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Jun
12

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day 8 of our ultimate australian adventure with oprah, in which we spend a star-studded day at the opera house, susan gets emotional and amy and I go on a shopping spree

This was the day we had all been waiting for – we were going to be VIP guests at the two tapings of The Oprah Show at the Sydney Opera House. For Oprah’s Ultimate Viewers, this really was the ultimate gift.

At 9 a.m. we were off to the first taping. The crowds on the street were as excited as we were, and they were screaming their welcomes to us and we were screaming our thanks right back at them!

With our yellow bracelets wrapped around our wrists, we were ushered to the VIP section – oh, we could so get used to this! – and were awestruck to look around and see 6000 audience members all smiling and laughing and feeling that same sense of gratitude and awe. Some Aussies had told us that it was harder to get tickets for this show than it had been for the Olympics! More than 350,000 people had sent in requests.

Sally Lou Loveman, who we remembered so fondly from that life-changing Chicago show taping back in September, warmed up the audience – which didn’t seem to need much warming up! By the time Oprah came on the stage, we had been whipped into a frenzy!

For those of you who missed the first show, here’s a quick recap: First up was the family of the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin. I had interviewed young Bindi over the phone when her movie, Free Willy 4, was released on DVD, and was so impressed by how charming and articulate she was. In person, she, her little brother and mom set off an emotional torrent that just got more intense when Jay-Z surprised a compassionate boys’ school teacher with a special appearance, and Oprah presented the students with a million dollars worth of laptops and computer equipment.

Russell Crowe visited next, followed by Christian and Rachel Anderson. Christian was battling cancer, and Oprah gave the couple a check for $250,000 so they wouldn’t have to worry about bills and could just spend time together with their two little boys. We were in tears watching the video Christian had made for Rachel.

Next up was Bon Jovi, singing hits “It’s My Life” and “Living on a Prayer.” We were sitting in about the twelfth row so we can assure you that, yes, Jon Bon Jovi is still one of the sexiest men alive. As if all of that wasn’t enough, Oprah ended the show by presenting the entire audience – all 6000 of us – with an exclusive pearl necklace from Kailis engraved with “Oprah The Farewell Season.” We get so many compliments every time we wear it, and it is so meaningful to us because of the incredible memories it represents.

We were emotionally spent – and there was another taping coming up in the afternoon! After lunch in the Opera House (how lucky were we?), Susan went back to the hotel to call her husband and have a good cry (I think I was teary for a good three quarters of the trip but will probably have my breakdown sometime down the road when I come back down to earth), but Amy and I decided to use the couple of hours in between tapings to do some shopping! We found the fantastic Aboriginal Art Galleries at the Sydney Harbour, and spent all our time – and money – there, buying earrings, scarves, journals, artwork, boomerangs … we could go on but, suffice it to say, we spent enough to warrant a tax refund at the airport the next day. It was a good thing we had bought the extra suitcases!

After a quick change, we were back at the Opera House, this time sitting in the fifth row center – hello, Oprah! – and, because this would be the final show, we were ready for anything. We had a great time talking to the two Australian mother-daughter pairs sitting in front of us who had won the ticket lottery and were beyond excited. They had just found out that they had been selected to upgrade their seats to the VIP section, and they were feeling as crazy happy grateful as we all were to be sitting there!

We had to rehearse what would be the grand finale – a gigantic Australian flag unfurling over us while a children’s choir sang “I Still Call Australia Home.” We prepared for the waterworks to flow because we knew this would be a huge emotional moment.

Oprah came out, looking like a queen, and brought out her first guest – Bono! What a thrill! Next, making a grand entrance that would make headlines all over the world, came Hugh Jackman, speeding down a zipline from the top of the Opera House to the stage. Unfortunately, he smashed right into something hard and we got an up-close and personal view of it. Ouch. It was actually really scary and when he turned around, his eye looked awful. He was so gracious, and said it was completely his fault because he got a little overenthusiastic. What a gentleman – and what a cutie! Even the young male paramedic couldn’t resist hugging him when he went onstage to help him!

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban did their first interview together with Oprah, and they were adorable. Olivia Newton-John was equally adorable – and she’s a shocking 62 years old now! She showed off the black leather pants she made famous in “Grease” – how could those tiny little things have ever fit anyone?!

The road trip ladies – who are as sweet in person as they were on TV – were sitting in the front row, and Oprah presented them with limited edition Australian Colours pink diamond “O” necklaces from Rio Tinto’s Argyle Diamond Mine. And then she presented them to the rest of the 6000 audience members!

Then came the big moment when the kids’ chorus started singing “I Still Call Australia Home,” accompanied by Hugh, Olivia, Keith, Nicole and Russell Crowe. The star power on that stage was dazzling. When that flag starting unfurling over our heads, it was magical.

The Ultimate Viewers were the first to leave the taping, and the crowd’s reaction as we walked out of there brought us to tears. We could totally feel the love as they waved to us, clapped for us and screamed for us to come back soon. One by one, they were calling out, “thank you,” and we were calling out, “thank you” back to them. We were yelling, “We love you” to them and they were yelling “We love you” back at us. It was just a surreal moment and the perfect end to our trip.

Except we still had one big surprise in store for us.

After an evening of collecting email addresses and phone numbers, taking photos and packing up all our memories, it was time for the first group to leave for the airport. We were in the later group so Amy and I took a quick walk through the Botanical Gardens, then Janet and I visited the Sydney Museum. We didn’t want to miss a thing!

We traded in our Australian phones for ones we could use back home, praying that all our photos and video made the conversion. Then we were off to the airport, where we stocked up on Tim Tams to share with our families and friends.

While we were waiting at the gate, our group was ushered together and we knew something was up. Suddenly, to everyone’s shock, Oprah walked over. She didn’t know why we were so surprised, saying of course she had to come say “goodbye” and “thank you” to us. Really?! She totally did not have to do that, and the fact that she did shows what a class act she is. We were so touched.

She thanked us for being the “ultimate Ultimate Viewers,” and told us to expect some post-Australia depression. She encouraged us to hold this experience in our hearts forever, and to build on this momentum and spread the love. I said we would pay it forward and she repeated, “Pay it forward.”

So that is what I’m going to do in both my personal life and through this blog.

I hope you’ll join me as I pay it forward and make this the gift that keeps on giving.

