Here’s the low point, where my story begins.
It was about six years ago. I was riding a bicycle across the multiple train tracks in a small, charming rural town in Cajun Prairie country, in Louisiana. I had my laundry carefully folded and packed into two large plastic bags that were hanging from my handlebars. Apparently, I hadn’t really thought through the mechanics of this transport. The bags sagged and knocked on my knees as I pedaled. I worried they would tear open and my intimates would be splayed willy-nilly across the road in a town where I was sort of unofficially hiding out. I pedaled furiously to get home before the gun-metal grey clouds cracked open and hammered their load. Home was a ranch-style brick affair beyond the poorest suburbs to a rural outpost where cows lounged in fields across the street.
This rental had mice and June bugs but no washing machine, forcing me to bike across Crowley to launder my clothes at the Lawrence House - which was actually a mansion, with six bedrooms and massive oriental carpets and oil paintings of the ancestors and damask curtains in front of lace and chandeliers overhead. There was a stateliness to the place, a dense, protective silence. We slept there a couple nights, my husband and I, as guests, and I couldn’t hear a katydid, or even the freight train that barreled through nightly, a mere four blocks away. That’s one of the beauties of heavy duty wealth. You can build walls so thick that nothing penetrates.
Well, I certainly heard the trains in the brick rental by the cow field. I was living by myself at that point, so I was not only hearing the 11:55 from Houston, I was hearing rodents? squirrels? scampering above the peeling ceiling. I was alone, as my husband toiled back in New Orleans on a film, sleeping on a fold-out couch in a dank guest room that smelled like kitty pee, in an effort to yank our finances back from a high cliff. Lots of suffering to go around. Back to my low point. My front wheel hit the track at an angle, I went over the handlebars. Laundry, bike, and little Sheri went down hard. Of course, it started to rain hard needles of wet. I picked myself up, bruised, knees skinned, soaked and weeping like a six year-old, pulled wet laundry and myself together to struggle home. Certainly, I’ve endured darker days; the death of my dad and my divorce. But that particular spill encapsulated all my bad luck and feeling of utter failure. It was a memorable low.
I was in Crowley having that miserable episode because my husband and I had bravely (?) decided to pull up stakes from our comfortable, progressive West Side life, to start our film company, called Sheridan Film Company (I’m the Sheri, he’s the Dan). And this exciting and dynamic duo (that’s us) was determined to produce this little film, based on a script I wrote years ago, called "Angel Lady". It’s the charming tale of a strange phenomenon that appears on the TV set of a single mom (and ex-con) in a little Cajun town.
With our daughter Sophie Goldstein out of college and making her mark in the cartoon world, Dan and I decide to roll the dice and get this movie made in Crowley, a lovely little town that looks like a 1930’s movie set, surrounded by cows and rice fields. Oh, what nice, welcoming people they were, as we, the “Movie People” settled in to produce our film! The Mayor’s right hand gal Goldie took us around to open all the doors. We met the state legislator who owned an alligator farm. We drove around and picked locations for the shoot. Our movie's heroine was going to live in a beat-up trailer we found on the wrong side of town.
Across the road from her, was a woman with bowling balls and crazy plaster creatures dotting her lawn. That’s where our dear old Miss Marie would live. Perfect! We even held casting calls and met the talent of the town and surrounding area. It was a golden and hopeful time for everyone.
Dan and I were even invited to judge the Little Miss Christmas beauty contest. We were mystified by the sight of six year old girls twirling in party dresses in full makeup, and anxious not to alienate the parents! Nerve-wracking!
We created a funding pitch and our team - composer, co-producer, eager Tulane intern - made the three-hour drive up from New Orleans to present to the Town Fathers. With heart and bravado, Jeff sang the tunes he’d written, I regaled them with story of the movie and Dan discussed our budget. Our intern ran the slide show. Now, you would look at us and we seemed to be very smart people. We’d read books about film funding, and we were sure that we could inspire them to back our film. We told them that as we filmed, we would memorialize their little burg with such magic that they could run tours for years after, just like they did for “Steel Magnolias” up there in Natchitoches. It would bring tourists, buses of them! The abandoned downtown would spring alive with old-timey cafes and ice cream shoppes! We’d kick the revival off with a premiere at the old Opera House, that now survived on traveling trick dog shows.
