Advocacy

Ethical and fair trade fashion with co-founder of Brookes Collective, Kate Heihn

Brookes Collective was founded by two sisters living on different continents. Kate lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas called Mckinney. Kimberly lives in a village close to Cape Town, South Africa called Muizenberg.

One day as they were talking on the phone, they began chatting about fashion; what fits well, where to find beautiful pieces, and most importantly: how could they ever afford a sustainable and ethically sourced closet?

The sisters decided it shouldn’t be this difficult to buy beautiful clothes while at the same time valuing human life. It should not have to be one or another. This is the point in the conversation where one sister suggested they figure out a way to do it themselves.

Links:

Brookes Collective – website

Brookes Collective – blog

Brookes Collective – Facebook

Brookes Collective – Instagram

Show Notes:

Transcript:

Susan: Well, Kate, I am really just so excited you could join us today on the show. For those of our audience who are not familiar with Brookes Collective, I can’t believe they’re not because if I know about something that’s up and coming in fashion, then I just presume at this point, the whole world knows about it because I’m never at the forefront of fashion. But I do think I was lucky enough to meet a mutual friend of ours and she had on the jumpsuit, and I finally got one of my own and it is one of my favorite pieces. I absolutely love it. But before I just go on and on and on, I’m going to let you share your own story about Brookes Collective and about your sister who, unfortunately because this is a second recording of this podcast couldn’t be here today, and I’ll explain all of that to my audience later. But yeah, tell us a little bit about what’s going on at Brookes Collective. And tell us about a little bit about yourself and your sister and how all of this kind of came into being.

Kate: Yeah. Oh, cool. Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be on here. Kimberly was so disappointed not to be able to make it work. But she is living in South Africa. And she is, she has been living in South Africa for the last 10 years. And it is a little tricky to do, to coordinate meetings sometimes. But Brookes Collective, we started about a year ago, maybe more like a year and a half ago when this concept of Brookes Collective started. Kimberly and I are super close. And like I said, she lives around the world from me, but thank goodness for technology, we’re able to talk all the time.

And so we were just talking on the phone one day about fashion, just the normal stuff that we you know, what new styles are you into? What are you looking to buy this season, that kind of stuff. And we started talking about a pair of boots that were, you know, a little bit more expensive than—These were Kimberly looking into these—A little more expensive than she normally likes to buy. But she’s like, “You know what, but they’re quality made. I know they’re going to last. I know it’s from a company that’s fair trade.”And so we sort of started going down that rabbit trail of fair trade and what that means and what it looks like. And we realized, you know, we talked about fashion all the time. But what our conversations now are is to like, what kind of fashion is fair trade and what is quality? And it’s not so much about the sales and the cheapest thing we can buy and the fleeting fashion, but the classic pieces, and we both were kind of like, “Hey, this is something that we could really get behind. Is this something that we could do?”

And that’s how Brook’s Collective kind of blossomed. This is what it was, just this one conversation, like “Maybe we could do this “And so we did, I mean we just said “Let’s just see what happens. Let’s take this as far as we can and if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, then, you know, it maybe will be a little fun adventure along the way. “And so that was last March. And we launched our very first line on March 1, 2019. It was our spring/summer line. And it was amazing. It was such a, I mean, a crazy adventure ups and downs, of course, we manufacture our clothes in South Africa, where Kimberly lives. We use a manufacturer that’s amazing. We just love partnering with them. And at this point now, we’ve used several manufacturers that we have gotten to know personally, we know the situation that the women are in that have created these clothes. And we just know that every step along the way, these women have been treated fairly. And maybe for those of you who aren’t quite sure about what fair trade means. It’s basically a concept of creating, whether it’s clothing or home goods or whatever, fair trade can be anything. But it’s creating the product in a way that really honors the artisans.

So these women are paid not only a fair wage, not only minimum wage, because we know that that’s not always enough, and especially in some of these developing countries, it’s for sure isn’t enough. And so it’s a living wage, it’s a wage where they are able to really care for themselves and their family. And it’s a living wage, and it’s a clean, safe environment. And it’s also a lot of upscale so they might come in not knowing the industry and, you know, particularly, at one manufacturer that we use, they upscale all of their artisans and they—It’s amazing. These women might come in with very little concept of what it takes to be a seamstress, and then by the end, they’re doing all sorts of things. They’re learning as they go, and I just know that for us in the United States, that’s kind of an expectation, right? Like, we want to keep learning and growing in our industry. And it’s something that maybe is taken for granted and that’s something that in fair trade is considered.

So, that’s what we did, and we were super excited to get our first line out. And we just started out with nine original pieces ranging from like you said, the jumpsuit, which looks amazing on you, by the way, I’ve seen you in it. I love it. The jumpsuit, and we have some dresses and some tops and you know, another piece of what we’re wanting to do is to have really classic pieces just to keep them in style longer. There’s so much fast fashion out there, you know, you see the stores in the mall where you can get clothes for so cheap. And you think, you know, if I wear it one or two times then it makes it worth it. And if you’re taking it as just what it is, it’s a piece of clothing, a shirt, whatever, then maybe that makes sense. But if you go back and think like, okay, so who made this? Under what conditions were they able to sell a shirt for $12, $6, whatever it might be, like someone had to have been paid for that, well, maybe not because otherwise a company’s trying to make money and they didn’t make money if they’re paying someone a fair wage on that. So we’re trying to have classic pieces that are going to just stand the test of time as well.

Susan: Yeah, and you know, I would also add that what you guys have they’re beautiful pieces, but they are not astronomically priced. They really are at a price point where I think it’s totally, I don’t want to say always affordable because I know everybody’s income levels are different, but I mean, these are not like, I mean, you have tops on here—I’m trying to scroll. I’m actually on your website right now. I mean, you have something that I’m looking forward to getting now that I have seen, it is something called a grandpa sweater, which is like this huge like, blankety looking sweater. It looks so comfy and so cozy. I want to sit in front of a fireplace right now in it, except that it’s October in Dallas, and when we’re recording this, it is 90 degrees outside, whatever. It is $62. So it’s like, what you have is definitely on the affordable end of fashion. And I appreciate both ends of this; you’re not only paying someone a living wage, but you’re also like not up charging this to a ridiculous price that’s unaffordable for the average person, and I love that about your thing because I feel like it gives everybody the opportunity to participate in something like this, because that’s the way I see it, I see it as a participation, it’s like you gave us the opportunity to participate in something that’s just a fabulous idea, and I just love everything about what you guys are doing.

Kate: Thank you. Well, and that is something that was really heavy on our hearts in the beginning of, do you think that if, one, if everyone knew what happened in the fashion industry of how people were treated, who create our garments, if people knew that if they would shop differently, but if it was affordable, people would shop differently as well. So like you said, affordable is a hard word because people are coming from all different backgrounds financially but we did try to make them moderately priced so the day to day people can afford it, not just people who can spend tons of money on clothes but most people can afford it, and know that they’re taking a step in the right direction when it comes to fair trade fashion.

Susan: Well, and I’ll just also add because I have the jumpsuit and it’s amazing. And I’ve already said it once, but I will say that it is really honestly well-made clothing that will last. It’s not something—And I know you said this, but like as somebody who owns a piece, it’s not something that’s like, just good for a season and “Oh, I’ll never wear that again. “It’s not that type of thing. So I appreciate all sides of that.
Yes. Tell share with us what were you doing pre Brookes Collective? Because this kind of came across from a conversation that you guys had. Did you have knowledge about the fashion industry? I know your sister was already living overseas. Did she have the opportunity? Was she already involved with some of these companies that you would be going to help manufacture this type of your clothing? Tell us a little bit about that process and what that looks like.

Kate: Okay, well, yeah, it’s kind of funny because no, I would say no to that answer. We do not. We are two girls that it’s like, where did we even come from to do this? And Kimberly is actually been overseas for 10 years, and working in counter human trafficking, among other justice issue problems around the world, and so she is, I mean, she’s amazing. I’m her big sister, she’s in the trenches, I’m so proud of her things she did. She showed up when she’s 20 years old ready to go change the world. And she made a huge impact in the counter industry of the sex trafficking movement. And so that’s her background. She’s worked with women and people, children and even men who have been treated unfairly in this life. And she’s worked against the system to try to make changes, so mostly in the sex industry.

And so that’s her background. And so she always had a very soft spot on her heart just for justice. I mean, from the time she was a little girl, we all knew that she was going to do something but our whole family… And so I think really, if I take it back another step, our parents really raised us to have a soft spot for justice. I wasn’t in the trenches like she was. I’m not quite as brave as she is. But I did social work before I had kids. And so I work with at risk families and children. And so we both had this, we both have always had just a heart for people and seeing just fairness.

And so when it all started, we didn’t have the connections necessarily, but we did have Google. Yeah, there’s that. No, but we just kind of started off, figuring things out as we go. And I just think it was amazing the relationships that we built along the way. This is true story, how we found our first manufacturer. Kimberly was actually working, doing some research about what our first steps are in a coffee shop in Cape Town. And she just turned to someone who she just had seen mutually around town, around the area and was like, “Hey, do you know any manufacturer around here? “And they’re like, “Yeah, actually down on this one street, there’s someone.” So she just pops in there. And she expected to set up a meeting and so her and I could talk and figure out what we want to say but she wanted to set this meeting up. And Kate, the owner of Spirit Society, who is our manufacturer was like, “Yeah, come on, let’s talk.”

Susan: Oh, wow!

Kate: I don’t even know like what questions to ask yet. But it was amazing because we worked together so well. And Spirit Society was our main manufacturer for that first line. And I mean, we just learned so much from each other starting out. It was really incredible. So we did not come into this with experience, but we have learned so much in this past year, year and a half that we’re just like different people going into it now.

Susan: No kidding. So now that you’ve been through one launch, well, two really, what were some of the lessons—this is totally off script—What were some of the lessons that you learned from the first launch that you were able to take into the second launch? Was there anything that like sticks out to you that you were like, that was the one thing that if anybody else, were starting a business or starting a company, that that would be the one thing that I would tell them?

Kate: You know, I just think expectations can be killer. You know, we came in, and—I mean, luckily, we were smart enough to say, well, we can’t come in with the first line this very next season. We knew that if we started March of 2018, we were going to need to wait until a full year to get things: our designs in place, our fabrics chosen, and everything manufactured. And there’s bumps along the way; every step there’s bumps and so I think we—And some of them were very unexpected to us. And again, like we had to work through how are we going deal with this? I’m across the world from the manufacturing, there’s a lot that I couldn’t do. There was a lot that Kimberly couldn’t do on this side.

So our expectations just needed to be, I don’t want to lower, that doesn’t sound very good, but they had to be realistic, you know what I mean? And we have to be realistic of we’re working with humans, and there’s mistakes that are going to be made and that’s okay. And kind of have a little softer timeframe. And so the second go round, I think that for the manufacturing piece, we learned a lot to kind of expect that, to just know that things were going to happen. But then now our next line is held up in customs. So it’s like there’s always something that’s going to happen, and then it’s okay, we’re trying to just roll with it. Because we’re not fast fashion, we’re slow fashion, when bumps along the way happen and it pushes back our timeline, it’s okay, because we are valuing human life. And in doing that, like we’re allowing for some mistakes to happen and we are okay.

Susan: You know, I’m so glad, I’m not kidding, I’m really so glad you said that. The podcast is about a year and a half as well. And I’ve kind of been going through some of the same stuff of, “Oh, I need to be doing so much more every day”. And I have like, you know, my list of things that I have to get through, and I get through it sometimes, I execute that really well. And it’s like, “Wow, I should really be doing more. “And it’s like, you can always be doing more or you can always be figuring something out, or you can always be tweaking, and sometimes what I really lack is patience with myself, patience with the process, patients was starting something from the ground up. And so I think your words are very wise. I think that is great, great wisdom to impart on people, is you just really have to have patience, because there isn’t a real zero to 60 overnight.

Kate: Mm-hmm. True.

Susan: I appreciate you saying that. So, your stuff is currently locked up in customs, huh?

Kate: Well, it’s on its way through. And I just got an email this morning saying that it should be available on the 6th, which is Sunday. So we’re like celebrating. We were hoping to get it in July. So this is good news.

Susan: Well, also good news is that the weather is finally maybe going to get cool. So you know, we can all not only purchase these wonderful pieces but wear them, so there’s that.

Kate: Yep.

Susan: Right? Well, it’s kind of perfect timing then?

Kate: Yeah.

Susan: All things work out in the end.

Kate: They do.

Susan: One of the things that I wanted to talk a little bit about is your inspiration and the design of the clothing. And I know that, I think you said neither one of you actually know how to sew. Is that still the case? Or are you…? What are we delving into now that you’re on your second line?

Kate: We are learning so much more.

Susan: Yeah.

Kate: We’re learning so much more. But no, we’re still pretty hands off when it comes to the actual process of it, and as far as the manufacturing goes.

Susan: Yeah.

Kate: Yeah, we’re taking it on. So our designs are going through, our manufacturers also have designers in-house and so we’re working. We’re collaborating really closely with them. And they’re amazing. And we have just really gotten to know and love them on a personal level, and love to see their creativity come out. It’s pretty special.

Susan: It’s really such a neat idea of y’all just really finding some amazing people and saying, “Hey, we’ve got an idea and can you help us out,” and they’re like “Absolutely, and we have the perfect people to match you up with. “I just think that’s fabulous, absolutely fabulous. I know one of the other things you’ve mentioned in the past is not only is it fair trade as far as working with people and making sure people have a living wage, but you also are very conscious about the types of materials you use. And I think we’ve talked a little bit about that, but could you dive into that just a little deeper for us?

Kate: Sure. Well, we’re really excited because this next line that comes out is almost all natural fibers made and grown in South Africa and so cotton, natural cotton. So the Grampa sweater is an example of that. That’s all South African cotton. It’s so soft, it’s so great. It’s so amazing to be pouring into this economy even further in South Africa and their farming as well. And so that is our goal is to move into all natural fibers. And I will say the first line isn’t completely but then it’s baby steps, we’re taking the steps to get there as fast as we can, and we’re really excited about the progress that we have made.

Susan: That is really neat. Now, with your finding, I presume farmers are what they’re called there just like they are here. Is that through the manufacturers as well that you’ve been able to build those relationships? Or how have you been able to find all of your different words that fit the puzzle?

Kate: Yeah, we’re working with just the textile companies, so the fabric companies. It’s just about relationships, and that’s really true. I wish Kimberly was on here to talk a little bit more about it; in South Africa, it’s such a relational culture. It’s amazing. So when I was there, let’s see when was that, in November, last November, I was there and we go to talk to a couple of different fabric stores. And we start talking about what our needs are, what we’re looking for, and the owner of one shop was giving us a ton of time and we were so appreciative of him, we were learning so much.

Again, we’re learning as we go. And we’re telling him what our vision is, and someone sitting right across the table from us. And he’s like, “Oh, well, you’ve got to use this guy here. He does all the cotton here, “and he was sitting there listening to us and he was able to talk to us and fill us in and give us contacts. And it was really amazing timing. And it was just so neat that we just felt like it all fit together so perfectly that he was giving us the time listening to our vision, and then he had known this man and knew that he was going to be perfect. He also introduced us to our knitwear manufacturer, who created the grandpa’s sweater as long as well as a crew neck sweater that we have coming out also in the South African cotton. So it’s so amazing to see how networking and relationships can build a company. And that was one of the biggest surprises for me in starting a company and something that I love is the networking piece. I love hearing other people’s stories and seeing how we can work to help each other and, you know, growing companies together. And you know, that’s how I met you. I just think it’s such an amazing piece that maybe isn’t talked about. But networking is so important and so incredible.

Susan: Oh, you’re absolutely right. That is such a very valid and good point. I have really enjoyed doing this podcast, not just because I’m helping share stories, but it is because of all of the amazing women doing incredible things all over. I’ve met women all over the country at this point. And it really is just amazing what women are doing and how we can support each other and empower each other and encourage each other to just follow whatever path we find ourselves on. Yeah, I want to switch gears just a little bit. Something we haven’t chatted about yet, but I want to get your take on is working with family. I think it is amazing that you and your sister have such a good relationship that you can actually have a company together. I think that is a testament to many years of probably being pretty close. But now I’m jumping in and trying to tell your story for you. So I’m going to let you talk a little bit about that and share with us what it’s like being that close working with family regularly.

Kate: Yes, yeah. Kimberly and I are super close. And we have been, you know, for years. I’m six years older than her so you know, of course I—Maybe not when we were little, but ever since I was into adulthood, she’s my very best friend. We call each other our soul mates. We’re very close. And I mean, we haven’t lived in the same city for, well, at least, let’s see, probably close to 15 years. We miss each other. And going to South Africa for Brookes Collective was not my first time, like I would be out there to visit her when she had her children, and she always came into town when I had my children, and just doing life together is like what a tragedy is my life that I can’t do day to day life with my sister, that’s such [inaudible 27:21] there. I just I love her so much.

And so doing business together—Sometimes the closer you are to someone, the easier it is to get irritated with them or to be able to, you’re comfortable enough to voice your frustrations where you might bottle that down a little bit more with someone you’re not related to. And so we have been very conscientious to make communication key and talk through—we’ve always said, what is most important to us is our relationship. So if that’s starting to suffer, Brookes Collective has to go away because her and I, our relationship is so important. And that’s been like a baseline for us from day one. And there have been some rough times where it’s hard to work together. But I would say mostly we’re able to talk it through. She knows what my frustrated voice sounds like, I know what her sounds like. And we’re able to say, Okay, wait, stop, let’s talk this through. And what’s amazing, because we’re so entrenched in each other’s life, not just, you know, outside of Brookes Collective as well. She’s able to say, like, “What’s going on outside of this, like, clearly, you can’t be just frustrated about what’s going on here. So let’s talk about your life.”

And so then we’ll be able to talk through personal and business, and that’s, you know, that’s huge. And we just have such a mutual respect for one another, that we’ve kind of fallen into the roles that we’ve taken, just naturally in some she’s on the ground in Cape Town, so she has to do the meetings with the manufacturers, all that good stuff, and I’m here and I’m doing distribution and she’s fallen in to the social media role and it’s certain things like that. And I really think we respect one another and how things are being moved along and how that works. And so that’s also a huge point of success for us as well.

Susan: I wonder, because you guys were clearly raised by amazing parents who really put an emphasis on others, taking care of others. There had to have been an emphasis there on family and staying connected with family. A lot of the women who listen to our podcast are moms. I think you’re a mom, too. Am I right on that?

Kate: I do have three girls.

Susan: Wow, it’s three. Wow. Do you have any words of wisdom or things you have learned, either through being part of Brookes Collective or just or working with family or any words of wisdom you might share for moms out there who want to make sure—Because I think with us at the end of the day, there’s so much that we’re doing for our kids, right? We want to make sure that the earth is still here for our children. We want to make sure people are treated fairly because it’s a world our children are going to be growing up in, and we want everyone to have equity. It needs to be an equitable place to live. So do you have any thoughts on that or any words of wisdom that you might share with moms out there who are also kind of working owning their own thing, starting their own thing but are also in the trenches with kiddos?

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. So, my three girls are 10, 9 and 7, and then Kimberly has two girls that are 5 and almost 4. So there are a lot of them and they’re all — what is it called? Stair steps down in age. And I guess I just want to say that they are watching, and it is powerful to have my words come out of their mouth. And it just shows me that, okay, they’re listening and they’re paying attention. And maybe I might have had these ideals of fair trade fashion and how I want to shop responsibly before but because I’m so entrenched in it now with Brookes Collective they’re seeing and hearing it constantly.
And I have a video of my now seven year old talking about how when she grows up, she wants to stop slavery, and I just like, it meant the world to me that she is sharing that and processing it and seeing her mom and her aunt take an active role in that. Because in the fashion industry, obviously with clothes being so cheap, slavery is a common place. And so they know that. We’ve been transparent to our children about what that means and why we’re doing bricks collective. And so they’re aware of it and they are proud of me and their aunt, that’s really special too. Because if there’s someone I want to make an impression on in this world, it’s them. And I think that we have and I think that it’s going to continue. And Kimberly and I have these great hopes of someday our girls stepping in and being a part of this with us. And we just love that they’re seeing us being empowered enough to take a step. And I love that they’re seeing us empowering other women around the world. And it means so much to us to invite them into that conversation.

Susan: And that is such a good conversation to have, not just with your children, but with your friends around you. I don’t remember—It may have been y’all who kind of made me look into like some of the brands that that I love and first of all, even trying to figure out where some of this stuff is sourced is like crazy. It’s almost impossible. But then it’s not just your cheaper clothing that you think that you might, you know, like the $5 t-shirt or whatever, it really is, like even some of your higher end clothing, the way it is sourced. So I don’t want somebody to go out there and think, oh, just because I bought this piece that cost a fortune, think that that was necessarily sourced from an ethical situation, because that’s not necessarily the case. Do you guys have any stats on that or how that’s working? I know that there are companies out there because of public pressure, that are trying to do a better job or at least put a better face on what they’re doing, whether they’re actually doing it or not, do you guys have any stats on that or anywhere people can go and check that out and look if they’re really interested in.

Kate: You know, it’s really funny that you’re bringing that up because I just did—On our website, we also have a blog that Kimberley and I write, and it’s a lot about just information because we think, you know, information is power. If you’re educated on what is going on in the industry, you’re going to take steps in the right direction most likely. And so we think that that’s a huge piece of what our business is, is just educating our consumer. And I just wrote a blog about this about companies that are—just how to be aware of— just be a savvy fair trade shopper. So the example that I gave was Target’s got this new brand out called Good Threads. Is it Good Threads? I think it’s called Good Threads. And so were walking by when Kimberly was in town this summer, and they had got this plaque that says “fair trade denim.” And we’re like, “Oh my gosh, this so incredible. This is amazing.” So we go, we like grab everything up from this line and go try it on because we’re so excited to see it at a big box store, and we start looking closer at the labels and we realize it’s not only just the denim that’s fair trade certified, but it’s only like two pairs of the denim that’s fair trade. And we just felt like it was really sneaky. Like, that’s really — marketing is tricky, you know, it’s so hard to get around it.

And so we walked away feeling just manipulated by the situation. And so we didn’t buy anything, and we were just not pleased. And I did research a couple different times. And I just thought, you know, if this is truly fair trade denim at Target, you would think that would be a really big deal for them. Why aren’t they…? I mean, I see them marketing and they’re trying to get you to buy the whole line, even though only these two items are fair trade, but I just was surprised there wasn’t more information out there. And there’s just such a lack of transparency in so many brands.

And I finally found enough information to feel really good about the pair of denim that they are offering. And it’s made in a factory where Made Well and J Crew make their fair trade denim and Everlane make some denim there too. And so the thing is I don’t have statistics, but I do know that there’s good websites out there that will help you narrow it down. But the thing that we really have to look out for is a company who’s going to maybe make one product, two products that are fair trade, and then that tricks the consumer into believing that their whole line is.

And I want to applaud companies that are taking steps in the right direction. So we would like, they’re hearing us, they’re hearing that we want change in the fashion industry. So they are taking a step in the right direction. But is it enough? They should be you know, or are they on trend to start making all of their clothes fair trade? Or are they going to stop with that because it’s enough to satisfy us? And so that’s just the kind of information that we’ve got to do our research on. And there are some really good websites, and I’m sitting from my computer right now and I actually have this website called the goodtrade.com, and it’s usually up on my computer. And it’s a great way to list fair trade brands. It’s a great way to research if it’s something that you’re not sure about. So I think that we luckily live in a time where we can do the research online, but it’s kind of tricky what they’re doing to us out there.

Susan: And it was called the goodtrade.com. Is that what you said?

Kate: Yeah.

Susan: Okay, we’ve said it twice. And I’ll go ahead and make sure to link that in our show notes as well on our website. That’s really helpful information because you’re absolutely right, I didn’t think about the marketing piece of that. It’s kind of like when, you know, back in the day when they used to say, oh, the calories are lower, it’s lower fat or lower this or whatever, it is. Then we really started making people like list the calorie count. It’s like, oh, I don’t know if I actually really wanted that information. But when you do have the information when it’s sitting there and staring you in the face, sometimes I think you make different choices.

Kate: Yeah.

Susan: So I appreciate that that information is out there. Whether we always want the information or not, I think being educated and being an educated consumer is important.

Kate: Yeah. It is hard to be an educated consumer because we are such generally emotional shoppers; we see something real quick, “Oh, I’ll just grab that.” You know, it’s everywhere, all the marketing, and then the products and there’s so much of it out there. And you’re going to Target for maybe cereal, and there you are with jeans right in front of your eyes. Like it’s hard to say, timeout. I’m going to do my research first, I’ll come back and make this purchase, because everything feels so urgent in fast fashion. It feels like you need to get it because of the sale, you need to get it because it’s going to sell out, you need to get it because it’s what’s on trend today. But when we can slow down fashion, choose classic pieces that are going to last, and then style them. Kimberly and I are really big on styling our pieces, so wear the same shirt 10 different ways, styled differently. And choose your variety through your accessories and through just layering and things like that, where you don’t have to buy, you don’t have to have a closet full of clothes. You could have a really minimal closet and still have very unique and different look within the clothes that you have.

Susan: For sure. Well speaking of your line, let’s get back to your line and talk about some of—you’ve clearly heard about and I don’t even own it yet. You’ve clearly heard me talk about the grandpa sweater enough here. Tell me some of your other favorite pieces that are going to be coming out in this new line that you guys have coming, or this new line that’s out for the fall winter and all that.

Kate: Well, we have a shawl coming out and it is my favorite piece I think ever that we have. It’s pretty simplistic. It’s one piece and it tucks in through a loophole. And it’s so soft but it is so classy, it’s in a gray, and fabric, and I love it. So we did our photoshoot in Europe this summer, so much fun. And we were up in Northern Europe so it was still cold, it was perfect. And we had it layered with dresses and it looked so classy, dresses and heals. We also had it layered with a long sleeve striped T and distressed denim and tennis shoes. And it was so cute like that too. I love when you have a piece that’s maybe unexpectedly dressed down or unexpectedly dressed up. That’s one of my favorite things to do when styling and this shawl is perfect for both. It’s amazing. That is my favorite piece. I could go on and on and on and on.

Susan: That’s awesome. I’m actually looking at it. I’m looking at right now.

Kate: That’s one that’s available now, and then the other items, most of the other items are coming in, hopefully on Sunday—cross our fingers. But we have a lot of like long sleeve tees that are all South African cotton. We’ve got a great top that it’s white long sleeve, it’s longer so it’s going to be great over leggings or jeans and it’s longer in the back with a slit on the side. And that one adorable, and it’s going to be a really great staple piece for our wardrobes.

Susan: Awesome. Well, I am really looking forward to it. Are you guys planning any pop ups around the Dallas Texas area or anywhere around the holidays. I know it’s early so to even ask that is way too much.

Kate: Well, you know, and this is one of those things that live and learn, right? A lot of the big pop ups start taking applications in January of the year before.

Susan: Wow!

Kate: Yeah, in January of this past year, we didn’t even know that we were going to be, how we were going to be marketing our products. We were not sure. I mean, this was how green we were getting started. Are we going to just sell out the first night? Are we going to be all online? Like, we truly didn’t know what to expect. And so a lot of the —we’re working hard on getting into some but I don’t have any definitive dates of pop ups at this point. We are going to do what we can to get into some.

Susan: Awesome. Well, when you have those, shoot them to me, and I will make sure to post those on my social media and share those as well because I can’t wait. And I know that we can order online and I will obviously be doing that as well.

Kate: Yeah.

Susan: Cool. Well, have I missed anything? Is there anything that you wanted to talk about that I just totally blew past and didn’t even think about?

Kate: No, I just appreciate the time. I think that if people want to check out the blog to maybe understand about what we’re about, and just get some good tips on, like I said, we love styling. That’s actually my favorite part about all this is the styling piece. So we talk a lot about how we can do that, giving some good ideas, and then just some facts about the industry and understanding it so that we can be educated on why we’re making the choice for fair trade fashion. So we try to just educate along the way.

