Year: 2018

From Dawson’s Creek to Real Housewives, this camera operator has seen everything, with Carrie Dufresne

Carrie Dufresne started her career as a lowly intern on Dawsons Creek.  Today, she is still in the television industry, but now she is known for her work behind the camera.  You can see her most recent work on The Real Housewives of Dallas which will air in August 2018.  We talk about everything from women breaking into the world of cinematography to seeing reality television not just as a guilty pleasure, but an opportunity to learn about people and places you might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet and see.




Susan: Welcome to How She Got Here, Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women. It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women who have already discovered their thing the more it inspires encourages and powers other women to do the same.
Susan: Hey y’all. I am so excited about today’s guest. My guest today is my friend Carrie. Carrie is an artist. It’s an art you most likely consume weekly, but you probably don’t think of it as art. You probably refer to it as a guilty pleasure. Carrie is a camera operator in the world of reality television. She has worked all the way from being a lowly intern on a show you might remember called Dawson’s Creek. Obviously not a reality show. All the way up to camera operator on the latest season of Real Housewives of Dallas. Over the past 13 years she has been behind the scenes of many of the reality shows we have all come to know and love including but not limited to America’s Next Top Model, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of Orange County, Trading Spaces, Bachelor Pad, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Fast and Loud, Street Outlaws, and Little Women Dallas. I am so excited about today’s conversation. It was such a fun interview so sit back relax or put on your walking shoes. Without further ado heres Carrie.
Susan: Hey Carrie thank you so much for joining me today. How’s it going?
Carrie: It’s going really well. I’m glad I could be here to talk. I’m not really good at all this talking stuff. By the way. Just so ya know. Surprise!
Susan: Yes you are. You absolutely are. I’m just really glad you could be here. I’ve wanted to do this interview for a while just because I kind of wanted to hear some of the stuff that I don’t think I’ve ever asked you before. Friends, I think I already told you but Carrie is a camera operator. Is that your official title?
Carrie: Yes.
Susan: OK.
Carrie: Every once in a while I was director of photography, but mostly camera operator.
Susan: Very cool. We all see what happens in front of the camera. But I want you to take us behind the scenes and, but first tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into this role?
Carrie: I kinda fell into it. I went to college. I studied film. I did, I did study film. I learned all about it. I worked with film and cameras. I worked on the last season of Dawson’s Creek as an intern. I wrote a couple of screenplays and I moved to Hollywood. I was like I’m going to be a big time producer, director, screenwriter, whatever. And then you get there and you can’t find a job. And you’re still calling your dad to pay your rent and you’re living five people to a three bedroom apartment. And back ten years ago it was safer to meet people off Craigs List and become roommates with them randomly than today I think. And I just started working in independent movies and I was like this is it. This is going to be my big break. But little did I know it would actually be my big break into reality T.V. because that pays the bills whereas independent movies don’t normally and they don’t pay as much and then they run out of money. So then you’ve worked for like two weeks and their like sorry we can’t pay you.
Susan: Oh wow!
Carrie: Yeah. On one of those independent movies I met somebody from America’s Next Top Model.
Susan: A Ha!
Carrie: Yeah. She was like hey, you’re good at production assistant work. But I hadn’t done camera yet. Cause I still probably wanted be a producer/director. And then I started working in reality and made friends with all the camera people and someone was like you know hey you take really good picture. You’re pretty good at it. Have you ever thought about that. And I was like no I don’t think I’m good enough. I didn’t have a lot of confidence and you didn’t see a lot of women doing it. Like, there were a couple, but there weren’t enough at that point for me to be like this is definitely what I want to do but then I met more camera people more camera women and then a year and a half after working and starting in Top Model you know I was camera assisting on Beauty and Geek.
Susan: I remember that show.
Carrie: Yeah yeah I know a lot of people are like what?! And so I did two season of that and then from there I landed my first long term house reality gig for a little gem you might remember called Bad Girls Club Season 2 where the still infamous Tanisha pots and pans waking people up.
Susan: Yeah.
Carrie: That was my camera operator and I was the camera assistant and I was running around throwing mics on all the girls that morning.
Susan: Oh wow. That’s some pretty fun behind the scenes stuff right there.
Carrie: Yeah. You know half the people are asleep you know you have an audio person with a boom, but then like I’m hiding in a bathroom trying to put a microphone on a girl so ya know they don’t have to boom everybody.
Susan: Yeah.
Carrie: I was ducking behind beds, ya know ducking around corners to avoid all that chaos.
Susan: So you mentioned something that I want to go back to a little bit. And you mentioned that not a lot of women were in the business at the time. So you’ve been in this business for about 13 years. Talk a little bit about that and how that has how it has or it changed for women in your line of work.
Carrie: Ok. This is interesting because there used to be like there were a couple like maybe I wanna say 30. 30 women that were just amazing and kicked butt. And then after I started there was a lot. There are just so many. I’m actually working with a female right now who I’ve known. I actually met her on Bad Girls Club. She was a producer on Bad Girls Club and she was finally able to make her way into camera. Sometimes it does take us a little bit longer to move up in this business. I feel like I might have had it a little easier because I am taller. I’m a little bigger like I’m built a little bigger and I don’t wanna say people/ guys take me a little more seriously. But you know I have the body stature, is that what I’m looking for?
Susan: Yeah. The build, yeah.
Carrie: Yeah so their like you can hold the camera. And one of my friends is like five foot. I used to camera assist for this amazing camera operator who is also five foot. She was phenomenal. She could run circles around all the guys. So this, my friend now she is having a problem making the break from camera assistant to camera operator and I think a lot of it has to do with: one she is amazing at her job and if you get if you are too good at your job in this industry is people hate to move you up. Like the only reason, half the reason, I moved up is cause like I’m not taking any more work. And ya know, that’s where a lot of us get. Where we have to say no to work and if we’re not working we’re not making money. So it’s sort of a double edged sword. But oh, so we were talking the other day. She’s like, you know there’s not as many females or we’re not getting hired as much and we think it’s you know guys are afraid. Which, You know if you aren’t doing anything questionable then you shouldn’t be afraid.
Susan: Oh! That’s just an interesting that’s an interesting concept to think about that in the world that we’re in now that there would be a fear there. That men had not had before. I find that fascinating.
Carrie: But it’s like yeah we work in an industry where there’s a lot of joking around. We’re working with people twelve hours a day you do get close with people and you feel like you can make certain jokes. Which somebody looking on the outside completely looks like sexual harassment. And I think you know I say things and other people say things but like we know each other enough to know that we can say that and it’s not crossing a line. Like I wouldn’t walk up to somebody I just met and make the exact same joke as I would working with my buddy I’ve been working with ya know for eight weeks now.
Susan: Sure.
Carrie: Whereas we spend 12 hours a day in a van together, on set together and then we’re on locations we eat together. We become family. I can say ya know, hey lookin good today you know. It’s so weird. So I feel like, and I’ve talked to guys I work with they know that they can make a joke like that with me and I’m not going to take it the wrong way. But their not gunna like if we had another female for the day, their not going to do that with her. Like I think we’re all smart enough to know what we can and can’t do. And I think people, guys that are afraid now they clearly like they know they’re crossing a line.
Susan: Oh that’s an interesting point.
Carrie: Yeah, and I feel like if you feel like you aren’t doing anything wrong like, I don’t know. I don’t have phrases this. Like if you feel guilty about it then you’re guilty. Right? Does that make sense?
Susan: It makes sense. Like if you have like a gut reaction or a gut feeling about it it’s like it’s in your gut you know or you know you know it’s cool or you know it’s not.
Carrie: Yeah exactly. And then, ya know for a period of a couple of years there people were like we definitely want females. And then, ya know, I read on some message board, well you can’t specifically say you’re looking for this type of person to hire because that’s discrimination. We’re in such a weird era right now where.
Susan: It can be misconstrued.
Carrie: Yeah. And now all the guys are butt hurt. Oh you’re only hiring females. That’s discrimination. Well, I have lost a handful of jobs. Hey, I know we wanted to hire you on this, but this guys bro. Literal words: “Yeah, his bro’s available so we’re going to bring him on instead.” I was hired on. They praised my work. I got a call the next week. Hey you’re b roll’s not very good. So we’re going to replace you. But his buddy. A man it was a man. He’s not available for another week so we’re going to bring you out for another week. And then after that, he’s going to replace you. And in my head if I’m not doing the job you hired me to do, your standard… why are you going to bring me back for one more week?
Susan: That’s nuts.
Carrie: Yeah. And then the same week they brought me out. I’d had more experience than my director of photography who still shoots the show and he’s a great guy, but I’d had more experience than him at that point in reality. But we had like a, not a crazy scene, but my coverage, they said oh my God your coverage saved us. They went from saying ya know your b rolls not that good to oh my God you saved us. To all right you’re being replaced by by our buddy. You know.
Susan: That’s, wow that’s hard. That’s hard.
Carrie: Yeah I never really, like for a while I was kinda down. I was like, oh my God my b rolls not that good. But then I talked to my friend who was on the show and she was the producer and she was like, Carrie, this never should have happened. And I was like ya know what? I’m not going to let it affect me and my work because when it came down to it. It was about hiring a man over a woman at that point. Like they wanted their bro on there. You know their drinking buddy on there and that just wasn’t me. So they had to come up with some lame excuse to fire me. Besides the show with the EP that I argued with and that was like a mutual I don’t want to work with you. You’re fired kinda thing. That’s only happened on two shows. So I feel like in my 11 13 13 years of working in the business for that to only happen. To only be fired twice I feel like that’s fine.
Susan: Well one of the things that prompted me to ask you to come on the show was the Academy Award nomination of Rachel Morrison this past year. And you and I kind of discussed that a little bit but for those that don’t know Rachel Morrison was the first woman ever nominated for cinematography in 2018. The first time in 2018.
Carrie: Right. It’s mind blowing.
Susan: It Is. And I also read in a Guardian article that I’ll link in the show notes afterwards that the American Society of Cinematography which was founded in 1919 didn’t even invite a woman to join until 1980. And the argument was was that well this woman was the first woman to work as a cinematographer on a major Hollywood film. But that was only 38 years ago. So in my mind you know so many people think oh well women have been doing you know have been able to do whatever for a long time and we haven’t been discriminated against and we we’ve had these opportunities and clearly what you’re saying and clearly with this article and with what’s happening it’s quite obvious that we’re still new in the game.
Carrie: We are still so new in the game. The Fact that I was born in ’81. The fact that in my lifetime is when the first woman was able to join the cinematographers.
Susan: The American Society of Cinematographers?
Carrie: Yeah, the fact that it happened in my lifetime. That shouldn’t be the case. You know, that should have happened before I was born. So we still have a long way to go. We’re in a couple of …. now, but I think we’ll overcome it. Like you know I was specifically requested…oh we need another female operator. And I’m working wiht a bunch of amazing guys. The DP I worked with on Bad Girls Club 2 that’s when I first met him. And one of the last times I saw him and since then he has won an Emmy. He did a show about the Born to This Way the people with Down syndrome.
Susan: Yes yes yes.
Carrie: Yeah. And then the other guy on that crew. You know were doing a show about Mexican nationals. Women, a lot of Latino women. Affluent Latino women.
Susan: Oh Cool.
Carrie: Yeah. It’s not gunna be a Housewives. But, it’s through Bravo so it could become the Housewives and no one will be shocked. But we are trying very hard not to make it a Housewives. But so you know obviously we’re doing a show about women. You need a woman. You also need…so another guy he’s Hispanic and then my camera operator he’s a little older. He’s a black man and then ya know, a woman. So we have a pretty diverse crew but it’s still like the only females on the crew are me and the other camera assistant. And then our producers are female and our show runner is female. Actually both of our executive producers are female and then all of our segment producers are Latina women. So we do have a nice diverse cast I mean crew on the show with a cast of diverse women.
Susan: So since women like yourself are really starting to find themselves in positions to hire or have hiring influence how has that affected the industry. Or maybe specifically in this case. How has it affected the final product that you’re going to be delivering or do you feel like it does?
Carrie: If we had men running this show about you know rich Mexican ladies I don’t know if we’d have the same show. I think it’s really great that we have you know a female show runner and a female Latina executive producer. I feel like this helps. And then you know all the guys I’m working with are a little older than me. And then there’s, I’m probably the same age as the women we’re shooting right now.
Susan: Wow.
Carrie: Yeah. I feel like that helps. I did a show called Little Women Dallas and our show runner on that was a male and Little Women Atlanta had a male show runner and I feel like when your dealing with an all women cast like that you really need. Well I’m sorry. I’ll back track. On Little Women Dallas we had a female and a male that helped. But I feel like you really need more women on the show about women because what do men know about women? Nothing. What’s a tall guy know about short women and what their going through? Nothing. I feel like I can relate a little bit because I’m a woman and I mean, I’m tall. So I don’t relate that much, but I’ve done that show and now I’m a little more empathetic to what little people go through.
Susan: You Are. I never actually watched that show confession.
Carrie: All good. Nobody did. We got cancelled.
Susan: Sorry friend.
Carrie: It’s all good.
Susan: But yeah that’s that’s a good point that you bring up that there is an empathy there. That happens but you also already kind of have you had an understanding from the perspective of being a woman but being tall. I mean it’s one little thing, ha ha it’s one little thing, but being tall it’s a huge difference. Gosh I never thought of it like that.
Carrie: It is. And people are like how do you shoot the show when you’re so much taller and it’s like well it helps because ya know I’m tall and like can make them look shorter than they are but then I can also I can show the world how they are in the world. But then I can also sit down and show the world from their perspective. I’m able to adjust for that. They unfortunately can’t see the world from my perspective, but I can at least show people how they live from my perspective and their perspective.
Susan: So you are a professional storyteller kind of.
Carrie: Yes. And that’s, that is what I love to do. I love to tell people’s stories. Whether it be a housewife or a little person or a drag racer or you know guy. I did a pilot for this company out of Knoxville. We were in Alabama and this guy 100 year old houses or building and just takes the amazing woodwork and saves it and restores it and sells it and puts it in other houses. And I just love to tell that story. I think he recently just ran for like office in Alabama and he is in the primary now.
Susan: Wow.
Carrie: Yeah. He’s like a nice moderate voice that we all need in the world today.
Susan: We can definitely use more of that.
Carrie: Yes exactly. Yeah, I’m definitely a professional story teller and I just love telling peoples stories. I love learning about people cause everyone, and this is why I can’t get into Facebook arguments with people because no one, when I realized people don’t understand and I will say if it wasn’t for reality T.V. I’d probably would still be in my little bubble of…well if you really wanted a better life you could have a better life for yourself kind of thing. When I realized cause I was born in a very conservative upbringing. I guess you could say.
Susan: Yeah.
Carrie: And now I’m kinda the black sheep of the family. I know my parents love me and their fine with my lifestyle. But, we do butt heads on ya know, certain present day issues but I feel like reality T.V. I’ve definitely learned a lot about other people and that life isn’t black and white and there’s a lot of gray area. And we need to have a lot of empathy and sometimes and ya know, I don’t even know how to say this, but you know there is a lot of white privilege and male privilege and male toxic masculinity and male fragile ego. I know it sounds like I’m male bashing, but I love guys. They’re some of my favorite people to hang out with, but I see that and I see that in these people that I tell the stories of and it’s sad because you know some of these people haven’t had an opportunity and there’s a lot of abused people and they’re just trying to make their lives better and you know they’re trying the best they have with what they have. And I don’t think there is a lot of empathy for that.
Susan: Well, and I think you’ve made me think about reality TV different. You know I think a lot of us will sit down and watch housewives or insert whatever reality show here and it’s more like we see it as a guilty pleasure like an Oh we’re going to watch these crazy women fight about something on television and it’s going to be funny to laugh at. And you do have the individuals I would presume who are on there to totally just make a name for themselves and they will do whatever to be on television. And I think of like Bachelor Pad in this situation.
Carrie: Oh yeah. That’s definitely one of those.
Susan: But I didn’t, I never really thought of it from the perspective of really sitting down and trying to learn about people. And I really do appreciate learning about people and learning about different cultures and visiting different places. And that’s something that you guys in the reality TV world provide is giving us the opportunity to visit these places in pretty close to real time and seeing how people live in different parts of the country and in the world. And I just never truly thought about it from that perspective I don’t think.
Carrie: I don’t think I did either. It took me a while and like in the last five years I’ve started describing it as like I’m kind of a sociologist.
Susan: Yeah.
Carrie: And its so funny because I just saw the Mr. Rogers documentary and everyone is special in their own way. Like he is not wrong because I remember the end of the documentary. There were people like Mr. Rogers was wrong. No one’s special. But, like that was just a bunch of fragile white guys that got rejected a couple of times and like the issue they don’t want to talk about, right. So they are just deflecting on Mr. Rogers and I’m like calm down. But everyone is special, but we’re not because we’re going through the same problems. Everyone’s trying to live their life. And you know we all live it differently, but we’re all the same. We’re all the just trying to live and make a good life for our selves and our kids and our families and our friends. The world is amazing and I think if you can travel it you know, it’s eye opening. I’m also really bummed about the whole Anthony Bourdain thing. Cause I did I worked with him a long time ago on Top Chef.
Susan: Oh yeah.
Carrie: Yeah, one of my dream gigs was just to work on his show. And I really feel like we lost a genuine human being. He just wanted to tell people’s stories and eat good food.
Susan: And what a job.
Carrie: I really hope like some people have changed their views. That’s kinda what I want to do. I want to help put other people’s stories out there and somebody can watch it and be like oh I relate to that they are different than me, but if they can make it through it, I can too.
Susan: So on that note you’ve alluded to it I think in other conversations. But I’ll put you on spot a little bit. You want to keep telling people’s stories and you want to keep what’s you’re next where are you going with this. Are we sticking with camera operator or are we moving on to bigger ideas.
Carrie: Definitely bigger. I’ve talked to a few people in Dallas. I definitely want to make a documentary. I’ve just, I’ve never tackled anything that large before so I’m still working out everything.
Susan: I think that’s supercool.
Carrie: So like working a. It could take 10 years and I’m okay with that because I just have to figure out exactly what I want this documentary to be about, but I just want to tell people’s stories. I wanna get it there. So like, it’s gunna take a lot of planning and a lot of work, but that’s one thing. The other thing is I’m getting a little older. I want to keep telling people’s stories, but I think I have to move into more of a producer role. Because I feel like in the next 10 years I won’t really be able to run around. I don’t know, maybe. I’m working with a 50 year old right now and he runs around. As long as I keep taking care of my body and doing all this muscle stem stuff and cryotherapy and the chiropractor and massages I should be okay.
Susan: Well that leads into my next question. I can imagine as we were just talking about your job can be pretty stressful at times and physically exhausting. One of the things that I like to mention in every show is that you can’t run on empty all the time. So I know what your secret is or some of your secrets, but tell us how you take care of yourself and how you recharge the batteries.
Carrie: Well, I agree it’s super important because I do work with a lot of people who don’t take care of themselves. I’m friends with this one, used to be an executive producer and I’m not sure she’s completely out of the business now but she was sick a lot and overworked and now she’s like a mindfulness teacher and she practices Reiki and I think she teaches people how to be more mindful of themselves and their bodies. But I definitely like I stretch every night, almost every night. At least four times a week I stretch before bed. I’ve recently gotten into cryotherapy. Thank you, Dallas Housewives. We did a scene there and the lady let me try it for free. Now I go almost every day.
Susan: Is that the freezing thing?
Carrie: Yes. It’s amazing.
Susan: I’ve always wanted to try that.
Carrie: There is a place in Uptown that I’m going to try when I get back and there’s a place in Deep Ellum that I’ve been to a couple of times and it’s just there’s a world of difference on my body. I’m actually going at 3:30 today.
Susan: That’s cool.
Carrie:Yes. And then I get, I try to get, monthly massages. I know I should go more than. I go to Kinetik Chain in Dallas and I get the dry needling and the cupping and the scraping and I do that once or twice a month. And then CrossFit. I CrossFit at least three times a week. Depending on my schedule, like I didn’t go Monday or Tuesday cause we were on a cast trip at a resort and I worked a couple of 16 hour days and I just didn’t, there was no time.
Susan: Sure.
Carrie: So then I soaked in a bath last night when I got home. I worked out this morning. I gunna do cryotherapy. I’m probably going to hit a yoga class tonight and this is all on my day off.
Susan: Gosh.
Carrie: Yeah. I try to eat right. It gets hard on the road. I probably put five pounds on, but ya know. It’s late at night. Ya haven’t eaten in six hours. They have pizza and your like, I’m starving. And I can’t not eat because then I don’t have energy for the next day. I did the low carb thing for a while and I was cranky and grouchy. And then I went gluten free for a while, but I don’t have celiac. You know it does help you lose weight and I think I’ve noticed a little bit of a difference in my joints for inflammation, but you know when you’re in the middle of nowhere and all they have are like hamburgers I’m not going to be super picky so I just have to eat as healthy as I can. And when I get done with this show I’m probably going to take a week off. Because I definitely need to recharge completely.
Susan: That sounds good to me.
Carrie: Yeah. And then, I wanna take a vacation. I need to get out of the country. I need to go to a beach and drink margaritas for like, a week.
Susan: That sounds like a pretty good vacation. Pretty good vacation.
Carrie: Yeah. Because even though I do tell people stories like, and even though half their problems aren’t my problems I’m still around it and it is very mentally draining sometimes too. So I meditate every night as well.
Susan: I never thought about that aspect of your job. I never did. I never thought about taking on everything and taking on the weight of those as someone else’s issues. Because it’s not like you’re their therapist but maybe sometimes you are because I presume there’s like some confiding there that’s happening. You’re getting to know these individuals as individual people so you actually know these people these individuals which is kind of cool but that’s a lot to take on. Never thought about that aspect of your job.
Carrie: It’s a lot. That’s another thing. We are in their lives. And you know whenever ends up on T.V. ends up on TV but whatever I shoot is true to their life. So I don’t want to say whatever happens in editing you know you know I shoot 12 hours a day. Well I work 12 hours a day and I have a camera on somebody for an hour. An hour on somebody with two cameras so that’s two hours and they’re going to cut it down to like a two minute scene. So we’re with people and we need them to trust. You know we need to have a relationship where they trust us so that when they are in their most vulnerable state they don’t ya know they can’t let it out you know?
Susan: Yeah.
Carrie: If they’re going to cry and have a breakdown, I want them to know that they’re safe with me and that it’s okay to do that. That way I get the best story and they feel like they’ve been taken advantage of. Like, I’ve been in, ya know I had a cast member we tried to do in vitro fertilization. I was in there when she was getting probed and you know trying not to see anything. At the same time but also you know trying to show the procedure as true as it can be. I’ve been there when people have been sick when people find out, ya know, someone has just died. You know, they want to cry like, I’m in their lives and then I worked on this one show last year. And one of the women on it super reminded me of an ex like, and this was like a very psychotic ex.
Susan: Wow.
Carrie: It brought me to like a PTSD place and I drank a little bit more on that show cause I was like I don’t know if I can be around this. Like, this really brings back some memories. She was always yelling at people, yelling at us. It’s a lot. It’s a whole lot. Yeah. We get yelled at by a lot of people and I’ve just learned to tune it out a little bit.
Susan: These are aspects behind the camera that I never ever thought about. I guarantee you this audience has never thought about this either.
Carrie: Yeah. Oh yeah. No, like everyone’s like you have the coolest job. Like, you’re such a rockstar. And like, I mean it’s true I have a really awesome job and I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I get to meet so many people and have so many experiences and a lot of them. I mean I’ve been on a private jet recently, like I don’t have the money for that. You know, but yeah. I’ve been on a private jet. I go to all the nicest restaurants. I mean, I don’t eat there, but I meet the people and I could probably go back and splurge on a meal every once in a while. Yeah, it’s a rockstar thing, but like when people are in fights and all this other stuff, I’m going through it too. And I know that people aren’t yelling at me. But I’m listening to people yelling all day and so I get home. And every once in a while when I am dating somebody I’m like I need 10 minutes to myself. I’ve just had you know walkie talkie chatter in one ear and then listening to microphones in another ear and you know I just I need like 10 minutes to myself with just my voice in my head. So, it’s a lot and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but and it is glamorous, but, you know sometimes I’m standing in the middle of a swamp trying to not get eaten by an alligator like yeah I’ve got a rockstar job.
Susan: So I have one more question for you before I let you go and do your therapy and all that fun stuff that you get to do on your day off.
Carrie: Oh, but real quick. I forgot to mention about Rachel Morrison.
Susan: Yeah.
Carrie: She got her start in reality T.V. so.
Susan: I didn’t know that.
Carrie: Oh Yeah yeah. The Hills. And she worked on, a lot of my friends have worked with her. The Office. The last two seasons of The Office had a female DP who I was a camera assistant for on Beauty and the Geek. So she got her start in reality TV and there’s another DP camera guy that i worked with on Beauty and the Geek, who now. He had been the camera operator for that Girls Trip movie.
Susan: Yeah.
Carrie: And a couple Marvel things. Oh! Rachel Morrison was also the DP of Black Panther by the way. I don’t know if you knew that.
Susan: NO! I Didn’t know that. Holy cow.
Carrie: Yeah. She DP’d Black Panther. And my friend, Sarah Levy who I haven’t seen in a long time, but she was a b camera operator on that. So there’s hope. Like you know eventually through who I know I could somehow maybe hopefully wind up on a Marvel movie one day. Yeah.
Susan: That’s good because that kind of segues into my last question. I kind of like to end every show with some sort of an action step. And so we talked a little bit about positions of power and the opportunity when it comes to hiring people and you’re seeing a lot of this I think in your field right now. And I know that I have a listener. Probably multiple listeners who are in that same position today. She has the opportunity to advocate for women in her own field. We all know a rising tide lifts all boats. So as she rises or as you rise what is action step she can take to lift other women alongside with her.
Carrie: That’s a good question. Well I know that I, um. I guess I’ll just say what I would do. The friend that I’m working with. The camera assistant. You know we’ve had talks lately and I was like. I told her I didn’t know that you’ve been trying to transition from camera assistant to camera operator for the last year or so and I was like from now on I will only recommend you as camera operator. I make sure there are women on set who are like production assistants. So you know whatever. Like what are you interested in? Do you want to learn camera? If they do then I say I will teach you my ways because I know when I was coming up there was a lot of people who were like I’m not going to teach you that because I don’t want to take my job. Oh! I’m about to drop some really great wisdom. I just realized. I’m not like that. I will teach you everything I know because I’m not scared your going take my job because I know how good I am. But I want you to be as good as me so we can work side by side so that we can all together. All of us women like be amazing and when guys are like oh women can’t do that. I’ll be like look at us over here doing everything so back off. I’ve never understood that “I’m not going to teach you what I know so you can’t take my job” Like no. I’m going to share everything I know this because I know amazing things. People should want to know and I know.
Susan: Carrie, you can just now drop the mic and walk away. That was the most thing I’ve ever heard.
Carrie: Nice! Yay! Well, mic dropped.
Susan: Awesome. Well listen dude. I appreciate this. Thank you so much for coming on today and talking with me. This has been awesome and I love catching up with you and using it as a work excuse.
Carrie: Well you know I remember. It’s nice to talk about what I do and shine a light on it cause a lot of people just think we’re making guilty pleasure TV. And well, for some people we are, but for me it’s so much more than that. So it’s nice to be able to share that and get the word out and give people more of an understanding.
Susan: Well very cool my friend. I appreciate it.
Carrie: Well thank you very much. And hey, I’ll be back in town in a few weeks if you wanna grab a drink.
Susan: Always my friend. Always. I don’t get to travel as much as you do.
Carrie: Well, you can live vicariously through my photos.
Susan: Oh yes! Fo Sho!
Susan: Hey Y’all! Thanks so much for joining me today. That was such a fun conversation with Carrie. If you head on over to you will be able to find the full transcript of this episode. The transcript page is a great resource because it is not only the interview written out in its entirety. It has links to some of the things we discussed as well as fun pictures of my guests. Y’all this podcast is truly one of my favorite things to do and bring to you. So thank you for listening and for sharing it with your friends. You can also follow How She Got Here on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And if you haven’t yet you can go on over to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. I’d also really appreciate it if you would rate and review it. Thanks again friends. I’ll see ya soon!

