Saturday, October 10, 2015

Shocktober is a spooktacular haunt supporting a great cause!

'Tis the season for corn mazes, horror movies and spooktacular haunted houses. Last weekend I was invited on a media tour for the Shocktober haunted house! I brought my 12 year old daughter with me and we experienced a frightful evening! Rachel Roseberry, the Communications Coordinator at Paxton Campus was our tour guide for the evening. Shocktober is a Must See Haunted House Attraction in Northern VA! 

Photo courtesy of Paxton Campus

Shocktober is an award winning haunted house that gives back to the community. This past Spring, Shocktober won the Loudoun's Humanitarian Award. This ghoultastic haunted house is located on the Paxton Campus in Leesburg. Jennifer Lassiter, the Executive Director of Paxton Campus shared their motto is "We Scare Because We Care."
Last year, $200,000 was raised from the Shocktober haunted attraction. The money was donated to the Paxton Campus which offers specialized education to preschoolers through high school school students with disabilities, as well as, vocational training upon graduation. The students are comprised from local counties, such as Loudoun and Fairfax.

Shocktober happens every year because of it's awesome volunteers. No volunteer is turned away! Inquiries for volunteers begins in early August. Over 5,200 volunteer hours were recorded last year. Volunteers, ages 14 years old and up, attend Ghoul School in September, a 3 week week course, training teens and adults on the specialized art of scaring other's! Several teens from the Paxton Campus volunteer for a role in the Shocktober haunted house, as well as Board Members and staff, and many volunteers are comprised from the community who want to give back to this amazing organization! My 12 year old daughter was amazed at how well the actors were trained to scare people! Matt Smith is the mastermind behind Shocktober every year and starts planning the amazing haunted happening's in February! 

The legend behind the haunted house is the Carver family was forced out of Leesburg and moved to the underground caverns of Paxton Manor. They became zombie cave dwellers and began to haunt all those who enter the Paxton Manor. Paranormal activity has been detected in the Paxton Manor and has been claimed to be a real haunted house.

I had the feeling that this haunted house was going to be extra special! You enter the haunted house, in a small group. A brave leader will need to be assigned to guide you through the haunted house. I recommend placing yourself in the middle of the group! There were four of us in the original group but we ended up being so scared, that we caught up with the group ahead of us! The main house and the basement are spooktacularly decorated and uses all of your scents to engage you in a frightful experience! Many zombies, ghouls and surprises await you as spooky creativity is a specialty when designing Shocktober! The Shocktober haunted house attraction is recommended for ages 12 and up. 

My daughter and I with Jethro

Dates: Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the month of October
*On Halloween Eve, Shocktober goes completely dark for Blackout Night, which promises to be a super scary haunt!

Hours: Fridays and Saturdays: 7-10pm; Sundays: 7-9pm

Location: 601 Catoctin Circle, NE, Leesburg, Virginia 20176

Cost: ONLINE: $30 including Paxton Manor and its basement, the Haunted Well of Souls to buy tickets. 

To buy tickets at the door, visit the TICKET OFFICE on site: $35 including Paxton Manor and its basement, the Haunted Well of Soul

We ended up touring Shocktober with a fun friend,
Darik, from Fresh FM 94.7 

UPCOMING EVENTS for the Paxton Campus:
If you love a good scare, save the date for the Valentine's Day version of Shocktober! 
My Bloody Valentine will return in 2016. Rachel Roseberry, Communications Coordinator for Paxton Campus describes the haunted house attraction as "romance mixed with horror!"

Did you know May is Zombie Month? May 2016, date TBD, the Paxton Campus will host their first Zombie 5k which promises to be a fabulously fun race!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Living In The Moment

The only thing about this post that is a part of my blogging routine regime is that I'm writing during the midnight hour. I may add photo's later. All I want to do in this exact moment is write.

There has been this blog post stuck in my mind for awhile. It is about the controversial argument of being vs. doing.

I'm a witness to it. Mechanical human beings, going about their day, checking off their motions. But what purpose does this serve in the end?

I've never needed a lot of things or money or a status symbol to sky rocket my happiness. I learned from a very early age that none of this matters. There were times when a cloud or a rainbow got in the way of my vision but now I see clearly. It is important to not stumble.

There is this precious gift called LIFE. I'm not joking. It is the best gift you will ever receive. Sometimes you will think you got the raw deal. It is a tricky tight rope of balancing. You somehow have to stay afloat and have a career and a family and not lose Everything. So many fail and fall off, never discovering the realization of what is truly important.

The focus is on the moment. 

The Exact Moment You Are Living. 

