Like Mother Like Daughter was my first collaboration with Kim Blanchard Souch and her daughter Sara Sobey. This mother-daughter duo began performing together when Sara was just a young teen. Kim was a touring singer/songwriter while pregnant with Sara, so it was not a surprise that Sara could sing before she could speak! What Kim could not have known was that music would be more than a bridge between them. For a long time, it would be their only shared language.

Diagnosed on the autism spectrum, Sara had a very limited vocabulary. It was when she sang that Sara could communicate with an extensive vocabulary, discovering a joy that was both physical and emotional. Her body would almost hum as her voice resonated!

This is just where this duo’s story begins. Tours, fundraisers in support of the Autism Society, recordings and appearances brought much attention to their beautiful harmonies and storytelling.  Original songs penned by Kim have told the stories of mothers and daughters, family, life, love and loss.

Now, something extraordinary is happening. Along this life journey Kim and Sara have developed their own unique voices. They perform together – and always will! But now there is room for self-expression. Kim’s path is returning to her roots as a touring artist with songwriting for herself and others as a renewed focus. Sara’s dream has been to perform with a Symphony, which happened for the first time this year.

There is more, much more, to come from both these artists and I can’t wait be a part of this next chapter! Over the coming months, their music journeys are diverging and yet we know they will always be entwined. For as they find new strength with their own voices, that beautiful harmony they create will only deepen.

Enjoy this link, to Kim Blanchard Souch and Sara Sobey singing:

Like Mother, Like Daughter

My Brother’s Keeper, an Obama Foundation led initiative to provide mentorship to young men of color, found a special home in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It was an honor to tell its impact story in this video. The partners from the community, the school and school district as well as the men who commit to years of mentorship, are making a difference one young man at a time.

 

The sweet fresh breezes of spring resound  ‘Love is in the Air’! Wedding season is about to get real. It is making me a tad nostalgic. My thoughts drift back to my first marriage.

We were young. Very young. It was a brief engagement followed by a simple wedding. There were just a handful of guests, mostly my friends. As it was a hasty affair, the hundred year old tree in the field provided a shady spot to exchange our  solemn vows. There is much about that day I remember in great detail. I spent my childhood living my life as if in a great novel. Often repeating moments that had just occurred in the third person, as if the narrator of my own story. (Louise paused from her typing, smiling to herself at the memory of a younger Louise standing in the middle of the field under the shade of the tree.)  The sky was really blue. like, really blue. And the sun was blazing. Although it was hot, I remember the cooling breezes shifting the tall grasses near the fence.

My friend Susan really gets credit for making it all come together. When you are in Grade 4 and contemplating a ‘forever and ever’ commitment, it helps to have a good friend’s encouragement. Taking her role as both wedding planner and officiant quite seriously, Susan marched me across the schoolyard hopscotch pads, between the baseball diamond and soccer games, across the track field to the big oak tree where a few of our girl friends were waiting. Holding dandelion bouquets. (Actually I don’t really remember the bouquets, but we did often make dainty dandelion chain crowns during recess.)  I stood there a bit queasy shifting from one foot to the other wondering of all things, how I was going to break the news to my parents.

Now, here is where things get a bit fuzzy. I distinctly remember Susan getting perturbed that the groom had not yet arrived. All the girls, me the exception, began yelling at the groom to leave his game of pick-up soccer for just 2 minutes to make it official! ‘Because, if he couldn’t commit to even that, then how was Louise supposed to take this whole relationship thing seriously? I mean, come on!’ My betrothed kicked the ball into the field punctuating an exasperated ‘FINE!’, then ran to the tree and my giggling friends. With great gravitas, Susan clasped her hands and asked us to repeat the vows. I said my ‘I do’, looking directly at Susan. My groom gave an exasperated ‘Yeah, whatever’, kind of touched my hand and then ran back to the game. And that was it. In that 15 minute afternoon recess  I became the first of my friends to marry. They congratulated me and one of them offered to go tell my sisters who were playing on the other side of the schoolyard. I remember feeling different, somehow. Awed by the the whole situation and my prominent role. I can’t really explain it – older maybe? Definitely wiser. As the bell rang and we joined the rest of the school running towards the doors, I mused to myself ‘it’s true, marriage really does change you’.

