If Women Ran the World, Sh*t Would Get Done now a Spirited Woman Top 12 Holiday Book Pick!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reflections to the Letter: An Interview with Jessey Ina-Lee and Diana Martens

Jessey Ina-Lee has earned various degrees and certificates which include interior design, art, music and even a master’s degree in psychology. She has had a number of different professions and a lot of jobs, including teacher, real estate sales/appraisal, secretary, interior and graphic designer, and homemaker. Oh, yes, and there’s the very important jobs of being daughter, sister, caretaker, companion, partner and friend. She has also been devoted to animal rescue work, other social causes, writing, art, music and dance.

Diana Martens grew up in Charleston, West Virginia and was immersed in art from the beginning with her father, Robert E. Martens, an architect and sculptor, and her mother, Eloise Guthrie Martens, a musician and composer. Shortly after graduating from college, she began “drawing” her unusual style on large acrylic spheres that were made to be used as covers for outdoor lighting. Loving the shape, and experimenting with many sizes of spheres, she found the clear, solid acrylic spheres to be the perfect “canvas” for her work.

Soon after Diana moved to Connecticut in 1994, she began drawing her unique alphabet which is now part of the book, Reflections to the Letter, which is a collaborative work with Jessey. The artwork from the book has been shown in a number of select galleries in Connecticut and West Virginia. It’s a beautiful and inspirational book, and I was really excited to talk to Diana and Jessey about it.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more your book, Reflections to the Letter.

Jessey Ina-Lee: This is the description we wrote for the cover of the book, and I hope it doesn't sound like bragging, but I think it's true. "Reflections to the Letter is a beautiful, thought-provoking book with stunning full-color illustrations of each letter of the alphabet. The unusual art with its interesting shapes and pulsating, vibrant color offers an adventure into the imagination. Each letter is represented by dramatic art accompanied by a short essay. From introspective reflections on childhood experiences to interesting observations from the vantage point of a back-yard lawn chair, each piece offers an unusual perspective. This book is a thought-provoking look at life that will make you go hmm....... "

Diana Martens: Reflections to the Letter is the culmination of many incarnations of our combined art work. The first one was my black and white letters with very simple, well wishing words to go with each letter. Each evolution of our book was a step toward the finished book you see today. The phrase that speaks most about our process is that we have ended up with a book where “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. It grew, it flowered, and it was a wonderful process!

Shelly Rachanow: The art inside your book is breathtaking. What made you start drawing the alphabet?

Diana Martens: I have always loved black and white pen and ink. Over the years I developed a distinct style of showing motion and movement that seems to be stopped at a given moment. A good friend had been watching my work and said. “Diana, do you think you could draw the letters of the alphabet in your style?” So the project began!

The more I worked on the letters, the more fascinated I became with the alphabet itself. It is amazing to me that only twenty six letters are the basis for our language .The letters of the alphabet tell stories, communicate thoughts, feeling, ideas, concerns, hopes and dreams. I wanted my drawing of the letters to be a tribute to their role in our lives. I read books about the history of the alphabet and my awe of these 26 letters continues to this day. It is amazing!

Shelly Rachanow: What inspired you and Jessey to collaborate?

Diana Martens: I had just finished putting border designs around each letter of my alphabet. These borders finished and framed the artwork and I was excited! I proudly showed them to my artist friend Jessey. She thought they were amazing and quickly asked if it would be alright with me for her to scan one of my letters in her computer and “see what would happen” when she added color to it. I said, “Sure. Why not.”

Neither of us knew, at that point, how many hours of work this suggestion would entail. I certainly had no idea or expectation of the results.

I will never forget opening the first file of the letter Jessey had colored. I was blown away! It was absolutely beautiful! It changed my work so dramatically that it took my breath away! And my work was still there. I loved it!

And so the work continued.

Jessey Ina-Lee: When I saw Diana's pen and ink drawings, I asked her if I could color them. I have a graphics background and in my mind's eye, I could see them in full color. I was very excited about the possibility of working on the letters. Diana agreed to let me do it and I spent many, many hours scanning and coloring the artwork. The computer sees each white space as a separate object, so I had to color every tiny space individually. It took months to finish the letters. But each one was so beautiful, it kept me going!

After that, Diana and I worked on putting together a book. Since she had originally done the drawings for a friend's child, we were thinking a children's book, but somehow that just didn't work. Then I got the idea of using some of my writing with the letters and making an inspirational book for adults. Diana liked the idea so I started working on our alphabet book for adults. The result was Reflections to the Letter.

Shelly Rachanow: The messages next to each letter are really inspiring. Give us a small sample of one of your favorites.

Jessey Ina-Lee: To me, the writings are like when you look at something and then tilt you head a little bit to the right or left to see a slightly different angle. That's how I see things - from a slightly different view - and that's what the writings are about – how I see the world. One of my favorites is the letter R - Realizations. It’s a slightly different view of some very familiar sights. An audio reading of that piece can be found by clicking on the Reflections Sound Clip at: http://womonswork.com/page15.php.

Diana Martens: The beauty of the vignettes that Jessey has written to go with each letter is that depending on what is going on in my life, different letters are my favorites.

My all time favorite letter is the letter B and it is also my favorite message. What Jessey says about “Brilliance” is a humbling and inspiring message. The more I know - the more there seems to be for me to know! (And, yes, the word is misspelled on its page – it was a test to see if all the brilliant people were paying attention!)

Shelly Rachanow: This book was definitely a labor of love for you, and I’m sure it was an amazing feeling when you finished it (which I totally understand myself as an author). What words of wisdom do you have for other people who are currently pursuing a dream?

Diana Martens: My advice to anyone pursuing a dream is to not limit the scope of your dream by the distance you can see right now. Don’t be afraid to let the dream grow and evolve as you move toward it. Remember how I thought I was “finished” when I completed the borders of each letter. This book would not have happened if I had let it stop there! And now the book is a reality and we’ve even been featured in a magazine! How exciting is that? See our write-up at http://www.womonswork.com/page20.php - link to Stylus Magazine.

Jessey Ina-Lee: My advice to anyone is just to work on what you love and in a way that will keep you in love with your work. Other than the graphic arts jobs, I’ve always had jobs unrelated to my creative work because I didn’t want to mix the two. So, how I make a living and what I do are not necessarily the same thing. I don’t want to create according to someone else’s specifications. I want the freedom to create what I choose when I choose. I work on many projects at once and love bouncing back and forth between them. Sometimes, I put a project aside for years and then come back to it with a fresh approach.

For me, what matters is the process. I love the process of creating. I’ve done books and art and videos and plays and jewelry – I can’t even remember all of my creative pursuits. But they’ve all been works of love, and they fill me with joy!

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Diana Martens: If I ran the world, I would make food and shelter for everyone a priority.

Jessey Ina-Lee: I would bring back good old-fashioned manners. Judith Martin (Miss Manners) is one of my favorite authors and I love her book, MISS MANNERS RESCUES CIVILIZATION in which she “calls on etiquette to champion the quest for civil decency.” Bringing back common courtesy and consideration of others would go a long way toward solving world problems.

To contact Jessey or to learn more about her work, visit http://www.womonswork.com/ or email jesseyina-lee@sbcglobal.net.

To contact Diana, email dianamartens402@aol.com, or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

International Fund for Educational Development: An Interview with Patricia Sullivan

Patricia Sullivan is a C.P.A. and formerly was employed as a Chief Financial Officer. She dedicates herself as a volunteer for International Fund for Educational Development (IFED), and personally identifies the projects, organizations and individuals with whom the organization partners.

She is a foreign professor at Anhui University of Finance and Economics in Bengbu, Anhui Province, China. She teaches International Business, Financial Reporting Standards and Ethics to C.P.A. candidates and develops training programs for the Accounting Department. She serves as a consultant to the Bengbu City government for Economic Development and mentors the student leaders of the Dragon Lake Keepers environmental awareness organization.

I first met Pat when I was writing my second book, What Would You Do If YOU Ran the World?, and I’m as inspired by her now as I was three years ago. I was so excited to talk with her about everything she and IFED have been doing since then.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about the International Fund for Economic Development (IFED).

