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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. 

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.

Supporting Women with Your Holiday Shopping

Since the holidays are in full swing, I’m sharing a few of my favorite women-owned brands to shop.  Great products for gift giving or just a fun treat for you.  I share a little U.S. History on women-owned businesses and why I think it is important for us to support our sisters in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Show Notes

The holidays are here!  Have you finished your shopping?  Me neither!  Out of ideas?  Our holiday episode features a few of my favorite women-owned businesses.

To add a little context to why it is important to support women owned businesses I share a little history of U.S. policy and why it is necessary for small business owners and entrepreneurs to advocate for themselves.  If you own your own company or are thinking about your own start up, you will love this segment!

Then, on to the fun stuff.  Shopping!  I share a few of my favorite women-owned companies.  These are all companies I have discovered in the last several years that are truly near and dear to my heart.  The women who started these companies are women we can all learn from.  They are talented and strong.  They inspire and empower me on the regular.  I have even interviewed a couple of them in the past.

We talk everything from bath and body to accessories to sweets.  A fun episode for one of my favorite seasons of the year.  The season of giving!  The season of peace, joy, and love!

 

Episode Links

National Association of Women Business Owners

National Women’s Business Council

Jackie Vanderbrug

Kate Weiser Chocolate

Akola

Link to interview with Brittany Merrill Underwood (Founder of Akola)

Rosa Gold

Thistle Farms

Whatsoever Things on Facebook and on Instagram

Two White Sheep

Beauty Counter with Gina Curtis

Happy Magnolia’s

Art by Genevieve Strickland on Facebook and on Instagram

Link to interview with Genevieve on the podcast

Emily Ley

Transcript

Happy Holidays Pod Sisters.  Today we are talking all about women owned businesses.  The history of women owned businesses, where we are today from a policy standpoint and then a fun segment on some of my favorite women owned businesses to shop and support.  Have a listen and then head on over to our website where everything will be easily linked in our show notes and transcript.

Happy Holidays!  Today I want to have some fun and tell you about some of my favorite women owned businesses. Before that though, I’d like to first chat about the history of women owned businesses.  Crazy enough we are only going back to 1988 (that is right…30 years).  Up until 1988 women who who wanted to take out a business loan could not do so without the co-signature of a male relative.  It could be a father, husband, even a son and he didn’t even have to be involved in the business. He just had to be male.

These practices were changed via HR5050 (Women’s Business Ownership Act).  A bi-partisan effort born out of the 1986 White House Conference on Small Business. “[T]his Act that was decades in the making by smart and driven women entrepreneurs (many of them NAWBO leaders), key stakeholders, advocates and allies who saw a critical need for equal access for women business owners and government support for these business owners.” https://www.nawbo.org/blog/hr-5050-was-money-then-and-now

So what did HR5050 do? Well it did a number of things. Two of the most notable was that it eliminated the requirement for women to have a male co-sign a business loan.  It also established the creation of the National Women’s Business Council – with the purpose to “review the status of women-owned businesses nationwide and to develop detailed multiyear plans in connection with both private and public sector actions to assist and promote such businesses. Requires annual reporting to both the President and the Congress.”

So, where does this leave us today.  Well, it ain’t all bad, but there is room for lots of improvement.

According to the 2017 annual report from the National Women’s Business Council

“The growth of women business enterprises over the last ten years is unprecedented. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of women-owned firms increased at a rate 2-1/2 times the national average (52% vs. 20%), and employment in women-owned firms grew at a rate 4-1/2 times that of all firms (18% vs. just 4%). Women are starting more than 1,140 businesses per day, at a rate of more than 47 per hour.Yet, the comparison of revenue generated by women-owned firms does not reflect similar growth rates; the growth of average annual revenue of women-owned businesses merely paralleled that of all firms and only 1.7% of women owned businesses have average annual revenues of $1 million dollars or more. Equally concerning is that only 2% of women-owned firms have more than 10 employees, while 89.5% of women-owned firms have no employees other than the owner.”  https://s3.amazonaws.com/nwbc-prod.sba.fun/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/05040802/2017-annual-report.pdf

“We are committed to working more closely with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Congress, and the White House to promote and construct policies that will address access to capital and market inequities that women business owners still face. We strongly believe that if we can address these two particular challenges, then women business owners will have the most important tools that they need to successfully scale their businesses and to accelerate their impressive rate of job creation. “ https://s3.amazonaws.com/nwbc-prod.sba.fun/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/05040802/2017-annual-report.pdf

Now, to give you a little background on the access to capital piece (because remember access to capital without a male co-sign is where this all started 30 years ago) According to Guidant Financial and this is consistent with other studies “Both men and women cited obtaining funding as the top challenge when opening a business…[f]indings indicated business loans for women may also be harder to secure. Only 6 percent of women reported they used an SBA loan to fund their business, 24 percent less than men. This is consistent with nationwide statistics, which report business loan approval rates for women are 15 to 20 percent lower than they are for men. Despite this, the top funding method aspiring female entrepreneurs pursue is still an SBA loan.

Without access to traditional funding methods, women are left with less access capital to launch their businesses. Male survey respondents were 19 percent more likely to invest more than $100,000 in their business. And when asked about the difficulties of running a business, 10.7 percent more women listed lack of capital as a top challenge.” https://www.guidantfinancial.com/small-business-trends/women-in-business/

So, by now if you own a small business you might be chomping at the bit to go and check out the National Women’s Business Council’s website (you should totally do that.  It is really cool and has lots of great info and data). I would really encourage you to do this and also check out ways you can get involved even on a local level in policy making.  No matter your side of the isle many of these small business initiatives are bipartisan and advocating for yourself and other small business owners is important.

If you don’t own a small business you are probably asking when is she going to get around to shopping.  I’m getting there.  Patience sister. First, I want to share WHY I think it is so important to invest in women owned businesses.

Now, when I say invest I don’t mean an investment where I see a $ return.  I will point you to http://www.jackievanderbrug.com. For a conversation on investing with a gender lens.  An amazing woman with amazing insight.

What I mean by invest is that I am spending my money on products I need or want in companies that I know are doing the most good.  I am talking about social investment.  Choosing to support women owned businesses because I know that when you invest in a woman you invest in her family and her community.  We know this because the data shows that women have different spending priorities.  According to research done by Goldman Sachs when a woman earns additional income 80% goes into her family’s health, education and nutrition compared to 30-40% of men.  So when you invest in women when you invest in her business you are investing in her family and her community.  These women are advocates of bettering their families, their communities, themselves.

So now we have had our history lesson and you know that supporting a women owned business is a micro impact you can make in your community.  Let’s chat about five of MY favorites in no particular order!  And upfront I just want to say these endorsements are mine and mine alone.  I have not been paid nor have I received any free product.  These businesses have no idea I am even promoting them.  Although I will of course reach out to them and let them know once this episode is released.