A local advocate creates change for refugees and immigrants, with Meghan Blanton Smith

In this episode, Susan talks with Meghan Blanton Smith about her advocacy work with immigrants and refugees.  They talk about her approach from a faith perspective and how that motivates her to keep going.  They discuss finding your passion, getting involved and how getting involved on a local level just might be the most impactful way to create change.  This is a great and timely episode you won’t want to miss.


Susan: Hey friends I am so excited to share the conversation I had with Meghan Blanton Smith with you today. We had a fantastic conversation centered around her work advocating for refugees and immigrants both documented and undocumented. We also discussed what moving the needle in a favorable direction looks like both from a policy standpoint and a personal standpoint I’d like to also note that this interview took place the Friday of just hours before we learned what was happening with families being separated at our borders which is why it was not discussed. So without further ado here’s Meghan.

Susan: Good morning friends. I am with my friend Meghan this morning and Meghan and I grew up together in the same town. The only difference is is that we when we both moved away she moved back and I have yet to do that. It might happen one day but not anytime in the near future.

Meghan: I like that word yet.

Susan: Yeah you just you never know.

Meghan: You never know.

Susan: You don’t. Anyway so she is huge in her involvement with refugees and immigration advocacy and that’s what we’re here to talk about this morning is her work in that. So good morning Meghan and thank you for joining us.

Meghan: Yeah. Thanks so much Susan for having me. This is fun.

Susan: It will be. We will get through it with or without our coffee intact. So share with us what inspired you to get involved with refugees and immigration advocacy.

Meghan: Yeah. So I actually grew up overseas in Ecuador spent almost 11 years there and then moved to South Carolina when I was 15. And so I spent you know the majority of my childhood around Hispanic people and their culture and the Spanish language and just always loved you know loved Ecuadorians and then moving to the states. I kind of had an experience similar to what I think a lot of immigrants experience when coming to the United States. You know that culture shock. That feeling of being misunderstood under appreciated all of those kind of things. So part of my own story seemed to jive with a lot of experiences that immigrants go through. Obviously very different because I am an American and a native English speaker and all those kind of things. So not trying to draw too close of a comparison there. But then also you know my my faith is is largely what compels me. You know I feel like God commands us over and over again in scripture to welcome the stranger to love the foreigner among you and all of those kind of verses that tell us to show hospitality and that you know our citizenship is in heaven that we’re called to love one another all of those kind of compelling things but then really the main impetus to getting involved with this was when my husband and I went to seminary in Massachusetts and then we moved back. Like you said move back to South Carolina. And we were going to plant a multi-ethnic church. The people in our congregation were everyone from you know people Americans who have served overseas before and are now coming back to international college students to undocumented families. And as we got to know each other and live life together and help carry one another’s burdens. That issue of immigration kept coming up over and over and over again whether it was people trying to get their citizenship or an undocumented single mom who was afraid to you know drive her family to Wal-Mart. And so it almost became a we can’t help but speak up on this issue because people that we love and care about deeply are impacted by this. So how can we with the privilege really that we have as Americans how can we use that in this arena to help bring about change.

Susan: Well that’s a big undertaking for sure. I mean that’s such a cool calling I guess. But that’s that had to be difficult. And I say difficult because I’m guessing it hasn’t always been easy. Doing what you’re doing in the town we grew up in. I know I was back recently and I was excited to see that you have found your people that those people exist our people that those people exist but I’m guessing you had to do some digging to find them. Would that be a fair statement?

Meghan: Yeah yeah I think it would. And you know you’re right. South Carolina and especially the upstate in the congressional district that we’re in we are a very conservative Republican area and just the times that we’re living in immigration reform and all of the stories and you know things that go with that is not necessarily one that is embraced by a majority of the people that live here but it has been difficult in some ways but it’s been really encouraging in others that we’ve been able to see people who’ve never really thought of this issue before or considered it critically or considered it from a personal standpoint. You know we’ve we’ve seen people move along the spectrum and go from either apathetic to caring or even hostile to maybe apathetic and then hopefully we can move them to the caring or involved. But you know this is a deeply religious area. And so when people are open to considering this issue from their faith lens you know and hear the scriptures and hear God’s heart for the vulnerable and the immigrant etc etc. Then people can kind of have that aha moment of oh this isn’t necessarily a political issue this is a faith issue for me and I engage them. But but you’re right I have found some people here. And I’ve been surprised you know how many of us there are that see these issues the way that we do and it’s been really encouraging.

Susan: And I only bring that up just to say that if you’re somebody who is out there and you’re in a smaller town or you feel like you’re in a bubble that is not your own. Your people are there you can find them. You just may have to look a little harder than in other places. And that’s the only reason I brought that up. So you talk a lot about your work with both refugees and immigrants. So can you kind of explain to us for people who out there who aren’t who aren’t in this world who don’t you just hear the words on the news. Can you kind of just explain the difference between a refugee and an immigrant and how that status. What that looks like.

Meghan: Sure. That’s a really good point because there are terms that are just kind of thrown around that are really misunderstood. So an immigrant would be a larger term to describe anyone from another country who has you know moved to the United States. A refugee is a very specific class of person that has been who has undergone you know close to 15 different steps to be approved as a refugee who could resettle in the United States. A refugee is someone who has fled their home country with a reasonable fear of persecution or death because of a variety of different things your ethnicity your race your religion your sexuality all of those kind of things. And it’s a classification under the U.N. to be considered a refugee and so when someone comes to the United States as a refugee they are invited by the U.S. government they have undergone biometric tests medical tests background tests all to verify their story to prove that yes this person has a well-founded fear. And we believe that their story is legitimate and we’re going to give them a new home in the United States. So under under what we were talking about illegal immigrants which is quite a derogatory term so I’m going to use the term undocumented. No one is illegal. Like my existence isn’t illegal. I just don’t have the right papers. So when we’re talking about immigration there’s a whole bunch of different statuses that someone can have. So it’s it’s really a much more nuanced issue than I think people often realize they want to just paint everyone into one category and not understand all the different levels that are at play there.

Susan: And I think, remind me, tell me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure in our hometown we probably have a good mixture of both refugee, undocumented, documented. We pretty much run the gamut the spectrum on this, yes?

Meghan: Yes that’s true. So in 2015 Spartanburg became a World Relief Refugee Resettlement Site. So starting in 2015 we had refugees coming to this area to Spartanburg and to Greenville and now World Relief has their office in Greenville. But you know since the beginning of the year we haven’t really been admitting many refugees at all. And I don’t know the exact number now. I think last year we had about 60 65 refugees resettle here in this area. And you know they’re coming from countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ukraine, Myanmar. There were two Syrians who resettled in South Carolina not through World Relief. We haven’t had many many Syrians. There was a man from from Iraq. So we’ve been able to meet many of them and the first refugee who came actually lived with our family for a few weeks while his apartment was getting ready. They were going to they were going to put him kind of out in the country in a trailer by themselves. That’s probably not the best welcome to America. So why don’t you stay with us. And so it was an interesting experience that turned out to be such a blessing for our family we didn’t know what we were getting into. He was from the Congo and thankfully he spoke a little bit of English and my husband speaks a little bit of French and he speaks French as well and so he kind of became an uncle to the kids and we love him very much and still see him now. And this has become you know this has become his new new home. But you’re right. And with all of the colleges that we have here we have hundreds of international college students coming every year with all of our international businesses. We have other professional immigrants are coming and working in the businesses here. And we also have a large undocumented population and the fear you know is very real for a lot of them right now. I work with my my paying job, this is my not paying passion job. But my paying job (SC Test Prep) that I’m also passionate about is I work with high school students who are low income are going to be first generation college students and their families kind of preparing them for the the college admissions process. So one of my students earlier this year was telling me about how her parents she’s American she was born here with her parents are undocumented and how her parents had to sign custody over to an uncle so that if something happened to the parents you know her kids would would be able to remain here with a guardian and she was telling that to me with her mom right there and they were both just in tears. You know both of us are moms and you’re talking to moms every week and like the thought of giving up my child so that they can remain here in this country continue their studies and their you know their dreams just the sacrifices that that demands that I cannot even imagine.

Susan: I cannot either. But you’re paying job sounds pretty darn amazing. That is such a cool opportunity. And I know you guys started that and I just think that’s phenomenal. So tell us more about your what your day to day work looks like. With immigration and advocacy and the refugees you’re working with that what does boots on the ground look like right now for you.

Meghan: Yeah that’s a good question. Every day every day is different. You know I’m involved with the Hispanic Alliance here in town and I’m on the steering team for that. And so we have different projects throughout the year that we work on whether that kind of offering some underground legal clinics or monthly meetings to help foster communication and collaboration among those who are working with Hispanics here in town or gosh. I mean there’s really no consistency. But like last week I went down to Georgia with a group of people from Clemson to visit the Stewart Immigration Detention Center. So this is the largest detention center in the U.S. It has almost 2000 men that are detained there and they are either awaiting deportation or they are appealing a court case or they’re waiting for their asylum to be determined. And so like last week I took the whole day and drove down there. And then since coming back I’ve been talking to people about it and I’m going to try to write something up some kind of little article (see May 20th entry) or something to talk about the experience. So it’s a lot of like trying to experience things first hand talking to people who are either you know either a refugee or undocumented themselves and then trying to take their story to either another group or another person who can help move the needle on the issue. So sometimes that’s just staying on top of the quickly changing landscape in Washington and you know emailing other people in town who have questions about it or trying to rally people to call our congressmen and ask them to sign on to something. So every day every day is different and that is not even every day. It’s very responsive to what is happening and what needs to be what needs to be done. But one of the things I was most proud of that we were able to achieve was I believe it was earlier this year our Spartanburg City Council we were able to push them to issue a resolution that just said we support the Dreamers that live here in Spartanburg and we urge Congress to fix this problem. And there was no you know teeth to it but it was a very public and symbolic statement that our city government recognizes that we have Dreamers which is another term that’s thrown around a lot and what that means is a younger person who was brought here to the United States by their parents they’re undocumented but they received DACA status so Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. So with that it meant that they could go to college because in South Carolina you cannot go to a public college if you’re undocumented but with your DACA status you can or you were able to get a work permit or a driver’s license. And so I was very proud when when our city council passed that because we’re still the first the only in the state to do that. So for that come out of here was a proud moment for a lot of us. I had a Dreamer who was involved. She’s actually from your alma mater Converse College and she when they passed that she said to me she’s like you know for one of the first times I’m proud of Spartanburg because they see me and they recognize the value that I contribute to this place. So that was really special.

