Hillary Baack actress and much more knew from childhood she belonged on stage

Hillary Baack actress and much more knew from childhood she belonged on stageHillary Baack knew, in her heart and soul, from the time she was five years old and went with her parents to the theater, she wanted to be on the stage. And, set about it she did, one foot in front of the other, one undeviating step at a time. After two school plays and with that experience behind her, she auditioned and won, at the age of seven, for her first community theater, the role of Gretl Von Trapp in the Sound of Music. She was simultaneously writing and performing plays and getting her neighborhood friends to take part.

It was not until she was a teenager that she became self-conscious enough of her deafness that it would prevent her from becoming an actress until a professor in her college drama department told her she could absolutely have a career in theater. And, here you have her, a flawless beauty you may have seen in Law and Order, Switched At Birth or a variety of short films.   Hillary Baack actress and much more knew from childhood she belonged on stage

She talks about her life from the start as a dangerously ill newborn, being diagnosed at age three, the years of speech therapy and the impact of being main-streamed in school. She lets us know what it took to learn lip-reading and translate that into speech so she could reaching her goals. She took herself to New York, met her husband, and became the mother of two beautiful sons.  She wrote a one-woman play and is now writing her own scripts, one of which she wrote with her husband who is a film-maker, actor, director, writer, and in Hillary’s words, “a wonderful editor”.

She is able to keep her eye on what is important in life. She is talented, diligent, loving and compassionate, has trust in herself, and never let go of the destiny that called to her when she was a five-year old. Hillary has traveled the road from frail newborn to center stage, where she knew she belonged as a little girl.

Love letters? Yes. She has a wonderful personal history of writing letters to friends and may soon get to the important business of writing to her sons. This, and much more, is best heard in Hillary’s own voice filled with a contagious love for the life she has.

Eduardo Bar actor who lost his sight but never his way

Eduardo Bar actor who lost his sight but never his wayEduardo Bar, talented, handsome, charming, buoyant and courageously ready to catch the next wave is an Argentinian actor who made his way to Los Angeles at the age of 26 after having found success on the musical theater stage in Buenos Aires. He used to write 3,4,5 page letters often to his friends and family in Argentina, probably a real comfort since he did not have family or friends in Los Angeles to help him with a leg up in the business. But he found parts as a background actor (you may have seen him in Pleasantville) and was on the way.

It was a touch of vanity, deciding to get hair restoration, that probably saved his life as the blood-work showed he was HIV positive. Because he felt great, was posing for magazines and ready for any casting that may come his way, he did not bother to see a doctor until the day he felt he had come down with the flu. Antibiotics did not help. The headache was insufferable, he could not keep so much as a drop of water down. He had meningitis.

He offers the frightening narrative of his 3 months in the hospital, tiptoeing past death, hearing the doctors say within earshot that he would probably not make it, losing his sight and having to leave the hospital 40 pounds lighter, blind,  barely able to walk and finding that his friends, with the exception of one, disappeared on him.

Eduardo, however, still Eduardo, the courageous buoyant fellow, ran back to life with full force. He had the service of one woman who came to him daily for help with basic needs and his one friend at his side. One step to another led him to Media Access and the acting classes with other disabled actors that set him on a new course. Eduardo’s life is an ongoing tribute to endless strength and the power of not giving up once faced with undeniable calamity.

His love letter?  Probably to Jonathan the friend who stuck by Eduardo even when he was at his lowest when it seemed there was no way to please him try as Jonathan might. Happily there is no statue of limitations on gratitude. Eighteen years later, Eduardo is still that talented, handsome, charming, buoyant actor, courageously ready to catch the next wave of his life. And, there is a surprise ray of hope in Eduardo’s life. It is a complicated life story best heard in Eduardo’s own voice filled with strength, wit and inexhaustible joy. 

What the bleep Betsy Chasse knows is quite a lot

What the bleep Betsy Chasse knows is quite a lotBetsy Chasse is comfortable seeing the world through several lenses at once and acting on what she sees, feels and thinks, while sharing it all with an enthusiastic generosity. Having wrestled with the pain of her own divorce and learning to topple her own once-held beliefs, her book Tipping Sacred Cows is just that, a goodbye to the rules she thought she needed to live by. She is the producer of the film What the Bleep Do We Know, a labyrinthine look at life that reflects Betsy’s conviction that we create our own reality.