Kate Weiser Chocolate

Funny enough you may have already seen Kate Weiser on a few things already this holiday season.  Because after just 5 short years in business (yes she launched her amazing chocolates 5 years ago during the holidays) she has made Oprah’s favorite things list this year with her Carl the Snowman.  I discovered Kate Weiser 3 years ago when someone gifted me with her beautiful chocolates. They look like amazing pieces of art.  Almost too good to eat.  It quickly became my go-to gift for neighbors, teachers, friends…literally everyone!  Boxes start at $18.  Per her website: Kate graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 2005. She then returned to her home town to begin her career.  She worked in various restaurants including Pachamama’s of Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City’s 4 star restaurant, Bluestem under pastry chef Megan Garrelts and James Beard Award winner, Colby Garrelts.

After a brief stint at Stephen Pyles and an Executive Pastry Chef position at Nobu, Kate decided to hone in her skills on one thing: chocolate.

Kate began her chocolate career with an Executive Chocolatier position at Chocolate Secrets in Highland Park. While there, she was able to experiment and create a style of chocolate making that was new to the Dallas area. Her Handpainted Chocolate Collection and artistic style quickly gained attention and excitement through the DFW metroplex.  She opened her own store in August 2014 in Trinity Groves in Dallas and has since expanded to Northpark Center as well as the Shops at Clearfork.  This holiday season you can also find Carl the Snowman in Neiman Marcus and on Oprah’s Favorite things list.  You can also shop on her website kateweiserchocolate.com. Family favorites at our house include Ninja Turtle, Cookie Monster, salted caramel and passion fruit are fan favorites in our home.

Akola

If y’all are regular listeners of the pod you have heard me mention Akola a time or two and you have probably even heard my conversation with its founder Brittany Merrill Underwood.  But I could not do a holiday show without mentioning Akola.  And if you haven’t had a chance to listen to our conversation I will make sure to link that in show notes as well.

As a quick reminder…and I pulled this straight from the website” In 2006, Brittany Merrill Underwood founded Akola when she was a sophomore at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX after she met a Ugandan woman named Sarah who cared for 24 street children in her home. Inspired to action, Brittany discovered that by training and giving work to women who are struggling in crisis and guaranteeing them a monthly income, Akola could care for thousands of children. Today, Akola provides training, dependable living-wage work opportunities and holistic education programs to over 500 women in Uganda and Dallas, TX who care for approximately 4,000 dependents.

Every dollar spent on Akola products is reinvested in our mission to provide work opportunities and training to women in poverty in Dallas, TX and Uganda. Additionally, Akola relies on donations to provide social programs that teach women how to use their income to create meaningful change in their families and communities.”

Akola has also expanded since Brittany was on the podcast you can shop their exclusive line with Neiman’s in store and online.   I have also seen it available at Neiman’s Last Call. You can shop their main line in their holiday pop up shop in Northpark Center, their flagship store in Snider Plaza or online at akolaproject.org and as of now there is also a line available through HSN and I will make sure to link all of this in the show notes.

Rosa Gold

I shopped Rosa Gold this year for a few family gifts after I learned about her last year from the Jen Hatmaker podcast.  They are known for their blanket scarves that are very warm and toasty as well as stylish and fun.  They also have a fun Beret line, bridal line and jewelry line worth checking out!  Straight from their website: “Most importantly though, we’re a company that gives back.  Right from the start, ROSA GOLD baked compassion into it’s business model, so a portion of all profits goes straight to education-based charities (You can find out more about that here).

we enjoy creating each and every piece.  We’re making this stuff for you, and you’re making a difference by wearing it.”

“From the beginning, I knew that compassion needed to be an integral part of the ROSA GOLD business model.  Not only did I want to build an awesome little company, but I wanted to use it as a vehicle to give back.

I TRULY BELIEVE THE FUTURE IS FEMALE, AND BECAUSE EMPOWERMENT IS BUILT THROUGH EDUCATION, A PORTION OF ROSA GOLD’S PROFITS SUPPORTS 2 CRAZY-COOL CHARITIES – PENCILS OF PROMISE AND DONORSCHOOSE.

Pencils of Promise works to build schools in developing countries, giving lots of girls abroad access to a quality eduction.

DonorsChoose helps our amazing teachers here at home by funding requests for supplies, books and technology to use in the classroom. (Did you know that teachers spend an average of 1.6 BILLION dollars of their own money per year on supplies?! That’s crazy and unacceptable to say the least.)

Not only do I want you to feel warm and cozy in your monogrammed blanket scarf, but I hope you’ll feel proud knowing that your purchase is helping to make it’s mark on a child’s education.”

 

Thistle Farms

Founder Becca Stevens is an author, speaker, priest, entrepreneur, founder and president of Thistle Farms.

“Handcrafted with love by women survivors” – natural products for bath, body and home.  Based out of Nashville TN.  Specifically for women who have survived trafficking, prostitution and addiction.

Our 2-year residential program, based in Nashville, Tennessee, provides housing, food, healthcare, therapy and education, without charging residents.

Residents and graduates of our residential program are employed in one of our social enterprises. Here the women can learn new job skills and make a living wage to support themselves.

Similar to an alumni network, after the women leave our program, they still have access to counseling, education opportunities and emergency financial assistance

I am particularly partial to their cool shave gel as well as head to toe body wash and bath soak.

If you are in Nashville they also have a cafe that I hear has amazing food and you can shop their flagship store there as well.  If outside Nashville you can shop online at: https://thistlefarms.org I believe they are in some retail stores as there is a place to inquire about having them in a retail location so if you are interested in adding them to your store or finding out who carries their products I am sure you can reach out to them on their website.

 

Friends Businesses

Whatsoever Things on Facebook and on Instagram – Vinyl Monogramming Fun

Two White Sheep – Traditional Monogramming and Applique

Beauty Counter with Gina Curtis

Happy Magnolia’s

Art by Genevieve Strickland on Facebook and on Instagram

Link to interview with Genevieve on the podcast

 

To close thanks so much for listening today. We have one more episode before 2018 comes to a close and I just can’t believe it!  If you’re enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes 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. I also make sure to read every review and email and Facebook posts you leave and I am always, always, always excited to hear your feedback. 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.

5 Lessons We Learned From A Month of Self Care

After 30 days of caring for ourselves lets discuss what we learned.  What were the take aways?  What matters most? I have narrowed it down into 5 overarching lessons that I cannot wait to share.


Do you ever sit down at the end of the day drained of energy and wonder where the day went?  Do you go to bed exhausted just to get up the following day just as exhausted and wonder why you have no stamina or vitality?  You are not alone!

Today, we are taking a look back at what we have learned over the 30 Days of Self Care.  We talk about the lessons we have learned and the take aways that we can carry with us going forward.

We talk about what it means to truly start caring for ourselves by putting ourselves first and everyone and everything else second.

In this episode we break it down into 5 straight forward lessons beginning with the importance of presence.

We’ve got to recharge, sister, so that we can go after those dreams of ours! Prioritizing self care helps us do just that.  Then, we can start empowering other women and girls to do exactly the same thing.