Susan: See me and recognize my value. That makes my heart melt yes.

Meghan: And isn’t that what we all want?

Susan: Yes. That just that just melted my heart. All right take a moment there. So what has surprised you most in your work do you think, good or bad?

Meghan: Different things. Yeah. So I was I was genuinely surprised at that city council resolution at how open and easy it was. There wasn’t really much pushback. So I was surprised at how willing our city leaders were to to make that message. But then I’ve been really surprised by in a bad way by others who either have the same faith background as me or who know other undocumented immigrants personally yet still not compassionate not understanding of their plight and the need for some kind of reform. That that’s been discouraging as well or surprising for some people but you know in this in any kind of advocacy work you have to remain focused on the individual stories and relationships or else it’s just too overwhelming and there have been times several times sometimes it feels like more often than not that it’s like what is the point. What are we even doing like for each step forward that it feels like we might take in the advocacy community. It feels like three or four steps back you know on a national scale. And so, just remembering to you know really invest in people and and here locally is what keeps me keeps me going.

Susan: Well I’ll share a little bit real quick and I can’t talk much about it. I don’t even know a lot of the specifics but I have seen firsthand how lives have been changed through this advocacy work. And this wasn’t your work specifically. But Stephen my husband is an attorney and immigration court is not his thing. He does not do immigration work. He is a very fun tax attorney very fun job very exciting work in tax law. He does do some pro bono work. And I remember when everything happened. Everybody was going to the airports last year and like protesting and stuff. I remember seeing attorneys getting involved in that. And first I was shocked. I was like I never thought the lawyers would be the heroes. And second Stephen saw that happening and he saw people advocating for others and so he used some of his pro bono hour work this year and has actually done some immigration work and been in immigration court. So don’t think that just because. And there is a young person who he has actually helped get out of a pretty bad situation. I think it’s pretty much cleared up back can’t talk too much about it but just know that people are watching and people lives are being changed because of the work that you’re doing because of the work that the advocates are out there doing. Other people are seeing it and things are happening behind the scenes. And you’re right it may not make CNN or MSNBC or Fox News or any of those other stations or any of those other news channels but lives are changing and it’s because of the type of work that you’re doing behind the scenes. So just know that I know there are discouraging days but know that people are looking to you and the type of work that you’re doing and things the needle is moving albeit slowly but the needle the needles moving.

Meghan: Yeah it’s my that’s my hope for sure.

Susan: I know it’s tough right now. I know it’s tough right now. So I guess that’s a little bit about success is there any way you I guess in your advocacy work do you have any goals that you set. Or is there any what does success look like to you. Is it a day by day thing. Can you talk a little bit about that with us.

Meghan: Yeah that’s, that’s another good question. Gosh Susan, you’re full of great questions.

Susan: Sorry I know this is hard right now because we’re talking about this today. I don’t know when this will air yet but today’s May 25th or 26 and see I don’t even know the day. And I know there’s a lot happening as we speak. So it’s hard.

Meghan: Yeah yeah. I mean there’s there’s a variety of levels of success to me like the ultimate goal is a total culture shift you know and that really hard work. A culture shift where immigrants and people from other countries as speakers of other languages are welcomed and seen as people who have traits and stories and passions and dreams that better to contribute here and know that dividing line between us and them is erased. I mean that would be like a major success. Right now you know in Washington is like legislative policy successes that we haven’t quite experienced yet. So seeing some sort of congressional permanent solution for Dreamers. That would be a success. And you know what does that look like and what is left off the table and you know there’s a spectrum of people in the advocacy world some who are you know who want more and others who would be happier with less. That’s probably unfair to say but then personally like you know a success would be having a family here in Spartanburg know that there’s a community of people who have their back. You know that’s like a microcosm of what a success would be. So it’s there’s a bunch of different things and thankfully you know nationally there’s a bunch of different people working on all sorts of those issues. One thing we tried last this past year that happened in South Carolina was passing a new law called the South Carolina Dreamers Act that would give instate tuition professional licenses and access to state scholarships for Dreamers. That did not pass in this past legislative session. But you know what. In the Fall we’re going to start back up. So it’s a lot of you know kind of learning from, not your mistakes because I don’t think we made mistakes, but learning from the past figuring out how you can tweak your message. Who are some other people that you need to sway. And then you know dusting yourself off and starting back again.

Susan: Yeah. Wow. It’s hard work. It’s hard work, huh?

Meghan: Yeah it is.

Susan: So that kinda segues into another question that was going to ask you at some point that even the strongest of us have moments where we lack self-confidence. And you guys experienced a bit of a setback. So how do you deal with that in your work and how do you how do you deal with that personally.

Meghan: Yeah for sure. And I think you know as women in whatever area we’re working in we encounter that. I Don’t know maybe men do too but they don’t. I don’t know. I know women better than I know men. Yeah that lack of confidence that second guessing myself that desire to be a people pleaser is all very right under the surface for me. And you know thankfully I have a supportive group of friends and family who encourage me along the way or who help provide perspective if I’m losing it. So I think I think that’s really important is to surround yourself with people that you trust and people who love you and people who are willing to kind of speak that encouragement and confidence in you when you don’t have it yourself. But then also sometimes I just try to give myself perspective. Like if it were you know say try to write different things you know whether that like I don’t know an article for a blog or op ed for our newspaper that kind of stuff but writing does not come natural to me at all. You know it’s like a labor to get something out and just sound intelligent to hearing everything. But like when I’m you know getting frustrated with that I think OK I’ve already done already done this like a couple of handful of times and I can do it again. One thing that we say to our kids is you can do it. You already did it. Yes you can. You know I don’t know. Find your shoes in the morning. Because goodness. Isn’t that what. Because you already did it. You did it yesterday. You know you did it last week. You’ve already done it. You already have proven it to yourself. Do it again.

Susan: I love that. That’s really self motivating too.

Meghan: Yeah, we have a little song that I’ll spare you of. But you know that helps with the kids and really like one thing I’ve had to learn in just life is the importance of self care. You know and so today I’m going to go get a massage and it’s going to be nice and it’s going to be 50 minutes of relaxation. And I think another tendency that a lot of women that I know have is to just keep giving. Keep pouring out, keep investing until we have nothing left to give. And so I like to think of it as like a water pitcher. You know if water isn’t being poured into our pitcher and we’re pouring out then you’re dry and you can’t do anything for other people. And so taking that time whatever that is. Whether that is going on a run or eating ice cream or taking a massage or having a girls night out whatever it is for you that’s going to breathe that life back into you. Really crucial in order for you to keep breathing life out on to others.

Susan: Well I love that you added that.

Meghan: And I’ve learned that the hard way.

Susan: Oh Sure.

Meghan: Yeah we always learn these lessons the hard way. I’m trying to be more cognizant of that. Now in my life.

Susan: Yes. I identify with that. I love that. I love that you answered the next question that I was getting ready to ask you and I love how you segued into that. I’m getting ready to do a whole episode on self care because I have been really bad about that in these last two years really bad about it and my body finally said enough and told me so so I’ll save that for that episode. Thank you for bringing that up. I appreciate that. I have one more question.

Meghan: Yeah well thanks for talking about it.

Susan: Well I think we to start talking about these things as women we have to start. You’re absolutely right we have to start taking better care of ourselves because it’s like the mask that drops from the plane and they always tell you you know put yours on first before the other person’s next to you. You do have to take care yourself. Anyway one last question for you. I know a woman listening today has heard your story and is inspired to find her own way to get involved maybe it’s a refugee or immigration advocacy group or maybe it’s another group that’s standing up with the marginalized. And don’t we have a lot of that today. But you know I think a lot of us are finally saying enough but we’re trying to figure out how to get involved. So what action step would you recommend she take? Do you have one?

Meghan: Yeah that’s a great question. And I think all of our passions are different. And you know sometimes, I heard somebody else say this once that like whatever kind of wakes you up in the night or when you wake up in the night and you think about it that that’s kind of what your passion could be. So I mean I think there’s a lot of people who like you like you said have said enough. But where do I start. How do I get involved. And so I think first you have to identify what that issue is for you you know is that are you a mom and you have kids in your school and you’ve seen other kids maybe who don’t have lunch you know maybe that’s working on food issues and sustainable help and all that kind of stuff. Or maybe I don’t know there’s a whole variety of different things. And so I would say you know look at your local community. How can you invest locally. I think it’s locally that we can have the most impact. I think it’s where you know the most collaboration can happen where we can be the least divisive because it’s you know a friend of mine likes to say it’s neighbors helping neighbors. So look and see what’s going on in your own community. Are there initiatives already that you can get involved with. Does your community have a United Way or another kind of community foundation or organization that’s already working on some big issues. You know go there go their website, e-mail they’re volunteer coordinator. Just see what opportunities are there for you. And then like you said at the beginning find your people and that’s not always a quick process. Sometimes it takes showing up over and over and over again and putting yourself out there in a way that might be uncomfortable for you. And I kind of went through that myself of showing up in like literally saying Here I am. What can you use me for. And it’s awkward. And I’ve kind of had to just swallow some of my introvertedness with some of that. So so you know do your research show up make contacts with people. You know we live in an age of information and you know access to that information is really quick and easy and so educate yourself on the issue whether it’s a federal policy thing or state issue. Do your research become expert at it and then also kind of recognize that we’re women we’re moms we’re wives we’re sisters we’re friends we’re busy people but also realizing that if you take on something new that might mean that you have to let something else go. And so being okay with that and doing ending something else in your life well I think it’s really important. You know when I started on this issue I stopped being involved in a moms group that I was a part of for several years and loved it. You know I had to kind of put that down and walk away from that in order to pick this up but it was important to me that I left those relationships intact and that people understood what I was going to and as I started working full time just didn’t have the time for all of that. But recognizing that adding on also means letting go and that might mean a grieving process or making sure that you have someone else to fill your shoes for something else before you move into another area of involvement. So yeah that would kind of be kind of be my advice to someone listening.

Susan: Well I thought that was great advice and I really liked that adding on sometimes means letting go. That’s that’s hard to do. Thank you for sharing.

Meghan: Really hard. Yeah. And you know that’s a lesson I’ve also learned the hard way like I can try to do everything, but I can’t do everything well. And everybody suffered along the way including myself and so I where I’m at now is I would rather do a few things really well and feel proud of my work and feel like I’m giving it all that I can. And that means both letting go and saying no to new opportunities as they arise and that that can be hard.

Susan: Well speaking of opportunities I know you have massage to get to but I’m going to ask you before I let you go. You say you do a lot of writing on this topic and I presume on other topics that are similar to advocacy and all that. Is there a place where we can find you where we can find your articles. Do you post them to your Facebook page or Twitter or anywhere like that and somebody might be able to follow you publicly if they’re interested.

Meghan: Yeah I don’t write a lot. I speak a lot about writing and then I usually write. Let me clarify that. Yeah my twitter. I do all my Twitter basically all dedicated to this kind of work. And so I am at @megitasmith and then my Facebook I also post some stuff there as well. Meghan Blanton Smith and Meghan with an H, The H is in there and that matters.

Susan: Well, we will link that. Yes we will link that over on the website. So make sure to head on over there and check that out folks and you’ll be able to find all the links we talked about and I may add some fun stuff that we talked about that we didn’t talk about linking but Meghan I really really appreciate you taking the time to do this today. You squeezed me and and I just really really appreciate it. I appreciate you talking about this issue. I appreciate all the work that you’re doing so thank you so much for joining us today.

Meghan: Yeah thank you, Susan. I’m proud of you and the empowering work that you’re doing for women both where you live and you know podcasts you can listen anywhere. So I think it’s awesome how you are helping tell stories. Bravo.

Susan: Well thank you very much and I will talk to you soon.

Meghan: All right. Bye.

Susan: Thanks so much for joining us today. I hope you took away as much from that conversation as I did. I also hope it encouraged you to think about things in a way that maybe you haven’t thought of before. And something somewhat related and yet very related is I am slowly learning just how black and white I can see the world sometimes. I think I’m finally realizing there’s a lot more gray out there than I thought and sometimes it just really helps to hear things from the perspective of others. So if I could I’d like to humbly encourage you to have a conversation this week a safe conversation to be sure but a conversation nonetheless with someone who has differing views than you. You just might learn something from each other. And maybe perhaps move each others needle just a little. Thanks again friends. I’ll see you soon.

Giving every girl access to “marvelous,” with Shanterra McBride

Susan interviews the founder of Marvelous University, Shanterra McBride. Shanterra and Susan talk about everything from the importance of believing in yourself and having purpose partners to trash can choices at Home Depot.  They talk about what makes young women and girls marvelous, and what that means when it comes to being the kind of friend you want to be, loving your body or having sex for the first time.



Susan: I’m so excited to share today’s episode with you. I had the great fortune to sit down and chat with my friend Shanterra McBride who is truly a force in this world. Her laugh and her light are infectious and just good for the soul. Her company and vision Marvelous University is exactly what girls of all ages need. There are so many takeaways and so many nuggets in here. She is truly among the best of the best. So sit down with your cup of coffee or laced up your walking shoes and get ready to be inspired.

Susan: Good morning Shanterra.

Shanterra: Good morning, Susan.

Susan: This is so fun and I’m so excited. Friends Shanterra is here with me in person. We are meeting before meeting and I’m just so excited to have her here and share her story. Shanterra and I have not known each other very long but when you meet Shanterra she’s a person who just has a light about her. And she started something amazing. And when I heard it it was before this podcast ever started. And I said I’m going to be your friend. I need to know everything about you. And whatever you are doing is fantastic. And it turns out it was marvelous and it’s Marvelous University. So here’s Shanterra. I want to hear your story. Tell us about yourself.

Shanterra: Here’s a story version. Born and raised in Dallas left Dallas. Born and raised in Dallas went to SMU graduated from SMU and then lived here a year and then left and moved to D.C. worked at work. I was a volunteer in service to America. So I was with AmeriCorps worked at a high school in D.C. had no idea what I was doing. And I was there to get the community involved in the school and the school involved with the community did it for a year. It changed my life and then decided to stay in D.C. and what I thought would be one year ended up being 13.

Susan: Wow.

Shanterra: And was all in the nonprofit world. Met different people did different things and then got a call I was speaking around the country got a call to be an assistant principal at a school in northern California. So you know why not, I’d never done that. So I packed up my stuff and moved to California. Did that for about four years and then felt this calling to move back to Dallas. So I left California and came back home and I’ve been back for three years.

Susan: What did you do when you got back? Did you take a teaching job here?

Shanterra: I did not. I did not. I felt I didn’t feel like I was supposed to go back into a school. In one school in the traditional way. So I hired a business coach and I was really wanting to understand what this thing inside of me what it was I knew it was with young people I had always been attracted to being an advocate for young people I’ve never looked at young people as our future. And people used to, always you know like Whitney Houston, had her song, I believe, and I was like nah. Something about that didn’t sit well with me. And I always viewed young people as the now. And I felt like even when I got back to Dallas. I was like, not one school but I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. So I hired a business coach. And from that Marvelous University was born. Isn’t that crazy?

Susan: Yes. That is wild. So what did your business coach. What was his or her role in that process? Was it a discovery like what made you go I think I need a business coach?

Shanterra: Well first of all I knew, I knew I loved working with young people. I knew I especially loved working with girls and young women from middle school and high school to college age women. I knew that I knew I also didn’t want to be in a traditional set up like I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher in one school one. I didn’t feel like I had mastered any subject well enough that I could teach. But I also didn’t want the box. Right? So I just kept thinking I need somebody to help work this stuff out that’s in my head. Because also when it comes to working with young people people tell you oh go start a nonprofit. And I didn’t want to do that either. I worked in nonprofit for years and I didn’t feel… and I’m big on feeling. Like, if it doesn’t feel right. I pay attention to my intuition.

Susan: Yeah. Women have that.

Shanterra: Listen. And and I pay attention. And so I didn’t feel like. One I didn’t feel that the world needed another nonprofit. No shade to any nonprofits. I just knew, for me, that wasn’t the lane. So a friend of mine in D.C. a roommate called and said hey I saw tis speaker you need to go to her seminar. I was like what? Okay, fine. Because my friends know me. So her name is Marshawn Evans Daniels. And I went to see her in Atlanta and I thought I’m just gonna hear her speak and then leave. Listen. After the seminar I was like I need a coach. I need her to help me work this thing out within me. And I signed up for her coaching from there. Like I truly went to Atlanta just for this seminar. I had no intentions of then having her be a part of the next year of my life. She helped me one. Be confident in the calling that was. She also listened to me which is where Marvelous University came from because I really always said young people were born to be marvelous. That was my. I kept saying it every time I had a conversation with people. I was like, well you know they’re marvelous they’re developing and they’re marvelous. And people used always say, Marvelous? And I would say, absolutely. Because I saw a scripture once that said thank you for making me so wonderfully complex your workmanship is marvelous.

Susan: I love that.

Shanterra: That sold me. One I believed for myself.

Susan: Well, yeah. Buy into that immediately.

Shanterra: Listen. And then I was like, huh. If young people, if girls and young women could believe that they were born to be marvelous that affects everything. When I said this to Marshawn she’s like your business is Marvelous University. I said, no it is not. I did. I said, I’m not starting a school. I’m not trying to start a college and I didn’t want that. You know there are a lot of businesses quote unquote that have this for profit school thing, right? I didn’t want that. And she said to me she said. So is it just going to be you for the rest of your life are you going to be the only person who will ever only do the work you do. And I said, I hope not. She said, are you building an empire or not? Are you building something that other people would want to come alongside you and work this thing with you or not? Are you building something that could be in different parts of the world or not? And I was like, huh.

Susan: My eyes are like, wide open.

Shanterra: Changed everything for me.

Susan: Yeah. What a different perspective.

Shanterra: So that that is what she helped me to see and helped me do.

Susan: So that is the start of Marvelous University. Tell me how you birthed this baby. Because it is like I am learning it is this is like birthing a child starting something from scratch.

Shanterra: You know that from experience, I don’t.

Susan: You are a great aunt.

