21 posts tagged success
Martha Payne is a young girl who is changing the world through her own passion and determination, as well as via the power of social media, especially Twitter, with the help of her father. Much has happened since I first interviewed Martha back in late May 2012.
Martha, now 10 years old, and her food blog, Neverseconds, have become world-renown. Neverseconds, where Martha posts photos and reviews of her school lunches, has been named by Time magazine as one of the 25 Best Blogs of 2012. Her story is so incredible that she and her father, David Payne, recently released a wonderful book to help raise money for their chosen charity, Mary’s Meals. In addition to all of this, Martha just last week won a Human Rights award, for defending free expression. More about that from Martha, below.
I personally was astounded when I watched the BBC Documentary on the Payne family’s trip to Malawi, where a school kitchen was built with the money Martha has raised. Please take a few minutes to view the clips, as words cannot describe the need there and the difference Martha is making. Martha had some profound words, though, about her Malawi visit: “I have learned that they can sing very loudly, that they don’t have what we have, and that we’ve got to appreciate what we’ve got.” Here are the links: Part 1 & Part 2
The best thing about Martha and her family, to me, is that they are very humble; very down-to earth. It’s obvious that they are not in this for the fame; you will see what I mean…
Peggy: You have been very busy since we last chatted! You have raised a great deal of money for the charity Mary’s Meals. How much have you raised so far, and how did you accomplish that? Why did you choose Mary’s Meals?
Martha: People have donated over £123,000 to my JustGiving page. A lot of donations came after the council banned me taking photographs. I chose Mary’s Meals because I have supported them for a long time because my grandpa is a volunteer. It is about school dinners. They give a school dinner to children so they don’t have to find food instead of coming to school. I understand Mary’s Meals.
Peggy: I heard you recently met Jamie Oliver. Please tell us about that experience. Was it exciting? Were you nervous?
Martha: I met Jamie on the BBC One Show. It was live. I was very nervous, not because of Jamie. I met him a few minutes before the show, but I was nervous because it was live. It was exciting seeing how it’s made but I saw myself on a screen when they played a clip from the documentary and I don’t like seeing myself or hearing myself, so it made me very nervous. (Link to Martha’s BBC One Show blog post)
Martha: Thank you. We talk about how I came up with the idea for NeverSeconds and what happened behind the blog. I didn’t know everything that happened because Mum and Dad didn’t tell me at the time. I think it is very good. Jamie Oliver has read it and loves it! Every copy gives 25 meals in Malawi through Mary’s Meals.
Martha: I was upset because I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t write the newspapers, just my blog. Without the ban we would not have raised so much money, though; but the council have never said sorry to me. Sorry is important.
Martha: People have recognised me and my picture is on the book. I don’t feel famous because my friends, and where I live, are the same.
Martha: I am more nervous in front of cameras now because it has happened a lot. I answer the same questions a lot, as well, and I forget what I say to each person. It gets confusing. It’s not all fun because I am away from home sometimes, but I did meet Rowan Atkinson, Mr Bean, on Monday because he gave me a Human Rights award. He was very very nice. (Link to Martha’s blog post about her trip to the Liberty Awards in London)
Martha: Visiting and meeting the kids in Malawi. I wanted to write and now there is a book, and I just sent Jamie Oliver a copy I signed. How cool is that!
Lisa Kift is a therapist in private practice who lives right here in Marin County, where I reside, though we first met via Twitter. If you’re on Twitter, you should follow Lisa @LisaKiftTherapy …she shares excellent relationship and mental health articles and tips. I especially love her #EmotionalHealthMinute tweets, such as: If you tend to scan the horizon for the negative, try changing the channel. You are likely missing a lot.
I admire Lisa because she uses social media, and technology in general, in a very positive and smart way, to help the general public. Lisa is also a very nice, hip, down-to-earth person in real life. And she does like chocolate… :)
Bio: Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com, providing tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health. She has a private practice in Larkspur, Marin County, CA, working with individuals and couples. Lisa is a frequent consultant for the media and has appeared in online news sources and publications such as CNN.com, Huffington Post, and Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine.
Peggy: Where were you born and where do you live now?
Lisa: I was born in San Francisco and grew up in Mill Valley (where I now live again). I spent many years of my life living in Southern California; San Diego and Los Angeles. My husband, son and I moved back to Marin County about four years ago.
Peggy: You have an impressive, information-packed website; as you say, “one of the first therapist created online resources for the public of its kind”. How long ago did you create your website, and what caused you to have such an unusual (at the time) vision?
Lisa: It was a combination of luck and timing. The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com (with tools for emotional and relationship health) is a separate site from my local Marin practice site (MarinTherapyandCounseling.com) but it didn’t start that way. It originally was my practice site in San Diego where I got my MA in Counseling Psychology and did my internship training. At the time there were barely any therapists online (many still of the old era belief that therapists shouldn’t advertise or market themselves).
I started writing articles on various topics and putting them on that site. Not only did it put me extremely high in search engine rankings but I found my practice was busting at the seams as people were clearly searching for therapists online. I was still a MFT intern and the agency I was working at couldn’t believe it! Additionally, I started getting contacted by people from all around the world who were finding the site and seeking advice from me. I realized there was a huge potential to reach more than I’d ever imagined; people worldwide seeking further education on the topics I was writing about.
It was then that the concept of creating downloadable products for purchase was born. Therapy-At-Home-Workbooks® is my line of tools for couples (and soon individuals) to use to improve their emotional and relationship health. I currently have The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples (also available in Spanish) and The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples. My next project is a workbook for individuals on the topic of emotional health.
Lisa: I typically don’t use social media for my therapy practice specifically, though it’s possible clients have stumbled upon me that way. I primarily use Twitter and my Facebook page to share information related to emotional and relationship health. I also use them to market my workbooks, as well as recommend other products. I’ve established a lot of relationships with therapists, psychologists, and others in my field doing some great stuff.
Peggy: How much time per day do you spend on social media? What advice do you have for others with regards to not getting addicted to social media?
Lisa: During the week I’ll post a few odds and ends in the morning and sometimes again later in the day. I usually don’t engage in social media on the weekends.
I think social media and other online activities can be a big risk for many, particularly those who don’t have a balance of healthy outlets, are depressed, or vulnerable to addiction. There have been recent studies on the similarities between the brain’s response to internet use (gaming, social media) and drug addiction. The most important thing to do to avoid getting “addicted” to social media is to closely monitor any negative consequences (relationships, job, mood issues, etc.).
Peggy: What were you going to be when you grew up?
Lisa: When I was young I used to love to write and when a little older, do photography. My dream at that time was to become a photojournalist. Instead, I embarked on a film/television production career that I ultimately ditched to become a therapist, which is more rewarding and a better overall fit for me.
Peggy: How do you balance motherhood and work?
Lisa: For me the trick is a periodic re-evaluation of how things are balanced. I identify with a lot of roles; mom, wife, friend, therapist, writer…and it’s easy to find my scales have tipped in a way that’s not comfortable. I used to identify with being a “Type A” personality but not anymore. Trying to do it all is highly over-rated. My meditation practice has helped a lot with making that shift.
Peggy: How do you get out of a funk?
Lisa: Exercise helps improve my mood a lot. Talking to my husband and friends helps, too. Sushi or frozen yogurt also does wonders.
Peggy: Dark or milk? Do you have a favorite brand?
Lisa: Dark. I realize this is very “old-school” but I still have a special affinity for Hershey’s Special Dark.
Peggy: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
Lisa: I like to mountain bike, hike, and am coaching my son’s soccer team (he’s in kindergarten). I think it’s important for young boys to see that girls play sports too. :)
Peggy: Lisa, thank you so much for your time here!
