Advocacy

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.

 

Your Voice Matters: Our experience at the 2019 Women’s March

Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire

photo by Hunter Lacey

Speaking your truth and using your voice.  It isn’t something that comes naturally for many of us.  Even in the worst circumstances it can be a bridge too far to cross.  And yet… What if?  What if you took that leap?  Would the risk be worth it?

Show Notes:

Is speaking your truth something that comes naturally to you?  Have you ever been too intimidated or maybe even scared to use your voice?  Liz Navarro is a professor, public speaker, writer and communications expert.  She and I both participated in the 2019 Dallas Women’s March and in this episode we sit down to discuss our experiences.

In some ways it was easy for each of us to jump in and get involved.  Yet, there were challenges to participating as well; especially this year.  We each share why it was important for us to individually march this year.

While the march itself was peaceful and full of a sense of camaraderie we acknowledge the underlying fear that participating can be intimidating and that initial fear of the unknown can and probably has prohibited others from participating either now or in the past.

We both recognize that it can continue to get better, but I think we were both pleasantly surprised that (at least at the Dallas March) a fair representation of women and men from all walks of life appeared to be represented.  A hopeful step in the right direction towards equity and everyones voice being heard.

photo by Hunter Lacey

 

* A special thank you to the women who shared their voices with me for on the spot       interviews at the March!

 

Links:

https://www.liznavarroco.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RZrZrLcLR0
interactioninstitute.org

madewithangus.com
https://hunterfolsom.com
https://www.instagram.com/hunterfolacey/

 

Transcript

photo by Hunter Lacey

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.

photo by Hunter Lacey

Susan: Hey Pod Sisters, I had the great fortune to sit down with my friend Liz Navarro and chat about our experience at the Women’s March this year in Dallas. Liz is a professor, public speaker and writer. Her goal is to help others find and share their voice. She has even helped me with some of my written content. Our hope is that by sharing our experience, you’re encouraged to share your own voice. I also interviewed a few people on the street at the march, and I’m excited to share that raw audio with you too. So without further ado, here is Liz.

 

Susan:  Well, Liz, this should be a fun experiment this morning. I’ve already told my guests that this is not our typical conversation or typical interview, and I’ve kind of introduced you a little bit, but why don’t you go ahead and tell our audience a little bit about you?

Liz: Yes. Well I’m so excited to get to talk to you today. I am just here I guess as in a lot of different roles. One is that I’m a mom and so that’s like one of my primary places that I probably entered the Women’s March, and another one is that I’m a communications strategist and I’m also a public speaking professor, and so kind of everything that I do centers around the idea of encouraging and empowering people to use their voices. And so that’s I guess kind of the place that I’m entering this conversation from today and maybe part of why I wanted to go to the Women’s March in the first place was so that I could exercise that in my own life and not just in a way that I am working with other people. So that’s where I am today.

photo by Hunter Lacey

Susan: That’s really cool because I kind of felt the same way. I don’t know…When was your first March? Did you do it in 2017 and 2018 and then 2019? Or was this your first one?

Liz: So, this was this one in 2019 was my very first March.

Susan: Ever?

Liz: Yeah, it was my very first March at any time ever, first Women’s March, first any march. And so it was a brand new experience for me. I had wanted to get involved before in both 2017 and 2018 and I didn’t. There were a lot of different reasons why probably. I think, you know, one that is easy is that I had a little baby at home and it was just a logistical thing. I was actually looking back at some of my Instagram posts from 2017 or 2018 and I read that I guess in 2017 my daughter had a fever and it was cold and we stayed home, but this was the year I guess that I first jumped in and got engaged. But I know that you got involved earlier, so I would love to hear about your experience too.

Susan: Yeah. So Will was probably…2017, Will was about two and four or five months, so almost two and a half, and my background as my listeners know, and I won’t go all the way into it, but coming from a women’s college and understanding a little bit more of the women’s movement and women’s history and understanding that we haven’t always gotten it right but it’s always still worth striving for and fighting for, it was something I was thinking about in toying with. I never really intended to go to Washington, DC. More so because I think at the time where we’re at in Dallas, Texas, I wish I had known you then, because I didn’t know anybody who was going. I didn’t know anyone who was going to be participating or involved. Later I found out that I knew somebody going to DC in my family, but even she was kind of very quiet about it and not wanting to rock the boat too much. I’ve kind of thrown all the wheels off since then and be like, “Whatever, this is what I am, this is who I am and this is what I do. So if you don’t like it, great, you can move on.” But that took a while to get there. So in 2017… No, go ahead, go ahead.

Liz: Well, I was just gonna say I think it’s really hard to get there, and you probably touched on one of the biggest reasons why this was my very first year is because in 2017 or 2018, I hadn’t been in Dallas that long and it was the exact same situation. It was a, I believe in this and I believe in the movement and I want to be involved, but I think I’m a little too nervous to show up and be involved by myself, and I didn’t really know at that point who to reach out to to join me. And this year, while I do think I’ve come a little bit further and in where I stand myself and I probably could have been brave enough to show up on my own, I knew that I wouldn’t have to because I’ve kind of plugged myself into a community of women who wanted to be involved. I knew you would be there, I had other friends to go with and that just really helped and it made me think a lot about, you know, other people who might not be there yet and how you reach out to them and kind of give them that invitation to show up but not to feel like they’re showing up alone.

That is such a good point. In 2017, that was one of the hardest things. In fact, I didn’t really make the decision to go—and I didn’t attend the March in Dallas. I attended the one in Austin—and I didn’t make the decision to go until probably, like I had the hotel room booked and everything. But I didn’t really make the decision to go until maybe the week of. And I was like, “Okay, I’m actually going to do this.” And it’s really funny; the reason that I ended up going, it wasn’t…I mean, I kinda thought I might know some people there. I did end up meeting up with randomly an old high school friend and her mom, who I had not seen in years who is also from South Carolina who wound up in Austin randomly. But it was just one of those things I would…My husband asked me of all people, he said, “You know, in 30, 40 years when Will asks you, where were you that day…” Oh, I’m getting teary, “…what are you going to tell him?” And I was like, “Okay, well that solidifies that. I’ll be back later.”

Liz: “I’ll see you later.”

Susan:  Yeah, exactly. “I’ll just go ahead and leave now.” And so I was…I’ll be honest, I knew that I was meeting up with some people, but I was terrified, I don’t think…No, Charlottesville hadn’t happened at that point and some of the other crazy stuff hadn’t happened yet, but was that side of me that I thought, “Will there be people who show up at this March and am I going to be safe?” I remember like veteran protesters, which is kind of a funny thing to say because I’m like, “Well, I don’t really totally feel like I’m protesting because…” Especially at the first one it was more like a feeling of camaraderie and like, “Okay, we’re all in this together.” And I had a 65 year old woman who was amazing, who I did not know, total stranger bought me a Mimosa before the March in the hotel lobby. I mean it was…I met some of the coolest women and some of the neatest people I wish I had kept in touch with them. But I remember reading some of like old school protestors saying things like, “Write an emergency phone number on your arm in fairly permanent marker in case this…Have a handkerchief ready in case there’s tear gas.” And I’m like, “Wait, what am I doing?” And of course—I shouldn’t say, of course, I guess we’re very lucky that nothing bad came of that and it was very much a peaceful situation. But there was definitely that underlying fear of what is this going to be? What is it going to turn out to look like?

And obviously, I mean you can look back on pictures from that year. And it wasn’t like that at all. And it was probably one of the best things I’d ever done. But last year I didn’t feel like I needed to do it. I didn’t feel like it was necessary. I felt like I was doing the work that I needed to do at that point. And then this year I just want to be re-involved and re-invigorated and re-engaged with the actual March and kind of read up on some of that energy. But what were you gonna say?

Liz: Well, I was going to say when you were talking about the veteran protesters and just preparing for the worst case scenario, that I think one of the reasons why I went into this year without that fear anxiety is probably because of the tone that was set in the first two Marches. I did feel like even though I wasn’t there, that there was just a sense of overall camaraderie and coming together and uniting in a way. But this year of course, was interesting because there were a lot of different factors go into this year’s Women’s March somewhat that were divisive and controversial. I guess, despite all of that, I didn’t feel unsafe, but I definitely had to think about, you know, why am I showing up? Like you talked about why this year you wanted to go back and be reenergized, and I had to really think about what do I want to stand for and why am I showing up now to this March and what is it representing for me and what is that representing for other people too?

Susan: That is such a good point.

Liz: Yes. I don’t have an exact answer for that. You know, I know why I wanted to March this year and it was not…I don’t think I was necessarily Marching against something. I think I wanted to March in support of something. I have two daughters and so I think there are definitely at the center, like you told that story about what are you going to say to Will when he asks you where you were and that thought always goes through my head with my daughters, you know, when they’re grown up and they asked me questions about did you stand up for women’s voices in this moment? What was it like to go through the moment of MeToo? And for me, I’m building a business around telling other people to use their voices, and I’m teaching students to stand up and use their voices.

So it was so important to me to make that statement to myself and to my daughters. But I think the biggest thing at the heart of the Women’s March for me is just that really central, very simple but game changing ability for women to be able to say yes or no to things and when they do say yes or no to things, whether it’s their careers or their lifestyle or their bodies, whatever that is, that they get to make that decision and they get to be heard when they make that decision. And for me, I think that was the simplest way to boil down why I wanted to March this year and what I wanted to stand for. So that’s kind of where I came in to this year.

