I woke up on November 2 with a phone full of texts, emails, Tweets & Facebook messages telling me that Oprah was coming to Calgary.
That was a great day.
I managed to get okay tickets – thankfully – but still tried (and failed) to ‘PR my way to the front row’. I was hoping because my husband was one of 5 Calgarians that had actually been on the Oprah show, that I could snag a better seat, but in the end I wasn’t left disappointed with anything.
I did a couple phone interviews, one for the Herald and another for Calgary Metro. Mike was featured in an article in Avenue Magazine, and I was interviewed by CTV. An hour long interview was cut down to 40 seconds on TV! Hardly worth the fuss & the stress!
But Oprah was worth everything. Just like I knew she would be. Auntie O did not disappoint. I wasn’t sure if I’d hear anything new – I mean, I’ve seen her Master Class twice, and her Oprah Winfrey Show Finale three times. Between those things, and everything else I’ve seen and read about Oprah, I thought I had heard it all.
But I hadn’t.
And she was SO Funny. Had us in stitches multiple times! Early in the show she accidentally called us ‘Edmonton’. For the rest of the night she kept joking about it, saying later that she would never forget ‘CAL-GA-RY!’
It was awesome that she came out in a White Cowboy hat (and her little cowboy strut).
After the show, she tweeted this picture:
A lot of what she spoke about was how to listen to your intuition, how life shows you things first in ‘whispers’. Something I believe in very strongly, and actually have this quote hanging on my mirror on my bathroom – I read it every day:
The more I think about last night, the more I realize that she touched on a lot of the major things I have taken from her ‘teachings’ over the years. She even discussed Toni Morrison talking about ‘if your eyes light up when your child enters the room’. Something else major I’ve taken from her show(s). Here’s a link to her speaking about it during one of her ‘Lifeclass’ shows.
So, my third time seeing Oprah in person was pretty darn awesome. I’m so grateful for the experience. The show was worth every penny.
To stop myself from starting another blog, please excuse me while I blog here about something that has absolutely nothing to do with Photography.
My husband and I returned last night from a 4 day trip to Toronto. We used every single airmile we’ve collected since 2001 (plus some) to get there, begged and pleaded with friends and relatives to watch the kids for us, and it was all to see Oprah! Again.
She was in Toronto on Monday, for 2 shows. The early show was recorded and will be shown on OWN in a couple weeks, and the late show, which we were at, was live. Well, the last 2 hours were. The show was 5 hours long. The first 3 hours was for Oprah’s guests. Deepak Chopra, Iyanla Vanzant, Tony Robbins and Bishop TD Jakes, all took turns doing their presentations of inspiration and goodness. But first, before I get to all the GOOD stuff, let me get this out of the way…
This was a very poorly planned event. What should have been a very positive experience, has left me a little jaded and disappointed. I understand that my expectations may have been set a little too high, after our last Oprah experience, but I have to vent a little.
8500 people were at each show, and there was no assigned seating. To put this in perspective; the Garth Brooks’ concert at the Saddledome in July will be for 15,000 people. So imagine if you will, more than half of the people that are in the Saddledome for a concert, in a huge room, with no assigned seating. There were different sections of seats – premium, and general admission. But the majority of the seats were general admission, which meant lining up for seats on a first come, first served basis (at $160 a ticket – this is an absurd procedure). So, we lined up. At noon. For a 4pm show.
The doors were supposed to open at 3:15, but it was after 4 when they did. The line up was insane. Again, there were 8500 people at the event, most of which had general admission tickets, so most were in the line. Around 3pm, I started feeling sorry for the people that were showing up then, who didn’t realize this was how it was going to work. That quickly changed when we began to realize how many people were trying to sneak into the line up. We only saw 2 police officers, and a couple security guards, and the women who had been waiting in line as long as us, and longer, were understandably very upset at what was happening. Finally some fences were brought in, but it was tense, and there was yelling. After standing for more than 4 hours, the excitement and anticipation, mixed with all this negativity and tension – I was shaking.