Not one to rest on past laurels, Betsy is ever moving to the next take-a-look-at-this moment. Her new film Gotta Go In To Get Out, featuring an abundance of well-known spiritual leaders, is a gripping look at crime, punishment and compassion.

There is so much of Betsy Chasse that you have to pay attention to capture the particulars but her essence of whirlwind stability and luminescence is reliable. Listen to her talk about marriage, divorce, why being a mom comes first, learning how to ride the rising and falling waves of her own life and translating it into a radiant present.

Marc Bovee’s life before in and after Hollywood influential at every turn

Marc Bovee

Marc Bovee

Actor and producer Marc Bovee, who grew up steeped in a difficult emotional milieu, knew as a high school senior exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up, general manager of a Loew’s theater. Self directed as he is, the day after his high school graduation he moved to NYC. He says, “No college, no Dartmouth, no Yale.” Just straight for the success he wanted. Oh, yes, he got that exact job.

In early ’87 watching Heartbreak Ridge, he was inspired him to serve his country. So, at the age of 23, he joined the army, his first real decision without first consulting his mother. Having already lost her older son to a cancer she felt was somehow caused by his service in the US Marine Corp, she was not pleased with Marc’s decision.

Military service was a good but challenging time for Marc who was happy to be part of the mechanism and the brotherhood. His service, however, was cut short by his illness and he felt a sense of brokenness and a “what-if” feeling he knew was not a healthy place to live. Compassionate and adaptable as Marc is, he found his way through this to other successes. He spent the next many years first doing some beautiful work as part of the GI Film Festival and then in the distribution department of Universal Pictures until he sadly faced some personal betrayals and ensuing interpersonal damage with no emotional support. But, the ever self-directed Marc found a healer who is still a part of his life and who brought him to a better understanding of the worldwide problem of mankind’s unkindness and the issues of mental health.

Marc talks with candor and generosity about some of his best days as well as his menacingly dark times. Happily, he has never felt more engaged or more dignity professionally than he does now since the day he learned to say, “It is time to for me to go.” With that simple sentence, Marc took the next important step into his own future met his real self around the next corner.

Marc Bovee happier than ever in his life

Marc Bovee happier than ever in his life

He recently founded Bovee-Killgore, his broadcasting & media production company and entertainment service through which he connects clients who want to make their television and film accessible to the blind, deaf and hard of hearing.

His love letter? Two important people in Marc’s life encouraged him to write a difficult letter of forgiveness to one of his betrayers. And, there will most likely be one to his mother who, Marc says with unbound joy, has found a wonderful man who treats her with dignity.

Marc’s story, ever unfolding, is all so worth hearing in his own compelling, and actually rather angelic, voice. Listen and be buoyed by some real compassion, humor and courage here.

Lee Gant back to talk about some grave crises healed by knitting

The arms of a teacher around you is sometimes the best way to learn

The arms of a teacher around you is sometimes the best way to learn

Lee Gant, as you may remember, walked into the world of knitting via her own dismal days of drugs and alcohol and found she had entered a territory where with every stitch came increased strength, health, joy and finally the power to bring that to others. She is back to talk to us about some of the people who have entered that same realm, people about whom she once knew nothing and about whom she learned most everything as they sat and knit together.

She talks about the woman whose gender she could not detect, why that was, and what became of this person and about a woman who could not keep her hands out of the basket of knitted goods for the homeless. She tells about a teen, one of 12 children, who was able, as she sat and knit with other girls, to share her private heartache and see that she was not alone in her despair. This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg. She knows you can learn knitting via youtube but says there is nothing like the arms of a teacher around you who assures you that you are doing just fine.

Her book Love in Every Stitch; Stories of Knitting and Healing brings others into our view, a little autistic boy who fell in love with the yarn and wanted only to learn how to knit, a girl who cuts, a woman who seemed to be slated to a life of depression. Lee’s candor about her own path to emotional and creative health and how she went from a life of, as she says,  “me-me-me” to a life of helping others is worth hearing again and again, encouraging as it is.

Lee now living a life of vibrant success

Lee now living a life of vibrant success

She is a shining example of how it is possible to find your way through misery, defeat and more than one tip-toe past death’s door to land at the vibrant success on every level that was waiting for her. The thoughtfulness, wonder and humor reflected in her own voice brings the lesson home. And, that lesson is, as Lee well knows, “Don’t give up on yourself.”