To dissect it. Absorb it. Integrate it. Let it become a part of who you are.
Yes, I know. It sounds absolutely exhausting. Why can't we just carry on instead of fully 100% being in the moment?
This is WHY.

Because at any moment's notice, we could be gone. Our last breath taken. I know this scenario entirely way too well. My life may appear sheltered but I have seen the front door to death and dying. More than anyone should EVER see in a lifetime.

Maybe this is why I inhale and exhale life at such a rapid rate that it is difficult to comprehend. My husband often asks me "When is it enough?" not really understanding what it's all about. It's not that I'm afraid of missing out on a memory. It's more about sucking every last breathe out of me. 

Every night, I'm thankful for so much. I can close my eyes with peace, knowing I gave back when the opportunity was presented and that I did not pass judgement. I just went with it. Letting life guide me, fast and furious or slow and gentle. I embraced conversations with complete strangers, sought meaning in the nature I enveloped myself within, loved those close to me, kept my eyes open for a new experience that would teach me valuable life lessons. It all happens every day, magical moments that stack up to create our wondrous life. 

Keep Your Eyes Open.

Welcome Opportunities. Even if they are outside your comfort zone.

Dream Big.

Believe. In Love. In Friendship. In Kindness. In Hope. 
And Always Believe in  Miracles. 

Appreciate Nature.

Marvel in the Beauty of each Sunrise and Sunset.

Chase Rainbows.

Live In The Moment. 

Wishing you Peace, Love & endless Magical Moments,

Friday, August 14, 2015

Runner's World Cover Cover Contest! I'm one of the Top 100 Runners! Ineed you to please vote!!

I have exciting news to share! I was selected as one of the Top 100 Most Awesome Runners for the Runner's World Cover Contest! They were 1,600 plus applicants! This is simply amazing and I'm extremely honored!

The voting continues through Sunday, August 16th and this is where I need your help! Please vote for me everyday and please share this blog post! Your support is very much appreciated. 

Here is the link to vote:

If you haven't already, please take a moment and read my entry. This is is more than winning a cover contest. This is a huge opportunity to share my story about my battle with Lyme Disease, overcoming obstacles with my running, giving back to the Lyme Disease community with my fundraising, and giving hope to all the Warriors out there fighting this debilitating disease. 

I have been battling Lyme Disease for 20 years and told I would never run again. I ran five miles on Thanksgiving Day 2009, after not running for fifteen years, and I have never looked back. I have continuously pushed myself outside with my comfort zone with my running and accomplished the impossible in March - running the Umstead 100 Miler in 29 hours, 36 minutes! I battled chronic fatigue, stomach issues and pain/tingling in my feet. I found out after the race that I was running with frost bite feet!


Peace, Love, Running!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Rock out with The Legwarmers on the Tyson's Corner Center Plaza

This Friday, 8/7/15, The Legwarmers will make an appearance on the plaza at Tyson's Corner Center for a FREE concert! 

However, you must have a wristband to see this awesome 80's tribute band. Beginning at 10am on Friday, 8/7, you can pick up your wristband, two per person, available on a first come, first serve basis, in the mall concourse on Level 2 next to ZARA. 

The concert will begin at 6PM and end at 8:30PM. It is open to the public and all ages but you must have a wristband after 6PM to enter the plaza.

The Legwarmers will be rockin in their 80's attire so dig into your closet for legwarmers, anything neon, big hoop earrings, bangles, and lace gloves. This concert promises to be a totally rad eve so make sure you join the fun!

The concert wraps up the 94.7 Fresh Artist Concert Series at Tyson's Corner Center Plaza so you don't want to miss it! Hope to see you there!

~ Peace, Love and Rock On ~

Monday, August 3, 2015

Packing and Praying

All day has been about laundry, packing & last minute errands. All I wanted to do was go to to sleep once 9pm arrived. No such luck. I finally got to the last item on the packing list. The littlests' water shoes. Although, she isn't little anymore! I bought her a size women's 6.5 running shoe today...and she is 9 years old!!! I'm still trying to comprehend this. 

So I dove into the pile of shopping bags that I desperately need to go through and find a place for all the stuff I had to have. I searched and searched and searched, determined a pair of blue water shoes would appear before me. I was coming up empty handed. I recall a similar scenerio last year, at about the same time at 11:24pm (after Target was closed), the night before the kids were supposed to leave on their big trip to Minnesota, to visit my amazing parents!

A moment of panick set in. Yes, I have moments in my life when it's not all cool and breezy! I immediately went into problem solve mode and said a prayer that it would somehow work it. And I believed that someway it would.

