The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Auxiliary thanks community for its ongoing support

By Sue Baldani

The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Auxiliary held its 13th annual Pancake Breakfast on Sunday, April 23, 2023, and it was a great success. They, along with girl scouts from Evergreen School, served over 172 adults as well as a large number of children under 5, and raised more than $3000.00 in their efforts to support this crucial volunteer organization.

All-you-can-eat pancakes, toppings, sausage patties, coffee, tea, and juices were offered for just $7.00 per person. There was also a raffle for baskets and gift cards for sports and fitness, salons, restaurants, mini-golf and more. These items were donated by individuals, local businesses and organizations, some of which donated already-prepared themed baskets. These themes included an Italian dinner, chocolate treats and breakfast goodies. 

Attendees had a wonderful time, as usual, and everyone’s support is greatly appreciated. The auxiliary looks forward to doing it again next year.

The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad relies on ongoing community support. These contributions enable the Squad to fulfill their motto, Neighbors Helping Neighbors – We Work for Pride Not Pay. The squad looks forward to continuing to faithfully serve those who call for help. 

Contributing Author: Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.

Published in news outlets in New Jersey.

Bringing History to Life

One man’s journey of remembering the past to living his best life in the present

By Sue Baldani

Elmer “Stub” Estey’s path to becoming a published author started with a century-old diary found in the attic of a house his parents, Elmer and Emily, purchased in Pompey Center, NY, in 1944. The house was quite old too, but perfect for the couple to raise their five children.

It was his four older sisters, all under the age of 12 at the time, who found the diary along with a loaded pistol. Fortunately, their mother took the gun away before anyone got hurt, and as a writer herself, held onto the writings of another.

“My mother was a gifted writer and she was in Who’s Who of American Women,” said Estey. “In addition, I think she just valued history and artifacts such as this.”

From Diary to Book

The diary, started in 1845, titled Daniel W. Holbrook, Memorandum Book of Remarkable Events as they occur, includes Holbrook’s five-year journey (began in 1849) to California to join the Gold Rush. Although the diary is in great shape, the handwriting is very hard to decipher, so reading it is quite a chore. Over 75 years after it was found, Estey decided to type out the entries.

“My initial thought was to get it typed so people, like my sisters, could manage to read it,” he said. When he was finished, the 160 page written diary was about 60 typed pages.

This endeavor led to the creation of his book, Oxcart Gold Rush, published in December of 2022, two years after he started working on it. Interspersed throughout the pages are hand-written copies from the original diary, and excerpts, sketches, newspaper articles and advertisements from history that often align with Holbrook’s travels. One clip describes a new and improved steel plow and an ad for The Pony Express (delivery in 10 days from New York to San Francisco!).

“It helps readers immerse themselves in his time,” said Estey. “I would read something Daniel wrote and it would set me off on a research project. I would do research for a day or two, write a page or two and then boil it down to the essence. I interwove those little entries with his, but very carefully in order to maintain the integrity of what he wrote.”

Estey never imagined authoring a book like this. Educated as an engineer, he spent 30 years as a manager for AT&T and then several years teaching management and consulting at his alma mater, Clarkson University in NY. “I always thought the book I would write would be about that. I was never a history buff, but this diary brought history to life.”

Writing this book, he said, was a great way of honoring Holbrook’s life and remembering history itself. “It’s just one man’s story, but I like the notion that every person’s story is important and adds to our understanding of the past. And, every life touches so many others; he went past a lot of people and I bet he impacted a lot of them.”

He added, “I’m proud of the fact that this book will preserve his story and my research for generations. I’m the son of a storyteller and I’m kind of channeling my mother.”

Making Music

Estey said he’s a storyteller in his music too. “I’ve always been involved in music. As a teenager, I sang in church choirs and I’ve continued to sing in church choirs for over 60 years.” He also played clarinet and bassoon in his high school band, and was involved in the theater as well.