Susan: I will absolutely link all of this in the show notes. And yes, please check out their blog. It really has some great information. And I just really appreciate you coming back and doing this again. This was so much fun, and I really enjoyed chatting with you. And I hope to see you again soon.

Kate: Yes, absolutely. I enjoyed talking with you too.

Susan: All right. Thanks. Have a great day, Kate.

Kate: You too.


Daily Habits and Practices. The Enneagram and More with your Host, Susan Byrnes Long

What are your daily habits and practices? How do you get your day off to a good start? I am sharing what works for me today, in hopes of inspiring and encouraging you, to take inventory of what you are doing and ask yourself if it is working.




Links:

Reddit – website

Emily Ley – website

The O Key Ring – website

The Center for Action and Contemplation – website

Life In The Trinity Ministry – website

Moms Demand Action – website

Ruminate This – podcast website

Show Notes:

Transcript:


Go Big or Go Home, with Marty McDonald – Founder, Boss Women Media

Marty McDonald quit her corporate job to pursue Boss Women Media full time and it has been a roller coaster ride of ups, downs, highs, lows and everything in between.

Show Notes:

Links:

https://bosswomen.org

Boss Women Media – Instagram

Marty Motivates – Instagram

Transcript:

Welcome: 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 empowers other women to do the same.

Intro: Hey Pod Sisters! I am so excited for you to dig in to this conversation. My guest is Marty McDonald, founder of Boss Women Media. Boss Women Media is an offline/online women’s empowerment community and media company. We talk about what that means as well as what it’s like to leave your corporate job and follow your entrepreneurial goals. Y’all Marty is brave and is a huge risk taker. She is not afraid to go after big things. Boss Women Media is everything we talk about here at How She Got Here! It’s women supporting women. It’s a platform for connection. It’s educational. It’s women celebrating women! It’s awesome and I am here for all of it! Make sure to check out bosswomen.org and follow on Instagram @bosswomenmedia and @martymotivates. And don’t forget to get your tickets to Boss Woman of the Year here in Dallas on September 21st. More of that in our upcoming conversation. So without further ado, here is Marty.

Susan: Well, good morning, Miss Marty, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. And getting to know you a little bit better and hearing a little bit about Boss Women Media. For our audience who does not know you or Boss Women Media yet. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to open up by sharing a little bit about yourself and about how Boss Women Media came into being.

Marty: Yeah. Thank you. First of all, thank you so much for having me. I’m actually kind of dealing with a little bit of like a nasal sinus infection. So I apologize if I sound like I’m talking out of my nose cause I kind of am. But thank you so much. I’m so thrilled to be here. And just to share my story. Boss Women Media is an offline, online women’s empowerment community and Media Company. And what I mean by offline/online. Offline, we create experiences for women to connect through the lens of brands. Online, we create content that women need to thrive in their careers and in their lives. Boss Women Media was started in 2016 as a personal need for me. I was a girl sitting in corporate America feeling so isolated and feeling like where are my people at? Where are the girls at, who are going through the same things that I’m going through?

Navigating salary negotiation, navigating, moving from manager to director, navigating the corporate space of feeling like a complete imposter. Because, oh, by the way, I’m the only black girl that’s in the board room. And I feel like my voice has been assimilated to someone else’s identity. And so I created this movement because I tried several things in Dallas and I couldn’t find anything that quite felt like this was my tribe of people. In 2016 I had a brunch at Neiman Marcus cafe. I had 25 women attend, 15 of them who I had no idea who they were at all. I put it on event bright and I thought, man, this could really be something incredibly powerful, specifically for millennial women and millennial women of color who need an outlet and a space. And so that’s really how we formulated. Since then we have really just been taken sitting at the table and trying to take as many names as possible of owning who we are as a brand. And really showcases how our community that you can create and have whatever you want and desire with a little bit of grit and determination.

I quit my corporate job about a year ago to pursue Boss Women Media full time and it has been a roller coaster ride of ups, downs, highs, lows and everything in between. But I wouldn’t change it because every day I wake up and I say I am ready to kick ass. I am ready to take names and I’m ready to be the voice and advocate that my community needs.

Susan: I love that. That is so exciting. And wow, you have really gone out there now and made this your full time gig. That is really cool. And the, I find that really brave.

Marty: I would say brave more than even cool. Because sometimes we think entrepreneurship is this glamorous, sexy thing. And really to be honest, there isn’t even a blueprint written for entrepreneurship because it’s going to look different for everyone. And so while yes, it felt very cool and liberating to say, hey, I’m quitting and I’m gunna go follow my own passion and pursue my dreams and desires of my heart. It was extremely scary knowing that I wouldn’t have a paycheck coming in every two weeks. And I would have to figure out how to monetize this brand and create it where it was not just a community, but it was a profitable company. And to be completely frank and transparent, I’m still trying to navigate what that looks like on a weekly, on a daily basis. But I know that the need is so desired.

Susan: Marty, I think you’re absolutely right. And I would love to talk a little bit about Boss Women Media specifically because I’m seeing. And I’ve noticed that they all have their own niche, which is what I’m kind of getting at here. Boss Women Media it’s part of like your thing. I’m not saying this right, your brand is not part of anything, but I’m noticing a lot of these types of women’s groups popping up like this. And I’m wondering, if you’ve thought about what makes yours stand out from some of the others.

Marty: Yeah, I mean that’s something that I think about on a daily basis. This morning I was just kind of going back over what is the of the brand? Who are we talking to? What are the talking points, what are the platforms? I feel like what makes our brand stand out the most and the things that I work incredibly hard at making sure that I provide is that one, it is not just a social organization. So where I would like to say come and we’re going to all connect and that’s it. That’s not really who we are. That’s not what we want to even be either. So we’re, yes, our events are very Instagram-able. We want to make sure that we are providing our women with real tools and resources that they can apply. And so, we just ended a five city tour through a partnership with Sugarfina called Black Girl Magic.

And we were very intentional about who we selected as speakers. And the information that we wanted our women to take away. So when you checked into the event, you received a card. Your card might have been blue, green, yellow, pink, purple, but whoever else had that same color card you were to go connect with. Because we know that success is defined by the connections you make and the consistency that you have. And so if you are in a world where you are not connected, you are in a place that leaves you desolate. And it leaves you fighting to figure out resources that if you had the connections for, could be easy to navigate. So we know how important connections are. So that’s one of the first ways we make sure that we bridge of changing the way women connect is our mission statements.

And then secondly, we want to make sure that we’re super intentional on what the information is that we’re giving to our community. So when you’re given a program of what’s gonna happen today on the back of the program, it shows these are the takeaways. This is a place for you to be writing notes. These are the things we want you to take away. How to create a brand. Whether you’re in corporate America, as we identify them as our corporate queens, or if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re kind of a startup position. We want you to identify how to create a brand that stands out, right. How to make sure that you’re fighting for the pay that you deserve. Whether it’s through a partnership opportunity or it’s through you sitting in this space incorporating your up for raise and you don’t know how to find your voice and saying, no, I am worth more.

And so we’re very intentional in the information that we’re giving. But we make it so easy where you know, when you leave, what your action steps are. And I think that’s what makes us a little bit different. And also another thing that makes us different is that while we are not a black woman organization only. Our community is full of millennial women of color. And I would say probably 95% of them are millennial women of color. We are super intentional though about every woman needs to be bringing their voice to the table and sounding off for change to happen, not just one race. So we welcome everyone. We don’t want to isolate anyone, but what’s natural to people is that they congregate with people who look like them, sound like them, identify by them. But we know for change to happen, everybody, everyone’s voice needs to be in the space and at the table.

Susan: You made so many good points there. I kind of want to jump back just a second. I realized after when you were talking about brand for a minute, that you we’re not specifically talking about entrepreneurs creating a brand. You were also talking about the importance of personal brand. Am I correct?

Marty: Yes, that’s correct.

Susan: That is such a good point and so important. And something that back in the day when I was in corporate America, I probably didn’t think about enough. So thank you for highlighting that. I really appreciate that. I think that’s so important. And I think, I don’t know, sometimes I feel like I missed the boat on remembering to do that sometimes. So I appreciate that. And then I really love and admire this niche you’ve created. I think it’s just so needed right now. I think oftentimes we’re highlighting a lot of the changes that are going on in the environment around us. And I know there’s a lot of amazing stuff happening. But at the same time, we just need to keep pushing it forward, pushing it forward.

And I want everybody listening to remember that we’ve just got to keep this work going. We can’t let it stall out. I don’t know why that’s in my brain lately, but I worry about that sometimes. It’s like, oh well, Marty McDonald created this and some of these groups are popping up and it’s already done. I’m like, no, no, no. We got to keep going. We got to keep up with the momentum. I love this connection in real life that you’re, it’s not just online, it is in real life.

I think sometimes in today that’s just so easy to forget. Tell me a little bit, and I don’t know if I asked this beforehand or not. But once an event is over, do you have a way for everybody to kind of reconnect online if maybe they don’t live in the same area? Like say it, cause I know you were on your five city tour, if maybe some people flew into a specific area and then they kind of went back out to maybe an hour away to their own community or something, is there a way for them to stay connected afterwards?

Marty: Yeah. So obviously they can connect through our newsletter that we send out weekly that really has four platforms that we highlight through information. The four platforms are small business, big dreams, the glow up money moment and money matters, and then we highlight boss women. So that’s a way that we kind of package everything together and say, here’s what we’re talking about, here’s what we’re doing. We also have a daily text message that goes out, “Hey girl, hey!” Go ahead and kick-ass today, kick butt today. Like we want you to like just be affirmed. And then we also have social media, but we’re working on something behind the scenes. We’re working on an app right now. Hopefully we will launch in August. And that app is called Boss Connect. And basically if you have come to an event or if you’ve never come to an event.

You can see all of the people who have come to the event based on the app because the app is the check in point. But it lends itself as its own rallying community for women to come together. So say I’m looking for a mentor. I’d go on the app and I see profiles of women that I’m interested in either mentoring or really soliciting help from. I might need a graphic designer. I can go onto this app in this space and look up. And it’s for women by women. And so that’s a space where we’re really trying to intentionally connect with women who don’t necessarily live in a certain area or space or community, but we can just rally together no matter where you’re at.

Susan: That is really, really interesting. And I cannot wait to dive into that once that launches. And you said that’s gonna be an August.

Marty: Yes.

Susan: So that is just around the corner. That is really fun. Oh my gosh. I can’t even imagine the work that goes in behind creating an app.

Marty: Oh my God, me neither. I couldn’t imagine it either until we started exploring it. But it’s been fun and we know that we need it because like, okay, we have LinkedIn. But to be honest LinkedIn is such a very mainstream professional space. And you normally, nine times out of 10 you get on LinkedIn when you’re trying to look for a job. But there’s not a lot of community connections happening on LinkedIn. And so, and it also this space that has been set and created for you not to be able to really share your identity of who you truly are only within this very professional space. And we want our women to be able to showcase their 360 view of themselves. We want to propelled them forward in their careers. And so we’re really excited about this. And we’re so excited because we need to continue, as you said, creating these spaces for women to know that it’s okay.

Susan: Absolutely. I want to jump back just a second. I want to talk a little bit about the five city tour you were on. How did that come about? Is that something that you see like as an annual thing? Cause I’m sure that took a lot out of you. Just share a little bit about that experience and if you plan to do it again, maybe about what you have coming up in the future.

Marty: Yeah, no, totally. So it was probably one of the most ironic thing. So I believe in the power of manifestation and visualizing. And last year I had a vision I was just doing like some white boarding and I said, okay, this is what I want to do for Boss in 2019. I wanted to go on a tour, but I had no idea who I was going to do the tour with. I just knew that we needed to be reaching and touching more women. That we could not be identified just as this Dallas box brand. Though we have tremendous drive to continue to make just in the Dallas area. It was just very important for me not to get stuck in a box. And so as I’m writing down what that looks like I had wrote down Target. I’m gonna pitch Target and we’re going to do a five city tour with Target.

We’re going to do like these mini branches and target. And I sent them the pitch. They said that I didn’t have capacity for it. And in true Marty fashion I know does not mean no to me. I just keep hustling until I figure out who’s gonna say yes. And so I didn’t necessarily know who my next like target person or brand was. But I was in L.A. and I went to a conference called Girl Boss Rally. And I went into to this breakout session. And the CEO of Sugarfina was sitting on the panel where she was basically talking about how they’ve created the Sugarfina brand, which I think is the most beautiful brand. And it’s like Tiffany and Company for candy really. And so I’m listening to her talk about how they create these taboo gummy bears. And I was like, oh, that’s interesting.

Fast forward and my brain went to. I had just read this Nielsen data report that said. Or not fast forward rewind, my brain was going. I just read this Nielsen data report. That says black girl magic is real. And it talks about the buying power and behavior of black women. And how by 2021, there’ll be the highest spending consumer out of any demographics based off the disposable income that they have. So me having a background in marketing and working in marketing before. I’m like, are brands paying attention to this? Because I feel like black women are not the target audience for any brand right now. Yet alone the secondary target audience. But we are a spending consumer of brands. And the lady continues to talk about how they created a green juice gummy for April fool’s, end of April fool’s joke.

Some people were like, we want it. So I was like sitting there in my seat thinking I’m going to go up to her afterwards and say, hey, you should create a gummy called black girl magic. So I proceed to go up to her afterwards. And I introduced myself and I asked her, I said, hey, have you ever heard of black magic? She looks at me and she’s like, what can I even say this? Like, what are you talking about? And I proceed to tell her black girl magic is the buying power behavior of women. And it’s a rallying call for women to come together. And you should create this gummy and we should do a collaboration. And I should do a five city tour in Sugarfina locations throughout the U.S.. And with mini pop-up conferences around the power of black girl magic.

So she tells me, send me an email at Sugarfina. So I thought, okay, well she probably isn’t taking me seriously number one, but I have to show her how serious I am. I go home, the conference was in LA. I go back to Dallas. I create this powerful pitch deck. I put all of the data in it of how she’s not capitalizing off of this secondary target audience that she needs for her brand. It took her three weeks to respond. I was on a phone call with her. It took her five weeks to respond after the phone call to say, yes, we want to move forward with this. And we kicked off the tour in February in LA.

Susan: Wow. That’s really, that’s so powerful. That’s such a powerful story. Now I have a question. Within those three weeks and five weeks span, were you really trying to reconnect with her or did you just let it sit?

Marty: I did a connection point I think two times within both spans. And the connection that I sent her back was more data. So when I would reach back out for her. It was more data. How around do you realize that 2,400 women owned businesses were started in 2018? Out of the 2,400 65% of them were African American women. They need to be in your store to hear these stories. And so it was more me really reiterating data to make her make a decision versus the a motion of how she needed to make the decision.

Susan: I like how you said that data versus emotion. And I love how you were able to use the skills you already had and repurpose them, if you will, into what you’re doing now. That’s something we talk about a lot is looking at the skills you already have and going forward. Like if you want to do something different, if you’re looking for something different, how you can repurpose those. And it sounds like you have done just that and I really admire that. Tell me, share with us a little bit how the event went. What did Sugarfina think? And I don’t mean to like hone in on just this one thing, but I think a lot of women would be so hesitant to go after such a big name.

Marty: Yeah. The crazy part is that I don’t ever want to take small risks. So I had a friend who recently had kind of sent me an Instagram DM and of some other girl and was like, well, she’s talking about sponsorships and she’s creating a course for that. You should do that. I’m like, oh, they’re small potatoes. That’s not my desire. I want to go after the biggest things that I can imagine. So to me, if your risks are not scary and don’t make you a little bit hesitant, you might not be taking a big enough risk. And so I think that that’s important for us to just stop playing small on ourselves. Because when we worked for brands, we don’t play small. We’re all working for organizations. We don’t play small. So why are we playing small in our lives?

So I think that that’s really important. But as far as the tour, the tour sold out in every single city, which to me made me realize how much more of a need that this is. We first started in LA. And to be honest, when we started in LA, I think the Sugarfina brand was a little bit taken back. Because I don’t think they thought, oh no, this is really happening. This is a production and we’re creating this space. And so I think that they saw the value after we had this big media that picked it up. Pop Sugar picked it up, Forbes picks it up, and we had a lot of big media that picked up the event. But in the sense of the women. I think that the women were such an awe of the fact that we had created this space for them. And creating experiences through those lens of brand. Because that’s what we said, that’s our strategy.

And so we had some of this speakers that were so overwhelmed by it in such a positive manner. I mean I can’t even lie about this. They had such a great time that some of the speaker’s honorarium at the end of the event on some stops, they told me not to worry about it. Because they were just so happy to be in a space where they could lend their voice and to women that looked like them. And for women that could truly utilize those types of resources. So that just speaks volumes of really what we were going after and what we were set after doing. The topics for each tour were pretty much the same but the voices behind them were so different. And we had people from the VP of Coca Cola on a panel to the largest influencers in the world. And we just were just excited to be able to be in this space with women. Some of our speakers were taken back by the fact that, we dubbed the tour black girl magic. And that there was a ton of black girls filled in space. And I think that that just goes to show we have so much work to still do to make people feel comfortable around people who do not look like them, sound like them, or came from where they came from.

Susan: We do have so much work to do. And I feel like it’s one of those things. Sometimes I feel like we’ve come so far and I feel like we have on some levels, but then we just have so much further to go and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I try not to look at it as well, why aren’t we there yet? Sometimes I do, but then sometimes I think, well, what an honor that it is to be like, this is our life’s work. Like I just can’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing than trying to make this world a better place for my kids. So if we can do this and just continue pushing it forward and continue accomplishing these, these goals, then I just kind of, I can’t wait to see what world that creates for our kids. I really can’t.

You’re saying that just kind of took my breath away a little bit in a good way. And now I’ve kind of lost my train of thought. One of the things, one of the things that I loved that you said, is you were bringing women together and they realized even some of the speakers were so excited to lend their voice to it because their voice mattered. And I think I am not a woman of color. I am a woman and I can’t, I know what it’s like just being a regular white woman. So I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in your shoes. And I just, I really appreciate what you’re doing. It’s such a, wow, it’s just such an, an honor to speak with you this morning. And I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. And share this story. It just blows me away. Sarah was so good, to connect us. I’m just so excited to talk with you. This has been awesome so far. One of the things that you kind of, when you started talking about it, I kind of started having sweats a little bit, was you said we need to stop playing small. Guilty as charged. Tell us, is that just something, because some people I think are more, are better naturally to push for bigger and better and I can’t, it seems like you might just be one of those people who are good at pushing those boundaries. Do you ever get scared?

Marty: Oh my God. Oh my God. Yes. Okay. So I’ll give you an example. This morning I was sitting on my patio drinking my coffee, reading my devotional, and I know that there’s this, this project that I, I have an opportunity to work on. While I was sitting there and I’m reading my devotional, my prayer was God scares me. But what you’re, what you’re asking me to go do, the vision that you’ve given me to go do is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. And I don’t have any resources to make this happen. So I need to completely lean into you. And I think that when you take it from that approach or whatever your faith is, whatever keeps you grounded, allows you to lean into that. And who your community is. Women who are pouring into you, your husband, your friends, whoever that is, whatever that may look like, to help you, you know, reinforced that you can do it.

But in the same sense I have always been just fearless, I was a fearless child. And I was a fearless child because I’m like some people who might’ve grown up with a ton of resources I never did. And I grew up in a household where my mom was domestically abused and I stepped in to be her mother. And I’ve always just been super strong and passionate and I always went after what I wanted. Because I’ve never wanted myself to be in a situation where I was abused. Whether that was physically or at a mental capacity, at an abuse state of not thinking that I’m capable of going after whatever I want, whatever I desire. And so for me the reason why I’m so gutsy is because I feel like if I don’t do it, someone else will do it.

And if I’ve been given a vision, I believe that God is the provisionary of that and I need to go after it. Like I would anything in life. I’m full force so I don’t play small. And so that I can really showcase the other women more importantly that they cannot forfeit. They don’t have the luxury of playing small. We don’t have the luxury as women to play small right now. There’s a women’s movement happening that’s so powerful. We don’t have the luxury or the time to play small, there’s work to be done. And I want to make sure that I’m leaving a legacy to my unborn children. That during this time, during this pivotal moment in history that their mother was able to truly make rain happen, make change happen and be a trailblazer and a change maker, for the next generation to come.

Susan: That is such a good point. One of the things before I started the podcast and when I was really like starting to think about this and what this would look like. I was talking to my husband about it one night and I said, you know, I don’t know. I said, my son, you know, he was two at the time. I was like, I’m really ready to go back and do something, but if I do this, this is going to be like a big thing. This is going to take a lot of time. And I’m willing to put that in. But am I taking something away from him? And Stephen looked at me and he said, Susan, he said, what? What are you going to tell Will when he’s older about what you did during this movement?

Marty: Yeah.

Susan: And I was like, and when he said that I was, I knew that I had to do it. It was one of those things. I couldn’t tell him. Sorry, mom thought it was more and not that raising your children isn’t important. It is so important. But this was something for me. I wanted to be able to tell Will, yes. Oh, and I said his name. I’ll bleep that out. I wanted to be able to tell my son, yes, Mommy did take time away, but when she did, this is why. And it was important. So I really appreciate you pointing that out. It’s so important. One of the things that I wanted to ask you. Starting something like this is hard. It’s hard going out on your own. It’s hard starting your own thing. And I’m sure you have days where you feel like you’re beating your head against a wall. Where do you go when you need and where do you go for your inspiration? What helps inspire you to keep going?

Marty: Yeah. It’s a couple of things. To me, it’s so important if I’m a leader that I continue to grow. And leaders who do not not grow, cannot develop, and I just believe that. And so for me, I make sure that I do a conference every year. Last year I did Girl Boss Rally this year I just did the focus leader, Michael Hyatt conference. That was just so incredibly powerful. I’m actually right now sitting in front of Indie Beauty Expo in Dallas and I’m about to go walk the expo because it gives me inspiration on set design and production. So I’m constantly pouring in in the most taboo ways. That may not necessarily seem completely aligns with exactly what I’m doing. But I try to find inspiration in various ways. And so I think it’s important that what you’re reading, what you’re looking at on TV all plays a part into how you pour into yourself.

On days when I feel like I’m a complete loser, I’m a failure. What did I do? Why did I quit my job? Because I do have those moments. I do have those days. I go work out or the best therapy for me is watching Ellen. She just makes me feel good. And so I think it’s different for everyone, but you do have to find the thing that lights the fire under you. The thing that makes you feels like, because I have this, I can go do this. I’m constantly looking for those types of things that I can pour into my soul. So that I can execute. What I’m doing is pouring into other people and it can become very draining if no one ever poured into me. So I have to find ways to fill my cup so that I’m full when I’m ready to give to others.

Susan: That is so important and I’m really glad you emphasized that. As women we really have to do that. And I don’t think we’re always good at it. I’m not. I want to be respectful of your time, but I want to ask you before we go. I want to ask you, what is it either from Boss Women Media or just maybe you’re speaking on your own somewhere at a conference or something. Because I could totally see you doing that if you haven’t done it already. What is it that you want women to know about themselves?

Marty: I want women to know that they are capable of more and more and when you don’t think that you have capacity for more, think again. I want women to know that no matter how you grew up or where you came from, that anything is possible. And I want women to know that there are women rallying around them who want them to win. But if you hadn’t found that woman yet who is rallying for you, keep looking for her, she will come. And most importantly, I want women to know that they can cultivate the career and life of their dreams with a little bit of grit, determination, and most importantly, consistency every single day. The days that when they get knocked down, they stay consistent. The days when they have the highest of highs, they stay consistent. And I think that that is the most important key for them. Having whatever the success that they desire is if they stay consistent.

Susan: Yep. That’s all I got for that. Yep! That is so well said. So well said. Okay. Marty, tell us where we can find you online. I am here for everything that you are doing. I love it. I love the ideas. I love the idea of you doing these tours. This is phenomenal and I think it’s great and I think it is so, so needed, but it sounds like you already know that since it sold out the last time you did it. Tell us where we can find you online. Tell us anything about events coming up. And then I’ll make sure to link all of this on our website when it goes live.

Marty: Yeah, so our website is bosswomen.org. You can find us on Instagram at bosswomenmedia. You could find my personal brand on Instagram, Marty Motivates. And we do have our largest event coming up September the 21st its Boss Woman of the Year. It’ll be at the W Hotel in Dallas on the 33rd floor. We’re super excited about it. We’ll have 500 plus women, gathering together for an evening summit on celebrating what we call our Boss Women of the Year in three categories, the boss entrepreneur, the boss corporate queen, and the boss mom. And celebrating our five women that will be in a space to let them know. If these women can do it so can you. So I would love for your community to check that out as well.

Susan: I love those categories. That’s awesome entrepreneur mom. Like that’s so cool. And so needed, so needed. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing with me today. I really, really appreciate it.

Marty: Yes, thank you so much. I so appreciate it and thank you for letting me speak my authentic truth. I appreciate that.

Outro:Hey Pod Sisters, thanks so much for joining me today. If you’re enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes or your favorite podcast app and hit subscribe. And while you’re there, I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here community page and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode, as well as any other fun How She Got Here content. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see ya soon.

Bonus Episode: What is happening on our southern border and how can I help? with legal expert, Kate Lincoln- Goldfinch

You ask, we deliver. In this bonus episode I sat down to chat with legal expert Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch. Kate is an Austin based immigration attorney and she is here to answer your questions. I hope our conversation will give you a better understanding of the situation and, most importantly, what you can do to help!

Show Notes:
Will post at a later date

Links:

www.lincolngoldfinch.com

https://www.facebook.com/lincolngoldfinch/

https://twitter.com/lincolngfinch?lang=en

More links to come

Transcript:
Will post at a later date


Starting From the Ground Up with Hype Freedom School Founder, Brandi Brown

Have you ever found yourself totally out of your element?  How did you handle it?  Were you able to grow from it?  Brandi Brown, founder of Hype Freedom School found herself out of her element at Southern Methodist University.  When she expressed an interest to “come home” she was connected with an organization that would change the trajectory of her life.

Show Notes:

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you ever really found and followed your calling?  Brandi Brown did just that.  After graduating from Southern Methodist University she set out to establish a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in her hometown of Houston, TX. 

In this episode, Brandi shares her experience of attending SMU and how a connection with a fellow Mustang (the SMU mascot) lead to an opportunity with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in Dallas, TX that changed the trajectory of her life.

A few of my favorite take aways include:

– Nobody gets where they are in life without the help of others

– Starting something from the ground up is not easy

  • You cannot care for other if you haven’t cared for yourself first

Links:

Hype Freedom School – website

Hype Freedom School – Facebook

Hype Freedom School – Instagram

Hype Freedom School – Twitter

Children’s Defense Fund – website

Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School – website

Transcript:

Intro: 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 empowers other women to do the same. 

Susan: Hey, Pod Sisters, there is nothing that unlocks possibility in this country more than education. It is the key to everything. As a first gen college student, I can attest to this firsthand. Today, my guest is Brandi Brown. Brandi is originally from Houston is a graduate of SMU and is the founder of Hype Freedom School. Please note that at about the 36 or 37-minute mark, it gets pretty loud in the background. What I want you to know is that that is the sound of about 100 amazing young women attending the Marvelous Girls Summit on the campus of SMU.

You might remember our friend, and previous pod guest, Shanterra McBride, founder of Marvelous University. Well, she put on a summit for young girls and Brandi and I were both there to help and support her. And while we were there, I had the opportunity to catch up with Brandi and learn a little bit more of her story, and I took it. I cannot wait to share our conversation. So without further ado, here is Brandi.

Susan: Well, first, tell me a little bit about how you got started with Hype, how all of this, how this dream got started. Tell us a little bit of your background story.