Show Links

www.howshegothere.com

https://www.facebook.com/howshegothere/

https://www.instagram.com/howshegothere/

https://howshegothere.com/2018/10/how-to-follow-your-passion-and-raise-a-family-with-nichole-nguyen/


Transcript

Hey Pod Sisters!

I’m Susan Long and welcome to another episode of How She Got Here, Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.  I am so excited about todays episode because, as you know, we have just wrapped up our 30 Days of Self Care.  So, I thought it would be fun to chat about what we have learned over the last month.  From the conversations I have had with listeners, I have whittled down all we have learned into 5 overarching lessons.  The take aways.  After you have had a chance to listen I think it would be fun to share our experiences with each other over on our private FB Group Page.  I’ll make sure to include a link to join that group in the show notes over on our website.  So without further ado, lets dive in.

Lesson Number 1: Presence is a Present

We live in a time where we are over connected with our devices, but less connected with each other.  We “see” each other on social media and we may know what is going on in each others lives, but actually knowing people in real life takes intentionality and is often outside our comfort zone.  We had a few options over the past 30 Days to just that.  To be more present. For example: turning social media and our devices off and having a face to face with someone.  I hope you took advantage of a few of these opportunities.  Taking time to reconnect with those that mean the most to us takes effort, but it is fundamental to our well being.  I hope you were able to focus on those relationships and give them the attention they deserve.

One area in which I struggle is scheduling time with my girlfriends.  I am able to get together for play dates with those that have kids often, but if you have kids you know this is not an ideal situation.  It’s conversations between wrangling 3 and 4 year olds…it is chaos.  Now that the little guy is in school I am making a point to schedule coffee and lunch with friends more often.

When you have the opportunity to catch up, might I also suggest putting away your phone.  Now, this might be difficult if your kiddo is at school or with a sitter.  You might need to be within arms reach of your phone.  I get that.  I am not saying leave it in the car.  What I am saying is be with the person who is in front of you.  Be fully present and listen.

Lesson Number 2: Owning your own self care enables you to care for others

This is about prioritizing.  This is about time management.  Something I am working on getting better at myself.  One thing that has really helped me is writing out my morning and evening routines and then scheduling 3 days a week for yoga.  I find that when I write things down I actually remember them and am more likely to do them.  The first day of the 30 Days of Self Care suggested that you write out your morning and evening routine.  I shared mine on Instagram (so you can still check it out there) and I will also make sure to link it in the show notes of this episode.  There is also a free “routines” printable on our website you can download.  I will make sure to link that as well.

I think I learned this trick from Emily Ley and I cannot remember if it is in one of her books or on one of her social media pages.  At first I thought it was silly and I wasn’t going to do it.  When I took the time and looked at my day, there were things I was missing.  I was bolting out of bed in the morning and literally not feeding myself.  It was (and sometimes still is) easy for me to forget to eat breakfast and or lunch.  I make sure everyone else gets fed…including the dogs.  But I forget myself.  I do not prioritize ME!  It is so easy to let your day dictate you and not you dictate your day.  This is why writing out your routine is beneficial.  Owning your own self care also means taking care of your stuff.  I’m not talking about your belongings either.  I am talking about mental, physical and spiritual and by that I mean your soul.  What did you find most helpful from the past 30 Days? Was it journaling?  Meeting with your psychologist or psychiatrist, a minster perhaps?  Was it finally scheduling that appointment you have been putting off?  Mine was actually becoming more physically active.  Since formulating the idea of this podcast I have thrown my whole self into it.  I love it!  It means everything to me.  However, it is a lot of brain work. I am often sitting and writing or researching.  Not much physical action going on.  Yoga has been a game changer.  It is really helping me care for my whole self in ways I have not in a long time.  It is physically active, it helps me clear my head and it is also really really good for my soul.  I am already seeing results in prioritizing my own self care.  I find I have more patience and just more to give to others in general.  Now that I am making time to fill myself I can better help fill others as well.

Lesson 3: Caring for your whole self

The importance of caring for your whole self and being able to recharge your batteries is different for each of us.  Some recharge by being with other people.  Some prefer solitude.  Believe it or not I am a total introvert.  I love being around those that I am close to, but small talk with those I don’t know that well or strangers takes everything out of me.  So for me to recharge I might take a little time to be totally by myself and then really really want to hang out with my husband or my close friends.

I want us to think about our whole self.  Mind, body and soul/spirit.  What does that mean for you?  What does the perfect day look like for you?  Is it meeting with your counselor, working out and spending time with friends and family?  Does it mean bible study, a walk and a little while alone?  Whatever it looks like take time to do it.  Schedule it!  You can’t care for others well if you aren’t caring for yourself.

Lesson 4: Taking care of yourself is a state of being not doing

It is easy to get caught up in the doing.  The goal over the last 30 Days was not just to add another item to your to do list.  It was to get us thinking about how we treat ourselves.  Are we kind to ourselves?  Are we compassionate with ourselves?  Nichole, the founder of Mommy’s Home Office, talked about that in a previous episode that I will make sure to link in the show notes.  She shared how unkind she was with how she talked to herself.  I don’t think this is unique to Nichole.  I do this and I would bet you do too.  We get so caught up in our “to do” list or what we think we should be doing; what we see others doing or accomplishing – that we forget to be.  We forget to be ourselves.  We are to busy with the doing.

Lesson 5: Reconnect with yourself

It is so important to know yourself and have a relationship with yourself.  That is why I included journaling opportunities on days 8, 16, 22, and 27.  If you haven’t had a chance to do this yet it is worth going back and revisiting.  Take the time to think about these things and write them out.  Be still and think.  I find journaling in the morning right after I get up with a hot cup of coffee or right before I go to bed with a hot cup of tea really beneficial.  It helps me be focused and centered.  I think when we take the time to know ourselves it is easier to be ourselves.  When you really know what you are about you will know what your next steps are.  You will know if something is good or bad for you.  You will feel better connected with yourself.

 

To close, Thanks so much for listening today. I am so glad we took time over the last 30 Days to really take care of ourselves.  If you participated in 1 day or all 30 know you did something good for you!  I am going to put all of the days into a calendar and e-mail it out to our subscribers.  So, if you haven’t had a chance to subscribe head on over to www.howshegothere.com and do so.  If you are enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes 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. I also make sure to read every review and email and Facebook post you leave, and Instagram comment you leave.  I’m always excited to hear your feedback.  And finally, one last announcement, we have finally created 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. So, with all of that said, thank you so much for listening. I’ll see you soon.

Susan Long

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.  How do you feel about Pod Sisters?  I’m trying it on for size.  Let me know what you think.  Anyway, today I don’t have a guest.  It’s just me. I find myself at a point where I have been through some stuff.  A faith deconstruction.  Sometimes faith comes up on this show.  Not because I bring it up, but a guest brings it up and I feel like you should probably know where I stand on this.  The belief of God. Beliefs of faith. Where I’m coming from when I say things sometimes. So today, I am sharing my faith journey.  It’s a deconstruction journey.  I hope you enjoy it. I hope you learn something from it. I really hope this is helpful to you.  I think a lot of people go through these journeys and they feel alone.  I don’t want you to feel alone.  I’ll link everything in the show notes, but there are some private groups that have gotten me through this over the years.  So if you are a person who is going through this please do not hesitate to reach out.  Contact me via e-mail, Facebook message me, tweet me, whatever.  I am very happy to put you in touch with some of those people and some of those groups.  They have been a lifeboat sometimes in this crazy ocean.  So if that is something you need, please feel free to reach out.  I hope you enjoy today’s podcast.  I hope you get something from it.  Thanks for joining me.