Patricia Sullivan: IFED’s mission statement is to make a better world, one village at a time. Our goals are to improve peoples’ lives and environment by being global, yet acting locally.

“IF Education, all things are possible.”

We believe that education, training and helping individuals, communities and entire cities to maximize and realize their potential produces economic benefit for everyone.

We do this by “tossing pebbles and watching ripples form.” It only takes a little effort to start a movement that can take on a life of its own.

Much credit for our success is attributable to our donors and the IFED Board of Directors, which is comprised of talented, enthusiastic and generous members from around the world. Our Board members contribute their time, energy and financial support to expanding our training programs and environmental publications. Our members travel to support and review projects, interview scholarship candidates and deliver supplies. As volunteers, their commitment enables us to make a significant impact in the world with minimal overhead costs.

Nadeen Green, our Director of Education, is also the author of our two environmental publications – Let There Be Dragons and The Ballad of Bengbu. Our Treasurer, Ned Cone, has traveled to China to assist in the candidate selection process for our scholarship candidates. Will Shipley, Director of Marketing and Promotions, has been instrumental in our South America projects, along with Vanenka Mosquiera, our Peruvian Project manager. Rodrigo Tobar de la Fuente is our web site designer and the illustrator of both of our environmental publications. Much enthusiasm has been generated by his beautiful, creative efforts in the illustration of our environmental publications. In China, Xue Xioaoming manages our projects throughout the country, identifying educational and humanitarian needs in Anhui Province as well as contributing supplies and his linguistic skills to the medical relief effort in Sichuan Province after the 2008 earthquake.

As representatives for IFED, we try to lead by our example and motivate the young people around us to expand their imaginations and see more possibilities. We inspire them to reach beyond their comfort zones and aspire to greater goals and achievements. We recognize the cultural differences in each of the countries where we work and try to build “friendship bridges” and act as goodwill ambassadors for America.

Shelly Rachanow: What inspired you to start IFED?

Patricia Sullivan: My first grade teacher, Sister Patricia Rodemann, taught us more than the alphabet and phonics. She taught us appreciation for what we have, compassion for those who have less and that we have a social responsibility to “feed the children” who are starving in other countries of the world.

I attribute her early influence with my “attitude of gratitude,” commitment to improve the lives of those less fortunate, and desire to live my life “on purpose” – aware of the small things around me that I can immediately impact. We believe in the Confucius saying, “If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, if you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime.”

Shelly Rachanow: Where are some of the places IFED has made an impact?

Patricia Sullivan: IFED projects can be broken down into three categories: Economic Development, Education (Environmental and Academic) and Humanitarian.

Once a community is identified, the need established and the infrastructure and support network is in place to make a project sustainable, we work with the local government and community leaders to determine what they believe to be the opportunities and what works and fits within their cultural framework.

It is imperative that they have access to raw materials (wood, clay, fiber, and seed) which can be cultivated, given access to tools, to create products for resale. We typically partner with other organizations that have a management presence and can be onsite to support the process.

The key to the success of our programs is sustainability…the programs grow and prosper beyond the time that we are directly involved. This can be accomplished with proper resourcing, education and training of the community leaders.

We encourage the preservation of the cultures and share an appreciation for the diversity of peoples on our planet.

Some of our projects include:

  1. Computers, a computer training centers and workshops in the over 22 communities in the Northern Andes of Peru
  2. Sewing coops for adults and youth, equipped with foot-powered sewing machines, fabric and supplies in the Amazon region of Peru
  3. A ceramics kiln utilizing locally accessible material for pottery clay
  4. Roof for a school in the Chachapoyan region of the Northern Andes to keep the snow, rain and wind out of the classrooms
  5. Bookcases for the schools to protect the limited supply of library books safe, dry, and protected from rodents
  6. Sponsorship of programs for the CCC library, to include carpentry workshops, reading and environmental programs and veterinarian access for pet spaying and neutering
  7. Cookware, dishes and eating utensils furnished to a community of 90 persons where sanitation and access to clean potable water was creating disease and infections
  1. Dragon Lake Keepers environmental awareness organization that teaches in the elementary and high school
  2. Economic Development project currently being developed and coordinated with the Bengbu city government to introduce Dragon Boat racing, educate existing businesses on opportunities to market internationally and spur entrepreneurial ventures to support tourism in the area.
  3. Fuyang Orphanage in Anhui Province was in a dire situation, without basic sustenance or hygienic necessities, placing the 200 plus children at risk. Our involvement, at the government’s request, created a media urgency that enabled the facility to attain the necessary funding for operations.
  4. Sichuan Earthquake support was provided by our Dragon Lake Keepers members collected funds and gathered the required medical and food supplies for delivery directly to the affected area of the country. Our China Project Manager, Xue Xiaoming, hand delivered these supplies and worked with the International medical team – translating for the medical staff and communicating with the families during this very stressful time.

In 2010 we identified an organization that we are working with to develop and expand their current projects and objectives – to include a nutritional program, computer training and teaching cooking and gardening skills. The Cambodia Children’s Painting Project (CCPP) http://www.letuscreatecambodia.org/ is located in Sihanoukville, in the south of the country.

Their children struggle daily with uncaring or abusive parents, living in extremely impoverished households, lacking regular access to food, clean drinking water and medical care. These children come from the beaches in the local area, collecting cans and bottles for a meager return or selling bracelets and such to tourists for money. Their objective is to provide these vulnerable children with the opportunity to develop their imagination and skills through artistic expression, and providing them a safe place to play, learn and dream.

Their organizational mission, like IFED’s, is to provide future opportunities through education.

United States of America:
  1. A senior citizen computer training facility was set up at the Robert D. Fowler YMCA in Norcross, Georgia. 15 computers donated to IFED were placed to fill the objective of enabling seniors to connect with loved ones geographically separated but accessible via the internet through email.
  2. A student training facility was established at the A. Worley Brown Boys & Girls Club facility in Norcross, Georgia. The 15 donated computers are available to children and teens in the community who attend the after-school and summer programs. The mission of this program is to empower members to become caring, productive adults and to provide a positive place, productive activities and the guidance of caring adults.
  3. Five computers were provided to the S.A.F.E. House in Blairsville, Georgia. This facility provides Support in Abusive Family Emergencies. The computers enable the women to search for work and housing options and assist the resident children with support for homework and their continued education.
  4. We have secured college scholarships from Young Harris College, in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia, for International students with limited financial resources.
  5. We coordinate with local colleges and universities to provide guest speakers and present cultural programs, creating a forum for open dialogue with our Global Friendship Ambassadors, scholarship students and board members and esteemed donors.
Shelly Rachanow: How can people help or get involved with IFED?

Patricia Sullivan: International Fund for Economic Development, Inc. (IFED) is a 501(c)(3) organization. Tax deductible donations can be made directly to IFED at PO Box 668, Young Harris, Georgia 30582 or through Network for Good at http://www.networkforgood.org/ - keyword IFED.

We invite individuals to “sponsor”, through a specific and targeted donation, tools or items that will be used in one of our existing projects – computers, language software, food processors, pressure cookers, sewing fabric, school supplies, hygiene and medical products and small stuffed animals (many children will, otherwise, never have a toy).

Shelly Rachanow: What’s one thing you want people to realize when it comes to making a difference?

Patricia Sullivan: You CAN make a difference.

It seems impossible, when you are focused on the day to day of work, family and other responsibilities, to think about how you can make a difference in the “global village”, beyond your own world. “Random acts of kindness” take little time or effort and their impact can create “ripples of change.” Sometimes the smile you give can change one person’s world....and we all smile in the same language!

I believe that we have the power within us to positively influence individuals who we encounter each day, as well as others in our “circle,” and that human kindness is infectious. Imagine a movement where everyone treated others with respect, appreciation and as if they are significant in their lives.

I want people to know and appreciate that we are surrounded by inspiration. You can choose to focus on the positive, surround yourself with people who are optimistic and motivating and proactively seek solutions which will enable you to understand that “all things are possible.”

