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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The day I met Oprah!

Once upon a July 6, 2011...

I was traveling for work. I recently accepted a new(er) job about three weeks ago and as such I was enlisted to accompany my employers on a trip to Malibu for five days (holiday vacation) and then Sun Valley, ID for another five days (media work conference for Mr. Boss).

Malibu was stunning and the accommodations were beyond anything I've ever seen the likes of. The only downside to traveling with them has been sharing a room with a 2 1/2 year old (something I've never done personally or professionally in the past) who wakes up screaming 3-4 times a night wanting her pacifier personally handed to her. Yes, the one that is right next to her face, or the second one a hands reach away, or the third one between her legs. That got nixed real quick and even though she still wakes up (and yes, that means I do too), I play "dead" (though I'm very much startled wide awake) and she now finds it herself. That's the only downside. The rest is all upsides and I am really loving the family and kid(dos).

From Malibu we flew to Sun Valley, ID. and that is where my life changed in ten quick minutes.

People like Bill Gates, Mark Zucherburg, and Selma Hyak along with media gurus from Groupon, Yahoo, Google, etc. all gather here once a year by invitation to discuss positive ways to change the world using their business and business skills. I don't know all the details but one detail I caught real quick was that OPRAH WAS HERE. She was listed as one of the speakers and I just couldn't believe it! Since I don't attend any of the conferences (unless they involve finger painting or glue) I thought maybe I'd get to pass her on one of the many paths through this mountain resort we're at. Maybe, but probably not.

During day one, we all met up for lunch (myself, Mr & Mrs Boss, Little One, Baby Two, and Baby Nurse). Baby Nurse was wandering aimlessly on the paths trying to find the Duck Pond lunch spot so I went to rescue her and as I turned the corner I cut off Oprah, AND Gail, AND Steadman! I couldn't believe it. It took every ounce of my being not to just hug Big O herself. But I maintained my composure, reminded myself I was a professional, and kept walking (likely staggered) straight ahead. I texted Tom immediately and just that single quick sighting made all the sleep deprivation worth it. Little did I know I'd get much more!

Once Baby Nurse and I returned to the lunch spot, it was getting pretty packed. So Mr & Mrs took Little and Baby for awhile and off went Baby Nurse and I to the lunch area across the pond. No sooner had we filled our plates with deliciousness do we see Oprah, Gail and Steadman sitting two tables away from us! We quietly chew and gawk (Oprah's back was to us) and watch as people approach her table and exchange a few hellos and kind words. The entire time I'm thinking "If I don't say something I'll never forgive myself for missing such a huge opportunity" and so, as I cleared my plate, I timidly walked past her table and made eye contact.

No sooner had I caught her eye did she say "Hi Sarah". Just like that! I'm pretty sure I peed a little and thought she was God until I realized she had read the mandatory name tag on my shirt. Still, she said my name! I squeaked what I hope was a hello and as she extended her hand I shook it and said "I just wanted to say Thank You." "For what?" she kindly asked. "For your amazing show, and everything you did to change and inspire the world" I replied. I was literally shaking inside and could barely catch my breath. I never get "star struck", and trust me I've not only seen plenty of "stars", and in the past two weeks I've had lots of personal play dates with them too, but it was OPRAH for gosh sakes! Strike me wide mouthed!

I told her I had just watched her powerful interview with Dave Pelzer as part of my research for a paper I was writing on child abuse, and told her how helpful her interview had been in learning more of the "after" part of his life / success. (David Pelzer is the author of "A Child Called 'It'"--read at your own risk unless you are forced by your professor like I was--it is a horribly true child abuse memoir). That was when she really surprised me. She took off her sunglasses, turned completely towards me, and for ten minutes she discussed with me other helpful interviews I could use, statistics she knew on abuse, what would be most beneficial in my paper (making sure victims know they are at NO fault nor did the deserve their abuse), and how she felt during the interviews she did, particularly two years ago with five child molesters. During this she stroked my arm, gave my hand a squeeze, and even side hugged me and wished me luck when we were done. Gail and Steadman also piped in and spoke with me and the Baby Nurse too. It was INCREDIBLE.

I felt like I was speaking to the mother of the world. She looked me in the eye, spoke to me as if she knew and cared about me, my essay, my education and our conversation. She wasn't dismissive or abrupt, didn't act like we were bothering her, and was just so warm and loving. When I walked away I didn't stop shaking for hours. Something special, something one of a kind and totally unexpected, SOMEONE had just looked into my soul and encouraged me to keep going and make a difference, even if it was just through an informative Child Psych essay.

It was such a powerful experience to be in her presence, let alone to get to speak with her. When I was little I used to imagine myself being published and featured in her book club and interviewed on her show. While that didn't become a reality (and now my sights are set on Ellen!), the unexpected meet and greet we had, in a little Idaho town where I would least expect to encounter such an icon, out did my fantasy by a land slide and is something I'll cherish always!

And then the trip continued (with many other sightings and shoulder brushes), happily ever after.


Kariann said...

WOW is all I have to say!! :)

Amy said...

yay! so very cool. and impressive that you kept your composure for a convo with the great O.

so, hows child psych?

Rae said...

SARAH!! I am so so so so SO happy for you!! This is maybe embarrassing.....but I teared up a little at the end of this post. I am just so happy for you that you were able to have this experience.
Good for you for taking the opportunity when you had it.
Thanks for sharing!!

Karene said...


Amy said...

So so cool, I love how you tell the story! What an awesome experience.