Miryum Mochkin’s bridal classes for Jewish women teaches some surprising things

Miryum Mochkin and her husband Rabbi Peretrz Mochkin

Miryum Mochkin and her husband Rabbi Peretrz Mochkin

Miryum Mochkin, San Francisco native, community leader, wife, mother, and teacher is back to talk about Jewish life as she lives it. You may remember Miryum from her Love Letters Live in which she thanked the matchmaker who found the exactly perfect husband for her or her Love Letters Live about her rather unusual grandmother. This present discussion is about the bridal classes she gives to Jewish women who are about to take a most important life-changing step.

Miryum and her husband Rabbi Peretz Mochkin co-officiate at weddings. Starting well before the day of the complex ceremony, he prepares the groom and she the bride not just for the day of the wedding but for a lifetime together that will have good days and, yes, the other kind, too. But not to worry, there will be a third partner in the marriage to help through contentious times.

Miryum has a way of answering some difficult questions with joyful truths as she offers what may be, to many people, some surprising and delightful realities about the spiritual, emotional and sexual aspects of Jewish married life.

Listen to Miryum talk about all this and about what kind of love letters she will write to the brides, what implied message they will carry, and see if you don’t find yourself smiling.

Miryum caught at a random joyous moment in the day

Miryum caught at a random joyous moment in the day

 

Actor Tobias Forrest’s determination and humor that carried him from death to life lived beautifully

Tobias Forrest actor and playwright

Tobias Forrest actor and playwright Photograph by Michael Hansel

A slatcher. That, in a word, is what Tobias Forrest says he is. “Actor slash singer slash writer slash comedian slash whatever will not pay you. If you can’t get an acting job hopefully you can do something else.” Tobias has always done a lot else beautifully and done it fearlessly.

He says he never had a semblance of what family was until he was adopted by his aunt and uncle after having lost both his parents at the age of 9. His parents knew he was misbehaving, although they never caught him, they asked him, “How would you like to go to military school?” He said, “I’ll accept the challenge. Let’s get to it.” He says, with the same intelligent spark that he says everything else, that it kept him out of jail. This conquering attitude, coupled with remarkable talents, has held Forrest in good stead throughout his life. He sang in a German opera in Carnegie Hall, majored in psychology once by default and once by choice (neither took), always had a talent for art and was passionate about jewelry making. He loved the outdoors and went rock climbing every weekend, skiing off cliffs or, as he says, doing whatever he could to risk his life.

Tobias back on his personal road to success

Tobias back on his personal road to success

Then came the weekend in the Grand Canyon and the dive into water too shallow. He knew he had broken his spine and was paralyzed but held on under water as long as he could.  Tobias talks about that moment he knew he had reached the end of  his life and the realization that he had lived a wonderful life, that he was loved and that was enough to say life was worth it. But he floated to the surface, and the rest of that journey from a miraculous resuscitation to living on a respirator for 2 months to learning how to live as a quadriplegic then paraplegic and the journey to his present acting career and entrance into the world of play-writing is a tribute to Tobias’s talent, overwhelming strength and adaptability.

There is so much more, so best listen to him tell it in a voice that carries a sensational sense of humor, endless charm, and a profound appreciation for everyone in his life. His love letter? To the parents who adopted him and from whom he says he got exactly the same amount of love, respect and support that the siblings (who used to be his cousins) did? Maybe to himself. How about the friends who take him surfing? The person who gave him his first acting job? So many choices. Whatever he writes, it will be a love letter worth keeping forever.

Tobias still surfing with friends

Tobias still surfing with friends

Dancer Choreographer Actress Singer Auti Angel has earned her wings

Auti Angel dancer, singer choreographer and more

Auti Angel dancer, singer choreographer and more

Being an angel is not for the faint-hearted. It calls for diligence, fearlessness where others fear to tread, physical stamina, and a deep-seated sweetness. Add candor and a sense of humor and you get actress, dancer, choreographer and singer Auti Angel who fits the bill to a T.

From her childhood of singing and telling stories into a tape recorder that was a gift from her grandmother, managing her way through the chaos of abuse, finding her religious faith, leaving home at 18 to find her way in this world, becoming a dancer and choreographer, surviving a car accident that snapped her back and severed her spinal cord leaving her paralyzed from the waist down to her present life as an actress and singer, hers is a lesson in life lived beautifully.

