“Everything is Important” – And you know what… it truly is!!!

Here I thought that consultants were supposed to teach their clients a thing or two, but quite frankly, it’s my client that taught me – and it was only three short words.

The mantra of Singer Vehicle DesignThe mantra of Singer Vehicle Design

A can of spray paint and a blank wall in the midst of a small, neatly organized restoration garage/shop — “Everything is Important”—but it goes so much further than the makings of an enormously expensive, highly optimized vehicle.

“Everything is Important” is indeed a mantra – yes, for Singer Vehicle Design – but it certainly goes far beyond saying that each nook and cranny is well thought out and downright perfect. This chant continues way past building what’s been termed by some of the greatest writers as the very best car on the planet.

And it's the little things that count most...

And it’s the little things that count most…

To me, “Everything is Important” is one of those life lessons that needs to be thought of every day, in everything you do.

From waking up and seeing the sunrise, to watching the hummingbird in my yard as he takes just enough pollen from the lemon tree to sooth his senses. It’s teaching my son to re-read his writings out loud to know if the tense is correct.  And then watching his exuberance come to life as his AP essay is selected from more than 100 for a literature conference in which eight private schools have participated, and learning that he’ll now present his artistry to an audience of many — but for which he’ll never earn a grade — just plain self esteem.

“Everything is Important” is about character – it’s saying hello to strangers that you pass on the street, and smiling just for the sake of the smile.  It’s watching my neighbor hand wash his cars to precision every weekend on his driveway, not necessarily to keep them clean, but because  he knows it makes his wife happy.  Digging your toes into the fine sand on a beach and finding that less than perfect sand dollar, but keeping it forever just the same.

Me, I’ve always been an optimist…not so much about the glass half full, but more about stopping to smell the roses.  When my son was small, while walking him to school, it was about telling him to look at the nature and think about how lucky we were to live where we did and have such beauty and trees around us.  It’s so much more important than just the neighborhood you live in — it’s the appreciation factor and being in the moment.  The importance that the next breath provides…

Being in the car industry, I’ve learned the art of perfection.  Whether it’s the throaty sound of a Maserati engine, the precise paint on a newly fabricated piece of sheet metal  or the simple elegance of a nickel-plated side view mirror on a bespoke, restored wonder.  It’s the roar of the crowd as the beautiful livery lines up on the grid, and its the awe of the child opening his eyes at his very first auto show.

It’s how when I was a kid, I finally mastered jumping rope — or learning to make a family recipe of “cringle” with just the right amount of cinnamon and sugar.  It’s all important… from the moment we wake to the moment we rest our heads again.  And it all matters.

Quite frankly, its more about the emotion within, than the beauty on the outside.  And it all comes from knowing that if we don’t take notice, we’ve lost another day.  I want to spray paint this one everywhere, to always remember, that everything truly is important.

Taking notice of perfection...

Taking notice of perfection…

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“30 Toes” – Savor the Experience…because it’s simply THE BEST PART OF THE JOURNEY!

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I’m learning it’s all about the numbers…After more than 2,400 miles and 23 1/2 hours of racing, the most prestigious North American sports car race came down to 8 minutes and a final 5-lap sprint. And 3 of us, among thousands of others, were there.

But, I will digress, because to me, that was nothing compared to the 626 miles driven by a dear friend in a “racing red” Porsche 911 Turbo, coming to meet me precisely at 3:50pm EST as I came out of the Orlando airport baggage claim all the way from LA. She used 2 GPS systems, 1 radar detector, 1 iPod (inevitably on Pandora) and drove with 1 huge grin all the way from North Carolina to Florida. (Though her speed will be 1 number of which I remain mum!)

What began as 3 friends enjoying the 24 Hours of Daytona, turned into 48 hours of an experience that won’t easily be forgotten – because when you get 2 car chicks together with 1 passionate Porsche pal, and all 3 are ready to just simply enjoy the moment – each moment becomes nirvana.

In a nutshell, our weekend included the Daytona 5K before the big 24-hour enduro – we headed to the track at 5:30am, in 39 degrees, among more than 1,000 entrants — all competing on the 2.6 mile track along side the 31 degree slanted slope — an exciting rarity for my weekly exercise jaunts and one run I never dreamed I’d experience.

