I'm not mastering mom guilt, but I'm teaching my son to follow his dreams

His words are a Bowie knife thrust between my ribs, deep and devastating:

“Do you love to travel more than you love me, Mama?”

The question ricochets across my heart and into my lungs, causing me to catch my breath. I pull him to me, kissing the top of his head.

He often cries the night before I leave when I travel, and I tell him that it’s OK to cry. Men cry, buddy, I say. I’ve even seen Daddy cry.

“Really?” he says, wiping his tears. He looks skeptical.

Crying means you love someone enough to miss them, I tell him. And aren’t we lucky enough to have each other so we can appreciate and love each other so much?

“Can’t you quit your job?” he says.

Although I have worked since he was born, my now nine-year-old boy has mastered the art of the guilt trip, especially in the last year or two. One of the reasons I quit my corporate job in 2013 is because I didn’t want to travel around the world anymore; being half a world away sounded exciting and exotic to me before I met my husband and had a son, but now it feels too far from them.

This post may also be found on the TODAY show Parenting Team site here!

When I started my own company, I no longer had to travel as far and my trips were shorter. In fact, I could – and have – turned down trips in order to be home with my family. That’s the benefit of having myself as a boss. On the other hand, now I am doing work that I love as a freelance writer, it is a dream to be able to follow my passions and help support my family at the same time. When I try to explain this to my son, he is stubbornly unmoved.

I desperately wanted to quit my job when my son was born; it pained my husband in ways I can’t fully grasp that it was not possible to grant my wish. Our family needed my income too. I did the best I could, but I had lost my love for both my work and the frequent travel along with it. Once upon a time, I’d find ways to take every trip I could to put distance between me and an unhealthy marriage. After my divorce, subsequently meeting the love of my life, and then having a baby together, the flames of my wanderlust were tamped down.

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My son was three when I was required to take a business trip to Dubai, halfway around the world. A bucket list destination, I was both thrilled to go and terrified to go that far away from my son. It was an experience I’ll never forget, but one for which I no longer had a taste. Some parents have to travel frequently away from their children, and they have found their own ways to manage it emotionally and physically. I was failing at it. Soon after, I quit my job and jumped without a safety net into the freedom of owning my own communications business.

Now I can choose which trips I can and want to take, and my husband is a fantastic father; he works from home as well. I canceled a trip to Phoenix to schedule my son’s tonsillectomy. Abandoned another when he was struggling with chronic croup. I leave before dawn and come home after midnight to keep my trips as short as possible; trips that once invited extra days to go sightseeing and visit friends.

My son doesn’t see that, though. He only notices that mom is not there. And when he cries, it still feels like a knife to the kidneys. At the same time, I know he’s paying attention to what I’m telling him about fulfillment and doing what you love. Of all of his friends, each has a mother doing something completely different: some stay home. Some work with their spouses. Some own their own businesses. Some work in high-profile positions for large companies. Some make a commitment to taking vacations without the kids to reconnect with spouses and friends. He’s learning valuable lessons from each as he watches. I want him to know it’s OK:

Pursue your dreams with passion.

Be your own boss

Fathers run households differently that mothers, but with just as much love.

Mothers can be powerful whether they work from home, work at an office or other location, or if their job is focused on taking care of children.

Missing someone means you have someone to love.

Sometimes, gifts arrive home in my suitcase, but more often, I’m the only gift, and he’s OK with that. In fact, he’s overjoyed to see me. And we appreciate each other that much more.

'We made some great memories together': How a minivan made our vacation magical

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Nearly five years ago, writer Naomi Shulman wrote “Requiem for a Minivan” for the New York Times about the relationship that had developed between the members of her family and their family vehicle. In her essay, she honors the functionality and utility of their minivan in Erma Bombeck-esque style, running through the memories her kids had created with her and her husband.

The minivan, she wrote, was a “submission” into parenthood. She tapped the mat, giving up the match; submitting to a minivan sounded mournful until she realized how useful her minivan was to her. And I admit, I had a similar feeling about minivans. As an automobile fanatic, and one who historically prefers fast cars and big trucks to small cars and vans, it didn’t excite me. We had a few vans when I was a kid, plus a station wagon, and although the memories of that time period were good, there was no love in my heart for the vehicles themselves.