Sue Ann Gleason has a fabulous and very popular Facebook page called Chocolate For Breakfast which I interact with on a daily basis. She posts great photos of chocolate, and fun quotes…very happy stuff that’s easy to ‘like’. I became curious about who was behind the page, and whether she really ate chocolate for breakfast… so I did a little research and discovered this wonderful and intelligent woman who has amazing credentials and provides exceptional programs and content for women. Please enjoy my interview with Sue Ann…and if you’re interested in growing a business via social media, be sure to pay attention to her excellent tips below. Sue Ann knows what she’s talking about!
Bio: Sue Ann Gleason is a food lover, food writer, food-based healer and savvy marketing strategist. Founder of Conscious Bites Nutrition and the Well Nourished Woman, she inspires women to trust their intuition, unravel their food stories and take back their plates, one luscious bite at a time. Sue Ann shares her expertise through online programs and in one-on-one sessions via telephone or Skype.
To download her free No Longer Asleep at the Meal ebook, click here.
For Sue Ann’s free Chocolate Lover’s Guide, click here.
And for daily interaction and delicious chocolate suggestions and humor, visit her chocolate lover’s playground on Facebook.
Peggy: Where were you born and where do you live now?
Sue Ann: I was born in Buffalo, New York. I now live in Northern Virginia just outside of Washington, DC.
Peggy: I love the name of your blog, Chocolate for Breakfast. What inspired the name? Do you really eat chocolate for breakfast?
Sue Ann: I do eat chocolate for breakfast! My culinary nutrition work is all about pleasure and permission and showing women that they don’t have to deprive themselves of delicious treats to achieve vibrant health. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When we deny ourselves the pleasure of a treat we end up craving it even more. So rather than ‘curbing’ our cravings, I suggest we ‘honor’ our desires. And we do that with the very best chocolate we can acquire.
My own chocolate for breakfast journey began in January 2011. I was researching hunger and satiety for an article I was writing for my Conscious Bites Nutrition community when I came across the big breakfast diet. Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, a clinical professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, found that sedentary, obese women on a “big breakfast diet” lost almost five times as much weight as did women following a traditional, restrictive low-carbohydrate diet.
This was a very interesting and informative study, but my ears really perked up when I saw a piece of chocolate on the breakfast menu. Jakubowicz explained that our serotonin levels are highest in the morning. That’s the best time to indulge in a little treat because the brain won’t feel the same serotonin boost. Reaching for a sweet treat later in the day, when your serotonin levels dip, may contribute to an addictive cycle because your body begins to associate good feelings with the treat.
The important thing to note here is that a small square of really good dark chocolate is part of a larger meal that contains some form of clean, lean protein or healthy fat to keep blood sugar levels stable and contribute to satiety.
Peggy: You say you found your calling not once, but twice. What are those callings and how did you find them?
Sue Ann: Before opening my Conscious Bites Nutrition practice I was a teacher of small children, a dance and aerobics instructor, and a mentor to blossoming teachers. About seven years ago I experienced a health crisis that literally brought me to my knees. My vitality was virtually gone. I was falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from school and then falling into bed at 8PM. And even with all that sleep, I could barely drag myself to work in the morning. I attributed it to “burnout.” I had a very demanding class that year and I was pretty drained from that experience. When those symptoms persisted, I made an appointment with an endocrinologist.
Endocrinologists are trained to diagnose and treat hormone imbalances and problems by helping to restore the normal balance of hormones in your system. It turned out there was a lot to treat: my adrenals were shot, Hashimoto had taken up residence in my body (All I could think was, “Who is Hashimoto and what’s he doing in my body?”) I discovered Hashimoto is an autoimmune disorder related to the thyroid.
I also discovered that I had osteoporosis.
Yes, I was a virtual train wreck. Not to worry. The prescription pads came out and I was offered all kinds of solutions to my failing health. I was not ready to hop on the pharmaceutical train.
As luck or serendipity would have it I came across a book at a local bookstore, the Autoimmune Epidemic by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. I just opened the book to a random page and these were the words I found looking up at me: Chapter Three: Dirty Little Secrets, Cluster Epidemics from Buffalo to Texas. Buffalo, New York is my hometown. That book was the catalyst for a very deep study of the endocrine system and the beginning of my journey into food as medicine. I went back to school and for the next few years I studied the various components that make up the career I enjoy today: nutrition, culinary arts, the psychology of eating and positive psychology.
Peggy: What does a Culinary Nutritionist do?
Sue Ann: I help women cultivate a body wisdom approach to nourishment. There is so much conflicting nutritional information out there, we really don’t know what to eat anymore. A more traditional nutritionist might provide you with all kinds of scientific information to help you choose healthier foods. They might say something like: “A single serving of fresh corn tortillas delivers 8 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, over 100% the RDA for riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and C, and over 40% of the RDA for niacin, selenium, and vitamin B12.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll leave that experience clamoring for another session, right?
So, instead of handing women a 1400-calorie meal plan or point system and a packet of recipes they may never use, I like to cultivate their culinary curiosity and show them how they can prepare simple, healthy, exquisite meals and still have time to eat.
Rather than taking things OUT of their diet and labeling foods ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ I help women redefine pleasure and the true meaning of nourishment. We gradually build a new repertoire of foods and, even more important, habits around food based on my Conscious Bites Concepts™. Basically, I usher them out of the weight loss war zone and back to a place where eating starts to feel delicious, natural and sustainable.
Peggy: How did you become a chocolate connoisseur? Have you loved chocolate your entire life?
Sue Ann: Yes, my dad introduced me to ‘chocolate for breakfast’. As a special treat he would get up very early on a Saturday morning while the rest of us were asleep and drive to Jet Donut, Buffalo’s favorite donut shop. A beautiful box of yummy confections awaited us when we climbed out of our sleepy nests. My chocolate palate wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as it is now but I sure loved those donuts.
My ‘Chocolate for Breakfast’ connoisseur adventure began in January 2011 when I started my chocolate for breakfast blog and Facebook page with the intention of building a community of chocolate lovers who shared similar viewpoints on pleasure and permission. But much to my surprise (and delight) the chocolate journey took on a life of its own. As my Facebook fan base grew, chocolate makers from all over the world started sending me samples of their chocolates hoping to tease my palate and claim a space in my Top 12 Chocolate Finds ebook, or at the very least, my fan page.
The more chocolate I tasted, the more refined my palate became. Pretty soon I was choosing chocolate by origin, much like a connoisseur of fine wine develops a more informed and discriminating taste for the grapes of a particular region. It’s not that there is anything wrong with a varietal, it’s just that I became rather enchanted with the nuances of flavor that I had never before experienced in chocolate.
Peggy: Your Chocolate for Breakfast Facebook page has over 10,000 fans. You’re obviously doing something right! Do you have any social media tips for other entrepreneurs?
Sue Ann: Yes, that number astonishes me, too. I will celebrate the two-year anniversary of my fan page in January 2013. I never dreamed I’d have over 10,000 fans in less than two years. I never dreamed that the health editor of Oprah Magazine would contact me for recipes for an article on ‘dessert for breakfast’. I am thrilled with the engagement on that page.
Here are the tips I offer fellow entrepreneurs and my marketing strategy clients:
Be intentional: Make it your mission to provide the best content possible and your fan base will grow organically and authentically.
Build Relationship: This is a tricky one because there are only so many hours in a day and there are so many social media opportunities: blogging, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn. Whichever form of social media you choose to engage in, find authentic ways to interact with people on your page to keep them coming back. I don’t look at the ‘number’ of fans I’ve attracted. I look at the ‘engagement’ level. That little number speaks volumes. This is not a popularity contest. It’s a relationship.