Shanterra: I’m a godmother, right? I tell people all the time. I honestly it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And the hard part is, well it wasn’t hard you know getting the paperwork done right. Right. It wasn’t hard once I believed in the name. Not hard. Wasn’t hard to even get the web domain right. Easy right. The hard part is the every day believing in it. The hardest. Every single day I have to decide whether or not I’m going to be committed to the vision that is inside me. And that is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Susan: What is vision?

Shanterra: The vision is to make sure that every girl and young woman knows that she was born to be marvelous. That is the vision. It is not every young girl or woman in Dallas. It’s not even every girl or young woman in Texas. Like it is not even in the United States. I see this in different parts of the world like when I close my eyes and I think about it. I want girls in Morocco, which is where I’m going this summer and I can’t believe it. You know in Morocco, in Kenya, in Syria, In Libya. Like every girl in Beijing. I truly believe that when every girl knows this and believes it. Cause belief changes your action. Right?

Susan: Yes ma’am.

Shanterra: So my vision is that every girl should be. They need to be told. But to do that every day. To wake up and decide like OK you still believe in this because it is hard. It’s hard, when you are trying to get to every girl. It is hard when you are a speaker and an author and you want to partner with parents to help them raise their girls. It is difficult for people to invest in young people. That’s hard. So battling those bricks. Battling those walls every day. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Hands down. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I have worked for people. So that’s what’s crazy. Like, you go to work everyday and you help other people build their dreams. Every single day. Right. Every single day. But for your own dream, your own vision. That is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’m still doing it.

Susan: Yes you are.

Shanterra: But, it’s tough. It’s tough. You um, it’s tough because you have to be self-motivated. There isn’t a boss telling you what needs to be done. There isn’t someone patting you on your back because you turn something in.

Susan: I will pat you on your back. You just call me. I will do that.

Shanterra: The dances that I do.

Susan: Because we need those. We have to celebrate. I used to be so bad about that and that is one thing my coach has told me is Susan we have to celebrate. Like you have to.

Shanterra: Yeah yeah.

Susan: Otherwise you just get stuck in the…

Shanterra: Cycle. Yeah yeah yeah. And you you wonder is this making a difference? You know so it is hard I feel like I should be more encouraging, but it’s hard.

Susan: That’s reality.

Shanterra: Oh my gosh.

Susan: But you’re doing it and that’s the thing.

Shanterra: Yeah I mean I’m doing it.

Susan: You’re doing it because you feel like you’re supposed to.

Shanterra: I have to. When I really think about because I mean I think the the beautiful part about working for someone else is all the other stuff is taken care.

Susan: Oh yeah. At this point you’re the janitor and CEO.

Shanterra: I’m the everything. I’m the the the H.R. person, I’m the healthcare person, the vacation time off person. I’m all of that and you don’t really think about it until you no longer have it.

Susan: Trust me when I was writing website copy. I had to outsource some of that stuff.

Shanterra: That’s what I’m saying. Yes. So when you’re doing it and and all the pieces that it takes to stay motivated. It is really hard. And I feel bad. I feel bad. I feel guilty sometimes because I want I want somebody to just just hire me.

Susan: The overnight successes?

Shanterra: That or just a job. Can I just get a regular job?

Susan: No you can’t. Because you have to do this.

Shanterra: But that’s the guilt. That’s where, because every time I look for just a regular just something I feel so convicted. I feel so bad because either I’m not believing in the vision anymore or I’m taking the easy way out. And I always think about girls around the world. So tell us about it. Keep at it.

Susan: So tell us about, it. Tell us about Marvelous University and what are you doing. Who are these girls? I mean obviously girls around the world, but who are these fabulous women you have found?

Shanterra: This is the beautiful part. So Marvelous University. It is truly a business. A company designed to inspire young people to be more than what’s expected, more than what’s required, and more than what’s modeled. We offer life coaching and success planning for young people. But we specialize in leadership development for girls and young women. So all of that means when I say more than what’s expected more than what’s required more than what’s modeled. We put so much we have so many unspoken expectations on girls and they’re unspoken until they don’t meet those expectations that we’re thinking about them and when they don’t meet them we are quick to criticize we are quick to judge. We’re quick to correct. But not with love. When I say more than was required we often put limits. It’s weird we have expectations but then we put limits on what girls can do. We don’t expect.

Susan: Yes. I mean I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Shanterra: But we put limits on that. So it’s like wait. So either you have expectations of the thing you don’t require them to either follow through or we come up with these excuses. More than what’s modeled. I often think about we lack. I don’t want to say role models in our communities but we. I think we, say for example what’s happening in our in our country right now with the with young people truly spearheading a movement. Gun rights. Just advocating for themselves right. If y’all adults won’t do it. We’ll do it. I often think about how young people leave everything. They are the ones who will take those risks that adults. Oh I don’t want to do that because there are sacrifices, right? Adults are like I don’t want to lose my job. I don’t want to lose where I live. Things like that. Young people really feel like they have nothing to lose.

Susan: They’re naive.

Shanterra: Right? Or, they just feel like so?!

Susan: Right. They have their whole lives so it doesn’t matter.

Shanterra: And so when I say you know I’m watching them and I’m like more than what’s modeled I don’t want them to feel limited. So when I think about girls and I heard years ago that especially in underserved communities underserved countries when you educate a girl you educate the entire village.

Susan: Oh absolutely.

Shanterra: Right? Because we’re going to share. We’re going to share the information that we receive. We’re also the child bearer. So everything that happens to a girl to a young woman that affects everyone and so the marvelous girl is every girl. It is she is not. It is not about race. It is not about socioeconomics. It is not about region. It’s the every girl. But I also believe that every girl isn’t getting the same information. So when I say girls were born to be marvelous this is not you are marvelous if you live in a certain community or if your parents have certain income or if you drive a certain car. This is you are marvelous because of who you are, period! And I believe every single girl needs to hear it. Now some people will put it in well because you’re a black woman. You need to be telling this to black girls and you know. And I’m like yeah I do. And I need to tell girls who don’t because we don’t we don’t hear that we hear go to school get an education and yeah our communities. Yeah certain girls get better education all that kind of stuff but I’m talking about basic you were born to be marvelous so that to me that is every single that’s every single girl. No limits. And that’s why that’s why when I close my eyes and I see the world I see every single girl.

Susan: That is, that just makes me want to cry. I love every word of your vision. I love every word of your organization. And friends, Shanterra hasn’t just started this university this Marvelous University this organization. She also wrote a book. And I picked it up cause Shanterra is my friend. I knew it was written for young girls. And I thought it was great. It wasn’t long it was an easy read and I thought well this will be great I’ll tell my friend I read her book I bought her book and I’m supporting my friend and Shanterra, I read your book and it’s not just for girls it’s for women. And I need to know why you didn’t write this book, ya know, 20 years ago. Because I needed this then.

Shanterra: Oh me too.

Susan: And hearing this now. I mean I feel like as women there’s a lot of history behind you know feminism and that movement and all of that. I’m hoping I pray that we are getting to a point where we’re coming together as women.

Shanterra: I mean, Yes. You said you are hoping and praying. So I’m joining you with that hope and prayer.

Susan: Because what your book says just… I heard growing up… I grew up in South Carolina and I didn’t hear a lot of these messages. In fact I heard the opposite messages until I found myself at a women’s college where women are in the top leadership roles there is no 50/50 there’s no 80 20 it’s 100 percent women. All day long.

Shanterra: So women have to lead. Yes.

Susan: Women have to lead. So you’re you’re in the top. So when I read your book I was I needed this 20 years ago. I can use this now and it just it astounds me. So tell us about your book and how that came to be.

Shanterra: So I wrote a book called Love Your Jiggle: The Girl’s Guide to Being Marvelous. And I wrote it to truly inspire girls. It’s basically five rules to help every girl be marvelous. So and let me just say this so jiggle is how I talk about self how I talk about body. It’s not just the thing that moves.

Susan: Although it does that too.

Shanterra: Yes there are things on my body just. No control of my own just moves. But it was really and I thought it was a fun word that girls could like giggle when they hear it but but also disarm girls and so when I say the girls guide to being marvelous. It’s describe what you want in a friendship and be that kind of friend. And so when I think about girls in middle school and high school and first year of college and then when they graduate college and then first year at work like friendship. So big deal you know it is a fabric, a foundation it is women in friendships is so important. So when we talk about what do you want in a friendship. And then how do you also how do you show up in friendship. So describe what you want in a friendship and be that kind of friend. Love your jiggle. So loving your body. Being kind to your body. Not criticizing your body not allowing other people to criticize your body. I talk about my family in the book a lot because I come from a large family a large family that is very opinionated and we are the ones that you know there is no lack of conversations around our bodies. I just remember being a, being young going shopping and going in the dressing with my mom and her ability to pull and tug and comment and you know and there’s a certain age especially middle school where your body is changing without your consent. Right? So how do we speak to that and what, based on the images and the messages that society gives us. What are we saying to our bodies? You know. So really wanting girls to love their bodies. Another rule is to decide when you want to have sex and stick to it. Yeah and that scares parents because parents first of all never want their daughters to have sex. Ever. Even at 35.

Susan: You didn’t have. It was a miracle.

Shanterra: Yes!

Susan: There was a stork involved.

Shanterra: Jesus Jr. Listen there is no, so but asking girls to decide when. For the majority of girls if you ask them when they want to have sex. It is not like tomorrow they won’t say next week. If you give them permission to first of all think about it, cause we don’t allow girls to think about it. Boys get to think about it and it’s expected that boys are thinking about sex. We do not expect girls to think about sex. We don’t give them permission to think about sex. So in this book I’m asking girls to decide when they want to have sex. Stick to it. Where do you want to be. What do you want to be changing out of. Do you have to love them. Do you have to like the person. If the answer is yes how would you know especially with love how would you know that your in love. So basically asking girls to think. Write it down and then stick to it because the majority of their answers. I would like to be married. That’s the majority. If you give girls the chance to think about it first to think about where they want to be. Most of them will say somewhere nice somewhere beautiful. I always give it the thought of you know being in the penthouse suite in the Ritz Carlton overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Susan: That sounds pretty amazing.

Shanterra: You can’t get there if you’re 16 though. But when you think. Where do you want to be. Do you want to be in a car? Do you want to be in the gym at school? Do you want to be in your school uniform? But asking girls to think. Giving them permission to think so they can decide for themselves. So if they are in a situation like wait I don’t want to be here. They get permission to speak for themselves. I didn’t want to be here. Now, for parents I try to get them to understand. That may not mean that she will wait till she is 32 to have this experience. But it does mean that she gets to think for herself. And isn’t that what we want is women and girls to think for are ourselves.

Susan: And the women’s health aspect that plays into that. I mean hello.

Shanterra: Seriously!

Susan: That’s one of the biggest things is just women’s health and it goes back to that body thing. Taking care of your body. It all plays into that.

Shanterra: But women’s health its mind, body and soul. It’s being able to make my own decision. And being confident in that and not asking someone else like will you still talk to me if I say no and don’t want to be here in this car having sex. And if the joker is like no I won’t talk to you. Then he’s not worthy of you anyway. But giving girls the permission to think is really important. It’s really really important. So decide when you want to have sex and stick to it. Learning how to save serve and give and not just when it comes to finances but when it comes to serving our community. Giving my full attention to the people I’m sitting with at the table learning how to be present. And then finally risk saying I don’t know because I find so many times girls and young women will give an answer and not even really be sure about it but they’re afraid to say I don’t know or I need to find more information about that, or you know that’s interesting that’s something new I’ve never heard before. I would love to learn more. So that’s what, Love Your Jiggle: The Girls Guide to Being Marvelous is about.

Susan: That is phenomenal. And I’m telling you we will have a link up on the website to this book. You need to order it. And you need to order more than one copy because there is a friend you need to give it to. Every woman out there needs to read this book.

Shanterra: I loved writing it. It was one of those things where I felt like, and thank you for saying that. I mean it’s one of those, it was, that was my baby and it was something that I thought about years ago and wanting girls to have just a little guide. Just something that they could put in their bag or put in, you know, just something, a crossover they could put it in and take it with them ask questions to themselves ask their friends questions. I saw girls having a discussion about it and just like what do you think. OK so where do you want to be or when you say you know love your jiggle like what are the things you’re saying to your body? Things like that where girls would have conversations. So it’s encouraging to hear that you know that you see it more than just middle school or high school girls. That was, that was part of my vision.

Susan: Yes. So a few minutes ago we were talking about times where you lack self-confidence and you just wanted to throw your hands up. How do you get back to that place where. How do you motivate yourself and get yourself back to the place where this is who I am and this is what I am supposed to be doing. What does that self-confidence look like? What does that motivation look like?

Shanterra: I have amazing purpose partners. I have purpose partners. I have two people who I mean whether it’s a text or a phone call that I am so extremely vulnerable and transparent with. And you need that. And when I say vulnerable I am like butt naked just like this is what I’m feeling and not afraid to share. I don’t feel qualified to do this. I don’t feel like I should still be doing it. I’m very very very transparent with them and so when I’m lacking self-confidence which is probably every other day I reach out and I share and I don’t and I even share you know whether I need a cheer like rah rah rah or a ask me the hard questions but they really help me to keep going. And you know and truly remember that this is a brick by brick process. Like it is an every day decision. You know it’s just like a marriage it’s like every day you decided to be in this marriage. It is not based on circumstances. It is not based on the weather. It is not based on whether or not you got flowers or you know someone put the seat down or what. It’s not based on that stuff. It is an every day decision that you’re going to be in it. And that is what I have to realize. That’s just the same way in having this. It is an everyday decision. And when I’m struggling with that decision I reach out to my purpose partners and that vulnerability to reach out is very hard but I trust them to see the vulnerability. I trust them to see the lack of self-confidence. And then when they build me up I’m not embarrassed when we get off the phone. I am not ashamed. Right?! Because I think sometimes when you when you have to be vulnerable. This world has a way of making you feel ashamed and guilty for your needing support. And I trust them completely that when I get off (the phone). That was good. I’m glad they were there. And I get to go back to building. But I need that and I really rely on them and then I mean I’m a I’m a post it person. So there are post its around my office space and there are post its in my bathroom. There are post its on mirrors in my space that remind me to keep going. Whether it’s, I have a post it that says 20k by 2020. I plan on reaching 20,000 girls by the year 2020.

Susan: Love it.

Shanterra: There’s a post it in my bathroom that says I am marvelous and I say it out loud. There is a post it in my office that also says keep going brick by brick. You got this. Don’t stop. And I think some people would say gosh does it really take all that? Do you really need that much encouragement? And I’m like, uh-huh. I do.

Susan: We all do. If we’re realistic.

Shanterra: Right. But we get embarrassed. I think we feel like if we need it then something is wrong. And for me, I’m like, we were made to be relationship with people and we need to encourage other people. I know I’m an encourager. At least I hope I am. I need it. And that that’s truly what I mean, the self-confidence is hard. But I reach out to them. I’m like remind me why did this again. What did I say about the vision? Tell me again. What did I say? Cause I got another no today or I didn’t get a callback today or I sent out all this information and not one school called me back. I did this or I did that. And their like yep. Keep going or let’s go another route or, you know. So that that’s how I get through. My purpose partners. I’m so thankful. So thankful.

Susan: And I think your purpose partners are a fantastic idea. I never thought about that language and I love that language because when you see people especially today we have the world of social media and we have these overnight success stories. Because you know they started this yesterday and they woke up today and were billionaires. Cause that’s how it really happens.

Shanterra: They don’t tell you the steps.

Susan: You don’t see the steps behind the scenes and that’s one that’s one thing I want to highlight with this podcast is I know there are women out there who have things or have dreams or have a vision and if it didn’t happen yesterday or if it’s not happening fast enough. There is a lack of confidence there or a lack of drive or I can’t do this on my own. And I want you to know you don’t have to. You don’t have to do this on your. No one is doing this on their own. For heaven’s sakes Oprah has a team of a lot of people behind her at this point.

Shanterra: Absolutely

Susan: It is not her doing this. I am not running this by myself.

Shanterra: And when she didn’t have a team she had Stedman and Gayle.

Susan: Yes. I mean, hello. From the beginning.

Shanterra: I think the hard part I think for women is that we if you look at…cause “comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

Susan: Yes it is. That has come up on other podcasts of mine.

Shanterra: Because it is we look at other women and we think oh my goodness they have it all. She was able to do that in a quick you know a quick overnight turnaround thing. And we don’t share all the hurdles we don’t share it all. So when I say my purpose partners these are people that I went to and they both laughed at me because like well don’t I do that already? And I’m like, yes but I’m making it official.

Susan: This is your role.

Shanterra: This is your role and I’m telling you this because you are the person who knows it all. And I’m trusting you to walk with me with this vision. So it was intentional. Right. And I think that as women as we’re building, as we’re sharing we need people that we say this is this is the thing that I’m going to go after are you willing to join me as a purpose partner. Joining me and going after it. I’ll do the work but I need you to join with me whether it’s praying for me whether it’s giving me a cheerleader you know rah rah rah whether that’s bringing me some coffee whether that’s spotting me a dollar like what. But being that person to remind me that I’m not by myself. We need to we have there’s no way out there’s no way. There’s no way I could do it. There’s no way.

Susan: You have to have somebody.

Shanterra: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Susan: Well I want to pivot just a little bit and I want to talk about putting it down. It is hard to do. We all at some point have to put it down at least for half second and take care of our own bodies and our own selves.

Shanterra: Yes. Yes.

Susan: So how and when ever do you make time to do that?

Shanterra: You know as you say that I’m thinking. But but but one thing I do is I I go OK. So I love there’s a trail at the Katy Trail here in Dallas and where I currently live I basically walk out my door. Take a few steps. And I’m I’m at the Katy Trail. And I love the Katy Trail. One, I love moving and so I get out there. I listen to a podcast right and so I get out there and I move. And I started this thing because I was sitting a lot when you when you are starting a business there’s a lot of sitting. And I realized I was sitting and eating and drinking. And that was not good. It was not a good combination. So in loving my jiggle, I decided I needed to move my jiggle and so I just started walking and then I realized just how that changed my mindset. And I was listening to people who had either started businesses or I would listen to Oprah’s podcast and listen to these folks who were just like in such a space where I was like huh, I can do this. Now some people say well that’s that’s not self care because your brain is still going, but for me it was moving my body. It was listening to other people. So being encouraged. So then when I went back I could have a just a different mindset. So for me that’s self care. Getting out. Absolutely. And walking. And then I’m a night owl I tend to work pretty late because my brain seems to like you know night. And so I’m pretty great at getting up when I’m rested. Then if I go to bed really late I don’t then try to get up and be you know functioning at 8 o’clock in the morning because no one wants that person. Trust me when I say no one wants that person. So I sleep well, I rest well, I’m very very intentional about my space. And so there isn’t. I don’t have a television in my room. I don’t do. There are certain things that make sure that I that I take care of me. So I move, cause marvelous girls move. I move my body. I listen to encouraging podcasts. I go to sleep when I’m sleepy and I wake up when I’m rested. And I believe in naps. I just I feel like that, that is how I care for me and I drink a lot of water.