Brandi: Sure, sure. So of course, I can’t talk about Hype without talking about my life because it has become my life. So I met Shanterra, and actually it’s amazing that we’re here because I was a student at SMU. I actually was born and raised in Houston and really did not have—I guess I knew I was going to go to college but it wasn’t a like this dream of this is the college I’m going to, right? And so was introduced to the concept of going to college, but then it was like, “Yeah, why not? Sure, I’ll go to college?” So, went to a predominantly African American School, grew up in a predominantly African American neighborhood. Really now as an adult, I know was an underserved community. It was just my community growing up, so I didn’t really know what that meant or what that looked like.

And so it was kind of grew up in this high school. There was some exposures that we had to colleges and college fairs and college days, and we went to this one college fair at the school and SMU was there and they were like, “Okay, we’re looking for students to sign up for Mustang Monday. You have a trip, you come on Sunday night and you spend Monday on the campus and then you see the campus and decide if we want to go.” So a group of us in our class thought, “Will we miss school on that day? Perfect. Sign us up.” So I have a twin sister. So I must start with that. I tell people…It’s great. It’s on a podcast. But oftentimes, “Are you…? Do I know you?” But anyway, so my sister and I and a group of our friends came to SMU and we did Mustang Monday, totally hated the campus.  I did not like, I was like..The people…I mean, now I know who was hosting us. Were like the Association of Black Students, a lot of the sororities and fraternities, like they were our host. And we even stayed in the dorm room with some of them. But I just didn’t like the campus. I was like, “It’s okay,” like it definitely was not as beautiful as it is now. I knew it was a beautiful campus, but just in my little closed mind, I just did not, you know, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

So then things got a little bit closer to our graduating time and SMU had sent kind of this package, and it looked like it was good. And my mother, of course, was aware of SMU but we just didn’t know anything about it, like her colleagues at work shared with her what SMU is about, but I grew up with a single mother. I was raised by my mother and my grandmother. My grandmother had nine children and out of her nine children only one of them graduated from college. And so my aunt was really instrumental about college is the way, like this is the option that we want for them. And my mother didn’t–she went to college for two years, and she got pregnant with me and my sister and so then she didn’t go to school anymore. So she relied a lot on others to be able to kind of guide our educational career.

And so, I don’t know, we decided that we would do SMU. We have a cousin so she got accepted SMU and it was kind of this thing like, “Okay, we’re gonna send our children to SMU.” And SMU had a Summer Bridge Program. The funny part again, being young you don’t really know all the ins and outs but this summer bridge program was, I know now, for minority students who had low SAT and ACT scores but had very high GPA’s in school. So I graduated number two in my class but I’m sure my SAT scores were crazy, like it was like, “Somebody’s going to accept me, right? Surely there’s a college out there that would accept me.”

But we signed up for the for the Summer Bridge Program, which was a really good program, like I don’t know where, you know, what colleges are doing now, but what it did, it got us acclimated to the campus. I kind of felt like “Oh, this is cool.” But we were with about 22 other students and they all kind of look like I did. They had similar backgrounds of me. The first day of class, I came out of class, I stood on the steps of Dallas Hall, and I was like, “Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many white people in one place personally.” Like I like a lot, “Oh my goodness!” So I saw my sister and I was like, “Were there any black people in your class?” Because all Summer now we have taken classes with our Summer Bridge students the whole time. Where did everybody go? So that was a like aha moment like, “Oh, so this is…” And I remember that being the case when we came down for the college visit and I remember thinking I don’t like it but didn’t really know what I didn’t like.

And so I did it. I made it through the first semester, I made it through the second semester, got pretty acclimated. But my second year, I didn’t want to come back. I just…I was like, “I can’t relate to the people there. They live a lifestyle I know nothing about.” So I felt like even the African American students, you know, those that we knew grew up in very diverse communities. And so they had this experience that I didn’t have. And so I just felt like even I didn’t relate to them either. And can remember thinking, “I don’t want to do this.” So in Houston, Prairie View and Texas Southern University, which was to HBCUs have this big—when we were in school was a lot bigger—but had this big Labor Day classic every year. So my mother let us come home to go to the game. I was like, okay, so I go to the game and I came home and I said, “I do not want to go back to that place. Like I don’t want to go back there.” And so my mother was like…She downplayed it and so… I know tears always work so I just sat on a couch and just started crying like, I don’t want to go back there. Like, I don’t feel like I’m at home, I feel out of place. I can’t relate.

Susan: You didn’t find your fit.

Brandi: I did not find my fit. And so my mother as great as she is, asked me if I would stay until the end of the semester, and it is just September, so I’m like semester is a long time from the end of semester. So I agreed, came back and finished that semester. And what she did is she got on the phone and called somebody that she met early on while we were in Summer Bridge and was like, “Can you please talk to her?” This lady introduced me to a gentleman from Oakland who experienced the same thing, but I had already graduated. And so I met with him, and he just, you know, was really just encouraging, just like “You know, you could do it, like just give it a try and try to do your best, be you but understand you will grow a lot and learn a lot.” So I was like, “All right?” And so I kind of finished that semester, and then he was working with a new program. And now, you know, he said, “I want to give you this try to work with this program, you know, to see if you like it,” and I was like, “but I’m trying to go home and the program is in Dallas.” So he’s like,”Just try it.” And I did. It was a summer program. It was the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program. It was only in its second year here in Dallas, and it was in Oak Cliff. And so it was the first time that I left off the college campus and was able to go in a community that looked like my community, that felt like my community. I saw little children that looked like me when I was a little kid. So it really was an outstanding opportunity for me. But I was young, I was a college student and did not take it very seriously.

So my first couple weeks of the program–five weeks of summer programming, surely you can get to get it together, it just was terrible. So I remember being late to my interview and they let me..I mean, really, really late. They let me do it anyway, they let me interview and it was all because of this man who had given my name, I’m sure. Now being on the other side and I interview people, I’m able to see like they’re, you know, everybody’s trying to put their best foot forward, but you’ve got to give them a shot, right? So I try to be very, very mindful of that now. So I got an opportunity. I was probably late the first two weeks every day. And finally he called me in his office like, “Listen, so you’re either in or you’re out. My name is on this.” And I just remember thinking, “I’ve got to overcompensate now.” And so, I went above and beyond because he called me out. I cannot not let him see me not try my best. And so that was kind of the turning point of me really realizing the great opportunity that I had in working with the youth in the community and look like me. Of course, I was in college so I didn’t get any of that until probably 10 years later.

Susan: Sure.

Brandi: Yes, I’m talking like I really felt all it in now. It was a summer job. I’ve got a job that I thought all right, this is cool. I got a chance to meet some new people with the job. It was training. It was an annual training with college students that are doing Freedom Schools all over the country. It was the first time I was able to see in really interact with other college students that look like me and so I thought that was a really cool because it was like 300 college students that look like me in the same space opposed to being at SMU campus. So I mean at first it was all right. Like the first summer was good. I really went above and beyond, and the director noticed it and she started having the national staff from Children’s Defense Fund come in and sit in my class and observe. I still didn’t think anything of it and finished that summer and came back to SMU. I got acclimated a little bit more. Things were going well. Then I decided…The director called me like that January, February and asked if I would come back and work for the summer. I was like, “Okay.” And she said, I would like you to be the site coordinator, just the site supervisor. I was like, “Okay.” I’m thinking, “Really.” And that was really the turning point where the summer job actually became my lifetime of service. So really, that was the eye opener for me that by that time this was—I started doing Freedom Schools in my rising junior year. And so then they invited me to come back my rising senior year. And I just remember saying, “We need something like this in Houston, right?” Because I’m clear, I’m graduating and I’m going back home.

Susan: You are not staying in Dallas.

Brandi:  Yeah, I’m out of here. I graduated Saturday, in the car back on Sunday. We’re done. So did SMU… I mean, didn’t finish that summer. But I remember going to national training that year, and just asking people like a national training, like how do I do this? How do I start? What do I do? And now I’m always careful how I interact with young adults because you know, you have this huge training. Yeah, 300, 400 college students from all over the country, you’re all in the same space, with the same energy, with the same goals, with the same vision. So everyone is excited about the movement and how they can go back, right? But then we know what happens what people assume with college students, you get excited, then you spend all this time and energy with you and then the idea goes nowhere.

Susan: Yeah.

Brandi: But you spent all this time talking to them. So I can just remember talking to some of the older people that were there who were either in leadership positions with Children’s Defense Fund, or maybe they were running their own Freedom Schools and was just they’re kind of supervising their staff or whatever. And I remember saying, like, how do I start this? How do I start this? And I can remember just several people like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s a good idea. That’s good, baby.” But no one really taking the time just to say like, I mean, these are the steps that you take. And I wind up talking to just this lady who was doing Freedom Schools in Kansas City. And I just asked her like, “How do I how do I go back and start a Freedom School?” And she literally walked step by step with me. Like, “Do you go to church?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” She’s like, “Go to your pastor, talk to your pastor about your idea. Here’s a video that you could show him .” It was on VHS. And I was like, “Okay,” because of course, this is in 1997. So, well, I guess the 96, I started… No, yeah, so 97. So this was in 1998. So I literally sat there, and she told me everything and I wrote everything down. And she said, I mean, who should I talke to? I mean, I talked to my aunts. And I talked to my family and my pastors and just everything she told me, I wrote it down and came back and did it.

Susan: Yeah.

Brandi: And so I remember Children’s Defense Fund, which is…Are you familiar with Children’s Defense Fund?

Susan: Yes.

Brandi: Okay. So, National Advocacy Organization for children at the time, they had annual conferences, and they would travel to different cities for the conferences. And so this particular year it was in Houston and my mother was standing at the copy machine. She was retired from the Court of Appeals. So she’s at the copy machine talking to one of the attorneys and was just saying,”My daughter is interested in doing some kind of program or something and bringing it to Houston.” So this attorney tells her “Oh, my husband likes working with organizations that’s doing services that’s nonprofit or whatever, we should get them connected.” Okay, so I come home and meet with this gentleman, and he’s like, “Yeah, I can help you get that off the ground.” And I invite him to go to Children’s Defense Funds conference because they had a Freedom School workshop.

Susan: Oh, cool.

Brandi: So as I would go to workshop, I’m still in school so I couldn’t come home for the workshop. I was just like, I have class this week, but they have this conference you should go see what it’s all about. So I invited him. My sister was already finished. She finished a semester early because she was trying to get out. So she finished the semester early and she went to the workshop and then this gentleman who really helped us kind of get it off the ground and just talked to us and the steps that we need to do and provided some funding for us.

Susan: That’s awesome.

Brandi: For us to be able to do Freedom School. So he went and got a chance to hear all about it and then immediately after I graduated—I graduated in 99, I started Freedom School. So we did not call it Freedom School because we didn’t have a dime like…

Susan: Sure. Grassroots before grass roots was a thing.

Brandi: Yes, I got a vision. And part of what Sheree is her name share with me. Sheree was just like you know, you talk to your family. You talk to your the people around you and see. And so I asked my family, they all would give. I made little slips of papers. I was like, “Would you make a donation to buy books for children?” And my family would save their little money and give me $25 here, $50 here. And my pastor was able to actually give some kind of startup money. So the first year we did…It just opened up the doors to do this Summer Food Program, which was free. And we did some components of the Freedom Schools program. And then the second year we actually kind of bought the curriculum and the books. They had this model that they don’t have anymore. So we bought the books and the curriculum and had a set of volunteers to work with us. And then we started there. And so really, it started off just me wanting to have a summer program, a safe place for children ago. And then also a place, as I told my mother, that I graduated from SMU, she kept saying, “You should get a job.” I was planning Hype. I was planning how to roll out a Freedom School program. That’s what I say now. Then what I told her was like, “Why do I need a job? Like I get to work for the rest of my life. I live at home. I don’t need a job right now.” So she introduced my sister as a working child, she would introduce me as the child I don’t know what we’re going to do with. Like she got a whole degree from SMU and don’t want to use it. But now I understand that what I really was saying was this is a time that I can use to create the framework of what I felt like God had given me the vision to do. So I often say that that when God calls you to do something, he equips you with people, the resources and the things that you need to make it happen. And so as a very young, young adult, I literally was like, I’m gonna do it. And in my mind what I thought it could be set up just like in Dallas, it was sponsored by a Greater Dallas community churches. I’ll find the equivalent in Houston. I’ll tell them about this amazing program, they will love it so much that they would hire me to run the program, and they will have a Freedom School in Houston.

Susan: It’s just that easy.

Brandi: It is. I went to so many places and I got the door completely shut like, “Oh, that is such a great idea. Are you available Saturday to volunteer with our fashion show?” Or “Oh, that is a great idea. Let me put you in contact with this person to do this. It’s a good idea. Okay. Tell me about that a little bit later.” So a whole lot of that. And finally, my cousin who graduated a couple of years before we did was like, “I think you need a nonprofit.” And I was like, “I don’t want a nonprofit. I just want my own Freedom School.” So she finally convinced me that we would do a nonprofit. And that was kind of the beginning of what it became. I mean, like, I’m amazed now that one, 20 years later, it is still around. And part of that people like, “That is so amazing.” I was just like, but the parents, no one gave me a chance to say you’re going to quit. You know, we are the program. So we look at the Freedom Schools model. You know, I think I credit a lot of my professional development to Freedom Schools because it was that moment when I learned that you’re not only representing yourself, I knew that growing up, like when my mother would drop us off to go away, she would always say, “Listen, you’re not just represent yourself. When you walk out of this house, yes, you’re representing God first, always understand it. So whatever you’re doing, and whatever things that are happening, God sees you. So you are a representation of him, okay?” Then she said, “And then you representing yourself, and so you think what representation you want to have for yourself and at the end, you are representing me. So when you go out, people don’t just always call you Brandi but they also say, Oh, that’s Margie daughter. And so understanding that you’re representing a whole…”

And so when Corey, which was the gentleman, called me into his office and said, “Hey, you know, I put my name on the line for you.” It was that reality check when I realized, “Oh, so I’m standing on his shoulders, on his name and this is something I have to do,” right. So when I think about working with young people now, I spend a lot of time talking about them that the decision that you make not only affect you, it is affecting people all around you and you never know how. And so for me, I just didn’t know how it affected him. But it was a good like, “Listen, get yourself together.” So for me, the professional development and the leadership development of that was awesome, you know it saved who I am and made me who I am today, because had not had that chance, then I don’t know when I would have learned that, right?

And so looking at Freedom Schools now at that moment, it was leadership development, really understanding. I mean college students, college aged adults, we hire college students to work with our students. So we have K through 8th graders. We hire college age adults to work with them. So they get a chance to not only facilitate a curriculum, but also get some youth leadership development too. I mentioned that training in Tennessee. It’s a week long and so not only do you learn the curriculum, but there’s also quite a bit of leadership development around advocacy. Around at that time, was the first time that I learned about creating your own kind of sense of—they called it “an island of peace” where you’re able to take care of yourself before you take care of others. So looking– I mean its popular now I’m talking about self-care.

Susan: Self-care, uh huh.

Brandi: But at that age, I literally was able to learn about self-care, I learned about journaling, I learned about prayer, I learned about nature walking, I learned about meditation. So as a college student, when it was not that popular at the time, even humor and how humor actually affect your body and make you…So literally, going through the Freedom Schools Program, show me at that moment, being in service and it has carried me all this time, you cannot take care of others if you haven’t taken care of yourself. And so I really tried to put that piece in front of me. But now somebody asked me about the why, like, why do I do the work? And I just, for me, I’ve just been contemplating about the why, it has changed so much. You know, I think when you go into something and you’re doing it for a season in your life, either you finish that season or  the seasons are changing within that full year. And so I’ve literally seen Freedom Schools change, why I do what I do, and how important it is. So I talk about Freedom Schools and you know, people like, “Oh, you run a summer camp.” “Not really.” And when I think about camps as impactful as they are, I look at Hype Freedom School as an opportunity for us to impact families by using the six weeks of summer programming to really build that relationship and a rapport with us so we can then impact them.

So my why right now? You know, Houston was hit by Hurricane Harvey. When I first started with Freedom Schools that I talked about, God gives you the people and the resources that you need. I was 22, 23, maybe 24. I eventually got a job because my mother said, “Well, just think if you could have somebody support you, like if you had coworkers, you can ask them to make a contribution towards your nonprofit.” “What? I’ve got to get a job.” So I started working full time, but really then I started working at a school where I graduated from as the teen pregnancy and parent coordinator.

Susan: Oh, wow.

Brandi: Again, young, maybe 45, did not have a child or children or a husband, probably, yeah, or probably had had sex by then.

Susan: Right. Yeah.

Brandi: I was like, “Oh, this is the position I have.” But my job was to ensure that those girls graduated. That nothing stopped them from graduating from high school. So I was provided the support system for them to be able to graduate. So of course, it was perfect for me. And when I say the seasons changed within the year, my season at that time was to empower young girls to be able to graduate from high school. But it also allowed me to work and do Freedom School on the side. And so because I was in the school system, then I had time to meet with people after school. Get off at three, met with them, then I had the flexibility with my job where I can meet off campus with people. I had my summers where I was able to go and work Freedom Schools. While I still provided services for our families, for the girls. And at the time, I did not know… Yeah, I cannot imagine how I was selected to do the job, you know, because I say years later when I finally had my first biological child, I was very down and hard on myself after I had my first child because I just remember thinking I pushed my students so hard after they had their babies to finish school. And with a husband, a mother, a sister, a stable home. I couldn’t move after I had my child. I was, “I can’t go anywhere. I can’t get it together.” I was so like, “I can’t go to work right now. I can’t leave my baby.” And I just started thinking. At six weeks, I was going to get girls from their home, taking them to daycares, put their children in the childcare center so they didn’t come back to school. Then they had to walk around those campuses like nothing was wrong, that they weren’t worried about their baby, and that they didn’t need to go home and feed their child, you know? So just all of those things was like…

Susan: I can’t imagine doing something like that. What those girls do.

Brandi: I used to tell them all the time, “You have the hardest job. You have to be a mother. You have to be a daughter. You have to be a sibling. You have to be somebody’s girlfriend. You have to be or pretend to be their wife, a student, you have to be somebody’s friend. It’s just so many layers that is very challenging to do as a young person. But I think you know, it all, and I just think about how my life has been ordered and the things that have happened. And so while I was at the school working with them, I met a family therapist because the program offered a family therapist to come with the team parents to work with them. And I share with this therapist that I had a summer program and we facilitate a parent meetings once a week at my program, and so she said, “I would like to do that.” And so she volunteered her time for about 10 or 11 years providing services to our families. So she started off facilitating our parent meetings. And then she decided to offer free therapy sessions for our families all year long. So after we finished during the summers, we became an extension of our families. So when things went on or crisis happened or celebrations happen, that our families would always include us. And so we became kind of the hub to provide the resources that they needed to make things happen, right? And so to this day, we have become that resource. The therapists work with us for those years, she finally resigned, just like she gave me an official resignation letter like she really was on staff.

Susan: I’m out.

Brandi: I was like,”Ah!” But did not realize what critical piece she played until she was gone. I mean, because we think about mental health services and the families that we serve. We don’t do mental health services. Like that’s a sign to say you crazy. And we don’t tell people we’re crazy. You might be crazy, but I’m not…You’re not going to have a therapist to say that I’m crazy. So that is the mentality that many of our –not many, some of our families once had.

Susan: Oh, sure.

Brandi: Really looking at how do we introduce therapy and how do we introduce mental health services. She was the perfect, perfect fit for us. We were able to build a relationship with our families, we built their trust. And literally, when she resigned, we had more families than we ever had actually getting therapy from her. So of course, when she resigned she’d already finished our sessions and that kind of stuff, but it just really showed us how much it had grown over the years. So when Hurricane Harvey hit, I was like, “I need a therapist right now.” Even though the majority of our families did not get directly impacted it affected everyone because in the middle of it all whatever trauma you had before, seeing water rising all around you, add to that trauma, whatever hard financial circumstances you had before is heightened because now the landscape of work has changed, you having to take off a work unexpectedly has also happened. So when we had to do…So I called her and asked if she would come back. And so since…I guess she came back probably in December of last year as a volunteer and we’ve been able to get funding to fund her to actually provide services for us throughout the year. And I will say my why now doing the program is really looking at how do we help our families be able to cope and break this cycle of whatever that trauma it is. So really introducing them and connecting them with resources like family therapy has been just my, I mean, it gives me chills bumps right now just to think about families who had never thought about getting their mental health needs that are now like, “Where’s Miss Stoops? I need her.”

So for me, that has given me I mean, just a whole different outlook on the important work that we do.We often say that the six weeks of program lasts an entire lifetime.

Susan: Yeah.

Brandi: So for our families who typically not only come six weeks, but come year after year after year, we know that the work that we’re doing stays with them forever. So, yes, that’s it. That’s my why.

Susan: That’s awesome. I want to know, have any of these families…Because you’ve been at this 20 years now. So where are the first round two families that came through? Do they stay in touch? Do you still get Christmas cards? Do you see their children now?

Brandi: yeah, we do. So we’re getting ready to celebrate our 20th so we’re rounding some of them up, but we still have a large group that we still stay very engaged with. So that first group are now professionals. We have a few attorneys that’s in that first group. Our most recent connection has been a franchise owner of Sugar Rush, which is a cupcake bakery.

Susan: Okay, uh huh.

Brandi: I don’t know the exact name for it. It’s not a bakery. But it’s called Sugar Rush 2. So he is the owner of this particular franchise. I’m smiling because he has been amazing. We did an event for our teachers. So a lot of our first rounders are teachers as well.

Susan: Oh, that’s cool.

Brandi: So while everyone was doing back to school drives, we did a back to school drive for our teachers who have been a part of Hype throughout our history, and so we provided supplies and books for them to outfit their classroom. And so we held it at Sugar Rush 2 with one of our first I mean, he was part of that first class of babies that was with us. He’s now graduated from University of Texas San Antonio, and so part of his gift his parents gave him for graduation was the franchise. Isn’t that amazing?

Susan: That is the craziest thing.

Brandi: Yes. So I ran into his mother in the grocery store preparing for some storm. It was not Harvey. It was like maybe an ice storm that was coming suddenly in Houston. So I was crazy. Like, get up and get ready to take on whatever coming our way. So I was like, let me go to the grocery store because we have nothing. So if we can’t get out of this house for a few days. We’re in trouble. So I’m in the grocery store and it is a mad house. I look over and it was one of our parents who was with us and so she’s like, “Yeah, Nick is doing really well. He’s now the owner of Sugar Rush 2,” and so we talked. So he was able to come out. We also have some of our graduates who are doing a little bit of everything, I mean, everything but now their children are part of the program, and so we have several of them that have grown up through the program

So my first day as a teen pregnancy and parenting coordinator was a delivery of one of the teen parents. And so they called and say… I caught her and I was like, “Hi!” I introduced myself. She’d just deliver her baby. So this was my first day of work. She’d just deliver her baby. Her daughter have been a part of our program since she was five, Hype, since she’s five. She just graduated and now attending Texas Southern University. So really kind of looking at the large impact. So, Susan, I’m getting a call from my Marvelous Girls Summit.

Susan: That’s where we are, at the Marvelous Girls Summit. And it sounds like we are getting ready to go back and do another session. But thank you so much. I appreciate time.

Brandi: I talked way to much.

Susan: No, you didn’t.

Brandi: You didn’t have questions?

Susan: No. You told the story and that’s what I wanted to hear.

Brandi: Okay.

Susan: Trust me on this. Tell us real quick before you go where we can find you.

Brandi: You can find me on our website at hypefs.org. You can also find us on social media. So we’re on Facebook, we’re on Instagram and a little Twitter, not much. But Hype F S, our Hype Freedom School, you can find us there or you can call us. I like phone calls, 832-510-0431.

Susan: Excellent. And I will make sure all that’s linked in our show notes. So you’ll be taken care of.

Brandi: All right.

Susan: Thank you for sharing with us and spreading the word.

Brandi: You’re welcome.

Susan:I appreciate it.

Outro: Hey, Pod Sisters, thanks so much for joining me today. If you’re enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes or your favorite podcast app and hit subscribe. And while you’re there, I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here community page and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode, as well as any other fun How She Got Here content. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see you soon.

How the rearing of children and the desire for peace and common ground leads to interfaith work; Daughters of Abraham: Part 2

What if we realized that all anyone wants is the best for their children?  What if we recognized the similarities in each other rather than our differences?  Could this help us find peace and common ground in our varying faith communities? 

Show Notes:

When you think of peace and common ground, what comes to mind?  For Angelina Tucker it is her grandfathers work and her faith. 

Angelina is an accomplished Doctor of Pharmacy specializing in geriatrics.  Yet, it was becoming a mother that helped reacquaint her with her faith. It also motivated her to connect with the inter faith community, write about faith and raising kids for the Fort Worth Mom’s Blog and “advocate for religious freedom for minority groups globally” on Capitol Hill.  WHEW!

A few favorite inspiring take aways from our conversation:

  • It is important to build bridges through dialogue and open communication

– It’s okay to ask questions.  Curiosity is a good thing and many people welcome it.

  • “At the end of the day, we’re mothers trying to raise our kids, and keep them away from harm and we want the very, very best for them, and we have that in common.”

Links

http://daughtersofabraham-tx.org

https://fortworth.citymomsblog.com/author/angelinatucker/

www.lajnausa.net

Transcript:

Intro: 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 empowers other women to do the same.

Susan:  Hey Pod Sisters, welcome to part two of Daughters of Abraham. Today I’m sharing my conversation with Muslim Daughter of Abraham member, Angelina Tucker. Angelina is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and found her way to Texas via the University of Florida—Go Gators—and meeting her husband. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy and specializes in geriatrics. She is a mother and also a writer and contributor to the Fort Worth Moms blog. So without further ado, here’s Angelina.

Susan: Hey, Angelina, I am so glad we could chat today. How are you doing?

Angelina: I’m doing great. Thank you for asking. 

Susan: Good. Well, I’m just really excited to have you here with us today. For my audience who doesn’t know you, although some may know you, and we’ll get into that in a little bit. But for my audience who doesn’t know you, tell us a little bit about your backstory, who you are and what you’re up to? 

Angelina: Well, you know, Susan, to tell you the truth I’m just a simple country girl. You know, I was born in a third world country in Trinidad and Tobago on a beautiful Caribbean island. But even then, you know, I could never have fathomed that I would one day live in Texas, or that I would even enter a male-dominated profession, that I would become a Doctor of Pharmacy specializing in geriatrics and be in charge of doing consultations for 13 locations. It’s a dream. You know, at that time, a little girl I couldn’t have fathomed that my faith would take things from an unknown island, a dot in, you know, in the map barely even, to the steps of Capitol Hill to advocate for religious freedom rights for minority groups globally. I would say that I have found the American dream. I have a beautiful family. We live here in Granbury, Texas. I’ve got a flourishing career. And most importantly, my underlying foundation is my faith that got me here today. 

Susan: What a beautiful story. Tell us how you got to the US and then how of all places—you said you’ve been to Capitol Hill as well. Tell us how you ended up in Texas.

Angelina: Well, I was pursuing my Doctor of Pharmacy at the University of Florida. And I was doing a distance education. I always knew that I wanted to get my doctorate. And so I was coming back and forth from Florida to Trinidad, and doing several conferences was very intense weekly lectures. On one of those trips, coming up here, I met a group of folks and I decided that I wanted to come to the US and pursue my dream. And I met my husband. At the time, he was into computers, he was into cell phones and we met and we started a long distance relationship. And eventually, I moved over here and he asked me to marry him. That’s how I moved to Florida. And he’s a Texan by heart. So my Texas cowboy brought me to his home and to tell you the truth, I love it. 

Susan: What a fun and beautiful story.  That is awesome. I love that you call your husband, a Texas cowboy. 

Angelina: Oh, Gosh.  Yeah.

Susan: That is amazing. Well, I know one of the things—how we met was through the Daughters of Abraham. And as you said a minute ago, one of the things that’s most important to you is your faith. We talk a lot on the podcast about figuring out your thing in life, your inner extraordinary. You seem to have really gone back to your roots. What was it that made you go back and rediscover your faith, or reconnect with your faith?