Then the doors opened. We were met by the Metro Convention Center’s staff and security guards (oh there they were!) – yelling “DO NOT RUN!”, so we followed (quickly) the swarm of women into the convention center, down about 3 sets of escalators (I can’t remember – it was chaos), and into the room. It was huge. It was chaotic. Everyone wanted the best seats possible, and were running and yelling. Mike and I just grabbed the first seats we saw in the general admission area. We were, at best guess, in row 70. Which was not great. Until I looked behind me. There were at least another 100 rows behind me. There were a bunch of huge TV screens so we could see what was going on, which was good, but in the end left me thinking I could have just watched it from home. For free. It cost us more than $2000 to attend this event, with travel fees, hotel, etc.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. (I would pay for premium seats next time though!!)
The guests were all incredible.
The show was opened by Brett Wilson. One of my favourite Canadians! (Who, by the way, has a really cool website – check it out!). The MC was Jessica Holmes, who did the funniest Celine Dion impression ever. Deepak Chopra – so deep I have to watch again grasp all he said. Not the most lively of presenters, but every word that comes out of his mouth is full of DEEP insight. Iyanla Vanzant -way more inspiring than I ever thought, although she’s very, very kooky. Tony Robbins – absolutely incredible and Mike & I may start stalking him. Have just added going to one of his workshops to my bucket list. One complaint is that almost all of what he said during his 1/2 hour presentation, he said on the Lifeclass show he did a few weeks ago. But it’s good stuff, so it was good to have it reiterated. Bishop TD Jakes – also amazing. If you get a chance to watch the Lifeclass show with just him – ‘Living with Purpose‘ (was on last week)…do it.
And then Oprah came out. And this happened.
That’s me doing the ugly cry.
This is the moment that made it all worth it. Being in the same room with Oprah, again. Me, her, and 8499 other people.
This is the show that we were at, which was about Forgiveness. So now, after venting, I will re-watch the show, and forgive the event planners, and forgive myself for my high expectations, and then I will be left with gratitude for being able to experience this. Because that’s what life is all about…experiences!
I’ve met a lot of awesome new people, who have turned into friends, whether they be parents of my kid’s friends, or Tweeps. One of my Twitter BFF’s, Buzz Bishop has invited me to co-host the XL103 Morning show with him for a couple days next week, and I couldn’t be more excited. What a cool way to start 2012.
I’ve learned a lot about people in 2011. I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I have some talents that I didn’t know I had (like PR and self promotion – ha!). I discovered my ‘Love Language‘, and how that fits with all that has happened this year. My love language is ‘Words of Affirmation’. Hence why I love egocentric Social Media sites.
I struggle daily with being egotistical vs. being proud of myself, my life and my opportunities. If I can’t be proud of myself, who will be? I’ve learned this year that a lot of people won’t be. And that’s okay. I choose the people I want in my life, and the ones I want to spent time with. Those are the people that cheer me on, and push me forward. They don’t hold me back or make me second guess my accomplishments & opportunities.
Looking back on my marriage in 2011, I am reminded that I am so spoiled. My husband is the best. Works so hard and does so much to help me out too. I think I only grocery shopped three times all year. He also loves to cook and pretends not to mind that I’m the worst housekeeper ever. (In my defense, I’m also running 2 businesses of my own, helping out with his company and raising 3 kids. I promise I’m not sitting on the couch eating bonbons while he does all the work! I also got him on Oprah and bought him a 60″ TV for Christmas, so we’re even.)
And now I am looking forward; what will 2012 bring? I know of two trips we are planning this year, maybe three. We want to take the kids to Mexico, and we want to go somewhere fabulous for our 10 year anniversary in September. We are also considering a mini vacay to Seattle in the spring.
My personal goal this year is to be comfortable with my weight by my 35th birthday in April. Either I lose some weight and get in shape, or I come to terms with my post-three-baby body. Maybe it will be a little of both.
I will continue to do the Project365 this year – a photo every day. I did this in 2011 and loved it. It not only helped me document our lives, but made me take notice. I realized that even the boring day to day things that happen in our lives, are pretty cool. Especially when you look back at them. I would like to be IN more of the pictures though. I would like to not worry so much about the extra pounds or the blemish on my face. In 25 years, my kids aren’t going to care (they don’t now, either). And even if they do, I’d rather have myself documented fat and pimply, then not at all. Here’s April – it’s pretty cool to look back and be reminded:
(The 15th was the day Mike was upgraded to an actual guest on the Oprah show, that’s how I was feeling!)