Be Present: We live in an automated world. There is nothing more disappointing than being in a conversation with someone who isn’t present. You know that scenario. It’s the conversation you’re having with someone who is glancing over your shoulder instead of looking you in the eye. Social media is no different. You want to be present on your page. People feel your presence.
Keep Your Eyes Wide Open: Keep an eye on what are your fans are responding to. What do they want from you? I discovered early on that the people on my page want to have fun. They come to Chocolate for Breakfast for delicious recipes, chocolate recommendations, humorous posts and community.
Peggy: What are your goals with Chocolate for Breakfast?
Sue Ann: My goal is to continue growing my community while providing richly rewarding content. I offer two online courses: the Well-Nourished Woman Inner Circle and Clueless in the Kitchen No More, six weeks of ‘healthy’ culinary bliss with one week devoted entirely to chocolate. I am building a community of women who are committed to leaving a luscious legacy in the world. I am also writing a book. I bet you can guess the title.
Peggy: Dark or milk? What are some of your favorite brands?
Sue Ann: I stay away from milk chocolate because it is too sweet for my palate and dairy binds with the antioxidants in chocolate and prevents them from nourishing our cells. My favorite chocolate is small batch, bean to bar, single-origin that contains no soy and no dairy. I love Dandelion Chocolate based in San Francisco, Mast Brothers Chocolate based in Brooklyn, Ritual Chocolate based in Colorado and Potomac Chocolate right here in Virginia. For me, these chocolate makers represent the very best in artisan chocolate. When you taste these bars, you begin to understand the nuances in flavor in the chocolate itself. There are no distractions in a bar of single-origin chocolate, just pure unbridled intention.
Peggy: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
Sue Ann: My signature online program, the Well-Nourished Woman Inner Circle, runs twice a year for three months. I have been developing this program for the past four years and it has morphed into a truly exquisite online experience for women who are ready to take back their plates, one luscious bite at a time. I would love to offer your readers a kindred spirit special if they are interested in registering for the next session. They can contact me for details and simply mention Success & Chocolate interview.
Peggy: Sue Ann, thank you so much for your time. I have enjoyed learning more about the woman behind the fun chocolate Facebook posts!
Marilyn: I’m not going to lie, I love my job. I love what I do for a living. I didn’t set out to be an Apple technician; it was all quite by accident. My first real job was in an advertising agency as a production artist back between 1995 and 2000. I would help people with their Mac issues in addition to doing my job. I was eventually told I wasn’t there to fix computers so I would sneak in before work and fix them. We worked with a Mac guy that would come in to fix the problems that were over my head. One day he asked me if I knew of anyone that was good with Macs as he was thinking of expanding and taking on an employee. I jumped at the chance. I trained with him for about 7 months before I made the jump and started with him in July of 2000.
Initially mac-fusion was just an Apple Authorized Reseller and Service Provider. We had a business-to-business focus and did AppleCare, warranty and out of warranty repairs out of a small office in Signal Hill. The first 6 years I worked here I juggled my days doing a mix of onsites and in-house hardware repairs. Eventually we expanded to hire more techs, enabling me to focus on just doing onsites. This year we opened a retail store in Seal Beach and now it’s a mix of onsites, repairs, working retail and finding the coolest Apple accessories to stock in our store. Oh, I guess I should mention that I’m also in charge of all the marketing, online advertising and social media. It’s safe to say that I’m a busy girl.
Marilyn: I didn’t start out a business owner. It’s actually not something I ever wanted to be. I’m a certified worker bee and don’t always love all the headaches that come with owning a business. I started dating Kevin (yes, my boss…not something I recommend for any single mother to do) in 2004. I like to say he married me to secure his number one tech. We are a fantastic team and I like to think we run a fun workplace.
Marilyn: There’s been so much talk on this lately. I’ve had more problems being a Mac tech than a woman tech. Sometimes you can tell they are surprised to see a woman show up but once you fix those problems they’ve been having for months, in a short amount of time they don’t care. I’ve only had two incidents that stand out. We had a husband and wife bring in their iMac and printer that they couldn’t get to print. They had spent hours and hours trying on their own and working with HP tech support. They bring it in and I reset the printing system and it prints. The guy looks at me and yells “I can’t believe it was fixed by a girl!”. It was all in good fun but his wife was mortified. So I put on his receipt “FIXED BY A GIRL”. I actually had someone on Twitter, who I was trying to help, get a bit too aggressive with me so I had to block him. It was pointed out to me by someone else that he made a disparaging tweet about me being a woman. Other than that I’ve been to many Apple training camps that were filled with hundreds of male techs and only a handful of women, with absolutely no issues. That’s not to say this behavior or attitude doesn’t exist; in my line of tech I haven’t felt it personally, though.
I would like to mention that I am active in trying to encourage young girls to take this career path. I have done numerous career day talks for middle schools to try and not only get the word out there that this is an option, but show you can be a woman and a tech. I come across so many smart techie woman on Twitter that don’t feel this is a job they could do. There’s some pre-conceived notion that you have to know everything. In our company there are different types of techs. Some know servers and networking, some know hardware; I happen to know software well. All of these things came with time and experience. You don’t start at mac-fusion and go out onsite on your first day. It’s a learning process. I wish more people understood that.
Marilyn: I actually thought I wanted to be in law enforcement. I was going on police ride-alongs and was very interested in forensics. The LA Riots scared me. I was living in Long Beach at the time, and seeing the very people that were there to protect you being attacked freaked me out. I’m not aggressive by nature so it wouldn’t have been a good fit.
We had an Apple IIe when I was young. My dad would bring home reams of print-outs (the kind that were all attached and had the little holes on the sides) with line after line of code. You would type these codes in and then a little turtle would walk across the screen. Make one typo and nothing worked. The fascination ended quickly. I actually grew up with PCs in the house. I was constantly breaking them. Still to this day I have no idea what a System.ini file is or why they always went missing ;-) I was actually mostly PC until I went to work at the advertising agency. I self-taught myself the Mac (mostly by breaking the software and then having to fix it).
Marilyn: I count my first Apple product as the one I bought myself, a glorious Beige Power Macintosh G3 Minitower running OS 8. There was nothing mini about this bad boy. I think I was around 25 years old and it was the most expensive thing I had ever purchased.
Marilyn: Since I deal with businesses primarily, I have a different view of cloud than most people. Most of my clients host their own email on a server that lives in their office. They have physical access to it. We also have a few clients that use a hosting company to host their email. Guess which ones we have more problems with? If there’s a problem with the server, or the server software, being able to access it and fix it is essential. Having to deal with a hosting company and different levels of techs can be time consuming, costly and increase downtime. I feel the same way about backups. Having a secondary or tertiary cloud backup is OK but it would never be my only backup. If I can’t touch the hard drive my backup lives on, I don’t own it. This is one of the reasons that my iPhone doesn’t back up to the cloud. If I need to restore my iPhone I want my data back on it in an hour, not twelve.
Marilyn: I’m a mom, so I’m up when I need to be and down when I can ;) I used to be a night person, but these days it’s rare if I sleep in until 7am. I’m really trying to get around 8 hours a night.
Marilyn: Since we opened the retail store this year, we are now open 7 days a week. This adds an extra set of challenges, though we just recently started taking the entire weekend off again. We have paying clients that rely on us so I don’t feel like I can ever fully disengage. Most Sundays we ride our bikes from Seal Beach down to Long Beach to go to the Aquarium of the Pacific and the movies down at the Pike in Long Beach. It’s a 8.5 mile bike ride for us there and then we take the Aqualink boat back to the Long Beach Marina and ride back to Seal. It’s always a fun day. The most challenging thing is finding a movie that can engage a 4 and 13 year old.