Susan: That’s a good one. Everybody should drink more water.

Shanterra: I drink a lot of water. I have to realize it’s it’s an energizer in itself. And I guess that’s what I do. I move, I drink water, I sleep.

Susan: Well, I’m going to ask one more question as we close. And that is I said a little bit about earlier but I know there’s a woman out there who is has something on her brain that’s in her heart it’s in her soul. I remember when I started this podcast I could feel it. But I didn’t know I didn’t have that next action step. If you could leave the woman on the other end of this podcast with an action step because I love that conversation. It was fantastic. It was motivating it was inspiring. But until you take that step. It’s just talk. So what’s an action step. You would leave with a woman looking to do something new.

Shanterra: My action step would be, well there are several. First of all believe in yourself and you don’t need a crowd of people cheering you on saying you go do that. Believe in yourself. Get you one or two purpose partners who will believe with you and do it. It is that simple. And please please don’t compare yourself to other people who you think are already doing it. A friend of mine said the other day. You know you try to think well is this something I’m supposed to do? Cause isn’t someone already. And I’m always thinking well if you weren’t supposed to do then the vision wouldn’t have been given to you if you weren’t supposed to do it then you could let it go because there are women out there you have something that you’ve been thinking about doing for a very long time. And you can’t shake it. And matter of fact you’ve done other stuff because you think oh somebody else is going to do that or they’re doing that already and you can’t sleep you can’t it won’t get off of you. So just do it. When I am when I go into Home Depot. Seriously, when I go into Home Depot and there are trash cans, right? Because everybody always need a new trashcan. You go into Home Depot and there are about 15 different types of trash cans that you can buy. And I think wow what if the person who created the first trash can. If that was the only trash can. Then I look at all the other trash cans and I think my gosh if all those people thought who needs another trash can. We wouldn’t have 15 different trash can options and people labor in the aisles of trash cans at Home Depot. Cause you wonder well do I need that one, or do I want a step 1, or do I want one where I just wave my hand. My point is this. We have no shortage. No shortage of trash cans that you can buy. But if that person who decided to make the second kind of trash can, if that person decided well we already have a trash can I’m not going to do anything cause someone already did it then you wouldn’t have options. Do the thing. Just do the thing. Give the world options. Give the world options. Believe in yourself, get you a couple of purpose partners and then go out there and do it. Get you a website. Just buy the even the name. Just buy the name. You don’t even have to put anything up there just by the name and have it. So when you’re ready to put stuff up there you’re thinking about it because you’ve already seen a lack. You know what I mean? You already seen a lack. So go ahead and give the world option. Those are my steps. Believe, get you some purpose partners, buy the website name and get to doing it. And that’s that’s really it. Give the world options.

Susan: I have nothing to add. Now ladies, go do your own trash can.

Shanterra: I’m telling you I was standing in the isle and I looked around. Oh my goodness. This is trash cans. No shade to the trash can. But there are options for trash cans. And people are struggling to figure out which trash can do I need. And if that first person who created the trash can. If no one else thought of it it wouldn’t have been done. So for me it was about going and looking at all those different options and saying how dare I think that I do not deserve to give the world options on how we talk to girls and young women. How dare I?

Susan: Alright! That’s all I got. Bye!

Susan: I mean it doesn’t get much better than that does it. Thanks so much for joining me today. I really hope you left with as much from our chat as I did. You can find out more about Marvelous University and Shanterra over on her website, where you can also purchase her book. Love Your Jiggle: A Girls Guide to Being Marvelous. On Facebook, you can find her at Marvelous University by Shanterra McBride and on Twitter @shanterramcbride. If you liked this episode, I know you’ll be excited about our future guests. So go on over to iTunes or our website and hit subscribe. I would love it if you would also leave a review as I’m excited to hear what you think. Thanks again friends, I’ll see ya soon.

Balance doesn’t exist, but you can still be a business owner and a mom, with photographer Rae Barnes

Susan talks with Rae Barnes, owner of Rae Barnes Photography.  Rae is not only a professional photographer, but she is also a mother of four.  Rae shares that she wanted to be both a mom and a business owner and they discuss how she does her best to balance both.  


Susan Long:        Friends, today I’m talking with Rae Barnes, owner of Rae Barnes, photography. Rae and I met in college and for as long as I’ve known her, she’s been an incredibly talented artist. We talk about everything from owning your own business, being a mom, balance and boundaries. I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to talk with her and I hope our conversation gives you the same boost that it gave me. Here’s Rae.

Susan Long:        Good morning, Rae. How are you?

Rae Barnes:        I’m doing well. How are you, Susan?

Susan Long:        I am great and I am so excited to have you here with us today.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah, I’m excited to be here too.

Susan Long:        Friends Rae and I met in college. I was very thankful and very lucky that she transferred schools and she transferred to my school. She is a photographer and I think in a little bit of an unusual way. She has been a photographer since the beginning of her career, meaning unlike a lot of us who have transferred our skills around and found other things. Rae started out here, so friends, I’m just going to let Rae kind of take it from here and I’m going to let you run with it Rae. Tell us how you got started, how you knew that’s what you wanted to do. If you knew that’s what you wanted to do. Just let’s start at the beginning.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah. So my journey is rather interesting. So when I was at Converse College with you, um, I really thought that I was going to either go into advertising or teach photography on the college level because both of those things were practical and I like to think of myself as a practical person. So I graduated and started pursuing advertising. Interning with the firm. And not long into it I got a call from the dean of the art department, at Converse College saying someone was looking for a student to photograph their wedding. And of course I always loved photography and I had studied it and pursued it, but wedding photography was always seen as the bottom of the barrel for artists at least at that time. But you know, being a recent graduate, I thought, what the heck, I’ll make a little extra money. So I photographed my first wedding straight out of college and I loved it. It took me about a year and a half to go full time. So I did have a couple different jobs in there. I also got engaged and married and moved to two different states in that year and a half before I went full time. But um, yeah, it was kind of wild road that has taken a lot of turns, but I can say that I have been a professional photographer since I graduated college.

Susan Long:        I did not realize that wedding photography was seen as the bottom of the barrel and we don’t have to go down that rabbit trail, but I find that fascinating considering how much wedding photographers charge.

Rae Barnes:        Well, so it’s not seen that way anymore. At all. In fact, I was talking with someone yesterday and they assume that if you are making your living as a photographer then you must be doing weddings and I do not do weddings anymore. Uh, I did that for eight years and I’ve been done for five. So.

Susan Long:        So talk a little bit about that. How did that transition happen and what took you down this same career? Kind of, but a little bit of a twist.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah.  So several things happened. So I was very passionate about wedding photography. I loved it when I first started my career when my husband and I had just gotten married. We were in the Adirondack Mountains of New York and it was a destination wedding market. The locals couldn’t necessarily afford photography, but all of the people coming in that were having their weddings there were spending a lot of money and they could afford photography. So that was my market and it was great. It was really great for that stage in my life, um, for being a newlywed. I was very passionate about it. And then in 2009 I had a baby.

Rae Barnes:        My last year before I became a mother was a crazy year. I probably worked 50 hours most weeks, sometimes closer to 60, I had someone on staff, I had a studio space, it was a six figure business it was crazy. It was really intense.

Susan Long:        You were living the dream

Rae Barnes:        Sort of. Accept I was exhausted. So then I had a baby and I was not prepared for how much that changed me and my life and my outlook on how I spent my time and working even 40 hours was no longer an option. So I cut back dramatically, and then my husband got a job in Philadelphia, so we moved in 2010 from that tiny little market where I was big fish in a little pond. Had the corner of the market was booking out a year and a half in advance to this huge city where there were tons of photographers. So, so, you know, to make a long story short, it took me about two years and two more pregnancies to decide that I could no longer do weddings  and part of it was just because of the market. It was very different client in the city than it was in the mountains, obviously and part of it was just our life.  I didn’t want to be on my feet for 10 to 12 hours so it was just a natural progression to move towards family photography and so that is a hundred percent of my income comes from family portraits. So you know, it was quite a rollercoaster making that adjustment. 2013 was a really slow year as I transitioned away from weddings into families but that was when our third child was born and I needed to be slow. So it worked out kind of a roller coaster and it worked out. I back up to a six figure business, but I only work 24 hours a week. So that’s amazing.

Susan Long:        Yes, it is. Holy Cow. And you’re not exhausted. Well, maybe you are now because you have four children.

Rae Barnes:        Now I have 4 children. No, but it’s a much healthier balance for me. It’s much healthier being balanced, having family time and it was time.

Susan Long:        and I love that you have found a way to do that and also have not only a successful business but I would imagine have something for yourself that’s outside, ya know, the “Momming”  thing.  Which I love “Momming” too, but I love having something outside myself outside of all of that just kind of for me. And it helps when you can make a little money doing it.

Rae Barnes:        Absolutely. Yeah, so even the years when I was pregnant and nursing and doing all of those Mom things, I never let my business go and part of that I think just is rooted from me being stubborn, but part of it is also because I have some very loyal clients and I just could not imagine letting them go and I also couldn’t imagine not having that outlet, not having that creative outlet. There are some amazing photographers out there that when they become moms seem to start focusing on photographing their own children and I just don’t find the same contentment there that I do in running a business. I want to run a business and I’ve always enjoyed that, so it’s always been a good thing for me even it was very part time.

Susan Long:        Well talk a little bit about that. Talk to us. Obviously you’re very passionate about your business and being a mother. How do you, I guess, how do you make that work?

Rae Barnes:        Yeah, so I think it’s taken me a long time to figure it out. My oldest daughter is 9 now and I feel like I’m finally getting to the point where I have a really great balance, so it’s taken me quite a bit of time, but honestly it just comes down to boundaries. I have an office in my home and I close the door when I’m in here, and even if I have a nanny here that’s watching the kids in the summer, that door’s closed sometimes its locked if I’m on the phone. I have very clear boundaries of this is work time and then this is family time. Um, I don’t check my emails. I don’t usually make phone calls. I, I very rarely make exceptions for certain appointments outside of those hours. Now I do all of my sessions on the weekend typically, but I’m never away from my family for more than three hours. Um, and so I think that that has really been the key to keeping us all kind of happy is having those boundaries.

Susan Long:        Absolutely. And something, I’ll interject something here just a little bit because I know there’s a woman out there saying, well I have nowhere in my house. I don’t have a spare room for an office. Friends in launching this podcast. My family is also building a house, so we’ve got a lot going on and we’re currently in a rental home that has no extra bedrooms. We are using them all and so I have taken a very small closet. It’s actually a closet in our house and I have a very, very small desk and a little like wall shelf and a few things set up on those. So if you really want to find an office, you can make one in your home.

Rae Barnes:        So for 5 years I worked off of a laptop. I did not have an office because where my current office is used to be the nursery.  So I had a laptop and I would either hide in the basement, which is very dark and cold. Um, or I would go to Starbucks or the library or anywhere where I can find quiet. I, yeah, you just do what you have to do you. And I worked, you know, slower years. I worked during nap times, I worked after the kids went to bed. I didn’t have as clear cut bundaries as I do now because I was first and foremost mom during the daylight hours.

Susan Long:        Sure.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah. That was challenging. I wouldn’t trade that time for the world, but I also wouldn’t go back to that time for the world. It was hard.  Yeah. You just kind of, just make due with what you have, that’s for sure.

Susan Long:        So clearly you have set yourself up for success. You’ve done it over the years, but how do you define that for yourself?

Rae Barnes:        So, um, success for me is a really interesting thing to think about, because I don’t view success as a destination rather a journey. I really, I personally feel my success is a balance of contentment and discomfort. So the contentment is contentment with all the accomplishments I’ve had, all the wins that I’ve had, seeing how far I’ve come, but no comfort in staying there. I don’t find comfort in staying there. Um, success is something I hope that I never just sit here and think, OK, I’ve made it. I’m successful now. I can just coast because I think that’s really dangerous place to be. I think complacency is a very dangerous spot to be, especially as a business owner, a small business owner, entrepreneur, anything you’re in, especially creative fields. Things are constantly changing. So there’s no time to coast.

Susan Long:        Sure.

Rae Barnes:        So its just a delicate balance to me of being content with what I’ve done, but not content enough to stay there.

Susan Long:        Well, in that same vein then, how do you motivate yourself and how are you, I guess your best cheerleader? Like how do you, what is it that keeps you going?

Rae Barnes:        Yeah, so I think it just comes down to my why, Why? If I’m ever feeling like I’m lacking motivation, I have to look at why that either the two levels of why, why am I lacking motivation? Um, is it because I’m doing a task that needs to be eliminated or delegated or renovated. Is it some task that would be better outsourced?

Susan Long:        Yeah.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah, I’m really big on outsourcing. I couldn’t do it in 24 hours a week. Um, I couldn’t do it all, but I have a team of people that I outsource certain things to. But there are certain tasks that just don’t need to be done. And then there are certain tasks that you kind of have to power through it, you know, you do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do and you just kind of push through those things and you know, then the other level is the why is why am I doing this, you know, thinking about I only want to work a 24 hour week right now because my youngest is two and my next youngest is about to go to kindergarten and I want time with them.

Susan Long:        Absolutely.

Rae Barnes:        You know, even if it’s just two days a week I take off and I want to be there to take my kids to school and pick them up. Um, so, you know, it’s job that I love, I really love what I do. I love working with families. I love helping them create wonderful pieces for their home, but at the end of the day it is a job. It’s very fulfilling, but my family is the most important thing to me and so my time away from them needs to be spent wisely and I need to be efficient and you know, pursuing the things that are going to advance my business and make money so that I can provide for my family really, you know, those are the two things that keep me motivated,  keep me stepping forward.

Susan Long:        So you have these, do you have any fun tips or tricks or books you’ve read or blogs you’ve read or podcasts you’ve listened to that have helped develop that side of yourself to know?

Rae Barnes:        Yeah, so I think, that for me, there’s no one thing that I pursue a lot of things. So I read or listened to books. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I am part of a photographer’s mastermind group that is full of education. I’m full of different business organizations and so I pursue education constantly and I think that that helps keep me going. All of those pieces of never stop, never stop learning, never stop listening because even if I’m listening to a podcast with somebody who, you know, it’s in a completely different industry from me, I still can learn so much about how to better my business through other people. So I can’t say that there’s one thing. You know, one of my favorite books I’ve read recently was by, Jeff Goins, Real Artists Don’t Starve.

Susan Long:        Oh yeah.

Rae Barnes:        That was really, really a great read, especially as a creative entrepreneur because so often, you know, we have this concept of the starving artists. And he says, you need money to make art.  Which is very true. My latest camera cost me over $5,000. So if I weren’t charging appropriately for my work I wouldn’t be able to afford my equipment or my computer or I wouldn’t be able to run a business if I didn’t charge appropriately. So that was really a great great book for me. But like I said, there’s so many different sources that I just every day am being fed by somebody different usually

Susan Long:        That’s, that’s really fascinating. I love that and think, I mean, you’re not charging your clients, you know, $5,000 for one photo. So they saved a lot of money right there.

Rae Barnes:        Although I do often have clients that spend that much, but it’s not on one photo.

Susan Long:        Exactly. But they didn’t have to go out and buy the camera. Oh yes. We’ve done a few. We’ve done a few family photo sessions at this point. I am well aware of what they cost, but I’m also very excited when I get the results. So it’s worth it every time. And I know you’ve talked about doing traveling stuff in the past. I don’t know, you still, we still have not been able to get our families together for any kind of photography or just anything because I’m never on the east coast. Um, or if I am, I’m never out of the state of South Carolina, but one day, one day Rae you will photograph my family. I am bound and determined to make this happen. I love your work. I love your work. We’ve talked a lot about family, we’ve talked a lot about your work, but let’s pull back a little bit and talk about yourself because I hear you giving, giving, giving a lot to your clients, a lot to your business, a lot to your family. How do you take care of yourself? How do you put it down?

Rae Barnes:        Yeah. So, um, I can’t say that I’ve mastered this.

Susan Long:        No one has.

Rae Barnes:        But as Moms, it is something that all of us struggle with. It’s so interesting because I’m an introvert and I work alone most of the time. Every once in a while I have my assistant in the office with me that most of the time.  And often that recharges me being alone, you know, but I do have a job that can be intense and stressful. You know, running a business is not easy. And so I think for me it’s really making sure that I do get alone time. That is not stressful. Taking time to be unplugged, I really try to leave my phone at home, we go to church on Sundays, and it kinda annoys my husband, but I leave my phone at home so can’t text me an tell me where he is in the church somewhere in the church.

Rae Barnes:        But I just love to leave that behind and stop looking at whatever I was looking at,  you know, exercising, going to yoga is, is always really great for me. I love being outside, you know, every season it’s just a little bit different what I do to recharge.  It’s really easy as an introvert to live in a vaccum, but we can’t do that. Even just going out with my girlfriends or one girlfriend meeting up, going out with my husband. We try to do regular date night. Thats just so critical for us because our dinner table is so loud.

Susan Long:        I can imagine

Rae Barnes:        I mean date nights are sometimes the only time we get to talk to each other. Like, oh, what are you doing, what are you doing at work these days? But it really is so important to seek out ways to be recharged. Because you get burnt out easily, otherwise.

Susan Long:        Absolutely and I love that you brought up making time for your spouse because especially working and working late hours, getting this thing off the ground like I have been doing. We have seriously had to make an effort and having a toddler, a three and a half year old. We’ve had to make time for each other that we haven’t had to do in a long time and I don’t know that we ever had to do it like this and finding that, making that happen has been very, very, very important. So I’m glad you brought that up.

Rae Barnes:        It’s so important to be intentional with your time. I think that balancing a business with the mom life has really forced me to be intentional and efficient with my time and I don’t mean efficient when I’m with my children.  Sometimes you just need to sit there and be there.  Or playing Chutes and Ladders. Candyland. Monopoly.

Susan Long:        Yeah. We haven’t gotten to that Monopoly stage yet. I’m not looking forward to that part.

Rae Barnes:        Monopoly Junior is a good start.

Susan Long:        Oh, that’s right. There’s a junior that that would be easier. I know many of our listeners have heard you talk today. They’ve heard our conversation and they realize that they can do this. They’ve had this dream in the back of their head. Whatever that dream is, whatever that goal is and whatever about our conversation today made them think maybe. Maybe I can do that. So what action step, because we can talk all day long and talking is great, but until you take that leap, there’s no action. So what is that action step that maybe you would advise a friend to? What would be that next step that they would want, that you would suggest they take if they are looking to do something on their own outside the box? Just starting maybe from scratch?

Rae Barnes:        Yeah.  So there’s, um, I haven’t read this book yet, but I’ve heard people say this, the title of this book over and over again, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.

Susan Long:        I know exactly what you’re talking about. I haven’t read it either.

