Magazine UNITED FOCUSED MOVING FORWARD
voice USING YOUR
Lessons of Equity, Influence, and Advocacy
Designing Success: Taking Over the Family Business
Finding Your Unique Voice through Sacred Journaling
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Addressing Childcare Needs Along the Way Getting the Help You Deserve
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FALL / WINTER 2018
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Voice Lessons of Equity, Influence, and Advocacy .....................................5
MEET A SISTER
Establishing Trust through Storytelling with Michelle Kane .................... 9
Designing Success with Tracey Piechocki of Illustrated Designs, Inc. .................... 10
Addressing the Childcare Needs of Single Working Mothers ....................12
Redefining My Voice ..................................................................... 16
FOCUS ON U
Finding Your Unique Voice through Sacred Journaling ......................... 18
An Express Workout for Your Voice Within ........................................ 21
Saying No: Giving Voice to Personal Boundaries ................................. 22
ADVICE FOR U
Focusing on Personal Growth One Small, Daily Change at a Time ......... 25
Using My Voice to Get the Help I Needed was Life-Changing ............... 26
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors within this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Sisters U Foundation.
A NOTE FROM OUR FOUNDER Our stories and our voices matter. More than ever, in a world of social media, distraction, and technology, it is so important for us to use our voices to share our stories, to acknowledge diversity and contrast, and to learn from each other. And there’s no better way to learn than to speak and listen with open minds and open hearts. Even when we disagree! At Sisters U, we encourage the sharing of stories. I must point out, however, that one’s story is not defined by the chronological summary of birthdate, resume and achievements. Instead, our stories originate at the pivotal moments in our lives when we were changed forever. Since the inception of Sisters U in 2011, we have had the privilege of hearing more than 150 stories of women in our community. We have laughed, we have cried, we have connected through those stories of endearment, courage, bravery,
tenacity, and pure grit. Through the sharing of these experiences, relationships are formed, lessons are learned and we all walk away knowing that we are all stronger for having shared the good, the bad and the ugly in an environment that is judgment-free and full of hope. Historically, women have thrived while leaning on each other in times of need and in coming together for a common cause to initiate change. Sisters U celebrates the cultural heritage of determined women and continues in their legacies of being catalysts of positive change. Sisters U is a place where walls are broken down, fear is overcome, and collaboration and fresh perspectives prevail. As you might imagine, before we can tell our stories, we must find and use our voices. We must determine to be brave and stand up for what we believe in. As a listener of stories, it is important to find and use our voices as well, in a way that supports the authenticity of any individual
and to communicate and even sometimes disagree while respecting and honoring each other’s perspective. When we can project and amplify the power of each other’s voices, we then become successful in having a strong community who looks out for each other and our collective well-being. Striving to listen to others’ viewpoints without judgment, we can all grow and learn and look at life a little differently and with a little more clarity. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this issue of Sisters U Magazine as you read stories and perspectives on using our voices. My wish is that this issue will inspire you to be more intentional about using your voice and to encourage others to do the same. All my very best to you,
CEO & founder of Sisters U®
What is Sisters U?
We are not a business group
-but we support professional growth.
We are not a networking group
-but we connect women from all walks of life.
We are not a social group
-but we facilitate authentic friendships.
We are not philosophers
-but we urge women to nd their own inspiration.
Each of us has a story. Come to Sisters U and share yours. Sisters U Holiday Dinner - Monday, December 10, 2018
Sisters U Anniversary Celebration - Thursday, February 21st, 2019 Spring Launchpad - Dates TBD (February - April 2019) Best Foot Forward - Saturday, April 6th, Bucks County Community College Sisters U Monthly Meetings - Third Thursday of every month
CONNECT, EMPOWER and INSPIRE • www.SistersU.org 267-429-3196 • 528 W Market St., Perkasie, PA 18944
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They called me a “ball buster.” I was eight years old when I earned the epithet. I was nearly the youngest granddaughter in a large Italian family that got together for Sunday dinners. When dinner was over, the females – my Nana, mother, aunts, and cousins – cleaned up while the males, including my nine-yearold brother, went off to the living room to relax and watch football. One Sunday I spoke up. I said that I would not help with the dishes anymore unless my brother also had to help. (He watched me do this from his spot on the couch in the living room, sticking his tongue out at me when nobody else was looking.) I was a family pariah for years after that, receiving disapproving comments from my uncles and even more vehement reactions from my female cousins. Forty years later, my Uncle Ralph, now 92, still likes to bring up my little rebellion. My female cousins don’t mention it, but they still remember.