Susan: And I really appreciate that thought. One of the reasons besides the camaraderie, you know, at the time we were in a government shutdown. And one of the things that happened in that shut down— and I don’t know how many people know this or how many people pay attention to what’s going on policy-wise or whatever, but one of the things that happened during the shutdown was the Violence Against Women’s Act expired. And you can kind of Google what that’s about, but it’s basically a program that provides funding to other organizations to help women who’ve been in horrible, horrible situations. And since the government has reopened, that was one of the stipulations in the Bill that they just put for that they would reinstate that funding. So it’s back up operational running. But going back to the MeToo movement, there’s just so many things I hear.

I hear people say things like, “Oh, well, women are totally equal now and blah, blah blah and why are you still marching? And what is the point of this?” And I realized that there has been so many things that have come from women’s movements over the years and there are so many places where we are included now, and I don’t want to minimize that, I don’t want to say that we haven’t accomplished things in this world because we obviously have, but I just think that there is so much still to accomplish. And going back to the whole MeToo thing, I think one of the things we have to think about is how women are treated from a policy standpoint. And that’s not just at the federal level, it’s at the local level, it’s at the state level. And especially in Texas—and I can’t remember the number. I need to go back and look it up and I’ll post it in the notes. I’ll post a link to this study that I’m talking about, but the number of rape kits that are untested in the state of Texas, and in all states. This is not just a Texas thing. This happens nationwide. And how some of them, you know… Go ahead, sorry.

Liz: Oh, I was just gonna confirm that. Yeah, there’s a huge backlog everywhere were like a person goes in with this horrible situation and have to have a rape kit conducted on them and then it just sits in a warehouse.

Susan: Or sometimes they’re destroyed. Some of them have been destroyed.

Liz: Wow.

Susan: Yeah, and so knowing that that was happening at the same time and the March was coming back up, I was like, “There’s just still so much to fight for and to raise our voices about and to be strong about and to think about.” That was one of the big things for me this year was, “Yeah, we’ve done a lot, but there’s still a lot to be done.” And as far as the women’s movement itself, there’s still a lot within the women’s movement that I think we need to think harder about: who’s included? Who’s excluded? Who’s at the front of the line? Who’s at the back of the line?” And I know you and I spoke about that, and I’ll link this as well. You and I spoke about that New York Times podcast episode about the Women’s March and how it went down in the earlier days, and are still a lot of improvement that needs to be done even today.

Liz: Yeah, and for me that was a big question too coming into this March, like I want to make sure that my Marching is making an inclusive statement, right? And I really had to think about that before I attended the March in Dallas, I had to think about what was going on nationally who felt excluded from the March and was, you know, my Marching somehow making a statement of support in, you know, excluding those people. And that’s definitely not where my intention was. And I didn’t feel that they at the Dallas March, I don’t know if you did, but I felt like there was a really strong camaraderie and that there were a lot of different types of people represented. And so I guess I felt validated and showing up for that March that there were a lot of likeminded people who are standing there in the same way that I was in just wanting to make a change in wanting to continue this forward progress in wanting to make women continue to be heard and to include everybody in that movement.

Susan: Yeah, for sure. I will say the one thing that I noticed this year that I didn’t see in Austin that I for sure didn’t see in pictures from Washington, and I don’t know if this was really the first year or if it happened last year, because I really don’t know. I need to go back and look and see if there’s way to figure this out, but there were a lot more men than I expected to be there. And the one in Austin I don’t think I saw… I saw maybe two, and I was really surprised to see men at this March this year.

Liz: I mean, I think it was great. Some of them had my favorite signs that I saw in the March. I saw the—I don’t know if it was a couple. It was a man and a woman marching next to each other and the man was holding a sign and it said, “Another day, another dollar,” and the woman was holding aside and it said, “Another day, another eighty cents,” and I mean I laugh because the signs were funny. That situation isn’t, but I think that the men who were there this year, we’re making a really strong statement. I saw families marching with their signs. I saw a father and son that were there marching. I mean because that’s the thing; the women’s movement I think is not just about women being heard in a certain way. It’s also allowing men to be who they want to be in the way that they want to be. And so it’s a really important consideration, I think, to make that men are as included in this movement as women are.

Susan: That’s a very good point, that there is really room in this movement for all people and all allies for sure.

Liz: And I know that probably not everybody feels that way. I think that’s one of the challenges now for the movement moving forward is how does that intention get translated to everybody that wants to find a place within the movement? And it seems like that’s a big conversation that needs to be add in reaching out to people everywhere. And I don’t know a good answer to that at this point, but I think conversations like this one are at least opening the door or hopefully opening the door to people who might not feel included, but who wants to be in some way.

Susan: Well, and I think some of these conversations even start at the most basic level and what I mean by that is if you are a heterosexual cisgender woman, that these conversations kind of start in your home with your spouse as far as your husband may be an ally, but he might say things sometimes that don’t totally jive or there may be some accidental mansplaining happening and things like that. So maybe even gentle conversation in your own home is not always a bad place to start with those thoughts and those conversations and just see where that goes.

Liz: No, I think that’s really true. I have to like jump in and give a shout out to my husband because I am lucky enough that I really feel very supportive and like I have a very strong partner in this, you know, the reason he didn’t go to the Women’s March is because we didn’t want to take our two girls out in the cold so he stayed home and watched them. But had we not made that decision, I think he would have been marching right there too. But, that’s just a privilege that I get to have, and I know that that’s not the case in every home or in every partnership. So I do think that those conversations definitely need to start in the home. And if it’s just kind of figuring out how and when to have them, I that for me having kids has opened up my wanting to make these conversations really, really intentional as well. And especially—not especially having daughters because it’s just the same if you have a son, but really making space for talking about what is it to be a woman? What is it to be a man? What do you get to stand up for and how do you just get to be the type of person that you want to be and live the lifestyle you want and love the people that you want and have the career you want? And everybody should have access to that. I think, you know, that was really central in the people around me at the march this year. I think that was something that everybody could come together and unite within. So it’s just bringing that often and giving those conversations of platform.

Susan: Absolutely. I totally agree with that. And I want to go back to a little bit of what you were talking about, about using your own voice because I know that there’s going to be some people—some of my audience are going to be listening to this who this may energize them and they’re going to want to know how to get involved in where to get involved. And I know one of the groups that I was there with actually this year, there was a brunch beforehand with Ignite. And Ignite’s been mentioned on the podcast before in previous episodes, but if you haven’t caught any of those, Ignite is a… It starts at a… I think it actually starts in the high schools and also goes into college, but it’s really encouraging of young women and femmes to get involved in policy and in politics in general at any level, be it local, state, federal, and getting them involved in what’s going on in their community and it’s bipartisan. And I just want to say that not everybody’s going to agree with this, but you know, we’re all women and at the end of the day we’re not always gonna agree. Even within the movement there’s just going to be things we don’t agree on. And that’s okay. We’re not supposed to be the same person and we’re not supposed to agree on everything. But going back to sharing your voice, every voice really does matter and everybody deserves a voice at the table.

Liz: Yeah, I totally agree with that. And I also think that, you know, some people’s fear in marching in something like this might be that they’re making a statement that they don’t want to make, right? Or that other people are interpreting their marching in a way that they didn’t intend and you know, to me the important part then about using your voice is to be able to say, like, to be able to define that for yourself and say like, “This is why I am Marching. And this is who I’m representing,” and if you’re not willing to stand up and say that, then other people can assume or misinterpret your intentions. So I do think it’s really important to be able to say that and to use your voice to make those statements so that you know, if you’re fearful that you’ll be misinterpreted, then you have to say what you mean and say how you intend to use that position that you have. I think it’s so important.

Susan: Yeah. And I really appreciate that you’re doing this everyday kind of in your career, both as a professor and as a content writer and even helping me with some of the things that I’ve done, and I look forward to working with you further on these because it really does help to have a second set of ears and eyes and to have that camaraderie with other people because sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard to stand up when others around you aren’t. And I know that there are people who are gonna listen to this and they’re like, they feel alone. And this is off the Women’s March, but it spawned from the Women’s March, which was something that I attended called the United State of Women in California, and it was very much, you know, a lot of this women’s movement stuff is considered progressive and all of that. And I think the United State of Women really had a very progressive slant towards it. But finding events like that or conferences like that that are about women…It can even be, I would argue, a women’s retreat at your church if you, if you do that or your synagogue or your mosque; just camaraderie with other women and sharing your voice and starting there. It really does help to have that network around you of likeminded people. And I think sometimes in this generation or where we are in history, that can be hard to find. But you were gonna say something.

Liz: Well, I was going to ask you that once you started finding that network was a, your experience that, you know, once you found that one or two really strong connections that they started to come to you more often. That was definitely the case for me. You know, once I finally put myself out there a little bit and started trying to surround myself. Like go to those little meetings just like you talked about, you know, just little local, small. I want to be around other supportive women who are maybe going through a similar life experience as me. Like you and I just had this conversation about when we both became new moms and finding other women who are going through that experience too. And you know, my experience in doing that was that once I started making one or two connections that those kind of rippled out and I found myself engaged in a bigger network and that empowered me then to be able to say I am going to go march this year and I have a lot of people in my network that I know are going to be there too. So it was a really important step for me to take that started out very small, just like I love the examples you gave of just kind of putting yourself in that position to find other people who can be supportive of you.

