Tag archive: Colleen Ann Guest

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Redress Raleigh 2015 – she walks again!

She’s 48 and still walking a runway?!

YES I AM! If people are willing to have me, who am I to object or question it? So here are a few pictures from the Spring 2015 Redress Raleigh runway fashion show. I am blessed beyond measure to have Leopold Designs owner Kim Kirchstein ask me to wear her garments in public and I’m humbled to be surrounded by such young beauties and have their support. Kim’s creations are utterly amazing and as long as she’ll have me I’ll keep walking for her  – with a cane, walker, or wheelchair. Whatever it takes! Here are some pics from the show at The Lincoln Theater

Garments: Leopold Designs
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Photos: Chris Seward Photo, Ernesto Sue Photography, Jennifer Lee Hall Photography, Jennifer Andrews, Kenneth Fergusen Photography, Octave Blue – Robert King, reDirect Photography

Chris Seward Photo2 - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Chris Seward Photo
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

reDirect Photography (7) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: reDirect Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

reDirect Photography Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: reDirect Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

reDirect Photography (5) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: reDirect Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

reDirect Photography (4) - Jennifer Andrews Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: reDirect Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

reDirect Photography (3) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: reDirect Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

reDirect Photography (2) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: reDirect Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani Garment: Leopold Designs

reDirect Photography (1) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: reDirect Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (32) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (31) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (30) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (29) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (26) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (25) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (22) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (22) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (18) - Jennifer Andrews Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (17) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (37) - AnneMarie Maslowski Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (36) - AnneMarie Maslowski Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Chris Seward Photo1 - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Chris Seward Photo
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Chris Seward Photo - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Chris Seward Photo
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

reDirect Photography1 - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: reDirect Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

reDirect Photography2 - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: reDirect Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (20) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Aman

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (19) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (1) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Aman

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (8) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (7) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (21) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (5) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Andrews - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Andrews
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Ernesto Sue Photography - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Ernesto Sue Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (9) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (10) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (11) - Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (10) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (12) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (13) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (14) - Colleen Ann Guest Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Aman

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (35) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

Jennifer Lee Hall Photography (34) Garment: Leopold Designs
Photo: Jennifer Lee Hall Photography
Hairologist: Demetra of D-Spot
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Amani

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Dancing In Manure Made Me a Better Actor

The Complete Bio
(in third person as you would expect)

Colleen Ann Guest’s performance roots can be traced to the barnyard of her family’s farm in upstate, NY – the barn floor being her first stage and the majestic hills her backdrop. It was a rustic venue with little amenities but the house was always packed and she could name her dates. Her audience was kept thoroughly entertained by rambling monologues and songs sung without regard for conventional styling; however, interpretive dance was foregone due to the sometimes slippery nature of the dance floor. Hardly able to contain their exuberance, the attendees cheered her on with their doe-eyed droopy-headed silence, an occasional tail swish or lazy flick of an ear; and for those moments of undeniable greatness, a resounding grunt or sigh – – the height of critical acclaim!

Fast forward through adulthood. She grew up, got married, had children, and lived an extraordinary life punctuated by joys and tragedies before finally leaping back into the world of make-believe. Having an arsenal of life experiences to draw upon (and the recollections of happily amused farm animals to encourage her) she sought training and pursued her lifelong passion.

The stage held a certain allure for Colleen but, oh there was magic to be made in the movies. Relishing one of her first film roles as a slasher victim in a student horror film, she (and the audience) was shocked to discover during the screening that – – apparently – – Colleen couldn’t hold her breath very well while playing dead. The film’s dramatic climax ended with shouts of, “She be breathing,” and gales of laughter echoing throughout the theater as she and her husband slunk out desperately hoping not to be recognized. (Directors take note: Colleen has since gained a ninja-like control over her involuntary bodily functions.)

Catapulted forward by these and other adventures, her acting resume began to take shape. She knew she’d “arrived” when she had to either reduce the font size or drop some credits to make the resume fit on the back of an 8 x 10 headshot – a milestone every actor dreams of! So, now, without further ado (cue the overture and hit the lights), let’s take a gander at some of her more illustrious career highlights….

