It’s so interesting to me the idea of a New Year. We all get this feeling that we get a clean slate, we can start over and become anything that we want. The idea that we can totally reinvent ourselves and accomplish the impossible. What is it about the passing of a year that gives us that power to see ourselves rising above what we have been able to create in the past and reach the dreams that we have been keeping at bay? Why is it that we allow ourselves to slip down back off the wave of what is possible as soon as the high of what is New has rubbed off?
My wish for all of you is to have a magical holiday that will keep the fire of possibility burning inside you throughout the year. Everyday can be New Year’s Day, what is it that you want? Why not go after it?
Happy New Year!!
I had the incredible fortune to be invited to attend the Hollywood Premiere of DOLPHIN TALE this weekend. It is a new movie coming out about a dolphin, Winter, that has it’s tail amputated after getting it caught in a crab trap and the amazing team of experts that help rehab her back to health. It’s a great story if it ended there but the fact that she now uses a prosthetic tail to swim is what really takes it to the next level.
The man who is responsible for building the tail is someone who I have known and respected for years, Kevin Carroll, he is a joyful, animated, Irishman, who was a drummer in a rock band at one time, and someone I like to refer to as ‘The Leg Whisperer’. He is a very skilled prosthetist and the love for his work is truly inspiring.
Now, what you don’t learn in the movie is that the whole ‘tail’ idea was Kevin’s, he was driving home one day listening to NPR in his car and heard Winter’s story and the next day he called the aquarium and said, ‘I think I can help your dolphin’. He took on the unreasonable challenge of building Winter a prosthetic tail along with Dan Strzempka, fellow Hanger prosthetist, and it took them over a year and a half to figure out how to design a tail that would work for her. They had no idea that the work that they were doing was going to lead them where it did, they just wanted to make life better for Winter.
I had a moment of realization of the power that the simple chain of events can have while I was standing on the blue carpet at the premiere yesterday. The event was so large that they blocked off an entire city street for the day. It was there that I was aware that had Kevin not called that aquarium that day and not spent months and months of his time dedicated to making life easier for this dolphin, there would be no fancy Hollywood premiere.
Pretty powerful stuff.
There are few precious moments in life where we can see the impact that we have on the world around us and noticing it can be incredibly empowering. The simple choices we make on a daily basis change the course of life, not only for us but for all of the people that we come in contact with.
The one other thing about Kevin that I just adore is that he doesn’t make it about himself, he is happiest when he sees amputees doing well walking (or swimming) and living an independent life.
How many times in life have you had a thought to do something or help someone but ended up talking yourself out of it because you were being ‘reasonable’? How might your life be different if you were a little less reasonable?
My nieces have birthdays about a month apart, which makes this time of year generally busy trying to figure out what ‘kids are into these days’ – can’t BELIEVE that I’m even saying that! – and what ‘Awesome Aunt Katy’ should buy them!
My oldest niece, Kira, just turned 9, it seems like yesterday when she was 3 weeks old and throwing up down my shirt (that’s a story for another time) and it made think about being young and feeling like things took forever to come, like summer break, Christmas break, Spring break, basically anytime that I didn’t have to go to school or BIRTHDAYS. I remember feeling when I was younger that all I EVER wanted was to be grown up. So much so that you would add a fraction to the end of your age.
“WOW! You have gotten SO BIG! How old are you now?”
“I’m 9 and 3/4.”
I couldn’t WAIT to be 10 – DOUBLE DIGITS! That was a big one.
Could you imagine doing that now?
“Wow! You look so different! How old are you now?”
“31 and 3/4!”
I bet it would get a laugh.
It’s so interesting to me that I don’t feel THAT much different then I did when I was 22 – I’ve learned a lot about life, what I want from it and who I want to be in it, but I can’t say that I FEEL any older. I have grown to be more able to stand up for myself and know when to walk away from a situation and when to stay and fight. I have learned to cherish the special moments with the ones that I love dearly and try to tell them as often as possible that I love them and that they are really NEAT!