In college, he learned to play the banjo and a friend of his learned the guitar in order to provide music for their fraternity. “We’re talking about the 60s, so we were singing folk songs in those days. I also learned to play these songs on the guitar.”

One of his favorite memories is being at a Kingston Trio concert. “That was my favorite band – in the 60s they were a very popular folk group,” said Estey. “I knew every word of every song. They didn’t have any seats left in the audience, so they put 12 chairs on stage, and at one point, one of the band members forgot the words, but I just kept on singing. So I can say I sang on stage with the band.”

Later, he became busy with work and family and didn’t learn any new songs for the next 40 or 50 years. “Then I had this idea to go back to it. I got together with several other folks and we formed the Fair Gap band.” At this point, he was 72 years old.

Estey played in the band for about four years, but put music on hold again to serve a three-year term on the board of the homeowner’s association of the Dominion Valley Country Club in Haymarket, where he and his wife reside.

Acting the Part

When he came off the board, instead of music, he went back into theater after a 60 year hiatus. “My son has been active in theater for over 20 years, and I kept saying to myself, ‘I can do this,’” he said. “When you want to do something, you either have to do it or stop talking about it. You can’t sit around and say how great it would’ve been if you tried.”

Today, at the age of 80, Estey is busy acting with the Fauquier Community Theatre in Warrenton. This past February, he was in The Greatest Generation Speaks, a play based on Tom Brokaw’s book by the same name.

“After he wrote The Greatest Generation, people started writing him letters about their experiences during World War II, and he received so many, he wrote this follow up book. It’s essentially comprised of the letters themselves  – the stories of these veterans and people who had to stay home while the veterans left, like Rosie the Riveter and other ladies who kept the home fires burning.”

He also performed his bucket-list role in March – the stage manager in Our Town, and was the producer of the show as well. The band, he said, is on permanent hiatus for now.

Forever Young

“You can’t do everything all at once, but you can do things in bites,” said Estey. “That’s how I evolved. I think the key to staying young is to stay active. Find out what you like and then throw yourself into it.”

He’s also very much a family man. He and his wife Nancy have been married for 56 years and have two children, Chris and Kelly. They also have two grandchildren, which is what brought the couple to Haymarket. They were living in North Carolina and driving to Herndon, VA, to visit Kelly and her family quite often, so they decided to move closer.

“I was an avid golfer, so my house hunting plan was to find a golf course I liked and then find a house nearby,” he said. Kelly decided she also loved Haymarket, and the family moved to town as well.

More about Elmer “Stub” Estey and Daniel W. Holbrook can be discovered between the pages ofOxcart Gold Rush, whichcan be found at

Other interesting facts:

Origin of the name Stub: His father’s name was Elmer as was his father’s father. His mother wanted to name him Elmer, but his dad would only agree if he could give him a nickname. He chose Stub because he had a friend who was nicknamed Stub.

In kindergarten, when the teacher called out “Elmer,” he didn’t answer. When she asked why, he said because his name was Stub, not Elmer. He would go by this nickname his whole life.

Favorite folk band: The Kingston Trio

Favorite role to play/play to perform in: The stage manager in Our Town

What he likes about living in Haymarket: The golf courses and being near his grandkids.

His favorite thing about writing the book: To make history come alive and to honor Daniel W. Holbrook’s journey.

Where people can buy it:

Parallels in life:

At the age of 28, Holbrook was elected Pompey’s town clerk, the same age as Estey’s great grandfather when he took on the role. A hundred years after Holbrook’s term, Estey’s mother took on the position.

Holbrook’s father and Estey’s father were both born on June 26.

Holbrook’s son Levi was born exactly a hundred years before Estey.

Written for Haymarket & Gainesville Lifestyle magazine in Virginia.

Showcase Salutes La Colina Mexican Cantina

By Sue Baldani

Walking into La Colina Mexican Cantina in Warren, NJ, feels like entering a Mexican museum. Everywhere you look, there’s authentic artwork and other artifacts on display created by a famous Mexican artist.