Epilogue:

Watching the four Australia shows on TV last week was in some ways even more emotional than actually being on the trip. It made me realize just how big this experience was, and how incredibly blessed I was to have been chosen to be there. I have not taken one minute of this gift for granted.

I am on Facebook with my 299 new friends every day, not just reminiscing about the past but planning how we are going to use the incredible energy of this group to make a difference in the future.

I am so grateful for the love and support of my friends, families and readers, who have encouraged me to share my stories – and who keep asking for more, even when I feel I must be boring you to death. You have all made this experience even more meaningful to me.

The main reason I wanted to devote so much space to our Ultimate Australian Adventure is to show you that anything really is possible. I am living proof that dreams do come true.

So dream big, send your dreams out into the universe and watch the magic happen.

day 7 of our ultimate australian adventure with oprah, in which we sail in a regatta, oprah reassures us we’re there for a reason, and we get to see u2 in concert

For people who are not sailors, we sure had been on a lot of boats the past few days! This morning, we boarded yachts for a private Oprah Regatta around Sydney Harbour, and we even signed up to help out as crew members, as well. Amy was a bit wary – she is a devoted landlubber now – but she didn’t want to miss this Oprah activity, so she donned her seasick bands and, with the help of boatmate Rose Cowan, made it through like a trouper.

The sight of the Harbour filled with these 20 beautiful boats celebrating Oprah’s Farewell Season was so moving. The impeccable attention to detail taken with each of the sails reflected the level of care and professionalism of our hostess herself. We took turns at the helm, with a gentle nudge from our professional captain whenever there was a traffic jam or whenever we started steering, uh, drifting, a little too close to Oprah’s boat.

We had a relaxing morning on the water, enjoying the breathtaking views. By the end of our ride, we were standing up and holding on tight as we sailed past the Sydney Opera House and under the Bridge we had just climbed yesterday. It was a totally different view from down here!

When we were back on dry land, it was time for lunch at Bungalow 8 at Sydney’s King Street Wharf. There were people and cameras all over because You-Know-Who was coming to have lunch with us.

As we were settling in at our table, I noticed someone familiar walk by on the other side of the fence. He waved and I automatically waved back, but it took me a minute to realize who it was. Russell Crowe! OMG! I grabbed my camera and ran to the fence. He had just taken Oprah out on his boat, and he graciously stopped to pose for photos and say hello to us.

Meanwhile, Oprah and Gayle were making their way into the restaurant which, with everyone vying for their attention, was no easy feat.

Oprah gave another empowering speech that day, one that came at the perfect time for her Ultimate Viewers, many of whom had, at some point, commented that they didn’t deserve this huge gift we were receiving. “You are all here for a reason,” she reassured us. “No one is here by accident.” I got goosebumps as she went on to explain that she and the producers had read and re-read every application, that they knew everyone’s stories and had handpicked each person for this trip. “That’s why there are no assholes here!” she laughed. We roared — you’ve got to love it when Oprah swears! — but, inside, felt much better!

Oprah also told us that when she was younger, she disliked her name because she could never find it on any of the little license plates or tchotchkes that the other kids had. She waited patiently for Miss Louise on Romper Room to look in the Magic Mirror and see her, but although she would say, “I see Suzy” or “I see Barbara,” she never saw Oprah.

Today, though, she realized that God had bigger plans for her, happily pointing out, “Now I have an O on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a Regatta with my name on it.” She assured us that whatever our background was or wherever we were from, “There’s a regatta with your name on it.”

Wow!

We called good-bye to her as she got into her car, mobbed by throngs of people, and told her we’d see her tomorrow at the tapings of her show at the Opera House.

With just a couple of hours until we had to be on the bus for our “surprise activity,” we all descended on Sydney’s luggage stores to pick up a bag or two to take home all the amazing goodies we had collected during our trip! Amy, Susan and I bought two bags for the three of us to use and, trust us, they were filled to the brim by the time we schlepped them to the airport.

At 6 p.m. we lined up for our box dinners (not the sandwich and chips you may be imagining — there were like six delicious gourmet courses in this unassuming box) and boarded the buses to – where? This was our surprise activity, and we had no idea what to expect.

Once we were all seated, Oprah came on the video monitor to welcome us and tell us we were going with her to see U2 in concert with opening act Jay-Z! Woo hoo! I love U2 and have wanted to see them forever. Another bucket list item – check!

It was so exciting to pull up in front of ANZ Stadium, where the Sydney Olympics took place in 2000. Our beloved Blue Shirts pointed the way (how in the world were they everywhere we needed them to be?) to our seats which – duh – were great! We bought t-shirts to commemorate the occasion, and rocked the night away to U2’s greatest hits with 70,000 other fans. We were especially thrilled when they recognized the special guest star in the audience by changing some of their famous lyrics to, “See Oprah Winfrey right in front of you!”

After a totally satisfying concert, we rode home trying to predict whether Bono would show up at one of the tapings of The Oprah Show tomorrow. Although we would LOVE that, it really didn’t matter – we had already had a “Beautiful Day.”

day 6 of our ultimate australian adventure with oprah, in which we climb the sydney harbour bridge, eat in historic districts and amy supports the australian economy

Today, we were told, our morning activity would take us to new heights – 134 meters above Sydney Harbour, to be exact! (I would love to tell you what that is in feet but I still have no idea how to convert measurements.) We were going to do the world-famous Sydney BridgeClimb! We were thrilled because, before we left the U.S., so many people had said this was a “must do,” and encouraged us to do it if we had the chance.

We were divided into groups and brought into a room for an introduction and a breathalyzer test. This was a little worrisome to some people who had indulged in one too many apple and thyme martinis the night before, but luckily everyone passed! We were given our bridge-climbing uniforms and lined up to get tethered to a static line on the Bridge. Then, led by our enthusiastic guide, we were off and climbing.

The Climb takes you along the outer arch of the Bridge, and you walk on catwalks and up ladders. For most people, it is really not scary – although it was fascinating and inspiring to watch Oprah last week and see how many people, including Gayle, overcame their fears to reach the summit. It is really fun and exhilarating, and it was amazing to look down and see all the Australian fans waving and taking pictures of us. Cars were honking their horns in support of us, and we literally felt like we were on top of the world!

When we finally got to the top, we could see Oprah and Gayle in the middle of the Bridge, and the helicopter which had been hovering overhead for a while, taking photos of us climbing, suddenly disappeared! We found out that it had to refuel and Oprah was not happy. We were setting a world record for the number of people on the Bridge at one time, and the cameramen were in that helicopter to take an official photo. This was not a good time to have to refuel!

