hope to those suffering from Lyme Disease. To learn more about this fundraiser, please click on this link:
Donations can be made until 12/31/13, by using the paypal link on the National Capital Lyme Disease Association's website (please use the above link) or sending a check directly to NatCapLyme at P.O. Box 8211 McLean, VA 22105-8211 and writing "JFK" in the memo section.

For those of you that live in Northern VA, I've organized a fundraiser for the National Capital Lyme Disease Association! Please be sweet and support this Sweet Frog Chantilly Fundraiser! 
The Sweet Frog fundraiser is TODAY - FRIDAY, 11/22, from 12pm - 10:30pm at 13061 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy, Fairfax, VA, 22033.
*Please be sure to mention the "The National Capital Lyme Disease Association" to the cashier or show this photo/flyer! With each mention, 25% of the receipt will be donated to the National Capital Lyme Disease Association! 
*Please leave a comment below if you attend the Sweet Frog Fundraiser or make a donation to the National Capital Lyme Disease Association or would like to share your story about your battle with Lyme Disease!

Thank you for your support! It is greatly appreciated!

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Moment of Reflection..Veteran's Day

As the midnight hour creeps in and the house is eerily quiet, my creative side gets flowing. My life is full and blessed and everyday I think of blog posts that I want to share with you and then the day escapes me. Today I did not want that happen. Today was too important.
I started writing a FB post that soon became too wordy and I knew I needed to log into my blogger account and let the words flow. So this is how it started:

"Thankful for those who have served & currently serving our country & all of the sacrifices made to preserve our country's freedom.  My last two races, the Army Ten Miler & the Marine Corps Marathon were very emotional for me. As I saw determined, wounded soldiers on both race courses, POW & American flags being carried & miles & miles of pictures of men & women gone too soon.  Two images that have stayed with me happened in the Philly R-n-R Half marathon in Sept. and at my last race, MCM."

I never posted it. Instead I copied and pasted it here. I actually wanted to write these words earlier today but instead some awkward, mushy post, jumbled across the screen, about thanking our veterans and my family members who had served and I even found a heartfelt image to go along with my sentiments. 
Then I went running for five miles and my thoughts became clear and concise. 
I later deleted my original FB post. 
Today (and everyday) I am extremely proud of my Dad, my hero, who has served in the Air Force and is a retired Lt. Col and of my Dad's father - my grandfather, who served in the Air Force during three wars! After my grandfather retired, he felt like his luck had run out and he never flew on another airplane! I consider it an honor to be from a military family. I am thankful for their service to our country and to be grounded in such strong family values and work ethics, with many of them coming from my Dad's military background.

But tonight, I'm finally letting my mind be free and moving beyond the obvious reasons to be thankful on Veteran's Day. I've been wanting to share so much, these last two months about freedom, protecting our country, sacrifices, brave soldiers...and all those pictures that are forever etched in my mind of too many soldiers, that died too soon.

On September 15th, I ran my first Fall Half marathon, while fighting chronic Lyme disease. I went into the race, unsure of myself, wondering if it would be my first DNF - Did Not Finish. I found myself at Mile 4, feeling sorry for myself about having Lyme and the negative self talk began. I was already tired, I forgot to bring my salt pills and I was waiting in anticipation to feel the beginnings of my foot pain. Then, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a runner had fallen down. Those of us that were close by, stopped and asked if he needed help. He told us he was "okay" and pulled himself up with help from another runner and then...did I see that right? I saw he was wearing a prosthetic leg and he immediately got right back into the race. I'm fairly certain he crossed the finish line ahead of me.  I was amazed at his determination, his example of showing the world how his disability wasn't going to prevent him from running a Half marathon and his attitude of perseverance. The image stayed with me for the rest of the race as I replayed the scene at Mile 4, over and over again. I finished my race stronger that I ever thought I would finish it. As I ran Mile 4 to Mile 13.1, I decided to make a mental shift and run for those who can't. This mentality carried me to the finish line!