When your entrée arrives, it also presents like a piece of art. The food is arranged in a beautiful fashion, and to add a bit of magic, a real orchid is surrounded by dry ice smoke. What fun!

An experienced and talented Mexican chef is in the kitchen. “I’m from Oaxaca, Mexico, and preparing Mexican dishes from my culture is my passion,” says Chef Eduardo Cabrera. “My father died when he was 92 years old, and he taught me pretty much everything I know. It’s his recipes I use.”

“Chef Eduardo has so much talent,” says Sonny Gjevukaj, who owns the restaurant along with his brother Johnny. “My family has been in the restaurant business for three generations, and I’ve never met another chef who has a talent like his. The way he uses seasonings and infuses them together makes every dish unique.”

These include favorites such as quesadillas and tacos, but also chicken, steak and seafood combined with everything from cheeses, vegetables, rice, beans, and sauces.

Everything is made fresh daily, and takes many hours to prepare. “It takes three hours to make mole, and it takes six hours to make birria [shredded beef],” says Chef Eduardo. The majority of the vegetables and herbs used at La Colina are locally grown. “The meat I order from Mexican companies. Arrachera is a Mexican meat, and everybody in Mexico has it, but nobody else has it here. That’s one of the things that makes us special.”

To accompany the food, the restaurant has a large variety of alcoholic beverages including tequila, bourbon, cognac, sangria, margaritas, beer and wine. The mixed cocktails are just delightful.

“There are restaurants that make one or two special cocktails, but here every single one has a meaning,” says Sonny. These include the Ave Maria, made with Bacardi, melon liquor, watermelon purée, lime juice, cinnamon syrup, mint leaves, and whipped cream, and the Sofia, made with Gun-Power Gin, elder flower liquor, ginger syrup, lime juice, pineapple juice, fresh kiwi, a splash of Empress 1908 Gin, and strawberry flavored foam.

La Colina, which opened in the beginning of 2023, has two floors and seats 250 people. The upstairs room is perfect for all kinds of parties, and the amazing artwork continues here. There is an entire wall with objects representing all the states in Mexico, including Oaxaca and Puebla.

“Most people, when they look at the wall, it’s just art,” says Sonny. “You have to be a real Mexican to recognize what it really is.”

Even the tables are works of art. “My brother Johnny made all the tables,” he says. They are polished to a great shine and show all the natural wood grains.  

La Colina is mainly dine in, although during the restaurant’s slower times, takeout may be available. For more, go to

Written for The Showcase Magazine in New Jersey.

You are now an Ironman!

With the right training and dedication, everyday men and women are accomplishing this extraordinary feat

By Sue Baldani

Crossing that red carpet and hearing Mike Reilly, the official voice of Ironman worldwide, proclaim “You are now an Ironman!” is an unforgettable experience. “It’s just electric,” says Erika Smiley, who completed her first Ironman in November at the age of 48. “There’s music cranking and everybody’s cheering and yelling – it’s an amazing experience.”

While many of the participants who compete in triathlons are superior athletes, others are moms, dads, brothers, sisters and even grandmothers and grandfathers. “When my dad turned 50, I think that’s when he did his first triathlon,” says Ryan Ross, who completed his first race 11 years ago at the age of 24.

“In 2011, I moved to New York and I saw a guy running the New York Marathon. Plenty of people run this marathon, but this guy didn’t have any arms or legs. He was using prosthetics and there were other people in wheelchairs. It was really inspiring and I thought ‘I have to do something like this.’”

Ryan, who lives in Mendham, has now competed in approximately 14 triathlons including both Ironman and Olympic (which are shorter) in places like London, Copenhagen, Estonia and in the U.S. He usually finishes a full Ironman in 12 to 13 hours (professionals can do it in about eight hours, he says). 