Colleen Ann Guest made her theater debut in 2000 playing Claudia Grubner in Raleigh Little Theatre’s John Lennon and Me, a poignant play about the fragility of life – – a subject close to her heart. She has since performed on numerous stages and is a two-time Cary Players’ Pietzsch Award nominee for Outstanding and Supporting Actress for her portrayals of Lousia Bodek in Don’t Pick Up from Love Bits and Bites, and Lily Belle Savage in The Curious Savage.

Making considerable progress in the celluloid (ok, digital) realm, her IMDb credits continue to accumulate.  Colleen’s on-screen appearances include the nationally distributed Pray series by Cross Shadow Productions in addition to being cast in several feature-length films, shorts, and internet webisodes; some by award winning filmmakers, like Rob Underhill and Aravind Ragupathi.

Colleen has also become a popular actress of choice for corporate clients; representing prominent organizations like United Therapeutics, TSA, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Church Initiative. She has been featured in dozens of commercials, industrials, promotional videos, voice-overs, and print media.

She genuinely cares about her craft and has studied earnestly with some brilliant mentors. Among them are Writer’s Guild member Ellen Shepard and Casting Society of America member Jordan Beswick. Ever the opportunistic student, Colleen also stashes away mental notes of people’s habits and mannerisms for future character development. So beware – – you have been warned!

Someone has to wrangle all that talent and Colleen is most fortunate and grateful to be professionally represented by Talent One. She and her adoring husband Neel currently reside in North Carolina along with their charming (and frequently obnoxious) kitties and Miss Gracie Mae – the most delightful 3-legged dog to EVER walk (hop) the earth.

Colleen Ann Guest on Elvira

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JDRF Egg Crack Challenge

When your best friend has insulin dependent diabetes, you have to do something – besides freak out and cry with her; though we’ve done our share of that over the years. Nope, a best friend has to take action.

So, when Jean Graham took the Will Hauver JDRF Egg Crack Challenge and nominated me to do it too, it was a foregone conclusion I was going to support her, take the challenge, and donate to the cause!

My bestie is an amazing woman who has bravely navigated the diabetes waters with a  smile on her face (mostly) and a desire to be a strong role model to her daughters and others. She takes on the 24/7 challenges of this disease with grace and style in spite of her desperate wish she didn’t have to – there are no breaks or vacations from diabetes. She recently created a blog to help other newly diagnosed diabetics feel a little less alone: lifeandthesweetlife. But behind her winning smile and helpful blog posts lies a tender heart beating madly to keep her emotions in check while the infuriating numbers on her many devices occasionally tell her she’s over or under estimated the amount of insulin needed to cover her food intake or exercise output. When things don’t add up, it’s not that her calculations are wrong, but her metabolism plays insidious tricks on her, putting the perfect dose elusively just out of reach, while she plays a Price Is Right sort of bidding game with the bolus. I can hear Bob Barker shouting into his mic “Higher, Lower, Higher, Lower,” while she furiously tries to compensate for something entirely outside of her control. Yet, she puts each episode quickly behind her – no looking back – and readies herself for the next dance with diabetes. She’s got a life left to live and she truly is an inspiration. See for yourself:

So what’s a best friend to do?
Why make fun of her of course! She couldn’t possibly have thought I was going be mediocre about this “challenge” could she? I mean does she even KNOW ME??

 

I hope you watched through to the end including ALL of the credits – it’s worth the time. If not, go back and finish watching! See? Told you it was worth it! Special thanks to my husband Neel for being a the best straight man, Chesney and Cambree for being roped into the action at the last minute, David Aman for his tireless work filming and editing and to Grace and Tony and The Black Feathers for the use of their songs.

Now, if you care at all about trying to knock out this disease that literally destroys bodies and takes lives, help us make this thing viral!! LIKE, SHARE, and REPOST far and wide!! Then take the challenge yourself. Take a video and share it using the hashtags #EggCrackChallenge #EllenEggCrack #JDRFeggcrack #T1DEggCrackChallenge for the most exposure! Don’t forget to donate too or you’ve missed the point of the whole thing.

It’s YOUR turn to Crack, Nominate, and Donate!

If you take the challenge, I would LOVE to hear your story!
PLEASE share a link to your video in the comments below

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“Owwww, I’ve got de chilblains!!”

inspector-and-deux-deux

Who remembers the episode from the Pink Panther cartoon’s Inspector series in which Sargeant Deux-Deux spent the whole time complaining about this painful infliction? Anyone? Well I do and I always used to laugh at the pathetic little character and shrugged off what surely was as much of a real disorder as cooties were.