There is, ahem, one important element that I can’t recollect – getting back to that ‘fuzzy bit’. It is the kind of detail one thinks one could never forget. I swear on a stack of dandelion crowns, I can’t remember the groom. Not his name or even what he looked like. He may have been wearing brown corduroy pants. Gosh, who did I marry that warm spring day? Alas, the first Mr. Louise Fagan will forever remain the blurry memory of an otherwise beautiful ceremony. (I’m just thinking it would have been nice when we reached our 20 year anniversary to have given him a bit of a ‘shout out’. Kinda feel bad about that one.)  

Back to the marriage. We never really spoke afterwards, my first husband and I. It was a short-lived union that suffered from a lack of communication. We drifted apart. It was bound to happen. He had his friends and I had mine. By morning recess the next day it all seemed so long ago. Sigh.

Spring, see what you do to me? It’s that promise of warmer days and weddings. Love and lovebirds. Joyously anticipating my own son’s wedding in just a few short months. (I think it’s his first). Love sweet love is in the air!

 

beautiful bloom blossom clouds

This is a story about the gift of contrast. Water and desert are used as analogies not labels – I could use, for example, the polar ice caps and the tropics. Water and the desert just work for me.

Imagine you’ve focused your life’s work on the study of water and you move to the desert.  Like anyone who has a career specialty, we hive together feeding off each other’s energy, comparing our pails of water.  When I moved from Toronto/New York to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I had no idea where to put my bucket.

It’s a beautiful thing to be a stranger in a welcoming place. You must learn to navigate a new space and before you can know where you belong, you have to know where you are.

Now, you may think you know where this story is going. The water/desert metaphor is just too strong and it would be easy to assume that there is an epiphany of the desert needing the water.

Cue the plot twist.

As I look out my big studio windows,  my current body of work reads:

  • episodic hourly drama series pilot/pitch complete
  • reality tv show pitch complete
  • two podcasts in development
  • national staged project fusing sciences and arts in production
  • jewelry design company
  • special projects for regional organizations that utilize my particular ‘water skillset’

This has been the most productive time of my entire career. Yes, of course, obviously, there is a lot of creativity and artistry in the foothills of these mountains- that is a given. Yet in learning about this place, I have learned so much about myself. It has redefined my work with a freedom that I did not find while swimming in the ocean with my bucket.

Huh! Plot twist revealed –  Turns out that what my study of water was missing, was the desert.

 

 

Today marks 10 years since the 2nd In Good Company Festival. The first In Good Company Festival held in 2007 celebrated the contributions of women in the arts. In 2008, In Good Company returned to celebrate the creative contributions of immigrants to the cultural landscape.

Both Festivals highlighted the past achievements and early ‘pioneering’ spirit of non-traditional creative expression. For women it was hand-work such as stitching and quilts, personal correspondence, paintings and compositions that had rarely if ever been performed for a public audience.

Present day artists, performers, musicians, writers were given forum for their work. Multiple stages throughout the community were used from large scale venues to black box theatres, intimate galleries and the region’s largest stages. Traditional dance shared the stage with contemporary and classical disciplines; a funk band paired with a world music group; classical Indian dance as well as a classical theatre movement workshops; many, many opportunities to discover the incredible talent contributing to the community’s creative conversation.

The main goal of the 4-week Festivals was to give public space to the voices that are often sidelined, but there were other important reasons for the efforts – including the payment to the performers and contributors. To pay artists for their work validates their efforts and contributes to the region’s creative economy. To that end, multiple partners stood with the Festival including Foundations, Art Councils, private sponsors and the region’s established arts organizations to ensure the contributions were compensated.

In ten years it is extraordinary to realize that the conversations from In Good Company are still part of the public conscience. Creating the capacity for these conversations to begin and in some ways blossom occurred because the invitations were extended and accepted.

Here’s to all the capacity builders who create the opportunity for dialogue – especially through the arts.

I’ve become kind of ‘known’ for my soup. If you’ve been invited to my home, attended a workshop, a dinner meeting, chances are as you walk through the door, you’ve had soup thrust upon you. In fact my soup has become so legendary that at one speaking engagement the wonderful woman who introduced me waxed poetically about my soup – which was perhaps the most flattering personal endorsement I have ever received.

This section of The Principal Collective website shares some musings on why I love making soup, as well as a look at some past productions (this is the Nuts part!). When I look back on some of the outlandish projects I have undertaken and participated in, it seems a bit, well, nutty! Alas, ask me today to be a part of something extraordinary and audacious, my response is likely to be – ‘What could possibly go wrong?’!

Let’s get back to the soup pot….