Angelina: Well, I would say that it starts with extraordinary mentors like my grandparents who raised me. My grandfather was actually a very prominent Imam or a leader of a Sunni mosque. But at the age of 60, he decided to convert to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. And he left that position of prestige. He lost the adoration of many of his followers and his people to follow his heart. He took a band of 10 people and started his own mosque. And very soon after the Ahmadiyya missionary that came from Pakistan was martyred. He was assassinated. And I remember the fear of my grandfather’s life and the life of our family was at stake. But you know, he showed not an ounce of fear instead somehow, he showed like a deeper conviction to his faith, a faith that as a young child of you know, maybe seven, eight, you know, I saw it was unshakable. And it drove his very being it drove his core to define him as a person. And he was this eloquent speaker, and he was always revered in the circles that he was with. And, you know, when he passed away, I felt very driven to continue the work of peace and common ground between faiths that he started. And I think it’s that same faith that I come back to and I hold on today that sort of guided me through the, you know, tornado of obstacles that I faced on a daily basis, it seems.

Susan:  I really appreciate how you put that “peace and common ground,” because that’s definitely one of the things we talk about a lot in Daughters of Abraham. And I find that that’s just a lovely way to learn more about each other, and to be inquisitive about each other’s faiths, and really a way to find commonality. And there really is a lot of commonality, at least between the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And I said that in the order that they, you know, kind of showed up on the planet. So, outside your amazing pharmacy career, or pharmaceutical career, you are also a very eloquent and amazing writer. Tell us a little bit about that side of your hobby or side gig, or however you would like to put it, and how you got involved in that. And then how did you become such a beautiful writer, because you really are an amazing writer. 

Angelina: Thank you. Well, honestly, it started where I have this foundation of religion and faith but then, you know, like many youths, you know, I went off to university and I kind of lost my way. And it was only when my grandfather passed away, I got jolted back to reality. And then soon after I became pregnant with a baby girl and I was overjoyed and elated but I was scared and the fear set in and I realized that I was going to be a role model, I had to teach my daughter these morals and values and life lessons. But how was I supposed to do this when I didn’t even know who I was, what were my values. And that’s when I went back to my foundation, to my rock, my faith, and the religion that I was taught as a child, and now kind of looked upon with more mature eyes, and I started researching the meaning behind what I was taught. And in it, I found this kind of, you know, oasis, this spring, that sort of calmed my being and my core, and that’s kind of where it started, for me, my religious and my spiritual journey. And it was then that I became connected with the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Dallas, and there was a branch in Fort Worth, and so I started attending meetings and going there regularly, because I wanted my children to grow up with the kind of strong religious faith that I grew up with.

And it was there that we started our very first—I was able to put together the very first interfaith symposium for the Fort Worth Women’s Chapter, and that was entitled, “Raising Tomorrow’s Leaders Mind, Body and Spirit” because I was so consumed with raising children and raising my own so that was the very first things that I wanted to talk about. And so we have the Muslim, the Christian and the Jewish women, all come together, talking about their religious teachings with regard to you know, raising kids. And from there, a reporter from NPR Radio found me and she wanted to do an interview with me. And she connected me to the Multicultural Alliance, and then then to Janice Lord and the Daughters of Abraham. And that’s how I became sort of woven into the network of these women of faith. And I mean, each topic we discussed, we appreciate, and we learn the differences between each other, but we also able to unite on a common ground, which makes us stronger in our own faith, it makes us more determined to overcome the violence and the negative rhetoric that we confront in the media every day. And we do this through loving each other through open dialogue and communication by getting to know the other in society. So that’s where the Daughters of Abraham sort of came into my life and gave me new meaning.

Susan: I really appreciate how you said that Daughters of Abraham really has made your faith stronger. It has done the same for me. And I love that it can serve the individual like that, and then serve the body, if you will, not the physical body, but the, you know, body of God. Or, you know what I’m saying, like the people of the world, how it can serve both the individual and then humanity.  I know sometimes…I don’t know if this has happened to you, but sometimes we will have—because we’re not actually in the same Daughters of Abraham group—that sometimes we’ll have a topic come up from month to month or however and it’ll say something like, “Okay, well, how is this demonstrated or talked about or dealt with in your faith?” And it could be something as simple as water? What is the significance of water in your own faith? And how it has made me dig deeper and really think about, “Oh, well, what is the significance of water in my faith?” And in the different like sides of Christianity, you know, we have different denomination so what does water mean to the Catholic? What does water mean to the Methodist? What does water mean to the Baptist? And it runs the gamut, and I would presume that that is the case for you, that you would have to dig sometimes as well.  Is that true?

Angelina: For sure. Yes, definitely. You know, I mean, but just the world, in general, and religion, there’s so many different facets to each topic, such that when, like, you say, a topic is presented to you, you start thinking, “I have no idea what my religion says about this,” so you dig deeper and you research and you’re researching your own faith, and in coming, you find, you know, a wealth of knowledge that you didn’t know existed, and so that definitely makes you stronger in your faith and it makes you appreciate the religion that you belong to. But it also makes you appreciate the other person’s religion as well because you see where they dug deep, and they were able to find this material. And even though it’s different, there’s always that commonality. And I am just amazed every time that, you know, in Islam, we have two tenants, which is “Service to God” and “Service to humanity,” and I find that over and over in every religion. In Christianity, the Reverend talks about it all the time. In Judaism, you know, with the Sikhs,with the Buddhist, it’s the same, it’s the resonance amongst all these women, and I think that is what we need to unite humanity. 

Susan: You’re absolutely right. I read a book recently, actually called Finding Joy. And it was done by Desmond Tutu, who is a Christian minister from Africa, who lived through apartheid and then the Dalai Lama. And just—they are older men now obviously, but great friend—and just seeing their dialogue and how they are able to find peace and commonality amongst their own beliefs. And then even sometimes, because they’re too hilarious old men, poke fun at each other and poke…They’re so close at this point that they can poke fun at each other, and fun at each other’s faith in a very good, light hearted, well meaning way like you would chide a brother or a sister. And I think there’s just a lot to learn there, that the more you learn about people, the more we can come together and like you said, the more peace and comfort we can find. So I really appreciate that. Tell me a little bit about…You are a writer for The Fort Worth Mom’s blog. And I feel like so many major cities now, even smaller towns are having their own Mom’s blog and somehow they’re all connected. How did you get in with the Fort Worth Moms blog? How did you begin writing for them? And talk a little bit about what you’re writing and how that has been received in the Fort Worth community?

Angelina: Well, part of our mission, if you will, like you said, we talked about, you know, finding the common ground. And the founder of our community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmadfounded our community in 1889, and he declared almost 100 years ago, that the age of religious warfare is over, the sword is replaced by the pen, which means that we believe in building bridges through dialogue, through open communication, just like we’re doing right now. He authored many, many books. And so this is become our way where we fight extremism and violence through education. And we feel that people fear what they don’t know. And that’s fear kind of leads to hatred, a community being marginalized, you know, isolated, that leads to violence, radicalization and extremism. So we feel like getting to the root of the problem is basically education because people fear what they don’t know, and that is what my writing is about.

And I came about in my writings, honestly, because I love books. My mom, actually, she was a very avid reader of medical thrillers, Robin Cook and Espionage, I got into that reading, and I loved it. She would barely buy a book before I would try and grab it before she read it, and try and finish it. And my grandfather had this amazing library collection of religious book, not just Islamic but like the The Bhagavad Gita and reviews of different religions, and he can quote versus from these books and from the Bible, and he was very well read, you know, sort of unmatched on the podium as well. He was a great orator, a wonderful speaker. And so that’s kind of where my writing came from, and I’m inspired by trying to counter this violence by peace with love, and show a perspective of a Muslim woman living in America today, the challenges that we face, but at the same time showing that the challenges we face is the same as the challenges that a Christian or a Jewish mother would face in today’s society, at the end of the day, we’re mothers trying to raise our kids, and keep them away from harm and we want the very, very best for them, and we have that in common.

One of my first pieces for the Forth Worths Mom’s blog was  “Glitter to Calm the Jitter,” you know, which was my first day of dropping my little girl off to kindergarten and how traumatic that was, as a parent to leave  your daughter and you know, sort of walking away, looking at her with her, you know, sad eyes and wanting to just rush up and hug her and take her back home.  And I knew that every other parent was feeling the same way, you know, I stopped and I realized that it wasn’t just me it was all the other mothers in the room were feeling the same way. And that kind of put me back into perspective again, that, yes, I’m the only woman in the room wearing a hijab. Yes, I’m fearing from my daughter but so are the other mothers, you know, they weren’t wearing a hijab, but they also fear for their children as well and I felt sort of bonded to them and to each other by just that one feeling, just by that one raw emotion. And that is similar amongst all of us. So I want to present to the community, the struggles of a Muslim woman, and that is similar to everyone else, that maybe they can bring humanity to the other. Maybe they can, you know, see us as part of mainstream society as people wanting to help the community and be a part of it. 

Susan: Well, I really appreciate you sharing all of this with our listeners, because I know not all of our listeners are involved with interfaith work. If someone isn’t involved in interfaith work, no matter their religion, do you have a suggestion of how would be a good way for them to get involved if they’re interested in it? And maybe if they’re not interested in it, I don’t know what the question would be. 

Angelina: I get what you’re saying. And I think for those who are interested and are ready to make that step, then it would definitely be to please come to Daughters and Abraham meeting. You know, we’re on the internet. You can Google us Daughters of Abraham, and there are four different…Correct me, Susan, isn’t there four different groups?

Susan:  I think you’re right.

Angelina: There are two Forth Worth groups. There is a morning group that meets the last Wednesday of every month at 10am. And there’s an evening group that meets I think, on Thursday, Thursday evening, for the third Thursday evening, I think, and then there’s one in Colleyville as well. And so definitely come to Daughters of Abraham. You don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to say a single word, you can…

Susan: Absolutely.

Angelina: You can feel the atmosphere, you’re not pressured to say anything. I mean, if you don’t want to talk to anybody, you don’t have to, even though you’re probably wrapped up in a hug. And you can’t help but smiling because everybody else is and it’s just contagious. But you’ll feel the warmth of the environment. And you’ll definitely want to be a part of this group, woman of faith, women of strength, you know, woman who wants get out there and make a difference in this world. And for those of you who are not quite ready to make that step, I would say please jump on to my blog page, www.fortworthmomsblog.com and read some my articles, you can even make a comment, you can ask a question under the article, and I’d be happy to respond to you. Some people feel safer behind the screen of a computer and that’s okay. You know, feel free to ask a question. But do something. If there is an angst in you that you want to learn, you want to know more, but you are afraid that is okay because courage is overcoming that fear. It’s not the absence of it. So please jump on there, leave a message for me and I would be happy to respond. If you want to learn more about Muslims or who we are, there’s another website called www.lajnausa.net. And you can jump on there and see all the different activities that the Muslim women are doing locally and on a national level, you know?

Susan: Yeah. And I would also say, if you’re not in the Dallas, Fort Worth area, I know all over this country, there are interfaith gatherings that are happening. I know the church I’m currently a member of, they have interfaith gatherings every now and again, and it’s co-gender, it’s not a single gender. So if you’re a man happening to listen to “How She Got Here; Conversations with Everyday, Extraordinary Women.”  Those exist as well. So it may take some digging on the internet. Again, you can always feel free to reach out to me and I can try to help you find something in your community. Sometimes it’s a little difficult to find it. But they’re there in so many pockets. You can find your people, if you will, who are interested in interfaith work. So yes, but yes, if you’re here locally in the Dallas, Texas area, please, please come to the Daughters of Abraham meeting. I want to jump out something totally outside the box real quick, because you mentioned this earlier that you were an avid reader, what are you reading right now?  Or how many…What books are you reading? Because sometimes I’m guilty of reading a few books at a time.

Angelina: Right. Well, actually, you know, surprisingly enough, I’ve got this book on Ronald—on the President, it’s called For Presidents, and it’s written by an ex Secret Service member, and he writes it in such a way that is very comical, you start learning a little bit about each of the presidents and, you know, things that you wouldn’t otherwise, you know, come to the media. So it’s quite funny, but it’s also very informative. And so I find myself looking at history books now, which is a big change from my medical thriller and espionage days.  I guess as life changes, your taste changes, I don’t know but I’m very wrapped in it. It’s called Four Presidents.

Susan: Well, I’ll have to look that up because I haven’t heard of that one, and that does sound pretty amazing that it was written by a former Secret Service agent, because so many times they, you know, mums the word, they don’t talk a lot about it. So I would really like to know how some of those presidents took their eggs in the morning. 

Angelina: Yeah, for sure. And then I just finished this book called Jerusalem. And it’s really good. It’s written by Karen Armstrong. And it was done once for a book club at the Daughters of Abraham but I didn’t, I admit, I didn’t read it at that time and so I’m just finishing it. And it’s a very intense book about how each of the faiths, you know, the importance of Jerusalem to each one of the faiths, and that was able to… I was invited by one of the TCU lectures to come and lecture on that topic. Well, as well as Muslim woman living in America. So that was another avenue of advocacy that I was able to get involved with. That was a very enriching and enlightening for me.

Susan: You lectured at TCU? That’s amazing. Holy cow!

Angelina:  I was invited. And it’s actually through the Daughters of Abraham, they reached out to them, and then they reached out to me, and so I was able to go. The first time I was a panel of three women and we talked about, you know, Muslim woman living in American, sort of similar to what I’m talking about today, some of the advocacy things that we’re doing in the community to try and show you know, engender peace and then again, about Jerusalem. So that was very, very interesting. 

Susan: Yeah. Go ahead. I’m sorry. 

Angelina: And I wanted to touch on…I know, you asked me earlier about Capitol Hill. 

Susan: Yeah, thank you for bringing that back around. Yes. 

Angelina: And that was amazing. You know, part of our communication is engaging our lawmakers. So I was part of educating others. And I was very humbled to be a part of a delegate of 80 woman from 17 chapters throughout the United States. We flew to Washington, DC on Capitol Hill and we met with several state and Congress representatives, and in the order to advocate for religious freedom for minority groups globally. And in order for them to help us support our “loyalty to nation” campaign. So that was pretty amazing to see all these women, you know, wearing hijab on the eve of 9/11 walking to Capitol Hill trying to advocate for peace. It was very empowering. And it was an amazing experience. 

Susan: It was called “The Loyalty to Nation Campaign.”

Angelina: Yes. And that kind of came out of the 2015 San Bernardino shooting that occurred, where we as Muslim women became really disturbed that a woman was radicalized to perform acts of terror. So we as mothers started a campaign called “Loyalty to our Nation,” where we became really committed to teaching the youth of our nation that loyalty is not just in the words that you speak, but in your actions by serving and integrating into our community. Our Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, of that love of nation is part of faith, and our leader Mirza Masroor Ahmad currently resides in London has told us that, you know, irrespective of where you were born, because we are a large immigrant community, irrespective of where you’re born, your loyalty lies in the country that you reside, and that immigrants should remain entirely faithful to their adopted nation and should use all of their abilities to help their country advance and prosper. So that is our agenda and that’s how we go about, you know, promoting that campaign. 

Susan: How cool is that, that something so really phenomenal, could come out of something so horrific? And I’m really sorry that that happened. I’m sorry for the Muslim community, I’m sorry for the American community. It just…It makes me so sad. And it really goes back to what you said, about education, and how just educating each other, not only on your own faith, but about other faiths, and finding the common ground as often as possible. Because like you said, we are really all at the end of the day just trying to do what’s best for our kids. And surely we can all do that together. 

Angelina: Yeah. Agreed. 

Susan: I have one more question before I let you go. And everything that we’ve out, I’ll just say it now, everything that we have mentioned here, websites and people and books to look up, I’ll make sure to link that in the show notes on the website after all of this is said and done. But what is—actually, two last questions—what is the one question that you get most often from, I would presume non Muslim people, about your religion? 

Angelina: I would say it’s the hijab. Why do I wear the scarf? What’s the meaning of the scarf? I get that quite a lot from people where there’s this misconception that we wear the hijab out of oppression or male dominance, and especially what is being advertised in the media with the Middle East, you know, people think that it’s due to an oppression. And so that’s a huge area that I can help to clarify where the hijab is a head covering. It’s actually, you know, a sign of modesty and dignity and it helps to…It is written in the Holy Karan, where a woman is supposed to cover her head and that intimate chest area. And it helps to prevent, you know, being cast as a sex object, to be viewed at with dignity and respect, rather than to be viewed for how you look, to be viewed for your merit and what you say rather than what we look like. And that’s the outer covering of hijab also extends to your inner heart, where to hijab helps us to, you know, shield ourselves from immorality and negativity and hate and treachery, and make ourselves into someone that we want to be. And it didn’t mean that we are this person now. I tell people, it’s not like a superhero cape, I put it on, and then I’m this wonderful person. I wish. No, it’s not. It means that I’m just, you know, I’m in progress. I’m trying to get to my goal of being this person. This is who I want to be. And I’m trying every day when I put this on to be that better person.

Susan: Well, thank you for sharing that. I think oftentimes, especially in the Christian faith, I think we forget that there are Christian denominations that used to cover their heads for different reasons, some of the same reasons, some different reasons. But all of it was with respect to God. I know, the Catholic Church, obviously, nuns still cover their head. I remember the pictures of Jackie Onassis—Jacqueline Kennedy at the time when she went and met the Pope, you know, she covered her head as she walked into the Vatican. And I think sometimes we forget that. And sometimes it’s easy to, again, judge or misconstrue what you don’t understand. So thank you for sharing that.

Angelina: If you think of people like Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother Teresa, Julian of Norwich, and Malala. When you look at those women, you think strength, you think, dignity, honor, and, you know, all of that good things that go with those women? And then when you’d want to emulate someone you’d want to be? 

Susan: You’re absolutely correct. Now, last question, is there anything I have missed? Or is there anything you wanted to chat about or share that I forgot to ask? 

Angelina: Well, we’ve actually recently acquired our building, a mosque at 2801 Miller Avenue in Fort Worth.

Susan: Congratulations. 

Angelina: And I’m very excited. We had our Fort Worth Chapter for the last eight years, and we did not have an actual building so now it’s just all formalized, we’ve got a building there. I mean, we’re part of the global organization, but we had just started our chapter. And there, every Wednesday, we have a program called “Coffee Cake and true Islam.” So those of you in the Fort Worth area who just, you know, never met a Muslim or just have questions, it’s very informal, there’s no agenda, you can come by and just ask your question, coffee and cake would be provided for you, and we can chat in a very informal setting. And it’s just part of our “Ask a Muslim” campaign and reaching out to the community, and trying to, you know, show that we’re here and we’d like to spread the message of peace.

Susan: Well, that is awesome. And I will make a note of that in the show notes as well. Angelina, thank you so much for coming on today and sharing your story and sharing a little bit about your faith. And how you’ve gotten connected into interface and how you got to Texas. It’s a beautiful story. And just keep writing and keep doing what you’re doing because it’s amazing. And I’m just happy to know you. 

Angelina: I appreciate that. And I really, really do. I hope that that maybe some of my words will we reach someone and be able to change their heart or help them to reach out in their community. 

Susan: Yes, ma’am. Absolutely. Absolutely. All right, friend, I will chat with you soon. 

Angelina: Okay, thank you, Susan. Have a good day. Goodbye. 

Susan: Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you’ve enjoyed our two-part episode on Daughters of Abraham, and that it has inspired encouraged you. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to part one, you can find it over at howshegothere.com. How She Got Here, can also be found on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play. And while you’re there, don’t forget to hit subscribe. I would also really appreciate it if you would give us a rating and review, as it makes it easier for others to find. Until next time, I’ll see you soon. 

How Jewish, Christian and Muslim women unite over similarities in their respective faiths; Daughters of Abraham Part 1

Daughters of Abraham Part 1

What happens when a bunch of Jewish, Christian and Muslim women get together to talk about their respective faiths?  A lot of laughing, crying and really good eating.  The Daughters of Abraham are forging friendships that might surprise you.

Show Notes:

What if we could figure out a way to come together over our similarities rather than be consumed by our differences? 

We all handle life altering moments differently.  After 9/11, Janice Harris Lord remembered what her son Steve had said after coming back from Desert Storm. “People who can pray together ought not to be killing one another.”  With that thought as her guide she sought out a way to connect the women of the three Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian and Muslim women) and from this The Daughters of Abraham was born.

Does Daughters of Abraham recognize the differences in the three faiths?  Absolutely!  However, the focus is placed on similarities with open hearts and minds.  Janice and Dawn both go on to say their faith has been strengthened thanks to this group and that a questioned faith is a deeper faith.

A few of my favorite take aways:

– Getting to know people on an individual level promotes understanding and helps stamp out “othering”

  • It’s okay to ask questions.  Curiosity is a good thing and many people welcome it.

–  Sisterhood can come in all shapes and sizes.  It does not recognize boundaries of age or faith.  These differences can even make the bond that much stronger and brighter.

Links:

Daughters of Abraham – website

Daughters of Abraham – How to start an interfaith group

Daughters of Abraham North Texas – Facebook

Daughters of Abraham DFW – Facebook

Transcript:

Intro: 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 empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Hey Pod Sisters, I am really excited to share this week’s episode with you. It will be a two part series discussing how Jewish, Christian and Muslim women come together to learn about each other’s faiths and break down barriers, creating the opportunity for open dialogue to better understand those that believe different than you, often even strengthening your own faith. This week, we will be speaking with founder of Daughters of Abraham, Janice Harris Ford, as well as Christian coordinator, Dawn Anderson. And then next week we’ll be chatting with Muslim daughter Angelina Tucker. Per the daughters of Abraham website, from the beginning the women in Daughters of Abraham were committed to a participatory democratic structure rather than forming a nonprofit organization, which entailed a vertical structure with officers. Responsibilities have been shared by each faith. The monthly gatherings rotate from Synagogue to Mosque to Church with the host faith, providing a discussion facilitator and light refreshments. While there has been an occasional presenter such as a Holocaust survivor giving a personal account of her experience, the format for meetings is open discussion of the topic. Topics have included beliefs, rituals, symbols, and traditions, such as those surrounding marriage, birth, and death. Specific faith related topics have even included prayer, forgiveness, salvation, and others. So without further ado, here is Janice and Dawn.

Well, Janice and Dawn, thank you so much for joining me today on the show. As I told the guests in the interview, you guys are part of the Daughters of Abraham. And that’s kind of what we’re going to be talking about today. Janice and Dawn, we just really want to talk about how Daughters of Abraham came to be, what the goals were, and all of that. So Janice, if you could start us off, tell us how Daughters of Abraham got started.

Janice: Sure. I need to preface that with a little bit of family history, just so you understand that as we come into this piece. Our family has always been very open in terms of just about everything. We have people of different faiths in our family, we have folks of different color who have been adopted into our family. We have family members from out of the country. So we are kind of a family that didn’t have to stop and work through prejudice as much. But a key piece in that was when our son went to Desert Storm, a graduate of Texas A&M, where he was a philosophy major, a good Christian theological boy wanting to learn more about philosophy, and he was also in the Marine Corps. So, you know, if you want something to make you crazy, put those two things together. And that’s where he was.

Dawn: Don’t forget the preacher’s kid.

Janice: Yes, yes. Having to…Well, choosing to be in the Marines and of course, then begin that as a commissioned officer after he graduated from A&M. So that’s when Desert Storm was going on. He was a group leader, responsible for a lot of men and therefore, responsible for killing a lot of people, most of whom were probably Muslim. And one day after his troops had killed a number of their troops, the Iraqi troop leader dropped his gun started walking towards Steve and said, “May I pray over my dead?” through an interpreter and so, through the interpreter Steve responded, “Yes” dropped his gun and said “May I join you?” So the two of them, walked over together. The Muslim person prayed, of course in Arabic. Steve did not understand one word of the language. But it so touched his heart that he said it was the most beautiful prayer he had ever heard. And he left that setting, committed to the belief that people who can pray together ought not to be killing one another. So he came back then and went to seminary and is now at the Catholic Church teaching in a school in Chicago. So that story had really touched all of us when he came home with a very good case of PTSD on his own, and shared that story. So back to your question; 9/11 happened. I was sitting home in the floor of the house that we lived in before this one, packing, watching the two towers go down. And commentators saying this will change world history and I was thinking, “Oh no, two planes crashing into a big building is not going to change world history. What are they talking about?” But of course it did. And so I just kept stewing about that. So this was in September of 2001— from then through Christmas, I just felt this strong, strong, strong spiritual urging to do something. But as I realized the problem was so huge. More and more did I feel the struggle of what can one little woman in Arlington, Texas do about this big old problem? So, over those months, it finally came to me to try to bring together in this community, women of the three faiths, the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam to form a friendship and dialogue group where we would simply speak heart to heart with great honesty with one another. That seemed simple enough. I already knew a few people in the Jewish faith and the Muslim faith that I thought I could go to so I did. I went to a Rabbi. I didn’t go to an Imam, I went to a psychiatrist that I know who is Muslim and who has also done a great deal of work with domestic violence. And I thought he would know some women who might be interested in this.

So, sure enough, we found women. I thought if we got six women from each of the three faiths, that would be a good discussion group, six of each. So that was the goal six women from each faith. So that’s what we did. I don’t know how much more detail you want about that right now.

Susan: That is an incredible story. Janice, I missed it when you came and spoke to our group about how this all came into being. I hadn’t actually heard it. And Dawn can tell, I had like…I was waterworks over here. I had tears in my eyes.

Dawn: And I’ve heard it many times and I still get goosebumps every time I hear the story about her son praying with the Muslim leader. That’s just the most beautiful story ever of interfaith spirituality, I think.

Janice: Well, I get goosebumps still every time I tell you. And that tells me more than anything that this whole endeavor has been spirit lead.

Dawn: Yes. And Janice, or how many of those women are still meeting together now? Because when I tell the story, I always say that most of you still meet together. Is that correct?

Janice: Yes, that’s true. Several of the more elderly women have died. Seems like more of the original Jewish women than any. But that leads me to another story. I may be going way off on tangent.

Susan: No, this is perfect.

Janice: Just stop me.

Susan: Not at all.

Janice: But after we had been formed probably three or four years and had become very close, one of the Jewish women had cancer and was dying. And she was home receiving hospice care. And she called me one day and said, “Janice, I’m here alone. I’m really scared. My husband had to go somewhere. Is there anybody in Daughters that could just come sit with me this afternoon?” And I said, “Yes, of course I can find somebody.” I couldn’t do it, but I promised her I would get someone right away. Well, the first person I thought of was a woman in our group who is a retired physician. I thought she would be perfect to be there. It did not dawn on me until after I had made the call to ask her if she could go that she was Muslim because we had become such close friends. I just didn’t think about it. And then it dawned on me, “Oh my goodness, I have just asked a Muslim woman to go help a Jewish woman die.” But I think the lovely part of that is that for those of us who have been together for the long haul, it has truly been transforming. And I can tell you that of those women that I have known so long, I would die for any one of them. You know, it takes a while to develop that kind of love for a person.

Dawn: Yes. And I think that’s the whole key, if I may interject, with our group is getting to know each other as individuals and really caring about each other. And we had a similar story not quite as powerful, but after some of those horrible things were happening in Garland with the people surrounding the Mosque and all that, we were having our meeting one night and one of our young Muslim women posted on our email group. She said, “I’m afraid to drive at night by myself with my hijab.” And she said, “Would anybody be willing to come pick me up?” And she told about what neighborhood she lived in. It just so happened two of our older Jewish ladies lived nearby, and they went and picked her up. And I thought there was a cool story, too.

Janice: Yes, that is another wonderful story.

Dawn: Yes. And it was old and young and two different faiths, and yet, all wanting to get together for a very important meeting about peace and loving each other. That’s what it’s all about.

Janice: Yes, it is.

