Blue Star Families, the Ellen Show, Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden!
This week, I was privileged to travel to Los Angeles to be a guest of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. I wouldn’t realize the gravity of this opportunity until later when I would be onstage with three of the women I love the most.
A diva could get spoiled: Charles and I were picked up at the airport in a limo and taken to the Sheraton Hotel in Universal City. Later the following day, we were picked up and carted to Warner Brother Studios. Still, the thrill and verve of it all had not hit me. We waited in a separate room outside of the studio (not in the green room where guests of the show usually wait) because security was so deep that the Ellen producers were flustered; they told us that they had never dealt with anything like it. We waited, were fed well, and waited some more. But the Ellen energy had not yet stirred in me. Subsequently, we were escorted to the green room and given instructions where to stand to meet the First and Second Ladies. I was so enamored by the pictures of Ellen and celebrities on the walls, I wasn’t even stressed; after all, we all bleed, right? Also, I was so enthralled with the producers’ stories about how they had to dance during their interviews that I wasn’t thinking about what I would say to Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden.
And just then they came around the corner, while I was shaking my booty (Ellen is like a big house party), so I halted my fairly fantastic boogie moves and put on my professional demeanor. Dr. Biden was gracious as usual. I have met her and spoken with her personally before, and she was the same; wonderful and cordial. Afterward, Michelle Obama greeted me. OMG! I reached out my hand to shake hers, and she gave me a hug. She asked how Charles and I were doing, we told her, and we went on to talk about the Inauguration and how incredibly frigid it was. I said “You should be used to the cold, coming from Chicago” and she replied, as she looked at me and Dr. Biden: “no, it was especially cold that day. Why do we have the Inauguration in January? Why can’t we do them in June?” We spoke some more, took some pictures together, and then took our places to prepare for the show.
In the midst of Veteran’s Day, the show was specifically focused on military families, and the audience was full of them. Ellen started the show with the two things she loves to do: dancing and scaring the hell out of people. And although I was not yet in the audience, I got to see the first part of the show from backstage. It was hilarious! Once Ellen completed her trademark dancing and frightened one of her producers onstage, they paused for commercial time and escorted me, my husband, the 2009 Military Child of the Year and her father, a wounded warrior like Charles, to the front of the audience seating; all four of us were vetted by the White House and Secret Service to attend the show as VIP guests. Alas, I do enjoy special treatment.
Once we were all seated, the FLOTUS made her way to the stage to speak with Ellen about issues she cares about: supporting healthy lifestyles and military families. And once Dr. Biden joined her onstage to speak about what they are doing for military families, it was at this point that I realized how significant this was going to be, how momentous this is. This interview with Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden was their first joint interview ever. And then came the shout outs to the Egglestons, one by Dr. Biden, specifically speaking of my role as a caregiver and supporter during my husband’s Walter Reed tenure, and one by the First Lady, mentioning our advocacy. Oh, but it gets better.
During the break, I was escorted to the stage, along with my new friend Brittany, the military child who is a sophomore at the University of Colorado. We were told where to sit on a plush crimson couch and I kept thinking: something good is about to happen. I had no clue how good, because at that precise moment Ellen awarded Blue Star Families $15,000 worth of Nooks for our Books on Bases Program! It was better than good, it was phenomenal. I was utterly surprised, humbled, and proud that I was chosen to represent myself, my husband, and Blue Star Families.
Ellen is an angel. Full of love and hugs, positive energy and all, she was so wonderful. And apparently, she, Obama, and Biden love Books on Bases. Still, it gets better. Ellen invited the entire audience back for her 12 Days of Christmas! I will return to LA sometime in December for the grand event.
After hugs from some of the audience members, we were escorted back to our special waiting room. Within the blink of an eye, it was over. The Ellen DeGeneres Show is a finely-tuned machine that operates with professional precision and crazy fun. The limo picked us up and took us back to the Sheraton. On my way home, I felt pretty exceptional about the entirety of it all, and delighted to be a part of it. The exhilaration has slowly ceased….until December!