"When you give, you begin to live. When you love, you become love."

When I first heard those powerful words on the radio, I had no idea what would come of it. All I know is the song moved me so much that I had to figure out: who wrote this? who sings this? how can I get it? 

I had no idea that my simple curiosity would result in Skyping with the artist who created this beautiful song, which is appropriately named: You are Beautiful.

You can listen to the song here. And you can download it for $0.99 here.

The artist is Robbie Schaefer, the former music director of Kids Place Live on Sirius XM. Robbie is also the Founder and Executive Director of One Voice, a non profit organization dedicated to helping children around the globe tap into their own creative power, and to use that power to serve and change the world.

I have to admit, during our conversation I might have gushed a teensy bit. I was starstruck (he wrote the song! and he might have sang a line of it during our call), but also, I was overwhelmed in a good way. The more I talked to Robbie, I more I felt like this whole thing was meant to happen. 

We talked about how the words from his grandmother—You're an artist—changed everything for him. 

We talked about how he reached a crossroads in this career, and how he finally listened to that nagging voice that said, "Serve." 

And we talked about dreams—how it's important to have them—but how it's equally important to put them into action in the world. "That's what we're here for," he says. 

I'm so glad I get to share my conversation with Robbie Schaefer with all of you. You can watch it now or download it on Vimeo

To learn more visit OneVoiceCommunity.org.

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And then, this happened.

Last weekend, the cast of the Charleston production of Listen To Your Mother met for the first time, and it was like magic.

Our show photographer Jody Mack took photos and put together an amazing video. On her Vimeo page, she wrote this:

When I first pulled out my camera, the room was visibly tense. Then, as the rehearsal began, the layers of self-consciousness peeled away as these people poured their hearts onto the table. 

To all of the presenters: I just want to say that you are an amazing, beautiful and dynamic bunch. Thank you for sharing your journey with the rest of us. I cannot wait until this group of kindred spirits hits the stage!

After the rehearsal, I checked ticket sales and we had 16 left. And then, they were gone. The show had sold out. And we have this amazing, energetic cast who said, "Let's have another show!"

My head spun around three times, at least. And then, we all said, let's do this! 

What is Listen To Your Mother? The project is half live-stage event, half social media project—a bridge that connects Charleston’s writers with our local community and with the world online. The Listen to Your Mother Show started with one performance in Madison, Wisconsin and has now become a nationwide movement (32 cities!) creating a new way to celebrate Mother’s Day by giving a voice to motherhood.

The Charleston show will feature original, live readings from a local cast representing many walks and seasons of life. Here's a glimpse:

The Charleston production of Listen To Your Mother will be held on Sunday, May 4 at 2:00 p.m. (which is currently sold out) and again at 5:00 p.m. 10% of ticket proceeds benefit Postpartum Support Charleston. If you live in Charleston I'd love to see you at the Footlight Players Theatre on May 4. This show is going to be amazing. 

Eventbrite - LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: CHARLESTON

Coming up next week, I'll share my Skype chat with OneVoice Founder and Executive Director, Robbie Schaefer, who's also the writer and voice behind a brand new song that I love. I feel like I'm being showered with inspiration and goodness. I'll take it. 

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I am here to remind you.. you are beautiful

Friends, I have a treat for you. 

Recently I was driving down the road, headed towards home after picking up the two little ones from preschool. We were listening to Kids Place Live on satellite radio and a song came on. I'd never heard it before. It got my attention immediately. 

Remember who you are

Remember who you were before

"Mommy, turn it to Kids Box radio," Blake commanded. It's actually Kidz Bop radio, but I never correct him. 

"Shhhhhh," I said. "I'm listening to this song. Listen."

You were born with endless love inside you

The whole world was calling your name

At this point, I was completely drawn in. I was having one of those spiritual, summer camp, singing by the campfire experiences, where voices rise up and you know God is real, and love is real, and hope is real. This song embodied the essence of everything I believe to be true. I didn't cry, or get emotional. Instead, everything drained out of me... every thought, every stress, every item on the to-do list buzzing in my head.

The only words I could hear were the ones filling my car.

I am here to remind you

you are beautiful

The song felt like it wasn't just for kids. It felt like it was for me. And for you, too. When it ended, I felt the urge to rewind it. I wasn't ready for it to be over. I wanted to hear it again. 

When I got home I grabbed my laptop and searched "You are Beautiful Kids Place Live". It led me to the One Voice Community, a non-profit organization committed to uniting children across the world. 