Charity and compassion begin at home...and as a parent, you can help children to learn social responsibility and respect for others. Simple lessons – canned goods for the local food pantry, toys for tots, providing a gift for a less fortunate individual featured on the holiday tree at the local department store, a letter or CARE package to a soldier, or spare change to one of the many organizations who do so much good in our world - the Salvation Army, the Lion’s, March of Dimes, Shriner’s Hospital or the Firefighters Boot Campaign. You can volunteer a day to an organization planting trees for the environment, collecting or raising money for medical treatment or building homes.

Children learn what they live...and the example we give as parents will resonate with them all their lives. They learn compassion from the adults in their lives, their parents and their teachers.

Getting involved in any way – small or large – provides a deep sense of satisfaction for the giver and appreciation for the receiver.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Patricia Sullivan: The first thing I would do is educate ALL people in the developing countries about the world we live in!

This could be initiated by producing videos and educational documentaries to be shared in every school at every grade level, that teaches awareness of the global village where we live. The purpose would be to evoke responsibility for those less fortunate and encourages interaction with residents in every country around the globe. On television, for the general audience, I would produce a series of reality shows that are “Real Survivors” - with education of all facets of each individual location including, but not limited to: geography, cultural appreciation, food production, resource consumption, access to education, medical care and clean water, cost of living and household income, war index and poverty ranking.

This would be beneficial to the majority of the developed world who do not travel to developing and undeveloped countries to learn, understand and appreciate the commonalities and the differences created by the “luck of the draw” - where you were born and into what family and environment. People don’t choose poverty…but it can be insurmountable when “survival” is your primary goal.

I believe that the result of these educational efforts would be awareness, open-mindedness, and the beginning of an appreciation and compassion for those people we do not know. We would become a less “me-centric” nation and our focus would shift to a global understanding of the population in our entire world. We would know the faces of poverty and the circumstances beyond our current comprehension.

Next, I would work with global leaders to eliminate poverty, through the empowerment of individuals, development and implementation of working capital and micro enterprise lending programs to encourage entrepreneurial ventures. The world leaders would exert influence to eliminate the injustice, theft of resources and human rights violations that plague undeveloped nations. This plan will be more extensive….but with the support of the majority of the people in the developing world, it should have the momentum to move beyond the self-interest of political parties and elected officials...

Imagine a world where starvation, fear of reprisal and religious fanaticism were mere memories and “Human Kindness” was the one, true belief…a world where goodness and consideration prevailed… and ignorance and intolerance were replaced by compassion and enthusiasm for our differences and our uniqueness. “Paying it forward” would continue as a global movement and impact all walks of life – from the financially secure to the poverty stricken.

To learn more about IFED, or to contact Pat visit:





Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shop As You Give: An Interview with Joanne Leone

Joanne Leone is a person of many talents and abilities. She received her BA in Communications and Creative Writing from Chapman University, as well as AAs in Computer Information Management, Office Information Services, and Business Management from Saddleback College.

In the past, Joanne started the first Women’s Committee and was President for several years for McHenry County, Illinois. Joanne was also on, and Chairman for two years, of the McHenry County ‘708’ Tax Board Committee, in charge of distribution of the 708 taxes to nonprofits in McHenry County.

Joanne is also a writer, professional speaker and Master Prosperity Teacher. Her first book, Life is A. B.L.T. (balance, love, trust), has helped many seekers find truth. Recently, Joanne has been using her wonderful gifts and talents to help a great organization called Shop As You Give help nonprofits.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about Shop As You Give.

Joanne Leone: Shop As You Give was a 'divine' idea of my brother's. He is really the entrepreneur's entrepreneur for certain. When he was young and in college he purchased old clunker cars and rented them out to other students for their dates. It probably had the first rental car idea--who knows! He's also had other businesses, the latest of which was the largest barter business in the United States. He was known as the Barter King! The other two partners have been in the computer technology and investment business for many years and bring many talents into the business. I bring my communication, shopping, computer and people skills.

The idea behind Shop As You Give was to 'give back' to people, mainly assist nonprofits in making money without doing any extra work on their part.

The site http://www.shopasyougive.com/ is geared to bring in shoppers in 2 ways. First, a nonprofit who is an affiliate can have a link from their web site to their own specialized store. In this instance, the nonprofit is in a position to even choose any category of product they do not wish to have in their linked store. And, when their supporters check-out, a percentage of the monies goes directly to that particular nonprofit. If a supporter of that nonprofit goes to our store directly, they choose their particular nonprofit from the list of nonprofits at check-out. It is so easy.

Another help to the nonprofits is that we send out two special promo emails to them weekly, for them to forward to their supporters, encouraging their supporters to shop, as well as highlighting different categories of products available. It is entirely up to them if they send one or two of these out a week.

Any person can shop at http://www.shopasyougive.com/ to find fabulous products. They can choose to have a portion of the sales go to a nonprofit or not.

Shelly Rachanow: So many non profits are struggling these days. How can Shop As You Give help?

Joanne Leone: Shop As You Give gives the nonprofits a full 30% of the gross sales, and this amount is paid every month, when the monthly amount accrues to $25 or more. If not, the amount is carried over to the next month. It is more helpful than only getting paid once a year. Also, all the nonprofit has to do is spend about 15 minutes to get the logo link set up, after they sign-up on line. One of our associates helps with this easy process. After that, all the work is done by us:  sending them weekly specials, follow-up, customer service, etc. There is nothing else for them to do but collect the money.

Shelly Rachanow: What makes Shop As You Give different from other programs like it?

Joanne Leone: As mentioned, each nonprofit who signs up to be an affiliate receives a full 30% of the gross profits from what their supporters purchase. This amount is an unheard of amount in the industry; it is usually only about 5%. We are able to do this by being choosy with which vendors we choose, picking fabulous products (including eco and American made), and keeping our prices at or below other on-line stores. It takes a lot of work, but is worth it! Also we have an Advisory Board, made up of nonprofit people, who have guided us in what they believe nonprofits want in their stores.

Shelly Rachanow: How can people or nonprofits who want to get involved do so?

Joanne Leone: If someone would like to join all they have to do is go the home page of http://www.shopasyougive.com/. At the top of the page they will see the "nonprofit resources" category. All they have to do is fill out an Enrollment Form. At the bottom of the form, they can use me, Joanne Leone as the IFA reference, and #89 as my IFA number. After that, all they have to do is go to the "Setting up your Store" category. There is a link to the IT people and directions of 'how and where' to send their logo.

Also, if there are product categories, (for example, fragrances) they do not wish to carry in their store, they can send these along as well and they will be deleted from their nonprofit store. Listed under the 'nonprofit resources' is also a W-9 form to forward so they can legally get paid and a whole list of marketing materials. For instance, there is an example of an introductory memo to send to their supporters telling them about the on-line store and how it will help the nonprofit. Besides this, one of our associates will telephone them to answer any questions and see how they are doing.

Shelly Rachanow: What do you want people to understand most when it comes to making a difference and making our world a better place?

I believe people need to understand we are 'all' just people, and we are all important to the survival and well-being of each other and the planet.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

I would continue to live as I do now and try to be the best example of a loving, compassionate, giving person, living in integrity and Truth, in this big 'ole world. The world will continue to be a more loving, peaceful place if we each do our part. As it has been said by others, it's an inside job, you know!

For more information, visit http://www.shopasyougive.com/.

See also http://www.zippycart.com/ecommerce-news/1606-you-get-they-get-new-ecommerce-solution-pairs-spending-with-giving.html

Shop As You Give is an "accredited" business partner with the Better Business Bureau, and has been given the highest rating available (A-) to new members.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Every Day Love: An Interview with Judy Ford

Judy Ford (an authentic romantic who has had every marital status there is: single, married, widowed, single, married, divorced, single, living together, single again after the death of her partner) is a couples counselor in Kirkland, Washington, as well as a best selling author, mother, friend and inspirational role model. She has been studying love and relationships for over three decades, specializing in love, loss and the things that matter most.

Articles on Judy's work have appeared in O: The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Woman's Day and Family Circle among others. Her media appearances have included Oprah, CNN and National Public Radio. With compassion and candor, Judy’s work speaks to the heart, inspiring us to love life, to persevere through its challenges, and to share our gifts with others.

I’ve been a huge fan of Judy’s books for a long time, and I was so excited to talk to her about one of the best subjects there is: Love.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about your book, Every Day Love.