Marilyn: Oh boy. I just had to get VERY organized. We just went Paleo (no dairy or grains) and it takes a ton of planning. All veggies, fruits and good meats. Also Soccer practice just started again, and both boys are playing this year! Luckily, since my main job is being an onsite tech, I have a little freedom with my schedule. I just need to watch emails and be equipped to do remote support if necessary. There are days when things happen, but I’m fortunate enough to have a mom and a mother-in-law that are local and can help me if needed. Not to mention my amazing husband; he’s a fantastic dad and stepdad.
Marilyn: I have a small love for dark but really I’ll try anything. Lindt makes these round truffle balls that are amazing. They also have some chocolate bars that mix in things like chili or sea salts.
Marilyn: I actually have a dirty secret… I was in an informercial for Windows 95. I was attending Cypress Community College at the time, taking graphics classes on PCs! Microsoft featured my professor Michael Johnson due to this. They gathered our class in the lab and had our professor showing us the new features of Windows 95. I was sitting right in the front and got to ask “Where do you go to find Photoshop?”. I find this terribly ironic given that just months later I was on my way to teaching myself the Mac and on a path to my true calling. The infomercial is called “Microsoft Presents: The Start of Something New”. I’ve tried so hard to find a copy of this online. I would love to see me with my bad perm again ;)
Celia Graterol is a kick. I can say that because I know her in real life, and it’s true that she is a very funny, wild & crazy woman. When I asked Celia for an interview, I was thinking about the two businesses she owns; her impressive education; the fact that English is her second language, yet she has done very well in this country as a gay woman entrepreneur… I’d forgotten that she was once a Catholic nun, and I didn’t think she’d mention how she met Sally, her partner…but it’s all here, so keep reading!
Bio: Celia Graterol, MPH, Founder & Principal of Graterol Consulting Group, has been conducting cutting-edge, web-based evaluations and strategic planning for more than 10 years using the Graterol Logic Map™ methodology. Celia assists non-profit organizations and funders with program and organizational development. She conducts single or multi-site, multi-cultural, community-based evaluations, assessments, and facilitates strategic planning efforts using web-based technology combined with traditional methodologies to engage stakeholders, facilitate learning, and bring clarity throughout the process.
Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, and after living for over 20 years in the Bay Area, Celia is bilingual English/Spanish and bi-cultural. Celia received her Computer Engineering BS degree in 1989 at the Simón Bolívar University, Caracas, Venezuela. In 2001 she received her MPH in Community Health Education at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California, with the Graduate Student Award for Distinguish Achievement. Celia resides in Marin County with her partner and wife Sally Kuhlman and her dog Poncho. She practices yoga several days a week and rides her mountain bike all over the trails in Marin where this exhilarating sport was born.
Peggy: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Celia: I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and lived there until I had my first child when I decided to emigrate because I did not want to raise my children in an unsafe country with such levels of political unrest. My home got broken in three times within the last year I lived there. I moved to the US, Marin County, 22 years ago and for the last 17 years I have lived in Tam Valley near the beautiful Headlands trails. Since I moved to Marin, I had two more wonderful children and got divorced when I fell in love with a sweet woman from Orange County who happened to be my former sister-in-law. But that is another story.
Peggy: Whoa…I guess that is another story! Maybe next time. OK, you have two different businesses. Please tell us about them.
Celia: My main business is Graterol Consulting Group. We assist non-profits and their funders with organizational development services including evaluation, strategic planning, and program design.
My other business is Mountain Biking Marin. We offer mountain bike tours around the Bay Area and bike skills clinics for people who want to improve their riding. Most of our tour clients are visitors from Europe either here on business or vacation.
Celia: For most of my life I have been self-employed. I became an entrepreneur to have more choice in what I do. Working toward a fair system that offers equal opportunities to get ahead in life has been my passion for as long as I can remember. When I was 18, inspired by my interest in addressing social and health inequities, I became a nun to do social work in small villages in Venezuela. As an adult, my social justice values deepened when I immigrated to the US as I learned that being a “gay woman of color” means belonging to a second or even third class citizen group. Despite these challenges, I have had many successes. As I completed a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in Venezuela, when I immigrated, I brought with me useful skills. Here, I earned a Master’s degree in Public Health. Both degrees combined with my experience as an evaluator allow me to integrate web-based technology into my research.
Peggy: What were you going to be when you grew up?
Celia: I wanted to be a famous singer, an Olympic champion, the president of a country or the CEO of a corporation. I am the founder and president of Graterol Consulting Group so I am pretty close to one of my dreams.
Celia: Yes and no at the same time. It has been a challenge but it has also provided me opportunities to grow both professionally and personally. Learning another culture and language has been fascinating. I love how accepting the people are in Marin County and the Bay Area. One of the challenges is that I am always seen as different, even though I have lived my whole adult life here. Professionally, my accent is sometimes a barrier because people often make the assumption: if you don’t pronounce a word correctly you are not smart, despite the fact you speak two languages fluently. Also, the evaluation field is mostly dominated by Whites so it has been challenging for me to break in to this profession; I have to work harder to prove my credentials. However, being bi-lingual and bi-cultural have given me a foot in the door to obtain evaluation contracts concerning programs with minority populations because there is a belief that I can better relate to the communities involved thus be a better researcher.
Celia: I am very proud of the evaluation methodology I developed, the LogicMap, used to integrate traditional research methods (site visit observations, surveys, focus groups, storytelling) with on-line tools (websites, photographs, databases, social media, bibliographic references). This methodology has built-in data collection and features for on-going program reporting and monitoring. The LogicMap facilitates affordable yet rigorous evaluations and effectively demonstrates program results on-line. This new evaluation tool increases learning opportunities for program officers, clients, and grantee staff about what works.
Celia: I was a morning person during my nun days when I had to wake up really early for meditation and mass service so I was also able to be on time to my college classes. Waking up around 4 am every day for about 2 years made me a night person when I quit being a nun. And I continued being a night person for many years until my partner and wife Sally started working early hours. So now I go to sleep early and wake up early to be on the same schedule as her. It works out nicely because I drop her at the bus stop on my way to early morning yoga and meditation. Talking about closing circles in life!!! I probably won’t become a nun again as I am a bit old for that, but I am going back to my spiritual practice. And instead of mass I do yoga.
I get 6-8 hours of sleep a night.
Peggy: Is there something you do every day that helps you stay grounded?
Celia: I practice yoga about 5 days a week and mountain biking about 3 times a week.
Celia: The fastest way for me to get out of a funk is to get out in nature and do a technical, scary, adrenaline rushing mountain bike ride. In other words, I am an adrenaline junkie.
Celia: Dark chocolate truffle or dark chocolate with salt. I also love Toblerone milk chocolate and I have a weakness for milk chocolate Hershey kisses dipped in espresso.
Peggy: You have 3 adult children. How did you balance motherhood and business when your kids were younger?
Celia: I wouldn’t have been able to work, get my masters degree in Public Health, and take care of three kids, without Sally; Sally has been the most nurturing parent for my kids, always making sure they had everything they needed and never expecting anything in return. Not only was she, and still is, another mom for the kids but she also helped me to be a more present and better mom.
Peggy: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
Celia: I am very proud of my three wonderful children who are now all in college. My youngest one just left to NY and the other two left to LA. I am adjusting to the empty nest feeling. It is bittersweet. Thank you for interviewing me.
Peggy: Namaste, Celia. I am grateful for your time.
