Today I’d like to introduce you to a friend who holds a very special place in my heart. Kathleen Sheil is an incredible example for all the qualities that I look up to another person. She is confident, yet humble. She is open and honest and genuine, and most definitely unafraid to stand up for herself and for others. She has this incredible way of making everyone feel welcome when in her presence. She gives of her time generously as a board member of Cincinnati nonprofit LADD (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled), where she lives independently, and numerous other disability related organizations. And she also seeks opportunities to encourage and inspire others to be all they can be.
I see Kathleen as a leader, not only among her peers, but in the community as well. I consider myself so fortunate to be among her friends. Kathleen inspires me to be a better person.
Over dinner the other night, we got to talking about life. Kathleen’s motto, “Go out with the negative and in with the positive,” was inspired early on by her parents who encouraged her to always be confident in herself.
“My mom has always told me to put my best foot forward and that I need to be learning the whole aspect of being on my own completely. My parents never treated me differently from my siblings. They want me to be independent and a person of energy, a leader. They want me to also do my best with everything I do, if they are with me or not with me,” she told me. “I need to live the moment and to think about what that one thing is that makes me happy. That one thing for me is not just talking, not just my friends or my family, and not just LADD, but just being myself.”
“And who IS Kathleen?,” I asked.
“I am someone who is beautiful, honest, respectful, very positive, outgoing, and a leader who encourages others to be very special. I like to make conversations with different people and get to know who they are. I am a person with dreams and goals. I like to sing, do art, and plan events. I have always wanted to find that one person. I am very fortunate to have a family and friends who love me for who I am.
“I am someone who wants to be treated with respect,” she said.
A few weeks back, we heard about a CBS News report of how Iceland is eradicating Down syndrome with genetic testing and abortion. Kathleen was moved to action. She shared her thoughts in a letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer that was published. Among her words…”I want you to know that I have Down syndrome and I am important to this world. Yes, I may be different from you because of who I am, but we are all different from each other….Above all else, I am a person, like you, who deserves to be loved and respected. I have a lot of friends who are like me and who deserve to be loved and respected too. If I had not been born, the world would have missed out on getting to know Kathleen Sheil!”
THAT would have been a huge loss to this world because Kathleen, you make this world a better place.
I love this quote by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
It reminds me a lot of Amy Tobin. When I think about Amy, I smile. She just has that effect on people. I’m not really even sure how we first met but each time our paths cross, what stands out to me most is her energy and enthusiasm. It is infectious.
The header on her website says it all…’Inspired Ideas’.
“I love sharing ideas, inspiration and advice with people that make our everyday life just a little more celebratory, beautiful and delicious,” she told me. “I’ll never forget, one Thanksgiving years ago, looking around the table and taking such pride and pleasure in the mood, the food and the experience I had created for my family. I was also struck by the fact that creating a holiday meal, dinner party or even a weeknight dinner, didn’t come easily to everyone. That fueled my focus on creating easy, approachable “food for family and friends” and my cookbook by the same name. From time saving ideas to presentation tips to products I love, I especially love when people let me know that something I’ve shared with them has made a difference in their life.”
Amy has come a long way since throwing her first dinner parties in high school. These days she divides her time between being director of the Event Center at New Riff Distillery, owner of Amy Tobin & Company (a lifestyle consulting company) and host of Amy’s Table on WKRQ/Q102 (and spending quality time with her family and friends).
“My passions are found in my work, from creating great food to interviewing interesting guests to encouraging my team to expand and grow, I love how I spend my time. These same channels allow me to give back to the community, too. From raising awareness on-air to MC-ing events to my team and I working with Northern Kentucky youth, I try to share my resources with the community,” she told me.
Lisa: What are some of your simple pleasures; why are they simple pleasures, and how do they make you feel?
Amy: My morning ritual is a simple pleasure that I couldn’t live without! My husband brings me coffee in bed every morning and I honestly savor it as I wake up and think about my day. I do a bit of reading, journaling and meditation before my feet even hit the floor. I know this practice puts me in a great position to seize the day.
Lisa: Do you have a favorite saying or words you live by? If so, what and why?
Amy: My favorite saying comes from Emily Dickinson who said “I dwell in possibility”.
I dwell there, too. I frequently put the “what” I’m trying to do before the “how” which creates endless possibilities in the way I work and play. I don’t focus on obstacles- instead I spend my time thinking about life’s potential.