Judy Ford: I wrote my first love poem over 50 years ago. It was published in the junior high school paper and since then I’ve been curious about relationships and a student of love. Every Day Love is based on my personal experiences (by the time I was thirty-four I’d had every marital status there was) and my professional experiences as an individual and couples counselor. I’ve worked with singles searching for love, couples so bogged down and overwhelmed with the demands of daily life that love took a back seat, and with parents who claim to love their children, but sometimes I couldn’t tell it by their actions. I once asked a seven-year-old boy how he rated himself in the love department and he answered, “Good” and then he added, “but my parents don’t love each other as much.” Turns out we all have much to learn about loving.

The questions I am interested in are: What is love? How do you find it? Is it possible to love every day? Is a broken heart inevitable? What is loving action?

Every Day Love, a peek into love that comforts and flourishes, is filled with couple’s stories and experiences that are often overlooked as insignificant. I wrote this book as reminder of what every day love looks like and feels like and how to put our love into action even when we don’t feel much like loving.

Shelly Rachanow: In your book you say that, “Falling in love is easy; sustaining love is difficult.” Why is that true for so many of us?

Judy Ford: It is easy to be loving when the setting is romantic, when you’ve got extra jingle in your pocket, when you’re looking good and feeling fine, but when one of you is out of sorts, exhausted, overwhelmed and distracted then behaving lovingly requires conscious effort. It’s in those moments of restlessness and upheaval that you find out who you are and what it truly means to love each and every day.

Shelly Rachanow: Why do people try so hard to change their loved ones, when we know that the only person we can ever change is ourselves?

Judy Ford: We fall in love with a person who has the qualities that we would like to develop in ourselves. We see all the budding possibilities and are excited to be accepted by such a wonderful and perfect person. Watch out! A strange fog will cloud your vision and you will become disoriented. Rather than developing the qualities in yourself that you would like, you will try to develop the other person’s potential. This creates havoc because there is only one person’s potential that you can develop and that is your own. This is one of the basic teachings in a love relationship. We change for love and love changes us.

Shelly Rachanow: What are some things people can do to be more loving in their everyday lives?

Judy Ford: Be aware that nothing you do lacks meaning. Everything you do and everything you say has the power, on the most subtle emotional level, to bring you closer or tear you apart.

Shelly Rachanow: If there’s one idea you want readers to take away to help them give and receive more love, what would that be?

Judy Ford: Nothing is as important as day-to-day life.

Life is hard. It goes by fast. Love matters every day.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Judy Ford: I would talk about love. I would practice love. My motto and attitude would be: “It is possible to love the whole world.”

For more information or to contact Judy:

Web site: http://www.judyford.com/
Email: judy@judyford.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Living Life as a Thank You: An Interview with Nina Lesowitz

Medieval philosopher Meister Eckhart once said, "If the only prayer you say in your entire life is 'Thank you,' that will suffice." Gratitude is life-changing, not just during Thanksgiving but everyday of the year. That’s why I had to bring back Nina Lesowitz (who told us about her newest book, The Courage Companion, in October) to talk about her first book, Living Life as a Thank You, which she co-authored with Mary Beth Sammons.

Nina is an award-winning marketing professional who runs Spinergy Group, which represents authors, corporate clients, and nonprofits. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters, and is on the executive committee for Litquake, the largest literary festival in the Western United States.

Shelly Rachanow: What inspired you to write Living Life as a Thank You?

Nina Lesowitz: I started noticing the difference saying “Thank You” was making in my life, and starting talking to people and noticing trends. I noticed that shifting my perspective has caused me to be grateful for what I DO have instead of focusing on what’s lacking.

Also, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about happiness. I’ve read many self help books. They didn’t seem practical to me, raising two children and working full time. I didn’t have the time to join an organization or meditate for hours a day. I fantasized about a different life and thought that the only way I would achieve a state of contentment was if I moved to Tuscany to renovate an old farmhouse. Happiness was always some far off, conditional state in the future. When I started practicing gratitude, I realized that happiness is not something that is dependent on outside circumstances, it comes from within.

Shelly Rachanow: With the Thanksgiving holiday this week, people may be focused on gratitude more than they usually are. How can we live life as a thank you year round?

Nina Lesowitz: By recognizing our blessings every day, throughout the day.

Shelly Rachanow: Is there proof that an attitude of gratitude can transform people’s lives?

Nina Lesowitz: Yes, a UC Davis study by Professor Robert Emmons found that gratitude is one of the very few things that can measurably change people’s lives. He’s spent his career studying what makes people happy and he’s found that happiness is facilitated when we want what we have, instead of focusing on what’s missing. It is actually a critical component of happiness.

In one study, the professors asked three groups of volunteers to spend their week thinking about and writing down what happened to them that week. One group was asked to focus on what they were grateful for, another focused on hassles and irritations, and the third simply recorded what happened.

They found that a daily gratitude intervention resulted in much higher levels of energy, and of course, happiness! And based on my own personal experience, I find that I am so much happier when I am consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

Shelly Rachanow: What are some of the biggest ways gratitude has transformed your life?

Nina Lesowitz: Interestingly, we think that if good things happen to us, we will be happy. Yet scientific literature on happiness shows that it’s the other way around. When we are happy, good things happen. The benefits of happiness include higher income, greater productivity, more friends, more satisfying relationships, better physical health, lowered stress levels, etc.

Practicing gratitude has transformed my outlook, which in turn has transformed my reality. It has enabled me to live in the moment instead of constantly focusing on “what’s next.”

Shelly Rachanow: Gratitude doesn’t always come naturally to people, especially when they feel they’ve been wronged or victimized? Why is that and what are some things that can help?

Nina Lesowitz: Some people associate the act of giving thanks as something that places them in a state of obligation and debt. At the risk of generalizing, men have a harder time expressing gratitude because they would rather feel self-sufficient. Also, it’s much easier to be a grouch and a cynic. While we’re focusing on annoyances, and grievances, we take the good things for granted. Without a conscious intervention, we lapse into complaints. I always did that with friends, it almost seemed like a competition – who had more stress in their lives, more problems with their teens. Another issue is that we live in a time of entitlement, and there’s been much talk about how today’s children expect a lot. When we feel entitled, we’re not focusing on gifts; we take good things for granted.

By expressing gratitude, we can re-wire our brainwaves to appreciate our many blessings. When you shed the negativity, it clears space for something better to arrive.

Shelly Rachanow: Can you give us some gratitude practices and tips, for year round and for this week as people may be standing in long lines or stuck in traffic on the freeway?

Nina Lesowitz: When you feel a gripe coming on, try to turn it around. For instance, instead of focusing on the long lines at the security scanner, give thanks for the people who are working to ensure your safety. Go to bed with a smile, thinking of all you appreciate in your life. Appreciate your family, friends and co-workers. Take a walk in nature, and notice the beauty around you. And last but not least, be grateful for you! We quote writer Anne Naylor in the book, who says, “Be grateful for and bless your qualities and strengths. There is no one else quite like you. Honor and appreciate yourself.”

Shelly Rachanow: And last (because I bet you have more than one answer to this question), the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Nina Lesowitz: If I ran the world, I would ask everyone to take time to incorporate the practice of gratitude in their lives. This would engender more compassion toward those less fortunate, and inspire more charity. (Grateful people are more likely to give back to others). Also, by expressing appreciation for others, goodwill would radiate across the planet, bringing peace to all.

For more information, contact nina@spinergygroup.com or visit http://www.vivaeditions.com/.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Inspirational Coffee Club: An Interview with Julie Clark

As founder of the delightfully invigorating Inspirational Coffee Club™, Julie Clark knows what it takes to savor life to the fullest. Through her Inspirational Coffee Club, Julie shares one-of-a-kind strategies that teach women how to pour their hearts into a life that overflows with fulfillment. Offering a unique blend of strategies she calls her ‘Ground Rules’ for brewing up a life you love, Julie has become America’s favorite coffee break companion.

Julie’s messages emphasize that achieving a life filled to the brim with happiness, fulfillment and success is within your grasp. By sharing her Ground Rules for Life, she provides just the right blend of fun, inspiration and motivation to give your life a boost. Her Inspirational Coffee Club supports you in becoming the woman you've always wanted to become, encourages you to create a future filled with joy and challenges you to savor each day to the fullest!

