In the last month I have been called several things.
Writer, dancer, teacher, singer, the best mom in the entire universe even if we find life on Mars (epic on all levels), an inspiration, a leader, a beautiful spirit, genuine, told these words. "I don't think you realize how good you are at that" and that I had balls of steel. - all amazing me to the point of complete self-deprecation and embarrassment. Still, I'm grateful for each one.
Then this: a hippie - four times. The first three were compliments. The last time I think they were trying to call me an outspoken female liberal, but I'll ignore it and take it as a win.
If you know me at all, you might agree I'm a hippie. Or at the very least green. I mean I wash my hair and have fabulous shoes. I also have too many Star Wars shirts and superhero tees to be a true hippie since I lean more to the nerd side, but the sentiment is the same: I try to conserve.
I recycle, I upcycle, I repurpose. But mostly, I try to pass these habits on.
Of all the things I am or do or try to create, my real business and passion is working with today's youth. These young minds will become the future tomorrow. The things we say to them today can make them leaders and compassionate humans or it can create monsters who do things like walk into movie theaters and blow everyone away with a hail of bullets.
All too often the difference between a child believing in their dreams and achieving them or ending up in a life they hate but are too scared to get out of can be traced to one moment in time. The parent who belittled their thoughts, the teacher who gave up on them, the hero who fell in front of their eyes. It takes one moment to crush their spirit. But it only takes that same moment to go in a completely different direction.
What does this all have to do with anything?
I work with kids all the time. I teach dance and theater, I volunteer at two different schools and I run a Girl Scout troop. I even have babies of my own that I am trying to raise to be strong, independent, loving humans who will inspire others.
Actually, that's what I hope for all the kids I work with.I want to inspire, to make a difference. If I help even one person be all they want to be or achieve a goal they felt beyond their reach, then my life will be complete. I have my family, my health and really to be honest, I need nothing else besides the hope of inspiring people.
And sometimes, I feel like I'm alone in this. I'm proud to say I know many amazing teachers and people, but I still feel we are in the minority.
With all the kids I work with, I try to teach them their uniqueness is what makes them great, not their conformity. With Girl Scouts, we work on being better people and helping others and our environment, our community, our world. Two years ago my troop focused on recycling. Shortly after that, two recycling facilities opened in our parish. I heard through the grapevine, our awareness in the community helped with this. The pride I have in the fact that a bunch of second graders saving cans and glass to recycle made a real difference is immeasurable.
Last year, we worked on water conservation. Parents are still telling me the habits we formed are ongoing. The girls also chose to use their cookie money they earned to build a ramp and a clubhouse for our two Scouts in wheel chairs so we would all have a place to be together. Third graders! Who ever says kids are selfish or dumb obviously doesn't know these lovely ladies.
With the last two years having been so successful with our service projects, I really wanted to do something bigger in the community. Located in Southeast Louisiana, we have lots of people and places in need. Hurricanes, animals, the oil spill, the choices are, unfortunately, endless. What could we do? I thought and thought and just couldn't come up with something good that fourth graders could accomplish. Then I remembered - I can go right to the source... ask the girls and my other students.
The young ones wanted to work with animals, help kids who were bullied or left out and do more with saving the planet. When I quizzed my older students, I surprisingly got basically the same answers. I asked them who influenced them as far as adults and celebrities. Happily, I was one of the names frequently mentioned.
If you don't know who this is, let me tell you. Ian Somerhalder stars on The Vampire Diaries as Damon Salvatore. He has appeared on Lost and Smallville and many other TV shows and movies. He is also one of the most beautiful men on the planet. And, most importantly, he's an activist and humanitarian. He heads up the Ian Somerhalder Foundation to help green up the Earth. It also helps animals and has a page of things to help get kids involved in the process.
But here's what drove it home: He's from Louisiana.
The kids love having a hometown hero. And I have to admit, so do I.
It's no secret that I don't get starstruck but I love me some Smolderhalder. He's gorgeous and talented. And he seems to really care about the things he promotes. But I have been in show business for a long time. Most of those 'good celebrity' antics, are just that, antics. It's another role they skillfully play to build their brand and have a tax shelter.
So as I navigated the ISF website and decided to do the reusable straw campaign with my Girl Scouts I had a nagging question: Could I really support this foundation and bring it into my girls' worlds if the person heading it up wasn't the real deal? And how could I find out?
Fast forward two months. My friend, the fabulous Stefanie Jones, and I decided to go to DragonCon in Atlanta. (Like Comicon, but in driving distance!) Not only would there be writing panels, authors and Stan fricking Lee but the celeb list was amazing.
Warehouse 13 cast, Gillian Anderson, Adam Baldwin. Alcide and Sam from True Blood.