In the wee small hours of the morning, Daytona's 5K

In the wee small hours of the morning, Daytona’s 5K

And a few hours later we were back at the track again – enjoying the infield parking at the Porsche paddock, lunch in Ferrari Hospitality and later feeling just like we belonged as we headed onto pit row…

If it looks like a VIP, and walks like a VIP, must be a VIP...anyway, got us on pit row!

If it looks like a VIP, and walks like a VIP, must be a VIP…anyway, got us on pit row!

My guess is, one hasn’t experienced real racing until they’ve been up close and personal, 2-feet from a pit stop, and cheering on their team mere inches away from a drivers’ change during an endurance race.  It’s a rush and excitement, that short of driving that car, can’t be replicated.

We felt that rush — as we had the chance to hang with our favorite friends of the Danville d’Elegance Foundation — Sonny Whelen and Marsh Racing, and their #31 Corvette driven by Eric Curran and his team.  Big supporters of Team Fox, all their crew wear the t-shirts to prove it, and we welcome them with open arms each year at our concours and weekend of charity events for Parkinsons (www.danville-delegance.org , btw, did I mention that along with Sonny’s help, we raised $500k overall this year and became Team Fox’s #1 donor nationwide!!!).   The very least we could do is proudly cheer on his Marsh Racing team until the wee hours, as he so devotedly each year cheers on ours!

Teddy Marsh leads the way as his team takes a quick pit stop in evening hours.

Teddy Marsh leads the way as his team takes a quick pit stop in evening hours.

So getting back to the numbers, there were a 1,000,000 reasons why our 3-some had just so much fun this Daytona weekend — and I think it had to do with absolutely no expectations to do anything more than enjoy!

A few more highlights from   the grid area at Daytona International Speedway

A few more highlights from the grid area at Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach at its finest, both sunrise and sunset.

Daytona Beach at its finest, both sunrise and sunset.

Let this be the beginning of more and more car family weekends to come…

"30 Toes" coming together for a weekend of near perfection!

“30 Toes” coming together for a weekend of near perfection!

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Mystical Learnings and Other Justifications…

I just had a flashback from nearly seven years ago – of a memory that’s been tucked away, but today became prominent when my son and I reminisced about life altering experiences, and this particular one came to mind.

In 2007 we were fortunate enough to go as a family to Germany and spend some time with my in-laws in a small, historic village, called Michelstadt. My father-in-law happens to be a very gifted, beloved and world renowned concert pianist, who annually gives of himself to Chair global classical music competitions and teach students from around the world not just about music, but more so, if they listen to him closely, about what passion can inspire.

The truth is, one doesn’t really need to be a musician to be inspired by him — because his teachings don’t only encapsulate music, but more so, empathy, insight and a whole lot of heart.  But that’s another blog…

On this particular trip, the learnings were more for Jacob (though we got the benefit of being a part), and he was shown less of “what,” and more of “why.”

While my in-laws were in Michelstadt for a good portion of the summer, our few days taught us history, appreciation for our heritage, and the ability to get to know people from another part of the world that now have a connection within our hearts.  We had come to hear a special performance my father-in-law was to give to the town, but we left feeling fulfilled from what the town had given us — a warmth and connection that included my son, who was 11 at the time, signing the “Golden Book” which is held by the town Mayor and has been in existence for hundreds of years.

But the even more meaningful part for me, was a visit to the grave of the Baal Shem Tov of Michelstadt — the Rabbi that was known throughout Europe to be a miracle worker, through his compassionate advice and listening heart, and the guy that to this day, thousands come to visit while seeking solitude, respect and good wishes for themselves and their family.

Baal Shem of Michelstadt

Jacob and his grandfather visiting the grave of the Baal Shem Tov of Michelstadt in 2007; the entire grave was filled with notes from thousands that come to leave their thoughts.

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Rabbi Yitzchak Aryeh Sekel was born in 5529 (1768) in Michelstadt.

And while the meaning of this true Baal Shem Tov is inspirational and a part of my spiritual belief, what sticks to me is the desire within us to find that listener and thought provoker, and how very fortunate I am to have my very own “Baal Shems” in my life right now…those with compassion and honesty and true friendship – the one’s I can count on even if our paths cross at less consistent moments. 