Susan: I’ll just share a little bit while we’re at it. You know, I found this group two years ago, probably and I’ve been in and out. I’ve been trying to be active. My husband’s travel schedule is a little wonky, and then there’s childcare. But I have just really appreciated…My goal was to go out and meet women of other faiths as well. I wanted to have a better understanding of people in general, and I was seeking that out. And someone in our church told me about it and introduced me to Dawn at the time. And I just, you know, I grew up in a small town in South Carolina, and the only Jewish person I knew was my orthodontist and then I had a Jewish professor in college, and I never even really thought anything about it. Coming from the Christian faith I knew that, you know, the Jewish faith came first and Jesus was Jewish and yada, yada ,yada, and there was no issue there for me at all. No problem. I had never met a true Muslim like a practicing Muslim. I had met other people who were Muslim, but I had never met a true practicing Muslim in their faith. And I have learned so much about just how beautiful the faith is, and just how close to Christianity it really is and how we really did all come. It’s not a joke. We all really came from the same background and just getting to know people on an individual basis, like you said, and hearing their stories. You know, one of my greatest friends that I have from this group at this point is from Syria. And she hasn’t been here in the states that long and just—and I’m not going to tell her story for her because I hope she’ll come on the podcast and tell it herself.

Dawn: Are you talking about our Jewish Christian Muslim.

Susan: Yes.

Dawn: That’s how she introduces herself, “I’m a Jewish Christian Muslim.”

Susan: Yeah, because she really understands like that Judaism came first, Christianity came second, and then the Islam came third. And it just is so interesting to me to have that true friendship and to share with other people. You just have to get to know each other on an individual basis, and you can’t believe all the other crazy stuff you hear people say.

Dawn: A lot of ignorance out there.

Susan: Yeah, absolutely.

Dawn: One of my greatest things I’ve learned I really didn’t have any Jewish or Muslim friends. So I’ve learned a lot about both faiths, but I thought I would be closer to the Jewish women, as far as you know, we share the same Old Testament, which of course, is their Hebrew Bible. But the thing that really amazed me was our Muslim sisters believe in all the miracles of Jesus, they love Jesus, they believe in the Second Coming. I mean, we share so much there. Now, granted, our details get very different but there’s so much shared. And that’s I think another big point of our group is we focus on what we share, not the differences. And as far as the differences go, when we hear the stories, I think they’re fascinating, but sometimes it’s like, “Wow, that’s just really interesting how they look at that. That’s their perspective. But here’s my perspective.” And it’s okay, we don’t have to be right or wrong. I feel like we all have a little piece of the truth maybe, and when we get to heaven, maybe the whole puzzle will be put together and there’ll be three colors on the puzzle that all go together. That’s kind of how I look at it.

Janice: I think about that a lot, too. I don’t know if you’ve read the Dalai Lama’s most recent book about compassion, that he goes even beyond these three Abrahamic faiths to others pointing out that every single major religion in the world has language very similar to the Golden Rule.

Dawn: Yes.

Janice: And the point is that if all the faiths could put a lot of emphasis on that, the differences are fine. You know, there are many ways to God, his perspective is really we all pretty much become what our parents were. That’s the truth of the matter.

Dawn: Or rebel against it completely and go the other direction.

Janice: That’s right, either follow or wildly rebel. But I think that it’s really powerful, that if we can come to love one another as ourselves, but even going beyond that to genuine compassion, which is more than ourselves, the reaching out beyond two way more than our love for ourselves. My goodness, the world would be totally changed.

Dawn: Yes. And you know, another thing I think that’s really made me aware of being a part of Daughters of Abraham is, you know how we talk about white privilege, I think there’s also something like Christian privilege. Where growing up in a dominant Christian society, we don’t realize sometimes, especially the ones that proselytize how much harm we’ve done. I remember after one of my first Daughters of Abraham meetings, walking out and there was a Jewish women and a Muslim lady talking, and they were both talking about how their children were being bullied in school by Christians, you know, by people saying, if you haven’t taken Jesus as your savior, you’re going to hell. And it was bullying. And you know, to me, the ugliest part of Christianity is when we try to force it on people and, you know, feel like we’re right and they’re wrong. And that never works. Jesus never did that.

Janice: Jesus certainly didn’t do that. That’s exactly what I was going to add, Dawn. I mean, he laid things out there and you take it, fine, or you don’t, fine. That’s just the way he walked every day. The only people he really got mad at were the people inside the faith who were cutting other people out.

Dawn: Right, the judgmental ones.

Janice: Yeah.

Dawn: And it’s such a big relief when you realize that as Christian, you do not have to judge people. You’re just called to love people. That’s it—right there.

Janice: Yeah.

Susan: And trust me, I did a whole episode on deconstruction about this. And I’ve gotten some feedback myself that has been, “I’m not so sure you’re a real Christian.” So Christians, even bully people who consider themselves to be Christians because we don’t believe things exactly how they believe them. So yeah, we all have….We could work on as a faith in general, I think. Tell me a little bit about how Daughters of Abraham, this specific group is still just in Texas. Is that correct? Or have we spread out outside the state at this point?

Dawn: That’s a good question.

Janice: Yes. It’s a very interesting question because we the answer is we don’t know.

Dawn: Yes, that’s what I was going to say.

Janice: We did not form a 501 C3 nonprofit profit deal with the IRS because that requires boards, which are very vertical. There are a lot of things about that that just don’t feel right. We feel very circular, very democratic, very equal as we meet together. So in that way, we don’t have real policies and guidelines that anybody has to follow. Our primary general rule is that we do not proselytize. So you can share whatever you want to share from your own personal faith perspective. But if it moves into trying to convince others that yours is the best, you know, that’s a no, no. And then the other one is that we steer clear of political discussion. But that is sometimes very, very difficult because right now, with so much painful stuff going on in the world, it’s very difficult to keep that totally removed. So I can’t say that we’re 100% successful at that but we also don’t pound each other about political parties either, which is just that the issues might come up sometimes.

Dawn: Right. And I was…

Janice: So…

Dawn: All right, go ahead.

Janice: I’m sorry, Dawn. So we do know for sure that other groups have formed throughout the country, mainly from women who had been a part of this group and then move somewhere else and start a group there. We’ve even got people doing it down in Mexico. We had two nuns come up from Mexico to do some writing about us a year or so ago. And then they went back and started a group themselves. So we just don’t know.

Dawn: I was going to add that we tell people all the time, there’s a place on our website where people who want to start a group can go and read about how we did it so that they can follow the same pattern we did, which is basically just start off with a Christian, a Jewish and Muslim coordinator, who then work within each faith to recruit people and to get people to meetings, but we’ve never said, “Hey, if you do start one of those groups, let us know.” Maybe we should do that because we’ve had lots of inquiries, and we’ve sent them to our website. So it’s very possible there could be a lot of groups we don’t even know about.

Susan: And I’ll make sure to link all of this in the show notes on our website so anybody who’s listening who is interested in in doing that will be able to just click the button and head on over, for sure.

Janice: Yeah, it’s a simple little click on the website. It’s just a two-page document.

Susan: Great. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen the document so I will have check that out myself. Tell me…because I did not…Janice, I personally—and Dawn I’m not sure about you—I did not grow up in a family that was very open at all, actually. And so me doing this, I’ve been asked a lot of questions. And I’ve asked a lot of questions of myself, right, like, okay, what do you really believe? And does it really matter? And all those types of questions. So tell me, what has that…Dawn, maybe you can speak to this a little more. How was your background? Like, were you open to this and when other people hear that you’re involved in interfaith work, how do you explain that to people?

Dawn: That’s a good question because we go around and we talked to a lot of different groups. We’ll take a representative from each faith. We talk to a lot of Sunday school classes. It’s mostly been Christians that we’ve gone out and talk to in the Dallas group. But I we’re asked that a lot. And I was raised by a Methodist pastor, and I’m a Methodist pastor myself. So the Methodist Church is pretty open—I know Janice would say the same thing about Disciples of Christ—to interfaith dialogue. And so I was actually raised with a very open understanding, especially my dad was one of the first pastors in Kansas City to integrate his church, for instance. So we were raised to respect all people and so it was a pretty natural fit for me. People will ask me, “Now, doesn’t it water down your Christian faith when you go and you listen to these other people with these beliefs that are in…” You know, they’re in conflict sometimes and let’s just be honest about it. We do have things we disagree on. But my response is always “I think it deepens my faith because I think a questioned faith is the deepest faith.” If you never question your faith, and you just take everything that you’ve been told, and you read the Bible literally and you don’t ask questions so you don’t use your brain…God gave us the brain for a reason. I think I learned so much like for my Jewish sisters, I’ve learned so much about respecting our ancestors and traditions. And there’s so many wonderful things they do with grief, for instance. So Janice, I hope you’ll tell your story, if you’re up to it about what you’ve learned from the others about how it affected you and you’re going through the loss of Dick, and from the Muslim sisters. I’ve learned so much also about devotion, like they pray five times a day. So I’ll tell my Christian friends that are big into proselytizing, “Well, first thing if you’re going to proselytize a Muslim, you better be praying five times a day because they’re not going to want to be less spiritual.” So we learn a lot from each other. And I think my Jewish and Muslim friends, when we go out and talk, they say the same thing. They say they’re a better Muslim for having known Jewish and Christian people and vice versa. So that would be my answer to that.

Janice: If you want, I can share the story that Dawn mentioned a while ago. I don’t know how much time we have. 

Dawn: Oh, but it’s so beautiful, Janice.

Janice: Okay, well here we go. One of the things that I learned is that we Christians are just about the only faith that embalm bodies and waxes them all up and paint some up and people go by and stare at them. We’ve been kind of weird to me anyway, but what we learned within the Jewish faith and the Muslim faith, bodies are treated with respect, which means that none of that stuff is done to them. Now, in Reform Judaism, it may very well be because Reform Jews really operate more modernly than conservative or Orthodox Jews. But for many Jews and literally all Muslims, the body is respected. It is washed by people in the faith after the death in clear water. It is wrapped in white muslin or cotton wrappings or in Judaism, it’s more like a pantsuit that that does not have buttons, but it’s tied on and the person is put in a casket. And in Judaism, they are buried with the casket, which is to be very plain, generally wooden. The notion of dust to dust, and it’s buried within 24 to 48 hours. In Islam, it’s the very same thing, except that Mosques have just one casket generally, and it’s used over and over again. So after the body is prepared, it’s placed in that casket until the prayer services is held for the body again, as soon as possible. It’s taken to the cemetery in that casket, and then it’s taken out and laid in the soil with the face looking toward Mecca. And then it’s covered in the dirt with out without a casket or a vault or anything. So there was something about that process that just felt so authentic to me. So my husband died just a little over a year ago, real strong, healthy guy who played golf every day, and he got bitten by a mosquito that was carrying West Nile virus and died a little more then a week later. So, the hospital was great. They let me lay in the bed with him most of that last two or three days and so forth. And when he died, I said to the nurse, “I want to be the one to wash him and do everything that needs to be done before he goes to the funeral home.” And she said, “Oh, okay.” And was really very, very lovely about allowing me to do that. And I will tell you, I believe that had more to do with my healing than most anything. I washed every single inch of his body, washed his hair. His beard had been growing while he was in the hospital, so he looked really gnarly, shaved him, got all those hairs off, clipped the little nose hairs. You know how they have little hairs hanging out of their ears noses so I got them and then I said, “I really think we should put some lotion on him before we wrap him up,” and she said, “Well, let me go see what I can find. I don’t know what we have right here.” So here she comes back with a bottle of Victoria Secret lotion that she got from somebody

Dawn: I think Dick was okay with that, knowing Dick.

Janice: I can just imagine a big old smile of his. If a body could have smiled, I’m sure he would have. I’m sure his spirit did.  So anyway, we got him already and I kissed him goodbye. And it was not a hard thing to do. And I think it was not hard because I had had that wonderful opportunity of doing every single thing I could do for his body as long as I could do it and I would not have ever thought of that of that had it not been for learning it from our Jewish and Muslim sisters.

Dawn: It is so beautiful. Thank you.

Susan: That is beautiful story. Wow.

Janice: We did bury him in a casket.

Dawn: But the point was you got that beautiful ritual from our interfaith friends.

Janice: Yeah, never in a million years would I have thought about that otherwise?

Dawn: How intimate and loving.

Susan: That is a beautiful place to end, isn’t it? Janice, thank you so much for sharing with us today, and Dawn for being here. I just really appreciate it. This has meant so much to me. Wow, I didn’t know what to expect but I’m all over the place right now. And I tried to normally hold it together a little better during these episodes in these conversations. For those of us who are local to the DFW area, I will have everything listed on our website. And I would just encourage you to reach out and join one of these groups. It is meant so much to my life to get to know people from other backgrounds, and Janice and Dawn…Dawn is our representative in Dallas. I don’t know if I actually talked about that.

Dawn: I should say I’m the Christian coordinator. We also have a Jewish, and we have co-coordinators for the Muslim faith, which is kind of a cool idea. I’m thinking about trying to get a Christian co-coordinator also.

Susan: Yeah, that way you don’t have to do it all, right?

Dawn: That’s right. That’s kind of brilliant up them.

Susan: Oh, and one thing I didn’t mean to mention, I don’t think we talked about this. And maybe this is a good point, since we’re ending to kind of go over I’d love to share our guidelines, and then maybe we can end with our prayer.

Dawn: Sure.

Susan: And I was going to say one other thing…

Dawn: And also mentioned how many groups we have. It’s not just Dallas.

Susan: Yeah, absolutely.Go ahead, Dawn.

Dawn: And Janice, correct me if I’m wrong. I’m reading off for the flyer. We have a morning Arlington Fort Worth group, which I believe is your group, right, Janice?

Janice: Yes.

Dawn: We have an evening Fort Worth group and evening Northeast Tarrant County group. Of course, our evening Dallas group. We have recently had a Denton group startup. So we’ll have that info on the website. And we also have Sons of Abraham. So don’t let us forget to mention that. There’s sons of Abraham both mid cities and Dallas, I believe, right, Janice?

Janice: Yes.

Dawn: So that’s pretty darn cool.

Susan: Yeah, it really is. It’s nice to have the men join us although they aren’t really joining us.

Dawn: Yes.

Janice: I would like to add in that vein, a lot of people don’t realize that Allah is just the Arabic word for God.

Dawn: Right.

Janice: Allah is not somebody different right. So Muslims use the word Allah, Jews use Adonai or other words we use God.

Susan: And Adonai is also in the Bible.

Dawn: The Christian Bible.

Susan: The Christian Bible. Yeah, that’s a good point. Very good point.

Dawn: And the Torah.

Susan: Yes.

Janice: In most of our meeting, the Jewish and Muslim women just say God.

Dawn: Oh, do they? Okay.

Janice: At least in our group, they do. I mean, they don’t have an aversion to using the word God because it is all the same God; it’s just three different names.

Dawn: Right.

Janice: Same God. So you usually hear some of all three.

Dawn: Well, I do agree it would be kind of cool if we said all three when we read it together.

All: Our God, the soul that you have implanted within us is pure. You created and formed it, breathed it into us and sustain it each and every day. So long as we have life, we will be grateful to you, Adonai, God, Allah. Our God and the God of our mother and father, creator of all life, sustainer of every human spirit, blessed are you, Adonai, God, Allah in whose hands are the souls of all life, and in the spirits of all flesh.

Outro: Thanks so much for joining me today. I know today’s conversation covered up a lot of hard topics, war, death, interfaith work. I would really love to hear your feedback or any questions you might have. I have really enjoyed being a part of Daughters of Abraham because it has given me the opportunity to get to know my sisters of different faiths on a whole new level. It has also given me the space to ask questions where I might often feel uncomfortable. So often when we can ask questions, we can dispel myths, rumors, and things we do not understand. My heart aches so often when I see people harmed because of their faith, the language they speak, or the color of their skin. It’s so oftentimes comes from a place of misguided information. Martin Luther King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” So often, once you shine a light on things you do not understand. It isn’t so scary. Is it hard? Sure, but we can do hard things. As women, as leaders in our communities, as moms, we can share our knowledge with our friends, spouses, and children. It starts with each one of us to drive out hate. Truly loving our neighbor will do just that. I’ll see you soon. 

One year anniversary: Live with the Texas Women’s Foundation

How She Got Here, Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women is turning 1 and to celebrate…we went LIVE!  Come along as we celebrate Everyday Extraordinary Women with the Texas Women’s Foundation.

 

Show Notes:

  To celebrate the 1 year anniversary of the podcast we went LIVE!  We partnered with an organization near and dear to my heart, the Texas Women’s Foundation and visited with two of their board members.

Bonner Allen and Laura Nieto are both everyday extraordinary women in their own right.  In between raising families and focusing on careers they make time to give back to their community in a big way.

They both fundamentally believe in the importance of making the world a better place, especially for women and girls.  We touch on ways you might get involved as well.

There are so many common threads throughout their individual stories. A few of my favorite are:

–   the importance of bringing women together

–   Surrounding ourselves with strong women

–   Supporting our “sisters”

–   The power of the collective of women

–   Having confidence and pride in yourself

–   Following your passions and dreams

 

This episode is so near and dear to my heart.  I can’t wait for you to learn more about their stories, but I am also really excited to share the history, mission and vision of the Texas Women’s Foundation and the XIX Society giving circle.  I mean, their catch phrase is Strong Women, Better World!  Who doesn’t agree with that?!

Links:

Texas Women’s Foundation – website

Texas Women’s Foundation – XIX Giving Society Page

Texas Women’s Foundation – Facebook Page

Transcript:

Intro: 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 empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Hey, pod sisters, I am over the moon excited to share this week’s episode with you. In honor of the first birthday of the podcast, I invited a group of Dallas friends to get together and celebrate with the recording of a live episode. You can still catch the Facebook Live on my Facebook page, but I thought it would be fun to release the audio as an episode too. I had the opportunity to interview two amazing women: Bonner Allen and Laura Nieto, highlighting their work with the Texas Women’s Foundation but also learning a bit more about them as individuals and really having the opportunity to hear and understand their why. I hope you enjoy.

All right, guys. So with me tonight I have Laura Nieto and I have Bonner Allen, and I am very excited for you both to be here and be talking about the Texas Women’s Foundation but more importantly, sharing each of your stories. Now, Bonner I’m going to start with you because I told you before we got started that I had a story to tell you. When I moved here in 2007, I don’t think you were the Junior League president at the time, I think it was Lynn McBee and I remember seeing her and I went… Oh, and she’s running for mayor and I don’t know any of her politics but if she can run the Junior League, she can run the city of Dallas. And I was like, “Wow, that’s a really cool job.” And then you were president for a hot second, weren’t you?

Bonner: Yes.

Susan: That’s what I thought. And I said, “I want to be her one day.” Yeah, you’re gonna laugh. I know. And then I found out she was going to be on this committee with me on the XIX Society and I was like, “Ooh.” So that was a story I was gonna tell you. That I never told you. But yeah, that’s good. So now we’re going to get started for real. Thank you guys for joining me tonight. And I want to hear about you guys’ stories. And I think we want to start there. I think Laura, we can start with you or Bonner we can start with you. I don’t care who ever wants to go first. But tell us a little bit about yourself, your careers and how you got here.

So who wants to go first?

Bonner: I will go first.

Susan: Do we need a coin toss?

Bonner: That story cracks me up because that is so like far from how I perceived myself. So I felt very lucky to get to serve with you. And I think before this all started, Susan gave us a lot of things around the room. But I think you are so inspiring to all of us. And the fact that you’ve put together this podcast and run this operation and have brought so many women together to speak is really pretty awesome. So, thank you for inspiring me and all of us in this room.

Susan: Thank you.

Bonner: So my backstory, I’m a Dallas native, married to great guy named Thomas, have two daughters and I started my career kind in the political and nonprofit worlds and worked in that area for a while. And then about seven years ago decided that I’d shift gears and my job would be focused on staying at home with our two little girls. So that has been my job, so to speak, for the past few years. But then I’ve also found some time to really kind of dive into various community organizations. And that has really been a wonderful experience for me, because I’ve really gotten to be a part of some extraordinary missions, and then also really gained invaluable insight into some of the issues our fellow Dallas citizens are facing. So I think that that has really been a fulfilling and edifying experience for me, you know, being at home, but then also having the opportunity to do that. I know you’d ask kind of where did we come from? And so I thought maybe I would dive in a little, maybe a little hokey, but I think it’s kind of worthwhile to talk about, that I was kind of raised in a family that looked at life through a female lens, I would say. First and foremost, I would say that I had an awesome mom who truly committed herself to her two daughters and wanted us to know that we could do anything and be anything and I’m not even 100% sure she realized the message see what she was sending us when she said, “We’re going to go to a female dentist because I want to support fellow professionals” or I’m going to send you to the same all girls school I went to because I know those opportunities that come from going to an all girls school and being, you know, on the robotics team and playing… I didn’t do that. And play violin and play sports and sing in the choir…Did not sing in the choir either. In fact, I was asked to leave the choir. Neither here nor there, but there are lots of opportunities. You can be whoever you want to be at an all girls school and I love that. But I think the best was the example she lived first every day. She was a working mom who put her family above all else and while the same time you know, found time to serve her community, but then also taught us to stand strong and live compassionately and find our own voices.

So I think that when I was reflecting on, you know, why women and girls? Why have I gotten to this point and why was my heart filled with such extraordinary passion for them, now Texas Women’s Foundation. And I think that’s where it started; I really do truly feel that that passion is ingrained in me from a very young age, which I think that a lot of the women in this room could probably attest to. We all have wonderful female examples in our lives that have brought us to where we are today. So I think that started that and then the more I learned about—and really through the work of the Texas Women’s Foundation, but through other areas as well. But that impact, the really broad impact you can make by supporting a woman, really kind of opened my eyes because I saw that in my own life. But you know, when you support a woman, you support her family obviously, but then you also support the community because let’s face it, we women do a lot for the community at large, whether it’s stemming from our own household, or stemming from our career spheres, or any other community spirit that we’re a part of. So I think that that made a really big difference in my life and how I ended up here.

Susan: Cool. I’ll get to the how you got on the board in a second, because I want to ask you guys the same questions. All right, Laura, you’re up.

Laura: All right. Awesome. Thank you. Well, I just want to express my sincere gratitude to you Susan as well for hosting and bringing such a wonderful group of extraordinary women together. I think as we share our stories, probably many of you can relate to the stories that we’ll share because even though we all come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, we do have a lot of commonality. So I invite you to share those commonalities as we’re just kind of networking through the rest of the evening. But I’m Laura Nieto, and I’m originally from San Antonio, was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and made my way to Dallas for my career here.I had a background and advertising to the Latino community. One of the largest ad shops at the time was in global San Antonio, Texas, when the majority of those ad shops were either on the east or the west coast. So I got my start in advertising in my career grew when I came to Dallas, but an interesting short story is the woman who was my client when I was in advertising in San Antonio started the multicultural marketing initiatives at the company I work with. And when she got approval for headcount, she came looking for me. And so that is how I started my career at Southwest Airlines.

We moved up, I married my college sweetheart, his name is Rueben. I have one daughter, her name is Sophie. She’s 13 years old. And being raised in San Antonio, a very middle class family. I had two working parents, but as I was reflecting on just kind of what got me here, and I think back to what was so important to me as I was growing up and you never know what’s happening until you look back and see what an amazing community I grew up in, you know, I grew up in the 70s and it was very…I was a latchkey kid, both my parents worked. And so my brother and I kind of had to fend for ourselves in the summer and spring breaks. But even in that, there’s a lot of learning that happens. There’s a lot of independence that you kind of experience and grow in. And because I had two working parents, both my parents had part time jobs. My mom was working on the side selling Avon or Stanley or Mary Kay or whatever it was to supplement the income and my dad also did the same thing, taking oftentimes janitorial jobs or anything he needed to do to supplement our income.

But you know, when you think about that, we were always so rich in love and family in our household and really kind of when you look back and I think about it, both my parents taught me like a strong work ethic and how important your word is and to show up. And when you think about us being latchkey kids and my parents were working. There were a lot of stay-at-home moms in our neighborhood. So we kind of were all raised by everybody in the neighborhood who was watching out for the neighbors and making sure everybody was safe and everybody was kind of being taken care of. And if you got in trouble, that neighbor told your parents and you had to own up to that. But as I grew up, my parents always wanted to ensure that we felt that we had an opportunity in life and to know that our voices mattered and with a little bit of perseverance and determination that we could be whatever we want it to be. And so when you reflect on the strong women who were part of kind of my little circle in my community, and even as I grew up through college and in my career, I found myself surrounded by so many strong women who maybe didn’t have college degrees or maybe weren’t in the corporate world but could teach you just really the importance of staying strong and that your voice mattered and that you’re a good mom. And even if you work and you’re splitting time, you are making an impact even though you don’t know it.

And so as I reflect on that, and I think about what brought me to the Texas Women’s Foundation, and why women and girls, it’s because we have such a strong role in supporting our sisters, if you will, supporting the women around us and then eventually raising our children and being part of a broader community or world that’s larger than ours that has such a ripple effect that each one of us is making such a unique contribution and a unique difference in the communities around us.

Susan: So how did you guys get on the board? How long have you guys been involved with the Texas Women’s Foundation? Did you get involved with the Texas Women’s Foundation first and then you were asked to be on the board? Did Southwest put you on the board because I know that happens sometimes too. And I know that there are people who are interested in serving in those positions who might not be working. You know, I might want to do that one day. And if you don’t have a company to put you up for that, how does that work?

Laura: I can share just a quick experience. And you know, Susan, you started this podcast about making sure that we were making connections here and grabbing business cards and I had always been familiar with the Texas Women’s Foundation just by way of I think the mission and the reputation of the foundation. And I had always participated in luncheons either as a guest or because my company bought table but when you think about the importance of networking I was going through the Leadership Dallas, which that’s how Bonner and I actually got a chance to know each.

Susan: That’s hilarious. I love that.

Laura: The Texas Women’s Foundation, but Karen Locke who is the chairman of the board right now and within my leadership Dallas class and as she was coming on—and she was a member of the board—and as she was coming into her role, she reached out to me and said, “You know, Laura, I would love to have you serve on the board of the Texas Women’s Foundation not only because of the value that you bring, but as we look at the diversity of our communities, and really a lot of the challenges that our communities face, often our communities of color are being faced with a lot of these challenges. And it’s so important that we are representative of the communities that we’re serving.” And she was like,”If you’re willing, I would love for you to be able to participate.”

And so just interestingly enough, I had always given back to communities more the national level not only by way of my job, but my personal passion. But I had never really gotten engaged in the Dallas community. And as I started to get involved with the Texas Women’s Foundation and started to meet such wonderful, extraordinary women like you and like Bonner and a lot of the women here. It has just really been such a fulfilling experience because the connections are just so amazing. And there’s so much that we all have in common here that we are able to do such wonderful things. So that’s how I was invited to be on the board. And I am so thankful that Karen thought of me and just really thankful that I took that step to participate. Because oftentimes in giving back, it feels like we’re more fulfilled usually than probably the communities that we’re supporting, and I’m just so appreciative of that and have so much gratitude for that.

Susan: That’s a good point. That is my four-year-old upstairs. It’s not her elephants.

Bonner: I’m laughing because my story is not dissimilar. So, you know, like many of us, I love going to the then Dallas Women’s Foundation, now Texas Women’s Foundation luncheons. I think this group pretty much wrote the book on how to run a good lunch.

Susan: That is a fair statement.

Bonner: And it was always inspiring and wonderful. And I would leave every luncheon saying, “How can I get involved in this group? I love it.” And you know, I served on the Grant’s Committee a couple of times, which if you have not done that I highly recommend it is a wonderful way to get to know the mission but also feel like you’re really getting to know Dallas and helping to make an impact on the city at large. So I served on that for a little bit and continue to seek out ways to support the Texas Women’s Foundation. And then it just so happened, I was at an event as I was finishing up my tenure as the president of, the Junior League of Dallas and Karen Locke walked up to me and we were visiting and she was, you know, kind of put a bug in my ear and said, “What would you think about serving on the board of the Texas Women’s Foundation?” Of course I was, “That was my dream. That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out how to get involved with for so long.”