What is it about soup? Quite a bit of thought-full-ness goes into each bowl. I search through the cupboards and fridge to suss out ingredients, assemble a collection on the counter then mull over the soup possibilities. Next I wash, chop, dice and mix. Toss everything into a pot and begin to stir. Simmer, stir some more, taste, add herbs and spices, stir again, then serve.  The recipes are equal parts chance, luck and experience plus one secret ingredient – they are each made with LOVE. Trust me, it makes all the difference.

This is Julia Childs, not me, making soup - just in case there was any confusion...
This is Julia Childs, not me, making soup – just in case there was any confusion.

Preparing soup is as much an exercise in zen living for me as it is a gesture of welcome friendship for those I am making it. The best soup cannot be rushed. The flavours need time to mingle, the vegetables have to soften, the broth must come to a gentle boil. When I am making soup, time slows down. And when we sit to eat it the slurping and sipping, smacking of lips makes it a shared experience. You can’t gracefully eat soup on the run. In life, it’s true that nurturing takes time, with ourselves, our relationships as we mingle, soften and boil into the flavour-full people we are meant to be.

February 2006 my work  was featured in O, the Oprah Magazine. Once you have been introduced to the Oprah family you carry a kinship with their ongoing conversation on what it means to live a deep meaning-full life. Since then, I’ve been peeking over the fence of the OWN empire as they happily picnic the ‘it’s always summer at Oprah‘s’ days away, lounging elegantly in Oprah‘s backyard luxuriously tossing ideas around like balloons, wondering what can I bring to this conversation? I have realized that my unique weapon, full of my secret ingredient, is my soup.

As a big thank you to those who have enjoyed my soups and to those who continue to ask for my recipes,  this blog called ‘Soup for SuperSoulSunday‘ ran each Sunday in conjunction with OWN Network’s SuperSoulSunday programming and now I re-visit on occasion to add and refresh! A new soup recipe will appear, with heaps of love and hope that you will enjoy the meditation that comes with chopping, sauteing, and simmering. If you have soup recipes and soup stories, please share them with me on the Contact Form below, or message me through this website. It would be wonderful to share your soup inspiration over the coming months. The Soup recipes to date are found on my website by hovering over this page title in the tab and choosing from the drop down list. (Does that make sense?)

Check out Oprah’s website here, for more SuperSoulSunday information – it’s very inspiring.  http://www.oprah.com/app/super-soul-sunday.html

 

 

To work with creative people is a tremendous gift.  Days filled with questions, searching for explanation and understanding. Social commentary, expressing the human condition, taking what’s inside and churning it out, exploring, defining, soothing, infuriating… nothing is off limits for the artist’s probing perspective. To be a creative thinker is to be at once an artist, sociologist, listener, observer, explorer, imaginative and brave.  Oh yes, brave.  Whether you are the most celebrated recognized artist or create without audience or support, the personal dilemma can be the same; ‘who am I to write, or compose, or draw, sculpt, paint… why is my story unique or worth telling’.

The colleagues I have been working with have faced this inner struggle and  have found their voices. It’s a challenge to believe in your unique perspective. Being a red tulip in a garden of yellow can be, well, uncomfortable. Or absolutely stunning. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. My inspiration for the next phase of work will be from the creative minds that challenge me to look beyond the obvious, think of possibilities and believe in the sound of my own voice.

Inside all of us is a wild child. A rumpus-roaring, belly-laughing, jolly-jumping girl or boy thrashing about. What would happen if we dared to let that untamed hot mess of joy escape?

A tree  left to grow freely, bursts into the most glorious sizes, with branches sprouting in surprising patterns shooting towards the light, rooted deep in the earth. Pruning hands contain a tree’s natural inclinations,  uniform shapes  sculpted in attempts  to give order.  Our tree, then, is the same as our neighbour’s tree, which is the same as the next, and so on. When we come across that rare tree that has grown on its own accord we look at it in awe and admiration!

We can strive to embrace our own unique pattern of living, our voice and expression that is uniquely ours or we can  diminish to a palatable sameness that dulls the senses.

Dare to be Wild! Dare to sing in a voice born of your own truth rather than one that mimics or exploits from the truths of others. Out of tune? A tad raspy? Who cares! It’s your voice and it is glorious.

Dare to Create! Be proud of something you made that tells your core story. That is meaningful to you. Colouring outside the lines? Dripping watercolours? Me too!