I will continue to teach Photography classes. I am both terrified and in love with teaching. It’s one of those ‘face your fears and do it anyway’ things with me. And, like I said after the Oprah taping, if I can do THAT, I can never be nervous about anything again.
I hope the awesome opportunities keep coming. I can’t wait to see what’s next. I am open to anything and welcome new challenges.
He’s handsome, the best Dad and husband, and a Paramedic. Loves fishing and working out.
This is what Mike looked like in August of 2009, when our son was born:
And this is what he looked like in 2004:
Here he is in April of 2010, less than 8 months after our son was born (and he looks even better now!):
Mike’s total weight loss was just over 100lbs. He’s lifting weights now, and gaining muscle. Looking more like Marky Mark (err…Mark Wahlberg) everyday!
Almost all of his hard work was done in 20 months. He hasn’t ate Fast Food since September of 2009, and he goes to the gym (or works out at work) at least 4 times a week. He has completely transformed his body. He now has a weird love affair with Salad Dressing, has traded beer for Gin & Soda (no calories!) and his snack of choice are apples and bananas.
One day, while perusing the Oprah website (I checked it almost daily to see if they were accepting ticket requests), I came across a request of theirs, looking for people who had lost 100 pounds or more. So I wrote in. Quickly. I don’t even think I proof-read it. Just a couple paragraphs about Mike’s weight loss, and the strain that his transformation had put on our marriage. We’re all better now, but that first year of him working out so much was very tough. I was at home with a newborn, and hormonal. He was working his full-time job, which took him out of the house for 48 hours at a time, running his own business with his business partner, picking up shifts at other medic jobs, and teaching here and there too. He was playing hockey on Tuesday nights when he was home, and going to the gym every time he could. And he was reaping the rewards. Looked great, felt great, was getting compliments from everyone. Everyone except me. I was resentful. I loved him when he was fat, and reminded him of that all the time. I cringe now when I think of how I acted towards him then. But again, I was HORMONAL!
Anyway…the Oprah team was interested! An associate producer contacted me a couple days later and wanted pictures! Only problem was, we were in Anaheim. I uploaded images and tried to email them to her from my iPad, but with the free (crappy) WiFi at the hotel, the email wouldn’t send. So we forgot about it. The night we got home, the email sent. I didn’t even realize it, until I received a call at 8:15 the next morning. They were really interested! I talked to the producer on the phone, then she called Mike, then called me again. Then she emailed asking for more pictures. She had said that they were planning Oprah’s last show on Weight Loss, and had no idea what that was going to entail yet, but to ‘manage our expectations’. It’s important to note here, that it is IMPOSSIBLE to get tickets to the Oprah show. Especially now. It’s her last season! 2 of my neighbours actually got tickets a few months ago, and I was totally bummed, because I had tried as well, and didn’t get them. I kept telling myself that everything happens for a reason. So at this point, I was just thinking how amazing it was to be talking to a producer at The Oprah Winfrey Show. We never really thought anything would come about it, since there are many, MANY people who write in to the show, and many people who had lost a lot of weight, a lot more weight than Mike. Then she called. EEK! Mike (and I) were invited to the taping of ‘Oprah’s Weight Loss Finale’ show on April 27th. Mike will be one of 100 people who have lost 100 lbs or more that Oprah would like to honor in some way during the show. She said they may just get to stand up and Oprah will acknowledge them somehow, maybe they will come on to the stage – we don’t know. We have no other details than that! Well that, and to ‘manage our expectations’. lol!
Within 4 hours, I had booked the flights, made hotel reservations, reserved a boat cruise and lunch at a swanky restaurant. I’m going to see Oprah!! We’ll be Calgarians on Oprah! Major cross off on the Bucket List. And all thanks to my husband. Who I loved fat, and I love and absolutely ADORE skinnybuilt. XOXO Now…what to wear…
April 15th – UPDATE!