One Voice uses music and other forms of creative expression to empower children, to cultivate integrity, compassion, responsibility, empathy and trust.

One Voice inspires and teaches children to serve. 

I found the song, You Are Beautiful, on the website and download it. The dollar I spent will go back into the schools and communities that the One Voice Team is visiting this year: India, Nicaragua, Liberia. 

It gets better. 

I knew I wanted to share this song with all of you. So I sent an email through the contact form on the website, asking for permission. I got a reply, saying yes, you can absolutely share the song.

I quickly realized the person on the other end of the email was Robbie Schaefer, the Founder and Executive Director of One Voice AND the creator of the song, You Are Beautiful. 

This resulted in an amazing Skype interview, which I will share next week. In the meantime, take a moment to listen to the song. Your day will be better for it. (If you are reading via email or in a feed reader, click over to my site to listen)

And if you love this song as much as I do and want to support the You Are Beautiful campaign, you can visit the website to learn more.

Here is the link to download the song for $0.99. 

Who's going to change this world for the better? You just might.

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Change starts with me

Today, I'm a guest writer on Jane Perdue's LeadBIG blog. She invited me to join a series this month that tackles big questions about ways we can shatter stereotypes and empower all races and genders. How do we create a movement that transcends a calendar event and becomes something we do every day of the year? As with most big questions, I begin with myself. You can find my answer on Jane's blog, and I'm also sharing it here.

I am a mom of three children—two boys and a girl. My daughter, the youngest, is two years old. 

Three mornings a week, I drop her off at the preschool. After the first day, the teacher said my toddler kept taking off her shoes on the playground and going head first down the slide. 

I laughed, because I wasn’t surprised. I live with this happy, vibrant child (and it’s exhausting). I witness her free-spirited and fearless behavior daily. 

Cate, snapping selfies with my phone while I'm trying to get her out of the car.

Cate, snapping selfies with my phone while I'm trying to get her out of the car.

But at school, she’s breaking the rules. 

These rules—wear shoes on the playground and feet first down the slide—are enforced for the children’s safety. They are not intended to squash their unique and creative spirits. I know this, because I know the school, and I know this teacher. My middle child was in this same class three years ago. 

But my middle child was laid back. He did what he was told. He sat down in his chair. He didn’t crawl on the snack table and stand up on the rocking horse (like my daughter does). And so, when I considered all of this, I noticed the discomfort rising up inside. 

The voice says, My daughter is misbehaving. She is not being good. 

And the root of the discomfort, I assessed, was fear. Fear that my daughter’s behavior was becoming a problem and that problem was a reflection of me. 

I’m glad I could see the discomfort for what it was. If I hadn’t noticed, I might have missed an opportunity. I might have sent my daughter the wrong messages. Messages that disempower: be nice. be good. be seen, not heard. I might have perpetuated a pattern I’ve worked so hard to break. 

I know I have the power to influence the woman my daughter will become. In the meantime, I must also do the best I can to keep her safe, and teach her how to be safe. I must teach her to treat other people and their property with respect. I must also encourage and support my daughter's alive and vibrant spirit, which was evident the moment she came out of the womb. 

I want her to know the rules, so that one day, she’ll understand when it’s okay—even necessary—to break them. 

But here’s the other thing. That’s exactly what I want for my boys. My greatest wish for my children is that they will grow into exactly who they are, exactly who they were meant to become. 

I want them to be empowered by their gender, not defined by it. Do I have all the answers? No. But I can start by noticing when those old, outdated beliefs creep in, so sneaky and subtle at times. I can rise above my discomfort and fear and see my children—really see them—for the individuals that they are. 

Maybe that’s where change begins. Right here. Very small. With me. 

Thanks again to Jane Perdue of the Braithwaite Innovation Group for inviting me to offer my thoughts and perspectives on her LeadBIG blog. We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please join us over there! 

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The journey to authenticity (an interview to download, free!)

It was the first time I knew—really knew—that the life I was living was not the life I wanted. A high school drug raid had grabbed the attention of the major networks, and I had the chance to tell the story on the national news. It's the kind of opportunity young journalists dream of, but instead, it shined a spotlight on my own truth: I don’t want to be here, I thought, moments before I was set go “live”. But how could I let go of a career that I'd worked so hard to build? If not this path, then what?