And so when it did work out that I was able to join the board, I was thrilled, honored excited, because it truly is, to Laura’s point, a wonderfully inspiring group of people, all very passionate and very smart. And you know, obviously the foundations doing great work and that’s no accident that the group of people that sit on the board of directors are not the best of the best, I think so…Or are the best of the best. So anyway, I was thrilled to be able to be part of it.

Susan: I want to go off with something you said earlier, I keep forgetting we have this in common, but I attended an all women’s college. And so there is definitely something about…I grew up in a wonderful home, very loving parents. But there was not the same push for women to just go out there and conquer the world, for lack of a better. And there is something about even today I think the importance of a single gender, women’s education. And I will say that until the cows come home. Until it is not…I’ll use a Ruth Bader Ginsburg; until it is not unusual for there to be nine women sitting on the Supreme Court. Until it is not a first situation where there is going to be two women… It’s gonna be an all women team doing a spacewalk at the end of this month. I don’t know if you guys have seen that. Lindsay’s freaking out. Yeah. All women team gonna be doing a spacewalk to fix something for the ISS. But I mean, until that’s not unusual, I think there’s room for a single gender education just because you’re forced to lead there, you’re forced to find yourself. There’s nobody else. There’s not a guy there that will be like, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” I’m sorry. We don’t normally have men at these gatherings. We will not male bash, I promise, that’s not what we do, Facebook, Insta world.I promise. But yeah, I just think there’s still a place for it because there are still not enough women, young women, older women getting the message that you can do this.

Bonner: I think that’s right and I think too an all girls, all women environment encourages you to try stuff that maybe wouldn’t try otherwise. And in an all girls environment, it is the girls who are president of this group and the girls who are trying their hand at musical instruments. And I mean, I think it is an opportunity for girls to find themselves and feel confident in doing so.

Susan: One it goes back to an old adage, “You can’t be what you can’t see. And when it’s forced upon you, then you have to see it.”

Bonner: I couldn’t agree more. I think there’s absolutely value in a coed education. Absolutely. Yes. But I think that a single sex environment, the benefits are significant.

Susan:And not everybody needs it. But it was good for me. I’ll just leave it there. What do you want to talk about? Does anybody have any questions? Does any have any questions about 19th Society? Who else already joined? Who did the text message and joined? Dumb question? Go ahead. Yes, Rhonda, I’m looking at you.

Rhonda: Can you give us more background on the Texas Women’s Foundation to the best of your knowledge?

Bonner: Yeah, we can do that. So it started in the mid 80s about 34 years ago by 19 women which is where we got the name the XIX Society, and it was a pretty remarkable group of women, very diverse in all aspects of the word from you know, racial, ethnicity, economic, every kind of diversity you want to throw in there, but they tried to make that happen. And these women, I think, had the foresight to understand that lifting up women and girls makes a big difference in the community. And so they created an organization that could do that.

Laura: Yeah. And I’ll just add that really what I think was incredible about the vision of these 19 women was the fact that they recognize the power of the collective of women, and how we could kind of really unleash that to make a better world for all of us. And we all know that women and families, you know, women are leading their families and leading our communities and they really had the vision and the foresight to recognize that so that we can continually invest in women and girls and really make it a better world.

Bonner: And a neat thing, you know, the Texas Women’s Foundation does have a variety of kind of buckets, you know, research and grant making, Donor Advised funds and things like that, but just a neat little factoid is that it started out granting $100,000, and now we grant 5 million. So it’s substantial growth over the years.

Laura: You just said that so easily, you know, we’re up to about 5 million. That’s huge. That’s so important too, in that, ensuring that we are actually putting resources, raising money and resources and programs to help equip our women to be able to have a voice, whether it’s in their families, or in the communities, in a corporate setting, or in the boardroom, that we’re actually at the table sharing our voices, amplifying our voices and really making a difference.

Bonner: And, you know, one cool fact that the foundation has shared with us that I think it’s truly when we’re talking about that grant making impact—I’m going to look at my, make sure I get this right. So in the world or at let’s say globally about 12% of financial giving, if you will, goes to women. In the United States, 4% of all gifts made in the United States goes to women. 4%. So I think the fact that we’re putting an emphasis on grant making to women and girls can only do wonders for that number.

Susan: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. I didn’t ask this question beforehand, but it is Women’s History Month. Do you have a favorite historical woman? And it doesn’t have to be like somebody famous. Like, do you have a favorite? Who’s your favorite? Do you have a favorite?

Bonner: I did a report in third grade on Susan B. Anthony.  She was great. I liked her. I don’t know.

Laura: Oh, yeah, there’s so many. There are important women, famous women, not famous women, but all who are making such important you know, contributions obviously. I mean, I feel like we might all go back and say our moms possibly. And I know that just sounds so close to home but for me…I’s funny how when we’re growing up and our moms probably just don’t know anything right because we know it all and then you grow up and you become your mom…

Bonner: I think I heard that from my daughter.

Laura: And then like in retrospect you’re like, “Now I understand. I understand exactly what she was talking about or what she was trying to do or what she was trying to teach me.” And I feel like I see moments of that almost like every day, whether it’s dealing with family or household or relationship or daughter, work or whatever it is. And as I just think about it, my mom had just such a meaningful impact on my life and the decisions I’ve made and if I could kind of sum it up to something very simple, she was always there to encourage and when I fell down she was always there to just lift me right back up and let me know that I could overcome or do or accomplish whatever I set out to do. And I’ll tell you what, I still talk to her on my way to work every day. She lives in San Antonio. And every day, she always has just a little bit of something to tell me, “Have a great day. You can do this go out and make a difference. You’ve got this.” Some little bit of encouragement.

And so I would probably say, a lot of our moms around the world are kind of the unsung heroes during Women’s History Month because these are the women who are working behind the scenes to rear these children who are making a difference every single day. And so I think that I would just have to say my mom.

Susan: Well, I love that you said that and I love that you said Susan B. Anthony.

Bonner: I’d have to give it more thought to really get behind that answer but I think…

Susan: First, that brings up a good point that in our history classes…This is a bug that if somebody could fix this… And we’re in Texas so hello, anybody out there in the world listening who does our textbook writing, because I know that all happens here. We all know that happens here. For the United States, the textbooks, everything that’s in them is decided here. So that’s great. I’m kidding. There’s not enough women’s history in those history books. And they’re certainly not enough women of color history in those history books. I remember learning about Susan B. Anthony, but did you ever learn about Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Bonner: I was a history major in college, so maybe it was college.

Susan: Well, anybody who doesn’t know Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the woman behind the scenes, she was the one who was writing all of those speeches at the time that Susan B. Anthony was giving. So she was the one at home. Susan B. Anthony never married, she was single and she traveled and that’s what she did. And she obviously took up the women’s suffrage movement. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was married and had like six plus children so she was the woman who was at home with the kids writing all the content out while the other person was out there saying the content. So yeah, so anyway, that aside

But I wanted to go back and talk about you. You brought up being a mom and not everybody hears mom but some people are moms. So talk to us… Each of you tell us, what are you guys doing different? What is it that you’re taking forward that you’ve learned for your mom’s? How are you raising? You both have girls? I don’t have a girl. Actually, I have a boy. It’s not better. It’s a whole different ballgame. But tell me how you’re doing that today because it’s a different world, I feel like for women. Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know.

Laura: Yeah, I have to think about that. So my daughter is 13.

Susan: That’s a hard age.

Laura: Yeah, the age matters, right? So maybe if you were to ask me when she was younger, I might have a different answer. But where I am today, it is a different world, very, very different. But I feel a lot of the lessons are the same, right. It’s just the way that things manifest. So obviously, in a world of social media, and so forth, I probably tend to be a little bit more of a conservative mom when it comes to social media. But nonetheless, I find myself, you know, apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. So I find myself raising my daughter a lot like my mom raised me. And it’s always just about being involved, creating an environment of trust, ensuring that she feels comfortable talking to me about whatever’s on her mind. And I try really hard to listen objectively and not judge what she’s telling me because I want her to feel comfortable and confident that it’s going to stay with me. And we build a solid foundation now, so that as she gets older, she continues to feel comfortable to do that.

But I think the challenges are the same. She’s in the seventh grade. So a lot of the things we dealt with in the seventh grade, that’s what they deal with now. And so it’s just listening, listening, objectively encouraging her and just making sure she feels a sense of confidence and pride in self and just making sure that I’m raising a strong, independent woman who knows that her voice is important and what she has to say is important and to be able to have the confidence to express Whatever it is, you can at 13 years old, right?

Susan: Well, she certainly has a great role model.

Laura: Thank you.

Bonner: I would say. I mean, we’re a little, a few years behind. I’ve got a seven year old and a nine year old. And I think trying to instill a sense of confidence and self understanding to the extent you can, while also helping practice good manners and respect is trickier than it seems, you know, because you want them to feel free to be strong and express themselves and stand up for themselves. But then also, you know, how to be respectful, and how to be kind and how to be thoughtful. And so that I feel like at seven and nine, it’s an interesting dynamic, because you kind of have to walk that line. But at the same time, you know, my grandmother always said, there’s nothing new under the sun. So to Laura’s point, I think the challenges are the same now as they were when we were younger, just in different format and so we just want walk along with them and try and help them be the best they can be by empowering them in different ways.

Laura: One of the things that I’ll add is that I just personally have a passion for travel. I love to travel. And I work for a company that allows that flexibility. So I take full advantage of it. And that’s one thing that I want to instill in my daughter is a love for travel. And so a couple of years ago, I bought her for Christmas a passport cover, probably was not on her list, but I wanted to gift it to her and hope that it would eventually you know, 10 years down the road look all worn but she would have traveled the world. And so Bonner you probably know and some of my co workers here and know that I had set a goal a couple of years ago to run the world marathon majors. And so I the world marathon majors are the Chicago, the New York, Boston, London, Tokyo and Berlin marathons and I was able to accomplish that two years ago.

Susan: I didn’t know that.

Laura: Yes, it is. Thank you. But on the on that note is I wanted to be sure that I brought my daughter along with the ride so that she could see that and experience it and also be able to see a bigger world around her. And so she was able to come with me to London and to Tokyo. She was a tad bit young when I ran Berlin. But the point being she has a passport, right? And I wanted her to see that while we have great – we have so many great luxuries here in the United States, but it’s just so important to be able to travel the world and see that there’s a greater world around us and how important it is for her to go see how other people live and learn about their cultures and their foods and their languages and so forth. And so I’m really excited because for spring break, I’m sending her on a school trip to Italy and this will be the first time she gets her passport stamped on her own. I’m hoping now that the independence and the confidence and everything I’ve kind of been teaching all along, that she’ll be able to kind of take it and begin to grow in a worldly way.

Bonner: So I do agree with that, because we have the same perspective on travel because I think that in addition to opening up your eyes to another way of life, another world, another language, I think it also fosters a sense of independence and a sense of I can do anything I can be flexible I can shift with where I need to shift. And I’ve noticed that even in our little girls that by you know, taking them to Amsterdam and Switzerland, a few places last summer and for them to go to a place where the majority of people ride bikes and they had to ride all over the city and then they you know, we just it was an experience where they were like, “Oh, we can ride on a train and where we don’t know the language and we’re fine and we can jump on the back of a bike and ride through a super busy, scary street and we’re okay.” It’s definitely, you know, those are important luxuries, albeit, like to be able to do those kind of things with your children is a luxury, but it is also very eye opening for them.

Susan: There’s definitely importance in that. But there’s definitely privilege in that for sure. Before you leave, there’s a few big runners in his group I think you should talk to.There’s at least two, about three.

Bonner: Yeah, but to that point about the privilege, I think the same experience can be gained from jumping in the car and driving to the town next door, which we do plenty or going down to another part of the town that you haven’t seen that, whatever the case may be, I think, just new experiences. It doesn’t have to be another land.

Susan: No, no, I agree.

Bonner: I could be new people.

Laura: And even just looking at Dallas, right. When you look at the Metroplex, if you will, there is so much diversity within the Metroplex.

Bonner: Yeah, so many new adventures to be had.

Laura: Yes, I know going south Dallas, you know, North Dallas, out to Fort Worth, you know, wherever it is, there’s just so much diversity around us that the city has so much to offer that we could learn a lot of that just riding around.

Bonner: Yes. So true.

Susan: Yeah, we’ve started with a few of the states because Stephen travels for work and his is not International. And it when it is it’s like he gets to go to London for 24 hours. I’m not making that flight. I mean, literally, like that’s not worth it. But Will’s been to at this point to… I’ve said his name now on Instagram and Facebook. He’s been to Portland, South Carolina numerous times, because that’s where our family’s from, New York City. So yeah, I mean, I think any kind of travel you can give your child that is outside your bubble. And to your point, Fort Worth, I mean, anywhere you can go that just outside, anything that is outside your normal bubble just to see how things aren’t the same everywhere. There’s not big tall buildings, there’s not six lane roads.

Bonner: Totally.

Susan: Yeah, growing up in a small town. We went on vacation. We went to South Carolina coast so we weren’t really like big out of state people. And I remember the first time not that I ever left the state but ever left the country was when I went to London, England. And I mean, it wasn’t like, you know, language wasn’t a big change anything but it was still a change for somebody who never been out of the country. I take that back, I had been to McAllen and then we crossed over to Reynosa. I’ve been in Reynosa, so I did a mission trip one time in Reynosa. The people in Reynosa are amazing. Now granted, I was a lot younger when I went to Reynosa and I don’t know that I would go to Reynosa right now. So I don’t know, maybe if I had the right body guards. Those were the best tamales I’ve ever had in my life. And it was because they were authentic and they were real. And when you go and you get to experience different language and different food and a different culture all the way around, it’s just a really extraordinary thing and it’s a great gift you can give your children so I agree with that. Does anybody else have any other questions from the audience? Since we have an audience tonight.

Female: You’ve all had mentioned grant writing. So what are some of I guess the favorite like Dallas community organization you wrote grants for?

Bonner: The way that Texas Women’s Foundation does their grant making is really fascinating and very cool and effective. There is a process of, you know, an application process, and then members of the committee are each assigned to certain number of applications that they then vet by going to visit and, you know, maybe multiple visits coming back reporting back to the committee, and then ultimately, the committee votes on who’s going to receive grants. That’s, for one section of the foundations giving. It can vary from year to year. I mean, I think there are probably agencies that are kind of repeat recipients but I think there’s even a limit on how many times you can be a recipient; three years I think is the limit so I would hesitate to even say there’s a favorite because it’s you know, it varies depending on the needs and the agencies.

There are other ways that the foundation gives out money that through there I believe it’s…Is it economic initiative? So they’re focusing on economic stability among women and girls. And so there’s a bucket of money that can be given to that area and that doesn’t go through the grants committee, but it goes through other vetting processes. And so I don’t know that there would be a favorite agency per se, but that is certainly an area of emphasis. So any kind of organization that supports economic stability for women and girls would be a candidate for that.

Laura: And not to answer your question directly, however, and to kind of tag on to what Bonner is mentioning, as a member of the XIX Society, we do have a bus tour that we have coming up in June, I believe. And so what’s really cool about the bus tour is there are a number of agencies that you get a chance to visit so we all kind of get on a bus and we can go kind of see our dollars in action. So you’ll get a chance to visit some of the agencies that have benefited from the money from the Texas Women’s Foundation, and then you get to go see it firsthand, which is always an incredible experience. So if you’re not a member, please join in, please plan to join us on the bus tour, because it’s really a great opportunity to network, but then to also go see and learn more about those agencies and the impact that they’re making.

Bonner: And to piggyback on that too, the XIX Society also has a chance to review because we have… I think we have a pool of a certain amount of money, I don’t have a very I know what it was last month at various from year to year. But it’s a significant amount of money that we are able to grant to an agency and the XIX Society itself votes on what agency to grant it to. So I think three choices come through and the members can review the choices and then vote on which one we want to give our money to. So that’s kind of exciting. And then at the holiday party in December, we present the check to agency that needs it. So that’s a neat a neat opportunity for the XIX Society

Susan: Yeah. I think when you say they presented three, I think we gave… Didn’t we give them an idea of kind of like what we wanted to grant. Like, it was like, I don’t know if we chose education or something. But it was like, obviously it’s women and girls, but it’s like, I feel like we got to choose…A focus area, yeah, I think we’re able to choose a focus area, then they brought to us and then we voted. Any other questions?

Participant:  How many marathons have you run?

Laura: So I’ve run 11 marathons so far, but if I had to pick maybe a favorite of the world majors, it was Berlin. And I’ll tell you just kind of a quick story. The way this whole goal about running the majors came about is that I was just running… I started running when I was 40, never ran before but just decided that maybe I needed to find some balance in my life and if I could just focus on something for me that I could then be a better mother and a better wife and a better coworker. And so that’s what inspired me to start running marathons. But as I started, and I was visiting with my dad, one evening, he took care of my daughter while I was running the New York City Marathon. And when I was at the expo in Chicago, just three weeks before—I had had run them both kind of back to back. But when I was sitting at the Expo, I saw a sign that said, “Run the World’s Major” and it listed all the majors and I was like, “I’m running Chicago. I’ve got New York in three weeks. That’s two of the four. I work for an airline. I have traveled benefits, why don’t I just make it happen, right?” So after I ran New York, I came home and I told my dad this great vision that I had about running marathons. And he was always just like, “Oh, yeah, you can do it. Go for it,” kind a thing. Well, my dad had served in the Army years before and he was stationed at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin years before and so he was like, “Well, if you run Berlin, I’ll come with you.” And I was like, “Okay, you come watch me and cheer me on. And then you go show me what it was like to live in Berlin when you were in the army.” So he says, okay. So long story short, he passed away two weeks later. So I set out to just go and accomplish this. So I go through my training, I enter through one of the marathon running companies and I get a bib and I’ve got the race coming in the following year. And so my dad was a big Johnny Cash fan. I grew up in our household listening to Johnny Cash so as I was preparing to run the race that day it was a beautiful cold crisp morning it was like 40 degrees, flat, fast course. I was like I can do there was so much kind of the reason I was there the purpose everything was just lining up so nicely and so I just started to run my race and I think about just what that day was like, and as I was turning the corner and about the 16th mile, you know, there’s cheering sections and so forth, and I was turning the corner at the 16th mile and from up ahead I could hear “I hear a train a coming” I was like, “Oh my god, that is a sign.” So it gave me this burst of energy and it’s like my dad, he is here, everything’s aligning. So I ran my best race ever. I came hard at that race. And so that’s why that race was the best race for me. And as I reflect on it— and I went on to run the rest of the races—but as I reflect on running and marathons and 4am wake up calls and balancing life and work and all that, one of the things that I recognized was that I was really running to catch my breath. I needed that. And so there you go, that is why Berlin is my favorite race and why I ran the world majors.

Susan: Well, you have found running and you have found philanthropy. We’re talking on the podcast this month, a lot about finding your extraordinary and how do you do that? And it can be whatever it is that you know you’re supposed to do, whatever tools are in your toolbox. How do you marry those tools between your passions and your skills? How do you how do you figure out what your passion is? For me, the world kind of had to crash a little bit, and I had to be in a place where I could receive and sit down and really take the time to think and I had the luxury to be able to do that. But tell me about what your passions are, how you found them, both of you, and where you are now in that process, and how your passions change because I think that that definitely happens throughout our lives is you may have something that you’re really passionate about for a while, and then that may change. And that’s okay too.

Bonner: I don’t even know that I should talk after Laura’s…I love that so much. I do think you’re very wise to say passions change because I think with each season in our life, I mean everything from our available time to our mental state to the people we surround ourselves with. I mean, that all changes. And I think that we can’t underestimate the impact that has on our lives. It was interesting that you said, philanthropy is kind of…I guess, when I hadn’t, you know, when I think about what is it that I probably spend my time doing the most of if it’s not being with my family, it probably is being involved in some of these missional work, I guess. And so I think my approach has always been where can I best use…I mean, I want to call them gifts, skills, whatever, those, where can I best use those? And what are the things that I feel excited about? You know, is it fun? You know, I mean, so I think all those things are important. And, you know, I always have this gauge on, you know, does it make me excited? Like, am I going to wake up the next day and be like, what am I going to do? And Texas Women’s Foundation is one of those organizations. So the question is, how to find that?

Susan: Sometimes. I think that was definitely my question two years ago, is I really had to sit back and go, “Okay, what matters? What do I care about?” I was really in a place where I was like, I don’t know, like, because I went through an infertility like struggle for, I think, well, if you’re depending on how you’re counting, it’s anywhere from a year and a half to two and a half years. Some of that was before medication, once we finally figured out we needed medication, and all that stuff, but I went from PriceWaterhouseCoopers to that was my job to now I have a two year old and I have some time and I kind of felt like my world was crashing around me. So I was like, “Okay, what matters to me?” And that’s when I took the time to really sit in it, sat in some lament too and think about it and go, “Okay, what now?” And for me, I had to do a lot of reading a lot of writing a lot of reaching out to people.

Bonner: I think that’s great. Because I do think that is something that maybe we don’t talk enough about the professional women driven women, who then for whatever reason, stay home with their children who don’t talk and don’t, don’t tell them they’re doing a great job and don’t I mean, obviously, eventually they do talk to her for that and then you don’t want them they’re always interesting and fun. But I do think I mean, that was a very challenging transition for me as well. And I think that’s when I started thinking how can I transition from what I was doing before and make it fit into my life now with a child and then two children? And it started out part time work and then continuing with my previous job, and then it morphed into full time volunteer. But I think it is important to listen to what your needs are. I mean, I’m a big believer in figure out how to fix it. You know, go after what needs to happen in your life and make it happen. It just sounds like exactly what you did.

Susan: And I think that’s a lot easier said than done. Like, I think you have to jump.

Bonner: Not necessarily. I think if you decide you are going to make it happen, you can make it happen. I think every woman in this room can make it happen if they want to make it happen.

Susan: No, you’re right. But it takes something to do that.

Laura: I think there has to be a catalyst.

Susan: Yeah. What about you? Is your full on passion traveling? Is it running? Is it a combination of a lot of different things? Where are you at today?

Laura: I think it’s a combination. And you know, it was always hard early on or even 10 years ago, someone would ask me what’s your passion? Oh, do I have a passion? I don’t know what’s my passion. I can’t articulate it, what is it?

Susan:And then you stressed about it?

Laura: And then oftentimes you can find your passion just by way of where you’re investing your time and energy. Because that’s what’s important to you. And while you may not call it that, that is kind of what it is. And so you’re right, every kind of season of life, your passions may change, I think there’s common threads through those passions. But as I was coming to know the Texas Women’s Foundation and just all the work that was happening, and knowing how important women and girls are to creating strong societies, if you will, I started to think about just kind of where I came from, where I was born and raised and the opportunities I had or didn’t have. And now I’m here today and I think about my niece’s who live in rural town in South Texas who are the same age as my daughter. And I think about just what opportunities do they have, and the opportunities are not the same. And I start to think, “Well, those nieces are reflected very much in our Dallas community. It’s the same group of people. And as we start to look at the contributions were making…” I was starting to even thinking of the Best Self program that we do and how it is about just providing our young girls the awareness that there are leadership opportunities and just teaching them how to be able to interact and network and meet people or look at people in the eye, shake their hands and start making those connections. I didn’t have that when I was growing up. I didn’t know that. I didn’t learn that until I got to college, in all honesty. And so I just think about that and I realized that that is one of my passions, this greatness that we have in the Texas Women’s Foundation and just the little piece that I can do to give back that will make a difference and help even if it’s just one young girl recognize her value and her contributions. It will have a long-term effect. And that’s why I’m so passionate about the work we do here at Texas Women’s Foundation and through the XIX Society and just really the small little impact hopefully I’m able to make directly or indirectly through our work with the foundation.

Susan: Yeah, they always say micro and macro impacts. I’m going to ask you one more question before we conclude tonight. But all right, what are you guys reading right now? What’s on your nightstand? And if it’s People Magazine, I’m fine with that. It’s perfectly legitimate.

Laura: Can somebody in the audience help me, it’s about the Native Americans who are raised in Oklahoma…

Participant:  Killers of the Flower Moon.

Laura: Thank you. Killers at the Flower Moon is what I’m currently reading. That is what is on my nightstand right now. I haven’t been able to get through all of it. But it’s a fascinating story about how the FBI was started and just the struggles of the Native American people and how they sought to keep their land and the struggles they had at the time when the oil boom was happening in the 1800s. So that is what is on my nightstand right now.

Susan: Wow.

Bonner: So I should know by now to always keep a book on my nightstands. It’s a very smart and intellectual because the book…In fact, I can’t even remember the title of it, because it’s the third in a trilogy that I just started reading and could not stop reading. So the first one was called The Bear and the Nightingale like this Russian fairy tale…

Susan: This sounds…

Bonner: Actually, it’s not hilarious. It’s actually very good. I highly recommend it for just like pure entertainment, but it’s also got some historical significance to it too, you learn a lot about Russian culture like, how long ago? Maybe like no around Ivan The Great. So good. So I’m on the third trilogy, highly recommend a third of the trilogy. The last one. I have read smart books too…

Susan: No, that’s perfectly fine. I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I have read Harry Potter, all of them a few times. One of my favorite books is Bossy Pants by Tina Fey.

Bonner: Oh, it is funny.

Susan: I have listened to it on audio book multiple times. Just because I love Tina Fey and I love her voice, I love how she puts everything together. So no, I don’t think it always needs to be a serious book.

Bonner: No. I’m in my book club where we read series.

Susan: I’m in a book club where we never read the book and we just drink wine. I think that’s perfectly legitimate. I will share… I brought it up for a reason. And I will share what I’m reading right now. Because I truly believe that we do not hear enough from women of color, ever. I’m one of those people that thinks that needs to change. I am reading and if you haven’t read it, you need to read it because we didn’t learn this stuff in class. And if you don’t know it, then you should. I am reading Coretta Scott King’s book right now. And I am ashamed to say that I would not have known this two years ago but today is the anniversary of Bloody Sunday at Selma. So that’s something worth remembering and noting, and if you don’t know enough about it, go read about it. And I don’t mean to end on a dreary note. But I just think it’s important to read books by women of color. And that is something that I’m trying to do more of this year. And I really wasn’t trying to end on a serious note, but it kind of did. I’m trying to think of a funny question to ask now so we can end on a funnier note.

Susan:  How many marathons are you going to run this year?

Susan: I’ve only run one. There are people in this room have run. How many is it now?

Bonner: 10?

Susan: Yeah.

Bonner: I’d say give me a dance marathon and I will win.

Susan: I will fail but I will do a dance marathon. Okay, well, I don’t have anything else. Does anyone from the Texas Women’s Foundation have anything before we head out, before we’re done with this? I do want you guys to connect before you go. I’m going to go ahead and say good night.

Outro: Thanks so much for listening today. I really had a great time with this episode and I hope you really enjoyed it and got something from it too. I don’t know when or where but I will for sure be doing live episodes in the future so make sure to go and sign up for our newsletter as whenever those dates or locations are announced everyone on that list will be the first to know. I hope you’re finding 30 days and finding your extraordinary empowering. I know we’re all in different places in life. Shoot, some of us are in the middle of raising littles and just hanging on for dear life. I think I have those days too. Believe me, I get it. But whatever you’re doing and wherever you are, my hope is that you are inspired and encouraged to make time for yourself and for your dreams. I cannot say it too often you matter what you are doing matters and I am so proud of you. I’ll see you soon.

From “obsessive volunteer” to Movement Maker, with Terri Williams

Have you ever had an idea or a vision you just can’t shake?  Maybe its been marinating in your heart for a while?  How do you turn your vision into something bigger than yourself?  How do you make a moment a movement?

Show Notes:

What if?  What if you finally did something with that idea that has been rattling around in your brain? What if you took your passion and created something bigger than yourself?

Terri Williams says that all her life she has been a person that wanted to give people information in order for them to make informed decisions about their community to help it do better. Then, after the passing of her father, she took a hard look at how she was using her gifts and decided to take action on what she knew she should be doing with those talents.