Plan A: Maybe the 24 hour CVS has a pair? I decided to call first before driving to CVS in my pajama's. The guy with the accent on the other end of the line, promptly said "no we don't carry those." And I wanted to argue, "Yes, you do! I have  seen them at your store (and wondered who buys them)??" But I was too tired to argue and said "thank you" instead, feeling certain he misunderstood my request. 

Plan B - Arrive at Target at EXACTLY at 8am when the doors open. Run in and run out and drive home and grab kids and drive to my parents house to pick up my Dad, who is ALWAYS on time. I had to laugh out loud after thinking this! First, there is no way I'm getting anywhere, right when the doors open that early in the morning. Second, I have never ran in and ran out of Target. This plan only ensured my kids and my Dad missing their flight.

Hmmm....Plan C: Post on Facebook in every Mom group I'm a part of and request size 6 water shoes (they always run large) and pick them up in the morning. Someone has to have an unused pair taking up space. 

However, before I had the chance to post, I had this unusual calling to go to my closet and look at my water shoes. Okay, whatever, but the littlest can't wear mine because I'm a size 8. I went to the closet anyway.

I looked up and on the top shelf of the closet, there was a pair of pink water shoes, brand new, without tags. I looked at the size, still thinking they were mine. WHATTT??? This is the truth. THEY WERE A SIZE KID 6!!!! 

Coincidence or not? For the record, the water shoes I thought I had bought were blue (my daughter's fav color)! I'll never know how those pink, perfectly sized, kids water shoes ended up in my closet! Sometimes we have to allow our minds to be quiet, in order to be guided in the right direction!

I guess I should find my pillow since its after the midnight hour and I've organized a group run at 6am!! I'm praying for a miracle that I wake up on time to join them! 

            Peace, Love and Running,

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fabulously Fun Review: The Alliance Theatre Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Last weekend was the opening weekend for The Alliance Theatre's summer production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We went on opening night, July 24th, to see my daughter in her very first play! Caitlyn is part of the Summer Stars ensemble and is in eleven scenes. She had to audition in the Spring for the Summer Stars program which provides theatrical training to children and teens, who are aspiring to have a career in theater.

I have taken my kids to see previous Alliance Theatre productions and have always been very impressed with the level of professionalism of each show. I did not know the story line of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang so I was in for a special treat when I arrived at the theater opening night!

The show runs for 2.5 hours, including intermission. Act 1 is the longest but keeps you entertained with the introduction of characters, singing, dancing, and the development of the story line. Since I was not familiar with the story, I had to pay extra attention to the character and plot development. Act 11 moves very quickly, as it is filled with more action than story telling and fun scenes that leave you smiling and laughing as the final act curtain is being drawn.

The show is filled with talented performers of all ages! There is something for everyone to enjoy in this play! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is amazing with its attention to detail to the costumes and set design, as well as, perfectly timed choreography. I am always impressed with The Alliance Theatre's ability to find authentic costumes for all of the cast members. Creativity in lighting and props was key in creating an intriguing set and different stage scenes to keep the audience engaged. An extra special prop was especially made for this production and it is an amazing feat! I won't spoil the surprise but I'm certain you will know which prop when it makes its first appearance on the stage during Act 1! My daughter's favorite scene is the underground tunnel scene in Act 11. It is a spectacular mix of lightening, costumes, set design to create a very believable scene because of the attention to detail! The Alliance Theatre is a non profit, volunteer based, community theatre for all ages that takes the extra mile with ensuring each one of their productions meets high standards so that the audience has a positive theatre experience.

One of my favorite scenes during the first act is when the audience is introduced to the two Vulgarian spies, Boris and Goran, played by Mike Cash and Spencer Boyd. From the first moment they are on the stage until the last scene, they provide comic relief to the audience and are ridiculously silly! The boy girl twins, Jeremy and Jemima, played by Steven Labovitch and Lourdes Navarro, are fabulous in their roles and are talented singers. Mr. Potts and Truly Scumptious, played by Rich Amanda and McKensey Struzik, develop a love relationship throughout the play that is delicately portrayed through songs and dialogue. Truly solo's show off her incredible talent and her performance was flawless. She is an amazing role model for aspiring actress's, such as my daughter!

From left: Lourdes Navarro, Mike Baker Jr. and Steven Labovitch sing a song from the show. Photo Courtesy of Maggie Swan
The Vulgarian Barron and Baroness, played by Joey Olson and Cat Arnold, are perfectly paired together and have mastered their character development. Every scene with them was fun, witty and a delight to watch! Another over the top character to watch for is the Child Catcher, played by Ellen Woodstock. When she makes her entrance during Act 11, she captivates the crowd with the combination of her performance, costume and make up, as the audience is left contemplating the absurdity of having a child catcher in a country (Vulgeria)  that banishes children.