Yesterday the producer called to ask me to ask Mike if he would be ‘open to’ coming out on stage with his shirt off. Seriously. She mentioned there were so many women involved with the show already, that they wanted to feature a guy, and wanted my hunky husband! Immediately after I told Mike he started doing (more) crunches. How can you say no to Oprah’s team?? So, I emailed her to say he was in. Today she called again. They wanted to officially invite Mike as a Guest! They are sending a car for us at the airport, and putting us up at the Omni Hotel (where all Oprah’s guests stay!). I cannot tell you how surreal this all is. I have yet to stop shaking, and the phone call was 6.5 hours ago. My poor husband is probably doing crunches at work right now – in the back of an ambulance somewhere.
We got to Chicago Tuesday after being delayed in air for an extra 25 minutes after a prior aircraft landing drove off the runway. Our ‘car’ drove us straight to Harpo Studios.
Sarah (or amazing producer) met us at the door, where we exchanged hugs. After the many, MANY conversations we had over the last few weeks, it was pretty awesome putting a face to a name. She took us backstage (OPRAH’S backstage!!) where some of the other guests were rehearsing their on-stage reveal. We ‘made ourselves comfortable’ on the famous red audience chairs. I immediately shed a few tears. Seeing the director ‘Joe’ in action, taking in the whole moment, well, it was incredible.
We then went into the dressing room, where some women were deciding on their outfits. Mike changed about 6 times. Dress pants, swim trunks, back and forth, back and forth. They decided against the shirtless walk on stage in the trunks, because it would be too hard to explain why he was in swim trunks with the current scripting. But they immediately took him to the photo studio for some stills, one of which was put on the screen during the show. We were told then that Mike’s segment will be 3.5 minutes. Oh ya, he gets a WHOLE SEGMENT!
I had to sneak a picture of him standing there in his trunks in front of about 4 women. It was so insane!! Later, our car took us to our hotel to check in, then on to the spray tan place, where Mike got a airbrush tan, even though he wasn’t even going shirtless anymore!
We had dinner in our hotel, Restaurant 676 – a $150 dinner, all paid for by Harpo! It was awesome. It was pretty fancy, and absolutely delicious. I had two martini’s, which didn’t feel like such a great idea the next morning, but it sure helped me sleep that night!
Wednesday morning was a total whirlwind. We were up at 4:15 (which was actually 3:15 Calgary time!) We got ready, had $22 room service toast, and out to our waiting car at 5:45. We were both so nervous, we barely spoke to each other until we got to Harpo. We were shown to Green Room 3, where we sat nervously for about 1/2 hour. Then the hair & make up team came in, set up, and called ME over to a chair. I had NO idea I was getting my hair & make up done, so this was pretty cool. The lady who did my make up has worked for Harpo for 20 years! While I was getting my hair done, our producer Sarah came in to talk to us about the questions Oprah might ask. Then we went to the stage to run through where Mike would go and how he would walk onto the stage. After that, we went back to the green room and sat around for a bit. Finally it was time for Mike to get dressed, and then the sound crew came in to put mic’s on both of us. They came to take me to my seat, and I had to leave Mike in the green room forever!
I went and sat in my chair; front row! I missed most of the ‘audience warm up’, but when I came out, they confirmed the taping would be aired on May 10.
Then Oprah came out, no major fanfare or introduction; she just walked on to the stage. She was briefed very quickly, read through the introduction on the teleprompter, and then it was go time! Mike was the 6th segment (out of 7), so unfortunately he had to sit in the green room for almost the entire show. He was really nervous back there, and I was equally nervous out in the audience. The 5th segment was Bob Green, and after his segment, the seat filler beside me moved, and Bob sat beside me. Before Mike’s intro, Oprah kept talking to Bob, so I might be in those shots too, if they don’t edit it out.
Finally it was time for Mike’s segment. The director came up and briefed Oprah on the next segment and gave her a card with details and Mike’s picture on the top. Then he said, “Mike’s wife is in the front row there, Shannon” and he pointed to me. Oprah looked at me, repeated “Shannon” and I gave an excited little wave. Oprah said my name! Then it was time. Oprah said a little introduction, while a couple fat pictures came up on the screen behind her, and they played the Dr. Oz clip.