Neither Erika, who lives in Indiana and is the director of business development for City Lifestyle, nor Ryan, who is in residential real estate, would consider themselves fitness fanatics. “I started running about 14 years ago after I had my second child to get out of the house and relieve stress,” says Erika. “I would run a block, walk a block, run a block, walk a block, and that built up to where I could do a 5K. After that, I was hooked and thought, ‘Maybe I can do a 10K, maybe I can do a half-marathon, maybe I can do a full marathon,’ and so on.”

Ten years ago, she ran a full marathon, and afterwards decided to train for a triathlon. “I ended up doing five or six of them and actually did a half Ironman as well. After that, I took a break.”

During the COVID pandemic, she felt the need to do something meaningful, so she started to train for a full Ironman, which is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, plus a 26.2 mile run. The competition, held in Panama City, Florida, took her 16 hours and 36 minutes to finish.

“You have to finish each event at a certain time, so I was really nervous because I’m slow. You have until 12:30 at night and I finished right around midnight, so I only had about 30 minutes left.”

For those wishing to take part in a triathlon, organizing a training schedule and budgeting your time is critical, says Ryan. Erika agrees, “It takes a lot of training, but you can have a job and have kids and do it. It’s really just putting in the time and building up. I bought a book with a 30-week training plan. It’s not about being perfect, though, it’s about being consistent.”

You also have to make sure you have the right type of bike, the right shoes and have somewhere to swim, explains Ryan. For this last part, that often means joining a gym with a pool. Financial budgeting is also important. In addition to the needs above, there are travel expenses, lodging costs, race fees, and more. 

Nutrition is also extremely important, and nutrition training plans are available to make sure you’re getting enough micronutrients and electrolytes. Salt is also a big component. “I’ve never had really bad cramps because I religiously take in salt while training and competing,” he says. He sets alarms on his Garmin watch to remind him to hydrate every five miles as well because once you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

Finishing an Ironman is not just great for us physically, but mentally too. “Anytime you commit to doing something this big and finish it, it really gives you the confidence that there’s really nothing in the world you can’t handle,” says Erika.

Want to become a triathlete or even an Ironman (or woman)? Here are some resources:

Find a triathlon in/near NJ:

Training plans:

Plan your bike ride:

Zwift Smart Trainer:

Strava heat map (to find where to ride/run/bike):

Facebook site for beginner triathletes:

Ryan’s custom training log:

Written for Morris City Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

Fly in Style

Charter your own private jet and skip the commercial travel hassles

By Sue Baldani

With all the chaos at the airports lately, you might find your enthusiasm to travel, whether for business or pleasure, waning. After all, you have to get to the airport hours before takeoff, wait in long lines, and then possibly be told that your flight has been delayed or canceled. It can be extremely frustrating.

Now, imagine showing up at an airport and being escorted immediately into a comfortable, luxurious private plane and taking off within minutes. Short Hills Aviation, located at Morristown Airport, makes this happen for travelers every day. While some of its clients are musicians on tour and actors flying out for a screen test in California, many others are just regular people who don’t want to deal with the stress and time constraints of flying commercially.

This was the case for Mario Dudzinski, managing member of Short Hills Aviation. “I was in the [United States] Air Force, and I was an air traffic controller. When I left the profession, I became a real estate developer, and as I grew my business, my travel needs became cumbersome. It was always two or three days out of the office when it could have been a one day trip if better air mobility was available.”

At one point, his company decided to charter an airplane for a year, and it was such a positive experience that, in 2000, the business purchased its own airplane. “Once we bought it and started flying it ourselves, we realized there was a great demand out there for air charter,” he says.

In 2004, Short Hills Aviation was founded. Its fleet consists of eight top-of-the-line Dassault Falcons, which have exceptional cabin comfort, advanced technology, and superior efficiency. Couples can choose a small jet for a short hop to one of the islands for a romantic getaway, while a group of Wall Street executives can opt for a mid-size plane in order to attend an important meeting in Boston. If family members and friends want to travel non-stop to their favorite European city while enjoying first-class service and amenities all the way, its largest plane, which can hold up to 14 people, is an excellent choice. Pets can also go along for the ride.