It was my nine-year-old son, accompanying me to a local auto show, who turned my head toward the possibilities.

"It has a movie screen in the back of the seat,” he breathed in wild wonder. “Can we have one?”

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“No, kiddo, Dad’s not going for a minivan,” I said, thinking. And neither am I.

But then I started to reevaluate. Road trip… arewethereyetmom… lots of room… hmm. And a friend at the Fiat Chrysler group helped me get a loaner for a big surprise trip I was planning to Disney World for our son’s first visit to the most magical place on earth.

Mid-December, a brand-new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid rolled in all the way from Motor City, where it was born. Taking the key fob in my hand, I pressed a button and the door opened, magically. My son climbed into the middle row and paused, incredulous.

“YES!” he fist-pumped to the screen in front of him. So much for my attempts to minimize the glory of electronics.

Merrily, merrily, merrily we took to Interstate I-10 across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. On day two, we awoke in Dothan, Alabama, just north of the Florida border, and set up the iPhone for a video reveal.

“Guess what, buddy?” I said to our son, who already had his headphones on and getting ready to watch Elf for the second time. “We’re going to Disney World today!”

I waited with excitement for the squeal that would surely follow.

“OK,” he said, with a shrug.

*Record scratch.*

I had planned out this trip for months, setting up hotels and tickets and Fast Passes so that we could have a family vacation for the first time in a long time. And all he wanted was to hang out in the van. It was just like when he was a toddler and we got him a cool toy and all he wanted to play with was the box. He was happy in the van and didn’t really care where we were going.

The good news is that at least we’re not high maintenance up in here.

We made it to Orlando, checked into the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista (which we loved!), and unloaded our minivan with everything we had brought with us. (Thank heaven for luggage carts.) We spent a total of 13 hours at Disney World the next day, and aside from a transportation snafu that my husband experienced trying to get back to the hotel to take a nap mid-day, everything was spectacular. We didn’t even mind waiting 90 minutes for my son’s first roller coaster ride… and the smile on his face at the end and “that was SO COOL, Mom” made it all worthwhile.


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Here’s what surprised me, though: the best part of our trip wasn’t about the roller coasters. When it was all said and done, both Disney World and our subsequent trip to Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter were spectacularly fun for our family. But what I remember most was the time we spent together, just the three of us.

We weren’t texting, posting, tweeting, scrolling, or watching anything. No working, running errands, or doing homework. No email. No early bedtimes.

Instead, we laughed at the silliest things and counted license plates from nearly every state in the country on the road. We picked up our lunch in the food court at our hotel at Universal and watched commercials from the 60s. We slept in and tossed basketballs at the arcade. And we talked and listened to each other. This is what he’s going to remember in the rear view mirror of his memories.

Of course, he’s not going to forget the magical time we went to visit Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter. When he looks back later in life, though, I bet what he remembers is the trip itself. When we turned the minivan back in when we returned home, my son paused for a moment and put his hand on the hood.

“I’m going to miss you, my friend,” he said to the van. “We made some great memories together.”

Now I get it, Naomi Shulman. Your ode to your minivan wasn’t about the vehicle. It was about the time you spent in it, making memories.

You can also find this post on the TODAY show Parenting Team page!

Best of 2018 in Music, Movies, and Books

Friendship: that’s a highlight in any year. Love these women.

Friendship: that’s a highlight in any year. Love these women.

Overall, this was a stellar year. I got to see some new places and revisit old favorites, start a new business and start a job share that was successful and deepened a friendship, and had some experiences that were surprising and incredible. Like my first NASCAR race.

My business partner Alice Chase and I started Thrills and Wheels, our homage to our passion: the automotive industry. And each of us were honored with an Iris Award at the Mom2 Summit, one of of my big goals for 2018. The Nissan team brought me to LA to walk the red carpet for Mary Poppins Returns, which was as glamorous as I expected. The charity event I founded, Touch-a-Truck, generated over $100K for the SAFE Alliance, which serves survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic violence.