Personally, none of us minded. Because we weren’t allowed to bring cameras or cell phones on the Climb, we once again were able to just relish the experience and marvel at the fact that our group – two thirds of whom had never been out of the country before – was standing at the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, setting a world record with Oprah Winfrey! It was another amazing moment in a trip full of them.

The 360 degree views were spectacular, it was a perfect day weather-wise and we were happy to wait as long as it took for the helicopter to refuel. Once the picture was taken, we headed back down, where we received certificates and photos proving we had made the Climb, along with some adorable souvenirs to remind us of our experience.

It was then time for lunch at the Waterfront restaurant in the heart of Sydney’s historic Rocks precinct. We sat with Sheree Franklin-Hill and her friends, who had all been part of the group which went to Uluru. We loved listening to their tales of this spiritual journey, which was transformational for them. We were riveted, just hearing about it, and we hope to share their stories with you soon. We also hope to visit there ourselves one day.

After lunch, we were given a choice of activities and the three of us unanimously decided on the Chic in the City shopping tour. Led by stylist Eliza, we were given the inside scoop on some of the best independent shops in the very cool neighborhood of Paddington. We got to visit half a dozen stores, and Amy did her part to give back to Australia by buying something in every single one!

I was no shopping slouch myself, although I did force myself to resist the adorable pillows Amy ordered in Lazybones because that was our first stop and I felt like I needed to see what was still coming. Lots of our fellow Viewers picked up some really great vintage-y dresses there, though, like the one Lucretzia Jamison is wearing here. How cute is that?! I should have bought one!

I did do some major damage at Jiva, which featured delicate little white linen and cotton shirts in yummy pastel patterns, and, of course, I couldn’t resist sampling and bringing home gifts from Just William Chocolates, where “Keith buys chocolate for Nicole.” They were a big hit with my family, and I should have bought more!

While Amy shopped at Fleur Wood, Susan and I headed to the Sanctuary Café behind the store to try and buy some of the tasty HealthyFeast treats, including their famous lemon meringue pie – which, by the way, is gluten-free, a fact you would never guess from its rich, sweet taste. We had the loveliest chat with HealthyFeast founder Kim McGlinn, who was yet another example of the warm, friendly, bubbly people we came to know and love as Aussies. She showed us the front-page article of the Sydney Morning Herald, which featured some of HealthyFeast’s delicious desserts, and we begged her to open a branch in San Diego …

Next, our group pretty much cleaned out Tessarella House, whose hand-crafted jewelry was an immediate hit with all of us. We loved everything they made, and I don’t think anyone left without a special purchase of their own. Allison Doty even found a pair of one-of-a-kind earrings to wear to her wedding this year! What a special way to celebrate her special day!

By the end of the afternoon, we were full – all over! Our hands were full from our own purchases and the well-stocked goody bags Chic in the City had so generously given us; our bellies were full from the treats at Just William and HealthyFeast; and our hearts were full from our conversations with the fantastic women we had spent the day with, including Janet and Wendy, Lucretzia and Rashida, and Allison and Nikki.

That night, we had dinner at The Cut in the historic Argyle Precinct. The prime Australian beef was delicious, as was the rich pate appetizer (which, interestingly, is called an entrée in Australia, while the entrée is called the main dish). Dessert was served in the 19th century sandstone courtyard, but we really tried to be good or we’d be over our weight limit on the flight home without even counting our luggage.

As an aside – and this was just a weird kind of thing – I went to the bathroom at the club over there and it was fascinating! Not only were they smart enough to make all the stalls accessible to women (they were all marked either W or M + W), since the W line is always the long one, but in the back, they had futuristic pods with urinals hidden behind them. The long, trough-like fixture in the middle of the bathroom looked like a pool table but was actually a sink with the water coming down from above. It was so cool, and so practical. But most interesting to me was the vending machine in the bathroom, selling Spare Soles, which we had just featured on StyleSubstanceSoul the week before. What were the chances of finding these here now on the other side of the world? It was another sign that all of this was meant to be!

If you’re thinking, “Okay, they’re just over-tired and possibly delusional now,” you may be right! We went back to the hotel to get a few hours of sleep before our big Oprah Regatta tomorrow.

day 5 of our ultimate australian adventure with oprah, in which we visit a kangaroo, walk the red carpet and oprah holds my hand

After a big night of partying, we were up early to have breakfast at our choice of four restaurants. Not surprisingly, we headed back to the Hamilton Island Wildlife Sanctuary to have our chocolate croissants next to the koalas. I was obviously in the throes of a deep love affair.

Once breakfast was over, we decided to tour the Sanctuary and finally got to see a couple of kangaroos – sleeping! – as well as a dingo (yes, the animal Meryl Streep claimed ate her baby in “A Cry in the Dark”), and the cutest little six-month old baby koala holding on to its mom. We were shocked to learn, as you might have on The Oprah Show last week, that koalas are the size of a jelly bean when they’re born.

On our way out, we ran into zookeeper Bec Barwell, who was holding Franklin. I took this as a sign! We told her how much we enjoyed our experience, and I sheepishly asked if I could hold him one more time. In a minute, Franklin was back in my arms and I was plotting how to get him back to San Diego.  As I hesitantly handed Franklin back to Becca, I asked her if she would do a Q&A with us at some point. She graciously agreed, so look for this as soon as we get back to real life.

Because of the crazy schedule – there was no down time on this trip – we had to change into our clothes for the big welcome party at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney tonight before we boarded the plane since we would have no time once we landed. Of course, it was the most tropical – read, hot and humid! – day of our Hamilton Island excursion so we all tried to find some balance between comfortable and dressed to meet Oprah. We figured everyone would know which Viewers had been at the Great Barrier Reef because we would be the ones with frizzy hair and creased clothing!

I was lucky enough to sit next to Mary Le again on the flight back to Sydney who thought it would be fun to be twins at the event tonight! (Note: Mary is a good – and I mean really good – 15 years younger than I am, so the fact that she could even say this with a straight face is a sign of her amazingly kind and generous heart and spirit.) She and her sister-in-law, Monique, had bought matching jewelry, but Monique wasn’t wearing hers that night and lent me her necklace and earrings, which were much more interesting and bold than what I had on. They stood out so much, you can see them on me in one of the most popular photos from our trip (see below!). Thank you, Mary and Monique!

