Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. Raymond, SD, Population 50: Where My Voice Began

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. Raymond, SD, Population 50: Where My Voice Began

Raymond, SD, Population 50: Where My Voice Began

Writing last week about my four-day trip to New York City, when I was 21 years old, prompted me to write about my home town this week. Click below for an at least somewhat funny eight-minute speech I gave about Raymond at a Toastmasters meeting last year on my birthday.

What’s rolling around in my brain right now is not what’s in the speech, but how my voice was first formulated, as I was growing up on a farm, 11 miles from Raymond, SD, population 50.

Consider your formative years regarding your voice, too. Were you encouraged to use your voice when you were young, or to squelch it? In what ways did you use your voice, and what happened when you did?

Even as a certified Transformational Voice® teacher and speaker coach, I’ve never really reflected on all the factors which impacted my voice as I was growing up. What I’ve excavated here is just the tip of the iceberg. Let me know what you uncover about yours on the blog, so we can support each other.

Kids on the school bus gave me the nickname “motor mouth,” which of course meant I talked too much. I was told I had a bad habit of interrupting people, which was true. We were supposed to be quiet in church. I didn’t find a church with electric guitar type music and people singing and dancing until I’d graduated from college and moved out of state.

I don’t remember ever hearing either of my parents swear when I was a child. (My younger brother told me years later that’s because I’d never been around Dad when he was working on farm equipment!) As a result, I didn’t swear either.

Being too loud and boisterous was not a good thing, as I learned after spending the night with my best friend, Julie, at her house. We played outside, made little cakes in her Easy-Bake oven, and jumped up and down on her bed while singing – for all the world to hear – along with her record player. Cher’s Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, and Dark Lady. Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat by the adorable, totally crush-worthy, Tony DeFranco and the DeFranco Family.

I didn’t have an Easy-Bake oven and would never have been allowed to jump on the bed. After I got home from Julie’s, Mom said I was completely out of control; I think I got a rare spanking. And I never spent the night with Julie again.

Dad read to me when I was very young, helping me understand the written word before I could read myself. I began singing probably as soon as I could talk. My parents invested in piano lessons with Mrs. Hamre in Clark (23 miles from the farm) from the time I was seven years old through my senior year in high school. Singing while playing piano absorbed a huge amount of my creative time, along with being on stage in declam, plays, musicals, and more musical groups than I can count all throughout school, including playing piano and singing in church. My parents found a way to get me to and from all those rehearsals, recitals and concerts.

One memory sticks out so much I went through my office closet to find an old scrapbook, with two letters and one newspaper clipping near and dear to my heart.

In my 30’s, after watching a television show about teachers, I was prompted to track down my high school music teacher, Janel, and wrote this (excerpt) to her:

What I don’t think you know, is what a profound, positive influence you had on me in my teen years. I wasn’t a “kid in trouble,” like some of those on this television show. And I’ve been blessed with a loving and supportive family. But I was extremely insecure, naïve, and shy. You saw something in me, something I’d subconsciously yearned for but had no idea I possessed, when you put me in Swing Choir my freshman year. I didn’t even know what Swing Choir was…and was petrified that first rehearsal, scared silly half of the first year…But there you were, guiding me every step of the way. The more singing and dancing I did, the more confident I became. You gave to, and taught, me SO much. Not just about music, but about self-esteem. I learned to believe in myself, to use my gifts, interests and skills.

Janel didn’t write back until months later. Here’s a portion of her response, typed on beautiful pansy-embellished stationery:

Your letter was a pleasant shock. And then came the tears. This was like something you read and dream about happening to you as a teacher – not something that really does. Right after the first of the year, I had one of the worst days possible. Nothing was right or good – questioning administration, unhappy parents, disrespectful, belligerent encounters with 2-3 kids and the rest of the kids were terrible! By the time I had driven 8 miles home, I had decided to pay the penalty ($) and resign. It just wasn’t worth it, much too much stress and much too hard on this tender heart. So, when my husband got home, we talked it over, and decided that we could work it out somehow with my quitting teaching. Then my husband said – “Here’s the mail.” And your letter. I came so close. Were you an angel? My deepest “Thanks” and My Love, Janel.

Yes, I am now a voice teacher, after being certified in the Transformational Voice® system.

But so are you, even without the certification.

We can all encourage each other to let our voices ring out, clear, true and strong. To say what’s really on our minds. To fall in love with our own voices.

The world needs your authentic truth spoken in your authentic voice. Don’t hold back.

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th. Stay tuned for details.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Dude in New York City – Help Me Find Him

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Dude in New York City – Help Me Find Him

The Dude in New York City – Help Me Find Him

In October of 1985, at the age of 21, I went to New York City for four days.