All of the characters in The Alliance Theatre Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are well portrayed and deliver their lines effortlessly. The featured dancers and ensemble cast, including the Summer Stars, complete the production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as they work together with "Teamwork" to create an amazing production that captivates the audience!

The cast of The Alliance Theatre Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The Alliance Theatre Chitty Chitty Bang Bang production continues this weekend with performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm at Chantilly High School in Chantilly, VA. You can buy your tickets here!

I will be attending the last performance on Sunday and most likely will shed a tear or two as I see my daughter on the big stage again with a smile that beams so brightly! She has immensely enjoyed being a part of this production. The dedication of all the performers truly shines throughout the show! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! This past week, when my daughter was practicing the tune of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I'd often join her! Maybe next summer, I'll try out too!

Peace, Love and Singing,

Friday, July 24, 2015

Alliance Theatre presents Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

So I have to start this post with an honest confession: I may be the only adult who has never seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! (I have also never seen the movie Frozen)!

My daughter was chosen to be a Summer Star for The Alliance Theatre Summer Theatrical Production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. 

Since late June, Caitlyn has been practicing with the full cast 4 times a week, averaging 3.5 hours for each practice! The dedication and enthusiasm behind this production is amazing! Everyone is a volunteer dedicating their heart and soul into this production. I have watched the behind the scenes work take place and volunteered my time when I could, helping with props or PR/media.

All their hard work will be rewarded tonight as it is the opening night of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Chantilly High School! I'm excited to see the magic unfold on the stage and hear my daughter sing all the songs she's been singing around the house! 

You can see  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang this weekend and next weekend! The flyer below has the information for dates/times and ticket information! Or use this link to purchase tickets! I promise it will be an amazing show! See you at the theatre! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Runner's World Cover Contest 2015 #RWCoverContest

Runner's World is looking for the two most awesome runners in America to put on the cover!

I've decided to go for it again and enter the Runner's World Cover Contest 2015! To some people, this contest may be silly or it may be viewed as attention seeking. But before you pass judgement, please take a moment and READ my #RWCoverContest profile. You will find out that that I run for a cause that I'm passionate about > bringing awareness and educating the masses about Lyme Disease and raising money to find a cure.

Click here to read why I run, my most significant running accomplishment and how my life has changed and the lives of others through my running:

Running for #LymeDiseaseWarriors Everywhere

Just this week, for the first time ever, I shared my own personal journey living with chronic Lyme disease for 20 years, in front of a room of people, at the High Heeled Happy Hour that benefited the The National Capital Lyme Disease Association. This was a fundraiser event I had coordinated back in December and it was an amazing evening! I was surprised at the number of people there to hear me speak and then afterwards, tell me how they found my story inspiring.

If anything, my message is not "Hey, look at Fabulous Me, who can Run with Lyme Disease."

My message is about Awareness, Hope, Education, Empowerment, Encouragement, Never Giving Up, Believing in Your Dreams, and To Dream Big!!

As always, I am appreciative of your support! You can vote 1x a day through 7/22 by clicking on my profile link:

EVERY SINGLE VOTE COUNTS!! I would be super ecstatic if I won this contest! This would be a HUGE platform to educate and bring awareness of Lyme Disease, which is one of the fastest growing health epidemics in the United States.

THANK YOU for taking the time to vote and for sharing this post!!! 

Peace, Love, and Running, 


Monday, July 13, 2015

July High Heeled Happy Hour to benefit National Capital Lyme Disease Association

Fabulously Fun Fundraiser Alert for Tuesday, July 14th, 6-8pm, at Clyde's Willow Creek Farm in Ashburn! 

Join me tomorrow night for the July High Heeled Happy Hour to benefit the National Capital Lyme Disease Association! Today is the LAST DAY to register on line! Tickets are available tomorrow night, at the door for $5 more!  Click here for on line registration!

I will be speaking briefly about my 20 year journey living with chronic Lyme disease. I woke up one day and was not able to walk for 6 months, visiting numerous specialists and searching for answers that I received too late to be cured. I lived a life of chronic pain and fatigue and a wrong diagnosis. I changed my diet, lifestyle and started running five years ago. My pain slowly disappeared. My greatest achievement is accomplishing the impossible - finishing my first 100 mile race, Umstead 100, in March 2015!

I will also share with you the recent accomplishments of National Capital Lyme Disease Association in the Lyme Disease Community.

I look forward to a Fabulously Fun eve and hope to see you there!