When we arrived back in Sydney, we were ushered on to buses that took us to the stunning Royal Botanic Gardens where we were welcomed once again with a moving Aboriginal blessing, and led on to the Red Carpet, past the cameras and paparazzi. The party had been styled by food editor/author/designer Donna Hay, and the attention to detail was impeccable.

Tons of sand had been carted in to create a replica of Australia’s famous beaches, and we all gathered there to await the star of the evening. When Oprah made her arrival, she looked absolutely stunning in a sophisticated, stand-out signature silk kaftan from local designer Camilla Franks. We weren’t surprised to see Camilla on the news the next morning, saying orders for her colorful kaftans had gone through the roof overnight and that she wouldn’t be having a Christmas vacation this year!

Trying to get everyone together for a group photo was quite a feat, and once again proved why Oprah is the real deal. One of the first announcements she made was that we were going to take a bunch of photos and that after each one, the first two rows would move to the back so everyone would have a turn in the front. Wow! This was such an easy way to make everyone happy, and she had thought about it ahead of time to insure that we were all treated fairly. Wow again!

My new friends, Janet and Wendy, and I were close to the front in the first picture but for the second one, I ended up right next to Oprah WHO GRABBED MY HAND while everyone was maneuvering themselves. I know I sound like a groupie but it was such an exciting moment! Janet looked over — in shock — and immediately put her hand on top of ours! The two of us were grinning like fools and holding on to Oprah’s hand for dear life! We probably terrified the poor woman, who subtly removed her hand before the photographer snapped the picture. The next day I started getting emails from my family and friends who had seen the picture on Huffington Post and were laughing and rolling their eyes that I was standing next to the Big O herself.

Courtesy of Huffington Post, Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

The party itself was one of those events you always dream of going to – in an unbeatable location (Sydney Harbour, overlooking the iconic Bridge) with unparalleled food by top chefs (I parked myself by the seafood for a good half hour, where I held court over the shrimp) and an A-list of guests (OPRAH!). We weren’t allowed to bring in cell phones or cameras which was great because we it forced us to stay in the moment and experience everything there, but not so great because we were in such a surreal place, we can’t possibly remember half of what we experienced!

Kristina Keneally, the premier of New South Wales, gave a warm welcome speech and then Oprah welcomed us herself with a heartfelt and moving tribute to her Ultimate Viewers. I was standing only a few feet away from her, and I swear she looked me right in the eye during parts of her speech.

Courtesy of Oprah.com

There was not a dry eye in the house as she told us this whole experience was proof that anything is possible and that we should continue to dream big. We laughed when she said, “I don’t want to hear you, 20 years from now, pullin’ out the photo albums and sighin’, ‘Oh, remember that trip to Australia 20 years ago? That was the best time of my life.’ This is not the best thing that will ever happen to you.” She went on to encourage us to get out there and make every day the best and make all our dreams come true. I wish I had that speech on DVD because those were some of the most powerful and inspirational words I’ve ever heard.

After Oprah’s speech, we all went outside for more goodies – like yummy gelato from Gelato Messina. I had a cup of salted caramel, and if you want to know how delicious it tasted, just take a look at Analee Papageorge’s face in the footage on last week’s Oprah!

While we were enjoying our treats, we witnessed probably the most extraordinary fireworks display we’ve ever seen – and we’re from the country that celebrates the Fourth of July! It ended with the illumination of an “O” for Oprah on the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and was another one of those moments that made us just tear up in appreciation for all we had been given.

Courtesy of Oprah.com

The gelato was all we needed but back inside, dessert was being served in all its glory. Honestly, I can’t even remember what was there – by that point, it was all a scrumptious, sugar-coated dream — but I grabbed something chocolate and went over to watch Guy Sebastian perform. I was swaying to the music when Gayle turned around, saw my plate and asked me what I was eating! This seemed like such a Gayle thing to do, and I loved that it was really happening! I told her it was something chocolate and delicious, and asked her if she wanted some. She eyed it longingly but said she would go get one after the performance.

Guy Sebastian was great. He sang a bunch of his hits and got the crowd dancing – which they continued to do for hours. We couldn’t make it to the end – we were full in every way possible and couldn’t dance all night again — we headed back on one of the buses which was leaving every fifteen minutes. On our way out of the Botanic Gardens, we received generous goody bags including Guy Sebastian’s latest CD and Donna Hay’s Fast, Fresh, Simple cookbook, both of which will always remind us of this magical night.

We still had three days left in Australia. How could each day just keep getting better and better?

day 4 of our ultimate australian adventure with oprah, in which we hug koalas, sail through the whitsundays and susan krumps the night away

In the first three days of this miraculous trip, I had already checked two huge items off my bucket list – snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef and meeting Oprah in person, neither of which had ever really seemed possible to me – and I was about to check off number three.

I could barely sleep the night before because I was so excited about our breakfast with the koalas. We had already had the opportunity to pet one at the Sydney Taronga Zoo, but now we’d actually be able to hold them. This is something my kids and I had always wanted to do, and I definitely felt guilty about getting to do it without them. It’s apparently something Oprah and Gayle had always wanted to do, too, because it’s the first stop they made after landing in Australia.

At 7 a.m. (sleep was not a priority on this trip!), we headed over to The Outrigger, where Becca from the Hamilton Island Wildlife Park was standing with Elvis, the frisky koala who had already made a name for himself by demonstrating the real meaning of “mate” in front of Oprah and Gayle yesterday, while mellow little Franklin slept in a little tree set up just for him. Becca had brought over two koalas so they could take turns being held since posing for photos tires them out – as does just about any other activity!

Holding Elvis was one of my favorite things ever! Although his nails look sharp, he didn’t dig in – he just cuddled up in my arms, and I honestly would’ve been happy as could be if they just let me hold him all day. He was so soft and roly-poly, and that face was absolutely irresistible. They pretty much had to wrench him out of my arms so the next person could hold him, and I’m sorry, Amy and Susan, if I hogged him during our group photo!

Just watching the koalas hang out is enough to make you smile. They are true tree huggers, contentedly spending their days sleeping and chewing on eucalyptus. With tiny brains, they are the epitome of the saying, “Ignorance is bliss!” I am so grateful for being given a chance to hold these magnificent creatures.