INFLUENCE Advocacy and
with Kathleen Welsh Beveridge, founder and President of the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition and President of Spark Nonprofit Consulting
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t care about gender equity, but the impulse to shy away from conflict is powerful. It takes Kathleen Welsh Beveridge Photography by Heart and Soul Portraits strong motivation to buck social pressure and rock the boat. The boat-rocker pays had spent the day before the election rally was the safe, feel-good choice, but she a price. The pressure to conform is a shadowing her. We were in the car when knew she wouldn’t change any minds there. big reason it’s so difficult to change the Kennedy asked her handlers where they Conflict takes a toll on us but it provides status quo. Being shunned by my family were taking her. They suggested a gathering an incomparable opportunity to create at the age of eight was painful. Whether change by engaging those who may think consciously or not, it was meant to put me of volunteers waiting to greet her. I nearly jumped out of my seat when she yelled, differently. The 2018 recipient of the Pearl in my place – to get me to buckle under “I don’t want to talk to volunteers!” My S. Buck Woman of Influence Award, Judge pressure, go back to washing the dishes, eyebrows were up in my hairline and I Renee Cardwell Hughes, expressed it this and stop questioning my role as a female was already thinking how horrible she was way, “Debate is the essence of what it takes in the family and the world. But I wanted not to appreciate her volunteers when she to find common ground.” a different place in the world - for myself explained, emphatically, that she only and other girls. I chose conflict for the In college I studied philosophy and grew had a few hours left in which to change sake of change. to love making an argument. I enjoyed voters’ minds. trying to understand what people think When I was a sophomore in high school in It is so much more comfortable to talk and then figuring out what I could say Baltimore, I worked on my first political to people who think like we do, but to change what they believed. Just before campaign. It was the mid-80's and Townsend wanted to talk to people who graduation I visited the career counseling Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (daughter did not already like her. The volunteer office and took an occupational inventory of Bobby) was running for Congress. I Continued next page FALL/WINTER 2018
COVER STORY…continued to find out what I was suited to do next. The test suggested I would be happiest if I were “convincing and persuading with a purpose.” My father, a nonprofit executive for most of his career, took one look at that test result and pointed me squarely at a career in nonprofit fundraising. Fundraising is all about convincing and persuading others. It is also about listening to understand what people care about so that you can connect their passion to your organization’s mission and programs. You have to talk to new people all the time, opening yourself up to the possibility that they may say “no” to you. Yet, that’s what it takes to create the possibility that they may say “yes.” I’ve spent the last 26 years convincing and persuading, listening and talking, and happily making change happen by raising money for the missions of the five nonprofits who employed me as a front-line fundraiser and the nearly 50 nonprofits I’ve worked with as a fundraising consultant. What I’ve learned, more than anything else, is the value of my voice and every person’s voice in making positive social change happen.
restrictive rule…. Now we endeavor to improve our country, state, county, town, and school.”
If you were a kid in the 1970's you probably grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons. Between the Justice League and the Laugh Olympics, we were treated to short animated musical educational videos on a range of topics like how wonderful the number zero is, how to count by threes, and (Lolly, Lolly, Lolly) what an adverb is.
That may have been the first time many of my generation thought about our voice, how others had to fight to give us the chance to have a say in decisions that affect our lives, and how we use our voice to make change when we need to. Later, when I studied the women’s movement for a special project in seventh grade, I learned how long it takes to bring about such change. Susan B. Anthony drafted the language of a constitutional amendment to give women the right to vote in 1878 but, it wasn’t passed until 1920 – 41 years later. And even then it took ages for all states to ratify it – Mississippi was the last in 1984!