It was very hot and humid day in downtown Cincinnati. Traffic was heavy. Pedestrians hurriedly walked along the sidewalks. The sun’s reflection bounced from windows and caused deep shadows among those in its path. Hours later there would be loud music reverberating from the stage at Fountain Square. Families and friends would be celebrating a win from the Great American Ballpark – or at least a good time. Bars would be filled with professionals, laughing, letting off stress.
I was standing on the other side of the glass at 21C when her car pulled up to the entrance. The driver’s door opened and out came a woman wearing a grey baseball hat with a Mr. Reds emblem facing forward and a black, white and red jersey with ‘Cincinnati Reds’ placed boldly in the center. She had this confident way about her that just attracted you to her, and when she caught someone’s attention she welcomed it with a beautiful smile.
It doesn’t take but a few minutes in her presence to feel like Charisse Gibson has been your friend since childhood. You laugh. You share. You are inspired. Conversation is just easy.
The charismatic morning news anchor on Fox 19, who begins her day when some are just ending theirs, treats everyone like she has known them for years. What you see when you watch her on television is exactly what you see when you are with her out in the world.
I really just love being around Charisse. She has a way of brightening my day and she is such an attentive listener that I have got to be careful to not let my stories ramble way too long. I did, after all, want to have plenty of time to learn about HER.
It is a natural instinct to think this Ms Cincinnati was born and raised here but her appreciation, she told me, actually stems from being an outsider looking in. Her roots are in New Orleans, a region known for its Dixieland jazz and creole cuisine, and she has worked all along the Gulf Coast before settling into Cincinnati’s artsy Pendleton neighborhood with her sister and her dog (now two dogs).
“I love Cincinnati. It has inspired me in a way to do my best work,” she told me. “My bedroom has a lot of natural light and it is pointed to a park. When I wake up on Saturdays, I hear basketballs dribbling, kids screaming, people riding by with pedal wagons or walking dogs. I hear that old church bell. Those sights and sounds just inspire me and I begin to write.
“I love seeing the neighborhood go through change, seeing how the old and new interact. And I love the fact that in this city, not a day goes by that there is nothing going on. Having grown up in New Orleans, what I missed about back home was that I could walk out my door and find music. I didn’t realize when I came how much jazz there is here.
“I think people here have no idea how culturally diverse Cincinnati is. Sometimes it takes someone from the outside like me to get people to realize all Cincinnati has to offer. I want to help people to recognize all these great things our city has to offer. That is why I love working on the Morning Show, to bring out the best in Cincinnati.”
When Charisse ends her day at Fox 19, the rest of her day begins. I wouldn’t be surprised if she spends as much time giving back as she does on the set. Charisse is president of the Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists and is diversity co-chair of the Journalism and Women’s Symposium. She also has one-on-one Skype conversations with college students helping them to navigate their journey and career path.
AND generously gives of her time to many local causes along the way. She even organizes her own fundraiser in January called, ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’ that sold out last year.
I asked Charisse where this never-ending energy comes from. “My parents. They are very young at heart and that is passed on to us,” she told me. “They still love Disney World and want to ride all the rides.
“I turn 30 next year and sometimes I feel like I am 17. I want to be involved and help do things. It keeps me motivated.
“I find happiness in everything. You have to. You have to find opportunity and happiness in everything that is around you. And it is not only opportunity for yourself but finding opportunities to help others. That is why I do as much as I do. When your joy comes from seeing other people happy instead of it being self-indulgent, then that makes you feel better. I know that even just sitting down with someone and talking with them, being able to give them advice or bringing them on the Show and seeing how elated they are, that makes me so happy.”
When it comes to being your best self, Charisse had this advice, “If you want to find purpose, go out and put yourself in situations where you can have some sort of impact or others can have an impact on you.”
Words we can all live by.
You may not recognize the name Perry Elliott aka Scott Perry, but, I have no doubt you would recognize his deep, polished, dramatic at times and sometimes whispy voice that has promoted Steve Harvey, NBC’s hit America’s Got Talent, the Oscars, sports broadcasts, big screen movies, and other television shows. It is that distinctive sound that has earned him his nickname, That Voice Guy.
But behind that voice is a beautiful human being who sees and appreciates life, in its darkness and its light. Perry embraces the lessons his journey continues to teach. He stops to smell the flowers and doesn’t take any moments for granted.
His mom, his best friend, died in his arms in 2001 after a short battle with cancer, but not before imparting her wisdom upon her children. Her final days were spent surrounded by friends and family. She and Perry shared some pretty important conversations.