I asked myself the questions that I'm sure many women face at some point in their lives: once you realize you’re somewhere you don’t want to be, what do you do? How do you get to a place that feels authentic? Not knowing the answer,  I didn't quit. Not wanting to fail, I kept showing up and kept trying to make it work. Each day, I convinced myself to stay.

It took my husband telling me that he was ready to have a baby and my tearful response, "No. I can't," to realize I couldn't keep pretending, living a life that felt like a lie. It was killing me, inside. I wanted a child, but I knew I wasn't mentally or emotionally ready. 

Something had to change.

I confronted the fear that had been ruling my life, and I began the slow process of coming to terms with old wounds... pushed down pain from childhood that I thought I'd dealt with. It took some time, but I finally got to a place that I felt ready... ready to trust my heart, wherever it may lead and whatever the outcome.

That's what authenticity is to me. It begins with being honest with myself and others. And it ends... well, it never ends. Over and over, I have to check in. Am I being honest? And then, I have to make choices. 

Recently, I was interviewed by Parenting Coach Bonnie Compton, and we had a wonderful conversation about this journey to authenticity, in our work, and in parenting. It's heart work, soul work, doesn't-necessarily-pay-the-bills kind of work. But it's worth it, I think.

If you're on your own journey to live a more authentic life, I hope you'll listen in. You can play it now, or click here to download the conversation and listen on your own time. 

Also, new in on the Year in Pictures page: It's your lucky day! 

Congrats to the cast of Listen To Your Mother: Charleston! Read the cast announcement here.

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To live forever

I remember that first email from Andra Watkins. She said she'd seen me across a room at a writers' conference in Myrtle Beach, but with all the comings and goings we never connected.

We live in Charleston, a relatively small world made smaller by social media, so it wasn't strange that she reached out to me. It's like we knew each other even though we didn't. 

Angie and Andra... at one of Andra's lovely soirees. I think this was taken two years ago and I was pregnant with Cate.

Angie and Andra... at one of Andra's lovely soirees. I think this was taken two years ago and I was pregnant with Cate.

She asked me if I'd like to join her on this writing journey. Be partners. We met for coffee and we made it official. We worked on our book drafts and met once a week. We became friends. Because of her, I made it through that first draft that had been limping along for quite a while. Because of her, I showed up to the page when I would have otherwise avoided it. 

That was nearly four years ago. I can hardly believe it when I type it. Four years! And during these past four years, Andra has shown up to the page every day. She writes daily on her blog and in the private, unpublished documents on her laptop. Every day, she shows up. 

Today, Andra is walking. I mean really walking. On March 1, she began a 444 mile trek...covering the length of the historic Natchez Trace trail from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. 15 miles a day. One month and then some. 

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Andra's doing this to publicize her recently released novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis. 

I just finished the book, and I'm amazed.

Let me just go ahead an admit that I fell asleep in history class. I've heard of Lewis and Clark, and I know they had an expedition. But before Andra started telling me about this novel, I can't say they'd ever crossed my mind.

Now, Meriwether Lewis feels like an old friend. I want to hug him. And I want to hug Andra. Because what she did here, just, wow.

In To Live Forever we learn that since Lewis' mysterious death, he's been stuck in Nowhere, failing assignment after assignment, trying to move beyond this eternal nothing. But why does he keep failing? What does he need to learn? 

On his final assignment, Lewis lands in New Orleans in 1977 and finds himself in the path of a 9-year-old girl who's running from her prostitute mother and a crooked judge who's trying to catch her and make her his own. The girl needs to get to her daddy in Nashville, and Lewis knows he's the one to save her. 

They travel the Natchez Trace, where Lewis must face old ghosts and come to terms with what it really means to live forever. Does the measure of our life boil down to our successes and failures, or is it something else?

Here's the greatest thing about this book... the thing that I love most: it embodies the essence of Andra's spirit. Everything I know about her and the way she chooses to live her life (emphasis on live), is the heart and breath of this book. 

I'll leave you with a couple of things: First, one of my favorite quotes from To Live Forever

I experienced it all, Emmaline. It's the only way to live. Knowing you could die any minute makes you wring the life out of every day you get. 

And, then, one of my favorite videos from Andra's Natchez Trace adventure. TP or not TP? THAT is the question.

Finally, I hope you'll support Andra and buy her book. 

Visit her blog.

And enter her contest. 

And remember the name Andra Watkins. She's living life, and making history. 

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The upside to being busy

My two year old daughter has been quite the hit on Facebook lately. It started when I posted this:

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The comments were unanimous:

I could use her help at my house!

Please send her over!