Susan: Yeah, absolutely. And I would say especially now in the world of social media, I think this is actually somewhere where social media helps because you can find a lot of these groups online. I’ll just throw this out there right now, feel free to reach out to me via private message or email and I’m happy to try to get you connected wherever you are. I feel like I’m at this point now where I probably know—okay, maybe not North Dakota or South Dakota, but I have a fairly good connection, especially in bigger cities, and those surrounding suburb type areas. And even in my hometown in Spartanburg, South Carolina—shout out!—these groups exist. It’s just sometimes it’s really plugging in and finding them. That can be a little bit of a struggle in the beginning, but once you’re there…

I know there’s one group in Dallas I’m very involved with, the Texas Women’s Foundation, formerly the Dallas Women’s Foundation and I’m on one of the committees for the foundation now, but it’s really funny. Anytime I’m involved with something that’s going on with them and I get together with these women, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, these are my people and I’m home and these are my sisters and this is fantastic and feeding off that energy sometimes is really helpful and really important when the days get long because sometimes they just do, even in just regular life. And I think, you know, there were friends that once I started—I mean, I’ll just be frank—once I started speaking out and being more open and honest about stuff, there were friends that kind of backed away a little bit and that’s okay. You know, that’s what they need to do and some of it was hurtful, but making the switch for me and being more outspoken was really one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself for sure.

Liz: And of course you know, your goal too is to give other people a platform through the podcast as well. And I think that is so important to me because I think one thing is that, you know, especially with the women’s movement or with anything, it’s really easy for us to focus on all the differences that we have that we’re bringing to the table. But I think something that you do really well in focusing on telling the stories of women or connecting with other women is that in those stories we can find all these places where we are really similar and not just be the places that we’re different. And I think, I guess that’s just a big lesson and a big part of the women’s movement is that we can look at it at face value and see maybe some of the stances that if you don’t outwardly agree with them, it could be a nonstarter for you to feel like you need to get involved.

But at least my experience while I was there is that while I’m sure like you already brought this up, women are going to disagree across the board. It doesn’t mean we’re all marching and we all have a 100 percent of the same beliefs or intentions or values. But I think that there is enough shared experience and if we really try to put ourselves in position where we’re getting to know other people and we’re listening to other people. We’re not just using our voices, but we’re listening to other people’s too. But, we have more in common than we have that’s different. And I’m trying to find those places too so that I can be able to connect to other women who aren’t sharing all of my values or who don’t prioritize all of the same things as I do, but we have similar life experiences that there’s just a way for us to connect, and I think that’s really important and I think that’s probably an intention behind the movement that’s not always practiced perfectly, but that it’s an overall goal that everybody’s trying to move toward.

Susan: You know, I really hope so. And I hope that’s something that we continue to work on because I know one of the bigger criticisms of the women’s movement since its inception, if you go back to the original one in our country,  the meeting at Seneca Falls back in the 1800s, was the exclusion or putting to the side of minorities. And at that point it was African American women and now it’s obviously much broader than that, but I want to make sure…

Liz: But it’s still a challenge.

Susan: It is still a challenge and it shouldn’t. From my standpoint, I don’t understand why people still act that way or behave that way. I want to say that that is something that I don’t condone by any stretch of the imagination, and that there are some voices that might be needing to be more elevated at the moment. Because I remember seeing a picture and it was talking about equality and there was a fence and there were people looking over the fence and each person had the same box, but they were at different heights so there were people who still couldn’t see over the fence. And equality is giving everybody the same box, but you’re still not at an equal level. Equity is giving somebody a big enough box for themselves so that they can all see over the fence. And I just want people to think about that going forward as far as with what they’re doing and how they’re sharing their voice and when they’re sharing their voice and who they’re giving their voice to. And this is something that on this podcast I think about regularly. And I know somebody’s going to say, “Well, you guys are just two white women sitting around talking about this.” And there have been multiple…I hope that I can insert some of the other voices that I caught. Because I ask people throughout the march, I stopped and talked to a few people and got asked them, you know, why are you here and why are you Marching today?

[28:37 – 32:10]

Susan: There were several people who I asked if they would be willing to do this and because of their job or their position or whatever, they didn’t feel comfortable doing it. And so I just want to make the point that that’s how I feel is that I think everyone’s voice matters, everyone deserves to be heard in this. And I know we keep bringing this back up, but we are really all in this together because if one of us fails, we all fail. This is not a situation where, “Oh yay! I succeeded it.” It really in the end it doesn’t work like that. And I think we’ve seen that. I think we’ve seen how that works throughout history, you know, with my understanding of women’s history. Going to a women’s college, you learn a lot more women’s history. You see how it’s manifested throughout time and there are still so many things that we have gotten wrong. And I just really want to reiterate that I hope this is the turning point. I really do have hope because I see it’s not where it needs to be, but I do see more women of all backgrounds being included and I just hope that something that we can build upon and continue to strengthen

Liz: And that’s why I love talking to you because you are always able to bring it back to that place of just your really strong intention to be able to share other people’s stories, to make everyone feel included and to just do it in a really smart and thoughtful way, so…

Susan: Well that is very nice of you. I appreciate that. I don’t always feel like it happens, but that’s what the goal is for sure. If you, coming from a professor’s standpoint, if there was something that you could tell women who want to share their voice, who are scared, like where would you even start?. And I know that’s such a broad question because not all of us are in the same place. Not all of us come from the same place, but I’ll just make it me. I was an 18-year-old kid. I found myself at a women’s college somewhat by luck I realize now. And I was really forced into leadership roles because there wasn’t anybody else to do it other than women, like that’s what happens when you go to a women’s college, you’re forced into positions that you wouldn’t normally volunteer for because women are the only ones there to do it.

If I had not had that experience, you know, it went dormant for a few years and then the idea of this podcast and all of that kind of brought it all back around, back a full circle if you will. But I know that there are women out there who’ve never, never used their voice, never thought…Some have been told—okay, a lot had been told that it’s not our place. And sometimes they’re actually told that and then sometimes they’re subliminally told that through other messages. So how do we continue to nurture women to share their voice? What can we, I guess maybe not what can women do who aren’t trying to voice, what can women who are sharing their voice already who are in positions of privilege, be it because they have a platform or they’re in a shortened position at work or whatever, like what is it as women that we can do to continue amplifying and holding that door back and open for other women coming behind us?

Liz: I think, I mean that’s a great question. One thing that, I guess I would start with the place of like it’s obvious that there’s so many mediums now for you to be able to give yourself a platform. And so whether it’s just exactly what you did is creating your own podcast, and you didn’t even know how to create a podcast, but you decided to do it and you did it and now you have one and now you’re creating this space for other women to share their stories. And looking at you, it makes it seem like it’s so simple to do to just provide a platform to other people, but there’s so many of us who would just get stopped at the fact of, “Well, I don’t know how to do that, “or “Should people be listening to me and my story?” Or “Is anybody even going to come in and listen to this?” But I don’t know what your experience is but mine has been that anytime I’ve taken that risk to give myself a new platform or authentically tell a story about my experience, for example, last year I decided to apply to give a Ted Talk just because I thought it was something that would be challenging and that would be beneficial and that would be fun and that would be hard and it proved to be all of those things, but giving myself that platform, it spoke to a lot of different people that I didn’t necessarily know would be the audience. The other people came and said like, “Now I feel like I’m empowered to give myself a platform too” or “how did you do that? I think that’s something that I would be able to do,” or “you sharing your story really helped me kind of validate my own.” And so I guess what I would say is that women who are in that position who already have a platform, I think they need to be really thoughtful about who they’re inviting and giving that space to and making sure that it’s representative of a lot of different types of stories and stories that are not always the ones that are told.

And then secondly, for the people who don’t have a platform, like I would just say make one, give yourself one. And that’s easier said than done, but there are so many spaces, whether it’s just writing a post on a blog, creating a podcast, writing an Instagram caption. I think that most people who have taken the risk to say, “I’m going to put this out there as myself and I’m going to do it just for the sake of sharing this story with other people.” I think the experience is pretty much across the board that someone hears that, sees that, it resonates with them and then they feel empowered to get to do the same thing, so that’s where I would start. What do you think about that, Susan? You’ve done it before.

Susan: I’m pondering what you’re saying and of course, being the writer and speaker that you are, you say it so eloquently, and I will make sure to link your Ted Talk. Everyone should hear your Ted Talk. It was really phenomenal. It was one of the first things that I listened to once our friend, Caytie, web introduced us over email, and it people just need to listen. It’s amazing. And I thank you for sharing your voice. And I think you’re right. I guess at the end of the day we came to share our stories about the Women’s March, but I’m realizing now that what we’re really talking about and what this all boils down to is taking a risk. And it’s a calculated risk, but I think. I think that’s what we’re talking about is being vulnerable and putting ourselves out there and risking a little bit, and I think you have to take those chances and when you don’t take those chances in life, it’s stagnant. And I think when you take risks, although they’re hard and they’re challenging, many times they’re worth it and you end up…Even if it’s a risk that fails, it flops, you end up learning something from it and you end up being a better person on the other side. And I hadn’t really thought about it being about taking a risk until now.

Liz: Yeah, but it is one, right? I mean it is just showing up at a March, putting yourself out there, being willing to clash with other people, being willing to even risk your safety or your comfort. I think that’s a step that for me. It probably did prevent me from going to the first two Marches and this year for a lot of different reasons I felt more emboldened and more empowered to show up in that way. But it is a little bit of a risk. And I think for a lot of people just having a community of support, knowing somebody who’s there, knowing that it’s helped other people along the way, I think all of those things start to make the risk, like you said, a little bit more calculated, a little bit safer. And so I do think that, you know, even when someone else is the one who is using their voice, I think it is opening a door for other people and giving them some permission to use their’s too. At least that’s what I hope.