After chilling with the koalas, we were off to the marina to spend the day chilling on the Banjo Patterson. There were only 15 of us on this magnificent boat because many Viewers, including Amy, opted to stay on dry land after yesterday’s roller coaster ride to the Great Barrier Reef.

This was a completely different experience on the water: calm and relaxing, with absolutely breathtaking views of the Whitsunday Islands. Susan and I totally enjoyed spending time with Mary, Monique, Janet, Wendy, Cecelia, Jesse, Erica, Amy, Markylena, Georgianna, Rhonda, Bob and Sharon. What a great group of people!

We had a delicious buffet lunch on the boat and soon recognized the unmistakable white sand of Whitehaven Beach, where we’d had our amazing party the other night. We donned the now-familiar stinger suits – this time, they were a slightly more flattering navy blue – and most of the group took the opportunity to snorkel again. Janet, Wendy, Markylena and I opted to just go swimming instead. It turned out to be a real highlight of the trip.

Floating on the water was so peaceful and gave us a chance to really be present in the moment. The four of us were awestruck by the beauty surrounding us, the quiet splendor and the fact that there were only 15 of us in the world getting the opportunity to enjoy this time. It was enough to get us teary. Janet and I shared stories and became very close in a short period of time. It was a privilege getting to know people this way, and we are so grateful that Oprah brought us all together.

When we got back on the boat and changed back into our clothes, we were brought over to another part of the beach so we could take a walk through the Whitsunday Islands National Park. We hiked up to the top, where the views were gorgeous (I know I sound like a broken record but every view in Australia was more beautiful than the last one). We took lots of pictures to share with Amy, who was taking her own group hike back on Hamilton Island.

On the ride back, as we got closer to the marina, we were amazed to see a rainbow appear out of nowhere. We laughed and thanked Oprah for the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Only, the day hadn’t ended yet! We still had a good-bye party ahead since we were leaving Hamilton Island for Sydney tomorrow. The poolside event, held opposite the Reef View Hotel, was, as always, filled with delicious food and drink, but — also as always — it was the people that made it so special. Unlike the animal it was named for, the Koalas were an energetic group who sure knew how to party!

We danced for hours, with Susan becoming a star for her krumping skills! I wish we had video because she outlasted Viewer half her age, and personified the unbridled joy of dancing with abandon. Her krumping is now the stuff of Koala legend (much to the horror of her teenage daughter)!

Our Hamilton Island excursion had been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we couldn’t wait to see what was in store for us back in Sydney.

day 3 of our ultimate australian adventure with oprah, in which we snorkel at the great barrier reef, celebrate an underwater proposal and tool around hamilton island in our own private buggy

The only way to possibly top the magic of last night might be to spend the day at one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Luckily, the Great Barrier Reef was on today’s agenda!

After our usual 1000 calorie breakfast, we set out for the marina, where we were welcomed with adorable water-resistant bags which included a hat, sunscreen (Australia is the skin cancer capital of the world, so we were constantly reminded to wear sunscreen at all times) and a gorgeous coffee table book featuring up-close and personal photos of the underwater world we were about to enter.

The two and a half hour trip out to the Reef was a rocky one, which wiped out a lot of Viewers, including Amy. By the time we reached the Reef, though, everyone was back on their feet, unwilling to miss this amazing experience. Although I am not a snorkeler – I am a terrible mouth breather and always start hyperventilating with the mouthpiece on – I was determined to get out there. All I could hear was the voice of my son, saying, “You don’t go to the Great Barrier Reef and not go snorkeling.” So Amy, Susan and I signed up to go out with a guide.

We donned our very attractive stinger suits – they’re like wetsuits, but made specifically to ward off the jellyfish which had apparently become a problem – and walked along the pontoon to take photos, watch a giant sea turtle in the water and welcome Gayle, whose helicopter was heading in. We looked like a bunch of Teletubbies in our fluorescent – and seriously unflattering! – suits.

After meeting our guide at the “dock,” we jumped into the water and held on to a big inner tube while she gave us the scenic tour. Susan, who is a certified scuba diver, quickly realized she was more advanced than the rest of us and swam away to explore on her own.

The Reef was breathtaking – what an amazing world exists under the water! As Amy so eloquently put it, “It was like watching your own private National Geographic special through your goggles!” We saw tons of coral, all kinds of fish and our guide even showed us an incredible sight. After explaining that there was a certain kind of fish who was very territorial, she proceeded to demonstrate this trait. She dove deep down, moved a random shell from one spot to another and then told us to watch what happened next. The fish she had pointed out to us swam right over to that shell and moved it back to the exact spot she had taken it from originally! We would never have believed it if we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes!

We spent about 45 minutes taking in the sights and looking for Nemo. During that time, one of our fellow Ultimate Viewers, Blake Overstreet, proposed to his girlfriend, Sami Daraby, underwater! With the help of the Harpo producers, they had cooked up an elaborate plan for him to learn to scuba dive so he could hold up a “Will You Marry Me?” sign while Sami looked on – with Gayle – through the underwater viewing chamber of a semi-submersible. They are an adorable couple, and maybe we can all celebrate their first anniversary back in Australia together!

After a buffet lunch topped off with Tim Tams for dessert (ok, if you haven’t tasted these chocolate biscuit cookies yet, don’t! They are totally addicting!), Susan had a chair massage and I had a full-body massage, overlooking the Great Barrier Reef. Talk about indulging all our senses that day!

The ride back to Hamilton Island was enough to turn Amy off boating for a while but once we were back on dry land late that afternoon, we were given a new form of transportation: our own buggy! There are no cars on the island, so we drove around in our private golf cart, taking in the beautiful views and exploring the little shops downtown.

For dinner that night, we were offered a choice of five top-notch restaurants. Because we had so enjoyed the marina last night, we decided to go back there and eat at Bommie. The food was – as every meal on this trip seemed to be – delicious and beautifully presented. We had a wonderful evening getting to know the fantastic people at our table: sisters Mary Elizabeth Shah and Analie Papageorge, husband and wife Jesse Bush and Cecelia Behar (whose pregnancy announcement was featured on yesterday’s show), and BFFs Erika Beer and Amy Strike.