I need her to come by and take some things off my list, too. 

I joked about how she dropped the pen when I walked into the room. I said she could start her own business, "Time Management, by Cate" and the tagline could be, "Just don't do it."

The whole exchange was a fun sidebar to a busy week. I held three days of auditions for Listen To Your Mother, and I'll stop there. I'll resist the urge to name all of the other things on the to-do list—all the things that Cate scratched off. I won't try to convince you that my plate is full. 

Cate's (not so) innocent act of scribbling my plate clean made me think.

Right now my list is full of things I can't, or don't necessarily want to, scratch off. Between now and the middle of May, I'm in deadline mode. I love the projects I'm working on, and there's a certain thrill to the momentum it creates.

But, there are limits to how many things I can accomplish in one single day. Last Monday, I was frustrated that I had to use my prized "preschool time" to get some meds for the cold that had clearly turned into an infection. I felt like I was losing precious time, taking a detour in my morning just to tell a doctor that I felt like my head was going to explode and I couldn't stop coughing and blowing my nose. 

An hour later, I left the doctor's office with a prescription. The simple act of slowing down and taking care of myself made me feel almost instantly better.

I keep learning this lesson over and over. 

Recently, I stumbled across a TedX talk by Erin Giles, charging the audience to F their plan, and find their point. Cate had it absolutely right. It's not about getting it all done... check, check, check, check. It's about being a better gatekeeper of what's on the list in the first place. 

Being busy, balancing my big visions and high expectations while simultaneously crashing into my limits, forces me to ask: What's the point? What's the why?

When I answer that, I see the day—and the true priorities—with a new set of eyes. 

I'm also considering making Cate my assistant. She's really on a roll these days.

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How do you manage your own personal "crunch times" and mile long to-do lists? Do you have any personal tips for staying focused and sane? Do you ever feel yourself losing sight of the big picture... and if so, how do you regroup? 

Also, new stuff on the Year in Pictures page: A case for selfies and singing Happy Birthday even when it's not your birthday. 

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The heart knows.

Back in December I worked on a two-day video shoot, hosting a 30 minute informercial for a medical practice here in Charleston. The show started airing on the local stations recently, and the first time I saw it, I ran into the living room and turned the channel so the kids could watch. 

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"Hey look! There's mommy on TV," I said, trying to sound upbeat but not too eager.

"Oh, cool," Dillon said. Then a moment later: "Can you turn it back to Cartoon Network now?" 

"What? You're not interested in neck and back pain?" I actually said that, but I was only kidding, and of course I turned it back to their cartoon, after I made them watch for one, long agonizing minute. 

It was a fun job, and I was proud to see how it all came together. The best part was working with Ashley Brook Perryman, a professional hair and makeup artist. Fake eyelashes? Yes, please! They have a way of making you look miraculously awake, a temporary fix to eight years of sleep deprivation. Here we are after a long day of shooting, outside in the humidity, and the eyelashes are still intact. 

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But being in Ashley Brook's presence is what really transformed me during those two days. Have you ever been around someone who radiated such good energy, you could feel it rubbing off on you?

Working with Ashley Brook made my "happy job" radar go off. I developed this radar well over a decade ago when I was still working in TV news. I'd study the baristas as Starbucks, my personal trainer, my hairdresser, and even the recent college graduate I interviewed once... I was fascinated by that young woman's story. She'd switched her major from business to fine arts and followed her passion for making jewelry. When we met, she was working out of her house. Today, she has her own store on King Street.

All of these people seemed to have an important thing in common: they loved their work and it radiated. I didn't know if it was because they indeed had "happy jobs" or if it was just how their personalities matched with the work, or both. Either way, back then, I felt a deep longing for that something... I wanted a happy job, too.

So when I found myself sitting in Ashley Brook's makeup chair a few months ago, I wanted to know how she got to this place in her life. She told me that after high school, she was all set to go to college and major in interior design. But she had this nagging feeling, like it wasn't really her thing. She thought she wanted to become a professional makeup artist, but she didn't know exactly how that would work. So instead of heading straight to college, she spent a year doing the research. She decided to move cross country and went on to graduate from the Make-up Designory (MUD) of Los Angeles. Years later, she's back on the east coast and she's made quite a name for herself.

Ashley Brook Perryman breaking and entering (with permission) to retrieve her makeup chair that got left behind on our shoot. 

Ashley Brook Perryman breaking and entering (with permission) to retrieve her makeup chair that got left behind on our shoot. 