Susan: Yeah, me too. I really do hope that those that feel like they need permission because sometimes as women we feel like we do need to ask for permission for things that I feel like I do hope we’re holding that door open because really somebody hold that door open for us. At the end of the day, I mean we’re not the start of this. We’re surely not the end of this. I was thinking about this last night and I really realized that there are women who have come before us, that this has been their life’s work and I’m realizing now that it’s kind of turned into my life’s work on accident. This was never… I never thought I’d have to do this. I thought we were past this, but I hope that for future generations that this is something that we just continue to move the bar and to move the goalpost again, sports analogies. But yeah, I think that’s a good place to end. Do you have anything that you definitely want to talk about that we missed?

Liz: I think that’s a good place to end too. I think that brings everything full circle.

Susan: Cool. Well, I love it and I appreciate you doing this with me today. It’s so much more fun to have somebody to chat with rather than do it myself and just start rambling about stuff for, you know, 30, 45 minutes. So thanks for coming on and chatting with me. We should do this again more often.

Liz: I had so much fun. I always liked talking to you. I mean, that’s probably why we like working together so much because I can just sit down with you at a coffee shop for a couple of hours and then say, “You know what, where did we start here? Where do we need to go next?”

Susan: I know. And I’m sitting here in my closet office and I’ve got my coffee. So I had my coffee with me so you know, it worked out really well. I’m really glad you could do this with me today.

Liz: Me Too. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Outro: Pod Sisters, I really hope that this episode left you encouraged. I know it might be a little intimidating or even scary to share your voice in the beginning and that’s okay. As you heard, we were nervous too. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me. I’m more than happy to try and get you plugged in wherever you are. Your voice matters and like I said, if one of us fails, we all fail. You can do it and we’re here rooting you on. Until next time, I’ll see you soon.

When you hit your breaking point, how will you respond? With women’s advocate Brooke Lopez

Have you ever had a moment where you said enough!?  Brooke Lopez wanted to be a dentist and now she is in Law School.  Why?  Well, life happens. Plans can change.  When tragedy struck she didn’t just sit back.  She said enough is enough! She got involved and took action.  Now she is fighting for women and femmes in Texas.

Show Notes

Brooke Lopez is a force.  Many call her a woman to watch.  Why?  Because she is taking action!  We discuss everything from women in advocacy to menstrual equity.  Something, I admit, I have not thought enough about.

In this episode Brooke shares:

What it was like running for office as a young Latina woman

The importance of advocacy and how to get involved (hint: it isn’t all political)

The significance of women being in elected office ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ISLE

The value of Menstrual Equity

 

Links

Brooke Lopez (website)

Lone Star Parity Project

Ignite National

Texas Women’s Foundation

Lone Star Parity Project Article featuring Aylin Segura and Menstrual Equity

Lone Star Parity Project Article featuring Susan Long

https://runningstart.org/our-work/

Orange is the New Black (book)

Lone Star Parity Project – Facebook

Lone Star Parity Project – Instagram

Lone Star Parity Project – Twitter

 

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. Today I want to introduce you to the amazing Brooke Lopez. Brooke’s passion stems from tragedy, and so the first few minutes of the interview might not be a great fit for younger audiences. It was this tragedy that prompted Brooke to begin reaching out to her local representatives to seek change as a way to serve her community. She learned early on that change happens through policy, so at the age of 18, Brooke gathered her passion for civic duty and ran for Wylie City Council Place 4. As the youngest candidate in the history of the town. Though she lost the race, she learned many invaluable lessons. Brooke has gone on to be an active member of Ignite, a bipartisan nonprofit that encourages young women to actively engage in the political process. She has also founded the Lone Star Parody Project, a nonpartisan online publication dedicated to sharing the stories of women and femmes involved in Texas politics with hopes of bringing gender parody across all levels of public office.

Full disclosure, she interviewed me recently and you can catch that interview on our website in the show notes or on our social media pages. We talk about everything from the importance of women being more involved in the political process to the importance of running no matter your side of the aisle. What does being involved look like? We covered that too. Then towards the end, we spent a fair amount of time talking about menstrual equity, something I realized I needed to consider more often. I really can’t wait to hear your feedback on this particular topic. I’m excited. I hope you’re excited. So without further ado, here’s Brooke.

Susan: Hey Brooke, I really, really appreciate you joining us this morning and I kind of already gave a little bit of the highlights from your back story in the intro, but why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in the work you are in.

Brooke Lopez: Thanks, Susan. I’m really happy to be joining you this morning. Like many people who end up becoming involved in politics, it wasn’t really a choice so much as something thrown in my face that I couldn’t ignore anymore. I was 15 years old, I was a sophomore in high school, and my good friend was murdered by two other students. And as the trial went on, as our town was dealing with, it’s only second a notorious murder that had happened in our community, we had to figure out how to rebuild, but also recognize what had happened. I started becoming really passionate about different gun control measures, common sense prevention of gun violence since my friend had been murdered with a weapon that a young minor is able to get his hands on. So I really started to work on that. But quickly I realized that in my community I had grown up in sort of what I consider a bubble. I was sheltered from the fact that people who disagree with you might disagree with you to a very severe extent to where they discredit you, they want to completely go against how you feel, what you say, regardless of your story. And I had to really learn and understand what it’s like to come from different perspective on something that I felt so passionate on. I had to take a step back and remove my heart from the politics and continue to work on trying to make amends with everyone. So after that I became really interested in local politics. I wanted to really gain the perspective of my community and feel what they wanted to see on a local level since I had been working on the state level. So at age 18 I decided to file to run for city council in Wylie, Texas, which is northeast of Dallas. And I ran as the youngest and the only Latina to run at that time.

So I was able to really gain a perspective that was different than the community that I was coming from. Wylie is a conservative community and I identify with very democratic ideologies and policies, so that was going to be something that was kind of an uphill battle. And in addition, I was very young and a Latina, which is also different than the community in which I came. So I eventually lost my campaign, but from that I was able to gain a lot of insight to help other women who are just as interested in becoming involved in politics, whether they run or not, to really make a difference, especially here in Texas. So that’s kind of where my journey brought me to, even though to be completely honest, I originally wanted to be a dentist when I was a kid. So that is an example of how people can really jump into politics with any sort of passion.

Susan: Well, I love that and I appreciate you sharing how you got involved in politics. Share with us a little bit about what you were doing as far as the state level politics go and what you got involved with, the legislation and such.

Brooke Lopez: So when I was 15, the state politics that I originally focused on was gun control, and I came across that interest completely because of the experiences that I had gone through. Neither of my parents were very outwardly political. They were very hard and fast patriotic voters. They made sure to complete this civic duty, but we never really talked about the different policies behind it because that was something that—it wasn’t taboo in my household, it just wasn’t focused on. I think we were also very young and so my parents weren’t sure and they didn’t want to mold or create an image for us of what they felt we needed to believe in. So I was able to come to my own decisions on different state issues like gun control. I was originally working with my local Texas representative to bring a measure that would not allow juveniles who had committed a murder to be given a sentence under the juvenile code, they would be given a sentence under an adult standard of code, which may seem like a very mandated or strict policy, but right now if you are a juvenile and you’re charged with murder here in the state of Texas under the juvenile standards as opposed to the adult standard, you’re able to be released from prison as early as 18 years old and it’s not notated at any point on your record. So I didn’t want to mandate a sentence. I didn’t want to go against what I believe she’d be a rehabilitative justice system, but I really wanted to work on making sure that guns don’t end up in the hands of the wrong people. And when you’re able to seal your record, especially if you’ve committed a murder with a weapon, your record will be sealed, and no one will ever know that you have committed a murder.

Susan: Oh!

Brooke Lopez: So wanted to make sure, yeah, that other juvenile offenders who had committed something as heinous as a murder and were charged with murder, but charged under the juvenile standard of punishment were still not able to get access to guns in order to prevent murders lLike this from happening again. And it seems really complicated, and it’s kind of difficult to talk to people about because most of the time I started talking about guns, immediately I’m labeled under gun control or I start talking about changing the record sealing policies and immediately people assume that it’s eliminating the rehabilitative portion of the justice system, but I wanted to bring the two together that way murderers weren’t able to enter our community again at 18 and have the same rights or access to guns, which would be a privilege in our community, you know, as people who hadn’t committed murder,

Susan: I didn’t realize the whole…This is really ignorant of me to say, but I never even thought about the fact that records—because I haven’t been in this situation in Texas and I’m not originally from here so it didn’t even occur to me with the sealed records situation and what that would entail. Oh my gosh! So where did that legislation ended up going?

Brooke Lopez: So this is a really incredible story and I always, anytime I talk about this, I want to make sure that whoever did in fact put the work in behind this has their fair credit and one day will reach out to me. But I started working on it in 2015 and at that time there was nothing in the penal code that mentioned if you committed a murder, there was an exception to sealing your record. Now, looking back on it about a year ago, I ended up looking back at that same penal code to continue my research and reaching out to legislators. And I don’t know how, but it is now a part of the amendment where if you commit capital murder, you can’t have your punishment under the juvenile standard, which would allow you to seal your records. It was incredible and I have no idea how it happened or where it happened. I’ve always tried to figure out what session and occurred or wonder which legislator. I have no idea, but it is so amazing that somehow this was able to change and I wasn’t the only one trying to do it. And we had no idea. We never connected with whoever did it. I’m just so honored and thankful to have been on that same journey with them. Just, you know, probably a completely across the board.

Susan: That’s a really cool story. I guess I think it’s really cool because you never connected and yet the two of you…Obviously, that goes to the point that if you’re thinking about something, there’s at least one other person out there thinking the same thing, which makes me feel like I’m not alone. And that always makes me feel at least a little bit better about any situation I’m in.