The early history of our country was also set to music and served up in three-minute toe-tappers that taught us valuable lessons like “That’s taxation without representation and it’s not fair!” in "No More Kings" (https://tinyurl. com/o3ubynt); how a bill becomes a law in "I’m Just a Bill" (https://tinyurl.com/ atr4j6s); and how women got the vote in "Sufferin’ ‘til Suffrage" (https://tinyurl.com/ pj224v3). Sally Suffragette, wearing a very 70s outfit of tight bell bottoms, sang, “We were sufferin’ until suffrage. Not a woman here could vote no matter what age. Then the 19th Amendment struck down that
Change like this isn’t achieved through a casual attitude toward an issue. It takes deep passion and dissatisfaction to motivate people to press for change and to keep the pressure on in spite of negative social consequences. The roots of the women’s suffrage movement are in the fight to abolish slavery (many women had deeply held religious beliefs about the immorality of the practice) and in the temperance movement (women were angry over the ravages of some men’s abuse of alcohol on their families). Without suffrage, women had very little opportunity to change these situations
Fighting For Our Voice Schoolhouse Rock Style
which they found intolerable. In these issues, women found the motivation to fight for an equal say in what happens to them and their families. The lessons we learn from these and other social movements are critical. Mary Frances Berry, author of History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times, summed them up in a radio interview like this (paraphrasing): To make social change, somebody has to go through the fire. Justice is never given; it is exacted. Persistence is the most important ingredient; it is never one-and-done. Voting is important but it is not sufficient; if you want to make change, protest is necessary. Even when you obtain success, freedom is never a final fact. It is evolving. People will try to change back what you finally changed. Every generation has to make its own dent in the wall of injustice. There will always be negativity that you must push back against. But the struggle for justice in a group of like-minded people can provide a true high. The current moment has brought a lot of people who care passionately about issues like equity, health, safety, and democracy to the point of protest again. We’re relearning the lessons of past movements – perhaps most critically how important our voice is, how uncomfortable conflict is, and how difficult and time-consuming it is to make change.
TOGETHER with one voice
we can have greater impact than any one of us can have alone. Individually, or in chorus with others, our voice is our link to freedom and positive social change.
Never Give It Up Speaking With One Voice: The Value of Advocacy
There are a number of definitions of the word advocacy. To advocate is to “plead in favor of.” It is derived from the Latin word, advocare, which means “to call, summon, invite.” I like the word “invite” in relation to advocacy. It is a key concept in fundraising, too. We invite people to consider getting involved. We invite people to consider making a gift. And, in the case of advocacy, we invite people to consider changing their viewpoints. In 2007, I took a job as Executive Director of the Bucks County Women’s Fund, a nonprofit that raised money and made grants to improve the lives of women and girls. I was finally fundraising around my lifelong interest in gender equity. At the time I was also working on my Master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration. I decided that my field project would be a community engagement activity for the Women’s Fund. I planned and conducted a “listening year” in which we traveled the county talking to individuals, associations, and nonprofit organizations to better understand the needs of women and girls and what the Women’s Fund could do to help. One of the messages we heard time and again was the need for a concerted, sustained advocacy effort. Women had been talking about the same economic, health, and security challenges for the
last ten, twenty, and thirty years, and they didn’t want to be talking about the same challenges twenty years in the future. They knew that no lasting change would be possible without advocacy to change the underlying systems that were keeping women and their families in poverty.
advocate is a constituent or speaks for a large motivated group of citizens, or has credibility because she speaks for a knowledgeable, experienced organization. Sometimes the officials are influenced by the solutions the advocate is suggesting. Often, that happens when we connect to the official’s personal experience. We only find those connections by engaging each one in conversation – by opening ourselves up to possible conflict.