Rae Barnes:        I need to read that.  It should be my next Audible. Sometimes I just have to listen,  but um, I love that thing.  Feel the fear and do it anyway because just about every step that I take in my business that makes my business better is scary. It’s scary,  but there’s always that fear that nobody’s going to come back to mewhen I make this change. Nobody’s gunna like this. You just have to kind of push through that and do it anyway. But like I was saying before, you can’t live in a vacuum, so I firmly believe in seeking out mentors, a mentor or an accountability group, or any  kind of source you can find that’s really going to help feed you the courage to do this, but do it thoughtfully and intentionally doing research and then just take that first step, you know, you will find that community that you need to help encourage you to do it. But then just do it. Feel that fear and let it fuel you and just take that first step and you know, it’s not, it’s not a cakewalk doing something that is challenging obviously, but it’s absolutely worth it to do that, to pursue these challenging things because when you do succeed, it’s just, there’s, the payoff is so great, you know, and I wouldn’t trade where I, am right now for the world, I am just so thankful for all challenges I’ve been through. The hards times that I’be been through. There have definitely been some really hard times. Running a business. Being a mom. You know, there’s always challenges, life isn’t easy, but anything worth pursuing isn’t going to be easy. Right?

Susan Long:        No, not at all right. Well Rae, do you have anything else you want to share with us before we close today? Is there anything that I missed?

Rae Barnes:        I was thinking about one thing. If I’m speaking to anyone who is in those beginning stages of building a business or you know, becoming something new sometimes we all struggle with that confidence to take that step. And I was thinking about this and I know we mentioned, we’ve talked about this before Susan, this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I  think culture right now. We really struggle with comparison that it is just like this virus this disease and it’s just come over all of us because we have social media that is constantly showing us how great everybody else’s life is.

Susan Long:        Yes.

Rae Barnes:        Yeah.  It’s easy to get sucked into that. And uh, I would challenge anyone to just step away from it.  Social media is, is it necessary evil. But you are looking at everybody’s highlight reel and nobody has it put together. Nobody has it perfect. Nobody’s living the dream 100% of the time. Life is messy. I just wanted to throw that out there to just, to not be in a comparison game of comparing yourself to where other people are, you know, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. There’s no such thing as someone going from zero to 100 overnight. That’s my closing thought.

Susan Long:        That is a fantastic closing thought and I really appreciate you being here today.

Rae Barnes:        Thank you.

Susan Long:        That was fantastic. Yes, absolutely. We will have to have you back at some point, but thank you again and we will talk soon.

Susan Long:        Wasn’t that fun? I have so many takeaways from this conversation. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” What a great quote from Theodore Roosevelt. I’m tucking that one away. Friends, thanks again for joining us. If you liked this episode, I know you will be excited about our future guests, so go on over to itunes or our website and hit subscribe. I would love it if you would also leave a review as I’m excited to hear what you think. Also on our website, you’ll be able to find the links to the things we mentioned in the show as well as Rae’s website, and social media info on Instagram at Rae Barnes photo and on Facebook at Rae Barnes Photography. Thanks again friends, I’ll see ya soon.


An adoptive mother with questions became a nonprofit founder with answers, with Anna Caudill

Susan interviews the founder and executive director of Post Adoption Learning Services (PALS), Anna Caudill.  Anna shares that forming PALS was not something she wanted to do, but felt had to be done in order to help other families dealing with international adoption.  Anna and Susan discuss the importance of surrounding yourself with a talented circle and team of support and that you don’t have to do it alone.  You are not going to want to miss this episode.  


Susan Long:                        Friends, I’m so excited to share the conversation I had with today’s guest.  Y’all are just going to love her, not only his aunt and my cousin, she is the founder and executive director of Post Adoption Learning Services or PALS. She is a true warrior for families with internationally adopted children and specifically for those with disabilities. We talk about everything from adoption to motherhood, to starting a non-profit. She has an incredibly amazing and empowering story. So without further ado, here’s.

Susan Long:                        Hey Anna. Good morning. How are you?

Anna Caudill:                      I’m good. How are you?

Susan Long:                        I’m doing well. I am so excited to have you on our podcast this morning. Friends, this is my cousin, Anna and she is the founder of Post Adoption Learning Services and I’m just going to let you take it from here and I want to know all about it. Um, tell us a little bit about the organization and how it came, how its mission came about.

Anna Caudill:                      OK, thanks. And thank you so much, Susan, for, for asking me to be a part of this. I’m really excited about this and I think what you’re doing is incredible.

Susan Long:                        Aw thanks!

Anna Caudill:                      Post Adoption Learning Services or PALS, I put it together to support the unique learning, and behavioral needs, um, that children who have been adopted internationally have. And so we do that by providing resources and training, and sometimes even direct advocacy services for families of children who have been adopted internationally and then for the professional community that supports them, whether that’s um, special education advocates and attorneys, social workers, adoption professionals, um, church-based ministry groups that support adoption and other peripheral adoption related groups. Um, PALS kind of grew out of my family’s experience, um, with my children and public education. And I know that as hard as it was when I was going through that and as lonely as that felt, I knew I couldn’t be the only parent who was facing the challenge of helping my child learn at school. And I figured if I was going to have to fight for education for him, um, as uncomfortable as that made me. And as much as that interfered with my ability to have a career or doing anything else, that I was going to help as many people as I could along the way.

Susan Long:                        I absolutely love that. That is a hard thing to do, to give up everything. I mean obviously you were going to do any mother would give up anything in the world for their child, but to take everybody else under your wing, Anna, that’s. That’s a lot.

Anna Caudill:                      Well, it kind of like when you get up from the table and you look around and you think, gosh, does anybody else needs something else to drink? Right, and maybe there’s an overdeveloped sense of motherhood there, but it was so much work and it was such an uphill battle to decide to take the next step at each step along the way from finding an advocate when my child needed one, to finding a special education attorney to any of those steps that I thought, Gosh, how many people don’t do this just because the mountain’s too hard to climb? If I’m going to have to climb up the mountain by cracky, we’re going to go to whoever’s office and bug whoever we can.  In addition. So that nobody else has to do this.

Susan Long:                        That is just phenomenal to have the foresight to do that. I just would not have even known where to start. How did you do that? Like you knew there was an issue, you saw a problem. How did you, how did you, how did you know what next steps to take? How did you, I mean, at the end of this you had a whole non-profit created, so take us back a little bit. Like what did that, what did that look like in the formulating of all of this? Had you ever done anything like this before?

Anna Caudill:                      The funny thing is I didn’t want to start a non-profit at all. To me that felt really presumptuous. It did. I thought, Gosh, who do I think I am?  I’m not starting a non-profit. And the funny thing was I, in working from home as, as we switched our plans, realizing that we were going to need to homeschool my older son, Fu for at least a season. I was trying to look at writing for magazines or writing for a publication and everything that you see or all the advice that you hear is write about what you know, your niche area and so as an artist I was working on identifying my niche areas in teaching. And then, um, then when this happened and I had to focus on this, I realized, you know, there’s, there’s this area and I have this expertise because I’ve had to learn about special education and I’ve had to really dig into law, which I didn’t anything about in order to learn how that whole conversation works when you’re trying to, um, defend your position and defend why you’re trying to ask for basic services that the paperwork that the school gives you says your child was supposed to have. So, um, you know, I started talking on social media. I post every now and then on Facebook without naming teachers without naming the school on what we were facing. And then my sister in law was reading it and she works for a human rights organization in Russia and she and my brother started saying you really need to start a non-profit and I would laugh at them every single time.  Yeah. And it got to where Craig was telling me every day just about if I got anything from him on Facebook, it was, hey, you need to start a non-profit. How’s that coming along? I have some people you could talk to. And so I just kinda shut him down, but then I started getting all of these messages by email and through social media from parents who were in the same boat. And it wasn’t just people in Tennessee, it wasn’t just people who go to church with me or who I see at um, my younger son, YoYo’s school it was people in Oklahoma and Minnesota and Massachusetts, California, South Carolina, Missouri. People that I had never met who found me because of a friend of a friend. And they would say, oh my gosh, this is exactly what we’re going through. What are you doing and what’s working. We thought we were the only ones.

Susan Long:                        So once you started sharing your story, you realized you weren’t alone.

Anna Caudill:                      I did. And um, it was really profound in that I drew actually a lot of energy from that in a way. In terms of moving forward and the point at which I thought, oh my gosh, I really am going to have to start an NGO was when I found a piece of obscure writing that was attached to the 2004 congressional reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. The IDEA. And that’s the structure that organizes special education in public schools and that’s what creates the IEP, the Individualized Education Plan that, um, lots of parents know about, um, and how meetings and things are set up. But this piece of writing talked about special considerations for kids adopted internationally and it was the kind of thing that showed legislative intent, like when Congress crafted these special education supports here’s, some of what was in their head while they were thinking about students adopted internationally and some of the things that people had brought before them. Um, they had that in mind in some of the changes. But that population didn’t make it into it, into the statutes. Right? So none of that actually became law. It was just, hey, here’s why we wrote the law this way.  And when you saw their explanation it kinda changed everything. And so I, you know, I thought, oh my gosh, this is a really important piece of information and this makes all the difference in the world. And, and by that time I was spending about twelve hours a week answering questions from parents, cause I couldn’t not answer an email from somebody who, you know, who might say, my kid is in 10th grade, and now he is reading on a 2nd grade level, and now he started to act out aggressively because he can’t communicate, his needs aren’t being met and we don’t know what to do.

Susan Long:                        And so at that point, no, no, go ahead, sorry.

Anna Caudill:                      Yeah. Oh No, you’re good. Or I have six children and I have no idea where to start. There’s no way I can homeschool all of them.

Susan Long:                        Yeah. So at that point, was it just your personal email that you were still replying from or had the, had you kind of started the non-profit wave yet?

Anna Caudill:                      At that point I was replying from my personal email and from my personal Facebook account, and this is where my husband gets all the credit because he’s such an incredible partner. He kept saying, you know, let me know what I can do, what I’m going to, what I can do. And I couldn’t identify what he could do cause I had no idea where to start.

Susan Long:                        Sure.

Anna Caudill:                      So he said you keep working on the thing that you’re doing well and I’ll find out what I can about this. And so, um, he started making calls and he learned how to start a nonprofit in Tennessee and the steps that needed to be taken for that. And so he’d come home from work and I would be buried on the computer or I would be at a class. And so he got dinner together for the kids so I could study and once they got into bed, we’d sort of wrangle the organizational pieces of putting a non-profit together and starting PALS. And we brainstormed a list of board members and he did the asking and the reaching out to them and just spent so much time on the administrative start up needs, so that I could focus on sort of the professional development that I needed to formalize what I was already doing, what I was already spending so much time doing and what I already knew about. And um, and that allowed me to to complete special education advocacy training  at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, and with the Council for Parent Attorneys and Advocates and the specialized seminars on the behavioral needs of children from trauma backgrounds, children who are adopted domestically or internationally or who had been in foster care. Um, and because it was that sort of partnership we were able to, a year ago, get our 501C3 approval from the IRS. And back in 2015 when I first thought, oh my gosh, this is what I’m going to have to do. I can’t fight this anymore. That idea of getting non-profit status seemed like such an impossible hill to climb. It seemed like this impossible mountain. And now that it’s been a year since we got that, I feel like, oh my gosh, we really are just starting. Sometimes its good when you can’t see around the bend in the road because you’d go there is just no way! I think I had to learn to be a little bit forgiving with myself and not have everything laid out in a five year plan when I first started. I mean, I know that, you know, banks or funders or grant makers, they’ll ask you to do those things. Where do you see yourself in five years and you know, you go ahead and you give your best stab at it, but really you don’t really know.  It’s all performance theater.

Susan Long:                        Sure.  Because you don’t know what you don’t know

Anna Caudill:                      You don’t. And because of that, I didn’t anticipate really. I didn’t know how to anticipate our momentum or how that would build or, or what success might look like. And we haven’t been an overnight success because the irony is, and I think this happens, you know, as I’ve seen this, I think this happens with other non-profits too or with other projects that people launch.  The irony is that once I decided to go for it, once I decided to do the thing that I thought needed to be done and to go forward with this vision, um, that was slowly taking place. The ironic thing was that the people that I had been responding to who had been asking me for help they stop emailing me and I was, it was because I kind of disappeared from social media there for a bit communication and from those communication places because I’m so immersed in training and so immersed in research and learning everything I could and even in some policy advocacy and learning how to do that. Learning how to approach legislators and having conversations, um, you know, on the political end of things to learn about policy and where barriers to policy can affect people. Um, and I didn’t expect that and there was a season where I thought that I had killed the thing that I had dreamed of doing, you know, by actually taking the steps to do it. But part of our momentum since then has come that didn’t expect has come from what my friend and writer David Dark calls messy coalitions. And I learned that I’m learning that pitching into a project that maybe seems peripheral to the larger goal of PALS ends up building alliances and relationships that you wouldn’t expect that can really inform your work later down the road or support your work. Because when you’re talking to say somebody in the legislature about paddling in public schools and you hear their position on it and they happen to tell you, oh yeah, we have, you know, my sister was adopted from Ghana, or you know, my, my wife has a disability, or you go into the legislator’s office and you realize oh my goodness, he’s a paraplegic. Then you have a different set of conversations and you know who you can go to, you know, to ask about issues and you can say, hey, how, how, how do you imagine we could more effectively support this community? And um, and along the way, the peer organization, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) I’ve learned so much because they do training sessions and breakout sessions. But then you have people who are attorneys who have argued before the supreme court saying, here’s why special education law is written this way and here’s how we explained this and here’s what worked. And so it helps you develop a cohesive structure to be able to support the families you want to support. And so now I’m finally coming back into the place where I’m actually getting three or four calls a week from folks and I have other organizations referring people to me because now at this point on this side of it, when you’re on, um, apparently the reputation of PALS is starting to spread to other organizations and I have to add that we wouldn’t have made it if it hadn’t been for board members being invested in adoption and civil rights and finding those people was really critical. And having my husband as a partner go, hey, I’m going to carry this part that is not your strong suit. And it really, yeah, people already knew because there were a lot of women in my community and you know, when you’re a teacher, you know, students who had gone through your school before, students who are going to your school now,  you know, their families. We all have wider circles of friends than we realize. And I looked to women who had done some things that I admired. And um, people who I just felt like I learned a lot from. And so I kind of looked at those folks with fresh eyes and thought, well, you know, Gosh, this woman did this and I wonder if she’d be interested in this. I wonder if that would feel like a good place for her to step into, to form and add her voice to, to this work. And one board member was adopted from Korea and originally when I approached her I was thinking about her experience in the non-profit world and with adoption related an adoption related agency that she had worked with and her incredible media skills because that I just a weak area for me and I thought if she could just explain some things to me that would be good. And then, um, as I thought about her, as I got ready to ask her, you know, cause she was a person that I asked everyone else Shane asked, as I got ready to ask her, I thought, gosh, that would be so helpful to have the voice of an adult who had been adopted as a child internationally inform this and bring me back from my mama mission perspective because it’s not wrong to have an agenda. It’s not wrong to have this thing that you need to do, but you’ve got to have some other people from perspectives along the way that might be adversely impacted if you just come barreling through without trying to understand multiple perspectives as you go. And um, another member had helped organize a symposium on AIDS in Africa back in 2003. Um, she worked for a publishing group in Nashville and uh, she and a friend had collected some assays and then that led to this symposium on AIDS in Africa. And then that became part of the back story of Bono’s ONE Campaign back then and AIDS in Africa and the Gates getting involved and international adoption is a part of her family’s path. Another board member  works for an adoption support organization now and another works in housing equity. So there’s, there’s all those people with all that experience who were in, in my circle and they’re not folks that I was necessarily talking to every day and they’re not folks that I am talking to every day now or even running into every day. But they are those people who I knew who had those skills and those visions, that really meant a lot to me personally.

Susan Long:                        Well yeah, and I mean you had, you knew the people to reach out to and you surrounded yourself with this amazing team and one of the things that I love about it is that you were one of those people too and you didn’t know it yet. So how did you. I mean even the strongest of us have moments where we lack self confidence, but you were going into something so new, so I’ve never done this before. So how did you deal with that? How did you deal with the balance of sometimes I’m sure it was fake it til you make it, but on the inside, how did you really set yourself up with self confidence?

Anna Caudill:                      One of the things that I’ve always bristled against, I guess to some extent when I read any kind of how to do this or how to do that explanations sort of thing or or guide is this idea that it’s all about your goals and it’s all about your vision and it’s all about your mission and then you battle down through that. And I know my limits. I’ve probably made some of those clear already, but by looking to what other people were doing that, I saw, that, that I found helpful to any larger community and by looking to the people that I admired, then there was more of a sense of I knowing that I couldn’t do this by myself and knowing that there needed to be a team that could approach this together. And that I had this idea and I saw this piece of it, and who can I find that fit the other pieces of this and help me get my head around this? And, and so there was much more of a sense of an us approach and I think taking myself out of the equation as much as possible has helped because then, there are the day that I still need the self confidence boost, but it doesn’t all depend on me and if I have some dark days it’s not going to drag the whole organization down. But, by in large, I try not to take myself too seriously I try to laugh at myself a lot. And um, and you know how it is in our family, you’ve seen it since growing up. If we can laugh at something we do, so I’ve tried to make use of that. But um, my husband has always my biggest cheerleader and my voice.  I carry two things with me that are very important because they ground me and remind me, you know, that I’m not alone. That I don’t need to be afraid and that others have walked this road, and will walk this road.  And one of the things, and this is going to sound really odd, but one of the things is my grandmothers obituary and the other thing is a UVO card that belonged to my oldest son, Fuxia when he lived in China and my dad’s mother was such a strong woman. And on some level I know, I feel like I carry her story with me internally, everywhere. And I feel like sometimes there’s internal conversation that goes on between me and her and I go you just wouldn’t believe but, I guess the obituary is just an outward token of that, because it’s not like I open up my wallet and look at it. I guess it’s part of that I have that little token in my wallet. I reminded. She is with me wherever I go because she’s spoken into my life so meaningfully that she’s part of that. And it’s part of who I am.  And the UVO card, of all things, that was a gift from Fu. And he and YoYo were living in this, um, a medical foster home in Beijing and we went in 2008 to adopt YoYo and YoYo was 3 at the time and Fuxia was 7. And we didn’t know Fuxia at the time, hadn’t met him, didn’t know him before we went to China. And then when we went there we went to this foster home to sort of learn how to care for YoYo from a, from a medical perspective, because he had some pretty severe needs and this little guy kept following us around everywhere and he wanted attention all the time and he was so sweet and he was so adorable and that was Fuxia, and he was so bright.  And as we got ready to go, um, on the last day we were there, at this medical foster home, we prepared to go and we’re packing some of our things and we’re packing YoYo’s things. And he pulls us aside and he wanted us to go up to his room. And at the time he used a wheelchair for mobility, but his bedroom was on the second floor. So he pulled himself up the stairs by his elbows and took us to his room, and he pulled a little plastic bag out of his pillowcase and inside this bag were these five UVO cards and he handed us one. At first he handed us each one, and we said, how about we share one? So he wanted to give us that. And those were five things that are so precious to him that he hid them in his pillowcase, so that none of his other friends or none of the other children in the foster home could get those.  Those were his treasures.  That is all that he had that belonged to him as a human being.  And he shared that with us and how remarkable is that? That this little boy, would have that largeness of spirit. And so as we took that and we looked at that, he said, I love you but you do not come from me.  and we were crushed? So crushed? Because we did not. I mean we assumed we would never see him again. Because it’s not often that you can find a path back to a child in another country and so we were heartbroken as we went away with YoYo and for the next two years, I just carried that in my wallet and I looked at it every chance I got and I wondered what, what is he doing today? And at the end of two years when, at the end of the year, we started the adoption process and at the end of two years when we finally returned to China and when went to get him so much had happened in his little life and he was nine and he didn’t recognize that card anymore and he found it in my purse. We were at this hotel, um, on the day that we went to the consulate to find our, finalize our adoption. And, um, he said, what is this? and I explained the story to him and I told him about how I thought about him every day and he said, and then you picked me. And his face was like sunshine and those two lives are a part of mine. And I can’t lack self confidence when I remember and carry with me those reminders that I’m part of the journey that started long before my grandmother and it’s going to continue long after my son and so this is not all about me and this little moment.