Dare to make a mistake in the process of making your statement. And if you’re going to make a mistake, make it a big one. You might as well let it rip and rip good!

Dare to embrace the love of those around you. And be wild enough to trust you will know when the love is false. Fill your world with the raw life full energy of good solid people who hold you in their hearts with the same care, love and respect you hold theirs.

For when we are full in our own souls and have fullness around us, we can be the wild and delicious creative beings the world needs us to be!

of-forest-men-yann-arthus-bertrand-3.jpg.492x0_q85_crop-smart(Photo by Yann Arthus-Bertrand)

What a summer! A move to a new country; continuing to work with extremely talented artists – writers, creators, actors, musicians; the Bach Festival continues its important planning for 2015; ADA the Opera is moving in tremendous new directions; I am connecting with new arts organizations and creative instigators in my new home; and those who know me will understand my need to share this, I am one of the newest members of the United States Library System-  Yes I am the proud holder of a library card!

In this whirlwind of new adventures I am deeply appreciative of the creative conversations that shape my life path. In 2012 Canadian author Susan Swan and I filmed a series of conversations about writing, the creative process and her book What Casanova Told Me. I often revisit these short videos that offer tasty morsels of insight into the writer’s creative process. Worth watching for all artists!

Here is a link to the videos – I hope you enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6VE0ZlHJvz3BmY9Mgxgaeg

These last few weeks Super Soul Sunday has been repeating the best  previous episodes. It is a gift to revisit these insightful and inspiring conversations that remind us of ways to be our better brighter selves!

Today, author & activist  Anne Lamott in conversation with Oprah gifts us with some of the most original, meaningful quotes. My favourites include:

“Gratitude, not understanding, is the secret to joy”

“I do not understand all the mystery of Grace. Only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

“Joy is the best make-up. But a little lipstick is a close runner-up”.

And the simplest, most perfect quote:

“Wow”.

To notice, acknowledge and accept the wonder in a ‘moment’, often the only word to say is ‘Wow.‘ In this word we give thanks for the beauty and ‘awe-someness’ with an utterance that is reflexive.

For our final Soup for Super Soul Sunday until Oprah returns in the New Year, we are also going to revisit our favourite soup recipe that makes us say ‘Wow’. Our Meatball Tortellini Chowder. Trust me – everyone loves this soup. With meatballs, tortellini, vegetables, parmesan, bacon – there is no reason not to love it! YUM and WOW!

Meatball Tortellini Chowder

Ingredients

-All vegetable amounts are just suggestions, as are the vegetables themselves. Use whatever vegetables your family prefers!

This recipe can be easily converted to vegetarian – just use vegetable broth, veggie meatballs, cheese tortellini and omit the bacon.

Onion – 1 med

Celery – 2 stalks

Carrots – 3 large

Broccoli – 1/2 bunch fresh or frozen

Corn – 1 cup fresh/frozen or small can

Green Beans – 1 cup fresh/frozen or small can

Tomatoes – 2 med or 1 can chopped (use the juice too!)

Italian meatballs – 1 package of frozen or homemade

Tortellini – meat or cheese, frozen or from the pasta section of the grocer

Bacon – 6 slices – actually use as much as you would like – you can never have too much bacon! Also, Bacon is optional in this recipe!

Beef Broth – 1 or 2 cartons

1 can tomato paste or 1 can tomato soup

Water

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Parmesan – I like alot!

Italian Seasoning

Salt & Pepper

How to Make it – EASY PEASY!

1. Cook bacon in the soup pot. When cooked to desired crispness, remove bacon but keep juices in the pan.

2. Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil to cover pan bottom, with the bacon juices.

3. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent. Approx 4 minutes.

4. Add all chopped vegetables, broth, paste/soup and if needed, water to cover the vegetables. Also add any Italian seasonings – oregano, thyme, parsley – plus salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Add meatballs and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add more broth or water if needed, plus seasonings if you think it needs more.

6. Add the tortellini and give a really good stir. Simmer until the tortellini is cooked.

7. Once all ingredients have reached their desired tenderness, add grated or fresh Parmesan to cover the top of the chowder. Stir it in and it will melt.

8. Ladle the chowder into bowls, sprinkle with more Parmesan and then top with the bacon.

This chowder just gets thicker and thicker as the tortellini soaks up the liquid so you may need to add more water/broth the next day.

ENJOY!

Oprah & Anne can be seen here:

http://www.oprah.com/app/super-soul-sunday.html

Oprah and Anne