The Bucks County Women’s Fund established the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition (www.bcwac.org) in 2008 to fight for gender equity and economic security for all. We identified In 2009, State Senator Chuck McIlhinney ten principles that are core to women’s attended our Coalition’s annual economic security and established them as “Conversation with Elected Officials” and a guide for all of our advocacy. We engaged heard us talking about the “Cliff Effect” eight organizations as the first Coalition where women who receive work supports partners including A Woman’s Place, the like subsidized child care suddenly lose League of Women Voters, and the AAUW this critical “benefit” when they earn an (American Association of University extra 50 cents an hour at work because Women). We began to identify the systems of an arbitrary benefit cliff in the system. that need to change for women to achieve He saw the importance of removing this economic security, and we began talking barrier to women continuing to work and with all of our elected and appointed has partnered with the Coalition ever since officials to push for needed change. to craft legislation to bring about positive change in this area. Ten years later, we are still at it. Our Coalition, currently made up of 43 When we see that one of our elected organizations and over 250 individuals, officials has signed on to support gets more traction advocating for systemic potentially damaging legislation that change because we agree to speak together would, for example, allow payday lenders in favor of our principles. Our tagline is to offer loans at usurious rates to low “speaking with one voice.” We make calls, income families, we call them and explain we send letters, and every year we meet what the legislation would do. Sometimes with our elected officials to press for the they really do not know that this would be systemic changes that we believe will result the impact if the bill becomes law unless in gender equity and economic security. we tell them. Even elected officials can The world isn’t where we want it to be yet, have the wool pulled over their eyes by but we think we’re making progress. special interest groups. One place we’ve seen progress is in awareness. One of our Bucks County state representatives told us she overheard some of her peers talking about seeing “those women from Bucks” in the Capitol building again. That’s when we knew we were getting somewhere. We were known, expected, and our positions were becoming familiar. Our elected officials sometimes turn to us for reaction to proposed legislation or ask us for information about an issue about which they know we care deeply. Sometimes it seems that our elected officials can’t be influenced, but the more we get to know them and engage them in debate and discussion, the more we find common ground. Sometimes the
As an example, we once heard from a Bucks County state representative that he would no longer oppose legislation favored by a national association because the last time he did so the association’s members called his office so frequently and harassed his staff so vehemently that he didn’t want to put his staff through that again. Yes, he really told us that! The voice of this group is loud and organized and they bring down painful consequences on officials who don’t vote the way they like. That’s all the more reason we need other voices that are just as loud, just as organized, and, without being so uncivil, are even more effective at convincing and persuading others to take action to protect our rights and bring about positive systemic change. Continued next page FALL/WINTER 2018
COVER STORY…continued Voting Your Voice: Are You a Super Voter?
As Mary Frances Berry said, voting alone is not sufficient. Consistent advocacy is critical. Protest may be necessary. But voting is pretty darn important. So why don’t more people do it? Sure, we get whipped up when there is a presidential election and larger percentages of people turn out to vote. But though it is one of the most visible offices, the presidency isn’t the office that has the most impact on individuals’ day-to-day lives. Imagine you are the parent of a young teenager whose behavior crossed a line somewhere and who now finds himself in front of a local judge. That judge will have an inordinate amount of influence on your child’s future. At this moment you have no influence over what happens to your child, but maybe you could have. Some of our judges are elected. Others are appointed by those who are elected. In this scenario, you would likely wish that you had studied up on the candidates and voted in local elections.
I’m not active with the local political machine in my town, but they know who I am. They call me a “super voter” because I never miss an opportunity to vote. To my mind, there is never a good enough reason not to vote. When you don’t vote, you lose your voice and your ability to influence things that will affect you and your family. There are countless decisions being made at the local, state, and federal levels every day that will affect you directly or indirectly, potentially changing the course of your life or the life of someone you love. In our country, we consent to a representative government. Voting is your direct connection to that representation. We fought to gain the right to influence what happens in our lives through our vote. If somebody tried to take it from us, we would fight to keep it. Yet many of us forfeit that right when we fail to vote.