All we needed was four million dollars, to get our film made. How hard could it be? An average Hollywood film cost 20 million bucks, at least. We were offering these sturdy Cajuns the deal of a life time. Oh, how wrong we were. They were having none of that, “No ma’am.” Their fortunes sprung from oil and rice. Drilling for “erl” was one thing, but taking a chance on a movie? Not in a hundred million years. They were nice about it, meaning they did not laugh directly in our faces. Sadly… this thundering rejection came after we’d packed up our West Coast life, installed ourselves in the brick field house with the mice and piles of dead bugs and spent every last dime we had, and then some. Truly, it was heady fun to wine and dine the local dignitaries and hire flashy New Orleans attorneys to create a financial offering and live in Prairie Cajun country. But six months into this adventure, we were bust.
The wishing well was dry to the bone. Fortunately, Dan was offered a job on a film in New Orleans, so he went off, taking the car and his companionship with him. I stayed behind; tasked with packing up, extracting ourselves gracefully from the community, explaining to the local thespians who called out, “Hey, Miss Sheri! Where’s Mister Dan? When are we making the movie?” So, that bike spill was the bottom of a very low period.
Eventually I made it back to New Orleans. It really helped that my friend Sarah inherited money and decided to leave town for Asheville, North Carolina. She was happy to lease us her little lavender home in the Irish Channel.
Whether the characters in my script believed the glitch on the TV was truly an Angel was a key question. Up to this point, with all the brouhaha of getting the funding and setting up the film, it didn’t really occur to me to ask myself what did I believe? Up to that point, It didn’t really matter. It mattered to a profound degree some months later, when we occupied a booth at the Nashville Faith and Family Film Festival. I’d figured this was a perfect opportunity to introduce our little film with a big message about faith to the Faith-based Film marketers and funders. Actually, we were confident this was a slam-dunk, because we were on message with that market. Nope.
The crowning teachable moment came with this woman in my face, wagging her finger. “You can’t have these people worshiping Angels! Don’t you know about the Fallen Angels? And what exactly does does this woman say, when it’s her last moments? What does she say? What are the words?” I stood there, my team and the Angel Lady booth behind me. It was a double-wide with a huge banner and matching t-shirts and samples of our music and two slide shows and koozies and Cajun rice and even a damn bag with our logo to carry it all in. “Uh…Help. She says, 'Help.'” “And where does the Lord fit into all of this?” “You mean, Jesus?” She tilted her head sideways, scooched up her nose and waved off the bags of sample rice with logo t-shirt. Once again, I’d been schooled by a female in spike heels and a pantsuit, wearing a cross. Oh boy. Thanks to Nashville, we realized our film Angel Lady would not be a rocket in the exploding market of Faith-based films unless we changed the script. And since I was an unreliable Christian (leaving the Methodist Church at 12), we’d have to hire a consultant who knew where to insert the code - things like Biblical quotes and how would Jesus make this a teachable moment. This was a dilemma.
We needed four million bucks. There was a lot of gold in them thar Faith in Film funding hills. But, we had this problem. If anything, our movie said that you can find hope gazing at a weird light on a TV in a dumpy shack on the wrong side of the tracks. God was The Divine. Jesus was quoted, occasionally. I returned to New Orleans, with a fist-full of business cards from Faith-based funders and marketers who were only interested in what we were not, Dan and I had to regroup. If we were not going to be able to show our future funders and distributors the arms-length list of Churches committed to screening our movie, and buying our Study guide, if we could not guarantee those Faith-based butts in the seats, who in the world would actually buy a ticket? Who’s going to want to see this film about a glitch that may or may not be an Angel? Out of the mouths of babes… this particular babe being my clever niece Megan, who works in social media. “Aunt Sheri, if you want to find people who love Angels, why don’t you start a podcast, and just interview authors and people like that? They have people who follow them, you know, and that’s your audience!” Of course my immediate reaction was just the same as when my friend proposed we run the Honolulu marathon. “Hey! How hard can it be?” A podcast? Sure!
Funnily, although I’d written a script about a phenomenon on a TV that may or may not be an Angel, I knew almost NOTHING about Angels. The central mystery of the glitch on the old TV, was written with a wink. It might be an Angel; it might not. We didn’t want to spell it out. Our logo was a TV with wings that said, “Believe.” You decide. I never figured I needed to really know about Angels or have any relationship with them, as this was one of many stories I had created as a writer. As far as a belief system, I’d been a practicing Buddhist for years and now my spiritual practice was centered around gardening in my New Orleans backyard. I figured I was relatively on track as a spiritual person, and an enthusiastic do-gooder. I was not looking for any more development or transformation. The Divine had other plans. From the first interview, which I will describe a little later, this podcast was mind-blowing and life-changing; for me, my team, my family, the Angel communicators I have interviewed and the thousands around the planet who have listened in. There was a flow to this creation, despite the fact I had NO IDEA what I was doing, navigating the unfamiliar waters of podcast-dom. I sought help.