One year ago, this self proclaimed “obsessive volunteer” took her passion to a whole new level. She knew that the expertise, knowledge, and skills she learned from her family, her volunteerism, and the boards that she sits on were tools in her tool box that needed to be shared and not kept to herself. So she took it all and created the Movement Maker Tribe with the goal of inspiring others to create the changes they want to see in their communities and she says “I haven’t looked back at all.”

Some of my favorite take aways include:

– We each have a role in making this world work and making it a better place

  • Magic can happen once you decide to 100% lean into the fullness of your talents and skills
  • You can’t do it all by yourself. Assembling your “framily” is key

Terri’s commitment to her own talents and skills reminds us of our own at How She Got Here. This March, we are celebrating Women’s History Month by committing  to 30 Days of Finding Our Extraordinary with resources on our website, Facebook, and Instagram pages. Join our Facebook community and Instagram community for daily reminders that are intended to pull you out of the hustle of life (even for just 15 minutes) and provide you time to focus on tapping into your gifts.

 

Links:

https://terribwilliams.com

Movement Maker Worksheet – From Terri’s Home Page go to sign up and then once signed up it will be sent to you

Movement Maker Tribe – Facebook
TerriBWilliams – Twitter

TerriBWilliams – Instagram

The Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI)

The Junior League of Austin

City Square

 

Transcript

Intro: 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 empowers other women to do the same.

Susan: Hey Pod Sisters, I am so excited to kick off Women’s History Month featuring my conversation with Terri Williams. Terri is a servant leader and fellow Junior Leaguer. She says movements are never started alone but they blossom from the vision of one person who is inspired, driven, and altruistic enough to dream of and create something bigger than themselves. A few movements Terri has been involved in include spearheading the AHA effort to pass smoke free workplace laws in Louisiana and Texas, organizing the Junior League of Austin’s Capital Campaign Ambassador Programs where she served as lead ambassador and founded Forefront, rising leaders supporting the economic security of women in Central Texas, a program of the Austin Community Foundation Women’s Fund.

Terri says, “My mission is to inspire others to create change. Our world is rife with problems with so many issues to be solved. We need a new breed of leaders willing to lead the charge. We’re working with starting communities working towards big monumental change through understanding, organizing, influencing, and moving small groups.” So without further ado, here’s Terri.

Susan: Good morning, Terri. How are you? Thank you so much for joining me today.

Terri Williams: Thank you so much for having me, Susan. How are you?

Susan: I am doing really well and I’m just so, so, so excited to talk with you today. But for those of our listeners who are not familiar with you or your work, tell us a little bit about yourself what you’re doing and how you got here.

Terri Williams: Yeah, what a great question. I never know how to answer that. I feel that we’re all kind of like an onion, you know, there’s so many layers to all of us. I tend to tell people that I am a person that sees possibilities in everything. I say that leaders turn moments into movement and I truly believe that because of the work I’ve done, both professionally and as a volunteer. I’ll tell you a little bit about both. Professionally, I work for the American Heart Association, where I serve as a member on its government relations team, and I’ve been doing that for the past 15 years. Then in my private life, I am an obsessive volunteer. You can find me as a member of many nonprofit boards in Austin, across the country and internationally. And most recently, I launched a blog called Movement Maker Tribe, movementmakertribe.com, and it’s a place where I like to share resources and tools to help others become inspired to create changes that they want to see in their communities.

Susan: I love that. And that is one of the reasons I had you on today is because of this fun Movement Maker Tribe you have launched and started. Remind me if I’m thinking about this incorrectly, but the first time we had a chance to chat, I think you told me this launched in 2016. Is that right?

Terri Williams: I launched March 27, 2018, a day that I will never forget.

Susan: Oh, 2018. Oh, I thought we launched at the same time for some reason. Okay, cool. I totally got that wrong. Well, you’re almost a year old.

Terri Williams: I cannot wait to celebrate. I’m counting down to that first anniversary.

Susan:  Yes, I get that totally. Tell us a little bit about how this became your thing, how it got started. What is the backstory to the Movement Maker Tribe and why did you launch this thing.

Terri Williams: Well, it’s really two parts. One is just a calling that I have, and the second is a time in my life where I started to see things more clearly for myself. The first part is I have all my life been a person that wanted to give people information so that they can make decisions about their community and help it do better. People will tell you I was that way in middle school, college. It’s all through my life. And you’ll see that in the professional careers I’ve had as a television journalist, or press secretary, or a philanthropic fundraiser for a nonprofit, I’ve always wanted to give people information so that they could be a catalyst of their own.

And then in May of 2017, my father passed away and he was one of the people that I was extremely close to and it just really changed me. As you would expect for your life to change when you lose a parent, and instead of really mourning and being sad, I really took inspiration from the lessons that he and my mother taught me. They were people that were incredibly engaged in their community. My grandparents helped build a church in Lafayette, Louisiana, and then that church burned down and my mom and dad stepped up to help rebuild it. And so I really saw in me that I wasn’t using all of my gifts. I hadn’t grown to be…

Susan: Yeah.

Terri Williams: I know right? That is something that sometimes it’s hard for you to think through and really admit, but when my dad passed away, it was like I went from living unconsciously to very consciously. I’d been at the Heart Association for about 13 years at that point in my same job for about nine, and was very content, and you know contentment is just where you’re comfortable. You know some people might think of it as a rut. It definitely wasn’t a rut at that time it was just it was just really content that I felt like I could do more likely to use more of my gifts. And so it’s like literally someone turned a light on when my dad passed away and I started living very consciously and thinking about how I was using my time, my gifts and the decisions I was making and decided to act on this calling. And it was to share all the lessons I learned from my family, the boards that sit on, the fellowships I attended, just all these tools I had the my tools box that I felt shouldn’t be kept for myself and so decided really just to act on faith and to lean in a little bit and to launch Movement Maker Tribe and haven’t looked back at all.

Susan: That is really cool. You know, the month of March on the podcast, we’re really centering on finding your inner extraordinary or your own extraordinary and you talk about the gifts that you knew you had. How did you know you had those gifts? Where did you…? Maybe that seems like a silly question. But like, how did you know these were your things? These were your talents, and that it just wasn’t something I’m okay at. Like, this is really what I’m here to do.

Terri Williams: That is a great question. And really…I can give you a lot of two-part questions, but it’s two things. I think, one for me, it was quantitative. I’m a data person, I want to see data. And the second thing was really an emotion or feeling. And lot of times, you know, you have to kind of lean in and use our intuition to really guide you. And so for me…Actually I’ll tell you a story. I was a very active volunteer in the Junior League of Austin and now sit on the board of the Association of Junior League International, which is the international governing body.

Susan:  Oh, yeah, that’s a big job.

Terri Williams: It’s a big but fun job.

Susan: AJLI is a big job.

Terri Williams: Are you a Junior League member?

Susan: I am Yes. I’m a sustainer. Yes. And that is not an easy job. That is like running the masses and herding cats, I think at the same time

Terri Williams: It is. It’s so rewarding.

Susan: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Terri Williams: It’s my three or fourth term in May. And it’s been an amazing ride. But at the time I was carrying the Capital Campaign Committee for Austin, where we were trying to raise $10 million for a new building for the Junior League. And you know, it’s a really heavy job, that is the real heavy lift. And I was asked to present monthly at a junior league meeting just really to energize the volunteers to speak up and volunteer to help other women give but also the ones that were interested in volunteering to ask them to give their treasures, and I remember I gave the speech about two or three times and was really shy about it and really wanted to let someone else to have the opportunity to do it. Because Junior League is a training organization, and so you know, I asked our consultant if I could teach someone else how to do the ask. And she looked at me and she said, “No,” and she says, “You have to do,” and I was like, “Okay, well…”

Susan: That is hard.

Terri Williams: Yeah, I know she wants the best so I did it, and it was a surface level performance for myself. I was in this place where, you know, I’m starting to feel like people were thinking like, I just wanted to be on stage and not share the limelight so people were tired of hearing for me, and it was internal conflict. And she pulled me aside and said, “Look, here are the numbers when you speak how much people give. Here are the numbers when someone else does it. You have the passion. You care about this. You love this project. It translate to what we need to do for the organization. I need you to speak.” And it was at that moment where just kind of the intersection of what was going on in my head, my heart, and my gut came together. And I understood and I really started to understand this gift that I had that I really wasn’t tapping into you. And it wasn’t just the storytelling and getting the people to be engaged, it was everything else that came along with that capital campaign. I had helped recruit volunteers to the table and help think through some policy measures that we needed at City Hall. There were so many pieces of me that were tied to that campaign. And the story that I took from it for myself was they were gifts that I could share with others and things that I could teach other people. And then when I kind of match that up to what I would do every day at work, the writing was so clear on the wall for me and it really just happened so fast, as I’m sure you know from starting your own blog, the universe puts you right where you need to be and the dominoes lineup and then you just keep going and going, and next thing I knew it was launching. And it’s been a whole lot of fun ever since.

Susan: I totally know what you’re talking about. And I also have some familiarity with capital campaigns, and those are a lot of work and they’re very hard. And so I commend you for even just being willing to be part of a capital campaign. I remember my college went through one when I was in school there, and it was just…Even though I was a student, they obviously recruited students to help and to make calls—and obviously, we weren’t calling the big heavyweights, but just getting people to understand why giving is so important and giving back is so important. And I wonder…I mean, as a former Junior Leaguer I remember walking into the Junior League and being a member of the Junior League you also pay dues and so when I first started I was like, “Wow, I’m paying dues and then they want me to give on top of that?” And I started the Junior League really young so I didn’t really understand that in the beginning. And once I really understood what the money that dues went to—and I know each league operates differently—but what the dues go to versus what giving above and beyond that go to, it just changed my whole perspective as to the mission and what they’re really doing. So I really commend you for taking that on.

Terri Williams: Oh, it was more a gift to me then, you know, than I was to them.  I have learned so much from that process. And, you know, you learn one thing from one organization, and you get to bring it to the next and then you get to inspire someone there and get to bring it to the next organization. And so, around that same time I could see those lessons and wasn’t just in capital campaigns, but lessons from city halls and state capitals and lessons from helping to build followership and teaching people how to do it, it just kept happening over and over. And so you know what all your listeners to know that you might learn something in the Junior League or another organization, but it definitely won’t stop there in your life.

Susan: That is such a good point. That is such a good point. Many of the skills that I learned in Junior League have transferred over to other organizations and other things that I’ve done. And like just any job, you know, transferable skills are a good thing. Your mission is to inspire others to create change, and you say we need a new breed of leaders to lead the charge. I want you to break this down for us. What skills do new leaders need? And how do we tap leaders or maybe even recognize the leader in ourselves?

Terri Williams: Yeah, so I love that so much. And that is exactly just it. For so long I looked up to leaders that weren’t my age, they were leaders that we heard stories about, and those are needed because, you know, we need those fundamentals and lessons, the things that are tried and true to really give us that foundation when it comes to leadership. But if you really look at what is emerging in our world today, we really need leaders that look like us that are everyday leaders. And so I really think there’s a leader inside each of us. Sometimes we lead in our household, sometimes we might lead at church, sometimes we might lead at PTO or we might lead on a stage like a state capital. But we each have a role in making this world work and making it a better place. And so I say leaders turn moments into movement because when you find that place for yourself and you contribute, you are part of something here. And so I tell everyone you know, you can do something really big, like one of the first movements I was a part of was passing the law that made all the restaurants smoke free in Louisiana. And that’s something that was extremely very challenging and it really changed me forever but then you could be part of some thing that might not be such a heavy lift or something that as challenging, you know, when you…One thing that I love doing is I travel a whole lot so I take the toiletries from the hotel when I don’t use them. Hilton and Hyatt, please don’t come looking for me.

Susan: You are not alone.

Terri Williams: But I do I take them and I put them in a Ziploc bag with a note and some, you know, $1 bills or some quarters. And when people ask for something at a red light, I’ll hand them that goodie bag. That’s something that is so small. It’s something that doesn’t cost much of anything, but that is starting a movement, and that movement could just be putting a smile on someones face that day, or that movement could be doing something as big as giving them the toiletries they need to get ready for a job interview. You never know what you’re doing when you’re contributing.

Susan: Okay. I will say that is not what I’ve ever done with those toiletries and wow, what a fantastic idea. I put them in my guest bathroom and wow, what a fantastic idea. I think I will be switching to that because we too in Dallas have a homeless population that we are constantly trying to help, for lack of a better word, and City Square is one that’s really big here in Dallas. And so yeah..Wow, you changed my perspective on something that I really had never thought about so thank you for that. That gave me goosebumps.

Terri Williams: So much about this is shifting perspectives. I love that you say that and I want to highlight that because a lot of times when we get stuck in a rut or we’re content that we might be craving something or if you’re in a state of depression, if you can just figure out how to shift your perspective, usually you start a movement within yourself that will start a larger movement within the world.

Susan: You are so right. That is such a good point. A second ago you mentioned past leaders, what can we glean from those past leaders? What are some things that you think are worth taking into the future with us and then what are some things that you think are worth leaving in the past?

Terri Williams: Oh my gosh. That is a really hard question. I have to say, you know, so many of our leaders that we think about… I actually just attended a course at the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colorado that focused on Frederick Douglass. We talked a little bit about Abraham Lincoln. When you think of those iconic leaders of the past, they were so loyal to their country. They were so loyal to themselves and they were so loyal to their families. I think those are our core values that I want that hold I dear to my heart. But when I think about the leaders of today in the future, they are agile, they are flexible, they are working from restrained resources like never before, and are being so innovative and are inclusive, far more inclusive than a lot of our leaders of the past. Those are things that I too want to hold really close to my heart as core values that I want to activate and activate often.

Susan: Who is your favorite female leader right now?

Terri Williams: Oh, that’s such a good and fun question, and I have to admit you said off script, I know you email me these questions and I have not read them.

Susan: That’s perfectly fine. I love it.

Terri Williams: So they’re all brand new. But I have the best girl squad ever. My friends are just so fantastic so I can’t say like one, but I have a friend that was a part of the founders of the Women’s March, I have a friend that trains women to run for office, I have a friend that’s a scientist, I have a friend that goes to China and figures out how to make toys safe… I can just go on and on and on. And I just I love them so much because they take the time and lift me up, they take the time to make sure that I am a part of this journey and that we’re doing it all together. So I will take my friends who are leaders any day over anyone that’s super duper famous.

Susan: Oh wow, that’s such a good point, Terri. The podcast here is ‘conversations with everyday extraordinary women.’ So I really love that you’re highlighting your friends and your girl squad as people to look to. Because I think often when you’re struggling or you’re going through something or you’re starting something, I think you do have that core group of people that you lean on, but I do think oftentimes we really don’t look to ourselves and our friends, even though I’m sitting here trying to highlight everyday extraordinary women, I’m guilty of that. I’m guilty of not looking to my friends and thinking, “Oh, I really love what she’s doing and I want to be more like her.” So I really appreciate that you highlighted that. I think that brings up a good point that the people that you need and the strength that you need and the inspiration that you need or just always all around you and to look there first. So I really like that. That’s a very good thing to highlight.

Terri Williams: Yes indeed. I’m so blessed to have a really strong group of girls. I actually call them my Framily, instead of family?

Susan: Oh, I love that. That’s so fun. That’s so fun. Another of my friends calls her squad, which I’m lucky to be a part of, her Board of Directors. I like framily.

Terri Williams: I’ve heard that term before

Susan: That’s so funny. So your three areas, if you go to terribwilliams.com, the first three things that you have highlighted are philanthropy, policy, and mission building. Those are your areas. Why these three areas? What about these three areas did you want to hone in on?

Terri Williams: Yeah, yes. I really think that these are the keys, the things that leaders need, which are moments in movements. For me, I have seen a lot of change in my community through public policy, lobbying and advocacy and grassroots organizing. That really is a place where an individual can gain power. I know a lot of times people feel like they don’t have power when they think of politics or Washington or their state capital. But you do; you actually control the process. I talked about philanthropy because it’s a way that even business leaders try to change the world. Think about Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos and all these people that have signed a million dollar pledge. They’re giving their money to charity to solve the world’s most pressing issues. Now, what’s cool about that is we don’t need a million dollars to make the same investment you know, you can take $1 or $5 and still give to an organization have impact. So again, you have the power. Then I talked about mission building because a lot of times organizations want to grow their followership and find that power in others. And so they can do that too. And lately I’ve been talking about really a fourth one, and that’s the movement building within yourself. You know, once you sit back and really think about all the tools in your own toolbox, and what you know and how you love yourself, you have the power really to tackle anything that comes your way. And so I really do love those because I truly, truly think they help leaders turn moments into movements.

Susan: I love that you brought up the $5 and $10 donations are just as important. One thing that I’ve noticed over the last year or two, I’m not sure when it officially started, but over the last year to through Facebook, you can actually—I don’t know if they take any of the proceeds how this works. So I’m not advocating for everybody to go out and do this because I don’t know the backstory behind all of this—but I have seen people like us their birthday or specific date that’s significant to them for one reason or another, and to give to an organization through Facebook. And what I like about that is you can see just how many people gave to get to $500, $1,000, you know, a couple of thousand dollars. And it’s really those $5 and $10, the grassroots donations. And all of a sudden you have your tribe of people who had, you know, your tribe of even maybe 10, 15, 20 people who were willing to give those 5, 10 and $15 donations, and all of a sudden you have several thousands of dollars going to an organization. And like I said, I’m not exactly quite sure how Facebook does that and if they charge fees or anything like that, but I do think that that’s a really cool visual way to see exactly what you’re talking about, that those dollars really do make an impact and you don’t have to have the million dollars to make a difference.

Terri Williams: Exactly. And whoever that person is that decides to do a birthday fundraiser, they are a leader that has decided to take a moment, their birthday, and turn it into a movement, like help. Good. So you’re helping to highlight that truly we do all have the power to do this work.

Susan: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That is such a good point. Okay. Tell me quickly, because I want to be respectful of your time, tell me quickly, if somebody has had something, you know, just jogging around in their mind something they can’t get rid of something they even try to get rid of it. It just keeps coming back. That’s kind of at least how I hear a lot of people say, that’s how I kind of figured out it was my thing. I just couldn’t shake it. So they have this thing that they can’t shake. Where do they start?

Terri Williams: Oh, probably the toughest question yet today. You got to start in your heart. Like I said, the intuition you know, and if you have an idea, you can’t shake it, you know, wakes you up in your sleep. You’re in the shower and you’re thinking about it, you might almost run a red light because you can’t stop thinking about it, it truly is your thing. And so that’s when you have to sit down and just really think through what are the resources you need? How can you use your time, talent and treasure to further your personal mission? A lot of times we don’t we don’t label it your personal mission. And you have to treat it just like you would a job just like you would an organization. You’ve got to oil the machine, create a strategic plan, and really follow through on the task and the tactics that are needed. So, to the point that you made about your friend, you’re definitely going to need a board of directors, people that can hold you accountable that vision, people that will help you create that vision, people who will celebrate your success to get there. And the people that I see that fail or flounder are the people that truly aren’t committed to the idea from the start, right? They’re the people that kind of want to do it or they think it’s a fad or they’re just unsure of themselves. And so I always say, “Get off the box, go for it.” You know, I heard someone say just yesterday, “If you’re shooting for the stars and you fall, at least you’re above the ground.” So you’ve just got to try. And usually when you break it down into bite size pieces and think about what is my long-term plan? What do I want to do this month? What do I want to do this week? What do I want to today? And how does it help me reach that vision? You’re usually on your way and you’re going to do extremely well and be successful.

Susan: You are absolutely correct. And I really liked how you put that. My brain is just spinning right now. And I love having a conversation with a woman and I’m like, “Oh, I need to write this down and I need to think about this.” And I’m sitting here furiously typing out notes, so I hope my editor can get that out. Where I want to leave us today is well first I want to talk about where we can find you. But second next steps, you talked about putting together a strategic plan, and I think that’s probably like your mission, your personal mission and putting together your strategic plan if you don’t know what that is share a little bit about—is that like a five year plan? Like talk to us a little bit about what you mean when you say a strategic plan?

Terri Williams: Got it. Yes. And actually I have I have something that maybe I could share with you to put in your show notes or the side if you have a newsletter or something but I have something that I call a Motivation Map that I’ve created and it just helps you figure out that why. If you’re on the fence about do you have a personal mission, do you want to start a movement? This motivation that will help you tease it out and really explore your why also my website if you go to terribwilliams.com and sign up for my newsletter you can download a movement maker map, and that map, once you have identified your mission will help you get started. And so that could be a first stab at a strategic plan. It helps you think of, you know, what is it going to take? Who are your champions? Who might be your dream killers? Who’s going to, like, not be happy that you’re going to try to start this movement?

Susan: Yes, those exist.

Terri Williams: Yes, yes, haters are real and once you really take a look, as the kids say, IRL, what’s happening in real life and you write it down, then the plans start to come to life, the movement starts to take shape. And then you start to work on things like connecting and collaborating and really getting people to the table with you and being in a very inclusive way is you will see your movement come to life. So that’s kind of what I would do to take the next step and how it begins to start a strategic plan.

Susan: Oh, I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. And I hope everybody goes to your website and signs up and gets that map that you put together. That is such a cool, cool idea. I love it. So we need to go to your website, where else can we find you? On social? Is it Instagram? Is it Facebook? Where does your business Terri William self hang out?

Terri Williams: Sure I am an Instagirl. Love me some Instagram. You can find me at Terri  B Williams on Instagram. On Facebook, Movement Maker Tribe is how you’ll find me and on Twitter, I love to get tweets;  just starting to get back into Twitter. I am Terri B. Williams there too, and I share goodies that I learned from others as well as put out some content to help people as they’re moving on their journey. And I’m not shy, y’all. I tell you what I have a good day I tell you and have a bad day. I tell you when I do something that is a complete failure and I usually want to celebrate it because we should fail forward and celebrate those too and I do all those things through my social media channels

Susan: Awesome. Awesome. Well, I know I’m already following you on a few of those. I don’t know if I’m following you on Twitter, so I’ll have to find you there. I’m not the best at tweeting. But I do follow people on Twitter regularly. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. This was a lot of fun. And there’s just really brightened my Monday. It’s finally I think, starting to get sunny here in Dallas. But we’ve had a few couple of days of rain and just gross weather. So I really appreciate you joining me.

Terri Williams: Oh, thank you, Susan. You are absolutely a joy and I love what you’re doing on behalf of women. We need so many fire starters like you to help guide the way and you truly are an inspiration to me, so thank you for having me.

Susan: Well, likewise, friend and I will chat with you soon.

Outro: I am thrilled to have had a chance to chat with Terri, and I hope this episode had the gears in your head turning. If you are following “How She Got Here” on Social Media or you have joined our email list, you know that March 1 we kicked off “Find Your Extraordinary” in honor of Women’s History Month. I’m using the How She Got Her Facebook and Instagram accounts to provide simple ways to tap into and recognize our everyday extraordinary gifts on the website I’m also providing ways to recognize the gifts of other women in our lives too, and I’ll even feature some of them in an upcoming podcast episode. So if you haven’t already, make sure to follow the How She Got Here Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as sign up for our newsletter on the website so that you can get all the Find Your Extraordinary updates. I am so looking forward to seeing where this takes each of us. Until next time, I see you soon.

A new relationship with food leads to self love, with Priya Patel

We all know the old cliche “everything happens for a reason.” Bleh!  Yet, when life does happen it is often how we deal with it that makes us who we are.  So, how do you respond when it hits the fan?

 

Show Notes:

How do you respond when it all comes crashing down?  It wasn’t until coming face to face with her own suppressed trauma that Priya Patel truly understood what she was meant to do.  This is how the Intention Table was born.

In 2015, Priya began to unravel her life and began the quest to break through the barriers of hidden trauma. To help herself, she wrote and developed a robust curriculum, now known as the Intention Table. It includes programs that stimulate the body’s senses and cultivates an open present relationship with yourself through self love.

She launched the first of four programs in 2018.  Known as the Eating Meditation Experience, the first program is her take on a Zen Buddhist meditation practice.

Priya says: “I knew that I was disconnected from my body and myself and I knew that right here in front of me what was my drug of choice, food, was actually going to be a tool for me to heal myself by becoming very present with every piece of food during this meditation practice. And literally seeing it for what it was and seeing beyond my pattern of behavior, seeing beyond my needs to create intimacy with self and others. I unwrapped and unraveled to see the beauty in this eating meditation practice. So it became about me connecting to myself.”

Before launching the Intention Table Priya first created these programs to help her discover who she really is, but most importantly,  she says: “just to connect me with truth without this sense of judgment, you know, just seeing things for what they are.”

 

Links:

www.chasesplace.org

itsasensoryworld.org

http://www.gaiaflowyoga.com

www.theintentiontable.com

The Intention Table – Facebook

 

Transcript

Welcome: 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 empowers other women to do the same.

Intro: Hey Pod Sisters. My guest today is Priya Patel. Priya is a certified mindfulness, meditation and Yoga coach that has a profound understanding that our bodies are faithful partners that carry the load life may present. Her teaching philosophy is the concept that housed in every one of us is the intrinsic knowledge and capability to heal even the most devastating of wounds. Prior to coaching adults, Priya taught children with special needs and specialized in the sensory system in communication. In 2010 her holistic approach to education led her to co-develop a school for children with special needs that today serves over 40 children in Dallas, Texas. In 2015, Priya began to unravel her life and began the quest to break through the barriers of hidden and suppressed trauma. To help herself, she wrote and developed a robust curriculum, now known as the Intention Table. It includes programs that stimulate the body’s senses and cultivates an open present relationship with yourself through self love. It is being used to help unravel, accept and move through life with a love based attitude. Priya’s gift is teaching people the art of self-inquiry to exercise the choice to meet circumstances, people in challenges with a love based attitude versus fear. She helps people see the truth within themselves, excavate deep rooted emotional wounds, unravel and reverse hardwired behavior patterns and let go of stories that are holding them back. So without further ado, here’s Priya.

 

Susan: Hey Priya, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m so excited you’re here.

Priya Patel: And I’m so happy to be here with you today.

Susan: I think it’s really, not funny haha, but interesting how we were connected. I don’t know if you totally know this backstory or not, but I happened to be at Kate Weiser Chocolate not that long ago, just picking something up and I met Barbara Bowman, and I had never met her before. She was a total stranger and we hit it off. She has a wonderful spirit about her and she said, “I have some people you need to talk with.” And you were one of those people.

Priya Patel: Oh Wow. No, I did not know the backstory.

Susan: All right, well I love that you know that now. She is just such a sweet lady. Now did y’all…This is, we’re totally going off regular script, but did you guys meet at Gaia or how did you guys meet?

Priya Patel: Yeah, we did. We met at Gaia Flow Yoga. We both practice yoga there and then we both went through the teacher training program there and that’s kind of where we met. But then her and I became friends outside of that. She invited me to a women’s retreat last January and they kind of basically took me under their wing as one other women that they have as part of their group. And so it’s just been like, you know, a group of empowerment and unconditional love that I’ve kind of found with the group that she’s kind of invited me into. So that’s how I know her, and I did not know, I thought she was a friend of yours and I didn’t realize you guys were complete strangers. You’re right. She has this complete vibrancy about her. I can see her just randomly speaking to a stranger and connecting people.

Susan: And it was so interesting, you know, sometimes when you tell people you’re doing something like this and you’ve created this platform, you would be surprised as how many crazy pitches I get. And I was shocked. I didn’t know that was a thing, especially a smaller podcast. It’s not like I’m on the Today Show every morning or something. And so when people start talking to you, you’re like, “Yeah, that sounds like a great idea or whatever and thank you for listening or blah, blah, blah.” But she was totally different. She just embodied this beautiful spirit and I was like, “I totally get where you’re coming from and I’m connecting with you and absolutely I’m going to make this happen.” So I really appreciate her doing that.

Priya Patel:Me too.