For a South Dakota farm girl, this was a very big deal.

My boyfriend at the time was stationed at an Army base in Maryland. Jeff made all the arrangements. I was so excited. New York City!

His car broke down right on the Jersey/NY border, as we saw the lights of the big city from the turnpike. We had to get the vehicle to a garage for repairs…but that didn’t stop our adventure. Looking back, I’m amazed how calm Jeff was through all of this. Well…he was Army-trained…

We stayed in an old and beautiful hotel in downtown Manhattan. I had my first baklava at a real Greek bakery, and my first escargots (which was like eating pencil erasers with lots of garlic and butter, but the rest of the meal was great!) at a real French restaurant.

We walked up and down 5th Avenue and Broadway for hours. Sadly, the ticket line was too long for an off-Broadway show.  I was mesmerized by the women in long, white designer dresses, one of them playing a harp, upstairs in Bloomingdales. I fell in love with Giorgio Beverly Hills perfume then and there, bought a bottle, and donned my body in only that fragrance – then it’s successor, Red – for over a decade.

Perhaps I was already doused in the orange blossom, bergamot, jasmine, sandalwood and vanilla notes of Giorgio when we saw “The Dude,” as I’m calling him now.

The Dude sported leather, chains, a mohawk, sunglasses and a strut as serious as his cockiness. He should have been scary to me. He kind of was. He looked scary, but he didn’t feel scary. There’s a difference, you know.

I was dying to take his picture. I surreptitiously wrangled the camera so he wouldn’t see it…but he did all the same.

He snapped his head my direction and asked, with a whole lot of voice and a whole lot of attitude, “You wanna take my picture?!”

I, humbly and meekly, nodded and said, “Yes, please, if you don’t mind.”

The Dude turned to the plate glass window to his left, looked at his reflection, flipped his head down over his waist, fluffed his mohawk, flipped back up, put his hands on his hips, and turned to me with a smile. “I’m ready now!”

I clicked.

And I got it.

The Dude had his voice, even if it was just his voice right then during the punk rock era.

I’d love to connect with him again, and let him know how many times I’ve told this story, and what an impact those five minutes had on my life. I wonder if he remembers, too. Pass along this video and join the search for The Dude, will you?


Authentic Performance Voice Lab Sunday August 13th, 2:00- 4:00 at Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe! Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. Focus on Expansion, Not Contraction

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. Focus on Expansion, Not Contraction

Focus on Expansion, Not Contraction

Something wakes you up at 2:00 am. You have to pee. You hear a loud noise outside. Or you’re having yet another middle of the night menopausal hot flash like me. (I’ll take the bathroom trip or lightning strike any night of the week, thank you very much.)

Your mind begins to wander. Then it starts gnawing on something. Some problem, something that’s bothering you, something you have to figure out.

Maybe it’s an interaction with a friend, family member or colleague that left you feeling angry, defensive or concerned.

Maybe it’s worry over money and upcoming bills.

Perhaps it’s a niggling, ongoing sense you’re not serving your higher purpose, and are neglecting the honor and glory your authentic self deserves in the world.

It could be something else or all three of the above at once. It has been for me at times.

Let’s talk about this, shall we?  Especially on the blog, where we have a community.

Try on different scenarios in your mind’s eye, and see which make you feel expansive, and which make you feel contracted.

Expansion means a sense of empowerment, of accomplishment, of joy; you want to move forward into that vision, even if it scares you just a little. This vision makes you feel excited, powerful and loving.

Contraction means a sense of pulling back, of shutting down, giving up. You feel resigned rather than excited, like you don’t have a choice or are “doing your duty.” You feel less of yourself rather than more.

Move into what makes you feel empowered, expanded and alive. Move away from what makes you feel constricted.

“Sometimes there’s just too much to consider, too much to understand and analyze, too many consequences to play out in our mind, too many things to clean, unpack, or repair before we can go out and play.

Sometimes the simplest and best use of our will is to drop it all and just walk out from under everything that is cover us, even if only for an hour or so—just walk out from under the webs we’ve spun, the tasks we’ve assumed, the problems we have to solve. They’ll be there when we get back, and maybe some of them will fall apart without our worry to hold them up.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

*Sit quietly and try to stop working your problems.

*With each breath, put a concern down and feel your being intact without it.

*Breathe freely and realize that your being is whole whether you solve your problems or not.”

-Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Authentic Performance Voice Lab Sunday August 13th, 2:00- 4:00 at Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe! Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and inspirational.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. Flying with Intent: An Interview with John Barresi

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. Flying with Intent: An Interview with John Barresi

Flying with Intent: An Interview with John Barresi

When I say the words “kite flying”, what pops into your head? Possibly something like this?