And then something caught my eye. Paul Wesley. (Stefan Salvatore) Interesting. The Vampire Diaries does film in Atlanta. I looked closer. One, two, three more cast members. And finally, close to the bottom - Ian Somerhalder.
I could meet him and find out if he was what he said or just another poser. I had my doubts but like Mulder, I wanted to believe.
Plans were made, hotels were booked, tickets purchased. On Sunday morning, Stef and I got up, got dressed ( I really churched it up too - Star Wars tee and jeans! yeah, baby!) and headed to wait in line for the panel. We were sixth and seventh in line. Pre-line actually. We had to wait in line to get in line and then once in line, wait to go in. In total 3 hours and we missed the True Blood panel. But it was worth every minute.
Once inside, in the front row, I held my breath, which was ridiculous because I was one of about 5000 people in the ballroom and knew I had no chance of getting any closer than I was, no chance of finding out who Ian Somerhalder really is. I couldn't think of a good question that covered anything I wanted to know, so I waited.
The cast came out on the stage, only four of them. Ian led the way.
Ten minutes in I was acutely aware of three things.
One - No one should be allowed to have eyes like and be that charming because it's a deadly combination.
Two - I am capable of being star struck/fan girling.
Three - I had worn the perfect shirt. (Details in the Dragoncon blog!)
But above all, I noticed his laughs were genuine, not forced. He had a quick wit and was not afraid to be silly. He didn't look down on anyone. And it was all real.
Then someone asked a question about ISF. The passion and emotion that erupted from him were staggering. The admiration of his castmates on the work he does, astounding. His eyes sparked with the same fuel that drives me to do what I do. And in that moment I knew he was a sort of kindred spirit. He was filled with the same need to make it better, help people, and change the world as the like minded people I surround myself with.
He is the great example he appears to be. And he is creating, not just a thought or an idea, but a movement. An entire generation is looking up to him and he's leading them to a better place, happily. With joy and awe and complete fulfillment that someone hears him. I know that feeling and there is nothing better.
Watching a child, a youth, grow and turn into someone who believes they can change their lives, themselves and the world for the better? There cannot be a more noble calling. At the end of the day, that's my dream.
I have 12 Girl Scouts. They learn a lesson about recycling, conserving, believing in themselves and pass it on to a friend. Now 24 people grow up stronger. They get married and share with their spouse and each have two kids. That's 96 people who each share with two people. And pass it on to their kids, grandkids, best friends. Math, math, math and you can do it but the growth is exponential and fantastic and so amazing. How many people pass through your life that you touch or inspire and don't even know? How many do you crush as you ignore them or take out your frustration of a bad day?
What Ian Somerhalder has done with his passion and fame is extraordinary and I'm proud to be a part of the reusable straw campaign with ISF. An animal sanctuary is also going in about an hour from my house that will not only save animals but help troubled youth learn there's a safe place where someone believes in them. Ian has personally fought for this to make it a reality.
Don't believe he's really that great? Think I was won over by the gorgeous eyes and clever Southern charm?
After the panel, Stef and I were getting water and by chance Ian came back in the room. I knew it was now or never, so I yelled out that my Girl Scouts from Louisiana were participating with ISF and the straw campaign. He stopped from what was a very hurried I-am-supposed-to-be-somewhere-else-right-now walk, told me I was awesome, it was amazing we were taking part and shared the biggest and most honest of smiles. I asked about the Animal Sanctuary. He again took the time to answer me even though it was obvious he was in a hurry and getting glares from his handler(for lack of a better word). But here's what seals the deal. As I was just about to turn away and completely fall into 14-yr-old girl hysteria (I'm a grown woman for crying out loud!), he reached the door, stopped, leaned back in, made eye contact and thanked me for what I'm doing! *cue fan-girling here* (after he left the room, of course)
In a world filled with greed, corruption, hunger, hatred, selfishness and a long parade of horrible role models, Ian Somerhalder is leading a charge to change the world. Can one person start a movement that makes the world a better place?
Yes. And it's happening right before your eyes.
*personal note* Mr. Somerhalder, thank you for living up to and even surpassing my expectations. You are a true inspiration. You're one role model I'm happy to have my kids (students and my own) look up to! Angi
Find info on how to support the Ian Somerhalder Foundation here: http://www.isfoundation.com/
Learn about how to get rid of lots of landfill trash by using reusable straws here: http://www.isfoundation.com/campaign/kids/plastic-straws-can-suck-it
You can find me here (obviously) and most other times in the dance studio, volunteering, in the GS clubhouse, repurposing everything I can into something fabulous, being a mom and baking a treat or making tasty Southern meals. In between all this and writing my books I hope you'll read soon, I'll be tweeting about doing all that other stuff. Twitter: @anginicole722