The Dr.Oz clip, for those who don’t know, is what got Mike selected to be part of the show. Mike had told Sarah the first time they spoke, about an Oprah show years ago with Dr.Oz. on the show, Dr. Oz said for every 35 pounds of weight a man loses, he can gain an inch of penis length. Sarah (and obviously the rest of the team) thought this was so funny, that Mike was upgraded from 1 of 100 audience member who lost 100 pounds or more, to an actual guest. When we arrived the day before for rehearsal, Sarah let it slip to me that they had been referring to Mike as ‘penis man’. And when she went to introduce him to some other staffers, one guy said, “oh we know who YOU are!” it was hilarious.
Then Oprah called Mike out. The rest is a blur. I remember him coming out, giving her a high five and sitting down. I remember the first question; about the Dr. Oz clip, and what that did for his motivation. I remember him blushing, and talking really fast during the first answer. I know the second question was about him never wanting to take his shirt off in public, and they showed a shirtless pic. And the third question was unscripted, she asked if it had become a lifestyle for him. He did awesome answering that question, thinking on his feet. Of course after the taping, we thought of a better answer than what he gave…hindsight! I had been coached that Oprah might ask me about the saying we have at home, that Mike is now “half the guy he used to be, but twice the man he was”, so I had been repeating that quote over and over in my head, not wanting to screw it up, during the entire taping. Well, she didn’t ask me that! She asked me if Dr. Oz was right. Lol. I said “yes, Dr.Oz was right” (I think). I may have done some spastic move with my head, I’m scared to see it. I was a little taken aback when it wasn’t the question I was expecting. After Mike’s segment, he came and sat down with me (they moved Bob over). The 7th segment was blank on the show plan, so we figured there was some kind of surprise coming, and there was! Everyone in the audience got a Schwinn Bike.
After the surprise, the directors where organizing all the special 100 audience members to come up for a picture. At that moment Oprah was standing on the stage, about two feet in front of me. What just happened suddenly hit me, and I lost it. I started doing the ‘ugly cry’. Oprah probably thought I was a crazy person, totally thrilled to get the surprise gift or something. She looked at me and asked in amazement, “Why are you crying??” I said, “YOU!!”, she said “come here for a picture”, and gave me her hand. After a very ungraceful mount on to the stage in a tight skirt, she put her arm around me, gave me a huge squeeze, and we smiled for the photographer. She kept her arm around me for what seemed like forever. That was an amazing experience. I was now in shock, where I stayed until the next day sometime. Oprah then thanked everyone for coming. She acknowledged all the hair-dye that went into us all being there, lol. She also acknowledged the time off work and the babysitters people had to get. She was so gracious, and honestly thankful, it was awesome.
We went back to the green room, where a couple Oprah mugs were waiting for us, all gift wrapped. We got our microphones off, said goodbye to Sarah, and got back in our car. Our car took us to the Omni to pick up our bags, then on to the SAX hotel, where we stayed for the next two nights. While we were checking in, we saw Dax Shepard and Kristin Bell talking to the concierge. Cool! That afternoon we went to the Signature Room for lunch. It’s on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower. I did the death grip on the handrail in the elevator all the way up, and down. The view was incredible, even though it was cloudy and rainy.
We walked around a bit after that, and then went back to the hotel. We meant to go and plan out the rest of our day, but ended up having a 2.5hr nap. Apparently we were exhausted! We had dinner at The House of Blues that night,
and then headed over to Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano bar that was recommended to us by our friends who had been to Oprah/Chicago back in February.
It was really fun. In addition to pianos, there were also drums and bass, and all four of the performers played all the instruments and sang. And did it well! Incredible. The next day we walked and walked and walked! Checked out the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park and did a river cruise from the Navy Pier.
Of course during the cruise, the sky opened up and it started pouring. It was really cold, but interesting. We had to go into a pub (Harry Carray’s Tavern) at the Navy Pier to have a drink and warm up afterwards. We walked around the shops a bit, and found Garrett’s Popcorn, which was one of Oprah’s Favorite Things once, and I can see why.