I appreciate those aspects of aging, the perspective, I love that! But I miss the simple joy and lightness of being a kid sometimes. We take things so seriously, don’t we, we ADULTS. Maybe we should take a lesson from our former selves and perhaps spend our time doing the things that make us the most happy, because we want to not because we have to.
What would happen if the next time that someone asked your age you replied, “48 and 2/3!”?
I have recently been called in to audition for a pilot for a tv show for one of the big networks. We were in Vegas for Jay’s birthday and of course as soon as I left town, opportunity came knocking… the role was for a girl in her 20’s that is an amputee, she has had a one night stand with the main character of the show. She is a tough girl who is self-confident, regardless of her physical situation. I had a great audition, hit it off really well with the casting director, knew that I was perfect for this job and left believing that I had booked it.
Then I waited. And waited. Didn’t hear anything.
I was very confused about what that meant, how could I be so wrong about how the meeting had gone?
I ended up having my agent call and get feed back for me.
I was wrong. They loved me. They agreed that I did a great job and they had said that the producers decided that they thought that the role was more of a sight gag and was a bit shallow.They then said that they wanted to bring me in again down the line for a role that wasn’t an amputee at all.
That is what I have been working towards for years. I used to say, whatever gets your foot in the door, even if it’s a prosthetic foot…
But now I am not so certain that always getting cast as ‘disabled girl’, ‘sassy, confident, funny, even in her situation…’ is the best way to make a name for yourself.
People in Hollywood want to put you into your little box,
oh, you’re the chubby guy,
oh, you’re the funny girl
oh, you’re the hunk
But even the word, ‘DISABLED’ sits uneasily in my stomach.
I know plenty of people who have all of their body parts in working order and they can’t make it to the grocery store without a major issue. Some of the most amazing people I know are unable to walk or see or talk. But they live. They live life everyday to the fullest and keep their ‘disabilities’ out of it.
I have been meeting with potential managers recently too and it’s been very interesting (and empowering) to sit there and say, I am looking for someone who is not afraid to pitch me as a ‘normal’ person. Sitting down with people and saying this is what I need, if that’s you, great, if not fine too. I am pretty close to making a choice on my newest team member who can help take my career to that next level and that makes me very excited.
I think that we often get afraid to make changes or get comfortable in our current situations and don’t want to make waves but what can happen is then we get stuck – not moving forward. It’s really good for us, from time to time, to try to shake things up in our lives, however scary that may be. Stepping out of our comfort zone can be hard but what it can lead to is amazing!
Take a chance this week and try shaking things up!
My awesome and hilarious husband, Jay Cramer, is the Director of the Performing Arts Program at Rancho los Amigos National Rehab Center, it’s a program that is made up of past or current patients of the hospital who are all performers- singers, dancers, comedians. It’s truly amazing the amount of talent that has passed through Rancho and these people are mostly untrained. There is everything from an Elvis tribute artist to singer-songwriters to poets and everyone of them is living life after some sort of injury or disability. Every time I go to rehearsal, I leave with so much joy from the excitement of these people and their passion for their art.
Being a part of this group has been a great opportunity for me to remind me why I got into the entertainment industry in the first place.
When I was younger I would do ANYTHING to be involved with even the smallest project, without even thinking about being paid or what it might lead to later on. I just wanted to preform, to act, to sing. That is what I get from the members of the Performing Arts at Rancho, they look at it as an opportuntiy to share themselves with their community without the expectation of what it can lead to, it’s all about self-expression.
We had our first out door concert last week and I sang a song from the Broadway show WICKED and after I got done singing I was approached by a little girl, she was maybe 4 years-old, and her mother. She was looking at me like I had fallen from the sky and her mom looked at me and said, ‘She wanted to hug the princess.’ This little person heard me sing and thought that I was a princess from a Disney movie (which is one of my dream jobs – by the way!) So I reached down and hugged her and she smiled the sweetest smile at me and ran right back over to her mother’s arms.