I grew up with a foot in two faith traditions.  One steeped in ritual, scholarship and practice.  The other caught up in perceptions of right and wrong.  Heaven or hell.

On my mom’s side, the church culture was very much fundamentalist.  Ministers did not shy away from sermons about “the end times” or “the apocalypse”. The only way to avoid hell and go to heaven was to ask Jesus into your heart.  You did this by “Saying the Sinners Prayer” or “Walking the Roman Road to Salvation” This was done, by most kids, in the middle school years and it is pretty straight forward.  You confess you are a sinner because you are a human and born with sin and you deserve to go to hell, you repent of your sins, you ask Jesus/God to forgive that sin and to come into your heart” and tada…you are saved.  Made new.  Your old self died and now you are born again.  As long as you really meant it.  There was constant fear over this “did I really mean it when I said it the first time” or “I have sinned again and need to prove to God/Jesus that I really want to be saved that I am worthy of saving” and I surely didn’t want to go to hell…so I’d just do it over and over out of fear of the alternative.   Jen Hatmaker episode referencing church campJen Hatmaker episode referencing deconstruction with Rachel Held Evans.

On my dad’s side the church culture was Catholic.  One of the stipulations my Dad had was that he was fine with Mom picking our Sunday denomination, but he wanted my sister and me to attend Catholic school.  I learned that faith practices and beliefs in the Catholic Church were incredibly different.  There was no emphasis on heaven and hell.  Who was right and wrong.  There was ritual and practice and education. I say all this clearly understanding the issues with The Catholic Church. I know it is far from perfect.  Yet, in a weird way…it felt safer than the other faith practice.

I remember the rejection of the Sunday faith I grew up in, but really could only pin it down recently.  I was in the second grade. It was the Sunday that the minster at my parents church stood in the pulpit and told the congregation that Catholics weren’t real Christians and were going to hell.  I remember looking at my Dad with wide eyes like “what the hell” is this guy talking about.  My Dad just patted my knee and said don’t worry about it.  We can talk later.  To my recollection, we never did.

I have had many many issues with the capital C Church over the years.  I quit church all together in college because I could and I didn’t know where to turn.  I had no problem with God or even at that point Jesus.  It was the Church that I took issue with.  It’s treatment of women.  How I was personally treated just because of my gender.  It’s treatment of minorities and in particular the history of the denomination I grew up in and how and why it was founded. It’s treatment of the LGBTQIA community and what that did to friends I grew up with.  I wanted to believe that God was bigger than all of this.  I wanted to believe that God created us all.  Wonderfully different with all kinds of perfectly perfect imperfections.  That it wasn’t something to fix, but to love.  What I was taught growing up didn’t mirror how big I thought God’s love could be.

After college and two years in the real world, Stephen (my husband) and I got married and moved to NYC.  Stephen had grown up a Presbyterian and I was willing to give it a whirl because, why not?  We did not attend regularly, but the first Sunday we attended I found fascinating. It was the end of Summer and the church was clearly on its last week of “the summer church” season, before everyone got back to the business of real life and everything that comes with a Fall schedule.  The minister, a woman, and a grammy award winning saxophone player gave the most interesting musical sermon I had ever heard.  This place was different and I was hooked.  There was no hell, fire and brimstone.  There was peace and grace.  We attended off and on throughout the Fall and into the Spring.  We found ourself in church that year on Mother’s Day.  There were so many baptisms.  Not that surprising for the holiday.  However, the one thing I found so surprising and very much refreshing that Sunday was that there were two Dad’s who were baptizing their daughter into the church.  I had found in this church what I wasn’t sure really existed in the Christian faith.  A place where everyone belonged and everyone was welcome.  Just how I imagine God would want it.  There really were Christians out there living out the “Love Thy Neighbor” command.

I have found it easier over the years and, in particular now, to have a personal relationship with Mary rather than Jesus.  Although I talk to both. I think because I know the historical Mary was very much the mother of Jesus of Nazareth…and is considered a saint in the Catholic Church…I’m comfortable with this.  Being a mom and a woman…I feel like we would relate to each other better and she would understand what I am going through.  I also try to see God more from the feminine than the masculine which I think stems from the overbearing maleness of church that I grew up in.

This past year, I was introduced, thanks to a close friend, to an inter faith group of women who meet monthly.  It is a group of Jewish, Christian and Muslim women who get together once a month and discuss their faith.  Not from a goal to convert.  That is not allowed.  We go strictly to learn about each others faith experiences and traditions.  It has made such an impact on my faith.  I simply went to go and meet amazing women who worshipped God in their own amazing traditions and I have done that and I have made some amazing friends!  The one thing I didn’t expect was my own spiritual growth.  In addition to going to different churches I have been to both a mosque and a temple and have felt God’s presence in both.  I also have a much deeper appreciation of how the three Abrahamic faiths fit together.

For me, belief in God is easier.  I have seen evidence of God. Christianity is my hang up.  I see how perceived leaders of the church have molded their flock through fear.  This fear has created quite a split between me and family and friends over the years.  They are not sure what to do with me and on more than one occasion concern for my salvation has been expressed.  This fear has also created an us vs. them mentality that I see play out often.  It is something I do not want to be a part of.  It is not something I want for my son.  Do I identify as Christian?  It is something I struggle with.  For me, there is so much baggage wrapped up into that word.  For now, I find the Progressive Christian label to be a better fit for me.  But I’m still not sure where I will end up.  In many ways the deconstruction is complete, but the rebuilding is not yet finished.

I have learned that if you are a person who has gone through a faith crisis.  Be it Christian or something else.  It is okay!  You are not alone.  I think you are most likely a better person for it.  You have thought through some hard stuff.  The journey of self discovery is not easy.  I think a deconstruction of faith is even more difficult especially if you grew up in a tradition where if you end up not believing on the other side…its hell.  I get it.  I maintain the belief though that the Creator of the Universe is bigger than that.  That the creator created me and you from a place of love. That you and I are WANTED and that you and me are perfectly imperfect.

Outro: Hey, Pod Sisters. I’m still trying this on for size.  Again, tell me what you think.  I hope you enjoyed todays episode.  I really hope you got something from it.  I really appreciate the opportunity to share my deconstruction story with you.  Like I said at the top.  If there is anything you need when it comes to faith deconstruction or anything else on this podcast.  Please feel free to reach out to meTweet me, private message me, e-mail me. I am here. So many of these things I have been through.  This, in particular, has been on my heart a while.  It’s not easy.  There will be people who hear this on this podcast who may or may not have heard this whole story who are pretty concerned who will reach out to me because they are worried about me.  So that will be fun.  Anyway, I will link everything in the show notes.  If you have any questions feel free to reach out.  Until next time, I’ll see ya soon.