Susan: But anyway, I haven’t talk…I need to reconnect with her because I haven’t talked with her in a while because she and I have kept up a little bit it.

Priya Patel: Yeah. She’s been a big supporter of this new company that I started. In fact, she helped me last week with an event. Like, she’s just been a big supporter.

Susan: Well that is fantastic. I’m so glad to hear that. And since we’re kind of already talking, maybe we should finally, because I started off this way, jump into this conversation and talk a little bit about you and what you’ve been doing. Priya, you are clearly a very accomplished educator. Would you share a little bit of your background story with us and kind of how you came to start the school and then ultimately I guess the Intention Table curriculum and how did yoga fit into all of that?

Priya Patel: Yeah, interesting question. So, I had been really drawn to working with kids with special needs since I was a kid myself. And so by educator what you mean is, I taught special education for a number of years and like I said, you know, I had my first encounter with a kiddo with special needs at the age of nine, myself. And I just continued that year on forward and forward, forward bond, hang with kids with special needs. I was extremely drawn to it. And then, you know, as I got older that continued in many different ways in different positions, ultimately becoming a special education teacher. So I taught in California for one year and then I met the love of my life at that time and moved out to Dallas and worked for a really small private school out here called Chase’s Place. And it was a school for kids with severe to moderate disabilities. And I love that program and everything that they stand for. However, at the end of my two years, just because of financial needs for the nonprofit, they were not sure of how many teachers they were going to be able to rehire for the following year. That kind of financial fear or uncertainty pushed me to start my own. He’s my ex husband now, but at that point in time my husband was really very supportive, you know, for my own happiness and he was financially able to support the both of us and said, “You go ahead and start your own if you’d like.” And so I did, I started my own program out here called Happy Hands Learning, and what that included was a social skills program called Pure Play dates and then a preschool transition program, a Mommy and Me sign language class program and a community inclusion and outing program.

Susan: Wow.

Priya Patel: Yeah, it was a really beautiful company and vision that I had. But the problem that I faced was I didn’t have space of my own, you know, I was running these programs out of like other people going into their homes or having to pay a lot of money for other people’s space. And that’s where The Sensory World came in. They had this beautiful sensory occupational therapy gym and I was very familiar with sensory equipment coming from California. Yeah, it was very much a very big part of educating kids with special needs was what’s happening to the sensory system in California. And that was a very new here in Dallas. So I really felt very much drawn to them because they had the sensory gym. But what was amazing is that they have this back room that was not being used.

So they had had a preschool program that they were running years prior, you know, a small program, but it wasn’t currently in place when I approached them about using their space to start mine. They very lovingly opened up their space. It was a woman named Erica and Angela, who are the founders of The Sensory World. They very lovingly opened up their space to let me try. And so I ran a summer school program there under Happy Hands Learning. We’re using this holistic approach to education and engaging the sensory system, really working on communication for those kiddos who are nonverbal or with emerging speech and language as well as functional living skills. Well, that summer program ended up doing really well, meaning the kids did really well that a few parents asked if their kids could stay past summer and just like that the school program was born.

So Angela wasn’t at, while I was there at summer, she wasn’t there full time. She worked her own full time job as a special ed teacher across the street. And then in the afternoon she would work double duty and come run the sensory world programs. And she actually took a leap of faith herself because you know, life was showing up differently for her and she came aboard full time. And so when she took that move, her and I together basically created this school program starting with really very low number of kids. Her and I created this program based off of her years of experience as a SLPA and a special ed teacher. And then as well as my experience as a behavioral therapist as well as a special ed teacher. So we were really combined four different modalities of teaching to create the school program.

That’s kind of how the school, I would say was born. And over time, you know, word of mouth and the program grew. Today, I believe it’s over 40 some children. I stepped out of the program. Recently, I exited the organization itself to kind of start this new venture. However, I stopped teaching and being program director two and a half years ago. I ended up fundraising for the organization together. The three of us ends up turning it into a nonprofit and now it’s been a nonprofit for going on four years—in its fifth year of being a nonprofit. So I ended up fundraising, so it kind of took…My direction wasn’t just the school in that organization. I ended up doing strategy and programming and fundraising and took on this whole new skillset, I guess you can say. But even like taking on that role, I believe had a bit of…What’s the word? A bit of responsibility with me really wanting to almost transition out and do something different. I’m really grateful for all of the roles that I’ve had there. And I still volunteer for them.

Susan: That’s really cool.

Priya Patel: I can’t leave. I do love the organization, their mission and I’m volunteering now.

Susan: Well, sure. I mean you’ve kind of helped launched it. For those of my listeners who are not in this world, could you tell us SLPA means?

Priya Patel: Oh yeah. So SLPA is Speech Language Pathology Assistant. So it is someone who, they cannot diagnose but they can treat under the supervision of the pathologists and that’s the license that she has.

Susan: Ah, got it. Very cool. Very cool. Thank you for sharing that story.

Priya Patel: Yeah, that’s kind of the birth of the school program at the Sensory World Academy, which I believe, you know, has led me to the birth of the Intention Table.

Susan: Yeah, no kidding.

Priya Patel: I know you had asked like how that started or why? To me the honest answer, it was born out of my own need to learn to be present with myself, but also to let go of myself at the same time, if that makes sense.

Susan: No, it absolutely does. In the month of October for the podcast, I did this fun 30 days of self care thing and really kind of tried to get into that and have a little something each day for each listener to just kind of—a little something to take care of themselves. And as I was going through it and putting it together, what I realized myself is, well, this is a great idea for my listeners, but I’m not doing this for myself. So that’s a problem. And I’ve noticed that stress shows up in my body in the oddest ways if I’m not taking care of myself: hive, anxiety, all of it. So I totally appreciate the fact that you’ve created something like this, how it was born out of something you needed. I think that’s very unique and very interesting.

Priya Patel: Flat out, like it’s just the truth that each one of these programs is, you know, something that I use or have used, I didn’t even realize that I had been living a life in fear making fear based decisions for a lot of my life, living with anxiety that was hidden and almost living on automatic. And like I said, like these programs are here to help. They were there to help me discover who I really was or who I really am but most importantly, what I feel is like just to connect me with truth, um, without this sense of judgment, you know, just seeing things for what they are.

Susan: Wow. That is such a powerful statement, “Truth without judgement.”

Priya Patel: Yeah. And a lot of that has stemmed from learning and teaching mindfulness because that ultimately is what mindfulness is, is to be an observer of yourself, as well as the consequences of actions. So it’s to be an observer of yourself, your actions, your thoughts as well as the consequences, but all of that’s without judgment. And really diving, doing a deep dive into mindfulness. I’m there to the point where, you know, I can see things for what they are without there being this concept of right or wrong or good or bad. It’s just this is what it is and now what? Versus having an emotion behind it and that doesn’t serve me in any way, shape or form.

Susan: You know, it’s funny, I’m actually finishing up a book by the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu called Finding Joy. Have you read this book?

Priya Patel: No, I haven’t read it.

Susan: The Dalai Lama talks a lot about mindfulness and speaks a lot to that. Good or bad isn’t sometimes the issue, you just have to deal with “it is what it is” and go from there. Can you kind of unpack that a little bit for us? You’re talking about mindfulness. For those of our listeners who might be newer to this idea or maybe never really thought about that, could you kind of unpack a little bit of what that means and then what this curriculum that you’ve created with the Intention Table, what that is?

Priya Patel:Yeah, so as far as unpacking goes, I had a lot of childhood trauma that I had suppressed, and what I came to realize only as an adult is that I had developed a lot of coping mechanisms as a child and that became coping mechanisms as a teenager and that became coping mechanisms as a young adult, that became coping mechanisms as an adult. And it carried on. But I didn’t understand where they came from until the day that I did. It’s almost like you have this awakening. And unpacking can be very ugly, you know, it can lead to…My challenge was having a very odd relationships, unhealthy relationship to food or a very unhealthy relationship to work where all you do is overwork as a way to almost avoid yourself or avoid life’s circumstances. You create this distorted illusion of life around you. And when you unpack that can cause people to spiral.

Susan:It can and get worse in many ways before it gets better.

Priya Patel: Right. But I think because I chose to like literally…I basically looked at every piece of my life without any shame. You know, sometimes I didn’t even have anger towards it. That came later because that wasn’t even an emotion that I knew, but I just chose to say, “This is what has happened. Now what?” So it’s almost like mindfulness found me. I didn’t seek it, I just fell into it. And then came to realize what I am really looking at here and seeking here is this path of pure mindfulness as well as this path of Yoga. You know, I found yoga and I found a meditation and I found this eight lanes path to living life really, and came to realize that I was already following that and I didn’t know that it had a name or a term, but it was really learning to just be in the present moment and always come back to this concept of be here now, that the past really doesn’t matter at this moment in time, the future doesn’t matter at this moment in time. And so all of the would have, could have, should have makes no difference at all. So it’s almost in some way, shape or form, just surrendering now instead of surrendering later. You know, I had a conversation with somebody just earlier today and I was telling her, you know, have you ever had this situation and why were you maybe a year or two, three years down the line you say, “Huh, that was exactly the way that that should have gone.” You come to this understanding that whatever you went through with exactly the way that it was supposed to be, right? And then you have this immense sense of peace when you finally come to that conclusion. Now what I’ve done is basically surrender to the moment without there having to be this push or a pull three years later just to really saying, “This is exactly the way that it’s supposed to be.” You know, I’m surrendering now versus surrendering later and having this immense amount of peace. And I don’t know if that answered the question. I feel like I went off on a tangent.

Susan: No, I think it’s a beautiful, I think what you said was beautiful and I think…

Priya Patel: It’s not easy though. But it can be done. I’m living truth and living proof that it can be done.

Susan: No, I think you’re right. I think it’s not easy. Something Desmond Tutu talks about in this book is how he was able to do that and live through an apartheid, how Nelson Mandela was able to do that and be in prison for so many years.

Priya Patel:Exactly.

Susan:  And it’s not surrendering. I don’t want people to think what we’re talking about is surrendering to the bad stuff. It’s just recognizing that this is where you are at the moment. I don’t know because I’ve never been in a situation that bad. I’ve never been in apartheid. I haven’t been in prison for 30 something years. Shoot. I’m only 37, 36 or 37, I can never remember. So he would have been in prison like my entire life of what I’ve lived already. But I can imagine, you know, we’ve all gone through things or, in your case, I think I have too. We all suppress stuff from childhood to one degree or another.

Priya Patel: Everybody has their own extent of trauma, conscious or unconscious. Everybody does, like that is part of being human is to have this experience, believe it or not, have some form of suffering of some way, shape or form. I mean, I don’t people to think that I’m like saying that people deserve it. It is just part of human existence, and sufferings by one person versus another looks differently. However, what I’m saying is it doesn’t have to be suffering. You know?

Susan: That was said beautifully. You’re absolutely correct. And it’s just getting to that point for everybody in their own way that… And I think this is a beautiful way to do it. Tell us a little bit more about the Intention Table curriculum that you have developed because this is  a curriculum.

Priya Patel: Yeah, so it’s a program, so very similar to when I started Happy Hands Learning. I started with four programs. With the Intention Table I started with – the premise is four programs. Each one of these programs are meant to help you fall in love with this concept of self discovery. Maybe not fall in love with it, but at least be present to the concept of self-discovery or an invite and self-discovery and unraveling of patterns of behavior, learning your desires, your wants, your needs, making choices that are right for you, which often if you have lived a life on automatic, you may not know. And so what we’re doing here with this company is learning to be curious about ourselves once more. And there are four programs. The one that I have launched officially is the Eating Meditation Experience. The ones that are in the works, our meditation curriculum, a journey curriculum that I’m writing myself and a trauma sensitive yoga program.

So those three are in the works, and the one that is currently in process and actually launched and available now is the Eating Meditation Experience. That’s a very ancient practice. It’s a Zen practice that I have created or made my own. So you know the Zen practice is using typically like one specific item, typically you’ll see them doing it with a raisin or a piece of chocolate and they’re really having you invoke all your senses to be present. So the reason why is my background as a special ed teacher and being very knowledgeable about the sensory system, as well as going through my own process of unraveling trauma, I became extremely disconnected from myself; pretty severe dissociation to the point where I couldn’t feel myself in my own body. I couldn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.

And one of the tools that helped me sometimes cope or deal with these things was food—and not in a healthy way. So I created a really unhealthy relationship with food. It was something that if I wanted to feel the sense of shame or guilt, I ran to food in a binge type fashion, and there was no invoking of the senses so I wasn’t, you know, the thing is food is extremely intimate. It is extremely, if you allow it to be, it can become the shadow side. And what I mean by that is you tried to create a sense of intimacy with food or through food. So intimacy might be lacking in your life, whether it’s with yourself or others around you, some people to escape to drugs or sex or alcohol, I escaped to food and was trying to replace like intimacy with food and sometimes I controlled or over controlled and sometimes I under controlled.

And then I’m introduced to this practice of eating meditation only a year ago. And when I took this practice I realize, “Oh my God, this is marrying my whole life.” What I mean by that is I really have this whole understanding of this sensory system and then I knew that I was disconnected from my body and myself and I knew that right here in front of me what was my drug of choice, food, was actually going to be a tool for me to heal myself by becoming very present with every piece of food during this meditation practice. And literally seeing it for what it was and seeing beyond my pattern of behavior, seeing beyond my needs to create intimacy with self and others. I unwrapped and unraveled to see the beauty in this eating meditation practice. So it became about me connecting to myself. So you know what, when I’m disconnected from myself when I literally took the time to be present with, let’s say a piece of bell pepper and smell the bell pepper. So I may not be feeling my hand at that moment in time, but I can sense sensation in some way so bringing myself back to the sense of smell. And maybe I can’t feel my hands, however, but what I can do is I can see the colors in front of me. And not just see the colors, I ended up looking way beyond that. And this is Zen Buddhist practice. So you bring in this concept of the earth, this item came from there, this food came from the earth and looking beyond. And when you start to look beyond, things just kind of melts away and let go.

And it just helped me become more present with myself and bring me back to my self. If I feel myself fading away, I can bring myself back with these tools of tapping into our senses, which we’re born with these gifts of sites, smell…In fact, that’s how we learn the world as children, right? We learn and we’re bombarded with our sensors and our sensory system, but we learn specific information and then that gets on an automatic mode. And I’m basically taking myself out of automatic mode and constantly bringing myself consciousness. And for somebody who disconnect, you have to work to bring yourself back to consciousness. And this is just a very tactile, tangible, easy way. It is a meditation at the same time because what happens is, you know, there are many techniques or meditation that this one in particularly is using the vehicle food for one point at focusness. So I’m present with one single object for a moment in time and I use it as a tool to be still and to concentrate and to focus. And I naturally ended up closing my eyes because I’m feeling so connected. And then sometimes it’s not even about food or me personally, the food just kind of fades away and it becomes a vehicle to just be with myself.

And so what I do and what I’ve done is I’ve created a 45 minute guided meditation, but I’ve created this beautiful model and what I do, and it’s a three part process for the eating meditation. So it’s a 45 minute guided meditation, and then there’s a meal after the meditation. But what they are actually eating is a meal that has been created from ingredients that they have spent the time connected with. And that’s kind of the very beautiful piece right there that you know, now they’re going to eat a meal after connecting to something. And they may have known that or may not have known it depending on who they talked to, what reviews they’ve read. But it becomes this kind of pleasant surprise for them to see ingredients and eat them in a different way after spending 45 minutes with them differently. And then the last piece of the puzzle of this eating meditation experience is facilitated conversation around the table where we have conversations that matter, conversations…One, about our experience where we kind of get to dive into how present we may or may not have felt, emotions that may or may not have come up, senses that may or may not have been awakened. And then we see where that conversation takes us and often, I end the night with a question that takes us around having conversations around the table. For the last one that was recently, I just asked the question, you know, being that it’s the week of thanksgiving, next week and a day of gratitude; do you think we’ll get to the point of a culture where gratitude can be for every moment without this concept of good or bad? And that question took us around the table for like a 45-minute discussion or whoever was on the table just having a meal. We’re still eating at the same time and kind of this concept of breaking bread together. We share this experience together. We came there as strangers and here we are having this very intimate night with each other and possibly leaving transformed or at the very least discovering something about ourselves.

And that’s the first program that I’ve launched, Eating Meditation Experience. I have created my own model for eating meditation and INTENT and “I” stands for Invite. Invite the sensitives. “N”is notice and “T” is Transformed. “E” is Explore and Nourish and “T”, Think, and I have different pieces that I talk about under each one of those. And so I go over that during the meditation. And all of this work, you know, it’s things that I’ve been studying this past year extensively to create my own

Susan: That’s really beautiful and an amazing concept. I think especially here in the US. I’ve lived in New York City, I’ve lived in South Carolina, I’ve lived here now for 10 years. And we don’t do this. We’re not good…. I shouldn’t say we don’t. That’s an overarching, combining everybody into one. But I think as a society we choose not to do it because there are so many other things we fill our time with. And I say fill, because I mean, we all have a digital device that we’re sitting here messing with all the time, and to do something with such intention with strangers… And I would think most people don’t realize just how intimate something like that is going to get by the end

Priya Patel: Yeah.

Susan: Is it emotional? I would presume it will be emotional. I’m an emotional person. I would be crying by the end.

Priya Patel: I posted something on my Facebook just a few days ago from me. Like this was the first time that I actually closed…My last one I close my eye and I actually participated just to get a sense of what it feels like to participate with the crowd. But typically, I keep my eyes open and I’m watching everybody. It really is beautiful watching people just be with themselves and you know, even just inviting, you know, one, the phone is away. It’s a three-hour experience. The phone’s away the entire time, you know, and they don’t want their phone. They don’t miss it. They’re not missing it. It’s just away. And just to see people…One of the hardest things that you see or hear with meditation is that “I can’t be with myself. I can’t sit for that long.” And just to see them come out it and then say, “Wow, the 45 minutes went by so fast.” That is really beautiful. And then to see people be respectful of each other and have a conversation. I’m still learning to moderate. This is just a piece that I really wanted to have a part of the program because I had felt like I didn’t really have people to talk to them and I wasn’t even necessarily wanting to like dive into—and I still don’t like, I don’t dive into the X, Y, Z of my life history because at this point in time it doesn’t matter. And I just want people who are like-minded that I can talk to about things in the world, things to me that matter or concepts that matter or how we can work to better ourselves. And so the questions that I present are all questions about south discovery. So maybe it makes us think about our senses for this one particularly, maybe our sense makes us think of, are we only grateful for the good or can we become to be grateful even for in that moment time we think of as bad, you know?

And so can we leave this experience not transformed but curious. And that is my end game, or goal with it. And it is beautiful to watch it unfold. I feel like a curator and that’s why I say this is a curated experience. I do feel like a curator and I’m watching art take place and it’s like the humans, the people at the table are the art.

Susan: That is beautiful. I know these programs are offered just in the DFW area at this moment.

Priya Patel: Yes. That won’t be long. We’ll put it out there to the universe. My goal is, I mean this is going to take some time, but it’s not too far off. So right now they’re offered here. I co-office out of this workspace called the Common Desk and they have locations in Oak Cliff, Plano, Fort Worth.. And so I’ve done eating meditation. I just launched this company four months ago.

Susan: Oh Wow!

Priya Patel: Yeah. But within these, I just decided to go for it. And so I call it “Inspired action, that’s imperfect action inspired. I know that I’m meant to do this,” specifically this eating meditation. The other pieces of the puzzle are still coming like, you know, the yoga curriculum and the meditation curriculum. But this eating meditation is, I felt inspired, like it was like a message, like you have to do it. That’s what I call inspired action. The imperfect action is make the mistakes that I need to make now so that I can make it better, and I just keep doing them. And the next one gets better and then I’ll do one more and that one will get better. But I wanted to take this out and to the masses. And what I mean by that is people often don’t even know that they have a lack of connection to themselves. Some people don’t even know because there’s all that they’ve ever known is to like live life a certain way: social, cultural, self imposed expectations. And so to me, food is one of the most intimate—other than sex where there’s this actual connection in a different way, eating is one of the most intimate things that you can do. And eating is also as human beings something that we need to survive. The number of restaurants that are out there in any city of the state or the world is endless. And so I started in 2019, I’ll be taking this in the DFW metroplex into restaurants. And so there’ll be 12 where I’m creating the experience with my own cooking or perhaps with catering from restaurant and then 12 experiences in restaurants with specific chefs that I’m creating partnerships with.

So that’s where I’m starting to create where, okay, this is how I’m going to take it to the everyday person. Because you know, the everyday person, one, I’ve heard so many people struggle with, “I don’t know how to meditate. I can’t meditate. I’ve tried,” and this is a really great introduction to stillness, because it’s a tactile, tangible thing and food is something that we do, like I said, as humans to survive. And so that’s the direction that it will be going in 2019. But my dream and the vision is that this becomes a model that I am putting into wellness resorts that it becomes part of an experience. So I’m in the works right now of creating an academy where I’ll be training facilitators how to lead this practice and how to execute this model. But all of that in due time, you know, this is, like I said, I’m four months in but there’s definitely a vision and there’s definitely a plan.

Susan: Well, you are only four months into this particular business, but you’ve created businesses before. You’ve done this before and you clearly know your stuff. You’ve been doing this a while, and I love how you’ve been able to connect your past as far as your past experiences and your past education and just your whole life seems to have brought it all together.

Priya Patel: Yeah. It’s so funny that you say that because I really believe like had I not gone through what I’ve been through as a kid, had I not had the challenges that I had in my marriage, had I not had my role of teaching these amazing kids who ended up teaching me so much. I don’t think I would be able to do this.

Susan: No, you couldn’t be here.

Priya Patel: Yes. Even fundraising and having a knowledge of strategy and creating partnerships, like I learned all of that over these past few years. But a lot of it is also what’s happening right now, like to me not only has everything had to have happened the way that it happened, but I also believe that it is because I have done a lot of heart healing, a lot of heart healing. There’s no way that I could be doing what I’m doing right now if my heart wasn’t healed. Because what I’m doing these past four months have been…There’s been a lot of ugly in it, a lot of good in it, a lot of gray in it. But I feel like I’ve been swimming in complete unknown. Had I not been right in my heart, had I not been right in my mind, I would not have been able to have swim in the unknown. That’s been a really important, is just being in the unknown, what I’m doing is like I said, I’m taking inspired action. Like I believe, like I know that I know that I know that this is what I’m supposed to do, but that’s how I know. The rest of it is almost like this game of chess or this game of stop, look and listen. Really it’s stop, listen and then look, like I have to constantly keep checking in. And if my heart and my mind weren’t right, there’s no way I’d be able to check in.

So yes, everything happened the way that it needed to happen, but I also have to dive into a certain amount of healing in order to create. It’s almost like you let go. There’s also a Zen, or a Buddhist or a yoga mentality is you let go to expand. And I feel like I really let go of like everything that I’d ever known, including myself in order to create. And what I’m creating, I feel it was bigger than me, like it’s bigger than me.

Susan: Well, you are absolutely right that you have to let it all go in order to be able to create something new. I have been where you are and I totally understand what you’re going through. It is normal, and I want all of our listeners to know that too. It is not easy creating something out of nothing, but when you know it’s what you’re supposed to be doing, then you have a drive. And that’s one thing that I say at the beginning of every podcast is I believe, I firmly believe that there is something inside each one of us that only we can do. And that is the point of this podcast is to encourage and inspire and empower women to find their thing so that they can share their story so that they can encourage other women to do the same thing. I really believe in the power of sisterhood and where we are right now, at least in the states, I have a few listeners who are not in the states, but I feel like if women can come together and support each other and encourage each other to try these hard things to reconnect with themselves and then figure everything out.

But you are absolutely right. You said you’ve made such a point that you had to be in the space in order to be able to do it. You had to be right with yourself first, and you said it much more eloquently, but you have to be right with yourself first before you can do the next thing.

Priya Patel: Right. And I think the other big piece of it is like I think all humans, not just women, but specifically myself, I’m going to speak for myself. I am a woman. I lived in fear quite a lot of like financial fear and this fear and that fear and a lot of my decisions were fear-based and I’m kind of learning to… There is this…God, let me see if I can remember it; one of the quotes that stood out to me. It’s a John Lennon quote. Basically he says, “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”  And that’s from John Lennon.
Susan: That’s beautiful. I’ve never heard that.
Priya Patel: Yes, it hit me so to the heart, because I had said like, you know, when I chose like burned the house down on everything that I’ve ever known, I said, “I choose life and if I choose life, all of these things that are in that quote has to be there.” Imperfection, not for myself but I took it one step further, not just imperfection of myself, imperfection of others, right? It’s not just acceptance of myself, the acceptance of other people and their imperfections. And in order to see my ability and to have this potential to create, I have to love myself.
I will say that I definitely lacked self-love. And I love what you had said about the sisterhood. So, we started out this conversation, and I know now why it started out, the way that it did with you bringing up Barb. She gave me a sisterhood. She’s given me a sisterhood and we speak on the phone once a month where we share with each other our dreams and our desires for the month. And then at the end of the call they’re right there behind you saying, “Yes, yes, we believe, and we want this for you too.” So you have all these beautiful sisters right there behind you sharing with you the good, the bad and the ugly without judgment and just this unconditional love. And a lot of people have said to me, “Gosh, you’ve only had this company for four months, but it looks like you’ve been around for like a year at this, that or the other one.”

Don’t believe everything that you see. You know, perception is one thing. I am doing well, but I believe that my company is being pushed forward because I have the support of some amazing women behind me. You know, I joined a women’s networking group. I didn’t know why I was joining a women’s networking group. I wasn’t an entrepreneur at that point in time, but I joined the E Women’s Networking Group and I wasn’t even an entrepreneur that moment in time. But literally after I joined that, I was like, “Uh-huh. I joined E Women’s Entrepreneur Group. I meant to be an entrepreneur.” And even that is a sisterhood. And I’ve met some incredible women who are opening doors for me because they believe,  and you know, it’s women supporting women. Some of my first chef partnerships that I’ve made have been with women who are just like, yes, sister, we love what you’re doing. We love that you’re just diving in. You know, they’re just opening the door. And I haven’t had that. You know, I’ve had friends, I’ve had good friends and close friends, who unfortunately have come and gone. And at this moment in time, I really needed a support group, a sisterhood. And I feel blessed to have found it in so many different ways. You know, one, this group that I meet with once a month and get on the phone with once a month as well as my women’s networking group

Susan: That is just…Oh, you just…Oh, I just want to clap. Yes. That’s all I can say is yes to everything you’ve just said. Oh my gosh, that is phenomenal and amazing and I am so happy for you, but I really appreciate you sharing that with our listeners and just what a difference it made in your life. That’s so cool that you kind of put it out there in the universe that you know, this is what you needed almost. And it showed up.

Priya Patel: Yeah. You know, funny enough, last October I created a vision board. I’ve never made one before. And what was on, there were pictures of women together that said “100% real.” And to me that was, oh my God, I was asking for a sisterhood, and I had actually even put on there a woman that…And then next it said, “Be your own boss.” So I hadn’t even made plans to have my own business, but I guess I really did. You know, like I hadn’t even left my organization. I hadn’t really thought about leaving the organization. But as I look back I think, you know, “Wow, I had already put it out there and I didn’t even realize it.”

Susan: Well Priya, I want to be respectful of your time and I really appreciate you coming on today, but I feel like I could sit here and you forever. You have found his sister in me, for sure.

Priya Patel: Thank you for letting me tell a little bit about my journey.

Outro: Wow! That’s all I can say. I loved chatting with Priya. My brain was spinning the whole time with ideas, as I’m sure yours was. Priya’s love of self-discovery is a prequel to our upcoming 30 days of finding your everyday extraordinary. As you know, March is women’s history month and you know what? Our foremothers, just like us, every day extraordinary women who had discovered and were doing their thing. So, for the month of March and in honor of women’s history, we will be working towards finding our own everyday extraordinary. I have some fun ideas and plans ahead that I can’t share with you yet, but I can’t wait to tell you about them. So until then, I’ll see you soon.