Julie has developed an innovative approach to applying these Ground Rules—a method she calls ‘Inspirational Coffee Breaks.’ She teaches women how to take charge of their lives, set and achieve goals for the future, embrace risk, savor each day and feel more happy and grateful than ever before. She is the author of a new book: Inspirational Coffee Breaks for Women: 12 Ground Rules for Pouring Your Heart into Life—a unique guide for living that is overflowing with heartwarming stories and rich wisdom to help women discover creative, new ways to renew and revitalize their lives. (And you don’t have to be a coffee lover to enjoy it!) It was recently named a finalist in the ‘Best Books 2010’ Awards from USA Book News, and I was really excited to talk with Julie about it (read more below for a special offer going on TODAY with Julie's book).

Shelly Rachanow: As most everyone who knows me can attest, inspiration and coffee are two of my favorite things so I was really excited to learn about The Inspirational Coffee Club! What was your inspiration for creating it?

Julie Clark: I’ve been a coffee lover since I was 3-years old. My first coffee break companion was my Grandma who taught me a very special technique--dunking sugar cookies into my coffee and the habit stuck! I’ve carried my love for coffee into my adulthood. From my early years of enjoying treasured coffee breaks with my Grandma to the current days of sharing cherished coffee time with my mom and my friends, coffee has played a critical role in my development through the years. I’ve learned that coffee can be such a powerful metaphor for living life to the fullest. So I decided to blend my love for coffee and passion for personal growth into something fun, refreshing and motivating—hence The Inspirational Coffee Club—a unique and uplifting spin on personal fulfillment to help women awaken their potential and get a boost of encouragement for life.

Shelly Rachanow: What does an inspirational coffee break actually look like?

Julie Clark: An Inspirational Coffee Break involves taking purposeful, scheduled time to refill that part of yourself that gets poured out in the daily grind. Let’s face it—the majority of time you spend pouring yourself endlessly out to others—and that’s one of the qualities that makes you so special. You love to put other people’s needs first. But if you continue to pour yourself out to others without ever filling yourself back up, you’ll soon be going through life on empty--overwhelmed, burned out, depressed, stressed, exhausted, and out of touch with yourself. The truth is you cannot be your best self when you are constantly running on empty. To be a great mom, wife, daughter, employee, boss, or friend you must first be a great you. This means you need to keep your body and mind healthy.

An Inspirational Coffee Break can be simply 15 minutes of quiet time for yourself each day doing something the refreshes and refills you. A true Inspirational Coffee Break should not only recharge your body, but it should invigorate your mind and soul as well. Use some of these short spurts of down time to consciously invest in your happiness and well-being. Fill yourself with regular sources of inspiration to help you become a better woman, improve yourself, and get re-inspired for the rest of your life. Regular breaks from the daily grind are essential for a high quality life.

Shelly Rachanow: Can inspirational coffee breaks really make a difference? How have they done so for you?

Julie Clark: Absolutely! I take Inspirational Coffee Breaks on a near daily basis to keep inspired in the hustle and bustle of life and to set me in the right mindset for the day. On any given morning, you will find me alone—taking 15-30 minutes of quiet time for myself in my favorite cozy chair, enjoying my first cup of coffee, filling myself up with something inspirational and positive: a new magazine or self improvement book, passages from my study Bible, an inspiring interview or article, etc. I sit quietly, giving myself plenty of time for self reflection and loving every solitary moment as I relax my body and refill my soul. This is the time when I gain many new insights about my life. In fact, it was during one of my Inspirational Coffee Breaks that the idea to start The Inspirational Coffee Club came to mind and the entire 12 Grounds Rules came flooding out of me! These moments of down time continue to be the times when I get my best ideas!

I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without my treasured Inspirational Coffee Breaks! Its a definite daily ritual I try to never miss. I wouldn’t have near as much energy and optimism to face the day, I wouldn’t be nearly as connected to myself without them. People often comment how peaceful and relaxed I am although my life is busy and filled with responsibility. I just practice what I preach—a daily Inspirational Coffee Break.

Shelly Rachanow: You have some wonderful “ground rules for savoring life.” Tell us more about some of these.

Julie Clark: The Inspirational Coffee Club’s foundational messages are based upon our ’12 Ground Rules for Life.’ These are the 12 themes for which the new book is based on. Four of my favorites include:

Find Your Special Blend—Be True to Yourself: In a world where we’re pulled in so many directions, it can be so easy to get ground down by the expectations and demands of others that we start to lose track of who we even are anymore. Finding Your Special Blend means getting to know the real you again and following the desires of your heart. It’s taking a stand for who you are instead of being what you think everyone else wants you to be. The real source of fulfillment is discovering who you are. You were made to be your own Special Blend. Find and live yours!

Don’t Be Afraid to Burn Your Tongue—Take Some Chances: So many of us are scared to try anything new for fear that we might fail. The truth is, in order to live life to the fullest, you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and take some risks, try new things and challenge yourself. Don’t worry so much about making mistakes because that’s how we learn and grow. The happiest women aren’t the ones who have made the least mistakes in life; they’re the ones who have tasted all that life has to offer, even if that means burning their tongue along the way.

Take Time to Fill Another’s Cup—Make a Difference: We weren’t created to live for ourselves. We were created to add value to the lives of others. On our journey to fill our own cups, we must also be on the look-out for ways we can pour happiness onto those around us. People tend to feel better about their own lives when they know they are making a difference in someone else’s. Happiness is a natural result of doing something to make someone else happy. Taking time to fill another’s cup is one of the best ways to create a live that overflows with joy.

Leave Room for Cream and Sugar—Enjoy Yourself: For some reason, as we grow older we seem to repress our sense of fun in preference for something called 'maturity.’ It becomes so easy to take life too seriously or become so wrapped up in our day-to-day routines that sometimes we forget to leave time for some plain old fun. Remember to mix a little more enjoyment and fun—what I call cream and sugar—into your everyday life again. Life tastes so much better best when sweetened with fun.

Shelly Rachanow: Your book Inspirational Coffee Breaks for Women: 12 Ground Rules for Pouring Your Heart into Life really helps women revitalize their lives. And there are some exciting things happening with your book TODAY! Tell us what’s going on.

Julie Clark: Today, November 16th, is the official online launch of the new book, and The Inspirational Coffee Club is preparing to give women around the world a desperately needed shot of inspiration. To celebrate the launch, today we’re hosting the world’s largest virtual ‘INSPIRATIONAL COFFEE BREAK’ to help women refill that part of themselves that gets poured out in the daily grind. Anyone who purchases the book today from Amazon.com, will receive an extra JOLT of bonus gifts from over 90 other invigorating authors and entrepreneurs from across the world who can help women improve in all areas of their lives. It’s truly meant to give women from all walks of life a LIFE BOOST! Here’s how you can be a part of it: http://www.inspirationalcoffeebreaksforwomen.com/.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Julie Clark: Well, first I’d make coffee breaks mandatory! Then, I’d try to inspire people to live each day as if it were their last. So many of us take our days for granted and waste our precious time. We rush through life waiting for some kind of wake-up call before we start enjoying it. I want people to realize that we have no idea when our last day will be so we need to live fully NOW, remembering that each day is a gift. Once it’s gone it can never be recaptured no matter how badly we wish it could. Remember there are no do-over’s in life. A ‘good’ life is not measured by the number of days we live, but by the life we put into those days. Get out there and live now. In other words, pour your heart into it!

For more information or to contact Julie:

The Inspirational Coffee Club™
PO Box 87922
Sioux Falls, SD 57109

Ph: (605) 271-8983

Email: Julie@theinspirationalcoffeeclub.com

Website: http://www.theinspirationalcoffeeclub.com/


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Measure of His Grief: An Interview with Lisa Braver Moss

Lisa Braver Moss is a writer specializing in health, parenting, family issues and humor pieces. Her essays have appeared in Tikkun, Parents, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her column, “I’m Not Impressed…” is published in the Piedmont Post and simultaneously on her blog, lisabravermoss.wordpress.com.