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When my husband and I set our goals at the beginning of the year, one of them was to take our son to Disney World for the first time, and with some help from the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, Disney, and the Universal Studios Cabana Bay Beach Resort, we had much-appreciated sponsorships to see both Disney World and Universal Studios, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is just flat-out awesome. And Chrysler sent a Pacifica Hybrid our way to drive from Texas to Florida, which my son fell in love with. Mostly the entertainment system, on which he played movies and games all the way to Orlando.

Enough about me, though, because I want to take a minute to recognize works of art that are notable on their own in music, books, and online writing. Onward to 2019, and may your year be full of love, wisdom, humor, kindness., and the Oxford comma (grammar nerds, unite!).

BOOKS

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Janelle Hanchett’s I’m Just Happy to Be Here is a can’t-put-it-down memoir about substance abuse and alcoholism. In real life, I know Janelle is caring, hilarious, and pulls absolutely no punches in this book that is raw with honesty. She doesn’t want or need pity, though, nor does she ask for forgiveness. But she now knows that speaking her experiences out loud helps others, and she does so unflinchingly.

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My friend Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s son Jack died seven years ago in a flash flood; I remember reading about it, my heart pounding, and then reading it again and sobbing. A few years later, Anna and I became friends and I have had the great fortune to have her in my life. This year, she released A Hug from Heaven, a children’s book that gives comfort in grief. In child-friendly poetry, A Hug from Heaven is exactly what a kid might need after the loss of a loved one.

More favorites: David Baldacci’s The Fix is action packed, and I finally caught up on Brad Thor’s Hidden Order, which was impossible to stop reading until I finished it late one night.

Next on my list: Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give

MUSIC

I took my 9yo son to his third Austin City Limits Music Festival this October, and we had a ball. We especially loved X Ambassadors, Bazzi, Metallica, and Travis Scott (and honestly, I wasn’t excited about seeing Travis Scott, but he was incredible in concert).

Have you ever heard of Xavier Omär? Check him out, because what is unique and special about Xavier is that he deliberately writes and chooses lyrics that are respectful to women. His songs speak of cherishing the women in his life and treating them the way they should be treated, not maligning them, objectifying them, or hurting them. His smooth voice carries his R&B tunes to your brain in a way that makes you feel safe and happy.

Maybe it’s because of the tear-jerker video, but the collaboration between Marshmello and Bastille for “Happier” is one that I turn up every single time. It’s wrenchingly sad but gorgeous. And the beat has you rooting for the protagonist in the song, making it feel like you’re in the middle of an 80s movie.

Other favorite songs:

“Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer

Cardi B, J Balvin & Bad Bunny, "I Like It"

Khalid & Normani, "Love Lies"

Shawn Mendes’ “Lost in Japan”

Kendrick Lamar & SZA, "All the Stars"

And I know it’s not new, but I have heard a remixed version of John Legend’s “All of Me”, and I love it.

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MOVIES

First, let’s talk about Emily Blunt’s triumph as the title character in Mary Poppins Returns. Seeing her on the red carpet was a highlight of my year, her husband John Krasinski smiling proudly next to her. She shined in this movie, and her singing voice blew me away. Lin-Manuel Miranda was, of course, perfect for the role of the dancing and singing Jack. Read my full review on AlphaMom.

I took my son and three other boys (age 9, 12, and 14) to see Black Panther earlier this year; it was my son’s first Marvel movie. While we were driving home after the movie, we all discussed the importance of this movie from a cultural perspective and what it means to boys of color to have a hero who looks like them. On top of that, the effects were spectacular. My personal favorite: Leticia Wright as the sassy teenage technology whiz Shuri.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that Bumblebee is a movie about a girl and her car?? I hadn’t planned to see it but acquiesced when a friend bought tickets for us to see it with our sons. The tenderness between Charlie and Bumblebee is sweet and the girl-power themes both surprised and delighted me. I had never seen a Transformers movie before, and I hear this one is different from the rest, which works for me. Take your daughters to see it, because Charlie is a heroine to remember. It got a great rating from Rotten Tomatoes, too.

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Farewell, 2018, and welcome 2019!













Making Magic and Harnessing Pixie Dust

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When my son was 5, my husband and I took him on a baseball spring training trip to Florida for two weeks. Six baseball parks and eight games later, it was truly one of the best vacations I have ever had. We had so much fun exploring different ballparks and cities around the state with my parents, and we’re hoping to do that again for the cactus league in Arizona one of these days.