WOAH Nellie…back it up. Turns out “de chilblains” (you must say it in a Spanish accent – think whiny Antonio Banderas) are REAL!

And, oh man, are they real!!

Hoth1

I cannot believe after spending over 30 years of my life living in the frozen Upstate NY tundra (or Hoth as I affectionately call it – Star Wars Geek Alert) and having suffered mildly frostbitten feet from spending HOURS in subfreezing temperatures that I never developed this painful, itchy, and completely annoying condition. And now, after almost 18 years of living in the warm south, I get visited by the chilblain monster. What kind of twisted game is mother nature playing with me?! I haven’t even been exposed to sub-freezing temps! Or have I ….?

First, let me give you a quick explanation of the condition. I’m too lazy to write my own so here’s someone else’s description from Straitdope.com:

Chilblains, also called perniosis or pernio, are a skin inflammation, most commonly seen on the fingers and toes, caused by prolonged exposure to low but not freezing temps and damp … Chilblains form because blood vessels constrict from the cold, and when said constriction lasts for an extended time the vessels don’t respond quickly enough to rewarming, causing blood to leak into the surrounding tissues and damage the skin. Your skin doesn’t have to freeze, as with frostbite–it just has to stay cold and damp for a while. Chilblains often show up in the form of swelling and discoloration and sometimes blisters, sores, and painful nodules under the skin. They can itch something fierce and scratching can lead to a secondary infection. If they’re bad enough they can cause numbness and long-lasting temperature sensitivity due to autonomic nerve damage.

FUN!
Oh and and pretty too. <INSERT SARCASM>

IMAG3202

So, now that I have solved the mystery of what the heck is going on with my toes, I am still left with the question of “how did I get chilblains in the first place?” Then I thought back over the last few weeks and considered my motorcycle riding. While I was bundled up well and didn’t suffer too much from riding in the cold temperatures (40ish degrees) and monsoon rains, I realize I may have neglected to properly care for my feet. They didn’t FEEL cold (too cold that is). I’m getting older (if you haven’t done the math then scroll back up and puzzle it out for yourselves) and it could be that my sensitivity to cold just isn’t what it used to be – maybe my extremities don’t relay that information as efficiently to my brain as they once did. Or, perhaps I’m so hard-headed that I just don’t care when I’m cold because riding is just too damn fun. Probably a combination of the two, um … heavily weighted on the latter – my parents could attest to many (oh brother, way too many) instances of the latter.

So, according to the description quoted above, it doesn’t take below freezing temps to get chilblains – just cold temps and dampness. I’ve freely bragged about riding in those specific conditions lately. And… uh, I’ll bet the wind chill factor on my feet (especially after they were soaking wet) was pretty effin low too.

Gasolina Boots

As much as I love my Gasolina Boots – which are SUPER AMAZING BTW – they apparently aren’t imbued with super powers, like say, an invisible shield which keeps your feet toasty warm and dry in storm-of-the-century conditions. I guess I need to add more than a skimpy wimpy sock to the lower limb set-up. I almost purchased a pair of SmartWool socks before the winter season began but balked at the price and didn’t bother. I’ll be ordering a pair (or two) RIGHT NOW!

So there’s that. Mystery solved. As I sit here following my afternoon ride today, G R A D U A L L Y letting my feet warm up to room temperature while still wearing my boots, I know with a little care, I will continue to ride another day. Happy moto riding in winter to me!

(Oh, you better believe I’m still riding! Stubborn, remember?)

Colleen Ann Guest

 If you have any cold weather motorcycle riding tips, I would love to hear them. Leave me a comment below!

 

 

 

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7-Mary-4 Reporting for Duty

“Hey Dude!” he said said to me with a huge ear-to-ear grin and frantic wave of his arm while his eyes eagerly devoured every inch of my bike.

Today was a gorgeous day for riding the motorbike. And I don’t mean above-average temperature, warm-enough-to-ditch-the-scarf, sunny-enough-to-take-the-chill-off-at-red-lights, gorgeous. I mean picture-perfect-blue-skies, sunshine, summer-like-warmth-so-that-I-didn’t-have-wear-a-stitch-of-winter-gear, gorgeous. IDEAL day for crusiing the twisties; hard to believe it’s December 1st! So I took the looooong way home after running errands for work this afternoon.