Peace, Love and Running,

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fit Foodie 5k - Sat, June 20th

Hey runner peeps! What are you doing this weekend? It's your last chance to sign up to run the most Fabulously Fun Cooking Light & Health's Fit Foodie 5k Weekend in Fairfax, VA! 

Today is your lucky day because you can register on line until 5pm EST TODAY, TH, 6/18! You can register using this link: 

Fit Foodie 5K.

And you can use the promo code: TWINGLESMOM to save 50% off your race registration fee!

But you must register TODAY to receive this discount so don't delay! Please share this promo code with your family and friends!

The whole weekend is going to be fantastic! Calories burned, calories earned is the theme!

If you want to get fancy and try some amazing food, sign up for the event Friday night, the VIP Cocktail Party. Last year, my hubby and I made it a date night! If you are interested in attending, please let me know, as I can bring one guest to the event. But please leave a comment before 4:30pm, 6/18!

Me and the hubby all dressed up and enjoying the delicious, gourmet food!

On Saturday morning, throw on a cute running outfit and lace up your running shoes to run 3.1 miles. Last year, I ran a PR on this course which made this runner girl's day! Post race, you will enjoy delicious food and adult beverages! Last year, the Fit Foodie 5k race Ambassadors had so much fun celebrating PR's and age group 1st places! 

Twingles Mom, This Mama Runs with Cupcakes, Eat Pray Run DC, & Rock Salt > practicing her yoga moves!
On Sunday, there is an awesome Yoga & Pure Barre class which sounds intriguing! Last year I attended the boot camp session with celebrity trainer, Patrick Goudeau, who was top notch! I'm certain the yoga & pure barre instructor for Sunday's session will push you to new limits and energize your soul. If you are interested in attending, please let me know, as I can bring one guest to the event. But please leave a comment before 4:30pm, 6/18!

Make sure you post your photo's on social media that you take during the Fit Foodie 5k weekend, using the hashtags #RunEatDrink #TweetYourFeet

I hope to see you at a Fit Foodie event this weekend! 

Happy Running! 
Fit Foodie Race Ambassador, Fairfax

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mean Girls

It's almost midnight and I'm wiped out. I should be finding my pillow but instead, I have found the keyboard. It has been so long since I logged in that I almost forgot my password. I have been running, and running, and running. I think it is the most I've ran in a racing season. I have accomplished the impossible. I challenge myself while I continuously balance living my life with a chronic illness.

So much magic has happened in the last few months and I will share as much as I can. There are some immediate posts that are calling my attention. However, I will save some of my energy to describe the amazing race experiences I've recently encountered. 2015 has been very good to me.

Tonight, I was called to write about a more pressing matter. It has to do with relationships and how you treat others. It is about snap judgments and how your words can sting. Everything always comes back around. This is called Karma.

I've been quiet for awhile. Observing, watching, going about my business. But now I am compelled to write what is in my heart and mind. Some would say let it go. And I've tried but it is a message that needs to be heard loud and clear.

If you know me, really know me, then you know that I will do everything I can to help you, to encourage you, to lift you up. I will never, ever tear you down.

I am here to tell you that Mean Girls exist. Jealousy can rear its ugly head when you least expect it.

I absolutely do not make you "look bad." The only person you should compare yourself to, is you! I am accomplishing my own goals, in my own way, the best way I can.

WHO FREAKIN CARES that you choose to run 5k's (or whatever distance it may be) while I prefer to run ultra's? The last time I checked, we were all in this together, despite the mileage we logged. Did you ever stop to think how I admire you and how you find the time to train, despite having to work and manage a family or stay at home with your active toddler and newborn baby, have the courage to show up on race day and cross the finish line?

And I'm not sorry for posting on social media about my accomplishments. When you post yours, I'm the first one to say "Congrats!" and speak words of sincerity. I didn't get the memo that my posts should be fired away at a less rapid rate.

I thought I had arrived in a place in my life where Mean Girls didn't exist. I thought the golden rule applied in adulthood "treat others how you want to be treated"...a rule I teach my kids.

But maybe I have it all wrong. And this stirs up all kinds of emotions. Why can't women support women who are achieving great things? Why must women feel the need to tear one another down? This world is hard enough. Why must women add this extra brutality?

This is a call to action. 

I challenge all women out there to stop and think before shredding someone apart that you don't even know. Are you aware of their battles? You don't know the footsteps they have traveled on their journey to get them where they are now. Instead, introduce yourself, open your heart and listen. In a world where we like to control, listening is the key to peace and happiness. Embrace their uniqueness, marvel at their gifts and share in the joy of their accomplishments.