Susan Long:                        Oh, Anna. Tears are in my eyes. Like that is just the most precious story. And who knew that it would take you down this road? I mean, there’s no way you knew back then. This is where this would lead you. And I just, Oh, the whole story is just fascinating and I love every bit of it. Um, I want to, um I want to switch gears just a little bit as I dry my eyes and every listener who finds this dries their eyes.

Anna Caudill:                      Everybody take a moment. Take a sip of your tea.

Susan Long:                        Right? So tell us, um, as we come to the end of our time together and I, we are going to have to have you back because this is just, I want to know, you know, I want to know how this is going. I want to keep up with this, but tell us, tell us how you recharge your batteries, because I know you’re going, going, going with this all the time. How do you, especially when it’s your children, how do you put it down?

Anna Caudill:                      Well, you know, it’s really hard to draw some boundaries and Shane has been really supportive in that too. Going hey, make sure you get some sleep tonight. But you know, there’s so many moms, right? Who, who do the business of “momming”  whatever that looks like for them.

Susan Long:                        Well this is “momming” on steroids.

Anna Caudill:                      Right. And then, at night, there’s the chance to learn when things have quieted when you have space there’s that chance to learn. For my mom, night was when she said sewed. And so to bring extra income into the house was sewing projects at night. But um, you know, so because of that I, I’m, I sleep late when I can and I allow myself that indulgence that I think a lot of folks probably don’t because they think there’s always going to be more stuff to do. So if I find a day when I can sleep a couple hours late I do it. I putter with gardening, I like keeping chickens, like raising chickens, that sounded weird for a second.

Susan Long:                        No, all us Paw Patrol moms just presumed you had a purse chicken and you probably don’t get that joke.

Anna Caudill:                      That’s a hilarious concept actually. But we also have some friends in Charleston that we met through adoption and they’ve got kiddos the same age as our kiddos and we get together with them every June for a week or sometimes more. That is so grounding and so refreshing and it kind of reminds us of being human. Cause, sometimes you have to have those reminders like that, right? And I’ve also found a surprising source of restoration going with my mom on quilting retreats.

Susan Long:                        I love that.

Anna Caudill:                      I know that sounds so weird. And I would’ve thought, I would’ve laughed 10 years ago cause I would have thought oh my gosh that’s the fudydudiest thing. But, I go with her on these quilting retreats and we sew for like three or four days straight. All we do is sew and gossip and eat chocolate.

Susan Long:                        That sounds like heaven.

Anna Caudill:                      Fabulous. It’s great. And there’s all these women there, and sometimes, the more I listen, the more outrageous stuff I hear. And it’s great.

Susan Long:                        I love that. I love every little bit about that. OK. One last question before we end. And that’s, you know, I know there are women who are listening to this who have something in the back of their mind, either they’ve always wanted to do and they haven’t jumped out there and done it or they’re finally like whatever about this podcast or something else that happened to them today. They’re, and after listening to you, they’re like, OK, this is my time and I need to do this, whatever this is. Um, I like action, you know, we have all these great ideas, but we don’t, nothing happens unless we take that action step. So if you could nudge somebody, if you could give that woman out there today who heard you an action step, what would that be?

Anna Caudill:                      The biggest thing that I can tell you, and I know that I’m spoiled to have a husband who is so supportive and empowering, but I really believe, that if you get quiet and you look around and you, at least for a season, get quiet that so many of us have what we need around us and in us and we just haven’t woken up to it yet. And so if I, you know, when I got overwhelmed at the beginning, that seemed so presumptuous to start a non-profit, I would sometimes climb into the van in the driveway cause it was the only quiet space.  I would sit there with my hot tea, you know, sheltered from the world and I would go. OK, all right. We can do this? So if you know that getting quiet and that, looking within that space to find what was already there in my life, other things that I already knew that I might otherwise overlook, that was so invaluable because that’s how we found board members. That’s how we became open to the idea of, you know, stepping into some other projects that otherwise wouldn’t have fit with a three year plan. Look to the people in your life that you want to learn from or those who have done something you admire and purpose to sit down with them for lunch or for coffee and seek their wisdom. And if you can’t go back to school full time, because I couldn’t. I had to choose between financing motherhood and financing Grad School. And I financed motherhood. And so now I have neither the time or money to go back to grad school. But, I can find ways to finance a one day seminar or I can apply for a scholarship to this professional organizations conference. So those little places and those creative ways of tackling those give you the tools that you need in smaller bites. And there’s times when you’ve got to break it down like that. In fact, when, when I went to the one-day seminar, um, that seemed like the biggest, it seemed like a baby step. It seemed insignificant. It was this one day seminar. It was six hours. It was with a special education attorney named Pete Wright, who had defended or successfully represented a student with special needs before the Supreme Court about 10, 15 years ago. Um, I hung around afterwards, you know, the way that um, people hang around after concerts. I hung around afterwards like a  geek at this attorney thing. And I asked him about that little piece of obscure writing that I mentioned earlier from, The IDEA, that referred to international adoptees. And he said, where did you find this? And I said, Oh, it was in this document. And it was actually in a larger document that he used in his court case. And um, he said that’s a great piece of research and I’ve held onto that like it was Easter candy cause it was so affirming.. That’s really helped me through some hard things. So find your Easter candy look around, look within, and find your Easter candy. You know, look at your own life and find the things that in retrospect, even if it was just one thing that prepared you for this moment, what was, who was there and what was that moment and for me it was when we didn’t expect that somebody had spoken to somebody else about us, and we got this call from Washington saying that we had been honored as Angels in Adoption and would we come up to this week long celebration. And at first I thought it was a prank because I was in the hospital with YoYo he was recovering from surgery and I thought, oh my gosh, who is teasing me and trying to get me to laugh while I’m in the hospital. And it turned out no, it was a very legitimate thing and an incredible organization that has a tremendous impact on adoption. And so we went up and we took part in this in, in Washington DC and when it was all over later, as I took that piece of, you know, congressional writing and I decided, which, you know, I took a risk and I thought, I’m traveling to DC and I’m going to ask some policy makers about this little piece of obscure writing. I’m going to find out from the source what’s behind this. Then, I was able to call some, I thought, well, why don’t I call some friends that I made during that week, of Angels in Adoption and maybe they can help me get my head around this and they taught me so much and they hosted me in their homes and they were women who had walked this road before and when I at the risk of asking that question and saying, Hey, I think this needs to happen is that if I think this is important and they had been helped by other women and they were so ready to share their, their gifts and their knowledge and any support that they could, you know, to help me take the next step. And that helped me be a lot bolder than I would otherwise because otherwise I’m the kid who would rather stay home and spin wool and read books and hold up in my own little shell.

Susan Long:                        Yes, and times are a changing sister friend and I don’t think we can. We can do that to recharge, but we can’t do that anymore. Can we?

Anna Caudill:                      Right. Yeah. I think living that way, I don’t know that it’s. I think at one point in my life I would’ve bought that as a luxury, I don’t know that I think of it as a luxury anymore because we don’t realize how much we minimize ourselves and allow ourselves to sort of fade into the wallpaper when we do that. And there might be seasons when you’re need to do that. And there might be. It might not be that you are the person who needs to start a nonprofit, but you might be really, really helpful on a board. I’ve had one former student call up and say, you know, I’m really great at organizational stuff. Could I help you start up a filing system to manage your stuff?

Susan Long:                        Shut the front door.

Anna Caudill:                      And I hadn’t even expressed that as a need. Not Anywhere

Susan Long:                        They can come to my house. Any day.

Anna Caudill:                      Right?! OK. So I have this organizational filing need in my coat closet. But no, I mean that there, there’s opportunities that are there and there’s people who want to be involved and it’s important to find yourself, you know, where can you be involved and where can you help?.

Susan Long:                        Yeah, absolutely. I’m sure there is so much more we could cover and I’m not kidding. You’re going to have to come back. Um, but tell us where we can find you on social media, how can we get involved in PALS if that is something we feel led to do?

Anna Caudill:                      Right now, we are online at We’re on Facebook at Post Adoption Learning Services and on Twitter we’re at, @postadoptlearn and um, right now I have more work that shows up on Facebook because that’s really accessible for me. We’re building the website and trying to built content. You know, thats one of those things that always takes time to formally write down the research that I’m doing but um, those are the three places.

Susan Long:                        Excellent, and we’ll link all of that on our website, um, once we publish this puppy so that, so that we can link back to you. So friends if you’re listening to this and you didn’t have a chance to write that down. Don’t feel bad, don’t feel like you have to go back and relisten. It will be on our website. Anna, thank you so much. So, so much for all you are doing for our kids. Um, we didn’t even get into it, but this just doesn’t, this what you’re doing does not just affect, um, international adoption or children with disabilities or international adoption, children with disabilities. On some level, this affects all our children and at the end of the day as a mom, I think that’s what a lot of us out there going to be fighting for is our kids. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I really appreciate it. Um, yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. All right, well thanks so much and we will talk to you next time.

Susan Long:                        All right. Thank you.

Susan Long:                        I wasn’t kidding, was I? Isn’t she just great? I find her story so inspiring and empowering. She continuously spurs me to action and I hope our conversation did just that for you. If you liked this episode, I know you will be excited about our future guests, so go on over to itunes or our website and hit subscribe. I would love it if you would also leave a review as I’m excited to hear what you think. Also on our website, you’ll be able to find the links to the things we mentioned in the show as well as PALS website and social media info. Thanks again friends. I’ll see ya soon.


Confidently leaving something safe and finding something even better, with Caytie Langford

In her first interview, Susan talks with executive coach, Caytie Langford.  Caytie shares her story of walking away from the executive role she always thought she wanted after realizing it wasn’t what she wanted at all.  They talk about defining yourself through your work and what that looks like when you do a complete 180.  They discuss everything from starting your own business and how scary that can be to the importance of self motivation, self care, and techniques to bolster self confidence. (Sara Blakely)


Susan Long:                        Hey everybody. Welcome to our second episode of how she got here. I am so excited about today’s show.  Today, I’m speaking with Caytie Langford. Caytie is an executive coach, although that is not where her career started and we will talk a little bit about that. We will touch on topics such as the importance of setting boundaries and self care. We will also talk about self confidence as well as inspiring and empowering other women and how in turn that inspires and empowers us. Welcome to the show.  I’m excited you’re here.

Susan Long:                        Good Morning Caytie. How are you?

Caytie Langford:               Good Morning Susan. I’m great. How are you?

Susan Long:                        I am doing well and I am so excited to have you here today and I cannot believe this is finally happening.

Caytie Langford:               I know. I’m so excited.

Susan Long:                        OK, so let’s just jump right in. Um, and tell us exactly what you do.

Caytie Langford:               Yes. I am an executive coach and I specialize in helping ambitious, savvy women who just aren’t satisfied in their career.

Susan Long:                        And full disclosure, I know you’re an executive coach because you’re, my executive coach.

Caytie Langford:               That is right.  Yeah. What I do is I help women figure out exactly what they want to get clarity on that and we’ve worked to move them from where they are to exactly where they want to go and so it has been such fun working with you on this big project that you are launching.

Susan Long:                        Yes, and I really, I could not do it without you, but I want to go back. I want to go back to maybe the beginning to where. How did you get here? What, what did that look like? Because this is not where you started. This isn’t even how we met.

Caytie Langford:               It’s not, it’s not. We met actually when I was in fundraising. I spent the first 13 years of my career out of college in major gifts fundraising in north Texas and I like so many women had a plan of where I wanted to go. I was on the ladder climbing it constantly and I knew that I wanted to be in an executive role and so I worked really hard to get there. Was chief development officer at an organization sitting in my corner office one day looking out the window and realized that what I had was absolutely not what I wanted, and so I took a huge leap of faith after coaching on my own, tears, thoughts, speaking with my husband, and so I actually walked away from that career entirely, and that was about three years ago will be three years in May, so I had a total journey change to be able to get where I am today.

Susan Long:                        And that was an easy change to make. Right?

Caytie Langford:               Oh Gosh. I would love for people to think that was an easy change to make, but it was absolutely the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life. I was completely wrapped up in my job, my career, my title. It was how I defined myself. It was how others define me in our community and it was everything to me. I, you know, I have I’m married but don’t have any kids, and my career was it.  It was the thing, but I realized that I couldn’t be miserable at what I was doing. I really wanted to love my work. I wanted to love my job and in the beginning I did love fundraising. It was phenomenal. It put me in places and I had the opportunity to meet with people and work with people that I never would have come across, but in the end I was just totally burnt out and I just knew it wasn’t the right thing for me anymore.

Susan Long:                        How did you find what that next right thing was? Did you just wake up one morning and go, I think I’m going to be an executive coach?

Caytie Langford:               No, I actually, my husband owns his own business.  I thought that we were going to work together. I actually convinced him to give me a title and I started working on some projects with him, but in the meantime I really wanted to figure out what I wanted to do and I will say when I left fundraising, I was very intentional about not going back to fundraising and the weird thing is is that my phone rang from recruiters and people that I knew for a year. People wanted to know if I was going to get back in fundraising and I knew that that was something I didn’t want to do. I knew that whatever it was I was going to work on my own and so I thought working with my husband on our own would be a good fit. It ended up not being a great fit just. yeah, we just, we. We work really well in life together, but perhaps not so great at every day working partners. So I spent six months. I was very fortunate enough to be able to take six months off and do a lot of soul searching and a lot of digging and I did this a lot through conversations with people, prayer, meditation. I napped a lot. I spent a lot of time with my girlfriends and actually it was one of my girlfriends who took me to dinner one evening and she said to me, she said, ever since I met you, we met a couple of years earlier on a girls trip. She said, ever since I met you, I felt that I was supposed to tell you this, but I never realized when was the good time, and she whips out these papers out of her purse and she says, I think you need to become a coach.  She herself was a weight loss coach and she said, I think that you’d be fantastic at this and I want you to look into this. And it’s funny because I had worked with multiple executive coaches up until that point and in fact my executive coach that I was working with at the time really ushered me through leaving my job and figuring out what to do next and so I’m sitting there with my friend Cynthia and I just went and bought the book that she suggested (Self Help Coaching 101 – Brooke Castillo). I started looking into things. I started being really intentional, thinking about it, meditating on it, praying about it, and it took a couple of months before I really figured out this is exactly what I wanted to do, but it didn’t happen overnight. It definitely wasn’t that quick, but it did happen and it happened with a lot of intentionality.

Susan Long:                        Tell me, and this is not something I asked you before, but tell me a little bit about getting that first client, the work that it took to get to that point.

Caytie Langford:               Sure. So when I first started, I actually did group coaching and it was pure faith on my part. It really was the opportunity for me to step out, be super scared try something and what I did is I put together a list of about eighty women that I knew and told them that I was going to be putting together this group coaching program.

Susan Long:                        And they all called you and wanted your business.

Caytie Langford:               Yes. Every single one of them called me.  No, I had about fourteen women who said yes and signed up and went through an eight week program with me and I learned a whole lot about myself, a whole lot about other people and I did it scared to death every single week. I kept showing up and thinking, these women are going to figure out that I have no idea what I’m doing. But what was awesome about it was there are people that went through that program with me two years ago who still talk about the impact that was made back then and how they look at life differently. So it gives me such excitement and I’m just, I’m just awe inspired by those folks. But I will tell you so that while also super scary getting a big group of people, really what I do as individual coaching. So getting my first individual client was even scarier. Um, luckily I have a really large network and I had proven myself in the past.  And so I say, Luckily Susan, you and I have talked about this so much. So many of us women, we don’t own our successes. We, we chalk it up to luck or someone else or some something outside of ourselves. And so I’ve really actually shouldn’t have used that word luck. What I had done was I had proven myself in the past, with this woman, she was going through a change. She was really wanting to ramp up her business. She, she owns her own book of business and so worked with her. But the only reason that she said yes, the only reason that she wanted to talk to me about it was because I had proven myself in the past and um, and she took a leap of faith with me and we had an amazing, um, eight month run together and helped her accomplish her goals. So that first one was super scary, but it’s always the first one that we do. The next one and the next one and the next one.

Susan Long:                        I’m sure you had total confidence in yourself that entire time. So tell me, tell me how did you, how did you, how are you your best cheerleader? Because I’m sure you even have these moments now, right? How do you motivate yourself?

Caytie Langford:               Yeah, absolutely. So the one thing that I have learned about owning my own business and stepping out, doing something for myself, I’m not working for someone else, is that it’s a roller coaster. And the best way to get ahold of it is to not ride the highs and lows of the roller coaster. But obviously we do. We, we totally do. We get sucked into. I can’t, it’s not possible for me. I’m not enough, I couldn’t possibly be the right person and so I have some techniques that I use with myself and I actually teach my clients the same thing because really no matter what kind of change you’re going through, it’s that competence piece that holds us back. And so I always liken it to driving a car. You know, think about this when you were 16, 15, 16. The first time you got in a car to drive it.  I know for me it was with my grandmother in the parking lot at a mall before the mall opened one morning and I was terrified. Ya know, here I am in charge of moving this 2000 pound vehicle. And when I think about that, I had to think, I really had to think about every single thing I did when I first started driving. Put Your seatbelt on, put it into gear drive. Actually, you know, and now you think about it, you get in your car every single day, you don’t think about it, right? There’s times when you get out of the car and you’re like, I don’t even remember where. What was I thinking about? Cause I sure wasn’t thinking about driving and so I think the same thing comes to self confidence is that we have to act even when we are scared, even when we are nervous. So one of the things that I do, I use my journal every single day.  I’m big on gratitude journaling. I think there’s a reason why Oprah suggested it to all of us because it works. I think there’s a reason why, you know, Shawn Achor is selling books about how to increase your happiness and why gratitude works because it works. And so I do that daily. I encourage my clients to do that, but then I take it a step further and I have in my office, you know, the giant sticky pad, sticky notes and I have a list of what I call badass stuff that I’ve done and I’ve written out thing that I’ve done that at one point in my life. I thought it was scary and it’s everything from, you know, buying my first house, getting married. The first time I fired someone, I remember that was terrifying for me.

