Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thank You, Friends

Quick Performance Update – next week: None
Other Jan. performances:  None
Upcoming Feb. performances:  CA  (North Hollywood); GA  (Savannah); IL (Dunlap, Gurnee); VA (Ashburn, Carrolton, Chesapeake, Hampton, Herndon, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach)

Yesterday, Jan. 22, was my 48th birthday!  I had a great day – relaxed, reflective and blessed.  Blessed mostly by all the wonderful birthday greetings I received via Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as face-to-face, by phone and text.  What a delight that I had so many ways to receive wishes, encouragements and notes.  I determined that I would respond to each greeting personally, which I didn’t have the time to completely do, but was so moved.  I am blessed with friends.  So for my friends, enjoy my original story/folktale, “Why the Leaves Change Their Colors”, a story about friendship below. 

       Thank you to friends, both near and far; those I saw yesterday and those I haven’t seen for well over 10 years; those who I met when times were glorious and those who I met when I was in pain; those who I have been constantly close and those who seem further from my heart, but never lost; those who are my storytelling buddies, my sisters and brothers in Christ, young folks who have allowed me to be a part of their life, my family and my loves.  Thank you, my FRIENDS.

What is Ms. Sheila reading?  Started reading Stephen Vincent Benet’s John Brown’s Body.  Loving it!  STILL reading:  Anecdotes Illustrative  of New Testament Texts

Most interesting thing researched this week?  Philip Reid was an ex-slave who helped put together the woman of freedom on top of the Capital Dome during the Lincoln presidency.  Cool! 

The Weeping Willow, or, Why the leaves change their colors

            Once upon a time before the dinosaurs ruled and people walked the earth, before cars and convenience stores, the trees were always green.  The trees were always green and they were always happy.  They ALL were happy….except the Weeping Willow.
            “Oh me, oh my, how I wish I could turn colors.  I could be red like a cardinal, orange like a….like a….like an orange.  I could be yellow like a daffodil and brown like the ground.  Oh me, oh my,” cried Weeping Willow.
            He took his request to the angel of the trees, who in turn took Weeping Willow’s complaint to God.  He knocked on God’s door and God answered, “I’m open.”
            The angel went in and told God Weeping Willow was complaining.  “Again?” asked God.  “Haven’t I given him enough?  Isn’t this the same Weeping Willow who used to be a little tree, but he wanted to be big, and I gave him that?”  The angel nodded.  “Is this the same Weeping Willow who used to have his branches sticking straight out, but he wanted them bent to the grand, and I gave him that.”  Again, the angel nodded.  “So, what does he want NOW?”
            “Well,” the angel hesitated, “He wants his leaves to turn color.”
            “Turn colors!?” boomed God.  “Tell him no.”
            The angel of the trees came back and told God’s reply to Weeping Willow.  The Weeping Willow complained and grumbled some more.  He whined all the day and most of the night.  He whined until finally Mr. Oak had had enough.
            “I’m tired of you complaining, Willow,” Oak said, in his deep bass voice.  “I and some of my friends are going to the other side of the land so we don’t have to hear you.”  So Mr. Oak and his friends left for the other side of the land.
            “Oh me, oh my,” whined Weeping Willow.  “My friend, Mr. Oak and his friends are gone and I’ll miss them, but I’d be happy if I could only turn colors.  Red and orange and yellow and brown.  Oh me, oh my.”
            Weeping Willow continued to cry all day and even more of the night.  Finally, Ms. Sycamore had had enough.
            “I cannot stand another day of you grumbling and whining,” she told Weeping Willow.  “I must leave now.”  So Ms. Sycamore left with some of her friends to the other side of the land.
            “Oh me, oh my,” cried Weeping Willow.  “Now Ms. Sycamore has gone away, but I’d be happy if I could only turn colors - red like a bow tie, orange like a…like a….an orange, yellow like the sun, and brown like a lion’s fur.  Oh me, oh my.”
            And Weeping Willow whined and cried all the day and all the night.  He complained and grumbled until all the trees left for the other land.  Weeping Willow didn’t stop, and soon all the bushes, the shrubs, the flowers and even all the animals left for the other side of the land.  When the dirt and grass were just about to get up and go, the angel of the trees decided take charge.  Again he went to talk to God. 
             He knocked on God’s door and God answered, “I’m open!” asked God.
            “It’s Weeping Willow again,” said the angel as he entered.
            God put his head in his hands.  “What now?”
            “It’s still the colors.”
            “What colors does he want to be?  Purple?  Silver?  Gold?”
            “No, sir,” asserted the angel.  “He’s very certain of his colors.  He wants to turn red, orange, yellow, and brown.”
            “Red, orange, yellow, and brown, eh?” God mused.  Well, God thought.  And, God thought.  And, God thought.  Finally, God said, “Okay, tell him yes, I’ll give him the colors.”
            Immediately the angel delivered God’s reply to Weeping Willow who rejoiced greatly and, to the joy of grass and dirt, ceased his complaining, grumbling, whining and crying.
            The next morning Weeping Willow woke and saw his leaves had turned red.  “Oh, looky, looky.  My leaves have turned red like the robin redbreast and apples and a big red balloon.”
            Soon though, his leaves turned orange.  “Oh, don’t I look beautiful.  My leaves are orange like a…like a…like an orange tree.  Hmm, I wonder what else is orange.  Oh, yes, like a pumpkin and a carrot.”
            A little while later Weeping Willow’s leaves turned yellow.  “Ahh,” he sighed.  “This is wonderful.  My leaves are yellow.  Yellow like the shining sun and the daffodils and dandelions.  Oh, I love the yellow, they make me shine.  Uh, oh, something’s happening … oh, goody, now I’m turning brown.  Brown like the lion’s skin and the bear’s fur and my friend the dirt.”
            But as Weeping Willow’s leaves turned brown something began to happen to him.  The Weeping Willow began to die.  You see, he didn’t realize that when he asked for his leaves to change colors, he was also asking for his very lift to be taken.
            Mr. Oak and Ms. Sycamore and all the other trees, except Mr. Evergreen, heard that Weeping Willow was beginning to die.  They grieved and approached the angel of the trees.
            “We know,” said Mr. Oak, “that Weeping Willow cried, groaned, complained and whined greatly and is probably getting what he deserves, but we do not wish for him to die.”
            “Yes,” affirmed Ms. Sycamore, “he is our friend.  Please, tell God that we’ll turn colors, too, so Weeping Willow will not die alone.”
            The angel relayed their request to God.  God was so amazed by their love and friendship for Weeping Willow, that He allowed them to turn colors.  However, He promised, because of their friendship and love, that in the spring they would live and become green again.
            So that is why the leaves change their colors.  Oh, and Weeping Willow, he never cried, grumbled, complained or whined again because he had the best wish of all – FRIENDS!