Although we had just experienced one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World (thank you, thank you, thank you, Oprah!), spending time with the amazing people Oprah had handpicked as her Ultimate Viewers was truly one of the best parts of this adventure. And it was the part we knew would last forever. Although we may never get to repeat some of these experiences, we will definitely stay in touch with the new friends we made. This we know for sure.

day 2 of our ultimate australian adventure, in which curtis stone serves us dinner, we hang out with all ten tenors, and i make oprah cry

If our Ultimate Australian Adventure had ended after day one, it would have been enough. But, of course, this was an Oprah event so it was only the beginning!

We started day two with a lavish breakfast buffet that would set the tone for all our daily activities to come – beautifully presented, more than you could ever imagine and something for everyone. We shared a table with husband and wife teachers Jerry and Julie McSwords, who told us they almost didn’t get to come because of their jobs. Listening to everyone’s stories was fascinating and was honestly one of the best parts of the whole trip.

After stuffing ourselves – we did try to stick to some protein and a little fruit for breakfast but somehow those fluffy chocolate croissants crept on to our plates every morning – we were off to the airport, heading for Hamilton Island. While waiting, we got to meet mother and daughter, Lauri and Kelly Fitzpatrick, who are both involved in some fantastic charitable projects.  On the plane, I sat next to wonderful sisters-in-law Mary and Monique Le who made the two and a half hours literally fly by. I don’t think we stopped talking for a minute.

We checked into the tropical Reef View Hotel, where we ate a quick lunch and marveled over the fact that, once again, we each had our own room with a king-sized bed and, this time, a magnificent view of the ocean. We need to go back there with our husbands!

Rumors had been floating that Oprah was going to be arriving on Hamilton Island that same day so on our Fantasea cruise to Whitehaven Beach – considered one of the top ten beaches in the world – we all speculated about the chances of her surprising us at our beach party.

As we approached the beach – 95% pure white silica sand stretching for more than four miles – the view was breathtaking. The beach was so white, it almost looked like snow! Being from San Diego, we know from beaches, and we’ve never seen anything as pristine.

We’ve also never seen anything like the sight that greeted us as we got closer. The beach was set up with stations of the most gorgeous food ever. And we had to rub our eyes to make sure we weren’t experiencing a mirage when we realized that Curtis Stone – possibly the most gorgeous chef ever! — was the one standing in the water to personally help each of us out of the vessel! We almost fell over ourselves in our hurry to reach out to him!

We took lots of pictures with him and feasted on all kinds of seafood — the crayfish was out of this world — exotic fruits and expertly-mixed cocktails, all the while being serenaded by the Ten Tenors! Suddenly, there was a whoosh through the sky and two helicopters circled above, whipping everyone into a frenzy. When they landed, we could see Gayle in one of them and we knew Oprah had to be in the other one.

By the time the BFFs stepped out of their planes, the crowd of 92 Ultimate Viewers were crying, screaming and snapping away. Oprah and Gayle walked through the crowd, bombarded with hugs, “thank you”s and “we love you”s.

What struck me the most about both Oprah and Gayle is how real they are. They are exactly who you think they are. Oprah actually stopped to talk to individual viewers and, most importantly, to listen to them. She was curious about all the different dishes – which Gayle was already sampling! I asked Gayle if she was going to go snorkeling with us at the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow – another rumor that had been going around – and she sighed, “Yes, if you want to call it that.” She asked me if I brought a bathing suit with me and when I told her I had, she said, “I guess I better go get one.” There is no pretense with her. She is the same Gayle we’ve watched try to get out of fly fishing and other outdoor sports with Oprah, the same Gayle who’s gone searching for the best sandwich in the country. It’s easy to understand why she’s Oprah’s best friend – as soon as you meet her, you want her to be yours, too. I was so excited to take a picture with her, especially to show my mom who once said if she could have lunch with anyone in history, she would choose Gayle!

For the next half hour or so, we basically stalked Oprah, winding our way through the cameras to get a glimpse, a smile – to make eye contact. It was a weird feeling but here was the woman who in many ways had changed our lives and we wanted so desperately to have just a minute alone with her to let her know how thankful we were and how she had inspired us. We got teary as the Ten Tenors sang “What a Wonderful World” – with Oprah and Curtis watching and singing along — because, wow, what a wonderful world indeed.

Then, out of nowhere, our attention was drawn to the ocean where ten gorgeous men (and let me just assure you that every single Australian man we met was shockingly gorgeous – what do they put in the water here?) were emerging seemingly from out of nowhere, holding platters of fresh and delicious-looking lobster. It was a magical moment and I’m hoping they show how they pulled it off on Oprah’s Australia shows this week.

Amy, who had been nudging me toward Oprah all evening, saying, “You have to go talk to her,” finally had enough of my excuses (“I have nothing valuable to say to her!” “I don’t want to bother her!” “She’s busy!”) and led me right over to where Oprah was now sitting alone with her personal assistant. “Oprah,” she said, “I just want to thank you for introducing us to all these amazing people …” and we proceeded to take turns telling her how special this trip was and why. She listened so intently, staring deep into our eyes and taking in everything we had to say. When she interrupted us to call the cameras over, we held our breaths for a minute and then went into a passionate and totally from-the-heart explanation about how important and fascinating the stories behind each Ultimate Viewer were to us and that we wish we could hear all of them and share them. She asked, “Why? Because they’ve all overcome challenges?” and I said, “No, because they’re all trying to do good in some way.”

I told her how grateful and appreciative this group was, and that none of us had felt deserving of the greeting we received at the Intercontinental Hotel – that there we were, with bags under our eyes and hair flying in every direction after flying for 14 hours, and these people were applauding us and bowing and thanking us when WE WERE THE ONES WHO SHOULD BE THANKING THEM. Oprah got tears in her eyes and quietly said, “I didn’t know about that welcome. That’s great. I love that.” OMG! I had made Oprah cry! Thank goodness it wasn’t the ugly cry!

I went on to tell her how all of us had been asked by friends at one point, “Wouldn’t you rather have been on the Favorite Things show?” and we replied, “What are you, crazy? That’s why we’re Ultimate Viewers and you’re not!” She laughed and agreed, “What do you need another TV for?”

Grabbing the moment, I asked her if we could please take a quick photo with her even though she was not doing personal pictures. She said, “Sure,” and shooed the woman next to her away so I could sit down. Amy got on her other side, Susan got behind her and we grinned probably the most authentic smile you’ll ever see in a photo of us. I guarded that camera with my life for the rest of the trip, afraid of losing that very special memento that proved the trip was not just a figment of our imaginations! After we thanked Oprah profusely, her assistant reached out to me to ask our names. It would be a dream come true to hear those names come out of Oprah’s mouth one day!