Worlds may collide but view this as a learning opportunity and perhaps, a new friendship.

The jealousy and hatred against each other must stop. We must lift each other up instead.

United. Together. Now and Forever. 

Or we will always stand Alone.

And to women everywhere, whether you are a CEO, CPA, MBA, PhD, decorated soldier, accomplished athlete or a stay at home Mom, I applaud you for all you do, each and every day.

Keep Being Awesome!

Peace, Love and Running,

Friday, February 20, 2015

McFarland USA "Must See" Movie Review & Exclusive Interviews with Carlos Pratts & Rafael Martinez

McFarland USA "Must See" Movie Review

When is the last time you have seen a movie without any expectations and left the theatre bursting with feel good emotions? Walt Disney Pictures has successfully made a triumphant movie that will move you to tears. McFarland USA opens in theatres on Friday, February 20, 2015, and is already creating a buzz in Hollywood. A trailer of McFarland USA can be viewed by visiting Disney Movies.

I had an opportunity to see this movie when I was at Disney World last month, running the Disney Dopey Challenge. However, the McFarland USA movie screening was Sunday afternoon, the same day as the Disney marathon and the last day of running four consecutive races. Needless to say, I was disappointed that I did not make it to the most talked about 2015 movie screening, amongst the running community. A few weeks ago, another opportunity arose for me to attend an advanced screening of this movie. I believe in second chances and moved my schedule around so that my kids and I could view this "must see" movie, thanks to See it First.

The only thing I knew about McFarland USA, before watching the movie was that it was a true story about a 1987 cross country high school team in a small California town. As a long distance runner, I was excited to share this movie with my kids and watch the magic of running transform on the big screen. My kids are 12 years old (boy/girl twins) and an almost 9 year old daughter. My son plays competitive soccer and has placed in his age group when he ran a few local 5K's. I knew he would enjoy this movie, as he is an underdog himself and excels at running and soccer. My kid's reactions to the movie was incredible. During the last competition race scene, my 12 year old daughter blurted out "This is Awesome!" This is the same daughter that would rather be drawing, than playing a sport. I secretly hoped after watching the movie, she would want to sign up for Girls on the Run.

Kevin Costner as "Coach Jim White" with the McFarland Cross Country Team
McFarland USA takes you to a place that is foreign to many of us. It carefully introduces you to a culture, that at first glance, would scare "outsiders" away. However, Jim White, played by Kevin Costner, the new McFarland High School cross country coach, who has moved his Caucasian family to this primarily populated Latino, low income, small California town, decides he is not going to run away. He is a careful observer and gently allows himself into the lives of his students and their hard working, migrant farm families. Coach Jim White sees an opportunity to inspire the kids in this town to dream big, to want more out of life, and to not be afraid of failing, even when you are the underdog.

Kevin Costner as "Coach Jim White" spends a day in the fields with McFarland migrant farm workers

For younger kids, the movie may move a bit slow in the beginning, as the story is set up and viewers are being introduced to key characters and becoming familiar with the town, McFarland, CA. You must wait for it patiently and then, the magic suddenly begins. The McFarland cross country team is recruited and lives become transformed during their training and while competing. They begin to bond as a family and support each other to achieve goals that were once upon a time ago, unimaginable.

I was especially impressed with the cast and the fact that most of the actors who played the McFarland cross country team runners are newcomers to the big screen. They portrayed their characters with grace and skill and I'm certain that they made the town of McFarland, CA, proud to represent!

I highly recommend this movie for everyone! My kids loved this movie too! McFarland USA was a heartfelt movie, as viewers experience a range of feel good emotions. There were a few times my kids asked me if I was crying (and yes, I let the waterworks flow)! The director, Niki Caro, spent her time making sure this amazing true story was portrayed accurately and carefully crafted character development. It is a fantastic family movie that restores the faith that you can do anything that you put your mind too. Inspiration is the theme throughout the movie and the viewer is on an amazing journey watching multiple lives transform. It's PG rating is due to language. There are a few minor "bad" words that were casually mentioned but this should not detour you from taking your kids to see this incredible movie!

I had the opportunity to interview two of the featured actors in McFarland USA. Rafael Martinez who plays David Diaz, one of the three Diaz brother's who train and compete with the McFarland cross country team and Carlos Pratts, who plays Thomas Valles, the star runner on the McFarland cross country team. Both of these actors are extremely humble and gracious to have been given this amazing opportunity to be cast in McFarland USA. What impresses me most about these two young actors is their appreciation for the goodness that has occurred in their life and their mindful way of giving back to the McFarland community. Alongside their McFarland USA acting family, they recently constructed a new playground in McFarland, CA! I am certain we will see these two awesome actors do big things with their career!