One of the games we attended was the Astros vs the Braves at the Wide World of Sports ballpark, and we stayed at the All-Star Resort, which has a baseball-diamond-shaped pool and a miniature football field on the hotel property. Our son thought he was in paradise.

When we returned home, he told everyone he had been to Disney World. To this day, he doesn’t know about all the rides and food and fun at the Magic Kingdom.

But he’s about to find out.

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Next week, we are headed to Orlando to stay at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, which is right across the street from Disney Springs. And Monday - my birthday! - we will be at the Magic Kingdom, soaking up all of the magic for my son’s first visit there. He’s 9, so I think it’s the perfect age to both appreciate and remember this trip.

At the beginning of 2017, I told my husband that one of my big goals for 2018 was to bring our son to Disney World while he was still young enough to believe in the magic. All I asked for last year for Christmas was to take this trip this year, so you can imagine how excited I am.

One of the reasons we picked the Wyndham is because although it’s an official Walt Disney World Resort, which means we get Extra Magic Hours, Fast Pass+ access, round-trip bus transportation to the park, character breakfasts, and a Disney store in the lobby. However, the value and quality is a great match for our family’s budget. We looked at all of the options, and this resort gives us the most for our hard-earned money.

The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista is the closest property to Disney Springs, which is a fun place to eat with 62 dining options (!), 100+ places to shop, movies, a Christmas tree trail, a holiday scavenger hunt, bowling, live music, and soon, a giant NBA experience that my son is going to love.

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Some of the things I’m excited about:

  1. We can walk to Disney Springs from our hotel over a new pedestrian bridge.

  2. At the Oasis Aquatic Center and Grill, there is a giant rock waterfall and a 189,000-gallon heated pool, an elevated hot tub overlooking the lake and pool area, and a smaller cool down pool with additional loungers. 

  3. Meeting up with the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista’s “Fun Director” who helps kids and their parents contribute to the tile memory wall and search for “Hidden Mickeys.

  4. 24/7 access to snacks at the Sun Dial Lobby Restaurant, Eclipse Lounge, a Dominos Pizza Kiosk. All the foooooooooooooood.

  5. My son is going to go nuts over the hotel’s Video Arcade/Game Room. The arcade includes air hockey, driving games, and crane games, which will make him very happy.

Stay tuned! I’ll tell you about all of the highlights on my social channels: @KristinVShaw on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Sponsor notes: Chrysler is providing us with a brand-new Pacifica Hybrid for our drive, the Wyndham is hosting our stay, and Disney has sponsored two of our three tickets to the park. It’s a dream come true, really.

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Miranda Dauphinee: She's Brave, Cultivating Space for Women

Miranda Dauphinee is a recently-widowed mom to four kids, living right outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. A native of the beautiful state of Vermont, Miranda says she was always a “wuss” about the snow, so she followed her parents to North Carolina about 15 years ago.

I met Miranda through the writing community, and as we started exchanging stories, we realized how much we both value the importance of openness, honesty, and bravery. Here’s more about Miranda, the nonprofit she started, and the She’s Brave event, coming up in early 2019:

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What is your job, what is your title, and what do you love about your job? 

MIRANDA: I guess you could say I’ve got a few titles - Mom, first and foremost. And I’m also a certified holistic health coach. But my biggest job right now is serving as the executive director for a nonprofit organization that my friend Shaunna Rushing and I co-founded back in 2015.  

Tell us about your personal story of pain and redemption.  

MIRANDA: Ah, redemption. The goal we all chase after - or at least the one I chased after for many years. Over the last year, I’ve realized that redemption doesn’t always look like what we think it might. I wanted redemption of my story to look like sticking my pain in a beautifully wrapped box, tied with a bow - a Cinderella story of overcoming obstacles and turning into a beautiful, graceful princess, but that hasn’t happened.

I don’t know what redemption will look like for me, but I know that it looks so much different than I expected. In 2010 I married my husband, and realized within weeks that I had walked into something tumultuous. I didn’t have a clue he struggled with addiction while we dated, but I figured it out pretty quickly into our marriage.