What an important lesson to learn as an actor! We can tend to get wrapped up in the business of the business and end up forgetting about why we got into it in the first place. I am so thankful for the reminder from the amazing performers in this group and also from the people that we reach.
Not only did I get the opportunity to sing for over 200 people, I got to be a princess.
Take some time this week and think about where you might have lost the passion for the work that you do.
Check out the photo gallery from the show at the link below!
Today’s blog is a collaboration with a dear friend and mentor of mine, Mara Purl. We have been friends for many years and have seen amazing things happen for each other in that time! She is the author of a series of Women’s Fiction Novels being released in hard back next month!
Along with the release of her novel, WHAT THE HEART KNOWS, she is going on a Virtual Blog Tour, which she not only asked me to be a part of but she invited me to kick it off! So here it is, a co-authored blog – Mara’s first stop on her 2011 Blog Tour! This will be posted not only on Eternal Optimist but also Mara’s blog at http://marapurl.wordpress.com/.
Whenever we get the chance, Mara and I camp out at a local coffee shop and catch up on career, family, and life in general. These coffee dates are very special to me but also incredibly helpful because we really try to be sounding boards for each other. We wanted to try to capture a glimpse into one of our chats and what made the most sense to us was to create the blog in the style of a screenplay – Mara and I are both actresses – so what could be more natural?
Please enjoy the scene that we wrote and for info on all things Mara, visit her Facebook Fan Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Milford-Haven-Novels-By-Mara-Purl/129358801994?sk=wall.
A Conversation Overheard
Katy Sullivan & Mara Purl
EXT. – DAY – ESTABLISHING SHOT – NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – TYPICAL SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SUNNY WEATHER – A COZY NEIGHBORHOOD STREET WITH SHOPS, PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS, FICAS AND PALM TREES EMBEDDED IN THE SIDEWALK. IN THE NEAR DISTANCE, THE “WARNER BROTHERS” LOGO POKES ABOVE THE BUILDINGS, ADORNING A WATER TOWER; AGAINST A HILLSIDE, A HUGE SIGN BLINKS “UNIVERSAL.”
EXT. – DAY – MEDIUM SHOT – A CAFÉ OCCUPIES A CORNER, ITS GREEN AWNINGS MATCHING THE GREEN MARKET UMBRELLAS OVER ROUND TABLES
INT. – DAY – THE SAME CAFÉ. AT A LONG COUNTER, A WAITRESS POURS COFFEE FOR THE TWO PATRONS SITTING THERE; SEVERAL BOOTHS ARE NOW EMPTY, FOLLOWING THE BREAKFAST RUSH, AND PRIOR TO THE LUNCH RUSH. AT THE FARTHEST BOOTH, TWO WOMEN ARE IN ANIMATED CONVERSATION.
INT. – DAY – CLOSE-UP SERIES ON THE TWO WOMEN.
MARA PURL, an auburn-haired writer-speaker who has penned her own series of novels and a hit radio drama, after a successful acting and producing career) and KATY SULLIVAN, a firey-red-headed actress and athlete who’s building a name for herself.
Good to see you!
You too! We’re both so busy . . . which is a good thing. . . .
I wish I got to see you more often! You don’t know how much I love our coffee dates!
I do too! Always such a treat to be with you.
Okay, you have to tell me about this blog tour. How does it work?
You know how authors with a new book go around the country being interviewed on talk shows?
Well, that still happens to some extent. But now an author can “travel” all over the country by visiting different blogs. And each blog I’ll be visiting has its own style, its own themes.
So, you’ll be talking about all kinds of different things during the tour?
Yes! I mean, people will be asking me about my books—why I write them, what they’re about. But often, that’s a springboard for bigger issues, or deeper thoughts.
Okay, so you’re visiting my blog, and I’m excited because I’m your very first stop on the tour! So we could start with some basics, like . . . what are your books, what are they about?
I write the Milford-Haven Novels. And they’re about life in a small, coastal town.
But they’re really about more than that. . . .