We left Oprah gracefully (we hope!), happily – and shaking! Once we were out of her line of vision, we grabbed each other, teary and in total shock. We looked around and took in the amazing moment. Here we were, among only 92 people in the world, on one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere, eating delicacies prepared exclusively for us by Curtis Stone, and talking privately with Oprah Winfrey. It was humbling and completely surreal. I will forever be indebted to Amy – producer extraordinaire – for producing our Oprah moment.

You would think the evening could end now – and it certainly could have – but it didn’t. With the sun setting quickly, we took the Fantasea vessel back to the Hamilton Island Marina — sitting next to the Ten Tenors, no less! – and headed over to the dessert party at the Yacht Club.

If you’re thinking coffee and cake, think again! Think trees made of chocolate balls, popcorn on sticks, sophisticated cotton candy treats, French macaroons and tiny designer ice-cream cones. There was more but we were in such a sugar coma by that time, we can’t remember what they were!

By the time we said good night to each other and dropped into our beds, we were emotionally done.

And this was only day two.

day 1 of our ultimate australian adventure with oprah, in which we receive a royal welcome, get treated to a private performance by a celebrated diva and pet a koala

Arriving at the Qantas lounge at LAX in preparation for our flight to Australia was like coming home to our dearest friends. After all, these were the people with whom we had experienced one of the most surreal and emotional days of our life three months earlier at that fateful taping of The Oprah Show when we learned we were all going halfway around the world together.

There was Elissa Mast who we had connected so strongly with during our hours in the Harpo holding area; mom and daughter Priscilla Nelson and Avalon Middleton who we had bonded with at the Oprah Store; and Liz Kazungu and her mother who had been sitting behind us at the taping (which we felt was a sign because they were from Nairobi and we were wearing our Formerly Flip Flops bracelets from the exact same area!). It was like old home week, with lots of hugging, laughing and screaming.

We were divided into groups – we were Koalas, which we hoped boded well for our not-so-secret wish to get a chance to actually hold the cuddly creatures – and were thrilled that our old friends were all with us. We finally met Rachel — one of our blue-shirted group leaders from Event Architects, who we had talked to over the phone many times in hopes of convincing her to send us to the Great Barrier Reef — and took pictures with a cardboard John Travolta, sampled Australian treats and listened to didgeridoo music. We were handed Qantas bags filled with Australia guidebooks, a hat, a water bottle and comfy pajamas for the long flight. We even received Motorola cell phones to use in Australia.

By the time we actually boarded the plane at midnight, we were physically and emotionally exhausted. The flight was easier than we had expected (thank you, Ambien!) and, after 14 hours in the air and many months of anticipation, we landed in Sydney!

We had been warned that the paparazzi were out in force and that we should just smile and walk by them. “No problem,” we laughed, rolling our eyes. It was such a funny concept – why would the press care about us? – that we couldn’t even take it seriously. Until we walked off the plane.

As the Blue Shirts (our loving nickname for the amazing people from Event Architects who we quickly came to depend on for everything) quickly ushered us through the airport – and let me assure you that going through Customs (and life, for that matter) is much easier when you’re with Oprah – we were surrounded by reporters screaming out questions and shoving cameras in our faces. Wow!

We were happy to get into the safety of the bus, and were awestruck when we pulled up in front of the InterContinental Hotel Sydney to find a red carpet laid down the stairs for us, with the staff lined up on both sides in their crisp uniforms and a traditional Aboriginal smoke ceremony taking place to bless us as we entered. The staff applauded us as we walked up to the hotel, and the General Manager shook each one of our hands and greeted us personally when we reached the top. This is the kind of welcome the Royal Family gets! It was touching and very humbling, and was topped off with the gorgeous voices of the St. Andrew’s Children’s Choir, which was performing for us inside.

Because there were three of us, Susan, Amy and I were prepared to take turns sleeping on a pull-out couch – we tended to forget we were with Oprah! – so you can’t imagine our joy when we were each given our own room with a king-sized bed, breathtaking views of the Sydney Harbour and a welcome bag from the Intercontinental. We laughed when we discovered we had each taken a photo through the cute little window between our bathroom and bedroom straight through to the Sydney Harbour.

After settling in for ten minutes, it was time for the big briefing when we would find out where each of the eight groups would be going for its three-day excursion. So, over a buffet lunch (we were going to gain 10 pounds on this trip if we kept eating like this) and the gift of beautiful bags that were truly pieces of Aboriginal art — we were introduced to the generous people of Tourism Australia.

Finally, it was time to announce the destinations we had all been guessing at for months. We held our breaths – the Koalas were going to … Hamilton Island in Queensland! We all applauded enthusiastically; we knew we’d have a good time wherever we went. Then, because the response was obviously not loud enough, the announcement continued … “Queensland, the home of the Great Barrier Reef!” Oh, why didn’t you say that originally?! We went wild! We were going to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and we mouthed a grateful “thank you” to Rachel, who just smiled knowingly.

Happy, happy, happy, we were off to our first activity of the trip. We had been given a choice between a bike ride or walk through Sydney or a tour of the Sydney Opera House, and it seemed like a no-brainer to us. This would be our only chance to get a private tour inside the Opera House and we weren’t going to miss it.

As we walked over to the Opera House, donning our Oprah lanyards which we were told not to leave home without (unless we were walking alone, in which case we were advised to go incognito so as not to become any kind of target), people on the street waved to us, smiled and called out one warm “welcome” after another. It was amazing.

Harpo cameras followed us as our tour guide, Natalie Moran, took us into the hallowed halls of the Sydney Opera House (which, for the next eight days, would be referred to as the Sydney Oprah House). We were given a rare opportunity to watch rehearsals for both the Sydney Orchestra and the Australian Ballet and to learn about the building’s innovative architecture. We ended the tour with a glass of champagne and were ready to leave, totally content and satisfied, but were called back and asked to have a seat on the steps of the lobby where we were welcomed by Richard Evans, Chief Executive of the  Opera House, and treated to a truly special private performance by celebrated pianist Simon Kenway and soprano Penelope Mills. Why can we never remember that everything is done in a big way in Oprah Land?! Mills’ “Ave Maria” gave us all goosebumps, and the two graciously posed for photos with us afterwards.