Alcohol made him extremely volatile, so there were a lot of painful things I endured over the years. He was a pastor at the time, so this made it extremely hard for me to feel safe asking for help. I’d describe our marriage like being stuck on a high speed train barreling towards a cliff. Many times I felt like he was heading towards absolute destruction and there was nothing I could do but hang on and pray for something to save us. People often wonder why women don’t just leave volatile relationships. The hard part of situations like mine is that it’s never as easy as just walking away. In fact, it can be near impossible to do that. There were so many ups and downs, betrayals and heartache during that time.  

We were abandoned by our church, and some of our friends. In January of 2015, right after we separated, I found out that I was expecting our last child. I was in shock; my life was in absolute shambles and I couldn’t imagine bringing a child into this wreck of a family situation. In April of that year, he admitted himself to an inpatient treatment facility a couple hours away and began the hard work of getting sober. I moved to be closer when I was 8 months pregnant, and after 6 months of living in a sober living house, he moved into my home and we began the work of reconciliation. I thought I’d found my redemption.

But it wasn’t an easy road, and neither of us knew where to start or how to fix just how broken we were. Our struggles at that time were overwhelming and it was an extremely isolating time in my life. We even tried living in a tiny beach town for a year, with hopes of finding healing, but he eventually relapsed. I couldn’t bear keeping us in such a volatile situation again so I left. There is no easy way for a stay at home mom of 4 to up and leave an abusive marriage, but we stayed with friends and in hotels for weeks until I was able to get into a house back in Charlotte near family.

In May, my husband passed away extremely unexpectedly. I am still waiting for the final autopsy results, and all I know is that it was due to complications with chronic alcoholism. He was living with his parents at the time of his death, and I have so many unanswered questions. Right now, we are all just walking this journey of grief and I’m trying to make sense of my own complicated feelings while helping my children make sense of theirs.  

What do you wish you knew 10 years ago? 

MIRANDA: To trust MYSELF and stop living in fear of what other people think. I spent so many years looking to everyone else to validate my worth, my feelings, my emotions, my suspicions, my gut instinct - it has taken me too many years to realize that I already have access to the answers I need. I don’t need anyone else’s permission to do what I know deep down. Women are conditioned to believe we are too emotional and dramatic to have access to internal knowledge - it’s not true! I believe a woman’s emotions and intuition is one of her most powerful tools - it’s just flipping the script and realizing that those things can actually guide us in our most difficult times if we sit still and trust ourselves.  

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How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?  

MIRANDA: I have 4. My oldest, Logan, is almost 18. Then there is Beckett, 7. Declan is 5 and Harper, my daughter, just turned 3. I also am a mommy to a sweet baby girl that I lost in my 2nd trimester back in 2012. We named her Lilia, which in Hebrew means what belongs to me, belongs to God.

What is your idea of a perfect day with your family? 

MIRANDA: No fighting! We actually are big lovers of the beach and I loved that year we lived about a four-minute walk from the ocean. Any day that I get to soak up the sunshine and watch my kids play in the salt water is me living my very best life.  

If you had 24 hours to yourself, how would you spend it? 

MIRANDA: I’d catch up on a little sleep. And then I’d probably spend the day reading and writing. It’s a dream of mine to write a book one day, but I can never find the time in between the schedules of all the kids.  

What do you like best about your life? What would you change, if you could? 

MIRANDA: I love being a mother; it is my greatest joy. It’s also my greatest challenge, but I was definitely the girl in high school doodling the names of my future children. (None of those names made the final cut, by the way…) My kids and I have walked a hard road together and sometimes I wish I could change that but in truth, taking the pain of the last 9 years away would mean I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t have my youngest children. There is a lot of anxiety for me about my future and how I’ll manage providing for everyone alone so I think if I could change that, I would.  

What’s one piece of unsolicited advice you’d give to a new mom? A single mom?  

MIRANDA: Again, trust yourself. A mother’s instinct is real. And in this day of social media and constant information overload, we can worry ourselves crazy that we are doing all the wrong things. Ask for help when you need it and don’t be ashamed if you do. The truth is, we are all drowning from time to time and everyone needs help.