Brooke Lopez: There you go. Yeah. I was completely shocked and unfortunately, I hope that the situation that I had to go through didn’t happen exactly to, you know, in the same way that it happened to this person, whoever had worked on it or whatever legislator had to hear that story and I accept that when they were making this consideration, but it’s crazy to me to think that other people were also suffering from that same issue and at some point also decided that there needed to be the exact same change in the state of Texas. So yeah, it made me feel sad because I know that other people are having to deal with this but so happy that now we have a legislative solution that is put in place for people to hopefully recover some justice and a little bit of sense of peace with this change.

Susan: Yeah. So going back a little bit, you mentioned that you had been working and trying to do to work on state legislation and obviously, we’re talking a little bit about politics this morning and being advocates for yourselves and getting involved and now you’re working on the local level a little bit. Tell us or share with us your thoughts on women’s involvement in politics because I feel like oftentimes women want to see change, but by trying to create change they get involved in volunteerism and different organizations that they’re in the triage area if you will, of making change versus and they’re willing to get in there and get dirty and get in the mud and make the change on that level, and micro impacts your great. Talk to us about the importance of being involved in the actual political process and the advocacy piece of that.

Brooke Lopez: So, I always want to start off with numbers because I feel, and if there’s any other people who listened that feel like they really need some numbers to convince them that something’s actually happening, that’s the best way to start. Women hold across the United States 51 percent the population. We make up 51 percent of the people who consider themselves American. Out of the elected office on a national level, we hold 20 percent. And that rings true here in Texas too. In 1992, that was considered the year of the woman when Hillary Clinton was our first lady, when there was a spike and a dramatic increase in all of the states across all the levels of women wanting to run for office, and since then the percentage of women who have held office has remained 20 or lower in various states. New Hampshire, I think, actually has the strongest amount of parody or equality among women to men in office and they still aren’t even at 50, so that is the issue that we’re facing.

There’s not enough women in elected office, but to make that jump from not really being involved in politics or maybe, you know, you broke, but you’re not really outspoken about the things that you’re passionate about or the different policies that you support to wanting to run for office, that is a huge leap and it’s really hard for people to make it, especially women. I think the statistic is women on are asked seven times to run for office before they actually make the decision to run. So there’s a huge disparity between not only women who are choosing to run, they’re not winning at an increased rate with this year as an exception, and women who aren’t really involved in politics at all trying to make the leap into politics, it’s a little hard and it can feel weird and sometimes you don’t realize what all is actually affected by policy.

Sometimes politics is even seen as like a dirty word. People feel really uncomfortable when you start talking about politics. So what I always try to advocate to women who are on the fence about getting involved is that involvement can range from, like you mentioned, the micro level in a proactive manner as well as grand as working on the federal level also in a proactive manner. In politics, women tend to work more proactively in different policy perspective than men do and men tend to work more proactively. So men are getting to have a seat at the table in terms of decision making, but women are tending to clean up the mess more often have policies that either go haywire or situations where policies are not in effect that should be to have mitigated the entire issue from occurring. So women have a duty to share our experiences that are exclusive to us because we all have our own intersectional identities that display different experiences in different ways, and it’s important for us to share those messages. So on the micro level, women can get involved with something as small range as working with your school board or working with your neighborhood commission or HOA to be able to put something in effect that will effect something that is daily in their lives.

Another common misconception that women face when they’re deciding whether or not to enter into politics is that you can only advocate for what society has deemed women’s issues. Women have an incredible perspective on a lot of different topics that aren’t limited to, let’s say education and reproductive rights. Women have an incredible perspective on the world of stem economics issues effecting women like the gender pay gap that aren’t limited to social issues. These are things that we are able to make an impact on and have our intersectional identities represented actively that are not solely limited to what we always considered to be a woman’s place in terms of legal perspective.

So the best advice I can give for women who are interested in taking that first step; one, support other women in politics, that’s the easiest way to get involved, as well as help another woman who’s already made that leap into running for office, have the support of women behind them and two, to begin working with your representative, whether it’s the school level, so local level, the state level, your legislators or the federal level, your senators or the different agencies that we work under to be able to advocate for the policies that you want to see put in place. Those are the best first few steps that a woman who is interested in politics can make in order to make an impact when they’re just maybe not ready to run, but they really want to make a change.

Susan: I liked that you mentioned how as women we’re—I mean I even do it. I think we all do—we’re bad about pigeonholing ourselves into just women’s issues and politics. And I like how you make the point that obviously, I mean it sounds—it’s like a “Duh,” but obviously we can contribute to other conversations in the political arena as well. It’s not just women’s issues. I don’t know, just the way you said that, I was like, “Well yeah, of course,” but sometimes I even do that to myself, so thank you for bringing that up, bringing that to our attention. I appreciate it. Yeah, so we are located in Texas. Not all of my listeners are in Texas; probably a majority of them might be. What avenues are available to women who are interested in advocacy, who are interested in…You know, I think I have a lot of small business owners and that’s always really important to be involved, especially on the local level with small businesses and such. Talk to us a little bit about organizations that already exist that we could potentially plug into as women that are already supporting other women.

Brooke Lopez:Yeah, my number one pet peeve that people tend to do when they’re sharing advice, they’ll give you this great big picture advice and say, “Oh, we talked to other organizations that support women, but where are the names? I need to be connected.” So I will go ahead and give you exact names of organizations that I personally have worked with that women I have also worked with, including myself, have found great success getting involved in politics. So some of the first ones that are really prominent in Texas include Ignite and that’s more for college-aged women and high school women. It’s a nonprofit that tries to build political ambition and young women, but getting involved with it from the perspective of being a community leader, being someone who considers themselves an adult or someone who has passed their schooling years, that can really give opportunity for mentorship programs. There’s opportunity for different conferences or events or mixers where you can meet with other politically engaged women of all ages and start to talk about issues that are important.

There have been a lot of projects that have come out of Ignite, including the Dallas ISD Menstrual Equity program, the different menstrual equity programs on the college campuses nearby. I know those sounds the same, but then this all came out of Ignite. Some other organizations include the Texas Women’s Foundation, formerly the Dallas Women’s Foundation. They have been an incredible source of networking and overall support both monetarily and emotionally for different nonprofits in the area as well as women who are interested in getting involved in politics, they’re really, really supportive of nonpartisan women as well as women who represent bipartisan issues across the spectrum to be able to get involved in politics. It’s a great source for working with other community leaders in the state of Texas. And then finally, one that I would recommend would be Running Start. It’s a nonprofit that helps women of all ages, particularly women under 40, but they help women of all ages to become engaged in the political process, whether it’s running for office, connecting with fellow candidates or working with women on a nonpartisan platform to be able to complete different policies and projects. Yeah, those have been the best resources that I’ve been able to come in contact with here in Texas that have really helped build networks of women who were interested in similar or different policies, but be able to come together with a common perspective that women need to be more involved in civic leadership, civic engagement and overall just leadership positions across the table.

Susan: Well, thank you for sharing that. I am always tooting the Texas Women’s—formerly Dallas Women’s Foundation, now Texas Women’s Foundation horn because I am involved with that organization and I love every bit about that. That was, it sounds odd, but it was such a blessing that showed up in my life in 2016. I had never heard of it and I have lived in Dallas since 2007 and I was having lunch with a friend and I said, “Okay, I want to be involved, I want to be giving back, you know, to the community and whatever, but I don’t have the time to volunteer. I need to be able to come and go as I please.”

And one thing that I really like about the Texas Women’s Foundation is it’s a foundation that it’s a giving foundation so you can be as involved more not involved as you want to be, depending on like what your timing allows. You can volunteer through there or went through them with their organization, the organizations they support or you can just give money. So depending on what your stages in life, it’s, you know, it’s a great match no matter what stage you are in. So I have really appreciated being involved in that, coming from other organizations that require not only a monetary gift but you know, volunteering hours as well. So it’s nice to be able to move that spectrum a little bit. So, and I’m really glad you mentioned them. So share with us if there is anything in 2019 as women that we need to be focusing on that maybe we haven’t focused on as much in the past or do you see anything coming down the pipe that we need to be aware of right now?

Brooke Lopez: I think what we need to really take notice of and ride this beautiful, awesome wave. It’s going to be the wave of women candidates both from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party who were elected in this most recent midterm election. There are incredible numbers that show that this is one of the first years where women were running at an increased rate from what they were previously, and we’re actually winning at an increased rate. We have a lot of first across the country, but particularly here in Texas, we had our first Latino ever elected to Congress, which is incredible given the Latina/Latino population here in the state of Texas. So that was a huge feat that was able to be overcome. We’ve had a really beautiful mix of what I consider purple. There have been a mixture of Republican and Democratic candidates who are now in office, particularly women in and femmes that are now making changes from a democratic standpoint in terms of there’s now a democracy.

It’s going to be equal voice, equal power. And to me, I think that’s when the best policy is made so all perspectives are taken into consideration. I think we really need to keep an eye on the women who had not only one, but the women who are currently, like you mentioned, in a pipeline in order to win. We really have to keep boosting women. If we’re going to ever put Texas into a position of political progress, we really have to boost our game and use the power that we have right now. Currently, Texas is ranked 49th in terms of contacting elected officials and we’re ranked 44th in terms of voting, previous to the midterm elections. That information is not out yet, but we are one of the lowest in terms of voter turnout and we have to make sure that we not only turn out, but we’re supporting especially women candidates and candidates from other marginalized communities too. That’s gonna be the thing that we really need to keep an eye on for 2019.