Marisa Klein

Marisa Beahm Klein started writing at a young age.  It began with a journal her parents gave her and she has been writing in one form or another ever since.  She expresses her talent for writing through poetry, prose, and journalism.  Currently, she is the creative content manager at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., where she helps share the stories of Holocaust survivors.  

 

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: My guest today is Marisa Klein. She has had a love of words her entire life. She loved reading at a very early age and started journaling in the third or fourth grade and just never really looked back. We talk about everything from her college slam poetry team to how she parlayed a love of journalism and storytelling into her current role at the United States Holocaust Museum. So without further ado, here’s Marisa.

Well good morning Marisa. Thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Marisa: I’m great, Susan. Thanks for having me on your podcast. I’m thrilled to be talking to you.

Susan: Well, I am so excited to be talking to you. I know one of the reasons – and I haven’t really talked to you about this beforehand – but one of the reasons that I originally thought you would be perfect for this podcast, I think it was back in January you posted, or maybe it was… I don’t remember where you posted it, but you posted a poem that you wrote on Facebook, and I think you even talked about just how vulnerable that made you feel as a person to be putting yourself out there and putting your work out there. So I don’t even know if I ever told you that but that was one of the reasons that I was like, “Wow, that’s so open and honest and a really cool thing to just say out loud,” and I appreciated that as a human being and as a person and as somebody who is trying to do it podcast. So that was one of the reasons that I asked you and I don’t even know if I ever told you that.

Marisa: Thank you.

Susan: Yeah, I love your poetry and I love your work and you’re just such a good writer so I’m just so excited to talk to you today. A quick glance at your resume indicates a clear thread in all roles that you’ve ever had. You have a passion for writing, and I would love it if you would share a little bit about that passion with us and where it comes from.

Marisa: I’d be happy to. So to kind of think back to where my writing passion came from, I think it really blossomed first with just an absolute love of reading. I can’t recall a time in my life where I didn’t just have a book in hand and always been a voracious reader and my parent’s rule for me going up was no reading at the dinner table because I would try to bring a book with me everywhere and my parents really had to reign that in — they encouraged it of course, but within reason. And I’d say, of course, I always loved to read. And then one of the best things my parents ever did for me is when I was really young, probably third or fourth grade, my parents gave me a journal and really encouraged me to try to write every day in it. That just became a routine for me so I learn to just communicate and process what my life was like through words. So from the time I was in elementary school to today I still journal regularly, nothing as routine as I used to unfortunately, but it just became so natural to me to communicate through words, and as I got older I just tried to pursue as many writing opportunities as I could. I was on my school’s literary magazine, I was a editor of my high school paper, and then I studied journalism in college. And I love journalism and I love interviewing people and storytelling and I also love poetry so I always try to carve out space to write poetry and started going to open mics when I was about 15 or 16 here in Colorado where I grew up and performed for my college slam poetry team and so it just became such a big part of who I am. And it’s been a little harder, I think, as I got older to find open mics, to find the community that I had when I was in college or high-school to be with other writers but it’s something I’ve always sought out.

Susan: Wow! No reading at the dinner table and you’ve been journaling since third or fourth grade? That just blows my mind, just blows my mind.

Marisa: I also had a…Well I have an older sister who’s a really good athlete and she was on the traveling competitive soccer team so every weekend as a kid, too, I was thrown in the car and taken all over Colorado. So wherever my sister’s tournament would have been was that week. So thankfully, I don’t get carsick so I could just read all weekend long too, at her game. So she still teases me to this day that I never watched her play, I would just read my book on the sidelines. Actually, that paid off.

Susan: Yeah, obviously, no kidding. And the journaling from such a young age, I’ve never been a great at journaling, I think I think a lot, but I’m bad about writing stuff down. And I tried to get better at it over the years because I found it to be a calming thing for me. It’s a good outlet, even though I’m not always great at articulating myself. But that is fascinating that you were doing that from the third or fourth grade. That is just too funny. One thing it was funny when you were talking about reading all weekend, it made me think about something that I haven’t thought about in years. Did you ever read those Sweet Valley High books? Do you even know what I’m talking about?

Marisa: I didn’t but I knew of them.

Susan: Oh my gosh, this is so embarrassing, but I remember being in the fifth or sixth grade – I can’t remember – and we had gone to the library as a class that morning or something and I checked out one of these books, and I got so involved in it. And somehow between reading during class, which I wasn’t suppose to be doing or, you know, whatever, but at the end of the day, I had finished that book. And I’ll never forget that as long as I live, and the teacher was like, “I really appreciate that you like reading so much but you cannot be doing this.” That’s just something I hadn’t thought about in years. But tell us for our friends who are listening who don’t know what slam poetry is, would you tell us a little bit about what that is?

Marisa: Oh sure, so slam poetry evolved from an open mic in Chicago. There is one man attributed to kind of starting it, and so he was kind of sick of going to your boring coffee shop poetry reading so he decided to turn it into a competition. So slams are fairly formulaic wherever you go for them, but usually, everybody who performs has a three-minute time slot… roughly. I mean the time to perform a poetry piece typically it’s preferred to be memorized, and I think slam poetry kind of have more of a rhythmic musical element to it, maybe a little bit more, especially in some circle, hip-hop influence to it. It’s a lot…At least when I write it, I write it more for not thinking so much about metaphor or try to be a little less high brow, a little more accessible and engaging. So you really you want your audience to respond because after you perform then your audience rates you. There is judges randomly selected from the audience so they give you a score from 1 to 10. So there’s usually two or three rounds, so whoever performs best in the first round gets go onto perform more and more poetry. So at the end, somebody is actually a winner. And I’d say overall my style is not geared exactly toward poetry slams, but it’s certainly fun to try to write in a different style and really think about not just the language you use, but how you perform it. And it was just a great opportunity for me to get some experience on stage and conquer my fears of going before crowds in that manner. It was just a lot of fun. And I haven’t done slams in a long time, but doing it with a group in college too was great because writing can be very solitary so to have groups that you practice with and perform with was just a lot of fun.

Susan: That is such a neat idea. I have seen it performed but I’ve never actually written poetry or performed poetry. And I didn’t realize so much kind of went into it behind the scenes, I guess. I think I guess I saw it more – when I have attended something like that it’s been more of a spectator, so that’s fascinating. I didn’t even know that, so thank you for sharing that. I may have to try to find one to go listen to.

Marisa: And I think the great thing about… I’ll bet you can find some great ones where you are. And what’s fun about it is that it wants to engage that audience and I think it’s a little bit more accessible than most people think of standard poetry reading. So you get some purists in the poetry scene that don’t love it but I personally love it because it brings people who wouldn’t normally go to poetry events out to see that, and I am a huge advocate of any accessibility in art so I loved it.