Susan Long:                        wow.

Caytie Langford:               Yeah. I even have going snow skiing the first time I went snow skiing, I was almost 30 years old,  I’m not really a daredevil, but for me that list is something that I can look at every single day so that when I am having that self-doubt, when I am having that loss of confidence, I can look at that and it’s almost a litmus test to be able to say, OK, what is this in front of you that you’re scared of and how does it compare to all these other things that you’ve done? And nine times out of ten it’s not even as scary as any of the things that I’ve done in the past. And so I think a big part of confidence, a big part of self confidence is you have to take the first step. You actually have to move into action and when you move into action that’s, when you get more confidence, more competence, and it grows from there.

Susan Long:                        I’m beginning to understand this action part. You have been a huge, huge help with that even with myself and that is the number one jumping off, taking the leap. That is so the hardest part.

Caytie Langford:               It is. It is. My favorite quote is Martin Luther King Jr. When he says, “faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” And I think about it in terms of What you just said right this leap we think of, you know, the pictures that we see on Instagram or Facebook with, you know, the girl jumping off the cliff and it seems so big and so daunting. And yet I think when we look at what Martin Luther King Jr said it, when you say it’s just the first step, when you can’t see the whole staircase, it’s not as scary sometimes when you think, oh, ok, it’s just the baby step.  Action. Absolutely.

Susan Long:                        I’ve listened to a Ted Talk recently by an author who wrote a book and I, for the life of me, I can see the cover and I cannot see the title of the book right now, (I’m Judging You The Do Better Manual) but her name is Luvvie and her Ted Talk. She talks about the same thing. She calls it like she talks about the domino effect and I think Mother Teresa even relates it to a ripple effect, you know, and it’s like you throw the first stone or somebody has to be the first domino to fall and then everybody else starts coming with you. And I think we’re seeing that now. I think we’re seeing that now with women.

Caytie Langford:               Absolutely. I think it’s an interesting time to be a woman for sure. I think that, what our grandmothers and great grandmothers lived through, you know, a hundred years ago or even less, you know, 50, 60 years ago. We definitely are in different time and yet we still have challenges. We absolutely do. And what I love about women is that we can create these communities, these tribes, if you will, of women who support each other, who can lift each other up. And I know that that’s one of the things that you want to accomplish and you want to make sure happens through this podcast, is that I think that when we are our best is when we are all helping each other get to where we want to go. I find it also super fascinating that by me taking a step in faith by me taking this leap to leave my career, how the ripple effect has. I’ve seen it, I see it every single day. There are people who work with me because I took that step and they think, ok, maybe it’ll rub off on them. Maybe I can teach them something and the reality is maybe I can teach them something and maybe it will rub off on them, but I think we also get confidence by seeing other people succeed, by seeing other people be brave. It teaches us that we can dig deep and be brave amongst ourselves as well and within ourself.

Susan Long:                        And I just love that this is your thing.  That this is your career, this is what you are helping women do every day is you are helping them take whatever that next step is and I love that.

Caytie Langford:               Yeah, I do too, Susan. I mean I. I got off the phone about 45 minutes ago with a client and almost every single time I get off the phone with a client I say, oh my gosh, I love what I do and I love helping them figure out what’s next and how to uncover what the next action item is.  I also really like helping them face their fears head because we all have them.  You were talking about self confidence. I am in the middle of a huge project that I don’t feel qualified for that I don’t  think I’m the right person for, but it’s something that I feel called to do and so I’m doing it, but earlier this week, I mean I was just wallowing in self doubt and self confidence. I just, I just thought, oh goodness, why me? I can’t do this. And being with my clients and helping them actually helps me because I see how brave they are and I can sometimes I steal some of their braveness. Absolutely.

Susan Long:                        Yeah, for sure. I think the more we can feed off each other the better, but I know you’re not the only person on your solo person team. Tell me a little bit about who’s behind the scenes. Are you doing this all on your own?

Caytie Langford:               Yeah, I definitely don’t do it on my own. Well, I think first and foremost, I’m really blessed to have a partner who completely just is my biggest cheerleader. My husband has owned his own business for 16 years, so he’s seen some of the things that I’m going through. Um, and so he definitely helps me out and is always there. He’s always encouraging me and I actually have my own executive coach that I speak to two to three times a month and there’s no way I could do it without her because just like my clients, I face some of those challenges and so she helps me. And then I definitely have a small group of girlfriends who are sounding boards who give me ideas and I talk through. And then I have a ton of just strategy partners and these are people I mean everything from my marketing people who did my website and my copywriting. If somebody said, oh, I love your website, did you do it on your own? And I almost burst out laughing.  I said, no way, right. Because I know what I’m good at. I know where I know where I have strengths and talents. And so I partnered with a lot of people who have other strengths and talents that really do make me look good and helped me get where it is that I want to go so I can focus on what it is I do well. But yeah, it definitely takes a village to do this work. And I think for any of us there’s some kind of village that we need to be able to get where it is that we’re going.

Susan Long:                        I want to switch gears just a little bit and I want to talk about you as an individual outside all of this and how you kind of let this go at the end of the day or recharge your batteries and how you take care of yourself. How do you, how do you put it away? how do you put it down for the day? Because that’s hard to do.

Caytie Langford:               Yeah, it absolutely is. And what’s what I want to start with is just sharing a little bit about success. So one of the things that I have learned is that I had to define success for myself. So what I realized in my former career was that success was always about somebody else’s external definition and not about my internal definition. And so when I got what it is I thought I wanted I realized I didn’t want it because it wasn’t actually what I wanted. So for me success is really simple and clear. it is my desire is to inspire, motivate, and impact the lives of women, period. End of sentence. And that’s something that I look to do every single day in my life. But I also think that you’re absolutely right is that even though I know that’s my life’s purpose and it bleeds over into lots of different things, including my volunteering, me just spending time with my friends, that kind of thing. I have to turn it off of work, right? Because at the end of the day, my coaching and my speaking is still work. And so I set boundaries. I’m very clear on when I take calls, when I don’t take calls, when I answer email, when I don’t answer email and it’s something that my clients know and I think they appreciate as well. But I do believe that we have to take time for self care and you and I have had these conversations. Everyone is talking about it and yet it almost seems counter intuitive to so many of us, right? Because early on we’re taught, put your head down, work hard and you’ll get exactly what you want. So the idea that we would pause, take a step back, do something for ourself. Like that seems selfish, right? it just seems off. And so what I have realized and what, what mentors have taught me is this balance between being and doing. We’re such a doing society, right? It’s the checklist, it’s the, I’m busy, it’s the, you know, I’ve got 97 meetings on my calendar today and a hundred and four things on my to do lists versus the being part, which is slowing down. Who are you, who do you know yourself or are you taking time to really be your best friend? Um, that kind of thing. And so for me, I have some specific things that I do for self care. One is I love to walk around my neighborhood. It’s just nice to get outside to breathe fresh air. I always feel connected to that. And the other thing that I really love doing is cooking. For me, cooking is a creative outlet. It’s a way that I can relax and I just love it. So there are days where I’ll bake bread in the middle of the day. I work from home so I can do that in between calls. But you know, some people that seem so stressful and for me it’s relaxing. The other thing about cooking for me personally is that it actually builds my confidence because I take a lot of risks and challenges and so, you know, one of the things I did in 2016 was I wanted to learn how to make pasta. Well now I can make pasta, homemade pasta, you know, not even think about it. So I’d move on to bigger and bigger things, trying new things and I realized if it doesn’t work then that’s ok. Right? There’s, that’s where the learning comes in, but cooking, being outside. for me also spending time with my girlfriends really is about self care. It’s about recharging my batteries and so I do those things. Um, and a good journal is always fun.

Susan Long:                        That definitely helps me clear my head as well for sure. So I know that there’s somebody out there who heard our conversation today. I’d like to say they overheard our conversation at the coffee shop and said in their head they’re going, it’s time, it’s time for me to take the next step to take that leap. I overheard this conversation for a reason. So what advice would you give that woman? What would be an action step that she could take to help her move forward?

Caytie Langford:               Yeah, absolutely. I think that the key there is action. You actually have to do something. I Also think that if you can have some kind of accountability, whether It be a small group of people, a coach, a pastor. somebody outside of yourself. I will also say, and this is something I talk with clients a lot about, is that there’s a difference in making this broad announcement to everyone in your world and keeping things a little bit closer to the vest and I think you have to figure out what that looks like for you. Every case is a little different, but you know, one of my sheroes, one of my, you know, women that I look up to so much is Sara Blakely who founded Spanx love her, love her story and if you read her story, if you’ve heard her speak about it. She didn’t have a Lot of people that knew what she was doing and she kept it there, kept it small to small group of people because she didn’t want too much noise. She knew that if she had a lot of noise, she might not be able to take those actions. I think that when you’re thinKing about what it is that you’re going to do, taking the action, it might be that you need to tell everybody in the world so that you have/feel accountable, but it might be that you keep it to a close set of advisors and when you’re ready to let more people in, you let them in. You know a couple of people at a time, but it is key for you to do something.  The other thing that I tell my clients all the time and I tell myself this is we have to suspend the belief that we’re gonna know how it’s all going to work because we don’t. We don’t know how it’s all going to work. I had no idea two years ago that my business would look like what it is. I had no idea three years ago when I was sitting in my office miserable that my life would look like today had no idea. And so what I do know is that when the resources are needed, when we need to meet the people we need to meet, when we need to learn the next step, it’s almost as if those things appear by magic and I don’t think it’s coincidence. I don’t think it’s magic, but when the time is right, if you take that step and action, the next step will reveal itself the thing that you need most, the resources that you need most will come to you. But it’s not gonna come to you if you don’t first take the step. So many people Just wait, they wait for the sign, they wait for, you know, the gift that’s going to pay for something or, or that kind of thing. And that’s just, that’s not how it works. You have to move first and then what you’ll need next will come to you.

Susan Long:                        Oh my gosh, it is so true. That is uncanny the way you just said that. Cause I’ve heard, I’ve heard other people say that, but just saying that today to me and just some of the stuff that has happened over the last couple of weeks. I just cannot. Yes, it’s absolutely true. I just, I can’t, I’m, I’m over here. You can’t see me, but I’m over here like my head is just nodding. Yes, yes. So in closing, I just want to say thank you so much for doing this. I am one. I’ve been a big fan of you for a long time. You were always one of those people who seem to have it all together. I love to know in this conversation that you don’t, but you do at the same time. Um, and I just want, I think everybody in the world should just call you and, or listen to you speak or hire you as a coach. I mean, you’re just a phenomenal, phenomenal person and you’ve done it and you’re doing it every day and I just, I absolutely love that.

Caytie Langford:               Well, thank you.

Susan Long:                        Can you tell everybody where they can find you, where you’re speaking next maybe?

Caytie Langford:               Well my next speaking engagement is next month, and I’m going to be speaking at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, that’s a long name.  Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. I’m speaking at their Next Gen Conference for women under 40 who are entrepreneurs and own their own businesses. And I’m their keynote speaker for that and so I’m super excited about that.  That’s in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole and I know tickets are still available so I would love to have people join us there for anybody who owns their own business and is a woman. You can find me on, on Facebook at Coach Caytie. I’m also on Instagram at Caytie Langford and my website is  And so the only thing you’d need to know is that Caytie is not spelled the normal way thanks to my awesome mom who was super creative. Um, my name is spelled Caytie, so Caytie Langford.

Susan Long:                        Awesome. And we will have links to all of this up on our website. And so all you have to do is go and click and follow or friend or whatever. And then the name of her, the spelling of her name will be ingrained in your head because it just doesn’t go away after that. It’s the best spelling ever. It’s so unique and it’s so fun. And I absolutely love it. Well, Caytie, thank you so much for joining us today. I absolutely love that you were here and friends. Just have a great week and Caytie we’ll have to have you back soon.

Caytie Langford:               Sounds great. Susan, thanks so much and ladies that are listening, I just want you to know that whatever dream is in your heart, whatever it is you’ve been noodling on, that you’ve been thinking about that wakes you up in the middle of the night, whatever that looks like, you can absolutely have it. You can absolutely make it your reality, so thank you Susan for having me.

Susan Long:                        Thank you.

Susan Long:                        Wasn’t that the most fun? I just love Caytie and find her so inspiring. She’s taken such a leap with her career change and not only has it paid off for her, but it has paid off for her clients as well because of her change, she is truly empowering others. thanks so much for listening today. If you liked this episode, I know you’ll be excited about our future guests, so go on over to itunes or our website and hit subscribe. I Would love it if you would also leave a review as I’m excited to hear what you think. Also on our website, you will be able to find the links to the things we mentioned in this show as well as Caytie’s website and her social media accounts.

Susan Long:                        thanks again, friends. I’ll see ya soon.


Premier Episode

In the premier episode of How She Got Here, Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women, Susan, the creator and host of the podcast, shares the tipping point in her life that drove her to action.  She was tired of being made to feel inadequate by messages she had heard and internalized since she was a young girl.  She also discusses how sharing her story with other women lead to her hearing similar stories from others.  The result of all of this has lead to the creation of this podcast. The goal of which is to share the stories of Everyday Extraordinary Women! 


Susan:                  Hey friends, welcome to the first episode of How She Got Here, Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women. I’m Susan. Your host and creator of this podcast and I’m grateful to have you join me. Ladies, we are on the cusp. We are living in a time of great opportunity and possibility. Women are rising together all over our country, all over the world. This space highlights everyday women doing extraordinary things. Why? Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” These everyday women’s stories we hear are the stones, stones, to inspire us, to create the ripples, calling us to be ourselves, to push our dreams, to reach a little higher than we thought we could. My goal each week is to bring you a guest with her own awesome and inspiring story. So consider this my invitation to you to accompany me on this journey. Come with me and let’s explore the fascinating and inspiring stories of the women around us. I hope we will laugh together. I hope we will cry together. I hope together we will learn more about ourselves. I confess, I don’t know where this journey will take us, but as Tina fey once said, “You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the water slide over thinking it. You have to go down the shoot.”

So to me, one of the greatest part of going on a long trip with someone is that you get to learn so much about them and your relationship with them is never the same. So today I’m going to share a little about me.

A few years ago there were some huge changes in my life. My husband and I overcame a struggle with infertility and we finally had the baby of our dreams. That will be a whole separate episode that I’ll save for later date because that’s a hard subject. One evening after a particularly hard day, I put the baby to bed and finally had a moment to myself. I was watching television and what I saw on the screen sent the message loud and clear that as a woman I wasn’t enough.

And whether it was the straw that broke the camel’s back that night or the huge lack of sleep, I burst into tears and yet no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake that feeling in the pit of my stomach and it’s that feeling we all have sometimes. It’s that voice in the back of the head, my head and your head, and the anxiety that no matter what I did, I was never gonna be enough. This feeling consumed me and the fear of failure paralyzed me. These are messages I had heard either directly or indirectly all my life. Most recently it was a message I heard when I was talking with someone who was very close to me, and this is not a political podcast. This is just my truth and this is just a part of the story. It was the night that the Access Hollywood tape was released and I was on the phone with this person and I said, what if this man had been talking about me? And all this person could say to me at that moment was “he represents my values” and I was shocked.

But you know, like I said, I’ve heard this directly or indirectly all my life. I heard them in the church I grew up in where to this day in 2018, women are still not allowed to preach. I heard them in school when I was told I couldn’t wear shorts to school because they weren’t fingertip length. And like many of you, I’m sure I heard them from strange men, adults who cat called me when I was around, you know, 14, 15, 16. And the adults that I trusted said, oh, just ignore them and take it as a compliment that you look cute.

That’s the message we want to send to our young girls. That’s the message that I was supposed to get from that. That not only that I’m cute, but I’m supposed to take a cat call as a compliment. No!  No more. But I realized that these are messages that have been internalized and ingrained in myself, and I’m guessing some of them are probably in you too. And what’s worse is I kind of believed them. We’ve all gotten these messages on some level, haven’t we? And it seemed this night, this night that this breakdown happened with me, it seemed like it was a night that was years in the making, but I wasn’t just devastated anymore. I was angry and I was mad and I was tired of the BS. I cried myself to sleep that night.

I woke up the following morning and I was exhausted. I knew I hadn’t slept well, but I also woke up determined with a new sense of purpose. I reached out to a few friends who I consider to be sisters and I was reminded that I was at my best when I was surrounded by these women. They’re friends from college and I was fortunate to have graduated from a small single gender liberal arts college. It was an amazing bubble. It was safe and it was empowering for me and it was like no other place on earth. And I have not had that same experience since. I also reached out to my former professor for women’s history, Dr Melissa Walker for a list of books on our foremothers. I felt like a refresher would help on our history, so I read about Ida B. Wells, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B, Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, the early days, how it was started, why it started. I read about the Seneca Falls Convention, who was and wasn’t included and the privilege associated with that. I re-read the story of how long it took us to get the vote and in case you didn’t know, it took us 70 years to get the vote. Susan B, Anthony did not live to see the nineteenth amendment ratified. She died in 1906 and the nineteenth didn’t happen until 1920.

Y’all change takes a long time and sometimes it won’t come in our lifetime. I read about Catherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, and they had a really cool movie come out about those women, but the book was 100 times better. I read about Grace Hopper, Coretta Scott King, Sally Ride, Sandra Day O’Connor, and these are just a few, a few of my favorites.  Y’all, there are so many incredible women. Women we didn’t learn about in standard history classes and these are women that changed history that for sure will be a future podcast episode

During this time I also found it helpful to talk things through with a therapist and I know therapy is still sometimes a taboo subject, but just being able to talk this stuff out is really helpful and if you’re going through something, I would seriously encouraged you to do that. I also journal during this time and I started some serious spiritual meditation. I tried being still and I tried centering myself and eventually started to pay off. I started to notice things that I had not noticed before and hear things that I would have otherwise missed. I began to truly value these authentic moments, not just with myself but with those around me. I found that it was these moments that renewed my spirit. As I worked through all of this and started sharing my story. Other women confirmed similar situations and similar feelings. Apparently a ton of us are walking around looking pretty darn amazing on the outside, but on the inside we constantly feel like we aren’t enough, and I have had enough of that.

Have you? Y’all I want this space to be a place of peace. I want to create a place where we can celebrate. I want this to be a place of inspiration. I want us to be able to share our hopes and our dreams, but more importantly, maybe most importantly, I want us to be able to speak our truths and I want us to grow together. So that’s just in a nutshell my story and we’ll learn more about each other as this goes along. The next time we meet, I want to begin our journey together in earnest. In the meantime, I would love for you to reach out and say hello. Tell me about yourself. What are your hopes and your dreams? What do you think of our first couple of episodes? I would appreciate your feedback after all. This journey and this space is not just mine, but I want it to be ours. And I’m ready and I’m so excited for it to begin.

I’ll see you soon.