The Army Ten Miler race is always emotional if you really stop and look around you while you are running on the race course. There are several wounded soldiers running made possible by a prosthetic leg with courage and conviction in their soul and other soldiers being pushed to the finish line because their war injuries will never allow them to walk or run again. There are American flags and POW flags being carried by men and women soldiers. Your mind engulfs the images and they are difficult to let go. This year there was not one particular moment at this race that has stayed with me but it is more of a combination of images blurred together, creating a scene of patriotism and you feel honored to be running alongside these hero's.

Take the Army Ten Miler Race and multiply the scene, along a course of 26.2 miles....and you will find yourself at the Marine Corps Marathon. Every year I sign up for this race and dread it because it is physically and mentally challenging. The race course description is much like the Army Ten Miler. I feel inspired every step of the 26.2 journey. I noticed immediately the wounded warriors surrounding me all along the race course and the men and women carrying the American and POW flags. Around Mile 2, I began to follow two soldiers, a man and woman, running together, trading off the POW flag they were carrying. I would get wind and pass them and then slow down and then they would pass me and this continued throughout most of the race.

The most difficult point in the race is right around the halfway mark when the crowds go away and it gets very lonely. You are running on Haines Point with the Potomac River on your right side and photo's of fallen soldiers and POW's on your left side. It is a continuous snapshot of young men who are forever gone and you can choose to look away but then you will miss the whole meaning of the marathon. This race is never about you, from the start to the finish. You are running to honor all those that have served this country and all those who are currently making sacrifices to protect our freedom. 

Around Mile 14, when all those young soldiers faces and stories were flashing before me, the man and women carrying the POW flag came up behind me and ventured to the left side. And then I noticed they got off the race course and asked someone to take their picture, with the flag, next to the photo of a young man who was a POW. What was his age? 21? I couldn't read it but I will forever remember his name...Patrick Williams, you are a very brave young man.

A tidal wave of emotion swept over me and I tried desperately to stop the fountain of tears that were suddenly streaming down my face. I decided it was a futile attempt to stop them and I just gave in. I cried for a good mile or so, thinking about what this young man had gone through, how he sacrificed his life for his country, how his Mom and Dad must grieve for him every day, how his fellow soldiers had taken the time to stand with him for a moment, during a race that is supposed to be about PR's and qualifying for Boston. But none of that mattered. What mattered was, at that very moment, to remember this soldier, Patrick Williams, who was a POW and had given up his life for his country. 

Right around Mile 15, after my emotional tidal wave had been released, the intense stomach cramps began from the two months of antibiotics I was taking to fight my own battle of Lyme Disease. I had a brief thought about what to do. It would be my first DNF. Or it could be a race about going against the odds, with determination, running for the fallen who had suffered so much more pain than I was suffering from at that moment.  And I carried on, even running up the dreaded hill, to the Finish Line, with the Ima Jima Memorial, guiding my way. The young Marine hung my 38th MCM Finisher medal around my neck, and more tears were released, as I whispered "Thank You."  I found a spot on the grass and let myself rest, soaking in the sunshine and the moment of this victory, with a tear stained face, mascara smeared and said a silent prayer, thanking God for making my body strong enough to win this battle and for the freedom to run and for the all sacrifices that our soldiers and their families have endured.

Determination. Perseverance. Courage. 

These are the things I think of when I remember our military hero's, our veteran's, who have given so much for our country. 

Thank You. 
I will Never Forget.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Top Ten Secrets to Living a Fabulously Fun Life

I have been incredibly blessed with a Joyful and Fabulously Fun life.  This is something that does not happen overnight.  You must be mindful and consciously make key life choices.  These choices lead to actions that will direct you towards a life that is meaningful, full of amazing experiences, cultivating continuous strong relationships, and an appreciation to live each day to the fullest.