I had the pleasure of meeting Kathy Wiley last fall at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. I am a huge fan of Poco Dolce’s chocolates, so I am looking forward to getting to know Kathy better on Monday, July 16th, while I am moderating the Success and Chocolate panel that she will be on at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco. Bay Area friends, be sure to purchase a ticket in advance if you’d like to attend. I am very grateful to our mutual friend Cathy Curtis, who put this event together (and who seems to know everyone in the food world)!
Bio: Kathy Wiley started Poco Dolce Confections, originally a small San Francisco baking company specializing in regional Italian pastries, in 2003. Within a year, she discovered a passion for creating hand-made chocolates with unique and exciting flavors. Having a predilection for more savory foods, Kathy decided to finish a piece of bittersweet chocolate with a sprinkling of Grey Sea Salt. Poco Dolce’s bittersweet chocolate “Tiles” were born.
Peggy: How long ago did you start your company, and what does Poco Dolce mean?
Kathy: In 2002 I started my first version of the company, which was bakery items and Italian regional specialties. Within a year I had renamed it Poco Dolce and switched over to chocolate. So, technically, Poco Dolce was started in 2003.The name Poco Dolce literally translates to ‘just a little sweet or not too sweet’, but of course seems like it would be ‘little sweet’. It embodies my preference for sweets which are not too sweet and often have a savory element.
Kathy: I had many different positions prior to starting Poco Dolce, which run from importing for Williams-Sonoma to cooking professionally, to my last job as Director of IT at a local printing company. I’d been thinking of a business to start and things came together to prompt me quit my job and give myself 6 months to make a plan. Again, I started with something that I knew, baking, while I learned how to work with chocolate. I moved from baking to chocolate after looking at where the company might be in 5-10 years. Chocolate made a lot more sense in both lifestyle and product.
Peggy: How many hours do you work per week and how much sleep do you get?
Kathy: I try to be reasonable with my work schedule. Still, I work 60+ hours a week, depending on the week. I seem to sleep in 4 hour blocks, which means I don’t sleep much. I generally wake up at 5:30am and like to get to work at 6:30-7:00am.
Peggy: What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?
Peggy: What were you going to be when you grew up?
Kathy: I’ve always wanted to have my own business. I was always working on business plans. We lived near a baseball field growing up and my father ran a chain of grocery stores, one of which was a restaurant and store supplier, Prairie Market. My plan was to buy the candy bars and soda from there and sell them at the field. I was a little too shy to execute that, but I did end up working there in high school.
Peggy: Is there something you do every day that helps you stay grounded?
Kathy: I try to get out for a morning walk every day and I like reflect on the day to see what I did or didn’t accomplish and what I can do better the next day.
Peggy: When you are not working, what are you doing?
Kathy: Aside from thinking about work, I love to cook for friends and travel when I can.
Peggy: How do you get out of a funk?
Kathy: One thing that helps me is to go in to work when no one is around and take a moment to see where we are now. I often forget how far we’ve come.
Peggy: This is where I usually ask if you like dark or milk chocolate and what brand is your favorite. I know you’re a dark chocolate person. Can you name a favorite brand other than Poco Dolce?
Kathy: I’ve loved Fran’s Chocolates ever since my first Gold Bar from Williams-Sonoma so many years ago.
Peggy: Kathy, thank you so much for your time. You do great work…I’m a huge fan of your Tiles!
Priscilla Gilman and I “met” on Twitter many months ago, and have been talking about doing this interview since; therefore I am very excited and honored to be featuring her on my blog today. I feel I know Priscilla and her sweet son Benj, after following her Facebook posts and reading her book, which I loved and highly recommend to all parents and teachers. Priscilla is a very warm, patient, and obviously brilliant woman. I hope to one day meet her in person!
Bio: Priscilla Gilman is the author of the acclaimed memoir The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy (Harper), a beautiful exploration of our hopes and expectations for our children, our families, and ourselves, and the ways in which experience may lead us to re-imagine them. Using literature as a touchstone, Gilman reveals her journey through crisis to joy, illuminating the flourishing of life that occurs when we embrace the unexpected. The Anti-Romantic Child was excerpted in Newsweek and featured on the cover of its international edition. It was an NPR Morning Edition Must-Read, Slate’s Book of the Week, and selected as one of the Best Books of 2011 by both The Leonard Lopate Show and the Chicago Tribune. The Anti-Romantic Child was one of five nominees for a Books for a Better Life Award for Best First Book.
Gilman received her B.A. summa cum laude and with exceptional distinction and her Ph.D. in English and American literature from Yale University. She was an English professor at both Yale and Vassar before leaving academia in 2006. From 2006-2011, she worked as a literary agent at Janklow & Nesbit Associates, representing a wide range of literary fiction, inspirational memoir, wellness, and psychology/education books. She has taught poetry to inmates in a restorative justice program, to public school students, and to adult learners. Gilman writes regularly for The Daily Beast, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, MORE magazine, and Huff Post Parents. A prize-winning teacher and with a background in the performing arts, Gilman is a captivating speaker whose warmth, dynamism, and accessibility make her highly sought-after by schools, conferences, and organizations. She blogs at www.priscillagilman.com, and maintains an active Facebook page with over 32,000 fans. She lives in New York City with her family.
Peggy: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Priscilla: When I was born in May 1970, my parents lived in a small rental apartment in a Federal townhouse on Charlton Street in Soho; when I was 1 and my mother was about to have her second girl, we moved to a larger apartment at 333 Central Park West on the Upper West Side. The apartment was what’s known in NYC real estate lingo as a Classic 7—3 bedrooms plus formal dining room and maid’s room (my father’s office)—, and the living room, my parents’ bedroom, and my bedroom all looked out onto Central Park, but it was a rent-controlled building and they paid about $300 a month for it! When I was 8, my parents bought their first apartment, on West 77th Street across from the American Museum of Natural History, and that’s where I lived until I went to college. When I moved back to New York City in 2006, my boys and I lived in a small apartment just a few blocks from 333 CPW, but oh how the neighborhood had changed! A few months ago, my new husband and I bought and combined two apartments in Upper Manhattan (Washington Heights). We have 3 kids and needed more space. The neighborhood up here reminds me of the Upper West Side of my childhood: diverse, warm, liberal, artsy, and affordable, with beautiful parks, lots of teachers, therapists, performers, and families.
Peggy: Priscilla, let me just tell you…writing interview questions for a former Yale English professor is a bit intimidating! ;) This question is about your impressive education. You have Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Yale. At what age did you know you wanted to study literature, and did you always plan on attending Yale?
Priscilla: I was always a passionate reader and literature student, but I didn’t even decide to major in English until my junior year of college. My freshman year, I was in a special honors program called Directed Studies, in which we studied literature, history and politics, and philosophy from the Greeks to the present in year-long interdisciplinary courses. I declared myself a Humanities major my sophomore year, and at the beginning of junior year, thought I’d be a history major, but the two incredible professors who taught me Major English Poets inspired me to pursue a career studying and teaching literature. As far as always planning on attending Yale, there’s no way to plan for such a development! :) No-one in my family had attended an Ivy League School, and neither of my maternal grandparents had even graduated from college. My father began teaching as an adjunct professor at Yale Drama School in the fall of 1969, just around the time I was conceived, and I did grow up wearing little navy blue hooded Yale sweatshirts. I visited Yale for the first time during my junior year of high school and I fell in love with it. I applied for Early Action to Yale, and when I was accepted in December of 1987, I withdrew all my other college applications. My Dad was thrilled; my mother, who didn’t relish the prospect of visiting New Haven, less so.