Susan: Yes. And I want to talk about your views on art in a minute, but I think we can work it into maybe something, because I remember you said you specifically want to talk about everybody having the ability to be an artist. But I think maybe going into the next questions you kind of talked about that a little bit, you have had the opportunity to be a journalist on the international stage. So could you tell us a little bit about that experience and maybe how it’s different from journalism in the United States?

Marisa: When I was fresh out of college with my journalism degree, I bought a one-way ticket to visit the man who is now my husband who was living Budapest. And I kind of had the intention that I would go for a month or two and then come back and pursue a full-time job at a newspaper in The States, but I got really fortunate when I arrived in Hungary and I was able to connect with a few English-speaking journalists there, and I was able to find freelance work very quickly. And so I was working for two different English language magazines during my time there. And it’s not a straight timeline but in total I was over there for multiple years.

One of the types of writings I did a lot of business reporting so I was writing for the American Chamber of Commerce publication. And this was a really interesting experience because I wasn’t fluent in Hungarian so the events that I went to were typically done in English or things would be translated to me. And I was very young so I was 21 when I arrive to there. And a lot of the events I would go to, especially for those business communities, were very male-dominated. So I was very limited in that I wasn’t fluent in the language, I was very young and one of the only women. So I think I did hit some walls in which I didn’t feel like I was being taken as seriously as I wanted to be. I remember being very cautious about my clothing; trying to dress very businesslike, trying to kind of play up your age in that way. So that was hard. And certainly, that was something I would have faced whether I was in the United States or in Hungary, but kind of using the ability to articulate yourself easily is very challenging when you’re working with multilingual audiences.

And also a big difference of journalism in Hungary versus the United States is the press freedom in Hungary deteriorated while I was there so I did a little — just to put it in context, there is an organization called Freedom House that ranks freedom of the press internationally, and in Hungary when I arrived, the data for press freedom are currently — Hungary only gets a rating of 44 out of 100. So 100 means you have no press freedom so 44 is fairly high, and by contrast, the US is at a 23 level. So when I left there was still free press in Hungary but it was really under attack. And in terms of government I could go — that’s an entirely different discussion but I saw newspapers getting pressure and journalist being very divided, and even the business magazine that I worked for, received more and more political pressure and they doubt, myself included, I really started to transition to more tourism travel writing just because of that environment. So I would say Hungary is a struggling country in terms of press freedom. So to see that firsthand experience was very interesting, and unfortunately, it has only gotten worse since I left.

Susan: Really? That makes me sad.

Marisa: Yeah, makes a lot of us sad.

Susan: That’s just… I mean I think as Americans there are just so much that we take for granted, and when we see just a little bit of it touched we freaked out. I mean there’s no other way to say it; we just freak out. And to think that there are some countries that are fighting for it every day more so than hopefully than we ever will. I can’t imagine, and I can’t imagine being a journalist in that situation. No wonder you kind of shifted things around a little bit.

Marisa: Actually, it’s just hard to see places backslide; you just kind of hope that things progress and then the press gets stronger and more freedom and more ability to report on any story. And it’s very challenging and it’s disheartening to really see that backslide. Unfortunately, it’s not a case just unique in Hungary. It’s nothing you’d ever want to see or experience.

Susan: Yeah, wow. So kind of turning a little bit towards what you’re currently doing, you are currently the creative content manager at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. You also have – I would argue some serious expertise in not just online content but social media content and campaigns. I’ve seen some of the stuff that you put out, it’s pretty phenomenal and fun, and if you haven’t checked out their – even their Facebook page is pretty amazing, which I think you are in charge of, is that correct?

Marisa: I am not in charge of it. I do contribute or help our social media team, and you’ll see some of my videos and content on there occasionally. We’re a huge staff so our marketing staff works very collaboratively. So I do not run very social channel but I do work and share content. I’m a little bit more focused on the email side. We’re a very collaborative team there, too.

Susan: I guess what I saw, I’ve seen some of the videos at that you guys did. I think I remember seeing your first Facebook live video and I think you were in it.

Marisa: Yes. So I did launch our Facebook live pilot series. So we did a 10-week series that was aligned with another campaign we were doing. I was given a great opportunity to be kind of guinea pig that’s launched the weekly Facebook live series, which, of course, doing anything live is very nerve-racking and I had wonderful staff around the museum and we got to give behind the scenes access to people who may never get to come to DC so it’s a great project. So that on Facebook, yeah, I was very active, and I did kick off the whole series in the museum. It was the videographer I work hand-in-hand with; we were trying to get a perfect shoot and book the talent and I was like, “You know what? This one I’ll just to throw myself in and be on camera for the first episode and for the first teasing of it,” like, I’m asking people around the institution to take on this project and get in front of the camera and, like, I guess I can do it myself first too. So that was like good opportunity.

Susan: Yeah, it was so cool just from, again, the spectator side of things. It was fascinating because I have never been to the museum myself and just being able to see it from afar was so, so inspiring, just everything that is there. And what you guys can, I guess, bring to the public and what you guys do on a daily basis is really inspiring. But, tell us a little bit about how you were able to parlay a love of writing into your role, because it is content so you’re doing a lot of writing, I presume at this point, but tell us how this works for you on a daily basis.

Marisa: To back up a minute from how I kind of got to where I am from the journalism world is after I left Hungary I decided to pursue my master’s degree. So I had a great mentor in Hungary who was a professor of Arts Management, and it was a field that I’ve never even heard of prior, and he encouraged me to learn more about it and get some graduate school. So I got my masters in arts management at American University in DC. And this is a natural marriage to me because I was always covering business and I was covering the arts so that really fused those two together and gave me the knowledge I needed to transition from covering the arts to working with intercultural institutions. So I loved my grad school program and it allowed me to pivot my career into something more marketing-focused. And I worked for a couple years at a performing arts center called Wolf Trap Foundation of the Performing Arts, and that was a great opportunity and very fun. I got to see a lot of concerts and write about music for a living so you can’t argue with that.

Susan: Right.

Marisa: Yeah, so that was great, but I was ready for something new and I saw the job come up at the Holocaust Museum, and it really peaked my interest because it was I believe the mission of the museum and it was really a dream for me to get to work on the National Mall that I come everyday and get off at the Smithsonian metro. I’m four years in there, and that still is a great opportunity every day to do that and be around some of the best museums of the nation. And  so I came on as a writer/editor. And I would say even for people who love writing and especially people who are interested in journalism, think there’s a lot of doom and gloom around the industry, but I would say even if you struggle to find a job at a traditional newspaper or radio station or TV station, the skills you glean through journalism training are highly valued in a lot of fields.

So I studied print and broadcast, so the fact that now in my job today I get to do such a wide variety of writing that my journalism degree set me up for, which is just fantastic. So I mean on any given day I’ll edit a social media post, I’ll write radio copy for an ad for NPR, I’ll write for magazine articles, and then I’ll do video interviews with Holocaust survivors. I think it is hard for me to find a job in which I’ve been challenged in so many different ways of writing, and also get to do things to a cause that I care a lot about. So I like that I can — I still feel like I’m a journalist in a lot of way for the institution and I still get to use those skills, but I also just appreciate the ability of my job and the mission-based focus of it.