“We have one client who has a giant poodle,” says Mario. “He walks out to the airplane by himself, goes up to the steps, picks his seat, jumps up, and doesn’t move. The only thing he’s missing is a smoking pipe and reading glasses.”

Not only do clients get in the air faster than at a commercial airport, but they get to their destinations quicker as well. “Our jets fly faster and higher than most airlines, so if we took off from Morristown and you took off from Newark and both planes were going to the same place, we’re going to get there about 35 minutes before you.” Short Hills Aviation handles, on average, about a hundred flights a month. 

Due to the type of clientele it serves, privacy is of utmost importance. “You can actually come into our facility, get on your plane and never be seen by the public,” he says. “We have two private gates that you must pass through to get to the tarmac area. Once the airplane taxis out, it’s not really visible from the roadways until it’s ready to take off.”

Short Hills Aviation also employs its own mechanics and every airplane has its own crew chief. “So, one guy is responsible for every nut and rivet in the airplane, plus he has a sub-assembly team under him.” Dassault Falcon also holds the unequivocal private jet safety record in the industry.

If someone already has his or her own plane, they can manage that airplane as well. “There are a myriad of regulations that must be complied with, and the average well-heeled individual owner probably doesn’t have the depth of knowledge nor the time available to manage an airplane correctly,” says Mario. “There’s a mountain of paperwork per flight as well as routine and recurring maintenance scenarios that can be very complicated, expensive and time consuming.”

The company is also now looking to establish a West Coast operation to expand the convenience and luxury of private charters even more. To find out more or to reserve your own private jet for your next trip, go to

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

Scotch Plains Rescue Squad’s Annual Pancake Breakfast

Enjoy great food, win fun prizes and meet your neighbors

The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad’s 13th annual Pancake Breakfast will take place on Sunday, April 23, 2023, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at its building located at 1916 Bartle Avenue. This event is hosted by the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Auxiliary, which raises funds for the volunteer squad. 

All-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage, along with coffee and juice, will be offered for just a $7.00 per person entry fee (children 5 and under eat free). There will also be a raffle for baskets, which are filled with gifts and goodies donated by the community and area businesses.

It’s clear by the number of people who attend that it’s something the community looks forward to every year. So, come out with your family and friends and enjoy a hearty, delicious breakfast along with good conversation.  It’s a nice way to spend a Sunday morning and give back at the same time. And for those with mobility issues, downstairs dining will be available.

The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Auxiliary meets once a month, and its grass roots function is to assist the Squad in many capacities – from holding fundraisers and providing meals during crises to performing outreach to squad and fellow auxiliary members. Members also attend town functions, such as fairs, concerts and holiday events, in order to connect with the community and promote Squad interests.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Auxiliary, come by the Squad building one evening to pick up an application, or go to

Contributing Author:  Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.

The Magical World of Fiction

How one local best-selling author is entertaining us on paper and on screen

By Sue Baldani

Books have the ability to transport us into other worlds. They can bring us joy, comfort, knowledge and hope. When one our favorite books is made into a television show or movie, it’s a chance to see the characters and plots we love in action.

Local author Jenny Hale, who has penned over 22 novels, with another coming out for Christmas, has entertained us for the last 10 years with stories created by her imagination and put down on paper. We’ve also had the fortune of watching some of her characters come to life.

Jenny didn’t start out to be a best-selling author. “I wasn’t one of those people who grew up wanting to be an author, but I’ve always gravitated towards the written word,” she says. “I’m creative in a lot of ways, and writing was just one outlet for me. I was on staff at my high school newspaper and I wrote poetry in high school for fun, but the idea of writing novels didn’t really occur to me until adulthood.”