10. Try your Luck at Contests.  Somebody has to be a Winner!  I cannot tell you how fortunate I have been to win several contests!  I have had some amazing life experiences because of winning multiple contest's!  Ironically, after I wrote this blog post today (and before it was published) I won a radio contest from Fresh FM 94.7!  I am going to an intimate show featuring Matt Nathanson (about 20 people will attend) tomorrow afternoon and I also won 2nd row concert tickets to his amazing show tomorrow night! "I'm a Great Believer in Luck" ~ Thomas Jefferson quote

9. Be Persistent.  If it is something you really want, do everything you can do, to Make Things Happen. You may need to get creative but it is worth the extra effort. "One quality all successful people have is persistence." ~ Dr. Joyce Brothers quote

8. Find Your Passion.  This will carry over to other area's of your life.  You will wake up energized with the mindset of asking yourself, "What can I do to make the world a better place?"  If you are passionate, people will see this in you.  Through your actions, you will inspire people around you to find their passion too.   "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." ~ Margaret Meade quote
7. Treat Everyone you meet with Respect whether it is the CEO of a company, a new acquaintance, the cashier at the grocery store, or the bus driver.  People appreciate it and will remember you.  My Dad is my Master Teacher on this one! "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forgot what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~ Maya Angelou quote

6. Think Positive.  For good things to happen, you must believe in the best possible outcome.  Hope must be alive to carry you through the difficult times in your life. Positive thoughts will create positive experiences. "The person who sends out positive thoughts, activates the world around him positively and draws back to himself positive results." ~ Norman Vincent Peale
5. Practice Kindness. By practicing kindness, you will begin to understand that living each day is not just about your life but it is about helping other people.  What you put into the Universe will be returned to you.  Be mindful of the words you speak and your actions. Take time to volunteer.  Raise money for charity. Randomly do something kind for a neighbor, friend or stranger. "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile." ~ Albert Einstein quote

4. Embrace Opportunity.  I am the Queen of this philosophy.  I tell my kids all the time "If you don't ask, you will not receive." Take the time to break away from your bubble and put yourself out into the Universe.  Take action steps to create an opportunity and when it knocks on your door, make every effort to embrace it.  You may need to jump through hoops but it will be worth it.  You must also be observant because sometimes opportunity is brilliantly disguised. "Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities.  Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities, stronger men make them." ~ Orison Swett Marden quote

3. Seek out new friendships and cultivate existing relationships.  Being a military brat, I thrived on meeting new people and appreciated every friendship formed.  If we connect and become friends, I am your forever friend.  It sounds exhausting to many, the thought of building new friendship's or as they call it in the business world "networking" but if you do not take the time to do this, you are closing yourself up.  Open the door to learning from other people and embrace new friendship's. "If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere." ~ Zig Ziglar quote
My family jokes about my insane Christmas card list but I take pride in keeping in touch with my friends.  The memories and experiences we share are a part of who I am.  I make a conscious effort to be in touch and stay connected because in the end, it is not our "things" that we will be thankful for.  It is those people, who have touched our lives, in big and small ways that we will cherish. "No friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever." ~ Francois Muriac quote

2. Express Gratitude. Every day I am aware of the goodness in the world.  I strive to be not only kind but gracious.  In college, I was selected as "Miss Gracious Living" in my sorority because my sorority sister's witnessed my actions as conscientious.  My Mom is my Master Teacher on living a life with gratitude.  You must appreciate Everything that you are given. Ask yourself when is the last time you said "thank you" via words or actions. Everyday we have an opportunity to appreciate the goodness in our world and to be grateful.  "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." ~ Epictetus quote

1. Relish the Moment.  Once you begin to recognize that every single experience is truly a gift, your life will change dramatically. From the moment you wake up to when you go to sleep, stop and appreciate.  Each moment you experience is an opportunity to experience joy whether it is having coffee with a friend, being a chaperone on your kid's field trip, sharing a meal with your family, being front row at an awesome concert, or going on an amazing vacation! Our future is not guaranteed and your mind must be present in what is happening at that very moment. "Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life." ~ Omar Khayyam 

*BONUS SECRET* And of course, I believe everyone should Run a Marathon (if this is physically possible for you)! I promise that crossing the 26.2 Finish Line will change your life forever and open up your world to limitless opportunities. "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." ~ C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Embrace the Race

I am writing this at my chiro's office while receiving my weekly "maintenance" treatment, ever since embarking on an epic Fall race schedule!  I have a few minutes before the doctor arrives so I thought I'd take advantage of my "free" time and my blogger app!