Or the scene and song from near the end of Mary Poppins?

That was the extent of my kite flying knowledge when I met my fiancé, George, a passionate kite flyer. Before George introduced me to professional kite “pilot” John Barresi, I had no idea people can earn a living from kiting. Who knew? Did you? Read on and prepare to be inspired.

John Barresi is one of the most prolific and successful sport kite competitors in North America, and has earned national championships in nearly every kiting discipline. He is the owner and Editor in Chief of, the largest kiting website in the world, and is even featured in Wikipedia. Seriously.

George introduced me to John a year or two ago at a kiting event, yet it wasn’t until after I saw this Grant’s Getaways episode (you can see George in the yellow and white tie-dyed T-shirt) on Channel 8 that I approached John for an interview. In the television segment, John said, “When people fly, they’re showing the better part of themselves. Your chin is up, you’re looking up, your heart’s open, and you’re playing with this tension. Your mind goes calm. You don’t have to change your religion, or your diet, or anything, to be a great kite flyer.”

That caught my attention.

Kite flyers gravitate towards a casual wardrobe of cargo-type pants or shorts, T-shirts, hoodies and flip-flops, and John is no exception. From the kite festivals I’ve attended with George, I can also personally attest they’re a friendly bunch.

Yet I doubt many flyers got their start in life quite like John Barresi did. His home was a van; his address, the open road. John spent the formative years of his life with his father, who was retired from the military. They traveled from place to place, making their way through major points of interest such as the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert, as well as travel to India, Ecuador and Costa Rica, all before John was five years old. His father had an interest in all things esoteric, and one criteria for stopping points was how many natural food stores there were per capita; locally grown organic produce was a must. So, rather than from formal education, John learned to navigate life from significant experience, impulse, and an “incredibly articulate and sensible role model.”

In August of 1990, when John was 15 years old, he and his father were staying in the Bay area of California, one of their primary hangouts. One afternoon, when John was lunching with his father on the Marina Green, next to the Presidio, near Joe DiMaggio’s old house…the trajectory of his life changed. He saw a man flying a kite, and curiosity pulled him out of the van. He approached the man, who was flying a second generation “real” sport kite, “built like a Mack Truck,” says John.  John was small for his age (until gaining 11 inches in one year at the age of 17) and says he looked about 11 at the time of his first flight. The man asked John if he wanted to try flying the (expensive) kite and John jumped at the chance. Even though the large, slow, hard-pulling kite dragged John right onto his butt and pulled him down the field, he was hooked. A lifetime love affair with flying began that day.

John says, “Every time my father saw something pure and bright in me, something I was excited about, he did his best to feed it.” The very next day, John and his father went through the phone book and located three kite stores in the bay area, two in San Francisco and one in Berkeley.  At the latter, they found John’s first kite, a lime and forest green two-line Cheetah kite by Sky Toys. This defining purchase was the start of a 27-year friendship between John and Tom McAlister, the man who still owns that kite store. Both men are now married and have kids, and John manages Tom’s website,

John says Tom’s was different from the other kite stores. His store was mobile; he worked out of a Winnebago motorhome. He interviewed John and his father, asked about their needs, and what they were looking to do with kiting. He made suggestions and helped in the whittling down process. Staff at the other stores just said what they had and what the kite came with…string. Tom took his time. He walked them out to the grass and showed John and his father how to put the kite together, giving assembly tips that John still uses to this day, along with an on-the-spot flying lesson.

“At least once a year,” John says, “I specifically and consciously remind Tom of what he did, and the way he did it. Something like this can literally change the course of someone’s life.”

Because John wasn’t in formal school, he was able to spend the bulk of his days, “every bloody day for the next three years,” playing, flying, learning to pilot a kite. He went to his first kite festival, as a spectator, in San Francisco the September after the Cheetah purchase. There he saw a quad line kite for the first time. Of all the kites he flies, and John says he doesn’t have a favorite, the quad gives him the most variety. While most people tend to polarize, specialize, John finds the more kinds of kites he flies, the more he’s able to do with even the simplest kite. He constantly exposes himself to new things and new ways to fly.

Before long it became clear John was meant to do more than just master his kite-flying skills. He is now a prolific and successful competitor and exhibition performer, having performed at events like the Shanghai auto show (for Volkswagon) in China, Cavalia circus in Abu Dhabi, and the Red Bull air race half time show in Australia, Switzerland and France. I mentioned how glamorous it all sounds. John agrees, it certainly can be. “It’s quite a trip seeing your team name on huge banners…and seeing over 100 of my kites scattered all over a single beach… Wow. That was awesome.” John performs professionally at approximately 12-35 events per year and helms a team of four professional flyers – Team Kitelife.