Peggy: Congratulations on your new book, The Anti-Romantic Child! I read your memoir, initially thinking it was not going to apply to me, as I don’t have a special needs child. I found your book to be incredibly inspiring, though. I came away wondering how you got through it all: realizing your first child has hyperlexia, finishing your dissertation, moving several times, having a second baby, working, getting divorced, losing your beloved father… You are obviously an incredibly strong woman. Are you naturally a positive person? How did you get through that period of your life?
Priscilla: Thank you so much, Peggy! I love hearing that my book resonated with people who don’t have special needs children. My editor once said, ”The book isn’t only about a special needs child or even parenting per se but rather about the curve balls thrown by life and how we respond to them,” and I think that’s a pretty good summary!
Wow was that a hard time- when I think back on it, I sometimes wonder myself how I got through it all! As far as your question about my strength and positivism, yes, I am naturally a very positive person. My parents say I virtually never cried as a baby, slept through the night easily, and was always smiling. In grade and high school, I was the one who cheered up sad people, counseled those going through difficulty, and put smiley-face stickers on all my notebooks. My father struggled with depression, and from a young age, I was the sunny, reassuring, happy presence who buoyed and comforted him. In many of my romantic relationships, I’ve been the light-giver and the one who brings a can-do spirit of pluck and hope to seemingly overwhelming situations and predicaments. My new husband calls me his ”Girl of Silver Linings”. I’m very fortunate that way- my temperament is naturally buoyant and joyful. But I am also a very pragmatic, clear-sighted person who puts a lot of stock in rigorous honesty and authenticity, and I have a strong resistance to any kind of positivism that involves denial or blind, unrealistic faith in the face of evidence to the contrary. With the help of a great therapist and great books by therapists and spiritual teachers including Edward Hallowell, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Pema Chodron, I actively banished excessive worrying and unproductive ruminating from my consciousness. I worked very hard to be more in the moment and to focus on the good, the positive, the gifts. I sacrificed a lot: I never went out socially during the first years of my children’s lives and I never took a vacation. That approach didn’t ultimately make for a good balance, and ultimately I changed careers when it became evident that I wouldn’t be able to be the kind of mother I needed to be and work as a tenure-track English professor. I tried to eliminate toxic people from my life and focused on building the strongest relationships I could possibly have with the people who really mattered and whose presence was uplifting rather than enervating. I read voraciously and relied on authors and thinkers as sources of insight, ideas, support, and reassurance. As a result of all the essentially simultaneous crises in my life (Benj’s diagnosis, my marriage’s disintegration, my father’s terminal illness, career and housing changes), I learned how to ask for help and how to say no. Most of all, I strove to keep foremost in my mind at all times the innumerable blessings of being these boys’ mother and the awareness that difficulty and challenge give us our greatest opportunities for growth and happiness. Toni Morrison’s sage counsel “If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it” is one of my go-to affirmations. I’m fortunate in my family who uphold me with their rock-solid love and fortitude. Finally, I’ve been lucky enough to know several extraordinary people— my other mother Mia Farrow, my former client Sunny Schwartz, my stepmother Yasuko Shiojiri—whose own resilience in the face of tragedy and challenge serves as an example and a beacon for me. So I guess I’d say the sources of my strength are wide and varied: the blessings of genetics, a belief that realistic optimism itself can change our experience for the better, literature and quotations, excellent role models, an active gratitude practice, and the insights and empathy of my family, friends, and now, readers!
Peggy: It seemed like you reached a turning point the day your pediatrician, Dr. B, said to you, about your son Benj, “This child has been given to you, Priscilla, for a reason.”. True? Why was that statement so important to you?
Priscilla: I think a passage from my book will help explain why:
Dr. B could not have given me a greater gift than his intuitive belief that I would be able to help and make a difference in Benj’s life, that simply to love Benj was thereby to ‘treat” him. He didn’t scant the value of a clinical evaluation and he expressed his firm belief that therapies could help Benj live a more fulfilling life. But he also made it clear that the most important treatment for Benj was love. He set up the act of evaluation not as a cold clinical process or as an admission of failure or disorder on Benj’s part but as still enchanted. All the questionnaires, the tests, the bubbles I’d filled or have to fill in or checklists I’d filled or have to fill out, were retrospectively and proleptically explained as ways to appreciate Benj, not to dissect him. This was so important. Evaluation and therapy and intervention were defined not as harsh and distanced and aggressive acts of interrogation and classification but rather as investments of love and energy, care and attention. Dr. B revived our romantic vision, but in a deeper way, in his office. This child is going to prosper from your caring, Priscilla, he told me. This is not about a label or a diagnosis. It’s about both unfolding and preserving the mystery of his self.
Peggy: You ended your book with this, from Wordsworth’s “The Sparrow’s Nest”:
[He] gave me eyes, … [he] gave me ears;
And humble cares, and delicate fears;
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
And love, and thought, and joy.
Please explain what these words mean to you.
Priscilla: Oh how I love this amazing stanza!!! These words summarize, in the most beautiful way, the myriad gifts Benj has blessed me with. They’re from a relatively obscure Wordsworth poem, and they only came to me very late in the process as the perfect way to end the book. I love their simultaneous simplicity and profundity and the way they celebrate the complicated gifts of being a parent. Benj has helped me to become more mindful, more appreciative, and more grateful. Being his mother has brought new sources of care and fear into my life, but I love the way Wordsworth describes cares and fears as ”humble” and “delicate”- not overwhelming or draining. Benj has made me think in new and deeper ways; he’s taught me the true meaning of love, and he’s given me joy, in this sense:
Joy is appropriate even in the midst of suffering, even in the midst of pain . . Joy is that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens. Normally, we are happy when something good happens, and we are unhappy when something happens that we do not consider good. We pick and choose. But joy is our wholehearted response to whatever
opportunity is given to us in any moment. It does not depend on what happens.
Peggy: Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Priscilla: I do, absolutely! Every writer does, I think. There are several ways that I cope with feeling blocked. One is to simply take a break from trying to write: to recognize when I’m pushing too hard or straining too much and turn to something else. Another is listening to music; in this interview with Poets and Writers, I talk about the specific music that helped me write The Anti-Romantic Child:
And finally, I do really well with deadlines!
Peggy: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Priscilla: I think the most helpful advice I could give them would be this passage from May Sarton. I discovered it only recently, but it could have been my motto while writing The Anti-Romantic Child:
“At some point I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend, and come
out with personal truth. If we are to understand the human condition,
and if we are to accept ourselves in all the complexity, self-doubt,
extravagance of feeling, guilt, joy, the slow freeing of the self to
its full capacity for action and creation, both as human being and as
artist, we have to know all we can about each other, and we have to be
willing to go naked.”
Peggy: Who is your favorite author, or poet, and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Priscilla: Wordsworth is my favorite poet, and his poetry is threaded throughout my memoir. I also adore Jane Austen- I wrote my dissertation on Wordsworth, Austen, and a strange, fascinating 18th century poet named William Cowper. Other favorite authors include Marilynne Robinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Kazuo Ishiguro, E.B. White, Alain De Botton, ee cummings, John Keats, Anne Lamott, Virginia Woolf. What qualities do all these ostensibly very different writers share? A precision and grace with language, a rigorous commitment to honesty, a searching, curious, ardent sensibility, and a capacity for wonder.
Peggy: Is there something you do every day (meditate, pray, exercise, read) that helps you stay balanced?