We all have times of need…times of indecision, of doubt and also of jubilance… though  sometimes it’s the former that seems to remain more constant…For me, without those key individuals that offer their ears and hearts to me, through the good and the bad, my world would be greatly remiss.  While those of a higher source, such as the Baal Shem Tov, can bring a deep comfort to many, it is my team of encouraging compadres that make my life complete.  Those that have brought me the balance which inspires me to find at least one good thing in each day – even the difficult ones.

As 2013 comes toward a close, it would be easy to point out the disappointments I’ve faced and the elements of change I’ve encountered within – but it’s also been a year of promise and learning and growth.  A year of strength that I’ve given myself, but could have never done were it not for the “Baal Shems” in my life, giving me the encouragement to stop and smell the roses and seek the ability to be in the moment.

This extended crew offers me hope every day, whether we connect or not, for their words of encouragement go deep and are not forgotten.

I am grateful for this and so much more – the realization that everyone needs a Baal Shem Tov — and in return, each should become one for another.

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We vs Me…

A good friend of mine let me in on a little secret about “me,” – he said, and I quote, “you’ve always been a ‘we’ person, don’t you think it’s time to start being a ‘me’ person?”

Though his question was directed in a positive vein, and meant more than anything to help me achieve some inspiration for myself, the deeper crux of that one little question began to plague me – and a rush of memories both personal and professional, jumped into my inner core.

And try as I might to find those moments of undertaking where being a team player should have been more than enough, I began to second guess what I just may have been missing out on.  And wondering even more so, is it ever too late to change?

So I embarked on what has become an eight-month journey – a journey that didn’t reduce my involvement with others, but more so, allowed me to come back to being “me.” This new notion allowed me the time to enlist the things that “I” enjoy doing and even finding new passions that make me feel good — permitting me to be a better “We.”

My work travels now included a day or two extra reconnecting in person with friends from afar; and my daily routine at home grew to include the healthy outdoor moments that I had all but forgotten — with daily 3.2 walks in the hills, weekly hiking, golf and tennis too — as well as the much needed gab-fests with my besties over sake and sushi, and winebars and tapas too — I even took on yoga to unleash the spiritual gangster in me!

And here’s what I’ve found…

“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”

For me, that includes the “me time,” but it’s also growing my inner world.  I’ve expanded on the places I want to be, including the folks that I want to see, and making the most of working on me…I haven’t stopped being a team player, but I’ve learned that the better I feel about little ole me, the more I can contribute to the team.

So I’m thanking my friend for putting me on this journey, but letting him know that for me, he’s only kind of right.  I can change and incorporate more into my life, but I don’t think I’m ever going to give up the sharing and the “we,” because that in itself is what helps me be me.

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An Unbroken Spirit while Driving Toward a Cure

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Yes, it truly “takes a village…” and for this year’s 2012 Danville d’Elegance weekend of charity events, our little village grew from the mere historic old town of Danville, to one of global interaction and connectivity.

You see our success came not just from our village of more than 200 volunteers that so transparently handle each and every detail (of which they began last year the day the weekend ended!) — nor did it come additionally from our Canadian partner, Intelliga Communications, with its gift of website design, Facebook interaction and continuous outreach of marketing support — or even from companies based afar, like Ralliart Racing in Florida that generated our wonderful driving route for the “Tour,” and the beautiful artistry and illustrative “Tour” design elements that were created by Paul Chenard in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

While our village was enhanced by global auction contributors from the likes of the world-famous Orient Express and individual luxury hotel properties like the Mandarin Oriental and the St. Regis that donated packages in Rome, Venice, London, Prague and Barcelona – all of which are now committed to our cause and in sharing our success for it with their own clientele – we had an even greater gift.

It was the  “inhabitants” of our village – those supporters that came throughout the weekend in droves… the ones that share our passion for cars, and more so to help support our collective desire to eradicate Parkinson’s disease and for now, benefit Parkinson’s research and patient care – this is where our village became a true community.

Our supporters this year were many, evidenced by the first time we’ve “sold out” of each of our three programs – the “Tour d’Elegance,” Blackhawk Dinner Gala/Auction, and the grand finale, the Danville Concours d’Elegance.

This year, something special was in the air – we smelled it at the Lafayette Park Hotel very early Saturday morning when the first of our drivers rolled up under the banner memorializing Phil Hill, one of our “Legends of Racing, Heroes of Parkinsons.”