Finding Your Voice: Conflict and Change
We each need to find and use our voice to bring about the changes we want to
see in the world around us. While doing so can lead to conflict and you may fear the discomfort it can cause you, I hope you will welcome that conflict as a chance to find common ground. It is possible to engage others respectfully with common ground as the objective. If we affiliate with organizations we respect and trust, we can act with them and add our voice to theirs. When we speak together with one voice, we can have greater impact than any one of us can have alone. Individually, or in chorus with others, our voice is our link to freedom and positive social change. Never give it up. Kathleen Welsh Beveridge is a founder and President of the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition and the President of her own company, Spark Nonprofit Consulting, which helps small and middle sized nonprofits with fundraising, board development, and strategic planning. She is also a Catholic, a feminist, a wife, and the mother of two young men. She is still a ball buster.
MEET A SISTER
Establishing Trust through Storytelling with Michelle Kane
A self-described word nerd and information junkie, Michelle Kane launched VoiceMatters, LLC nine years ago after budget cuts at her full-time job. With a wealth of marketing and PR experience, she thrives on helping her clients discover and share their voices. She also uses her voice to develop messaging and strategy, write content and provide voiceover talent.
Why should individuals and businesses share their stories? Humans are wired for story. From the oral traditions of hundreds of years ago up to now, we crave story. It’s how we relate to each other, how we share experiences that bond us. It’s how I came to choose my company name, VoiceMatters. We all have a voice and each one does indeed matter. Consumers like to do business with people they know, like, and trust. How do we get there? By telling a business’s story in ways that establish those factors. Give free information – not the whole of it, but something tangible that’s of value to the consumer, something that allows them to learn more about the subject and, by extension, your business. As a business owner, are you helping make people’s lives better even before you’re worrying about making the sale? Are you sharing information the consumer finds valuable or educational? All of this is part of presenting your brand so that you’ll be top of mind when the consumer has a need for your product or services.
How do you help your clients tell their stories? We’re well past the Rule of 7, which said a consumer needed to experience your message seven times, seven ways before making a decision. It’s safe to say that number has at least doubled, so it’s important to position your brand where you know your audience is spending time and, once that is determined, to do so across a number of platforms – print, social media, podcasting, paid advertising, blogging, etc. Facebook is not necessarily
the best fit for all types of business. Print has been declared dead so many times, yet direct mail can still be incredibly effective. A blog is a terrific way to establish credibility with potential customers and generate positive search engine optimization (SEO) results for your website. Podcasting is becoming more popular as another means for a business to share value.
Isolation: I’m an ambivert with strong introvert leanings, so it’s important that I get out of the office. Sometimes all it takes is an 8:00 a.m. Chamber meeting and a stop at the coffee shop. I also belong to professional groups that gather online, like Solo PR Pro. Our private Facebook group is like a virtual breakroom.
It’s important to remember that social media isn’t “free.” Facebook should be considered a paid media channel in the same way as a print ad because you need to pay to be seen, create the content, the campaign, all of which also requires personnel to carry it out. Each client has specific needs. Each campaign has its own purpose. I work with clients to pinpoint the need and purpose and plan our path from there.
Business Development: Becoming a business owner due to a disappearing paycheck taught me quickly that nothing is certain, not even what appears to be a steady job. It can be daunting to sit and think that I am responsible for bringing in all of my business, all of my income. That responsibility is always there but I do enjoy meeting new people and learning about their businesses, so I focus on that instead. I’m always on the lookout, seeking new opportunities.
What challenges do you encounter, and how do you overcome them?
What is it about your work that you find most rewarding?
As what you’d call a “solopreneur,” challenges include perception, isolation, and business development. Perception: I present as my company but people only see me, so while it’s easy to be viewed as a freelancer, my company is a full-service agency. I’m able to provide any necessary service by pulling together the appropriate team for each client’s work. So one client might need a designer, copywriter, and printer and another might need an overhaul of their brand, a web developer, and an SEO expert. I’m grateful to have a network of professionals I trust to have on my team. It’s no different from my agency days, except that team members are now mainly interacting online.
It’s exciting to spread the word about an item or service that’s going to add to someone’s life. It's also humbling to be entrusted with helping someone else’s business grow. I don’t take myself very seriously but I take my work very seriously. I get very protective of my clients and do my best to be their champion.