Near the end of my ride, I was stopped first in line at a red-light in front of a local middle school when a pair of boys, around 12 years old, strolled through the crosswalk directly in front of me. School was just letting out and the intersection was flooded with car-pool parents trying to make it through the light, kids swinging backpacks on the sidewalk, and other drivers just trying to get past the congestion. I sat there patiently, surveying all the potential obstacles when the boy closest to me burst out with his enthusiastic greeting and ardent gesticulations.

When I waved back, he nudged his buddy and his face beamed. It reminded me of times when I was a kid bravely calling out to a rider (or driver of an awesomely cool car) and getting the acknowledging nod or wave from the driver – who was a rock star at that moment in my eyes. I wish this boy could have seen me smile behind my full face helmet. The funny thing is, he thought I was a guy and I bet he would have crapped his drawers if he knew I was a woman that could almost be his grandmother’s age! For just a brief moment though, I was that “cool dude” on a motorcycle that a boy looked up to – kind of like Frank Poncherello! I’m hearing the CHiPs theme song now….

I hope that little boy went home half as inspired as I was gratified. I’m treasuring being a “dude” today.

Colleen Ann Guest TU250

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Finding Kindred Spirits in Unlikely Places

“I used to ride for many years when I was younger,” she said to me with a wistful look in her eye. When she was “younger”, I thought – how old could she possibly be with her waist-length, gorgeous blonde curls, and her trim athletic build?

Outside the post office, I was getting back on my bike (a 2011 Suzuki TU250 that my husband artfully chopped into a killer café racer!) when this vision of a woman approached me, imparting the camaraderie that passes between riders. I couldn’t have known by her manner of dress (blue jeans, sneakers, flowing button down blouse), or by her breezy way of sauntering up to me, that she was going to start a conversation about motorcycling. Most women don’t approach me when I’m on the bike (men, however, can’t contain themselves – biker or not… ), so I just assume most women aren’t riders and I don’t take an interest in the ladies I cross paths with unless they too are on a bike or dressed in motorcycling gear.

“Why don’t you ride now?” I asked her. With great pride, she told me that she’s 64 years old (NO WAY!), still surfs and participates in other physically challenging activities, but faltered when she couldn’t put her finger on why she hung up riding. I could see her contemplating and questioning it in her mind. So I let it go, letting her think that her “I’m 64 years old” answer was sufficient, and we chit-chatted a bit more about riding, outdoorsy things, and enjoying life to its fullest. Naturally I also had to fawn over her age/appearance disconnect. I REALLY wish I had taken her picture – she was that stunning!

As she walked away, I called after her, “You know how it feels; get yourself back on a bike before you regret it.” She turned her head over her shoulder (the wind catching her luscious, long locks like a scene out of a Bo Derek movie), smiled wide and called back, “I could you know….I still surf…”

She walked away and I sighed. She gave me hope for my future. While putting on my gloves, still grinning to myself about the exchange with that beautiful woman, another woman – this one quite professionally dressed – came out of the post office. Imagine my surprise when she too approached me and started talking about my gear, specifically asking about my gloves.

“Are those Icons?” she asked as she nodded her head towards my hands, which at that moment more resembled twigs having a wrestling match with leather and nylon straps than graceful fingers skillfully putting on gloves. I looked up at her in disbelief (which was hopefully well-hidden behind my sunglasses and full face helmet) and said, “No they’re not but Icon makes great ones; my husband owns a pair.”  Instantly disarmed for the second time in a matter of minutes, I excitedly conversed with her about cold weather gear and the pros and cons of different materials, some of the great deals she’s gotten over the years, and her extensive helmet collection. Prior to this conversation, I would never have guessed by her attire or demeanor that she was also a moto rider (or even a passenger) but indeed she was. She told me she loves to ride her bike all year but that her husband doesn’t like the cold. She laughed and said, something to the effect of, “you can’t keep me off the bike.” And I whole-heartedly agreed with her! We chuckled about our mutual hard-headedness, passion for the ride and said our goodbyes.

Basking in the glow of these brief, back-to-back encounters, I rode off with a smile on my face and a warmth in my heart. These ladies made my day. It was endearing and encouraging to have two women stop to talk to me about their experiences. As I reflected upon the scene later, I realized a few other things:

Firstly, neither one mentioned my bike.                       At all.                             Nothing!

