My friends Megan and Mark own a shop in downtown called Ocala Wine Experience, and this year marked their one year anniversary of being open for them. They bought the place from a sweet, older British lady a year ago. When they acquired it, it was in need of a young people vibe to bring it back to life, and Mark and Megan were just the ticket. Mark has a passion for good food, good wine, and unusual craft beers and he was going to bring that to the table, while Megan is bubbly, fun and outgoing, having the ability to talk to anyone when they walk through the doors. Before you know it, you are chatting like old friends, and she is selling the crap out of something to you, but she can also be tough when needed if you clearly have had too much to drink.
While in a brainstorming session with her this year over a glass...or maybe it was a bottle of shared wine, we were coming up with new ideas for the place as she was wanting to bring in some more events that were reminiscent of our New Year's Eve party we had there this year. We came up with a vibe we were going for and I came up with the name "Couch Sessions"... Megan has a couch in her upstairs bar and it doesn't get a lot of use except for lounging on for a little food/wine induced coma at the low top table.
I am in a band and when we write music together, we always lounge around on the couch or the floor until we eventually come up with something. I suggested we move the "stage" area around in the upstairs bar and stick the couch there for musicians to sit on and create some live music writing and collaboration magic...what happens there every third Thursday has been nothing short of totally amazing...the caliber of musicians in our small town is astounding, eclectic, and ageless. From our first night there creating something with other musicians we have never worked with before and audience member participation and ideas, I think we are really on to something.
The last session, we had two members of the Orchestra join us. An upright bassist named Trent and a flute player named Natasha. Then we were joined by four other talents in the local area, Ecliff, Dustin, Bradley, and Alex. They play around town with a guitar in hand and a mic in their face and always do an excellent job. When we get together for these couch session things, our silliness gets the best of us and we end up making up songs that are funny and sometimes left field...but audience participation is great and it is just plain fun!
I feel so injected with happiness and creativity and sense of community after these nights. The energy is powerful, contagious, and invigorating and it brings together a room full of strangers that become friends by end of night...which is usually late on these nights. It is pure magic, and bliss, and it might have something do do with the two glasses of wine I drink, but more than likely it is the vibe, as my friend Victoria, who is pregnant showed up...you know she is not drinking...DD for about 2 more months... and she loved it..."best night ever" kind of love, and I'll take that from her because she is an artist too.
I posted the picture below on Facebook a week ago after waking up the next morning after being a part of this something that felt so remarkable...I felt so free, empowered, and good! I woke up in that "a-ha moment", the one where you have drank from the holy grail of a good moment in life. I have been blessed and fortunate to experience a lot of these moments over the past 20 years or so and to know that I might possibly be helping just one more person experience some of these gives me hope.
You see, I am talking about something that might not even give us Americans pause because we have a voice in our community and our country because of the freedoms we have...that I personally think we often take for granted...until you visit another country that is so different from ours and it takes a whole heck of a different thing for them to have the ability to voice any opinions or concerns they may have for the well being of themselves or their families.
Something as small as a Shea Nut has made the difference in the lives of over 4 million West African women as they currently support their family's income and education, according to The Global Shea Alliance, an association promoting quality and sustainability in the industry. And with nearly every Shoogie Company recipe using their Shea butter, we are able to empower these women as contributing members in their villages; they are able to have some say in the way their communities run and they are able to better educate their children all while spending time together with their families during the production of the Shea butter. I'd say this is a win-win situation that helps them to experience good moments in life. The ones where you are gathering with family and friends and doing something together, spending time communicating and being there for each other, and gaining a sense of pride and purpose that you are a contributing member of a community of others.
Music is the thing that gives me a voice in my community...It is the thing that makes me feel empowered and brings me happiness...it keeps my family dancing and makes chores go faster...it moves my spirit and my soul...it brings me back to the past the instant I hear a certain song...it evokes emotions and awakens the senses... Music is my literal Shea Butter! (that may be a bad analogy, but it is truth) I think anything good like this that empowers people to BE BETTER and FEEL MORE is a good thing...and I think everyone could use a good thing every now and then.
If you want to be a part of empowering over 4 million women, let me send some Shoogie goodness to your house doorstep. Click on the link to start shopping www.shoogiecompany.com or if you are in a pinch and want to start some empowering right away, stop by Brick City Exchange @ 40 S. Magnolia Ave., Ocala, Florida 34471 in downtown Ocala.