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The beautiful entries ranged from vintage Alfas, MGs, Austin Healy’s and Lancias, to modern day Lamborghinis, Porsches, Ferraris, and Aston Martins.  And after a stunningly scenic, yet energetic drive through the backroads of Napa, our “touristas” enjoyed the view and waited patiently until the 1918 Chevrolet D5 V8, driven by Luke Rizzuto, came up the hill to our lunch at the exclusive Cardinale Winery – and then, the applause erupted.

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With our group of 80, the specialness continued as we not only explored Cardinale, tasted the finest of their vintage, and dined on a lovely lunch – but heard the gracious words of Rick Tigner, CEO of Cardinale and the Kendall Jackson family of wineries, who has joined our village to support this very cause.  He introduced us to his wife Wendy, who too is battling with Parkinson’s disease, and we shared her spirit among other attendees also inflicted that have allowed the Danville d’Elegance Foundation to be part of their personal team.

The Tigner family support is just one example of our own growing and extended group – this year we also had the strength of Sonny Whelen and his Grand-AM racing team that actually helped us start our auction bidding back in July, with his donation of  “JOIN THE GRAND-AM VIP EXPERIENCE” charity auction package on eBay.

And there were plenty others that came to share their personal ties to Parkinson’s with us, from their own distant homes.  Dick Nicely and JoAnn Reilly joined us once again, all the way from Ohio, and Bill and Carol Biggs drove their ’73 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS more than 100 miles just to share the “Tour” and  “Concours” camaraderie once again – not to mention their great dancing skills on the Blackhawk Museum dance floor!

And speaking of the dinner gala – the casual theme of “Cruising toward a Cure” and it’s Tommy Bahama flair and surfer tunes, did not take away from enticing the high rollers in our annual silent and live auction to keep the bids rising.  Even Don Williams, owner of the Blackhawk Museum and its famed car collection, got into the act, raising the bar and purchasing a Ferrari FXX Pedal Kart – possibly a new museum addition???

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The “Dancing Queens” of Danville d’Elegance

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AOPi sisters take Danville by storm!

Auction item Ferrari FXX Kart - newly acquired by the Black Hawk Museum

Auction item Ferrari FXX Kart – newly acquired by the Black Hawk Museum

Yes, our Village is on a roll – in so many ways – and with the help, care and commitment from so many of you, how could we do anything but keep growing while collectively working to successfully assist the needs of Parkinson’s patients and the care and research that is so needed.

The growth we experienced this year for the Danville d’Elegance Foundation, was not only in our fundraising capabilities, but it was truly in growing our Village.  Looking forward to your support in making our 9th year even better!!!  Check our website, at www.danville-delegance.org as we plan for next year, September 21-22, 2013…

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Reflections on Maggie Thatcher and Other Women Pioneers

I once had a drink with Margaret Thatcher… well maybe not completely with each other, but in the same bar and about 10 feet apart — I was near the fireplace and she was on the corner couch. It was the evening of Ronald Reagan’s funeral, and we were at what was then our “local watering hole,” the Bel Air Hotel Bar…she arrived without fanfare, and just with her friends — all seemingly close with the former President…with her were Lee Iacocca, Reagan’s children and two or three others, but the excitement for me on this day of sadness was in watching no one else, but the always well-coifed, Maggie Thatcher.

And while she clearly wasn’t always liked upon the worldwide stage, nor was she always socially correct, she did do something not many women could do — she consistently stood up for her principles, within a true man’s world — and certainly during an era when it wasn’t considered politically correct. Probably one of the attributes her dear friend Ronnie admired about her most.

I admit I’m not the end-all when it comes to the world of politics or even Ms. Thatcher’s specific role within them, but I place her in the same neatly tied box with just a few of the key influential women that I consider have succeeded in a man’s world, and frankly, taken it by storm.

You see, I’m a car chick…maybe not the type that knows every bolt and chassis, but I’ve had my share of automotive pleasures in this rather incestuous industry. And I can honestly say I’ve loved every car I’ve ever represented and even driven, from the days of the Mitsubishi original home-grown Eclipse and the sexy 3000GT to Maseratis and Ferraris (both on- and off the tracks), and especially boutique brands like the Porsche 911s, restored and reimagined by Singer Vehicle Design. But what I love more than the cars, and even the great experiences, are the relationships I’ve gained and grown through the decades — and specifically, those relationships with the women that have made their marks by enjoying every moment of their trade and sharing it with the world.