Developed by Sheila Arnold, 1990.  Written by Sheila Arnold, 2001

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Network: The Way It’s Supposed to Be

Quick Performance Update – next week: None
Other Jan. performances:  None

A little over a week ago, Historic Character Presenter & Storyteller, Gwendolyn Quezaire-Presutti of Woventales Productions LLC (, called me and let me know she had been contracted for a program which, due to surgery, I couldn’t do.  Okay, back to the beginning (as my Mother always starts her stories), I was requested for a program on Jan. 21, but surgery was pushed back, so I informed the contact person I was unavailable, and asked her if she wanted me to send some names of performers/presenters.  The contact person said yes, and I began a search for persons that did both Historic Character Presentations and Storytelling.  I sent an email to those folks and asked if they were available, and three persons were available.  I sent the names back to the contact person, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

When Gwendolyn and the contact person informed me that a good fit had been made, there was excitement on both sides.  Gwendolyn had a new gig and a new business connection.  The contact person had been able to make connection for a new program quickly and with the confidence of a recommendation from another performer, and our relationship remained intact and positive for future performances.  And, me, well, I felt fantastic.  This is the way it is supposed to be with performers – always looking for opportunities for others as well as myself.  How easy it would have been to just say, “I can’t help you, sorry” and give no other information.  Or, I could have sent out a general – “Hey, here’s a possible gig” and send the contact person’s information and let the shoot out begin – making her life more difficult.  But that is not the way it is supposed to be.  I, as a professional, should maintain the relationship by providing professional recommendations in a thoughtful manner which highlights other professionals and makes it easy for event producers. 

So, what is my point?

A)     Make Connections with other persons in your professions – online and at conferences, etc.  Gwendolyn and I met as LinkedIn connections.  [Okay, here it is, a SHAMELESS PLUG FOR LINKEDIN….oh, and it’s where the contact person met me as well! -]  Have you joined something?  LinkedIn?  Twitter?  Facebook?  Pinterest?  Connect with others.  Attend conferences, go to professional development and see what is outside of your world.