Lisa’s nonfiction book credits include Celebrating Family: Our Lifelong Bonds with Parents and Siblings (Wildcat Canyon Press, 1999), and, as co-author, The Mother’s Companion: A Comforting Guide to the Early Years of Motherhood (Council Oak Books, 2001).

Having written several articles questioning the practice of circumcision from a Jewish point of view, Lisa is making her first foray into fiction with a contemporary literary novel on that topic, The Measure of His Grief (Notim Press, November 2010). I was really excited to talk to her more about it.

Shelly Rachanow: This month marks the release of your first fiction book – congratulations. Tell us more about your book, The Measure of His Grief.

Lisa Braver Moss: It’s a literary novel about a Berkeley physician, Dr. Sandor (“Sandy”) Waldman, who wages a campaign against circumcision. But rather than becoming alienated from Judaism as he rails against this custom, Sandy finds himself feeling more deeply Jewish. The book is also about Sandy’s marriage, his grief over the death of his father, family secrets, and the price Sandy pays for his iconoclasm.

The Measure of His Grief is told from three alternating viewpoints—that of Sandy, his wife, Ruth, and their teenage daughter, Amy, whom Sandy and Ruth adopted at birth. Ruth is a nutritionist and cookbook author who had a painful childhood, and who starts to feel neglected and angry as Sandy lives and breathes the circumcision controversy. She winds up separating from him and carrying on a secret relationship. Amy spends a lot of the book in teen angst, struggling to figure out who she is and what to do with her life (oh, and why her parents are so stupid). She also has to tackle the looming question of whether to make contact with her birth family.

Shelly Rachanow: How did you become interested in the topic of circumcision?

Lisa Braver Moss: I started thinking about the issue in the late eighties, after the births of my sons, whom we had circumcised (we’re Jewish). Many women don’t find this custom difficult, but for some of us, the experience is harrowing. In my case, I felt I had to separate myself from my personal spirituality and my biologically-ingrained protective instinct toward my infants in order to ensure that they would be accepted into the community. What was this all about?

I became fascinated with the issue and especially how to talk about it. There was (and still is) a surfeit of shrill rhetoric, scholarly rabbinical works, anti-circumcision material with decidedly anti-Semitic undertones, medical information that was based on strange premises, and tasteless jokes. None of this addressed my own experience or, in my opinion, led to thoughtful dialogue or inquiry.

I decided to write articles that would tackle the circumcision issue with respect for Judaism and in a way that would give voice to my own experience. So I first approached this topic as a journalist and personal essayist.

I went on to write articles and books on other subjects, but remained interested in circumcision. I found it surprising that despite all its psychological, sexual, medical and religious complexities, no novelist had ever given it center stage. But it was a long time before it dawned on me to take up that challenge, because I thought of myself as a nonfiction writer.

Shelly Rachanow: As a woman and a first-time novelist, what made you decide to take on this very male topic?

Lisa Braver Moss: I did a lot of research into the circumcision tradition so as to be able to write in informed opposition to it, and I found myself feeling more Jewish in the process. I’d always thought this paradox would make for an interesting story, and that’s probably the single most autobiographical element of The Measure of His Grief (i.e., Sandy’s Jewish identity becoming stronger as he rails against circumcision).

I probably wouldn’t have thought of trying to create a male main character - it’s hard enough figuring out how to write a novel, let alone inhabiting a different gender. But I’d had conversations with various men about this topic, including a Jewish man who felt he had remembered his own circumcision trauma. I found myself asking “What if…?” That is, what if a Jewish man had some kind of flashback to his own circumcision, became obsessed with the issue, and surprisingly, began to feel more deeply committed to Judaism as a result?

I also learned about foreskin "restoration," in which circumcised men stretch their residual tissue over a period of months and years to mimic the function of the lost tissue. I was so astonished by this phenomenon that I couldn’t seem to shake free of it and its rich possibilities for exploration in fiction. I began to realize that if indeed I had a novel in me, I had a male main character.

Shelly Rachanow: How is male circumcision a women’s issue or even a feminist issue?

Lisa Braver Moss: Circumcision is an issue for women in terms of how it affects their bond with their newborns, and how it affects their self-assurance about the validity—even sanctity—of their primal urge to protect the infant.

Renowned anti-circumcision activist and writer Miriam Pollack put it this way in her brilliant paper "Circumcision: Gender and Power," presented at the Genital Autonomy 2010 conference: "Circumcision subverts... the life-giving principle of the feminine... by trivializing and implicitly forbidding [the new mother] to acknowledge, much less act upon, her deepest mammalian instincts to protect her newly birthed child.”

Not all mothers of newborns experience circumcision as a violation of the bond, or an undermining of their maternal self-confidence and efficacy. But many do, at least to some extent. I think that’s a feminist issue.

Shelly Rachanow: What should expectant mothers be aware of in considering the circumcision issue from a medical perspective?

Lisa Braver Moss: There’s a lot of information out there about circumcision; it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it. So in thinking about the health issues, I like to invoke simple medical precedent: surgery is a last resort. Only in rare individual instances should it be done to prevent a possible future outcome (such as a mastectomy being considered as a pre-emptive measure against breast cancer). And that is on a case-by-case basis, not as a routine matter.

There may be benefits to circumcision—and as with any surgery, these must be weighed against potential risks and drawbacks. The risks of circumcision appear to be low, but have never been accurately documented, so it’s hard to know what to think. For example, in those cases where a death has occurred, the mortality has generally been attributed to the secondary cause (such as hemorrhage or blood poisoning) instead of being tied to circumcision. Thus, the risk data is scanty and unreliable.

Regarding the drawbacks, very few doctors are aware of the relatively recent studies documenting the erogenous nature and the anatomical function of the foreskin. What that means is that even professionals don’t grasp the drawbacks of the procedure—so they don’t have enough information to weigh it against the potential benefits. In the absence of accurate risk and drawback information, doctors should not be recommending the surgery, certainly not routinely.

I would encourage mothers not to be intimidated by this issue, to really look into their hearts and step into their female power in all this. As I said, I think the disruption of the incipient mother-newborn bond is a major drawback of the procedure. To dismiss its impact is to deny the importance of women’s experience and the significance of their role. I think that’s not just sexist but perhaps even misogynistic.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Lisa Braver Moss: You mean, besides tackling climate change, ending war, famine, disease, torture, enslavement and oppression? Hmm…

Create an industry that would put people to work retrofitting existing vehicles into more energy-efficient ones; take all possible measures to counter the eco-hostile idea that everything has to be new.

Make cell phone manufacturers accountable for the health hazards, resource-wastefulness, and planned obsolescence of their products.

End the idiocy that compels some news outlets to present both sides of a story equally, even if one of the sides is uninformed, hate-based or insane.

Put mature, educated women in charge of designing car dashboards, computer operating systems and all other user interfaces. No more product designs by techno-geeks!

Oops, I almost forgot the most important thing: ban those horrible too-dark hair dye jobs on men.

But back to the topic at hand… I would work to ensure that women don’t feel they must deny their own female power, biology, or spirituality by giving their babies over to be circumcised.

To contact Lisa or for more information, visit:

Web site: http://www.lisabravermoss.com/

E-mail: lisa@lisabravermoss.com

Facebook page: The Measure of His Grief

You Tube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxKjmGcV9w8

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We Did It For You: An Interview with Patty Turrell

With her background in Human Resources and Operations Management, Patty Turrell has the natural ability to organize teams and get things done. Eight years ago she started The Women’s Journey Conference, an event that empowers women and builds self esteem in young girls. Many of the young girls that attend this event are from various foster care organizations throughout the Orange County, California area. Patty realizes the dire need to help young girls with their confidence and has produced a specialized program to help young girls overcome their insecurities. The conference is FREE to all girls between the ages of 8 to 18.

From the Women’s Journey Conference an idea was born to create a play to further educate and empower women and girls. The play We Did It For You focuses on the challenges women have faced throughout history while celebrating their historical achievements. The play is a virtual history lesson filled with song, dance, comedic moments and compelling dialogue. It is Patty’s goal to take this play into schools and colleges nationwide to teach young women about the perils women faced for equality and the importance of women’s role in society today.

I was so excited to talk to Patty about her play...for which there is a Fundraiser Brunch this Sunday, November 7 at 1:00 pm in Costa Mesa, California...and all the wonderful things she does for women.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about your play, We Did It For You.