Susan: Well, on that note, I want to interject something that I was talking about with some friends the other day. It came up that—I was on a committee for something and one of the best ways to get women involved with this particular thing that we’re trying to do, we did something really old school. We called people on the phone, you know, like actually talk to people on the phone, not a text, but talk to people on the phone and invited them to participate in something. And it worked like we more than tripled our numbers on this particular project as far as getting people involved because somebody called and invited them and it was one of those things. It was like, “Oh, they really want me at the party.” And it wasn’t a party, it was some benefit or something.

But I think sometimes we forget those of us who are really, really involved understand why it’s important sometimes translating that or there’s a fear of, “Oh, they’re going to think on political or they don’t want to talk to me about this because we’ve never talked about it before. I don’t know that that’s the case. I feel like as women we try to be more polite, tried to stay away from taboo subjects and I just wonder if we had more women doing like old school house meetings or something like that. Like the way you and I met, we met at an Ignite event in someone’s home where they had, they invited the Ignite folks to come in and talk with us and share a little bit about what they were doing. And I just wonder if there was, if we thought about, like if you’re a woman and you love hosting people in your home, that maybe that’s a way you get involved.That’s a micro impact and a way to get people to the polls and to get people involved in your local community. So I wonder if we start… I realized that’s kind of, that’s a micro impact, but we saw in this last election just what micro impacts did and how that got people involved and how that did get people out. So I wonder if we really, if a woman is trying to figure out a first step, like maybe that’s it. Maybe having a coffee at your house or something like that as simple as that is a way to move forward. What are you seeing out there? What are organizations like Ignite or other organizations that are trying to get women more involved? What’s working and what’s not?

Brooke Lopez: Currently, I work as the executive director of the Lone Star Parody Project, not on profit, nonpartisan publication that shares the stories of women and research involved in Texas politics. So we are reaching out to women across all the corners of Texas and there are more than four, where we are, where we are asking women who are elected officials, who are student activists, who are regular and consistent voters were asking them different questions about how they entered into their political power. So we are working with women to really figure out the qualitative data that help voters understand as well as elected officials what’s important to each community. So you mentioned the micro impact, and I think that is a critical piece to any conversation when we’re talking about politic.

Texas is the second largest state in terms of space and I want to say the third largest in terms of population. So we have a lot of people and we have a lot of space to cover when it comes to elections, especially those are statewide. When women run for office, we don’t have the localized research that we need. Sure, there are nonprofits, different training programs that help us understand the ins and outs of the actual campaign itself. But where are those resources that will help us understand how we can connect better with our voters and our registered voting population? Where is that research where we can figure out who is not registered to vote and how can we approach that? We have noticed the Lone Star Parody Project that there is a complete deficit and an aggregation of data that tells us what are different specific tactics that women can use in different parts of the state of Texas particularly in order to get involved.

As you mentioned, women sometimes or people as a whole in fact tend to respond better to different forms of outreach and contact. So the people from my millennial generation might do a little bit better with tech or social media. People from the brand new Gen Z generation definitely do a lot better with social media than they do texting and people who are from the Gen X and older do better with phone calls and in person flyers. So we don’t want our women who are running for office to essentially waste their time and outreach methods that maybe aren’t working for that type of person. Aside from age, we also have different gaps such as education, such as ethnicity, there are language barriers. There are different things that are creating a dissonance between having access to people who are not registered as well as people who are registered and actually getting into the polls, knowing what they’re voting on, whether it’s for that specific candidate or not. So this distinct disconnect between getting those people out to the poll comes from our outreach methods and micro level impacts are the greatest way to reach out to all types of people, especially within Texas.

So we always talk, especially with Lone Star Parody Project about the difference between someone who is going to be a voter in El Paso and someone who’s a voter in Dallas. For example, in Dallas, we have a very important fixation on our local education system, our school districts. We also are very critical on our different water transportation issues, which I know sounds weird. We have a critical importance on transportation around the city since we have so many people. In El Paso, the issues that are most important for those folks are going to be vastly different. They’re going to be immigration policies, they’re going to be policies about border security, whether it’s for or against, they’re going to be things that are much different from the population in Dallas that we’re from the same state. So it’d be the approach we need to start taking, it’s going to be localized and it needs to be specific to the party that you’re going to be outreaching to. You need to be cognizant of who are going to be your voters and who were your non voters, and how can you get everyone together on election day in there making the decisions heard.

Susan: That’s such a good point.and I never…I mean I’ve thought about that, but the thinking about what people need in El Paso and what people need in Dallas and what people need in Austin and what people need and McAllen, I can’t even imagine like coming up with sound byte type, because you need that right, to grow, to grow a following. I can’t even imagine like where… No wonder it’s so hard. Oh my gosh! Texas is so huge and it’s like you’re absolutely right. What they need down on the border of, you know, like on the border towns, McAllen is not what you need up in the Panhandle and is certainly not what you need in Dallas. Oh my goodness! That is such a good point. I can’t even imagine like trying to serve all those constituents. It seems like there might be a better way to do that, but then that evolved involves all kinds of amendments and such.

Just to make sure everybody is served well. Gosh, I’m so glad that’s not my job to figure out. I’m serious. That would be…I don’t know if I could do that. I want to go back just a second because you mentioned something a little bit ago, and this is something that never—and I read about it on your webpage—and it’s something that never even occurred to me when I was younger because it was just the way it was and I never thought it should be any different. Talk to us about this menstrual equity thing.

Brooke Lopez: Well, menstrual equity is the ability to have menstrual hygiene products provided to you in a same equitable fashion that you would toilet paper or that you would expect soap in a bathroom. Think about how upset you are, male or female, when you walk into a restroom and there is no toilet paper in the stall that you’ve just selected. You are frustrated because now you feel like you can’t function and you are now missing out on products that are essential to your hygiene. There are risks associated with not having products, such as toilet paper and continuing on with your day. And it’s something that our community has taken it in great strides to make sure that it is constantly available to anyone who uses the restroom here in the United States. Menstrual equity is the same concept. We want to make sure that menstrual hygiene products are provided accessibly for free.

There are some major barriers that people in the state of Texas as well as across the United States face in terms of accessing these menstrual hygiene products. The first one is in most public agencies, so government buildings, institutions that are public, both higher education and school districts across the country, they tend to not have products that are readily accessible in the restrooms where people need them. 86 percent of menstruaters, who base their menstrual cycle while they are in a place where they do not have products, are too embarrassed to ask somebody else for products, 86 percent of people. That means if there are 100 women in a room, 86 of them are not willing to ask somebody who’s right next to them for a product and most of the time tend to leave or will try to macgyver products which essentially making them make product which presents its own health issues in itself.

There are also different aspects of not having products that our society does not accept. So for example, pre-bleeding, going without products. It’s not something that our society accepts or is capable of handling at this time. So these products are an essential need that menstruaters do not have access to. And so the Menstrual Equity Movement is a movement to try and bring those products to restrooms for free. That way people who would say don’t have a quarter, who don’t have products with them unknowingly started their menstrual cycle or who just plain weren’t able to afford them at that time, are able to get access to this product in a fashion that is close to them. It’s going to be provided for free so they do not have to put any extra into having something and it will be provided in the same fashion that any other product would be provided.

That is essential for our health. So the Menstrual Equity Movement here in Texas has been taking place on a lot of college campuses, especially public institutions as well as different school districts have enacted menstrual equity policies. So for example, Dallas ISD, which is the second largest school district in the state of Texas, is currently installing the sensors in the most high trafficked bathroom across the school district. So that should be over 200 schools that’ll be getting free products for their students in order to prevent different health issues in order to prevent in accessibility for students and essentially, to prevent discrimination against women or offend menstruaters while they are attending school. So those are some of the cool policies that have been in place because of menstrual equity that are taking heat across the state of Texas.

Susan: Has this been introduced into the prison system?

Brooke Lopez: I’m so glad you asked that. So right now it hasn’t been introduced yet because they consider that to be a funding issue in the prison system, but there has been discussion about the nonhygienal practice of macgyvering products with tends to be much more common in prisons than they do in other situations where women don’t have access to it. And it’s not necessarily in prisons the fact that women can’t access them readily. It’s the fact that they’re not there as a whole. And to not have those products, that’s a huge health risk for all of the inmates who are menstruaters here in the state of Texas. So that is something that I think is a great opportunity for anyone listening to start working on because right now prisons are currently underserved and there’s no menstrual equity policy in place that would provide these products to women on a consistent basis and for free.

Susan: Yeah. That’s just one thing. Actually, this is funny, I never knew about this until I read the book, Orange is the New Black, back in the day when that first came out. She mentioned in her memoir, not—I mean the TV show is great, but in her memoir she mentioned that and I did not know that. And I was just shocked that that would be something that would not be, not just not provided, but not really even readily available. I think there’s like a—and it may depend on the state—I think they get so many a month, but there’s no way it would cover like a whole cycle. And I just was blown away by that. I was like, “How could you even…? Yuck.” I mean, not just like the personal perspective, but like from a health code type situation. When you’re talking about bodily fluid and blood, I mean hello, you can’t just have that. No. Ew. Gross.

Brooke Lopez:Yeah, and there are definitely a lot more obstacles outside of the obvious, you know, the health perspective, the contamination and bodily fluid perspective. There’s also the perspective that some schools or different institutions put in place that you can go to a nurse’s office to be able to get those products and that again, puts more data onto a table that says we are less likely as menstruaters to walk down a hallway to a nurse’s office to get that product. Now it’s an issue of accessibility, there’s also issues of whether or not there are enough products readily available even if you do pay for them. There’s another issue where, kind of like you mentioned, the regular amount of products that women are recommended or menstruaters are recommended to use, is far greater than what’s provided for every person in that institution, whether it’s an agency or the school or the store. To be able to have those things there is another barrier that you have to face as a menstruater and essentially, it takes away from whatever you’re doing. If you’re an employee and you work and there’s no product available for you, that’s more time away from the chair or more time away from your project that you are now going to have to sacrifice because of something that you can’t control if you’re a student that’s way more time out of the classroom and possibly leading the school because students, menstruaters who are under the age of 18 are more likely to lead if they don’t have the product than to ask a fellow person in the restroom or to go to the nurse’s office. That is essentially putting up barriers to anyone who menstruate in any capacity that are the non-visible barriers that we don’t see from the obvious of it’s a health risk and it overall not inconvenient to be a free bleeder.