Single motherhood can feel like the most thankless job ever. Keep your head up, and know you are doing hard and holy work. Most single moms I know parent with very little support and it can feel like the weight of the world rests on your shoulders. You may have to fight to find your community, the people who will not just be there emotionally for you but with physical, hands on help too. Keep looking for them. You’ll need people. Even the most amazing mamas can’t do it all. Give yourself some grace and keep showing up for yourself and your kids. You’re a superhero in ways you don’t even know. You will feel as though everyone has forgotten you sometimes, so carve out a few minutes here and there to do what feeds your soul. It will make you a better person and parent.

What is the best thing one mom can do for another? 

MIRANDA: Support her! No mom shaming, I think we are all trying to do the very best that we can for our kids. We’ll all have different approaches to life and parenthood and showing a little support and solidarity with another mama goes such a long way.  

What might we be surprised to learn about you? 

MIRANDA: I went to college to pursue vocal performance, and even got a scholarship. Once I got there though, I realized I was nowhere near as talented as the others and couldn’t hack music theory so I flaked out. Changed my major about 12 times.   

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Do you have any charitable organizations you like to work with/ donate to/ volunteer for?  

MIRANDA: Nourish Women’s Collective is the organization my friend Shaunna and I co-founded, so that’s the big one! Also Together Rising is one my favorite nonprofits to donate to.

What is your secret talent? 

MIRANDA: This was a hard question! I love to try my hand at allll the things and can do a passable/good job at many things. But developing ONE talent that I’m an expert at is really hard for me. I can’t focus on one thing for too long or I’ll get bored and side tracked by something else that looks a little more exciting. I’ve wanted to pursue so many career opportunities because of this.  

Tell me why someone should consider going to She’s Brave: 

MIRANDA: It gets better each year! She’s Brave is my very favorite day of the year. It’s a day unlike any other I’ve experienced - a true gathering of women who show up ready to have some real and genuine conversations. If you’re tired of women’s events that have more fluff than substance, you might just be our people. We always dig into the meaty stuff, the difficult things and topics other people stay away from because we know that when you bring that stuff into the light, shame can’t exist for long. We want our attendees to walk away feeling like they’ve left some junk behind, can move forward feeling a little lighter and a little more confident in who they are.  

What inspired you to launch She’s Brave?  

MIRANDA: I’ve wanted to put together a conference that addressed the hard stuff women face when I became a pastor’s wife. I was frustrated by how shallow so many things directed at women were. But when my friend and I accidentally started a nonprofit (Nourish Women’s Collective) we just went for it. We started gathering a few groups of women in our area to share a meal together and word spread quickly.  

We began expanding outside our area and into other states and decided to legally become a 501c3. This year we are announcing a big, new initiative for NWC that will include giving back to women in a very personal way for us. Shaunna and I share the same vision and passion for freeing women of the feelings of unworthiness and toxic shame and we couldn’t wait to bring hundreds of similarly minded women together to do just that. That first year we didn’t know what we were doing, and had never planned an event before. We just had a dream and we went for it. We got in touch with Glennon Doyle’s agent because why not, and pitched our conference to her. She agreed to keynote and came back for year two as well! This year we will hear from Ruthie Lindsey, Omkari Williams and Colleen Odegaard.  

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How did you and your business partner meet, and how did you decide to go into business together?  

MIRANDA: Shaunna and I actually met at the church where my husband was pastoring at the time. We got to know each other through a church small group, but I knew she was the kind of friend to keep around for life when I went through my second trimester miscarriage. We hadn’t even known each other that long, but she was one of the few people who instinctively understood how I needed to be cared for during that time.

And as my marriage to my husband struggled and fell apart, she was always there to be my support. She saw me through some of the absolute most difficult times of my life.

In 2015, we both were fed up with what felt like surface level friendships from church and were ready for something different. We wanted to create a place where women could come together without fear of being judged because they didn’t fit into a specific mold. To us, the table signified a place of community and belonging. A few friends agreed to host dinner groups at their homes and word quickly spread. By 2017 we had over 20 dinner groups throughout North Carolina and into other states. Over 250 women were a part of our community and each conference we hosted over 300 women.

We hear it over and over again but we’ve found that women are desperate for this kind of community - we all long to be seen, heard and accepted. We want to be able to sit down over a meal and tell someone that life isn’t always ‘fine’ and know that we will be received with open arms and love. Shaunna and I work hard to cultivate that space for women - we are constantly learning and growing and changing and are really looking forward to what is coming for our organization this upcoming year.  