My bright nephew Peter was out in Phoenix doing research and fetching lunch at my brother’s law firm. (There was a special nook in my heart for Peter, since the night I sat up, shook my then-husband awake to proclaim, “That baby is being born right now.”) Peter and I had sporadically connected as family. I knew he’d gone to school for some kind of computer connectivity type of work, so the week he came to visit us, my plan was that Peter would fall in love with New Orleans, AND show me how to plug in my new Yeti mic. Peter ended up stepping up, big time to become our podcast editor and producer. The other person I drafted for the “Let’s put on a podcast show” was Briana, our webmistress. She didn’t know anything about podcasting, either. But she was very very good at sitting and patiently following directions from online helpers who sent links. So, on a Saturday evening, after dinner, How to Connect with Angels got up and toddled forward. We pulled together the Yeti mic, the Audacity program for editing, website, logo, and spot-on title: How to Connect with Angels. To find our first guests, I started at the top of the list of best-selling angel authors and contacted Lorna Byrne, who wrote the international best-seller, Angels in My Hair. To my complete shock, she said, “Yes.” I went about reading her books and designing questions. In all of this planning, I’d forgotten that I had no actual experience interviewing people. Now I remembered.
When we take a big leap, it is essential to remember that there are winds that carry us. We will land in unfamiliar country and will need to remind ourselves that this is no mistake, that we will be guided, once we ask for directions. My interview with Lorna marks a point where a light came on. There I was, panicked and twitchy, Skyping a lovely Irish lady sitting behind her messy desk, wrapped in a big old sweater, her grandbaby’s play pen in the background. Sweet and kind Lorna who described seeing Angels from her cradle when she was but a wee babe… I wasn’t sure I believed, but Lorna glowed with her faith and her experience. This vibrant, delicate woman in her charming Irish brogue, passionately described the Archangels, the Angels, and the Spirits that appeared to her in supermarkets and at healings, and in prayer. I was enthralled as she described her work with the impoverished children in Ireland and Africa and her vision of bringing people of all religions under one roof, to prayer. In a day or so, Lorna was leaving for Africa. She wasn’t bringing the Angels to Africa. They were already there. Although our Skype failed twice, we completed the interview. I was exhilarated, not only for surviving but for opening this fascinating conversation about Angels. This was so interesting, and I felt better! I pushed on, a little less fearful, suspecting that the Angels were helping me and would continue to help me. And they certainly were.
From Lorna, the light shone on a vast and magnificent plane of people who embraced Angels. There was a huge tribe of non-church-going, spiritually-minded folk around the planet who loved Angels and worked with the Angels in prayer, in therapy, in healing. One of my next interviews was with the anonymous authors of We are Human Angels, a mind-blowing book that had inspired spontaneous translation into 14 languages. Alive, fun, and inspiring. That first year of the podcast, I conducted almost 40 interviews that we shared out on social media.
Over the course of four years, I have connected with Angel practitioners in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, across Europe, Canada and the U.S. I’ve interviewed Sharmee Divan, an Angel therapist, raised Hindu, who lives in Mumbai, India. We’ve become friends. When it comes to conversing with people on the other side of the planet, I am still that kid from Ohio who finds it really thrilling.
My personal favorite interview might be my conversation with Father Joy, a Catholic priest, also raised in India, who teaches the youth in Birmingham, Alabama about the comfort and protection of their Guardian Angel. In our interview he says, “There is an Angel for me.” Do I now believe there are angels helping us? Absolutely!
After all this, are we successfully finding our audience - people who love angels? Yes! Consider the thousands around the world who hear our podcast, or join us on Facebook. The 850k+ pinners who see our memes on Pinterest. Those Alexa users who call up My Angel Prayer, our treasure chest of thirty-second prayers. My just-released book, It’s Too Late to Quit: Messages and Musings is all about hanging in there for the long haul. Never giving up. We CAN’T. This whole movie-making journey is part of a movement. Angels are everywhere. We are Angels to each other. We can lift ourselves and our planet. All we have to do is ask.