Next stop, as though we hadn’t been treated to enough in the five hours since we arrived, was a luxury cruise on the Captain Cook Cruises’ MV Sydney 2000. We cruised through the beautiful Sydney Harbour, filling ourselves with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as we headed to the Taronga Zoo. We were once again divided into small groups and excitedly went off with our wonderful guide, Amber Castle, to watch an incredible bird show, visit an adorable baby elephant, follow a renegade penguin and take a picture with a koala!

As animal lovers, we enjoyed every minute of our tour — which ended with a twilight Aussie barbeque buffet overlooking Sydney Harbour. The food, the setting and the view were all spectacular, and we were so excited about the stuffed koalas the Zoo sent us each home with. We had such a wonderful night getting to know the people at our table and marveling at the amazing gift Oprah had given us.

At one point during dinner, after we kept reminding each other, “And this is only day one!” Susan turned to me and said, “It doesn’t get better than this.” The woman next to her snapped to attention and told her, “You never say, ‘It doesn’t get better than this.’ Instead, you ask, ‘How can it get better than this?’ and let the universe show you how.”

That was life-changing advice which we passed on to all our fellow Ultimate Viewers and that we continue to live by now.

We went to bed that night after watching the late news filled with stories of our arrival and surrounded by the Australian newspapers welcoming Oprah on their front page.

Our last thought, before falling asleep with smiles on our faces, was “How can it get better than this?”

We would soon find out the answer to that …

our journey to australia: the back story

Starting tomorrow, Oprah will air the four shows about our amazing Ultimate Australian Adventure and we will finally be able to share all the behind-the-scenes details of that once-in-a-lifetime trip. Because there is so much to tell you, we’ll be covering one day of the trip at a time for the next eight days. We hope you were all telling the truth when you said you wanted every single detail because that’s what we’re planning to give you!

So many of you have asked how we ended up on that Season 25 premiere to begin with, so we thought we should preface our adventure with that story. They say, “it’s the journey, not the destination,” but in this case, both were pretty remarkable.

We were so excited when we walked up to Harpo on the morning of the taping. We got there early and the women who were already on line eagerly ran up to ask us if we had filled out Ultimate Viewer applications. When we said we had, we all started screaming, soon realizing that everyone on line had done the same!

We now knew this was somehow going to be an Ultimate Viewer show – something special. We still didn’t know it was the first show of the season, and we had no idea what to expect but we could barely breathe when one of the wonderful security guards turned to us and said, “If you think you’re happy now, just wait until the end of the show!”

Honestly, we all would have been happy just to be at a taping of the show. Walking into the studio which was so familiar to us was a very emotional experience, and there were tears all around way before the show even started.

The rest, of course, is pop culture history and we are so grateful to have been a part of it. Without wanting to sound overly dramatic, our lives changed immediately when Oprah announced, “WE’RE GOING TO AUSTRALIA!” We were now part of the global consciousness and we felt the responsibility of living up to the unique gift we had been given.

This amazing experience has taught us that anything is possible and that you have to dream big and pursue those dreams. They do come true.

our ultimate australian adventure with oprah, a.k.a. “the lovefest!”

We’re back! We had the best time on this life-changing trip and we promise we’ll share all the details with you in January when Oprah airs her four shows about Australia. We’ll give you the behind-the-scenes scoop on everything you see on TV, and we’ll even feature many of our fellow Ultimate Viewers and the Aussie people we were so blessed to meet. Meanwhile, here’s a quick look at our experience.

We have been fantasizing about our trip Down Under with Oprah for three months – ever since we were lucky enough to be in the audience for that amazing premiere show when Oprah announced, “WE’RE GOING TO AUSTRALIA!!!”

 

Because we had no idea what to expect – everything was going to be a surprise and all information was given to us on a strictly need-to-know basis – our imaginations went wild. We would call each other every day and laugh hysterically as we came up with the most over-the-top scenarios. By the time we actually left for the airport with our overpacked suitcases and overworked imaginations, we were convinced that pilot John Travolta would disco his way down the aisle of the plane; cashmere blankets, dual-time zone watches and iPads loaded with Scrabble and all of Oprah’s book club selections would be waiting on our seats; and we would be welcomed in Australia with a private concert by Oprah’s co-Kennedy Center honoree, Sir Paul McCartney.

Of course, none of this happened. And everything that did happen was so much bigger, richer and more meaningful than we could ever have dreamed. That’s the power of Oprah.

What we were given were unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experiences and 300 incredible new friends with whom to share them. Because each Ultimate Viewer was hand-picked by Oprah and her staff – a fact that brought us all to tears as she assured us “no one is here by accident” – the people we met on this trip were awe-inspiring. They are the ones you want as your friends. They are warm, positive, supportive, funny – and they can dance up a storm. Their stories are full of overcoming challenges, helping others and living their best lives. We can’t wait to share some of these with you.

The most amazing feature about this group as a whole was its sense of gratitude. No one took any part of this experience for granted, and the “thank yous” flowed as plentifully as the exotic cocktails that accompanied every event. We thanked every one of the thousands and thousands of welcoming Australians who asked us to take a picture with them, who applauded us as we entered the Sydney Opera House, who greeted us on the streets with a “We’re so glad you’re here!” and a “Thank you so much for coming!” It was a humbling experience, and we genuinely couldn’t understand why they would be thanking us – we were the ones who should be thanking them for opening up their gorgeous country to us. We met so many wonderful Australian women and men, and will be introducing them to you, as well.

As we explored Australia, we cheered on the Ultimate Viewers who overcame lifelong fears to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef and climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge, “ooh”-ed and “ah”-ed over the photos from everyone’s different three-day excursions and celebrated whenever someone got to experience a moment with Oprah.

Those moments with Oprah were life-changing. If you think she’s not genuine, let me assure you she is the real thing. When she talks to you, she looks you right in the eye and listens to every word you say. The connection is electrifying and deeply personal. She asks insightful questions and reacts from the heart. Her light is absorbed into you, for you to reflect and shine. We are so grateful to her and promise to do her proud and pay it forward.

Courtesy of Huffington Post, Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images,

We know you want details – where we went, who we met, what we experienced – and we will happily share them when the shows air. So many people have asked us what we got on the trip and, although we certainly received some beautiful and extraordinarily generous items, the material things are the least of it.

What Oprah gave us was an eight-day lovefest. A time when all seemed right with the world, when anything was possible and all was appreciated.

Now, that is a gift.