Priscilla: I do meditate every day; I took a course in Transcendental Meditation the summer before I started graduate school and I truly believe that it made the difference for me in terms of being able to get through both the rigors of academia and the challenges of parenting, a divorce, and a career change. I make sleep a top priority. I eat a very healthy diet with minimal sugar and no dairy products. I don’t exercise every day, but I always feel better if I’m able to take a nice walk. I try to read something every day that makes me feel calm, centered, peaceful, and grateful. That means that I read an awful lot of poetry, spiritual non-fiction (recently I’ve been immersed in Thomas Merton), and inspirational self-help (currently obsessed with Brene Brown).
Peggy: Dark or milk chocolate? Do you have a favorite brand?
Priscilla: Dark, always dark. I love Dove Promises (I eat on average 5 pieces a day), Lindt 99% for a jolt of intense energy, and the Jacques Torres Gift Box of Dark Chocolate- my husband’s go-to gift for me on special occasions. I also love to make cocoa with soy milk, good old Hershey’s cocoa powder, and apple juice!
Peggy: Priscilla, thank you so much for your time! I’m honored. :)
9 year old food blogger Martha Payne has been all over the worldwide news lately due to her food blog NeverSeconds which has gone viral, with over 1.6 million pageviews so far. Martha started her blog because she was coming home from school hungry due to lousy-tasting, unhealthy school lunches. She decided to take photos of her lunch every day and post them on a blog, along with ratings of the food. It wasn’t long before she received international attention…even school lunch activist Jamie Oliver got involved. And, more importantly, her school has improved the quality of their lunches because of Martha’s efforts!
As soon as I read about Martha, naturally I wanted to interview her. I checked her blog for contact info, then after finding none went directly to Twitter. Bingo…I found her dad, Dave, who is, of course, a #prouddad, as he stated in one of his tweets! (Thank you, Dave, for tweeting me back with your email address!) Martha was kind enough to get back to me within 24 hours with her fantastic answers to my questions… :)
Peggy: Where do you live, how old are you, and what grade are you in?
Martha: I live in Lochgilphead in Argyll in Scotland. I am 9 years old and in a class called P5.
Martha: I wrote a newspaper article in school about the sinking of the Titanic and really enjoyed it so I asked Dad if I could write everyday. I came up with the idea of a blog about lunches because I was coming home hungry.
Martha: I have seen some of Jamie’s TV programmes with my family and we have some of his recipe books. Many people sent him a message about my blog. He said on TV that I should take over from him! I don’t feel famous. My friends are the same as before. It’s nice to be asked questions but I think I’d rather ask than answer.
Martha: My mum has a really important job. She is a family doctor and also runs a hospital. When she is on call she has to rush in sometimes. She is always fair and kind to everyone. One rule we have is limited electronic time so I am not allowed to watch a lot of TV or play on computers though answering this email doesn’t count! We have to mute TV ads and dad always says he’d rather give us an experience than a toy.
Martha: I’d like to be a journalist and ask questions. I have a friend in Spain who is a journalist and she is really cool.
Martha: I like to have my friends over to play. We make dens outside and I show them our lambs. Sometimes they help round the sheep up.
Martha: I love chocolate and my favourite is called Dairy Milk.
Martha: Thank you for reading my blog.
Laura Fenamore is another amazing and successful woman I’ve met via Twitter, and have had the pleasure of meeting in person several times at A Band of Wives functions, as well as local TweetUps. I can’t imagine Laura weighing 220 pounds, as she once did, because she is very fit and thin now, as you can see in this lovely photo of her. Here is Laura’s story on how she lost 100 pounds and started her OnePinky business…
Bio: Weight Release & Body Image Coach Laura Fenamore is on a mission to guide women around the world to love what they see in the mirror, one pinky at a time, so they can unlock the secrets to a healthy weight and start loving their lives as soon as possible.
Having overcome her own battle with addiction, obesity, and eating disorders, Laura released over 100 pounds 24 years ago to begin a journey to guide other women to live more joyous, balanced lives. The author of the forthcoming book Weightless: 7 Tools to Love Your Body (and Lose Weight For Good) and a frequent contributor to local and national media – including First for Women, Ladies Home Journal, the Dr. Pat Show and blog contributor on Betty Confidential, Daily Love and Positively Positive. Laura believes that self-love and self-care is where the transformation begins. Learn more about her programs, invite her to speak or contribute to your program or conference at OnePinky.com.
Peggy: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Laura: I grew up in New York and at 18 years young, (I will be 49 in July), I moved to California. My 1st cousins moved out here first…that’s what brought me out here. I feel like they came out to California to get me out here…that was their purpose. They went back to the East Coast, I stayed. I was going down my darkest road at that time. I had been in two car wrecks from alcoholism. I went deeper into darkness after I moved…I gained more weight, and was doing drugs and alcohol. I walked over the Golden Gate Bridge every week and thought about taking my life. One day I had a moment of clarity and as I like to say, “saw the light”. I was suicidal, fat, drunk, depressed and an angel came into my life and suggested I go a 12-step meeting. Fortunately for me, at the time, I listened and both AA and OA became my launching pad to consciousness work.
Peggy: I can’t believe that you were ever 100 pounds overweight. How long ago did you lose the weight, and how have you kept it off?
Laura: 24 years ago. I got into Overeaters Anonymous which gave me the support I needed. I was on a very strict diet, basically starving myself. I don’t recommend that way. I didn’t exercise until years later. I really got, very clear early on in my recovery, that I had to accept myself at 220 pounds before I could release any weight. I knew that if I could love and accept myself, I could release the weight for good which I did. I don’t abuse myself anymore. Through the years I have attended many different kinds of self-help groups which have supported my journey. I see that as a sign of strength not weakness. We build the foundation to our lives and then we need support systems to keep it going peacefully and healthily.
Laura: I’ve been coaching mostly women (some men) for 8 years. I started OnePinky, Healthy Weight Through Healthy Body Image, in 2009. When I was in that very dark space, right before I lost my weight, a stereotypical thin, beautiful woman named Mary told me that she hated herself. We both knew that there was something in our minds that needed to be adjusted. She and I made a pinky promise that we would love our bodies starting with our pinkies. We would appreciate what they did, vs. how they looked. Function over Form. She and I made a commitment to doing that and when it came time to name my community, since “starting small with big results” was what I am after, OnePinky felt like the right name. I know that when women try to change when they are unhappy and are war with their bodies, they begin with defeat in mind. We are not going to get anywhere if we continue to call ourselves fat and ugly.
Laura: We actually address issues around nutrition, however that is not the focus. The body can and will heal, if we give it space to uproot some of the deeper emotional issues from childhood and our lives that have been festering and being projected onto our bodies. So, a group of 15-20 amazing women from around the world and I meet on the phone once a week, for 12 weeks. We deal with the “issues in our tissues”. We look at the deeper issues that are causing us to be fixated on food, such as low self-worth, loneliness, resentment, rage, anger and unresolved conflicts from our past. As far as the weight release goes, since most women want to release weight, I offer and suggest different ways of eating for their bodies. Every single being has different dietary needs as far as food plans go…I offer a few different plans to see what resonates with them, making it as holistic as possible. When women…people, for that matter…find emotional and spiritual balance, the physical body will take care of itself and weight release will occur. It just does. I see it happen all the time. And it makes my heart sing with Joy.
Laura: Gloria Steinem. I love her calm power…she is such a powerful woman. I recently met her, and that was amazing. It’s as if she’s been your best friend for 10 years. She’s very down to earth. I want to be like her at 78…still healthily working for the cause with Joy. [Click here to read Laura’s blog post about her meeting with Ms. Steinem.]
Laura: I’m a total morning person. I try to get 8…I average 7. Up at 5 or 5:30am most days.