Susan: Man, I just had a flashback to high school. I am not kidding. I remember doing that. I remember either not having something, you know with me at the time or oh my gosh, now I have to go home and change clothes because I was not thinking this would even happen today. Like we don’t have to get all personal, but I remember, oh man, I remember leaving school and it’s not like you’re going to go back to school and be like, “Why did you change clothes?” No, that’s not happening. That’s embarrassing as a 15, 16 year old. That’s embarrassing. Yeah. Oh wow! Flashbacks, flashbacks, flashbacks. Too funny. I want to be respectful of your time, but before we close I kind of want to talk about…So you’re in law school, you are doing the Lone Star Parody project, which we didn’t mention this earlier, but you actually interviewed me for, so I was really honored and thrilled to do that. You’re involved with Ignite, I believe. What else are you going to add to your plate?

Brooke Lopez:I don’t know.

Susan: When are you going to run? Because we need that to happen soon too.

Brooke Lopez: So I get asked that a lot and I actually, I’m not sure what run is in my feature, although I do know that I love to call Dallas home. So if you do see me on a ballot, hopefully it’ll be close to Dallas here in the Great Lone Star state. But right now, other than focusing on trying to get a law degree, just finished my first semester and also working with the Lone Star parody project, I just really tried to dedicate my time back to the communities we’re working with organizations like Ignite Communities Foundation of Texas, the Texas Women’s Foundation. I just want to keep giving back and trying to work on different policies wherever I can advocate for. I never had any idea that starting with a tragedy and a policy of gun control would lead me to where I am today where I run for office and now I have my hand in so many different pots trying to change so many different policies. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing the most, but it’s good to know that I never limited and I’m always supported by the people just like you and other women who want to see other women succeed. It’s really inspiring and it keeps me going, so pretty much anywhere where I can keep helping make positive, progressive change in my community, you’ll see me there.

Susan: That is awesome. Well thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your story and talking about some of the issues that we’re dealing with in Texas. I kind of feel like we talked a lot and yet I feel like there is so much more to cover so I’m sure we will have you bet, especially as election season approaches and we can maybe even talk about some of the issues that will especially be effecting women. I would love to have you back.

Brooke Lopez: Absolutely. Thank you, Susan.

Susan: All right, well thank you, and I know you have a few more exams left and I know you need to probably go study.

Brooke Lopez: Yeah, I do.

Susan: All right. We will talk again soon my friend. Good luck.

Outro: Okay. Seriously, what did you think about today’s episode? I hope it left you inspired and curious. I know it did me. I have linked everything I can think to link in our show notes over on our website, howshegothere.com. If you have more questions or would like clarity, please do not hesitate to reach out and ask. You can email me@susanathowshegothere.com. You can also reach out via social media. Please don’t forget, we 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. I’m pretty sure this episode will spark some good discussion. If you’re enjoying this podcast, share it with your friends and don’t forget to head over to iTunes and hit subscribe. If you feel so inclined, I’d also appreciate it if you would rate and review it. Thanks so much for listening today. I’ll see you soon.

She lost her mother; now she mentors motherless daughters, with Michele Feyen

Michele Feyen is a woman on mission.  At the tender age of 16, she and her younger siblings lost their mother to a battle with cancer.  She not only took on the role of caregiver for her siblings, but she continued to work hard in school, earning a full ride to college.

After 30+ years as a physical therapist, Michele retired and, along with her siblings, founded the Bettie D. Gonzalez Foundation of Hope.  Named for their mother, the mission of the foundation is empowering motherless daughters.  The foundation enables these young women to tap into a much needed network.  They are connected with a mentor and scholarship money to college.  They learn that they can find courage through struggle and great loss and that with hard work and perseverance they can be successful.

 

Transcript:

Episode Links: 

Bettie D. Gonzalez Foundation of Hope Website

Bettie D. Gonzalez Foundation of Hope Facebook Page

 

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, my guest today is Michele Feyen. Michele is the founder of the Bettie D. Gonzales Foundation of Hope. At the tender age of 16, Michele and her siblings lost their mom to a five-year battle with cancer. Being the oldest, Michele took on the responsibility of helping raise her siblings. Along with this new responsibility, she was determined to go to college. She not only did that – but she earned a free ride. Her first career was being a physical therapist, but after 30 plus years, she wanted to make a change, and that change was the foundation named after her mother with the goal of empowering, serving, and mentoring motherless daughters. So without further ado, here’s Michele.

Good morning, Michele! How are you?

Michele Feyen: Hi! I am great, thank you.

Susan: Good. I am so glad to have you on with us today and to share a little bit of your story.

Michele Feyen: I am happy to be here.

Susan: I am just so excited for you to be here. It’s been so nice getting to know you through the Dallas Women’s Foundation, and I’m just excited to have you on and share a little bit of your story today with us. We’re going to get going on your new role in just a moment but first, would you share a little bit about yourself with us and what brought you to this moment where you found yourself.

Michele Feyen: Sure. It was a long time coming getting to this point in my life, quite honestly. It was many years of hard work, many experiences of good bad and some traumatic, and many relationships. But I feel all the good and bad together have got me to this point in my life that I will call very blessed. I feel that life doesn’t always go in the direction we think it should. At age 16, my mother passed away after a five-year battle with cancer, and she left behind six children—and being the oldest, I was responsible for caring for them during my junior and senior year of high school, but I was determined to go to college. Financially, my father could not afford to help me with college so I had to work very hard to get some scholarships.

I ended up choosing my college based on the one that gave me a full ride four year scholarship. But I also received a smaller scholarship that paid for all my books, and that one was awarded to me not just because of my grades but because they believed I had a great chance for success. And I mention it just because it was the first time that anyone ever honored me or told me that they believed in me and my dream, and I’ve never forgotten it and how it made me feel. And I feel that it gave me the courage to do something that no one I personally knew had ever done before.

I ended up going to college and becoming a physical therapist. And long story short, I’ve been married for 36 years, and I have had an over 30-year career in physical therapy. Just a few years ago I started my second career as the founder of a nonprofit organization, and I feel that this is what I’m called to do in this season of my life.

Susan: That is just such a beautiful story. I didn’t realize that you had gotten a full ride and then on top of that your books have been paid for; that’s not — you’re really smart. You’ve got to be really smart if somebody is giving you a full ride to college – or not giving, you earned a full ride to college. That’s really, really cool.

Michele Feyen: Well, thank you. I did work very hard. And in addition to making dinners and getting kids ready for school in the morning and doing everything a mom would do for five younger kids, I really don’t know how I did it but it’s by the grace of God.

Susan: Yes, ma’am, I really can’t fathom them. I just can’t. You’re a true hero. I mean that story alone, just that story; forget everything else, that alone is just phenomenal to me – a true inspiration.

Michele Feyen: Thank you.

Susan: So I would love to hear a little bit about your mom and the foundation that you’ve named after her. What do you want people to know about your mom?

Michele Feyen: Well, my mom was a beautiful person – beautiful inside. She was so loving, and she had a heart of gold. Even with having six children she volunteered and she always was helping others. The neighbors and the neighbor kids just loved my mom and they loved coming to our house to play. So, we always had a lot of kids around. And even though we only had our mother for a short period, relatively speaking, we all knew, all six of us knew without a doubt unconditional love. She taught us compassion and what a servant’s heart looked like. And that’s why it is so appropriate and we are so proud to name the foundation after her, Bettie D. Gonzales.

Susan: What a tribute? What a tribute?

Michele Feyen: Thank you.

Susan: I love it that you say your mom was always helping others and gave you the “servant’s heart” because that’s exactly what you’re doing now; you’re moving forward in a second career and with this foundation you’re really doing that, and that’s just so inspirational. Tell us a little bit about the foundation itself, its mission, where it is now and it’s vision for the future.

Michele Feyen: Okay. Our mission is quite simple “it’s to mentor, serve and empower motherless daughters” and whether they’ve lost their mother due to death or whether their mothers are just physically absent, we don’t make a distinction. And what we do is we offer scholarships to high school seniors who are motherless. We have an application process and a whole process to be able to get the scholarship. And we also mentor girl ages 14 through college, all the way through college. So our first year, which was just last year – we’re very new in the nonprofit sector – our first year, being last year, we gave six scholarships and we are currently mentoring those girl who are now going off to their sophomore years in college. And this year, our second year in business, we were able to give 12 scholarships. We’ve expanded our mentors and we are mentoring all 12 of those girls as they go off to their freshman year in college. So we are just trying to expand. We’re growing in the mentoring program and have mentors increase financially so that we can add some more programs. Next year we’re hoping to give 18 scholarships and mentor those girls. My vision – well I have a lot of things in my vision but basically, our vision is that all motherhood girls will have a way to tap into our resources and have a mentor if needed. We also would like to see every motherless daughter have a nurturing advocate in her life to set goals, teach life and leadership skills and reaffirm her ability to reach her God-given potential. And that’s basically our vision.