But back to “his” kites… John doesn’t consider himself a “from the ground up” kite designer – he doesn’t personally connect with “building a car from scratch,” so to speak. He can, however – after 27 years of experience – look at the shape of a kite and know how it’s going to fly, or changes that can be made to greatly improve its performance. In the early ‘90’s, the General Manager of kite making company Revolution asked John if he would collaborate on a signature series. John’s finely tuned tweaks and adjustments lead to the “B Series” with Revolution, and John was a sponsored pilot with the company from 1992 until 2016.

Prior to John’s first flying team, iQuad, and the B Series, however, he was already teaching flyers in kite clinics, group instruction, and later private lessons. In addition, long before the internet explosion and avenues like YouTube, John took over from his friend and former teammate, Mike Gillard. “He was very, very good to me and I learned a lot watching him work and express himself, in everything he did,” John says.

Kitelife was the only American kiting publication left at the time, other than the AKA (American Kite Association) newsletter. The kiting community needed a central place for information about the national circuit, competitions from coast to coast, recognition awards, and all the other cool things happening in the kite world. With just one paying advertiser to prop up the withering site, John began the tedious and time-consuming process of teaching himself web design and how to format an on-line magazine. He eventually added videos, a discussion forum, media posts, and a professional caliber historical and biographical archive of global sport kiting.

John says people keep coming back to your business when they are “larger, enhanced in some way, by interacting with you.” On the site, John keeps a running feed of content and insights into his own rhythm and personality. He ensures readers can truly see kites as they are, and have a direct, visceral experience through the screen. He’s compiled an archive of competition and performance videos from as early as 1986 and out of print publications as early as 1977! is now the largest kiting website in the world, complete with first contact to competency level tutorials and a personally-selected digest of useful resources. John has included all the information customers would look for on their own – yet thanks to John’s diligence and “filtering out the bullshit,” they don’t need to. He rotates a library of product from paying sponsors as prizes for subscribers. John smiles remembering his first $2.95 subscriber, Scott Davis, who is still a subscriber today.

In October of 2007, John’s world was again rocked when he performed at the Tokyo Bay Flight Party in Japan and met one particular participant, Takako (TK) Kishi, now his wife. John says he can tell a lot about a person by the way they fly. TK was not a professional flyer at that time, more a passionate Sunday hobbyist. (Oddly enough, tako kichi, sounding similar to TK’s given name, means “kite crazy” in Japanese.) John describes TK as having light energy, like a wood fairy – bubbly, yet well-defined with real world female Samurai energy – with an appealing stoicism; cute, yet fortified. “This is pretty much what I saw when she flew,” he says. “She was out of frame with everything else. She stood out, in a country with a tradition and passion for uniformity.”

After coming home, John joined in making plans for an iQuad tour to Japan and England to celebrate Revolution’s 20th anniversary. He returned to Uchinada in April of 2008. He watched TK flying for about 20 minutes before she even knew he was there. He kissed her on the cheek in greeting and after that, John says, it was “fox and hound” for the next three days. He extended his trip by five days to visit TK in Tokyo, and her first trip to the United States was that July. John proposed during the Tokyo Bay Flight Party October, 2008, under the ferris wheel at Kasai park. Takako and her pet turtle, Ama, immigrated to the United States in October, 2009. John and TK were married that November. Their Son, Luca, was born June of 2016. With unsurprising foresight, John has already reserved the domain

I asked John how they chose the name Luca, which I happen to like quite a lot.  John and TK agreed they would separately gather a list of names they each found appealing. Luca was number one and two on both lists. John likes having a short name himself as well – “short, easy, with not much room for misinterpretation.” In addition, the name Luca translates to “bringer of light.” Finally, John asks with a laugh, “Doesn’t it remind you of a good-looking Italian guy with a glass of wine who can cook?” Can’t argue with that.

Before concluding John’s interview, I asked him if he can describe what it is I’m seeing him do with his arms when he flies a kite. If you watch the Grant’s Getaways segment, perhaps you’ll see what I mean. He responded, “What you’re seeing is energy. Kinetic energy.” John flies with efficiency, with intent. He said it’s like doing something on a curve as opposed to going from point to point. The more steps that happen in one second, the longer the second gets. This is what he sets out to convey in his private lessons and workshops. John describes the space and gives people the tools they need to fly smoothly, economically, as free of thought and stress as possible. He doesn’t use the word “practice.” Rather, he “iterates.” With each repetition, the brain processes faster, and impulses get to the muscles faster.