B)     Make your connections count.  There was a woman on LinkedIn that encouraged people to write a short note once you connected, so I have been doing.  Many of those little notes have turned into friends, not just acquaintances.  Contact people when you will be in their area, not just for “business”, but to have a cup of coffee and get to know each other.  Inform people you are connected to about performances, activities, events, professional development – THAT DOES NOT INCLUDE YOU  ONLY!  Yes, we all want people to attend our performances, but when it’s all about you – you’re no different than the telemarketer.

C)     Be wise about recommendations, BUT MAKE THEM.  I only make recommendations for people I have great confidence in.  I have seen them perform, work, talk, etc., OR I know of their caliber from other trusted friends.  When a request comes across my desk/email and I cannot meet the request, I immediately start looking for those who can, and ASK the requestor if they WANT recommendations.  (Yes, I do ask if I can do the program at a later time, but I need to help them with this event as well.)  Then I look through my list of friends (and yes, I keep a list of my professional friends).  I talk to THEM before I recommend them, to see if they have dates available.  No worse feeling an event requestor can have – to get a recommendation about someone not available.  Ugh!

D)    Finally, help those in your profession rise, by sharing what good things you have learned.  Here is my thank you for setting the example:  Kit Rogers – sending out requests that are sent to National Storytelling Network -; Mark Goldman – sending out his newsletter that consistently shares storytelling insights as well as other programming, just love his newsletter -; Karen Chace – whose blog is the “go to” for storytelling research and sharing without hesitation -  These, and others {I truly failed to mention Don "Buck" Creacy and Kris Hillenburg}, have been shining stars of how we need to help each other. 

Print copied from Karen's blog about "A Rising Tide" - seemed apropos
I met some tellers, a long while ago, that I wanted to share with about other opportunities to do storytelling performances.  It took them a while to believe I really wanted to assist them, because they had met another performer before me who said they would help, but then that person came back and said, “I can’t really help you, because you’ll take away my business.”  Wow!  That’s the way it ain’t supposed to be, so let’s be better! 

 What is Ms. Sheila reading?  Yes, I am STILL reading:  Anecdotes Illustrative  of New Testament Texts published by The S.S. Scranton Company, Hartford, CT (1901).  It’s a long book, but lots of new short, short stories that I can, as Dan ? would say, “give as gifts to others.”
Most interesting thing researched this week?  More of an observation:  Sometimes the hardest thing in healing is just giving yourself permission to listen to your body as it heals; sometimes my body has to shout – “Sit down.  Lie Down, or I’ll take you down.”

Friday, January 11, 2013

Surgery: Health for Artists

Quick Performance Update – next week: None
Other Jan. performances:  None

I had surgery (hysterectomy) this past Tuesday, Jan. 8.  Although in some pain and having some soreness, I know the end result is I will be a healthier person, and for that I am glad. 

Getting to this point started because of a performance in March of 2012 where I passed out at the end of program.  Through an overnight stay at a hospital in Vancouver, WA, I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids.  Great friends in that area watched over me and made sure I comfortably arrived back home and the process began to a)  get health insurance and b) get the best possible care and have some physical resolution.

The health care insurance was my challenge, because I have asthma and with that pre-existing condition, insurance was too high.  Then came Obamacare!  I am a testimony to the positive effects of Obamacare and getting healthcare for my pre-existing conditions.  I pay $288/month to cover myself and am grateful beyond belief. 

I encourage all artists to get healthcare insurance, particularly since now it’s a little easier.  Here is the suggestion I was given, and used: 

A)   Get services from a Federally Qualified Health Center - they charge on a sliding scale fee and even if you pay full fees, it's often less than a private practice. There are many in our area (VA). See Access Partnership's link for a listing:

B)   Check to see if you qualify for Pre-Existing Condition Health Insurance Plan. The rates are very affordable and since you have a pre-ex condition, it's doubtful you can get insurance at a reasonable price. Also, be aware that even after you purchase coverage from a private insurance there is often a pre-ex period (3-6 months and sometimes a year) before that condition is covered!  website:

If you have insurance ideas and suggestions that are viable and affordable for artists, please share with others. 