How can readers connect with you and learn more about VoiceMatters? Visit my website at voicemattersllc.com and follow me on social media: Facebook: search for "voicemattersllcusa" Twitter: @voicemattersllc Instagram: mishkane Photography by Heart and Soul Portraits FALL/WINTER 2018
esigning Success with Tracey Piechocki
The owner and Account Manager for Hatfield-based boutique marketing company Illustrated Designs, Inc., Tracey Piechocki shares her story of taking over the family business, attaining national certification as a Women's Business Enterprise, and getting what you tolerate.
A Family and Personal Calling
Helping entrepreneurs, CEOs, and businesses of all shapes and sizes find and express their voice or their message is something Tracey Piechocki was literally born to do. Along the way, she has also learned to listen to her own voice and develop an internal dialogue to encourage and support herself as well as others.
But Piechocki’s path to working for her dad and eventually buying and running the business was not a straight one. Growing up she wanted to be an astronaut and then a teacher, though when college rolled around she listened to her developing inner voice and decided to do what she knew, which was marketing. Four years later with degrees in both marketing and management from Kutztown University, Piechocki was ready to to begin her career, but not in the family business.
Piechocki is owner and account manager for Illustrated Designs, Inc. in Hatfield. Her father, Ed Piechocki, started the business before she was born in 1968, and the company has morphed over the years to Taking a Different Path reflect the ever-changing marketing needs “Honestly, I had zero thoughts of working of the clients they serve. It successfully sells for my dad,” remembered Piechocki. itself as a full spectrum marketing company specializing in branding, catalog design, She listened to the voice that told her to three-dimensional displays, and themed do something on her own and completely event decor. different and took a management job with Lady Footlocker. She enjoyed the “My dad worked from home which gave fast pace of working in retail, running her me the privilege of seeing his strong work own store and interacting with so many ethic first hand,” explained Piechocki. different people, from customers to staff to corporate representatives. 10
“I loved it, I really did, and I was good at it.” she said about her four and a half years at Lady Foot Locker. “But the long hours and not being able to see friends and family eventually wore me out.” This is when Piechocki really needed to listen to what was going on inside her head and find a way to verbalize it. So, she picked up the phone and found the courage to tell her parents how unhappy she was and that she needed a change. “I called my parents in tears telling them I needed to quit,” remembered Piechocki. It was 1997 and it was perfect timing as Illustrated Designs was growing and her dad was in need of bringing someone on. “He said, ‘Come work for us until you figure out what you want to do next’" recalled Piechocki. “That was over twenty years ago.”
Love What You Do
It turned out Piechocki enjoyed working with her dad and loved the work she
was doing for clients. Then one day in November 2013, Ed Piechocki walked into her office and said he would be retiring in March when he turned 65. “He always had a five-year plan for retirement that never happened, then all of a sudden it was five months,” said Piechocki. Piechocki thought long and hard about taking over the family business and running it herself. Was it what she wanted for her life? Could she do it? Her inner voices were challenging her. In the end, the answer was loud and clear. “At the time I could not imagine doing anything else or working 9 to 5 for someone else ever again. And I loved my clients. I immediately thought I could do this.” The next five months included a crash course on Quickbooks, solidifying policies and procedures, and hours of picking her father’s brain. She was building her confidence but still there was this persistent voice in her head telling her that she would need to grow the business to ensure its continued success. Her father’s business model was successful and its clients were loyal; some had even been with them for over 30 years. But Piechocki realized that like her father, many of the owners of these businesses were also close to retirement. What would happen if her clients sold their businesses or brought marketing in house? She would need to offer more services to more types of businesses in a much more competitive world than when she started in the profession. Piechocki needed a plan, and she needed it fast. “It is very different working for a company than running it. I needed to quickly sharpen my sales skills and begin making business decisions that were a bit out of my comfort zone.”
Believe in Yourself and Others
Piechocki took over the business in 2014. Not long after, while attending a conference for women in business, Piechocki attended a breakout session on marketing given by a PECO executive.