“Periodically during our evening talks ,Mom would comment on what a nice voice I had,” he shared. “After about the 4th time of her telling me this, I asked her what she meant by saying this to me. She got that smile on her face, and explained that when she passed away, if she made it to heaven what a wonderful thing it would be to still hear her only son and perhaps if I were in radio or television, maybe some of the broadcasting waves would reach her, thus she could still hear me. At that point, I promised her I would see what I could and try my best.”
It was about 30 days after burying her that Perry found himself enrolled in the Ohio Center for Broadcasting and graduated nine months later at the top of his class earning the ‘Gary Burbank Award’ for his achievements. His first radio gig was as a news anchor for 700 WLW. I am pretty sure that is where our paths first crossed.
Perry recently shared this reflection from his mom, and it is so moving. I asked him if I could share it.
I distinctly remember waking from the surgery to remove my cancerous right eye and asking Mom: ‘What am I gonna do until my prosthetic eye is made, people are gonna look at me like I’m a freak with an eye patch’…
Mom: ‘Honey, you’re still a handsome man with a huge heart and you always will be, and you’re imperfect, but I’m imperfect, and every single person in this world has imperfections. And when anyone looks at another and sees them as imperfect or less than attractive, that… is a reflection upon them and it shows their true colors and limitations… and not yours.’
The point of the above conversation with my Mom when she was living is:
No matter what has set you back, a stroke, loss of a limb, any type of injury, disease, or abuse you’ve had to suffer. You do NOT have to be perfect to be recognized, nor to be considered beautiful, or loved.
Because being perfectly imperfect is more than good enough for those who love and adore you and me for who and what we are… And those people who love you and me through all of our imperfections, well… quite simply put, they’re keepers.
To Perry, your mom was one very smart and very beautiful woman. I would have loved to have met her. I see so much of her in your perspective of life. That is an incredible legacy. There is absolutely no doubt that your mom is listening to you right now and smiling.
Facebook has so dramatically altered the way we communicate, and sometimes meet.. It has introduced me to people I would never have come in contact with. It is a source of support, of sharing good news and bad, of laughing at each other’s stories, of connecting, really connecting.
It was on that platform where the lives of Cheryl Beardslee and I first intersected. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by his or her Facebook content. It is in the Home Feed where I have come to see Cheryl as an uplifting figure who sees the best in others and sees life through a glass half full. Often, her name is beside feedback to others giving praise, encouragement, or joy.
Now having met her several times at parties, I can say, she is just as warm in person. Cheryl is someone who finds great joy in her life. Conversation with her comes easily as she is both an interested listener and speaker. If you ask her about the people who matter to her, her tone brightens and she opens up to story upon story of their impact.
One of those people is Courttney Cooper, one of Visionaries and Voices top selling artists known for his vividly detailed maps of Cincinnati. The two came to know each other when Cheryl was a special education teacher. Now he is her Godson, and they see each other as often as possible. This picture was taken last month at his birthday party. “He is one of the hardest working students I had,” she said. “From him, I learned about the importance of perseverance, hard work, kindness and making the most of the gifts you are born with,” she told me.
Cheryl also credits her parents, both past army officers, for teaching her about good character.
Talk about not giving up. Her dad, Charles, was 17 when he decided he was going to run away from home to join the army. He donned his only suit, dress shoes and a tie and began his 30-mile journey, trekking through the night to arrive by 3:00 am. He took his shoes off (because they were his good shoes after all), put them behind his head, and laid down on the cement to wait. The recruiter showed up three hours later and wasted no time in signing up this young man who clearly had an undaunting determination that would be of value to the military.
Charles was soon commissioned by the President of the United States to become a Lieutenant Colonel before going after his next question. There was this beautiful woman who was an army nurse…and so of course, Charles suddenly became ill (or so he told people).
They eventually eloped to Jeffersonville, Indiana and were together the rest of their lives imparting their work ethic and values onto their children and others.
Later, they settled in Cincinnati where Cheryl’s dad became the manager of the Regency (apartments) and the entire family lived in a unit and helped. Charles’ staff were like family. “One man told us, ‘the Colonel was like his dad,’” Cheryl said. “That is how people felt about him (her dad). He could inspire people.
“If he asked you to do something, if you would not jump up immediately, then he would say, ‘I wouldn’t pay you a million dollars for your help’ until you would jump up. And then he would say, ‘I only want your help if you will help me with a giving heart.’”
To Lt. Colonel Beardslee, I want to thank you for that legacy. Clearly that giving heart has been passed down to your daughter.