Susan: Well, share with us a little bit about that, if you would like. I would love to hear more about it.

Marisa: Yeah, so when I was in Budapest, I lived in the Jewish quarter there so that got me more interested in Holocaust history and covering the Jewish Community there. And so when I saw this job come open in DC, I was really kind of shocked that I would actually get to use any of what I learned while living in Hungary, especially historical content, and apply to a job in the United States. And of course, that really made me kick myself for not getting better at the Hungarian language because I interact with Hungarian speakers on a regular basis. But, I’ll say that I believe so strongly in the museum because really at it’s core it’s trying to preserve the memory of Holocaust Survivors, and I think that’s hugely important. And I’m entrusted to tell the story of survivors and victims of the Holocaust, and that’s a huge honor, and especially getting to work with Holocaust Survivors who volunteer at our museum.

We have about 80 survivors who are at the museum regularly meeting with visitors, doing translations for us, they travel around the country for speakers bureau, but I get to meet with them, I edit the essays that they write, I do video interviews, do some ghost writing for them, and the fact that I’m trusted to tell their story and just ride that really delicate balance of getting to reflect on this history and not sensationalize it but also really turn it into a teaching tool, because we teach the history not to just know the facts of it but to help people to act differently in the face of hate but to just learn about the dangers of hatred and where that can lead and where prejudice can lead so we’re of course showing the most shocking example of that, but it’s rewarding. I think a lot of us — it’s a challenging time right now and we’re seeing issues of xenophobia and other reoccurring  refugee issues in our nation. And this is me very much me speaking on behalf of myself and not the museum, but I think for me it’s important that I feel that my day to day work is doing some good and seeing the museum full every single day of visitors, and I just hope that they come and learn something at the museum that they can take to their own lives; that’s hugely important to me.

Susan: Yeah, that’s really powerful what you just said because I am in like-mind with you that we are struggling right now as a nation with some of these issues. And certainly, there are debatable things that can be talked about, which I’m not even getting into. But really thank you, thank you for sharing that and thank you for doing that work. I didn’t realize — wow, you guys have 80 Holocaust Survivors there on a regular basis.

Marisa: Yeah, it’s remarkable; just the willingness  of these individuals to share some of the most difficult periods in their life in the hope that it will carry on the memory of loved ones that they have lost and hopefully improve the future for other generations. I’m just in awe of their resilience and their openness. It’s been such a good example of me to get to work like this with them.

Susan: Well it sounds like it has become their life-work as well. For so many reasons that makes sense, but for so many reasons I’m impressed and just wowed that somebody could do that after going through something that is so unimaginable to me that I can only think of through images in a history book. I cannot even begin to come close to putting myself in that situation. And for them to share their stories and to do that on almost daily basis, I would guess, it just…I can’t imagine that. And I never really thought about it, but I really appreciate them doing that. And I appreciate the work you’re doing, it’s so important. I don’t know, that just really touched me in a weird way. Anyway, sorry about that, I might have gotten a little emotional..

Marisa: Part of my job.

Susan: So in that vein, even the strongest of us have moments when we lack self-confidence in what we’re doing, and you don’t ever appear to do that. I presume you do, I presume you hide it well, maybe I could be way off base maybe you don’t have these moments, but if you do, how have you dealt with that?

Marisa: Well that is a very kind assessment of me, but of course, I have moments where I lack self-confidence, really, like, everybody does. And I guess I do have a really outwardly view of…One of my high school teachers used to always just call me very self possessed and I think I of course try to exude confidence in what I do, but certainly, I have moments of self-doubt, and I have a really wonderful team of editors who work with me who always help each other out and putting our best work forward. I’d say one thing that’s always helpful – well, there’s a couple of things that has helped me and one is I really have the joy of surrounding myself with people who have far more faith in my skills and abilities than I do. I really could not speak more highly of my family and core circle of friends. I have a lot of cheerleaders and I cannot emphasize how important that is to have someone to… I just texted a friend right before this, I was like, “Oh, I am about to be interviewed for a podcast’ I’ve never done this before,” and she’s like, “Oh, you’re going to be great.” And just to have people who don’t ever mean it insincerely but just really kind of telling you that self-confidence or the affirmations that you want for yourself.

On this podcast you talk about seeing professional coaches, and I’ve been seeing one as well who I just adore and she really good at showcasing, making you see things through a new lens. And things that I struggle with is I worry a lot about how my decisions affect other people and the way that they make those people feel, sometimes then the way they make me feel or how my actions help or hurt me. And having other people just kind of to refocus how I see myself and my actions is so helpful. So I love that aspect. And then also I think something that helps me in self-confidence which is very funny is I am a total dabbler. I am very curious, I love learning new things but I like to take on new hobbies and projects — and I wouldn’t say I don’t see them through, it’s not like I’m building a house but I kind of like start doing one thing and then switch to another so. So for example, for the last couple of years I’ve been taking guitar lessons but I also have not picked up my guitar for many months. So I like to jump in these projects and try new things but never attained or frankly really try to an expert level. So in my life like a willingness to be a novice or very mediocre at activities is really healthy. And I don’t think enough people are willing, especially if you’re older, to just take up a new hobby, like, knowing that you’re not going to be any good at it, and it might just be fun for a little while.

Susan: Yeah.

Marisa: I try to do that and I think it’s just nice to just be humbled by something that, like, I’m not a good guitar player but this is really fun and it gives me a creative outlet that’s not writing and gets me to think about things or just try something new, and I think that actually really help people build up their confidence to intentionally fail at new hobbies and it’s fine to see that there aren’t always consequences and nobody in my life expects me to be a superstar at anything I take on. And the same with exercise, I love to work out but I’m not a world-class runner or swimmer or anything that I do but I still do it because it’s healthy and I like it. So a very long answer to your question but that’s something I’ve found and I encourage other people to do around me as well.

Susan: And within your answer I think you answered one of my other questions which I always love to ask is how do you recharge your batteries, but it sounds like that’s one way you do it. And those are several little ways you do it which sound awesome and fun. What’s your favorite? What is the one thing that you’re doing right now that you’re just loving?

Marisa: Right now?

Susan: If you had to pick a favorite.

Marisa: I’ll pick one that I’m not doing immediately but in the last year one of my good friend Amy and I and my husband all took beginner ukulele classes at a community art place in Washington and that was a blast. We have a very quirky teacher who is a brilliant musician and gives no pressure at all in the class; you just kind of show up and have some fun and play some music, you go home. And it’s doing that with friends and just having a good time and laughing a lot. It’s just wonderful so we’re going to try to pick that up again in the fall.

Susan: Well, that sounds fun and awesome at the same time. And I want to mention something because you said something a minute ago, you said you had called one of your friends to say you’ve never done a podcast before, and I just want you to know you’re a natural, and I think it’s because you are a good storyteller but you could do this all day long so, you know, in your spare time if you feel like starting one up, you go for it, just do that.

Marisa: Well this is very fun, and I hear it and not only my interview but the ones you’ve done previously that you really put guests at ease so you are also a natural.