This month alone might be the highest mileage that I have ever ran in one month.  I would know for sure if I had only kept tabs on my mileage.  But I am a runner who doesn't get caught up in the number's game.  I simply enjoy the experience of lacing up, getting out there and being free.

I want to write race re-caps on the fast and fun Philly Rock-n-Roll Half that I ran in Sept, and for October, the epic DC Ragnar Relay, the amazing Chicago marathon, and most recently, the slow and steady Army Ten Miler!  On Sunday, I will run the Marine Corps Marathon - my 3rd MCM/6th marathon!  And next month will be my finale Fall race - the JFK 50 Miler!  It will be my second one and I will be attempting to shave off 2 hours of my time from last year.   I must do this in order to finish in the allotted time of 12 hours and not get pulled off the race course.  Last year, I finished the JFK 50, my first ultra, with three minutes to spare!

And I am running all these races with crazy obstacles to overcome, such as diagnosis' of pneumonia and chronic Lyme Disease.  I have been on antibiotics for one month and just began another month of antibiotic treatment. I don't like to discuss the next steps for chronic Lyme Disease treatment which involves IV antibiotics for one month and no running. 

However, I remain hopeful that my current treatment is working despite the fatigue I feel after each race. I embrace my rest days to recover.  After crossing each finish line, I am feeling stronger and believe that I am making a "comeback" in my race times.  I haven't had a PR yet but my times are much better than last Fall/this past Spring, when I suffered from extreme, debilitating pain in my left foot, most likely caused by the chronic Lyme. 

My goal with each race is not a PR (personal record) because then I wouldn't be able to run naked!  In the running world that means not running with a GPS watch!  My goal is to embrace the race and cherish all the goodness that each race brings!  For me, it is important to finish strong or "Swirl Strong," a tagline that me and my Swirl Sister's - my fellow Swirlgear Brand Ambassador's - like to use, when we celebrate our athletic accomplishments!

With my two most challenging races approaching quickly, I would appreciate any good vibes and cyber cheers you can send my way!  They are greatly appreciated! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cavalia’s Odysseo: Riding into a world of beauty and nature!

The latest buzz in Washington, DC, besides the furlough, is the arrival of Cavalia’s Odysseo!  I recently had the opportunity to get an inside sneak peak at the latest Big White Top to arrive at National Harbor in MD. 

Cavalia’s Odysseo is the largest touring show in the world featuring a show of beauty, 64 horses and 49 artists that takes the audience into a “world of dreams” according to the artistic director, Normand Latourelle.  This show is a journey of how people and animals can live together in peace.  The horses are an integral part of the show and are symbolic as they are portrayed as “the speakers of nature,” and provide the inspiration behind this magical show created by Normand Latourelle.  It promises to be a wild ride combining the talents of horses and acrobats. 



Cavalia Odysseo Artistic Director, Normand Latourelle, and me, with the Big White Top as our background


Cavalia’s Odysseo dazzles audiences with its array of beauty that transcends into your soul and allows one to escape the difficult times of the modern world.  The experience will leave a lingering impression with the hope that one will continue to search for beauty and peace, when interacting with nature and animals.


Upon arriving at National Harbor, you will immediately see the 125 feet tall Big White Top canvasing the landscape.  Inside, you will find a masterpiece stage that has been carefully crafted together to create the largest touring stage in the world, 17,500 square feet, larger than two football fields.  The impressive backdrop is comprised of three high definition IMAX screens.  A magnificent carousal with porcelain horses is centered in the middle of the stage.
A special feature with this show is the finale with 80,000 gallons of water being released on the stage for the horses to enjoy!  If you are sitting in the first couple of rows, near the stage, you might have the possibility of being splashed with water! 

Below is a photo of where the stage will be and the water will magically appear, in front of the audience, to create a spectacular grand finale!

Cavalia’s Odysseo is a family friendly show.  Kids of all ages will find it magical, as the four legged stars gallop onto the stage and talented acrobats, from all over the world, will entice the imagination.  Cavalia’s Odysseo will premiere under the Big White Top at National Harbor, MD, on Wednesday, October 9th through November 3rd.  Tickets for Cavalia’s Odysseo are now on sale online or by calling 1-866-999-8111.  As a result of the Federal Government shutdown, all tickets (except VIP) are half price through Tuesday, October 8th.  Hurry and buy your tickets today before this awe inspiring show gallops away!