Patty Turrell: The play is a historical account of the women who paved the way. We Did It For You was created to acknowledge and celebrate women's historic achievements: how they were able to affect and change the society in which they lived. This play is their story, what they did and dreamed, a depiction of the diverse and historic accomplishments of the many women who bravely stood for equality and social justice. We Did It For You is filled with music, dialogue and comedy bringing the audience from tears to laughter.

Shelly Rachanow: Why is it so important for us to preserve women’s history?

Patty Turrell: Young girls do not know and most women do not understand the history of women. Most young women of today do not realize that there was a time when women had no rights and were considered property. Much of what is in this play is not necessarily written down in history books nor is it being taught in the classroom. The danger is that if the women of today are not educated about the events of the past, they may take for granted their freedom and their independence. Women feel a sense of pride and empowerment when they understand where they have come from, the historical journey. If given the knowledge, women will continue to grow in consciousness and make changes necessary for the further development of women worldwide.

Shelly Rachanow: What are some things we can do right now to make things better for women everywhere?

Patty Turrell: First and foremost, educate yourself about the needs of women/children who may be less fortunate. Get involved with other women's organizations and participate.

Shelly Rachanow: You also founded the Women’s Journey Conference. Tell us more about that.

Patty Turrell: The Women's Journey Conference was developed to empower women and build self-esteem in young girls. On May 7, 2011 we will be hosting our 9th annual conference at UCI. We invite a host of speakers and entertainers to inspire women. The entire day is for self-discovery and celebration of the power, the spirit and the beauty in each of us. We also have a specialized self-esteem program for girls ages 8 to 18. Many of the young girls who attend are considered "at risk". These girls come from various foster care organizations throughout the OC area. Girls attend this event FREE of cost. Our goal is to offer these girls a day where they can feel secure, nurtured and encouraged.

Shelly Rachanow: How would you like things to be different for future generations of both men and women?

Patty Turrell: I would like to see women strive for even more, to be treated like equals and continue to become exceptional leaders. With that said, when women truly recognize who and what they are capable of, men too will have a better understanding of themselves by the examples that women exhibit.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Patty Turrell: I would build schools worldwide and provide an education for every child on the planet.

For more information, email spiritually1@earthlink.net or visit:



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Power of Positive DOING: An Interview with BJ Gallagher

BJ Gallagher is a sociologist, author, and speaker. She writes business books that educate and empower, women's books that enlighten and entertain, and gift books that inspire and inform. Whether her audience is corporate executives, working women, or college students, her message is “The Power of Positive DOING.” She motivates and teaches with empathy, understanding, and more than a little humor.

BJ's international best-seller, A Peacock in the Land of Penguins (Berrett-Koehler), has sold over 350,000 copies in 23 languages. Her business books include: YES Lives in the Land of NO (Berrett-Koehler) and Who Are “They” Anyway? (Dearborn). Her latest career book is It's Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been (Viva Editions).

BJ is a regular Huffington Post contributor. She has been featured on CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer, the Today Show with Matt Lauer, Fox News, PBS, CNN, and other television and radio programs. She is quoted almost weekly in various newspapers, women's magazines, and websites, including: O the Oprah magazine, Redbook, Woman's World, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Orlando Sentinel, Financial Times (U.K.), Guardian (U.K.), MSNBC.com, CareerBuilder.com, CNN.com, Forbes.com, among others.

In addition to writing books, BJ also conducts seminars and delivers keynotes at conferences and professional meetings across the country. Her corporate clients include: IBM, Chevron, US Veteran's Administration, John Deere Credit Canada, Volkswagen, Farm Credit Services of America, Raytheon, US Department of Interior, Phoenix Newspapers Inc., the American Press Institute, Infiniti, Nissan, Atlanta Journal Constitution, among others.

I first met BJ in 2006, when she did me the honor of writing the Foreword to my first book. I was so thrilled to catch up with her and hear about all the wonderful things she's been up to lately!

Shelly Rachanow: Last year was a busy year for you, with SIX new books out, making up what you’ve called your Inspirational Stimulus Package. Tells us about a few of them.

BJ Gallagher: Actually, I published SEVEN new books, but who's counting? ;-)) Most people hunker down when times get tough but I do just the opposite. Rather than take fewer risks in business, I believe in taking more risks.

Wherever this is chaos and change, there is also opportunity, so I go out there looking for it. Also, my work is about service and contribution, so whenever people are in pain it is my job to see if I have anything to offer that might help them. My gifts are teaching and writing and my mission in life is to give my gifts away. So that's what I do. I write books and teach seminars that help people help themselves.

For the past couple years, the economy has been in such terrible shape, and I was inspired by Obama's Economic Stimulus Package ... so I decided to offer my own Inspirational Stimulus Package. People need financial support to get through hard times ... but they also need spiritual and emotional support. That's what I offer with my books. I published three more new books this year, and I have three more coming out next year. My mission statement is: "I am a laptop in the hands of God."

Shelly Rachanow: As someone who left a legal practice when I was thirty, I especially love the title of one of your new books, It's Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been. As you tell people, “Don't just seize the day - seize the rest of your life!” What are some things people can do to move towards the life of their dreams?

BJ Gallagher: Probably the first thing people need to do is make friends with fear. Fear is what keeps most people from following their hearts and living their dreams – fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, fear that it's too hard, fear that their loved ones will not be supportive, fear of losing money ... their list of fears is almost endless. So coming to terms with fear is the first thing task.

One of the tools I use to deal with fear is self-talk. Whenever fear shows up, I have a conversation with myself. "What's the worst that can happen?" I ask myself. "I might run out of money," is usually the answer. "OK, so if you run out of money, what will happen?" I ask myself. "I'll lose my house," is the answer. "OK, and if you lose your house, will anyone die from that?" I ask. "Well, no," is the answer. "OK then, if nobody dies, then losing your house won't kill you." "Right." And that almost always makes the fear manageable. If my fear is not about a life or death issue, I can talk myself down and go on with my life.

The other important thing I rely on in living the life I want to life is my FAITH. 92% of Americans believe in God. Many of those people consider themselves spiritual but not religious – which is fine. Whatever form your spirituality takes, I encourage folks to tap into spiritual beliefs and practices to live their lives to the fullest, finding happiness and fulfillment along the way. Faith is especially important in hard times like these.

Shelly Rachanow: I also love your book, Learning to Dance in the Rain: The Power of Gratitude because, as you note, “For many people, gratitude goes right out the window when Life doesn't show up the way they want it to.” I think we’ve all experienced that at some point in our lives. What are some things we can do to be grateful when our lives aren’t going the way we want them to?

BJ Gallagher:  The Taoists believe that we humans can never really know whether something is good or bad. A tragedy happens and later on it turns out that the "tragedy" was really a blessing. And vice versa ... sometimes wonderful things happen that turn out to be not so wonderful after all. Here's an old Taoist parable that's a good reminder of that:

There is a Taoist story of an old Chinese farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away.

Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

"How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"Maybe," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg.

The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"Maybe," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by.

The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"Maybe," said the farmer.

Shelly Rachanow: One of the big themes in your books is the “Power of Positive Doing.” Tell us more about what you mean by that.

BJ Gallagher: Much has been made of the Power of Positive Thinking. Many gurus and spiritual teachers tell us how important it is to harness the incredible power of our minds in order to get what we want in life. What they're teaching is true, no doubt about it. But thinking isn't enough ... we must take action. It may be just a single step in the direction of what it is we say we want – that's enough to get the ball rolling.

You might call this "active faith" or "living with intention" or "acting as if." Whatever you call it, it's about movement – it's about doing something.

Even Norman Vincent Peale, the wonderful minister who wrote "The Power of Positive Thinking," talked about that – but that part of his teaching seems to get lost sometimes. Here's what he said: “A lot of people misunderstood the power of positive thinking … they thought that all you have to do is think positively and everything is going to work out. ... No, you have to also take some action, learn some skills – you’ve got to DO something.”