Ya, it’s just popcorn, but OMG!! So good. That night we went to Dick’s Last Resort for dinner. I knew what to expect, I know they are known for being crass and rude to the patrons, but wow! It was pretty hard to get used to!
It ended up being pretty fun though. After that we headed the the Redhead Piano Bar. It was really swanky, and full of 50 year old cougars. Lol. Not our thing. So we only had one drink there, and then headed back to Howl at the Moon. It was even better than the night before. By 10 pm it was packed with people, and they had 6 people performing instead of just four the night before.
I highly recommend this place, it really puts our dueling piano bar in Calgary to shame. While we were there, Vickie from Housewives of Orange County came in. But she only stayed for about 10 minutes. Friday we were up at 5:30, and got to enjoy one more chartered car ride from Harpo to the airport. I love having a driver! It was an amazing trip, and an incredible experience from start to finish. I don’t know how many times Mike and I said to each other, “is this really happening?”. We are so grateful for this experience, and it couldn’t have been any more awesome. Air date of the show is scheduled for May 10th.
Local Celebs – For a week:
It’s a Media Blitz! Here are all the links!
All radio interviews here. (Excuse the last one where you can hear my kids)
Don’t expect anyone to be as happy, or excited for you as you think they should be. We are all selfish, and on our own journey. You set yourself up for disappointment if you expect people to be completely ecstatic for you. Don’t externalize joy. Internalize it.
Today I woke up grumpy. I was grumpy all day. Even had a (full fat!!) mocha from Starbucks, and that didn’t help. Why so glum? It was Oprah’s last show today.
After 4pm, after I watched her wave good-bye and say her final words, my mood turned more to pure grief. And then, as I replayed her words over in my head (and the show, over and over on the PVR), I turned more introspective. What had she taught ME? What will my children’s lives be like without her?
I know this sounds very dramatic, but a lot of the way I think comes from Oprah. Believe in your dreams, follow your passion, what you put out comes about. I learned all of that from Oprah, The Celestine Prophecy books, The Secret, The Law of Attraction, and so on. But Oprah made it real. I was ‘picking up what she was throwing down’.
I was 11 when her show started. It was on every night when my mom cooked dinner, and later – when I did. It was background noise when I wasn’t interested in the topic – but usually her shows made me laugh, cry, dance & sing, day after day.
When she started the ‘Angel Network’ in 1998, I was 21. I watched as she did incredible things for people, and realized what the word ‘hero’ really meant. She was in fact an angel, for many people.
She speaks of energy a lot – which I’ve always been a strong believer in. How people can suck the energy from you, and out of a room. I was thrilled to see so much emphasis put on this at the start of her show today. My mom and I speak of the importance of surrounding yourself with positive energy all the time, and to stay away from the people who bring you down, who steal your energy. Today, Oprah said this, “You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself and you are responsible for the energy that you bring to others”. Love it.
And, to all the naysayers, the people who make snide comments about Oprah’s ‘cult’, and the like…here’s a quote from an article I read tonight on www.hollywoodreporter.com: “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with empowering people to feel better about themselves or others. Oprah has used the power of television to preach the gospel of self-esteem and betterment and television has been used for far worse things in the last 25 years.”
When we were given the opportunity to go on the show, I often spoke of it being ‘surreal’, and that doesn’t even begin to describe it. Saying it was ‘dream come true’ doesn’t touch the magnitude of it either, because I could have never dreamed such a dream. Yes, I had always wanted to go on the show, yes, I had ‘visualized’ myself in those red chairs many times, but for Mike to be chosen as a GUEST, and us being given the royal treatment…well, that was more than incredible.
The experience has made me a super-fan. I watch the behind the scenes shows now and recognize the producers. I met some of them. I’ve been in a green room. I had my make-up done by a lady who has worked for Oprah for 20 years. The next person Oprah interviewed after Mike Hilton, was President Obama. I know what kind of art work flank the halls of Harpo. I’ve used the bathroom.