So this is kind of a strange and crazy thing that happened. I, Larassa Kabel, got to have my painting of the Obama'a dog Bo on the 2012 White House Christmas card. I KNOW!
How does one end up doing the art for a White House Christmas card? Through a magical combination of connections, talent and luck. When the President and Michelle Obama decided they wanted an image of Bo on the card, they decided that, rather than doing an open call for submissions that would have brought in floods of art work, they would ask staff if they knew any artists they could recommend. My friend Pam Bass-Bookey had a daughter working in the White House. She asked her mom if she knew any good artists, and Pam was kind enough to nominate me. At first I thought it was a joke, but Pam was deadly serious and secretive about it. No joke. I had to be vetted, and then I did a quick painting of Bo with zero expectations of having my work selected. Honestly, there were going to be a lot of talented people submitting work. Weeks went by with no word, and I wasn't surprised. But then I ran into Pam, and she grabbed my arm and said, "You're in the top three!" I was pleasantly surprised and thought that I was going to have this great cocktail party story about almost being selected to do the White House Christmas card. More weeks go by with no word. Still not surprised. But then one evening while cooking dinner, I got a phone call from the White House telling me that my painting had been picked. Again, I was kind of thinking it was a joke, but I had been under strict orders not to talk to anyone about submitting my art so who would be pranking me? I wasn't allowed to tell anyone about anything until the White House made the announcement, and it was a great secret to hold onto.
In the meantime, the 2012 campaign was getting geared up for the final election, and Obama decided to end it where he had started back in 2008 - Des Moines, IA, my hometown. In some bizarre twist of fate (also a combination of talent, luck and connections), my husband's band Bob Tyler and the Reckless Hearts was asked to open for Bruce Springsteen at the final rally before election day. I got to stand in the front row, watch Chris play, then the Boss, and then Michelle and Barrack Obama gave speeches. It was an amazing night. Of course Obama won the next day, and shortly afterwards we were told that we were going to be invited to a White House Christmas party and get to meet the President and get our picture taken with him.
The day of the party was wonderful until around 1 o'clock when it suddenly was not. A pretty obnoxious and overwhelming case of food poisoning made me decide I couldn't possibly go to the party. Chris was adamant that I should go since we had come all this way, but I was vomiting so much that I didn't see how I could possibly make it. I was having "episodes" every hour and a half like clock work. I convinced him to go without me, and within 10 minutes of him leaving, I threw up again. Suddenly I had a window! I threw on my clothes, grabbed a taxi and called my contact at the White House to let her know I was coming after all. It was surreal. I've never seen such a happy group of people as the guests at that party. Everyone was glowing with enthusiasm, and all I could do was put one foot in front of the other. Pam's daughter took us downstairs to the Map Room to rest before we would get our picture taken with the President and Mrs. Obama. "It's quiet, right next to the room they're photographing in, and it has it's own bathroom in case," she said. Sold. We ended up sitting and talking quietly with two other Des Moines natives who were working there before we had our turn. I got to hug Michelle, get a handshake and a kiss from the President and then get my photo taken. When it was all over, we made a hasty retreat back to the hotel where I had just enough time to make it to the bathroom. Mission accomplished! I did NOT throw up at a White House Christmas party. It would have been way more fun if I hadn't been sick. The food looked amazing, and I couldn't eat a bite. However, I cannot deny that this is a much better story than if everything had been nice.