When it did, she was a busy wife and mom with two young boys and a career as an elementary school teacher. “I needed a break at the end of the night, so when my kids went to bed, I would write,” says Jenny. “I read books all the time, so I thought I could write one. The first time I tried, it was awful and never saw the light of day! So, I went back to reading and that’s when I started to teach myself how to do it.”

Jenny placed her first book, Coming Home for Christmas, with a digital publisher in London and from there it soared in the charts. Nina Weinman, a screenwriter for Hallmark, was looking for a Christmas book and noticed it. She took it to a Christmas party and passed it around to see if everyone else liked it. They absolutely did.

So amazingly, the first novel she ever published was turned into a Hallmark movie. The second one chosen by Hallmark was Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses.

Jenny describes her style of writing as very down home, relaxed, heartwarming, and friendly. She wants people to feel hope as they’re reading. “There’s never really a villain. The conflict is more about two good people wanting two different things.”

Ideas come to her in many ways. “Living near Nashville, whenever I go to a songwriter night, I really want to have my laptop with me because sometimes the pathway just opens as they’re telling their stories and singing their songs. Sometimes it can be the simplest thing. There was this lady in a coffee shop who spilled something right on her chest, and she was frustrated while wiping it off. I grabbed onto that persona and in that moment created a character. I love making and building up these characters, and making sure the guys are swoon-worthy,” she says, laughing.

Living in Franklin with her husband, two boys, and a labradoodle, some of her books have been set locally. “It Started With Christmas takes place in Leiper’s Fork and The Memory Keeper is set in Franklin. I also have a couple of Christmas books that are set in a fictional town in the mountains of Tennessee.”

She is originally from Southern Virginia, so a lot of her books also take place in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. “Growing up, that’s where we went on vacation all the time. I have some set in Richmond too, which was about 20 minutes away from where I lived.”

In addition to writing, Jenny also enjoys the publishing side of the industry, and in 2020, she started her own publishing company, Harpeth Road Press, which focuses on romantic fiction. It was named after the Harpeth River that flows around Nashville. “I wanted to be in on the marketing and the cover design and branding, and, as an author, I couldn’t do that with a traditional publisher.” She now publishes her own books as well as other authors’ works.  

The Memory Keeper was her first book published under Harpeth Road Press, and The Magic of Sea Glass was just released in March under its label. The book is about an event planner who loses her fiancé and can’t seem to go on with her career or the life she’d built with him. So, she makes an impulsive decision to sell her half of the business and spend the summer among the Outer Banks. There, she helps take care of an old inn along with its elderly owner. What she doesn’t expect to find is a story hidden away in a string of sea glass that will change her life forever.

To find out more about this book and others, go to and

Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.

How Can I Make Money by Decluttering My Household?

Sell, refurbish and donate your no longer wanted or needed items 

By Sue Baldani

Facebook Marketplace and other websites/apps

From clothing and furniture to games, sports equipment and more, posting items on Marketplace is an easy way to rid yourself of unwanted and unneeded merchandise, make money and create more space in your home, garage or yard. Sites like Poshmark and Vestiaire Collective are also great avenues to provide cash (or an economical way to change up your wardrobe.) 

Consignment shops

These are not the thrift stores you remember from years past. Many will buy everything from Gap t-shirts and jeans to high couture evening gowns, shoes and purses. When something sells, you’ll get a percentage of the proceeds.

Repurpose, refinish and resell

If you’re handy, building furniture from cast off wood, or sanding and staining old but sturdy pieces of furniture found in an attic or at a garage sale can be a one-time money maker or a new source of income. Buyers are often looking for something unique to display in their homes or businesses.

Garage/yard/estate sales

Have people come to you and browse through your and your family’s no longer needed or wanted items. For a successful event, clean merchandise, organize similar items on tables and other tidy display surfaces, and have everything priced for a quick sale.

Donating to local charities

While this option won’t generate cash, donating pays in other ways. It provides the joy and satisfaction of knowing other people who are less fortunate are able to obtain much-wanted items for themselves, their families and even their pets.

Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.

Book review of The Paris Apartment

By Sue Baldani

Full of intrigue, “The Paris Apartment” by Lucy Foley takes you on a journey of suspense with an eclectic group of characters who rotate in the narrator role. And, just when you think you have it all figured out, it takes another twist.

When Jess leaves England in a hurry with basically no money in her pocket, she turns to her half-brother Ben, an investigative reporter now living in Paris, to give her shelter. He agrees, albeit reluctantly, but when she shows up, he is nowhere to be found.

After picking the locks, a skill she developed early in life, she wanders around Ben’s apartment with a sense of bafflement. How could he afford such an extravagant place to live, and in this very expensive part of town? It’s not like he makes a lot of money, and they don’t have any parents to turn to for help.

Although the apartment is beautiful, the building itself gives off an ominous vibe. The caretaker hovers about in the shadows, always listening, and its occupants seem to be hiding a fair share of secrets. But, do any of these secrets have to do with her brother’s disappearance? Or, is he missing because he stumbled upon some outside information that put him in danger?  

As Jess starts doing some investigating of her own, she stumbles upon a hidden stairway that let’s her peak into the neighbors privates lives, and soon realizes things are not what they seem. She also starts to believe that she has put herself in the path of a ruthless individual.

A New York Times best-selling author, Lucy Foley has written five novels including “The Guest List” and “The Hunting Party.” After studying English literature at Durham University and the University College of London, and working for several years in the publishing industry, she now lives in London and enjoys writing tales of fiction.

Written for The Felixstowe Magazine in London, England.

A New Season of Life, Hope And Joy

An artist healing herself and others through music

By Sue Baldani

While living in her native Minnesota and acting in local theaters, at the age of 21, Laura Osnes won an NBC reality TV competition and found herself moving to New York City to star on Broadway.

After 15 years of performing on stage in a myriad of acclaimed shows, including those at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, the Tony-nominated star was flying high. When it all came crashing down in 2021, she had to find the fortitude to reinvent herself and discover new outlets for her incredible talent.

“A gossip column published a narrative that caused me to face cancel-culture,” she says. “It was a painful and hurtful time, but it also birthed new art and new relationships.”

In September of 2021, Laura and her husband, Nathan Johnson, whom she met in Minnesota and has been married to for 16 years, found sanctuary in Franklin. “What I love about Franklin is that it’s close to Nashville, but there’s also such a peace here,” she says. “We felt welcomed with open arms and it’s a place where people look out for each other.”

She also found a creative way to reflect on the trauma she experienced while at the same time finding hope and joy in what she calls the new season of her life. In October of 2022, Laura released the EP On the Other Side – Part 1, featuring five original songs that are deeply moving and relatable for others who may be going through difficult times.

“At my core, I’m a creative and a storyteller, and when I wasn’t able to do that through the way I had been, songwriting became a beautiful vehicle both for healing and to tell my story in a new way,” she says. “And, I really hope that this music reaches the ears and hearts of those who need to hear it.”

Singing in a commercial contemporary space is very different than singing with a musical theater voice, explains Laura. “It’s been a humbling and exciting challenge for me as an artist to discover a new side to my vocal quality, while still creating a sound that feels authentically me.”

Her songs are available on all major music platforms and through a link in her social media profiles. Part two of the EP, to be released this year, will contain at least another five tracks.

Laura is also showcasing her acting talent again by starring in Shiners, a cirque-style show at the Woolworth Theatre in Nashville. “It’s a comedy and musical spectacular for grownups,” she says. “Country music artist Chuck Wicks created the show and he’s my co-star. We’re having a great time together.”

Laura is also teaching and coaching private students pursuing musical theater, singing and acting. “I’ve been forced to think outside my own box that I had put myself in,” she says. “It’s scary to try new things, but that’s also how we become bigger and better and hopefully reach more people through different ways as an artist.”, @LauraOsnes

Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.