And that is the first and usually only thing men ever talk to me about when they see me riding. It was refreshing to have meaningful conversations about the riding experience and not the particular machine under me for a change. Not that I mind talking about and showing off my TU – she’s my little mountain goat and I LOVE her – but it was unique that they not only didn’t broach the subject (even though the bike was sitting there big as life), but that I didn’t even notice the lack of it until after I got home.

Secondly, neither one of them felt the need to tell me to “be safe” or convey some other cautionary parting remark. That too was powerful. As if they both knew there was no need to state the obvious.

Thirdly, I am guilty of making assumptions based upon circumstance and appearance. Had they not said anything to me first, I wouldn’t have given those women a second thought. They would have disappeared into obscurity as far as I was concerned and I certainly wouldn’t be blogging about them now. We should all take a risk and just randomly begin conversations with strangers more often.  We could learn a lot about the people we pass every day and by listening to their stories and watching their eyes sparkle as they talk about something special, we come away blessed, if not richer, people in return.

Fourthly, neither one of them apologized for anything. In any way! There wasn’t even a hint of  verbal or visual communication that smacked of excuse, concession, or justification. I often find myself making self-deprecating remarks following a compliment bestowed upon me. Take my bike for instance. Instead of simply saying “thank you” when someone shows interest and proceeding to talk about its merits, I always feel the need to apologize for it’s diminutive size.

I am grateful for these two empathetic and kindred spirits who, by sharing something more than a passing nod today, taught me several life lessons and gave me something I hadn’t felt before on the bike.

Today, I was a peer.

Colleen Ann Guest, Mike Ricciardi Photography Colleen Ann Guest, Mike Ricciardi Photography

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“That Little Girl Can PLAY!”

That was the general murmuring (and shouting) I heard going around a packed room at The Pour House Music Hall on Friday night.  And I admit, I was one of the more gleeful shouters. In part because, HOLY CRAP, that little girl CAN play, and in part because “that little girl” in the Gary Mitchell Band making their debut performance is my baby girl, Annelise!

She is doing what I only dreamed of doing at her age – throwing caution to the wind and doing what she does best in spite of all of the practical “advice” to settle for a job with a “future.” HA! What in world is “the future” and how are we supposed to know what sort of job will get us there? To heck with that I say. ( Oh, quit rolling your grown-up eyes at me! You know you wish you were a rocker too!) Now, I’m more inclined to chant this mantra, “Use what you got and do it while you’ve got it!”  God bless her for embracing and putting into practice that little tidbit of REAL advice much earlier than I grasped it! She’s sticking to her guns with the very first (and just about only) thing she ever wanted to do! If only the rest of us had that much perseverance.

The Gary Mitchell Band featuring (L to R) Lee Huggins, Gary Mitchell, Thomas Burroughs, Annelise Huggins. Yes I know its blurry – I was too excited to focus!

For me, finally seeing her command a stage at her own gig (not just sit in with other musicians) was the ultimate confirmation that hers is a life born to play. Even while in the womb, she heard music that I would blast from my stereo all day long and I took her to concerts as well, much to my mother’s chagrin. “Put earmuffs on your belly!” Mom would chide me. Sigh . . . Annelise was doomed to be a musical creature from practically the moment of conception! When she would cry without end and no amount of comforting would help, I’d give up and put her safely in her crib, and crank up GNR or KISS in the other room. This served two purposes: 1) I couldn’t hear her heartbreaking sobs and 2) it soothed her to sleep faster than anything else I did for her. The girl was born with music running through her veins!

All my friends knew it too. When Annelise was an infant one of them gave her a toy guitar with nylon strings. I didn’t give it to her until she was over a year old, but from the moment she got it, she carried it everywhere – even to bed! She didn’t care for cuddly stuffed toys or blankets – normal comfort items for other children- she only had a heart for that little guitar with pink strings.

A two year old Annelise with her first little guitar!

Then I met Mark DeBellis , professional musician extraordinaire, when she was 3 and her brother Stephen was 2, and they both were as drawn to him as much I was. The first time Annelise met him, she climbed into his lap as he held his guitar and she strummed while he changed chords. The two of them were peas in a pod and they became inseparable. The funny thing was, normally she was a very shy child who didn’t like to be held by people other than mommy, but the lure of the guitar was stronger than her fear!