And, besides, you’re looking up, your mind is calm, and your heart is open. Perhaps that’s what it really means to fly with intent.

For more information, go to, and/or contact John via


Authentic Performance Voice Lab Sunday August 13th, 2:00- 4:00 at Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe! Speak about your passion with confidence and conviction; inspire people to work with you.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. All You Need to Be is Exactly Who You Are: Don’t Buy Any Other Story

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. All You Need to Be is Exactly Who You Are: Don’t Buy Any Other Story

All You Need to Be is Exactly Who You Are: Don’t Buy Any Other Story

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected in a dewdrop on a blade of grass. The moon does not get wet, nor is the drop of water broken… And the whole moon and entire sky are reflected in even one drop of water. –Dogen

The lovers and friends that have helped me stay alive and be more fully alive have come into my life like Dogen’s moon—all of their love, as big as the sky, fills my heart and yet I did not become them, but only more myself.

Anything or anyone that asks you to be other than yourself is not holy, but is trying only to fill its own need. -Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

When I was preparing to leave the world of insurance claims and launch a business dedicated to helping people express their inner and outer voices, Mark Nepo’s words in The Book of Awakening were dear friends. Always comforting, always propelling me forward, always reminding me who I truly am inside.

I know it’s no coincidence that I read his words again this morning, July 11th, 2017. Tuesday is my blog content writing day, and this year, Nepo’s words fell into me again on a Tuesday.

Let’s look at that one sentence again…Anything or anyone that asks you to be other than yourself…is trying only to fill its own need.

When your parents told you to be quiet, it had nothing to do with you or your noisiness; it had to do with their need for peace.

When your ex said you were too clingy; s/he needed independence and privacy.

Now strap it backwards and think of when you’ve said someone should change. Close your eyes for a minute, let memory move you, and come up with just one.

It wasn’t about them at all, was it? It was about how you wanted to feel after they had made that one change.

When I was married and step-mother of three teenage boys, I purchased this special vintage bowl from an antique shop, and I loved it. It was the perfect size, the perfect color…one of those rare finds you won’t run across in a big box store or the china department. The boys decided it was the perfect size for an entire batch of macaroni & cheese from a box, the only thing they knew how to cook besides frozen pizza. They could eat straight from it with a big spoon.

I wonder how much time and energy I expended worrying they would break the bowl or asking them NOT to use it for macaroni & cheese, before Derek, a Marine, was killed at the age of 21 by a roadside bomb in Iraq, as his father and I were divorcing.

I still have the bowl.

It’s complete, whole, unbroken.

Authentic Performance Voice Lab Friday July 21st 4:00 – 6:00 at Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe! Speak about your passion with passion and inspire people to work with you.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Past, The Future, and NOW. What a Present!

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Past, The Future, and NOW. What a Present!

The Past, The Future, and NOW. What a Present!

I don’t know if it’s menopause or what, but I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately. I’ve remembered things I’d forgotten, and have more feeling associated with both memories from the past and visions of the future. These feelings are all over the map. If physicians tested emotions like they do blood pressure, my doctor would probably prescribe something.

Are any of you readers experiencing the same thing? If so, please let us know on the blog!

For example, I remember the time my friend, Jeff, invited me to stay at Bob Hope’s house in Palm Springs. This story has come up so often in conversation I finally decided to write a speech about it. Writing the speech and compiling the photos brought up memories and emotions.

On the other end of the spectrum, when I envision my future and the direction my business is heading, I sometimes feel overwhelmed or under-prepared. Then, 15 minutes later, I realize I’m not dreaming nearly big enough.

I don’t think there’s a pill or supplement for this. Meditation, even if for just 15 minutes in the morning, certainly helps. Yoga. Walking outside – as often as possible, for as long as possible.

The past is in the past. The future isn’t here yet. All we have is right now. We’ve heard this so many different times, from so many different people, it sounds like a cliché, right?

But what else do we really have? Where can we find the deepest connection with ourselves and the fullest sense of peace? Right here. Right now. In the only moment we truly have – this one, right here.

Mary Morrissey has said:

1-Look for the good in everything.

2-Keep the past in the past; Glance at it with a kind eye.

3-Forgive everyone, including yourself, for everything, all of the time, without exception.

4-Approach your work each day as sacred.

5-Amplify the good (self, others, the world; higher good.)

This is very good advice. Let’s all take it, shall we?

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentic Performance Voice Lab Friday July 21st 4:00 – 6:00 at Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe! Be brave and honor your voice. Clients are raving.

Authentically Yours, Laura