(Smiling) Yes, they really are. . . . They’re really about listening to your heart. In our culture, we focus so much on the “head”—on logic and reason, on strategy and tactics. And these are good, we need them. But when it comes to the “heart”—intuition and instinct, gut feeling and inner guidance—we often dismiss these as being less important.
That’s so true! We might have a feeling about something, but then we try to push it down, and talk ourselves into thinking we’re being “silly” or even “stupid.” So the title of your book, What the Heart Knows, that’s what it means, right?
Exactly. My protagonist “Miranda Jones” has always been told to “use her head” and now she’s beginning to ask herself whether she’s listening to her heart as well. All the characters are wrestling with this one way or another.
So, would you say your book is pure escapism? Or is there a message?
It’s both. On one level, it’s just a fun story, a way to escape to a gorgeous coastal town. I’ve been staying in favorite spots on the Central Coast for years, and you’ve visited there too, so you know how special it is. I want all my readers to be able to “travel” there just by opening my book.
Oh, it’s amazing up there. Jay and I would go there in a heartbeat.
(Laughing) A heartbeat! Good one. Yes, Larry and I love our times there too. Very romantic. Very restful and nurturing.
So your novel is a romance?
It’s certainly romantic! But it’s not a traditional romance. It’s much more unpredictable. It’s full of surprises, and has a sort of maddening end, because a lot of things are left unresolved.
Which is why your readers will need book two!
Right! It comes out a few months from now, and it’ll be called Where the Heart Lives.
Oooh. What the Heart Knows and Where the Heart Lives. I hear a heartbeat.
(THE TWO FRIENDS LAUGH, AND BOTH SAY YES WHEN THE WAITRESS OFFERS THEM MORE COFFEE.)
So I was thinking the other day about how we got here, you know, how we became friends.
Yes, when we took that terrific seminar.
I think it’s so interesting how you can have a common experience with someone and end up being a surprise gem that you never expected.
Well, we were looking for the same thing in life. The idea of transformation. That shift from believing we’re just living at the effect of outside circumstances, to realizing we’re actually living on the cause side of things.
(Laughing) For better or worse!
(Laughing) That’s the truth!
I can’t tell you how annoying it is to be having a ‘bad’ day and knowing that you are at the center of what is going on.
Annoying, but funny too, right? I mean, when we see how we get in our own way, we can’t help but laugh! I remember sitting there, waiting for the seminar to start. Since I’m a “good girl”, I was in my chair, very busy judging the people who weren’t being “good” because they were late. Then I realized, duh! The seminar wasn’t going to start till everyone was in the room! So after I finished laughing at myself, I realized I could either continue to sit there, or I could may think about helping.
Perfect example. Jay and I have a new catch phrase, which is, “You are responsible for the energy that you bring into a room.”
Good one! Emerson said, “You are what you think about all day long.”
So what are we thinking about?
When we’re really tuned in, we’re thinking about transforming this moment, or this situation, into one that’s inspiring, encouraging, that let’s you know you’re on the right path.
Right. I get myself stuck sometimes in my professional acting career when I want a certain job on this TV show or whatever and I forget the simple JOY of acting and why I got into this business in the first place.
Yes we get stuck on results. And that goes back to the cause and effect thing. We want the effect. We want the wake of the boat. But we can’t manufacture a wake behind our boat unless the boat is going forward. So we have to force ourselves to stop longing for the wake to happen just the way we want it to, go to the front of the boat, and move forward. If we’re moving forward, we can’t help but have a wake.
I’ve noticed myself pushing recently in my life and I have been getting frustrated with myself because I know I’m causing the wake in the water instead of the smooth flow.
Let’s switch metaphors. You’re SO right that “pushing” doesn’t work. Larry and I just got back from celebrating our anniversary by spending a quiet day in the mountains. We stayed next to a swollen creek, and I watched it rushing by for a long time. It became so obvious that we don’t need to push the river. And we can’t even if we try! And something else—we can trust the flow.
You mean trust that the flow is happening.
Yes, and that when we let ourselves, we can really see we are the flow, the events of our lives, the synchronicities, the connections, the synergies, are there waiting for us to accept and participate.