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

BJ Gallagher: Ha! What a great question! OK, let me think for a minute .... I would run the world with unconditional love, compassion, non-violent conflict resolution, kindness and forgiveness ... just as the Dalai Lama runs his community, as Gandhi ran his, as Jesus ran his, as Mother Teresa ran hers ... as all great spiritual leaders run their communities, that's how I would run the world. To quote Gandhi: I would BE the change I wish to see in the world.

BJ can be reached at http://www.bjgallagher.com/ or bbjjgallagher@aol.com.

Follow her on twitter: @BJ_Gallagher and find her on Facebook: BJ Gallagher

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Grief Transformation: An Interview with Andrea Hylen

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of interviewing my good friend, author Andrea Hylen, in my first blog interview celebrating amazing women and the amazing things women do. And with several amazing projects in the works, including an exciting book launch happening today, I was thrilled to catch up with Andrea and find out more details about all the great things she’s doing for women everywhere.

Shelly Rachanow: You’ve had a busy summer since we last spoke to you in June. Tell us about some of the great work you’ve been doing.

Andrea Hylen: I spent the month of August writing articles about my experiences of grief and loss with the deaths of a brother, son and husband, as well as dreams, jobs, and roles that no longer served me. I wrote about honoring the grief and feeling the feelings. I wrote about releasing the grief through tears and laughter. I wrote about releasing the ashes of my son and my husband. The more I wrote, the more I understood from a deeper level how the lack of grieving shuts down our hearts to feel love and joy. And how important it is to stay open to grieving layers throughout my life.

In September, I participated in a “no impact” week. The idea was to lower my impact on the environment by making lifestyle changes. Even with my deep awareness, I learned and implemented some new ideas. I made one change every day. An example, I write at a coffee bar every morning and started to carry silverware with me instead of using the disposable plastic ware.

I am currently creating videos to provide information and spread the word that being green is not a trend. I use Shaklee products as an example because they have been around for 50 years and they work. This is a lifestyle, not a trend. The videos will be on my youtube account beginning November 1, 2010 http://www.youtube.com/user/OpentoInspiration There will be a link to join my mailing list for monthly information about easy ways to support your health and the planet.

Shelly Rachanow: I was really moved when you told me about the Grief Transformation Circle you decided to start on Sunday evenings. As you now, I lost one of my best friends to cancer last April and I know your husband passed away from cancer several years ago. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned about grief along the way?

Andrea Hylen: Shelly, first let me give you the bridge line telephone number and access code. This is a FREE call, open to anyone who needs it. My commitment is to be there to provide support and to sit in prayer by myself, if no one comes on the line that evening. The call is every Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. Pacific/8:00 p.m. Eastern. My intention to hold a space for conversations to emerge that support each other as we discuss loss of loved ones, changes in jobs, health, families and the world. As long as one person is on the call, I will be there. Bridge line number (605) 562-3000. Access code is 899688#. Spread the word. ALL WELCOME! Personal long distance rates apply.

I would suggest that people join the Open to Inspiration Fan page on Facebook. I post updates there every week with the phone number and any changes in the time.

There is another thing to understand about grieving. The feelings of loss and sadness are a part of you and will be in your heart forever. Let me explain it this way. Imagine that you went to the beach for a week with your loved ones. Whenever you think about that time together, you remember the way you felt. The sound of the ocean or the seagulls, memories of the activities and conversations, and smells from the foods you cooked and ate together . You carry this in your heart. The freshness of the memory fades over time, but there are connections that bring it into the present. The sound of the seagulls, the smells of the food, a song, a conversation and you can feel yourself transported back in time remembering the love and happiness.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is the same thing. You remember sounds, smells and conversations. The freshness of the memory fades over time, but things can happen to bring a wave of emotion into the present.

Grief is a gift. Honor it. Feel the feelings. Be open to healing and remembering.

Shelly Rachanow: You have been participating in a book project with 40 women and men over the last six months. Today is the book launch! What can you share about this?

Andrea Hylen: Yes! Today is the book launch for an amazing project. The book is called Align, Expand and Succeed: Shifting the Paradigm of Entrepreneurial Success. From the moment I heard the book title, I wanted to be a part of this project with 40 conscious business owners. The book is for anyone who feels the connection to living a conscious life. Conscious Business is a lifestyle that includes all aspects of a person’s life. I wrote a story about a self-discovery process that led me to understand an aspect of who I really am.

The word “Align” is missing in many of the Law of Attraction movies and books. You can create a vision board with a bunch of stuff you want to manifest, but the things may not be in alignment with who you are. In this book there are stories about how the authors stepped into alignment by discovering their true purpose, connecting with intuition and eliminating self-sabotage. The next step is the willingness to Expand into a greater part of yourself with self-discovery, awakening, and shifting with the changes happening in the world. With the steps of Align and Expand in place, Success is the natural next step.

Today, October 19, 2010, is the book launch. If you purchase the book(s) today, you will receive access to over $6,000 in bonus offers! Here is the link to check it out: http://www.aesbook.com./

Shelly Rachanow: I can’t let you go without asking you to tell us more about your new E-book club, which helps members discover their own inner journey. How does it do that and what have you learned about the importance of honoring our journey?

Andrea Hylen: On a beach walk on August 31, I received a burst of inspiration to write stories of my life to help people discover their own inner journey. Within two days, the ideas fell into place. Write three e-books about the past two years of living on the edge with reflective questions in the back of each chapter for the reader. Each book is released one section at a time over a period of four months.

As people began signing up to be a part of the experience, I saw something else happening. We are creating an energetic space for infinite possibilities to emerge for everyone in the club. Some members are reading the books and writing in their journals, as part of a private process. Some members want to participate in discussions on the phone. There are monthly teleseminars with topics generated by the club members, a monthly drawing of products connected to the topics in the book and opportunities for sponsors.

The stories begin here: I started going to Jonas Brothers concerts during the summer of 2007 to help my teenage daughter heal from the loss of her father. When I drove to the first concert, I had no idea how this would change my life and help me heal my own broken heart.

Two summers later, I was selling my house, releasing personal belongings and preparing to move from Maryland to California with my daughter. I suggested we travel to the 45 cities with Jonas concerts and have an adventure together before settling down in California. We had a buyer, cleared out our house, put memorabilia into storage and were completing the last of the details when the house contract fell through. The woman lost her job of 21 years and could not qualify for the loan.

We made the decision to leap and live on the edge. The trip stretched me physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and financially. There was a strong inner calling to leap. In order to continue, I had to change my perspective, let go of the way I would normally do this trip and I had to be willing to risk everything including my house and my reputation. For the readers who don’t know me I want you to know I am not a lunatic. I am a simple person with simple needs who loves her family and friends and who would have been content to be a Girl Scout leader in Baltimore for the rest of my life. But there was something inside of me calling me to go out into the world. When my daughter began to get 3,000 hits on her blog every day, and women began to tell me that we were giving them the courage to make changes in their lives and take bigger risks, I knew I had to keep going.

I am beginning to call this an E-book Experience instead of a club. It is experiential and evolving every month.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, because I know you have more than one answer to this question, I have to ask again: What would you do if you ran the world?

Andrea Hylen: The key to me is empowering women and girls to become leaders in their lives. When women step into leadership, they use their voices to make change. They speak up for themselves, children, the environment, human rights, and animal rights. They work in collaboration with others to implement change. When women heal self-esteem, worthiness, grief, and trauma, their voices get stronger and they can have an impact on making a difference in their families, communities, states, countries and the world. We do run the world. The choices we make every day affect the world we live in. We can all discover the leader within us and begin making changes in our part of the world now. My commitment to running the world is creating safe, healing spaces like the Grief Transformation Circle, developing projects like the E-book club for empowering self-discovery within individuals and demonstrating leadership by taking simple steps with “Being Green is not a Trend.” Let us all commit to being leaders in our own lives now.

For more information, visit:

Website is http://www.opentoinspiration.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/andrea.hylen
Facebook Fan Pages: An Evolutionary Woman’s Journey Series and Open to Inspiration
Email: opentoinspiration@gmail.com
Blog: http://www.andreahylen.blogspot.com/
Twitter: www.twitter.com/AHylen
Twitter: www.twitter.com/daydreamwithGod
Twitter: www.twitter.com/consciousbook
Link to Articles on grieving: http://ezinearticles.com/?expert_bio=Andrea_Hylen