Monday, September 23, 2013

Michael Buble' and Naturally 7 concert at Verizon Center

This year has been incredible with meeting talented musicians! Last night continued my trend with meeting the band!  Each up close and personal experience is always amazing and last night was no exception!

My friend and I attended the Michael Buble' concert last night at the Verizon Center.  Our seats were in the first section but not close to the main stage. Before last night, I was not an especially huge fan of Michael Buble'.  I know he is a talented singer/songwriter but last night he really blew me away with his absolutely incredible voice, talented band and orchestra, and special effects.  And who knew what a funny guy he is! He was incredibly gracious with his fans, participating in taking selfies with swooning women and giving out free hugs!

At one point, he walked out into the sea of fans on the floor to transfer to an isolated stage closer to where we were sitting!  Members of his band joined him and the energy came alive in our section, as it was our turn to get a close up view of Michael perform!  He definitely knows how to "WoW" an audience! 
                                                 Here is a video of his performance:

I have to say the real surprise of the evening was the opening band, Naturally 7.  It is always hit or miss with the opening act and last night, the audience received a sneak peak from an extremely talented acapella group, Naturally 7.  Their version of Cold Play's "Fix Me" gave me goosebumps!  I posted on Facebook for all my friends to check these guys out and left a link. They are worthy of your attention!  After their performance they announced they would be signing CD's after the show.  My friend joked around and said "You're going, right?" And I quickly responded "Of course I am!"

So after the show, I maneuvered my way to section 115.  I didn't have cash so I had to stand in a long line to buy Naturally 7's CD with my credit card.  It took forever because only one credit card machine was working.  With my CD in hand, I made my way to the back of the line, excited that I didn't miss my chance to meet these guys!

When I went through the line, I was impressed with the graciousness that each band member extended.  All I kept thinking is how exhausted they must have been! After I collected signatures and made small talk, I mentioned to the tour manager I was a blogger and would love a picture.  He told me to stick around until they were done signing the CD's.

After the last CD was signed, they all got up from the table and came out to greet their friends and family.  They were so humble!  They asked if I could attend their gig tonight (Monday, 9/23) in DC at The Black Cat but unfortunately I had other plans for the evening!  If you are in the VA/DC/MD area and want to start your week off right, head on over to their show tonight at 8pm!  Here is the link for more show info!  Black Cat: Show Info

Make sure you buy their CD and be on the look-out for the new CD that will be released in February 2014!  I am a new fan of Naturally 7! This band is all about AWESOMENESS! 

     Naturally 7 and Me!  What a Fabulously Fun Night!

Friday, September 20, 2013

“The Watson’s Go To Birmingham” film on the Hallmark Channel on 9/20, 9/27 and 10/11

Set your DVR's for a special treat on the Hallmark Channel, as a part of the new Friday night “Walden Family Theatre” series.  The beloved book "The Watson's Go To Birmingham" comes to life on the screen, this Friday, 9/20, 8 PM (ET/PT) with a talented cast, starring Tony® Award winner and Grammy® Award nominee Anika Noni Rose (“The Good Wife,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Princess and the Frog”).  Also starring are three-time Tony® Award nominee and Grammy® Award nominee David Alan Grier ("Porgy and Bess," "PEEPLES," “In Living Color”), Skai Jackson (“Jessie”), Wood Harris (“The Wire,” “Remember The Titans”), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (“The Fighting Temptations”), Pauletta Washington (“Beloved”), Bryce Clyde Jenkins (“Easy A,” “Have A Little Faith”) and Harrison Knight (“We the Party”).

Tonik Productions is one of the many companies responsible for bringing this project to fruition.   Nikki Silver is an Emmy® Award- winning producer and chief creator of ToniK Productions. Tonya Lee Lewis has partnered with Nikki Silver to form this production company.  Nikki Silver has been persistent in her efforts to see the book, The Watson’s Go To Birmingham, written by Christopher Paul Curtis, published by Random House Children’s Books, come alive on the screen.