Susan: I love that. It matches up so well with my vision for this podcast, of women truly figuring out what it is that they’re supposed to do. And I’m so thankful to have you here today because sharing your story is really empowering, inspiring, and encouraging.

Michele Feyen: Well, thank you.

Susan: Tell me how you find these fabulous girls?

Michele Feyen: Well, since last year was our last year, that was a very good question, how do I find these girls? And so we are currently in the greater Dallas area and we are in the greater Detroit area in Michigan, since I have three sisters who are there, and there are two…Well, I have one sister and myself here in the Dallas area and what I did is I went into all the high schools in Denton, Collin and the far north Dallas counties and I told the counselors about myself, about our foundation, I sent them all applications for the motherless girls and basically, they reached out to any girl that they knew that were motherless and they filled out the application and then return them to me. They’re able to do it online; we have it through our website. And then after that…And we did the same thing in Michigan in the greater Detroit area in Wayne County. So that’s kind of how we’ve been finding them is through the high schools, and I just keep expanding every year into more schools. Well, I’m always looking for ways also. I’ve been volunteering in different areas and so I’m always, you know, word of mouth. And I’ve had some girls that have sent applications from different states but we’re just not there yet but we’ll just keep on expanding the best that I can.

Susan: I really appreciate the grassroots effort behind this. It’s such a see a fascinating story.

Michele Feyen: Thank you.

Susan:I mean you seriously have to have some serious tenacity to just go up to a school and say “I have something I want to do and I want to help,” and I just wonder if more of us were willing to maybe go outside our comfort zone a little bit what we could make this world look like. It’s so inspiring. And I’m so glad to have gotten to know you. Tell us a little bit about how you motivate yourself, because you must have so much on your plate right now. I’m a person who would get really overwhelmed with some of these things, I think pretty quickly. Tell us how you motivate yourself and how you maybe deal sometimes with struggle when things aren’t going exactly how you had planned.

Michele Feyen: Oh, that’s a good question because when you start with such a grassroots effort and you hear a lot of negativity, some days it is difficult to get up and say “No, this is my vision; I’m  going to work every single day on what I believe is right and the vision that I have.” So that is a great question. One of the things that I do – and I do it every morning – is I try to make positive declarations over myself. And I do that usually before I even get out of bed. I say things that I believe to be true: “I am a beautiful child of God. I am a daughter of the most high. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and on and on. And that’s before I even get out of bed. Some other things I do; I try to be around positive people. I call them energy producers versus energy drainers. I’ve learned at this stage in my life that it is not helpful to me to be around toxic people or negative people. And sometimes I have to and I will try to stay positive but I can’t be around that for any length of time. And some other things that I do I love to read and learn new things. So if I’m not learning something new reading, listening to a podcast….I have quite a few emails and daily emails from motivational speakers that just feeds me, that just gives me motivation. I love listening to motivational pastors, motivational speakers, whether it’s in person or on the internet, and that just motivates me. I love setting goals and working towards them. And I just have to go back to, as far as motivating, I write down all my goal and sometimes I have to go back and look a “Okay, well, what were my goals?” And I don’t just do goals on January first, I try to reassess every three to four months, and I just love seeing the goals that I set three or four months ago and it just motivate me to “Okay, I’m kind of on track. I’m going to keep on going” or “You know what? This isn’t working for me; I’m going to do something else.” I guess those are probably the main things that I do to keep me motivated.

Susan: That’s really cool. I want to go back to what you said a second ago “energy producers versus energy drainers” I never have thought about that term before, but those are two very distinct kinds of people in this world, aren’t they?

Michele Feyen: Yes, they are. And I think I learned that through my 30 years of physical therapy. Just working with people that are in pain; it’s no fault of their own but it drained me. I was putting everything I had into them. And that was my job and I did it beautifully but then I had to go home at the end of the day and recharge or I would not be good the next day for my patient. But then after I left that career I realized I don’t need to be around that anymore, I’m not a physical therapist anymore. So that’s kind of, I guess how I label – I don’t really label but that’s how I feel about certain people but, you know, some people just give me energy and then there are others who nothing is ever right.

Susan: Well said. Tell us a little bit – I don’t know if you have to do this so much anymore because it sounds like you’re really in a place where the Foundation gives you energy on a regular basis, but one thing we talk about a lot on this podcast is women finding themselves in a position where they haven’t taken very good care of themselves mentally, physically, you know, just the art of self care itself. And I know from you being a physical therapist, you may have seen this more than anybody else at least that I’ve talked to yet. How did you go about yourself? How did you go about recharging your batteries? How do you do that now? How has that changed from one career to another?

Michele Feyen: That is very good because I’ve been there where my battery needed recharging. And I guess as I’ve gotten older and maybe just a little bit wiser, I’ve felt if I was out of balance in any one area then I was just out of balance and then I did not feel good, I wasn’t my best self. And so what I try to set goals in and the areas I try to keep balance in are: physical, spiritual, relational, and emotional. And if any of those things are out of balance, I tend to just not be my best and so I have to look at all of those areas to recharge myself.

Physically, you know, I try to get exercise three to four days a week. I do Yoga. I recently just started back playing tennis at age 60. Relationally, if things aren’t going well between my husband and I or my kids or my grandkids, you know, that has to be in balance. Or if I haven’t even seen them in several weeks—if I haven’t seen those grandkids in a couple weeks, I need to see them…Yeah, I feel out of balance. Spiritually, you know, how I have to feed myself. I read my Bible every morning but I love hearing pastors and also I get several things via email and that kind of recharges me. And if I’m not being filled spiritually, I will feel out of balance. Emotionally, we can become very stressed, and stress management is a very important thing. So if I’m doing think something that I feel is really somebody else wants me to do it and it’s not really who I am or what I need to be doing, I will feel stressed. And so a lot of it is just self-awareness and knowing that I’m being true to myself on the emotional part.

I’ve always try to teach balance to my patients, and I always said one of my life rule is to develop your core. And I think it’s important to develop your core value, develop your physical core, and core stability, which can be both physical and all these other things that I mentioned before. But your core stability physically would be just to have a strong core; it will help you walk better, it’ll help you move better, you’ll have less stress on all your joints, and that will keep you in balance. But then, also being in balance core stability with the physical, relational, and emotional area I think it’s so important. So I believe it’s just having a good balance. And sometimes you just have to go back to step one and kind of reassess and ask yourself that question “Where am I out of balance?” if you’re feeling stressed.

Susan: I love that you had this first career in physical therapy because it sounds like you weren’t just a physical therapist but you kind of helped people there with the mental aspects of things too, and I would guess that would translate very well into what you’re doing now.

Michele Feyen: Yes, I think it does because I tend to use a lot of physical therapy terms with what I’m doing now and with the girls that I mentor, and even in helping other mentors. So yeah, I think it has because I really think in life in what ever you do you have to balance everything. And like you said from that first question, everything that I’ve – all my experiences from way back when I have all made me who I am today. So, I think you’re right, you know, that has been a large part of it. And I’ve dealt with people with their physical but after 30 years you realize that I’m not just treating the physical; I’m treating the emotional and their whole emotional well being, and it’s very much many injuries and overcoming injuries. It’s very much a mental thing. And that’s something I use with the girls today, it’s we don’t define our path by what we’ve been through but we like to look to the future. And so, yes, I think you’re right, I tend to use a lot of physical therapy terms but it works.

Susan: That was beautiful; that last statement you made I won’t bungle it but I’m going to go back and highlight that for sure. I want to leave us with one last question, and that is…Normally, I like to end with an action step of asking you how you think other women can change their lives and all that, but I really want to just change things up a little bit this time and ask how people can get involved in your new foundation. I know it’s new and I know it has a lot of startup going on and it sounds like you are well on your way to 18 girls next year which is phenomenal. Because the first year you start off with what? Six, right?

Michele Feyen: Yes, six.

Susan: So you’re prepping for year three and you’re talking 18 girls this school year, is that correct?

Michele Feyen: That’s correct. We did 12 this year and so I’m prepping for 18 for next year.

Susan: Tell us how we can get involved with your foundation, either locally, even if we’re not local, how can we give? Where can we find you online? Give us all of that information because I really think this is something that my listeners will want to get involved with.

Michele Feyen: Well, the easiest way is just go to our website, and that ‘s www.bdghope.org. And that gives all the information, you can donate online, you can send me an email, you can call me and get more information but I think that’s probably the best place to go is www.bdghope.org. We also have a Facebook page, and that is under Bettie D. Gonzales Facebook. So those are the probably the two main ways that you can get it. I could give out my cell phone number and you could call me.

Susan: No, that’s okay. We won’t make you do that. But I will make sure all of that is linked on our transcript page. At the end of this podcast, people can go there and check if they didn’t have a chance to write that down. I really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule today to share your story with us and a little bit about your foundation. I really look forward to seeing where this goes. I really see this taking off. I cannot imagine a better person for the job.

Michele Feyen: Well, thank you so much. It was my pleasure speaking with you and talking to you.

Susan: All right, I will see you soon.

Michele Feyen: Okay, thank you. Bye-bye.

Susan: Bye-Bye.

Outro: Hey, sisters, thanks so much for joining me today. I will have links to the foundation and their Facebook page over on our transcript page on the website. I hope Michele’s story and the other stories you have heard so far on the podcast have inspired, encouraged, and empowered you. If they have, please share it with a friend or two or three or four or ten. I’d also appreciate it if you would head over to iTunes to rate and review it, as that makes it easier for other women to find. Y’all, I am so looking forward to everything coming up through the end of the year and even into next year. Yes, I’m already planning. It’s going to be so much fun. Thank you all so much for your support and for listening. I’ll see you soon!