ABP directing the hair and makeup training for Charleston Fashion Week. 

ABP directing the hair and makeup training for Charleston Fashion Week. 

I told Ashley that I was so impressed by her level of awareness—even back then, at 18—and how she stopped moving in a direction that no longer felt right, and started moving in a direction that did. That deep knowing... that's what struck me. 

"It took me many years to get to that place in my life," I said. I wished I'd developed the kind of knowing that leads to action sooner. "But, on the other hand, if I hadn't spent all of those years in TV news, I might not be sitting here in this chair, working with you on this really fun, professional freelance shoot." 

And I let that sink in.

I know... now... that I wouldn't trade all those years I spent in a career I ultimately left. I can point to countless good things that came from it. And maybe my "happy job" radar was at work all along, when I switched my own major to journalism and transferred schools. When I sat in class eyeing the cute boy who is now my husband. When life choices led us across the country, and back to Charleston.

That radar is my soul—my heart. 

Each day it beats, magnet pointed out. When it finds the light it's seeking, it knows. It can't help but be pulled in. I find comfort in that one big thing I've found to be true. And I'm grateful for the people who remind me.

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In plain view

It's been a while since I've shared something from the lunch box of love notes. The other day, it was my husband's turn to write the note, and I didn't see it until after it had made its way to school and back home again. 

There, on the fridge, secured by the "I have a busy day of being stunning" magnet and covering Cate's nursery school artwork, Shawn had displayed his creation for all to see:

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Not a bad rendering of Emmet the Lego Man, and proof that hubs is reading my blog.

Put those affirmations where you can see them, friends.

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Everything is awesome

Let me set the scene: 

As I write this, I'm trying to shake this cough/cold/sneezing thing that has its grip on me, and Dillon and Blake are in the other room singing the Lego movie theme song:

"Everything is awesooommme!" 

That song is so annoying, and so ridiculously catchy. I dare you to listen to it and try to get it out of your head.

Last week was one event after the other—Cate turned two, school was canceled twice, Valentine's Day was NOT canceled, and Dillon turned eight.

I forgot that Cate needed Valentines for her Mother's Morning Out class, so we sent her to school with Minecraft cards—complete with the Creeper on the front—just like the ones her older brothers handed out to their friends. My husband was like, "She's two. She can't read," and he walked into the toddler classroom with those Valentines and owned it. Still, we were semi-concerned that the cards weren't age appropriate, so we chose the ones that read "You are more precious than diamonds" and not the ones that said, "Are you a block of dirt? Because I dig you." 

So the point is, lately, I'm improvising, managing my expectations and singing everything is awesoommmme while hopped up on cold meds. 

The other night I was lying on the couch waiting for the NyQuil to kick in, and I found the Today show interview with Kelly Corrigan I'd recorded on the DVR. Corrigan is one of my favorite authors and she's on a publicity tour for her new memoir, Glitter and Glue. Listening to her talk about the book was a late night treat before I passed out, snoring and breathing through my mouth. 

I'm on Corrigan's mailing list and in a recent email she wrote this:

22 years ago i started writing a book about a family i lived with in australia and how that radically upended many opinions i held of my mother.  i sent the pages to my friends tracy tuttle and steve marshall and my old professor from u of richmond.  the marked up pages went back and forth across the country through something called the us mail for many months until i just gave up.  it seemed ludicrous that anything would ever come of the work.  who did i think i was anyway?   

that book i started in 1992 comes out tomorrow. 

I'm halfway through the book, and when I'm not reading it, it sits on my desk all red and bright, like a reminder... a symbol. Corrigan's voice resonates with me, and stories like hers keep me connected to my own writing journey. 

There's so much coming at us these days. Social media can flood us if we let it. We're constantly absorbing other people's thoughts and ideas and successes, and it can make it tough to stay focused on our own objectives and visions, especially when circumstances out of our control (like severe weather and illnesses) disturb our daily rhythms.

So, I'm keeping my radar tuned to what lights me up. And when I discover those things, I'm trying to pause and pay attention. I want to keep my energy moving in that direction, even when it feels so incredibly difficult. So if you sense an extra dose of everything is awesome around here, it's on purpose. 

What lights you up these days? 

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New in a Year in Pictures: What I gave my husband for Valentine's Day.

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There are a few auditions spots left for the Charleston production of Listen To Your Mother. Auditions will be held on March 1, 2 and 3. Visit listentoyourmothershow.com/charleston to learn more and reserve your time.