What’s your short-term goal? Long-term goal?  

MIRANDA: My short term goal is to be fully present with my children right now as they process their trauma and grief. There is so much to get done, and I have to stop myself sometimes and make sure I check in with them. Long term, I hope to continue sharing my story with the world in hopes that it helps even one person. I spent so much time trying to soak up words from other women who had walked a similar path as I was walking, so I know how valuable it is to share your story. I really hope to write a book or find speaking opportunities that will encourage women who are feeling scared and alone in unhealthy situations. 

Intrigued? Click here to learn more about Miranda’s event, She’s Brave.


 

 

Tell Alexa to Donate to Toys for Tots this Holiday Season

On Giving TuesdayAmazon.com launched a super easy way for customers to donate a toy to a to Toys for Tots via Alexa by saying, “Alexa, donate to Toys for Tots.” That’s it.

This is the first time that customers can donate a product to a charity via voice shopping and better yet, Amazon will be matching customer donations throughout the end of the year – toy for toy – doubling customers’ contributions!

Watch this video to see how simple (and satisfying!) it is:

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Amazon is adding some unique features for customers with a conscience, enabling them to donate in several ways, and to charities who register with Amazon Pay to have two options that will allow their supporters to make donations using the information in their Amazon accounts:

  • Donations on Alexa devices, when donors speak ("Alexa, I want to make a donation")

  • Donations directly on their website, when donors click the “Donate with Amazon” button

For more information, read their press release here.

Are you helping to mentor the next generation... and letting them teach you, too?

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Did you know? Having a negative attitude about aging takes an average of 7 years off your life.

I was about 12 or 13 when my dad turned 40. It was a big celebration, with black balloons and jokes about old folks’ homes and bottles of Geritol. I remember thinking about how far away 40 seemed and wondering what my life was going to be like when I was “that old”.  

As it turns out, 40 arrived almost eight years ago, and it has been the best decade of my life.

I’m 47. And I’m owning it.

I’m more confident, more sure of where I’m going in life (or maybe I’m more content to not know where exactly I’m going), and with more perspective. I appreciate my life.

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If you think about the phrases people use to describe someone’s ability (or lack of) to accomplish something, we focus on age quite a bit. Have you ever said these words?

He is too young to understand this issue.

She is too old to be trying to run a marathon.

He is too old to hire for this job.

They are too young to start their own company.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is now, at 29 years old, the youngest congresswoman in history. How many times would you guess that she was asked why she thought she could do the job at her age? Probably too many to count.

Seeing my own mother (now 73) embracing life and constantly on the lookout for new things to learn, I can see how one stays current and relevant. She doesn’t listen to anyone who says, “I’m too old to learn that” as she navigates social media, new iPad apps, and creative new techniques in calligraphy and painting. She taught me how to keep trying new things and mentored me through childhood, young adulthood, and now motherhood.

For every woman out there, no matter her age, there should be other women who take her under their wing to mentor, love, and encourage her. Typically, people think of mentors as our elders: those who have been there before us. And they assume that means that mentors have to be older.

I had the chance to return the favor for my mom when she was having trouble with a new boss who second-guessed everything she did. Mom had been doing her job for two decades by then, and it was frustrating and demoralizing for her to be treated as though she didn’t know what she was doing by her much younger boss. By role playing, we had a chance to practice what she might say to her boss to communicate clearly; it gave me time to think about how I might have fumbled similar situations in the past and learned from it. My mom trusted me enough to let me lead her.

My younger sister, the mothers in my community with children the same age but may be younger than I am, and people who worked for me or with me have been excellent mentors in various situations. Even my babysitter, who is now 16, has taught me about pursuing one’s dreams in a way that is pure and determined. Her focus on family, friends, and community and the way she weaves helping others into her life’s work at such a young age inspires me.  

As we age, we have the privilege of fostering relationships that open doors for the next generation, and I want to be part of that. Through the sharing of our time, mentoring can be the fuel to change lives. Cross-generational mentoring can serve in building our future and the future of our kids.