Here's an action item list for you:
1. Go see the movie McFarland USA! Get tickets here!
2. Enjoy reading their thoughtful answers to my interview questions below!
3. Share the love and please Tweet and/or Share this post on Google or Facebook > Thank you!
4. Follow these amazing actors on Instagram and Twitter!
Follow Carlos Pratts on Twitter              Follow Carlos Pratts on Instagram

Follow Rafael Martinez on Twitter         Follow Rafael Martinez on Instagram

Interview with Carlos Pratts and Rafael Martinez

Rafael at McFarland USA World Premiere
Carlos as "Thomas" competing in McFarland USA

1. What is your acting background? How did you get introduced to acting?

Carlos: "I was introduced to acting when I was in high school by Mr. Larry Wood. He was an amazing man, who is a large part of why I am where I am today. RIP Mr. Wood. When I moved to Los Angeles, I met an amazing teacher, Amy Lyndon, and have been with her ever since. With her help, I was able to land a few spots on different TV shows, independent films, etc. Which all led me to this point."

 Rafael: "I got into acting when my parents took me to see Spy Kids when I was about 8 years old. I wanted to live an exciting, adventurous, life like the characters in the movie. The only way I saw that possible was through acting. I don’t have much of a professional acting background. I had gone to acting school from when I was 8 years old until I reached high school. During all those years of acting school, I never got an agent or manager because I was scared of taking that leap of faith into this profession—no one in my family or friends or community had ever done something like this before so it was very intimidating to me. I had only done one “big” thing which was performing in an adaptation of Igor Stravinsky's ballet "Petrushka” which played at the LA Philharmonic in 2004. Other than that I had no other experience professionally. I had left college and hadn’t acted for 5 years and then, one day while in school, I auditioned for a play and got the role. While performing on stage, something clicked in me, something I can’t describe but it felt right. I somehow knew that acting was what I wanted to do. So in the end of my freshman year of college I decided to come back to my hometown, Los Angeles, to try acting as a career! While down here, I found someone to represent me and then began working on a couple of small roles on low budget films, then an year and a half later after coming down from college, I auditioned for this role of a guy named David Diaz in a Disney film called McFarland, USA and I got it! It was the greatest day of my life."

2. Did you know anything about the McFarland, CA, cross country team before you auditioned for the movie, McFarland USA?
Carlos: "I knew very little. I had seen them on ESPN before but did not make the connection until I read the script."
Rafael: "I had never heard of McFarland, CA, or of McFarland High School’s cross country team before auditioning for the role. I ran cross country during my freshman year in college but I never did hear about them. It shocked me that this was a true story and I was hooked the minute I read the script. They are really an amazing town and inspire me to every day to win at life."
3. Did you have to receive athletic training for this role? And if you did, who trained you?  And what was your training plan?
Carlos: "We trained as a team for a month prior to filming. Every morning we would go to Masters College and train with Coach Zach and Amy. We would run 5 or 6 miles and then practice running hills and sprints as a team. At night I would go by myself to Brick Fitness and train with Brian Nguyen (Mark Wahlberg's personal trainer), work out with them and go over nutrition plans. Once we started filming, I was up by 3 or 4 am, working out with the exercises they had made up for me to continue, while we were on location."
The McFarland USA cross country track team cast trained everyday for one month to prepare for their role as a runner!
Rafael: "I received plenty of athletic training before principal photography. I had about a month and a half to learn everything about running. We worked on our formation, strides, posture, etc. It was hard but fun. I remember when we couldn’t balance during our one legged quadriceps stretch! We kept falling down! The Masters College had a fantastic cross country team and their coaches, in partnership with Game Changing Films, trained us daily. We trained 5 days a week. I usually ran 6-7 days a week. I had to lose a lot of weight because I wasn’t exactly runner quality.  Every day I would get up and eat a small breakfast, drive to the training facilities in Santa Clarita, begin our warm up with a 2-3 mile course into a dirt trail, then intervals with the exercise depending on the day then do 45-60min of cardio on a treadmill, elliptical bike, etc., then followed by an ice bath—those were brutal.
4. Have you always wanted to be a runner?
Carlos: "I wanted to be a runner the day I auditioned for McFarland! lol"
Rafael: "Not always. I remember joining my university’s cross country team during my freshman year college because I wanted to expand my horizons. Everyone on the team had been running for years and I was a novice to the game. I thought running was hard and boring but no matter how hard cross country was, I loved the friendships I made while in the team. We became family, and so the pain wasn’t that bad if it meant: togetherness. 2 years later, I got the role of David Diaz in McFarland, USA, I knew training was going to be tough but I had some confidence since I had a small history with the sport. To be honest, I enjoyed training for the movie because I rediscovered the sport with a new approach to it. Throughout training and shooting, I learned a lot about myself, my strengths, weaknesses, it was a beautiful way to meditate and pray. Who would’ve known! I love running now! I can’t go more than two days without it."
5. What inspired you to accept this role?
Carlos: "It was just such a beautiful script and I knew the film had potential to be great. At the end of the day, I just want to make a difference. I knew from the beginning, that this film had the potential to inspire every one that ever came across it."
Rafael: "I have always been a fan of movies with a good message that you cannot resist feeling good afterwards. McFarland, USA is that type of movie, so I was very excited. But when I read the role of David Diaz, who was this optimistic, hardworking, spiritual teenager, I was even more excited to take on the role."
6. Who inspires you?