The angel part? Her mission, after her own car accident, in addition to continuing on her own creative path, was to return to the rehab hospital to encourage other newly inured patients to know that life still goes on beyond the wall of the hospital, to show women they can live with any obstacles. She and her husband chose to share their marriage counseling on television. She teaches school children about life using a wheelchair. She is very clear that there is a miracle in everything, even in the loss of something. Auti is a bright beam in this world with the power to light any road with her commitment to bring others back from the brink of hopelessness and to see that helpless is a state of mind. Disabled, no. Differently abled, absolutely.

And, never one to pass up a chance to accessorize a look, you will probably laugh out loud to hear Auti talk about her need for something awesome in a wheelchair. Listen to her talk about all this in the irresistible voice you may already know from her work.

Her love letter? She does not miss a beat to answer that. Her mother. Although life was difficult, it was not all negative, and she has some thanks to express to her mother.

Michael Hansel the man behind the camera

 

Michael at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex

Michael at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex photo by Hobal Hrajeda

Michael Hansel is an exceptional and admired photographer, photography being one of his many talents and his present profession. But as talent needs to find expression, Michael has found it in other areas as well. Michael is a serious and well educated classical and jazz musician in. He was a drummer with a band and with an orchestra. He was a script reader. He has done some acting. He worked in the closed caption industry. His two college degrees are in audio and in television production. Having learned how to do things as opposed to theory of things, he had instant value.

Michael is a man who likes to get to the crux of a concept and admits to preferring conversation with women because they do just that. He likes to get behind the words to the meaning of the words, and his photography allows him that luxury of capturing what is not spoken aloud.

Because he is around disabled communities, and because he respects various viewpoints, he likes to know what people prefer to be called in this day of political correctness. At one of his acting auditions, when a casting director said “disabled” a woman answered by saying “I am not disabled, I am handicapable.” This about sums it up for Michael, a smart, talented, open, genial man who does not dwell on the negative for any significant length of time, although he charmingly admits to understanding the value of a short pity party once in a while.

Michael Hansel Dancing with the lovely, talented and award winning Barbara Moore. "She made it easy for me to learn. Thanks."

Michael Hansel Dancing with the lovely, talented and award winning Barbara Moore. “She made it easy for me to learn. Thanks.” Photo by Marisa Hamamoto

He’s fun. Kind. A talented open-hearted listener who cares about people. Direct. No guile. Trustable. Open to friendship. He knows how to have a good time and bring others into that orbit. Listen to Michael talk about his childhood, his loving family, years spent in the hospital for corrective surgeries, his deciding to leave home on his own for LA to pursue a career in film, and some of his opinions on small talk and political correctness. Michael’s is a life lived beautifully even with challenges, evidently none of which Michael found insurmountable. And, of course there is a love letter for him to write.

Photo of Michael Hansel by Michael Hansel

Photo of Michael Hansel by Michael Hansel

Meredith May SF beekeeper grateful for being raised by the bees

Meredith May SF Beekeeper photo by Matt May

Meredith May SF Beekeeper photo by Matt May

Meredith May, journalist, teacher, SF beekeeper and granddaughter of E. Franklin Peace the bee-keeper of Big Sur, is back to talk some more about bees and just in time, too, since there is good news about the much discussed, troublesome and mysterious hive abandonment, more currently known as colony collapse disorder. Meredith is one of those people who can talk about the same subject time and again and always bring something new to the table. The hive, it turns out, is very much like some combination manufacturing factory and royal palace with guards, specific jobs, loyalty to hive, scent of the hive set by the queen and a willingness to sacrifice life for the good of the colony.

Meredith talks about the bees, her girlhood with them, being raised by her grandfather and their adventures in the honeybus, which was the honey factory and, in essence, their own personal hive where she and her grandfather would escape to share times. Interesting to note that it was not until her grandfather had to retire from formal bee-keeping that Meredith felt the urge to keep the bees herself. Because the bees helped her overcome childhood challenges that arose from the negative model of what family life should be, because how they lived their lives taught her what she wanted to be, her love letter is, yes, to the bees. You can read it here and know that her soon to be published book The Honeybus, a bee-keeping memoir beginning with a child’s point of view and extending past muddled personal times to her adulthood, will be the fuller expression of Meredith’s gratitude to her grandfather and to the bees.

A silver lining brightening the cloud of E Franklin Peace’s passing is, of course that Meredith was there with her heart and hand open to receive the baton he was passing to her.

Meredith overseeing her hives

Meredith overseeing her hives photo by Jenn Jackson