Entering the car industry on the PR side when I was in my early 20s, I knew nothing more than the names of the cars on the road…so when Automobile magazine was thrown on my desk and I was told to read it, I found what was to me, the most inspiring and thought provoking of all its monthly columns — “Vile Gossip” — by Jean Lindamood, now Jennings. It was the last page in the book, but every month it became the first page I opened, and I learned more about the industry through her wild tales than I could have learned getting a bachelors degree in the auto industry. Because what each one of her stories — which continue through today – told me, was that while her industry knowledge did include the techs and specs and more than I could ever muster, the heart and soul of what she did was founded on the relationships she created and built within the industry, fostering every great experience which transpired.

Because Jean always stood up for her principles she became a respected states-woman in this land of men — and through the years she probably drove cars faster, smoked more cigars, and drank till she dropped, with more global automotive CEOs than any of the guys around her — and because she was still a woman, she could smile and get away with it all… each and every column she wrote, proved how beloved, yet more knowledgeable, she became. She may have started in her coveralls as a taxi driver when she first met David E., but she emerged as an automotive goddess whose Kentucky Derby style hat collection and love for dogs is now incorporated into her overall car persona.

Jean Jennings and her impeccable style

Jean Jennings and her impeccable style

Jean taught me and my auto PR gal pals performance driving during a “women and cars” day on the parking lot of the old Lion Country Safari…it was the days of the NSX and the very first Miata, and we became fast friends over the adage “never lift” when going through a turn. I revered her then, and I revere her now — only more than two decades later we’ve remained friends that can talk more than cars — yet its her unrelenting ability to be honest, and knack of fostering those relationships that continue to earn her my respect.

That same honest trademark holds true for another legend that I proudly call my friend…she was a racecar driver long before Danica Patrick’s parents were probably a twinkle in their own parents’ eyes…and all the while, as she was professionally driving (and winning) in a ’61 Ferrari 250GT at Sebring or in a ’64 Ford Falcon for a class win at Monte Carlo, or even participating in the 1000-km race at the Nürburgring — she won the respect and hearts of the men around her and the women that wished they could be her.

The rarest of gems and a true "Ferrari Gal"

The rarest of gems and a true  “Ferrari Gal”

1962 Laguna Seca - L-R back row: Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Denise McCluggage, Pedro Rodriguez, Innes Ireland and....Ronnie Bucknum. L-R front row: Roger Ward, Jack Flaherty, and Dan Gurney.

1962 Laguna Seca – L-R back row: Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Denise McCluggage, Pedro Rodriguez, Innes Ireland and….Ronnie Bucknum. L-R front row: Roger Ward, Jack Flaherty, and Dan Gurney.

Denise McCluggage is a rare gem whose journey has spanned the globe and probably the universe…and I’m sure it was her interest in cars and lack of fear that provided her a lifetime of passages through which mere mortals could only dream. Yes, she loves the industry, but I dare say, she loves the relationships she’s created and earned the respect of even more. Whether it was her “zen” for skiing, or her lifetime bond with Phil Hill and probably Luigi Chinetti (though she’ll never tell), I believe it’s her zest for life and her many, many relationships that are key to her success in all she’s ever tried to achieve. At 80-plus, Denise remains as youthful as her journalistic “new school” competition – with her own blogs, books, website and facebook page, she continues to turn our heads throughout this century.

Its women like Margaret, and Jean and Denise that give me hope that honesty remains the best virtue. And if we as women can drive our points and our miles, surpassing men along the way, so be it…we live in an age of possibilities, and its women like these that show us the way.

The dearest of friends for life...Denise and Phil Hill

The dearest of friends for life…Denise and Phil Hill

My favorite auto aficionista, Denise McCluggage

My favorite auto aficionista, Denise McCluggage

The Queen of Pebble Beach - 2014

The Queen of Pebble Beach – 2014

At Quail Lodge 2014

At Quail Lodge 2014

Catching up in Ann Arbor

Catching up with Jean in Ann Arbor

The Unflappable Jean Jennings at her best...on camera! Detroit Auto Show 2014

The Unflappable Jean Jennings at her best…on camera! Detroit Auto Show 2014

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