“The Watsons Go To Birmingham” is presented by ARC Entertainment, Walden Media, Walmart and Procter & Gamble and is a ToniK Production. Louis J. Grieci III, Ben Simon, Janet M. Morrison, Aaron Tucker, Jim Bechtold, Trevor Drinkwater, Brad Liebow and Brian Wells serve as executive producers and Philip Kleinbart, Nikki Silver and Tonya Lewis Lee serve as producers.  Tonya Lewis Lee, Stephen Glantz and Caliope Brattlestreet wrote the teleplay and Kenny Leon is the director. 

Photo Left to Right: Kenny Leon, Anika Noni Rose, Harrison Knight, Nikki Silver

According to director, Kenny Leon, “The Watson’s Go To Birmingham” is “a love story, a family story, that the whole family can sit down and watch and do that one thing together.  Laugh together, think together, even shed a tear together but this movie is all about family and all about love, just what the Hallmark channel represents.”

                                         Photo: Kenny Leon and Anika Noni Rose             

                                                    Photo: Tonya Lewis Lee          

On Tuesday evening, I attended the Red Carpet Washington DC premiere of this film at the Newseum, as part of the press for PWC Moms. Honorable William A. Bell, Sr., Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, where the majority of the movie takes place, also attended this amazing event.  The Mayor of Birmingham brought artifacts from this historic time in Birmingham to the event for a temporary display that evening.  The artifacts included: Pews from the16th St. Baptist Church; a segregated lunch counter; a segregated water fountain; mug shots of people arrested after the e Children’s Crusade march and shrapnel from the church bombing.  The artifacts brought you back to a time in history where there was a movement for equal rights and for humanity.
The film takes place in 1963, upon the anniversary of life changing events during the civil right movement.  As children, we are taught facts about this era of time but this movie brings in the human spirit through the eyes of an 12 year old African American child experiencing racism firsthand in Birmingham, Alabama.

Photo of Honorable William A. Bell, Sr., Mayor of Birmingham, AL

A photo of segregated water fountains

This is a movie that every family in America should watch as it portrays so accurately what it would be like to experience racism and bullying during the civil rights movement in the South.  Tonya Lee Lewis states “The Watson’s Go To Birmingham” is about a Northern family that travels to Birmingham and experiences racism, up close and personal, during the summer of 1963.”  During the film, the family comes closer together and overcomes fear and develops courage to stand up for what is right.

Through the eyes of a “tween” who attended the screening, Amada, 12 years old, believes that “kids should watch this film because they will take away the important message that it's important to understand our history so that it will not ever be repeated again." 

When I asked the director, Kenny Leon, what questions we should be asking our kids when we watch this movie together he stated these two crucial questions “Do you know what racism is?” Do you know what bullying is?” He said, as a parent, we must discuss with our kids the events that took place during 1963 and discuss the injustice at that time but also remind them of the good people in the world who influence positive changes.  He said that “Ultimately, Love Wins!”

The producer, Kenny Leon and me 

The performances of the cast are stellar and especially noteworthy is Bryce Clyde Jenkin’s performance of 12 year old Kenny Watson.  By the end of the movie, you will have laughed, cried and experience critical thinking about the civil rights movement.  This movie will speak meaningful conversations between families.

If you miss the world premiere of “The Watsons Go To Birmingham” on the Hallmark channel on Friday, 9/20/13, the movie will also encores on 9/27/13 and 10/11/13, at 8 PM (ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.  The DVD will be released on September 24th and it will be sold at Wal-Mart.

For educators, Walden Media has partnered with the Hallmark Channel and Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers to create turnkey lessons plans for grades 4-12 that coincide with the themes and messages explored in this movie. “The Watsons Go To Birmingham Teacher Guide,” which will be free of charge on a dedicated Hallmark Channel microsite and the Walden Media website, encourages active student participation, while integrating social-emotional learning, literacy, writing and character education designed to reinforce critical thinking and deep comprehension skills.

I highly recommend this movie and your children that are in grade school, junior high and high school.  After the movie, set aside a time to discuss any questions that your children may have and explore the civil rights themes presented during “The Watson’s Go To Birmingham.”  I hope your family enjoys watching this film as much as I did!