Wow! You’re so right! It’s right in front of me and it’s the most basic idea. Sometimes you just need a outside set of eyes to see what’s going on right in front of you.
We all need that other set of eyes sometimes. That’s why a friendship like ours is so valuable. That’s the kind of friendship I write about in my novels, too. Like Miranda, a young artist, and Samantha, her close friend who’s a little older, but needs and values her younger friend just as much.
We inspire each other.
Well, you certainly inspire me with everything you’ve been doing! The play with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Chicago. The athletic events. And your motivational speaking!
And you, with this amazing book launch. You have a short story that gets released THIS WEEK as a FREE e-book! Tell me about that.
It’s called When Hummers Dream. Funnily enough, my character Miranda has a transforming experience because of a tiny hummingbird! It’s really a preview for the novel. It happens right before the novel begins. And the e-book is free this month, if you have a Kindle, a Nook, or any e-reader.
That’s awesome. So then, when does the novel come out?
What the Heart Knows gets released in early September, just over a month from now. It’ll be in hardcover, and it’ll also be an e-book.
Wish we could talk all day, but. . . .
Me too. But it’s time to get back to writing for me. . . .
Thanks for making this your first stop on your blog tour! I really want all my friends and followers to know that if they read your books and stories they’ll start to have their own transformation!
THE TWO FRIENDS LAUGH, THEN STAND, GATHERING THEIR THINGS AND HEADING FOR THE DOOR.
EXT. – DAY – CAFÉ PARKING LOT
MARA AND KATY EMBRACE, THEN GET INTO THEIR RESPECTIVE CARS. AS THEY PULL OUT OF THE PARKING LOT, WE SEE THEM WAVE. A GENTLE BREEZE BLOWS THROUGH THE LEAVES ON THE TREE-LINED STREET. THE “UNIVERSAL” SIGN CONTINUES TO BLINK.
Being an amputee that is in the public eye has brought me some incredible opportunities in my life. There are speaking events, TV appearances, acting jobs, track meets, these are all awesome but I have to say the ones that really, at the end of the day, mean the most are the opportunities to help kids with disabilities.
I had such an opportunity yesterday.
I met Melody a few years ago at a running clinic that was put on by the Challenged Athletes Foundation, she was an adorable bilateral above knee amputee (just like me) with miles of blond hair down her back! She was just the cutest thing ever.
I knew that I wanted to meet her and her family and maybe stay in touch or something. Well, I got what I wanted, and then some. She has an awesome set of parents that have invited me to be a part of Melody’s life and it has just been so rewarding for me. We have been working on getting her up and running on itty-bitty running legs, spending sometime at the park playing around. I truly feel that I get more out of knowing her then she does knowing me. I just think back to being a little kid growing up feeling like there was no one like me out there in the world and knowing that she never has to feel that way, is just awesome.
The world of prosthetics (healthcare in general) can be rough sometimes and Melody’s family has found that they are having a tough time paying for the co-pay for her big girl legs. So her community rallied behind her and created an event to support the cause. It was yesterday in Long Beach and I was there on hand to help the efforts and was even asked to speak to the crowd and share a bit about my relationship with my ‘Mini Me’. I have always been blessed to be able to pay for my prosthetics and have never worried about how I would cover the cost, so being a part of her journey and helping make that happen for her too was just pure joy for me.
My friends and family really stepped up and donated money to her fund. I don’t think I have ever been happier to write a $600 check. Thank you to those who gave for their generosity!
Her battle with co-pays is not over, she will need prosthetics as she grows taller. She is a very lucky girl to have such an incredibly supportive community to support her but there are many kids that don’t so it’s important to get the word about them and try to get them the medical care that they need.
If you would like to support Melody by making a donation you are welcome to send cash to me at my paypal.com account. Just send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make sure that she gets it!
Or you can send it directly to her bank – Melody Bach c/o Wells Fargo Bank 4601 E. 2nd Street Long Beach, CA 90803.
Thank you for making a difference for her.