Carlos: "My Parents, My friends, Angel Gonzales who is like my older brother, and most importantly God."
Rafael: "God inspires me, more specifically Jesus Christ. He has made things clear for me. I have always liked to give or serve people. There’s a fulfillment in doing that--filling the missing pieces, that is. If I can fill the missing piece in someone else’s life somehow, even if it’s just answering a question, that makes me happy. It’s a tough question to answer but let’s just say the better day in the future inspires me. Having a great time of adventure with my future wife and children inspires me. That’s a longing image I have yet to live."
7. How has your life changed since McFarland USA was filmed/released?
Carlos: "That is a hard question to answer. Many doors are opening up but that doesn't make it easier. The level I'm at now is filled with actors in the same place and I am going to have to continue to work just as hard, if not harder, to stick around. It continues to humble me."
Rafael: "My life has changed since the making of McFarland, USA. When making the movie, through running, I realized the inner power I had to make my life better—just like Jim White helped shape these boys’ life through running, I personally felt moved. In the past, movies have helped me get through dark times and I’m very happy I’ll be able to share a story that can empower anyone who watches this movie. In a way, my life has changed because while making McFarland, USA, I found God and he has been guiding me to be a person of love, service & faith—much like my role as David Diaz. I have learned to focus more on my progress as an artist rather than trying to control the result of things. Ultimately, I feel liberated and happy."
8. What was it like working with Kevin Costner?
Carlos: "Kevin, or "KC" as I like to call him, is the man. Working with him was incredible. I learned so much and grew, not just as an actor but as a man. I learned so many lessons along the way that I will take with me forever. It was the best experience of my life."
Carlos as "Thomas" and Kevin Costner as "Coach Jim White" at cross country meet
Rafael: "Working with Kevin Costner was amazing. He was a great role model on set. He gave us advice on acting and technique. He’s not only a great actor but also a great guy. He was always helping us with the scenes and answering our questions regarding acting and life. He has a huge capacity for delight. He was always positive and saw the light in the tunnel and helped us see it as well. Kevin had this paternal loving relationship with us. This also helped the chemistry on-camera between characters Jim White and the McFarland runners. Kevin Costner is smart, funny, loving, and a hardworking man—I learned so much from him."
9. What was your favorite scene in McFarland USA and why? (without giving away the movie)
Carlos: "The orange grove scene where Jim eats the orange. It was the first time you see them not just as a team, but as a family."
Rafael: "I have two favorite scenes in McFarland, USA. One of my favorite scenes in McFarland was the last race in the movie. We really felt like it was the championship race. We worked so hard physically before and during the movie to run like cross country runners. We shot the last scenes of the movie during the last week of production. And after running nearly every day for 4 months, the championship race felt like real deal. What you see in the movie is us really fighting for the finish line—not acting. Another favorite scene was a beach scene in the movie. I think it was one of the better scenes in where we all bonded as brothers. We were all freezing because we were shooting the scene of us running into the water, over and over again. I remember at one point we all huddled together to keep ourselves warm. I thought “Man this is crazy,” but when in my life am I ever going to do something like this again. It was the greatest time of my life."
10. Share an interesting fact about yourself that may surprise my blog readers.
Carlos: "I'm pretty good at impersonating actors and impersonating the band "Third Eye Blind."
Rafael: "I am an introvert. I love spending time by myself! I like spending my weekends indoors, watching movies, or running in areas of town I’ve never seen before. Nonetheless, I too enjoy the company of one or two other people but if you add a crowd of people into the scene, it drains my energy and I would need to withdraw and rejuvenate myself. I always try to last as long as I can in a social environment but it’s one of the greatest challenges of my life."
Rafael Martinez