Annelise and her mentor/daddy, Mark. Headed off to first day of kindergarten.

When the kids were a bit older, Mark taught them how to completely set up and tear down a full PA (wiring – not carrying the cabs!) and they were also his little personal roadies at many gigs. Our friend Greg coined the phrase Mark’s Army in reference to them. Wherever Mark went, my kids were always with him – grocery store, parks, bagel shop, gigs, you name it – and they were always his little soldiers! All Mark had to do was give them a look and perhaps a hand signal or two and either one of them knew what to do and when to do it. In every situation! It was a mutually beneficial arrangement for them when it came to gigs – Mark knew his stuff would be taken care of properly and the kids got to hang out watching real musicians and crew. They saw the world and heard the music from the vantage point of the stage looking out. Which, as anyone who’s been there can tell you, is not at all what you imagine it to be from the audience looking up.

Here I am Sarge – ready to rock. If I can’t play it, I’ll set it up for you.

Eventually, Annelise and Stephen really learned to play a few instruments and not just mess around with them. Mark and the kids would jam together all the time – on guitar and keys! And the funny thing is, they NEVER learned a thing about the keyboard. I doubt if today Annelise could tell you where middle C is on it! But she knew if she just plunked away, she could find the notes and chords and make music. Mark never impeded her.  Rather than insist she learn the piano, he encouraged her to play with her heart and the two of them used to stand side by side at the keyboard and play together for hours – jamming to the prerecorded rhythms. He and I did however insist on a proper musical education. We wanted both kids to have a real foundation of musical knowledge to build upon. Even though she only wanted to play guitar and he only wanted to play drums, we insisted they take other instruments to teach them how instruments fit together to make music. After all, “You can’t break the rules if you don’t know the rules!” (HA – a favorite “Markism”)

Middle School band concert. She was first chair!

See? The boy can play other instruments besides drums too!

Then, little miss smarty-pants grew up and got married! Fortunately she found a wonderful man, Lee, who is her perfect match in every way – including musically! He can sing like nobody’s business and also plays a variety of instruments! I just love him dearly and am grateful the two of them share the love of the Lord first and foremost and that they also have a love of music to help bind them together! He’s a gem of a man and soooo incredibly talented! I just love how he loves her!

Annelise jamming with her husband Lee

I just LOVE Lee’s photobomb in this shot!

So, this past Friday night it all came full circle for me. My baby girl stood on the stage alongside her husband and mowed people down with rich tone, rock solid timing, and tasty chops on the guitar! She also played percussion, keys and sang background harmonies! In spite of a few technical difficulties with her aged gear (Mark’s gear!) she plowed through and gave a professional show to a packed and cheering house! I was so proud of her for not cracking even a hint of a smile or a twitch of an eyebrow when something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t notice she had problems with gear until she told me about them later – and I’m usually the one who’s tuned into her facial expressions giving things away. She’s subtle but I can read her. She fooled even me!! And it reminded me of a few of Mark’s famous quotes:

“What mistake? I MEANT to do that!”

and

“There are no wrong notes, only a few poor choices.”

And just when I thought my heart would burst with pride and joy, at the very end of the night my boy jumped on stage without even thinking and immediately went to work packing up her gear and roadie-ing for her. He hopped to it so fast and efficiently, that I was transported back in time and I was seeing two little children on stage packing gear again just like they did for Mark. They ceased being grownups for a little while that night, at least to my eyes. The only thing that could have made that night more special is if Stephen played on stage with her too.  In fact, it was Stephen that used to get to go on stage and “play” (unplugged) during the sound checks at Mark’s gigs while Annelise was left fuming by my side watching him. She used say, “I should be up there too!” But in spite of her jealousy, she would support Stephen and help carry gear and cheer him on. Though the tables were turned on Friday night and Stephen was wishing he was on stage with her, he lived vicariously though her, cheered her more vigorously than anyone, and was a champ in helping her at the end of the night.

Some things change and some things never do!

Mark would be proud of the adults they’ve become and would be smiling a mile wide if he could see them now!  I know I am!

Little boy Stephen all dressed up like Mark and “playing on stage with him at a gig. You can’t see Annelise next to me quietly muttering and wishing it was her.

Stephen jumped in a started packing up Annelise’s gear. What a great brother! Mark’s Army rides again!