What would YOU do if you knew you were going to live to be 100? No one knows, of course, when their time on Earth is up; what we do know is that kids born today have a life expectancy nearing a century. What used to be the final third of a lifetime is now smack dab in the middle and hitting your stride. I’m thinking about how that time will be spent. Helping to lay the groundwork for the next generation sounds pretty worthwhile, to me.

This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.

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Austin Parks Foundation's Rock & Recycle for the Second Year at ACL

Photo: ACL Facebook page

Photo: ACL Facebook page

Do you know how many people attend the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Tx? A lot. As in, HALF A MILLION PEOPLE lot. And that many people consuming that many foods and drinks generate a lot of trash and recyclables.

In order to clean up the act (pun intended) of the festival, Austin Parks Foundation (APF) is presenting Rock & Recycle during both weekends of ACL Fest at Zilker Park. Rock & Recycle encourages festival attendees to pick up a bag of recyclables from the grounds in exchange for a specially designed ACL Fest line-up tee. Divert It! enlists volunteers to encourage and educate fans by helping them compost, recycle and send less waste to landfills.

These programs are made possible by a team of 300+ volunteers. Volunteers spread the word about the Rock & Recycle mission and encourage fans to get involved. PLUS all volunteers get to enjoy the festival before or after their shift! Applications for greening volunteers are still open at this link, and then click on “Become a Member”.

“As the official partner and beneficiary of ACL Fest, we’re thrilled to have a larger presence at the festival presenting Rock & Recycle and DivertIt!, ” said Colin Wallis, CEO of Austin Parks Foundation. “Through these programs, we have an opportunity to educate and involve festival goers in greening efforts both at the festival and within the city. The thousands of festival goers and dedicated volunteers who aid in festival upkeep are an integral part of making recycling accessible in all of Austin’s parks and green spaces.”

Rock & Recycle has been ACL Fest’s signature greening program for many years, while Divert It! is a newer sustainability program focused on composting, which APF is also proud to present. In addition to receiving a commemorative ACL Fest t-shirt designed by local artists, participants in the Rock & Recycle program also earn a chance to win a Fairdale bike and two 3-day tickets to ACL Fest 2019. Plus, APF will set aside $5 per participant for the Recycling in Parks initiative, which aims to provide recycling in all of Austin’s more than 300 parks. Divert It! enlists volunteers to encourage and educate fans by helping them compost, recycle, and send less waste to landfills. Rock & Recycle and Divert It! are made possible by a team of more than 300 volunteers. APF invites festival attendees to join their sustainability efforts.

Photo: ACL Facebook page

Photo: ACL Facebook page

This year, APF is partnering with the following organizations focused on environment, public space, and community engagement:

●      Recycling Tour: In partnership with HOPE (of the HOPE outdoor gallery), APF is placing 12 artist-designed recycling bins throughout the park. Festival attendees can visit each of the 12 bins to learn a little about APF’s recycling efforts, ACL’s greening programs, and more.

●      Keep Austin Beautiful Relays: Keep Austin Beautiful will teach fans about how litter travels fast in our urban watershed, as well as how to properly recycle and compost with a fun relay race activity.

●      Don’t Mess With Texas: TXDOT’s signature litter abatement campaign will have bins on-site to remind festival attendees that our parks, trails, and green spaces are no place for litter.

●      Kammok Lounge: This local Austin brand, focused on community and the great outdoors, promotes access to thriving public green spaces and will host festival goers in a shady hammock lounge in partnership with NIDO structures.

●      Live Painting with HOPE: The artists that design the 12 recycling tour bins, and special Rock & Recycle line-up tees will be on site each day of the festival. Fans can stop by to watch the masters work!

In 2017, over 300 volunteers participated in the Rock & Recycle program and more than 3,000 Fest attendees engaged with APF’s activities. Thanks to these efforts, APF was able to contribute $16,455 to their Recycling in Parks initiative.

For the past 13 years, APF has been the presenting partner and primary beneficiary of ACL Fest. The festival has contributed more than $30 million to Austin’s parks system, making necessary improvements possible to parks, pools, rec centers, trails, and greenbelts. Through the partnership between APF and ACL Fest, major renovations have been made to beloved spaces in the city, including Auditorium Shores, Republic Square, and more.

For more information on Rock & Recycle and Austin Parks Foundation’s programs during ACL Fest 2018, visit www.austinparks.org/aclfest.

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