Time for me to get back to recuperating (which means sleeping a lot and using great drugs - J), so let me finish by saying thank you to everyone who has been open to sharing how they dealt with certain prescription drugs and with surgery.  Your insights helped me make good decisions.  Your prayers, thoughts and texts have reminded me that I am loved and cared for, and quite blessed with my cross-country friendships. 

What is Ms. Sheila reading?  Still reading:  Anecdotes Illustrative  of New Testament Texts published by The S.S. Scranton Company, Hartford, CT (1901).
Most interesting thing researched this week?  I found out the prayer, “Now I lay be down to sleep” was written in the 18th-century.  How cool that I can add this to my 18th-Century storytelling presentation and Historic Character Presentations.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Starting Over

Quick Performance Update – next week: None
Other Jan. performances:  None

It is 2013!  Last year this is what I wrote on my first Blog:

“First things first. It's 2012, and time for a new start in the Blogosphere. I am now on Twitter (mssheila757) and this has introduced me to the world of great Blogs and bloggers - I have a new goal to attain. The plan is to be consistent on Tuesdays and share about where I will performing, what research has caught my eye as of late, and other odds and ends about my profession as Storyteller and Character Presenter. So hang with me and, if you like it (or disagree or want to add), share a comment and share with friends. Peace.”

Uh, well, I failed miserably about keeping my Tuesdays as Blogging days.  But it’s a new year and a new time and I get to Start Over, although it is Wednesday.  J

Actually, all year long I am constantly starting over.  I restart my diet and changes in eating habits over and over.  I constantly revise, update and restart how my “home time” schedule should be.  I also am constantly restarting, re-energizing and researching for my storytelling programs, historic character presentations, creative writing/dramatic workshops and motivational/inspirational speaking engagements -   which is what I hope all Artists are doing.

I compare my artistic “start over” to getting a rental car. (Yes, note my shameless plug for Avis.  They are my preferred rental car company and have a great rewards and corporate plan.)  When I get in my own car, I start it and just drive to my destination.  This is how I am when I am doing lots of performances back to back or without much break – just get to the performance and do my thing. 

Continuing the “rental car” metaphor; in a rental car, I always take a moment to make sure I “get to know” this car.  I act as if I’ve not been in a car before.  I try to do this same thing before getting ready to perform, particularly if I have had a significant break between performances.  I work through a semi-checklist:

v  Rearview Mirror at my height.  How have the stories I am presenting done with audiences in the past?  Is there a better age group for this audience?  How has it done in this type of venue?  I have done this story for this group before and need to do something different, or do they enjoy and desire the repetition?

v  Sideview mirror appropriately placed.  Are there any distractions I need to be aware of for this performance?  Is my time limited?  Will I be in a place with a microphone?  How is my voice?  Is it early and I need to go to bed early the night before?

v  Where are the windshield wiper and light buttons?  Do I have everything I need to make sure the performance goes smoothly?  Also, do I have everything I need so people can follow up with me, i.e., brochures, CD’s, business cards, etc.?  Have I packed everything I need for the road and/or the program?  [Have to compliment my storyteller friend, Lynn Ruehlmann, who came to First Night Williamsburg with all of her materials, and I, well, I didn’t remember to check for the light button.  Sometimes the problem of just driving is going to fast and not looking or thinking.] 

v  How do I turn on and access the radio, CD and/or Sirrus, including the volume, the scan, etc. so I can relax a bit?  What will help me relax before the program?  Do I need to say some affirmations?  Am I praying?  What type warm-ups do I need to do and have I made time to do them? 

So, I’m starting over with the blog, but also taking some time to check out my presentations and stories, acting, for a little bit, like I’ve never told or presented them before.  I hope that at the end of this significant break I will have, that I will be an even better Artist and Performer.  Won’t you join me?

What is Ms. Sheila reading?  Anecdotes Illustrative  of New Testament Texts published by The S.S. Scranton Company, Hartford, CT (1901) that had been given to my maternal grandfather.
Most interesting thing researched this week?  I was preparing to do my Ol’ Bess Historic Character Presentation at First Night Williamsburg (VA) and looked at Virginia Gazettes(newspaper) from Dec. 1775.  Came across a small article from the Dec. 2 newspaper which reported about the accidental gun shooting of the girl, Fanny Brooking, by her father while he was maintaining his gun.  It broke my heart and reminded me that the tragedies of guns aren’t new.  (  column 1)