Laura: A Course in Miracles is my spiritual practice, and has been for 20+ years. My favorite quote is by Thomas Jefferson: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
Laura: I pray and meditate 5-20 minutes per day, depending on the day. And, I exercise every day. I love it. Off to the gym now in fact…
Laura: I pray and I reach out and ask for help. 99% of the time I lean into my partner Kathleen for support because she’s my best friend and as solid as a rock. That is why I picked her nearly 15 years ago.
Laura: Definitely dark, though chocolate was never something I was addicted to. My wife eats Equal Exchange Organic Panama Extra Dark - 80%. I used to eat a lot of Scharffenberger.Since I teach that food, including chocolate, are not the enemy, I say eat it with LOVE. It is the shame and regret that really turn it from pleasure to poison.
Laura: My business is actually my life’s assignment. I didn’t choose it; it chose me…through my life experience. I am committed to a new conversation that women have about their bodies…and that it be a loving conversation instead of the nasty, mean conversation that women tend to have. Love will create the change women are seeking, not fear, doubt, self-criticism and self-hatred. Love is the bridge from the heart to the head and my intention is to hold many more women’s hands as they make that journey.
The New York Times calls Vicki Abeles’ film “a must see movie”; The Washington Post describes it as “A growing grass-roots phenomenon”; and a reviewer for the Huffington Post says ‘No Child Left Behind’ Means a Race to Nowhere.
I saw Race to Nowhere when it first came out, in 2010, at our local theater. Vicki was there that night, and spoke after the filming. I have long been a critic of the No Child Left Behind Act, as I have seen what it has done to our education system and today’s children. I am a big fan of preserving childhood and instilling a love of learning in children…and I am not a fan of kids being saddled down with piles of homework. That said, I was nodding my head throughout Vicki’s film. I applaud this woman for taking action, big-time!
Bio: Vicki Abeles, an ex-Wall Street lawyer and mother of three, turned filmmaker in 2007 to produce her first feature documentary, Race to Nowhere, a vivid portrayal of the pressure-cooker culture dominating America’s schools. Using a cutting-edge community distribution model that has showcased the film in more than 4,500 community-sponsored screenings, Abeles has brought Race to Nowhere to more than 1 million viewers nationwide. She lives with her family in the San Francisco area, and continues to produce films on issues affecting children, women and families. Additional credits include Associate Producer on the Sundance favorite Miss Representation and parent facilitator on Edutopia, part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
Peggy: You were a lawyer, with no filmmaker experience, when you decided to create Race to Nowhere. How did you get your idea off the ground?
Vicki: I started by talking to everyone I knew to better understand the experience of students today. And I set out to understand all I could about documentary filmmaking. I’m a connector and found in the Bay area a supportive community of filmmakers and other documentary professionals who were instrumental in guiding me throughout the production of the film.
We spent over 8 months researching the issues and speaking with students, parents, educators, pediatricians, psychologists, and child development experts. Even during this initial phase, I knew it was important to start filming, so I took out my camera and started shooting. In 6 weeks we produced an 18-minute film that was so well received it gave me the inspiration to continue capturing stories.
Instinctively, I always knew there was an important story to be told, and believed that a film would have the potential to reach large numbers of people and to inspire change.
Peggy: How long did it take to create the film? What is it in you that was able to see that process through?
Vicki: Production of the film was completed in about 20 months. My determination and commitment to inspire change that improves the lives of children was a big factor in seeing the film through to completion and also in our hybrid approach to distribution - maintaining our focus on using the film as a vehicle to bring communities together and spark action. Being fearless - unafraid to make mistakes and keep going - was also a big factor in seeing the process through.
Peggy: Did you expect Race to Nowhere to be so successful?
Vicki: Five years ago, I had an “Inconvenient Truth” moment around the way our culture has come to define success and the impact it is having on our children, our schools and our future. I believed in the power of the stories of students to tip the scales of public awareness and create the determination to take action to reclaim healthy childhood and inspire a new vision for education. Just after the Mill Valley Film Festival, we began to share the film in community settings with town hall style discussions following. It was clear that the film had hit a cultural nerve and the greatest hope for change would be in bringing communities together to see the film and discuss the issues and their vision for change.
Peggy: What changes did you make in your own family with regard to education and homework after you realized the pressures your children were under?
Vicki: With a good dose of self-reflection, humility and honesty, I knew that at the “end of the day” I simply wanted my children to be happy, healthy, independent, informed, resilient people who are contributing members of society. I took steps to simplify life for my family and prioritized time for relationships, play/downtime and sleep. I stopped asking about homework and grades. I didn’t want my children to see me as one more person measuring and comparing them. As parents, we are the most important people from whom our children seek approval, and I didn’t want them to think my approval or love was contingent on grades, test scores and trophies. We shifted our conversations to things they were excited about learning. I stopped checking the homework and was determined not to allow it to take over family life. Our children have the space to make mistakes and learn from them. Once I considered that what I ultimately wanted for my children - happiness and health - I set out to find ways to align our actions with our hopes for our children.
Peggy: What are you working on now?
Vicki: We’ve launched a call-to-action movement that is providing resources and a support network for parents, families, educators, medical professionals, policy makers and corporations seeking to measure educational achievement not through evaluation, busywork and competition (i.e. testing, homework and college admissions) but instead through a child’s successful embrace of personal challenge, a love of learning, and a sense of common purpose. I’m also working on a book and am in pre-production on my next documentary.
Peggy: How do you balance work and motherhood?
Vicki: Finding balance is an ongoing challenge. Not only is there the work I’m passionate about and all that goes with being a parent, but there’s the rest of life - friendships, extended family, marriage and my health. And with technology opening the floodgates of unlimited communication, and work weeks for us and our children spilling into evenings and weekends, finding quality downtime is a challenge and a priority for me. I find that I’m more productive at work and happiest at home when I make time to connect with friends, exercise, get outdoors, sleep and read a book. On a daily basis I remind myself to be present with whatever it is I’m doing. And there are days when I’m struck by the irony of the work I’m doing and my own challenges around finding balance.
Vicki: Definitely a morning person! I get about 7 hours of sleep a night.
Vicki: Spending time with those I’m closest to (especially my children), cooking, getting outdoors, and moving works wonders for me. And with work, it’s critical that I spend time in the communities screening and discussing Race to Nowhere - that’s the best resource for inspiration.
Vicki: I’m currently reading Rework on the topic of workaholism. (Excerpts can be found on its site: http://37signals.com/rework/.) There’s research that points to the detrimental effect of workaholism on leadership and management. There’s a parallel issue in our approach to raising and educating our children and adolescents.
Vicki: So many favorites when it comes to chocolate. Bridgewater Chocolate from Connecticut (try their bark), Cocobella in San Francisco, and my son introduced me to the best hot chocolate at Bittersweet Cafe. And there are usually plenty of Hershey’s kisses on hand at my office. And, as a filmmaker, I need to mention my favorite popcorn - 479 Popcorn (Fleur de Sel Caramel) in San Francisco!
Vicki: Naysayers may wrongly conclude that my message is about lowering the bar. Rather, I, along with hundreds of thousands of educators, parents, health care professionals and students are instead rebelling against the current culture with its emphasis on competition, test scores and resume building. I’m advocating for a new vision for education and childhood. If we truly want to improve the educational experience of our children, our focus should not be hinged on competition with other nations; it must begin with conscious parenting and education practices that address the development of the whole child – their intellectual, emotional and physical well-being. They center on developing creativity and critical thinking through project-based learning and fostering student engagement through collaboration. They support a model of parenting and education that encourages children to discover their individual talents and pursue their true passions. They don’t demand perfection. They don’t involve assigning more homework, prolonging the school day, or increasing assessment tests. Our schools need to be community institutions that nurture and inspire children.