Susan: Well thank you. I  just think it’s fun. I think it’s fun and inspiring and it inspires me to tell other people stories and in a day and age where I just feel like we need to give women a platform who otherwise may not have one. I mean you are certainly somebody who works at a world-renowned museum, you know, some of my guests are just next door neighbor’s who are doing some really cool stuff as well and I just want to make sure that there is a platform available to share our stories because I truly believe that it inspires, empowers and encourages others to figure out what their passion is because I feel like we were all born with one, I really honestly do. I feel like we were all born with some sort of something that we were put here to do, and if we all can somehow figure that out then we just made this world a better place. And so that’s what I’m hoping to encourage and inspire and empower other women to do. So, that’s my goal. But anyway, I want to go back to something that I kind of started to talk a little bit about earlier and then I dropped it but I said we’d come back to it, and I’m going to mess this up because I can’t remember your wording exactly and you worded it so well and it was so beautiful. You talked to me before this interview about how you want to make sure everybody understands the artists within themselves, or something to that effect. Can you share a little bit about what you were trying to convey to me in that conversation.

Marisa: Sure. I can’t certainly remember exactly what I told you but throughout my career, and I just talked a little bit about that was just trying my own artistic pursuit, but I believe so strongly in the power of creativity and expression and the finding a way, and I really just like our culture that people are dissuaded doing activities that they aren’t really good at. So I think we have a tendency to pigeonhole people of, “Oh, you’re a great drawer, that’s fantastic, do that.” And I myself is a terrible drawer, like, nobody want’s me on their team in family Pictionary, like, terrible at it, but it doesn’t mean I can’t try a bunch of other activities or still draw. And I am such an advocate for the amateur artist that I want people to go to community festivals, to go try their hands at creating something. It’s really healthy.

When I was in grad school I worked at a organization called the National Center for Creative Aging, and the project I got to work on was pairing graduate students in social work and healthcare and art with older visual artist. So they would help the visual artists set up their studio and help teach them to document their work and build on their legacy. I loved that project, and within it there was a major research project going on as well from Joan Jeffri who ran the project called Art Cart, and this is a long way of telling you this, but the study that she’s doing, anecdotally, I could easily tell you that doing arts or creativity can extend your life, but there’s actual science behind it and rigorous studying too to show how healthy it is to have something to express yourself through. And I just want more and more people to be willing to do that and there’s a Moto that I’m completely stealing from an organization called Creative Mornings that post lectures on creativity all over the world for free, usually once a month in every city. I’m certain that Dallas has them as well. And their whole motto is “Everyone is welcome; everyone is creative.” And I just think that is so brilliant and so succinctly put, that everyone should be welcome to create, not just top world-class performers and everyone should be welcomed.

So that’s one thing I just love that you’re doing on this podcast is not just focusing on people who are already recognizable but who are doing wonderful work. And certainly doesn’t have to be in the arts, that’s just what I’m passionate about, but just thinking how important each of our work is and we can create. It don’t have to be hanging up in a museum or some amazing published work, but I just want my work to encourage other people to be creative and tell stories and share things about other people’s lives.

Susan: Well, I think that it is, and I just appreciate you sharing it. I appreciate you sharing your creative talent through your poetry that you’re willing to put up online. I appreciate you writing amazing content for the museum or doing the Facebook live which I know is nerve-racking, or at least it was for me because you don’t know how many people are going to see this and you’re like, “Ahhh!”

Marisa: It is hard.

Susan: There’s no editing, there’s no edit in here. But yeah, thank you for sharing that because I think you’re right, I think people are often so many times either told no, don’t do that, or that’s not your outlet or whatever. And it’s important, it’s important to share anything if not for someone else then just for yourself to just to see what you’re made of sometimes, I think. So, I always like to leave with an action step, but it seems like you kind of already gave us one to find our creative outlet. And I don’t know, do you have anything else to add? Am I missing anything?

Marisa: I’d say I really of course encourage people to journal. I think that’s really healthy, and yeah, I think action steps of trying to find a creative outlet for everybody or to try something new is what I would like to encourage people to do. And it certainly doesn’t have to be in the arts, like maybe try running or walking or something, but I just love getting people out into the community and just taking part. So those are my simple action.

Susan: Well, I don’t think those are simple at all; I think those are things that we all need to think about and do, maybe, especially the journaling thing, that has been really, really helpful for me trying to do more of that. When I do it, I feel better. But tell us — one more thing before I go because I always forget this — tell us where we can find your work, either through the museum or if you have like a…I don’t even know if you have like a public creative outlet or anything at the moment, but if you want to share some of your museum content with us or anything like that, tell us where we can find you or where we can find your work.

Marisa: Sure. I don’t have a website at the moment. I’ve been kind of dabbling in and out of that. That’s a great action step for me to get back to that so I can say, “To read my work, go to…” And, you know, as someone who works in marketing you’d think I’d be better at that but I’d say that, I do have a book of poetry that you can get on Amazon called Opened Aperture, so that you can read; that’s some of my older poetry that I wrote mainly based on my time living in Budapest. And then for the museum, if you subscribe to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum email and I’m usually leading the content on a lot of our storytelling emails so if you read those you can see my work. And I also was the copywriter for a book at the museum published last year called The Last Witnesses. And that book is, every page is a picture of an item that’s in our collection, so personal artifacts and our designer, Mary, did a beautiful job laying it out, and then with the visuals I then tell the story of who the object belonged to, what the story behind it is. So that was one of the biggest projects that I worked on at the museum that I’m very proud of. Also, you can buy it at the museum or you can buy it online as well.

Susan: That is awesome, and I will make sure on our website to go and link all of those things so that people can easily find them. So you guys can just head on over to the website and check those out. Marisa, thank you so much for joining us today and taking time out of your work week and out of your vacation/work week. I really appreciate you taking the time to join us today and to just share what you’re doing, and just your thoughts on life. I really appreciate your time today.

Marisa: Thank you so much. I love doing this. It was very fun, and thank you for making this podcast.

Susan: All right, friend, I’ll talk to you soon.

Marisa: Bye.

Outro: Thanks so much for listening today. I hope you found just as many good nuggets in our conversation as I did. Y’all, I will make sure and have all the links to the things Marisa and I discussed over on this episode’s transcript page on the website. So if you didn’t have a chance to write something down, you can be sure to find the link at www.howshegothere.com. Y’all, seriously, thanks again so much for listening and for sharing this podcast with your friends. This show is truly a great love of mine and I really appreciate the opportunity to bring it to you. Y’all, your feedback has been overwhelming and I really cannot believe how many subscribers we have. It’s so exciting. I’m just so thankful that so many people have been able to find it and that it has resonated with so many women. One way that it makes it easier for other women to find is if you rate and review the podcast on whatever platform you listen to the podcast on. So I would really appreciate it if you would rate and review it so that it makes it easier for other women to find it. Y’all are my people and y’all are just the best, and I love, love, love sharing this work with you. Thanks again, friends, I’ll see you soon.