Something inside of her was urging her to introduce herself to the presenter, and she did just that. “I put on my big girl panties, walked up to her, and thanked her,” said Piechocki. She even had the courage to ask if PECO ever outsourced marketing and graphic design needs. To her surprise the answer was yes, and to her delight, she was told PECO often looked to support women and minorities in these roles. Soon after, Piechocki was sitting in a conference room with five PECO executives, which led to a proposal for seven visual display options. PECO went with five of the seven designs.
message and/or brand, which is always customer focused. Piechocki admits that it is still a challenge personally to consistently find her true voice as a business owner, confessing that there is an ebb and flow of self confidence that she just has to run with sometimes. Most importantly, she wants to allow her team members’ voices to to be heard while encouraging their creative talents to shine through projects that challenge and inspire them. “I find that one of the reasons that other women and I have had trouble finding our voice is that there can be a fine line between standing your ground and being perceived as whiny or even worse,” said Piechocki, who isn’t playing into this negativity.
From this connection, Piechocki learned about the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and began the quest to get Illustrated Designs, Inc. certified by the organization. She knew that achieving You Get What You Tolerate this accreditation, which happened in The message painted on her office wall in January 2018, would further enhance large letters says it all: the company’s reputation and attract larger clients. During the rigorous process, You get what you tolerate. Illustrated Designs, Inc. underwent an in-depth review of the business, including “A business coach told me this once and site inspection. The process is designed to it sticks with me,” said Piechocki. She confirm the business is at least 51 percent explained that this expression reminds her owned, operated and controlled by a to listen to the strong voice inside of her woman or women. For Illustrated Designs, saying to expect nothing short of respect, it is 100 percent. Piechocki is very proud to clearly set this expectation with others of this fact. and for herself, and to hold herself and others accountable when this standard is “When I first started working with my dad not met. I was in a meeting with him and a female business owner,” remembered Piechocki. “Spending a few minutes visualizing “She asked what I was doing there and if I success before I start my day or go into an was just a pretty face.” important meeting has helped me to find my voice and raise the bar on everything “I was in shock, and because I had not I do,” said Piechocki. “When I visualize found my voice yet, I didn’t really say being successful, I feel confident and anything,” she continued. “Today I worthy of success and respect.” would have backed up my presence with a statement of everything I bring to the Learn more about Piechocki and table, which is a lot.” Illustrated Designs, Inc. at www. illustrateddesigns.net. Not only has she found her voice, but now Piechocki helps clients find theirs. She Christine Kroznuski has worked in the feels very strongly about the importance of community engagement field for more than helping them through the creative process 25 years and was previously a newspaper with a host of questions and digging deep reporter and features writer. Her most into their markets and what drives them. challenging, yet rewarding, job is raising From there she works with her creative and empowering her two young daughters. team to develop the tone of her client’s
Addressing Childcare Needs
of Single Working Mothers What happens when three women join together to ask what can be done to address a great area of unmet need for women in the community? Along The Way founding members Chris Moyer, Board President; April Matt, Director; and Jane Reagan, Board Secretary have combined personal experience, professional background, and their shared faith to create a unique non-profit organization to help single working mothers by fulfilling a basic need.
Joining Together to Fulfill an Unaddressed Need
The story of how the three women joined together started several years ago when Chris and Jane, members of Penn Valley Church in Telford, would meet up once a week for Bible study and prayer, a tradition they maintain to this day. During these meetings they would discuss what they could do to help local women in need. Jane fondly recalls how their late pastor, Larry Orme, advised her and Chris.
“Our pastor was a dear friend to both of us, and he encouraged us to utilize the gifts we had to help women,” Jane remembers. “He said to us, ‘I think you two together could really do something special. I have ideas of what that could look like, but if I told you then it wouldn’t be your idea or your passion.’” Following the advice of their pastor, Chris and Jane started to come up with a plan to put their ideas into action. “Originally we thought that we were going to operate a women’s center, where we could offer career counseling and things like that,” Chris said. “However, we wanted to fulfill a need that hadn’t already been addressed.” 12
Along the Way
A Need for Reliable, Affordable, and Quality Child Care
In February of 2013, Chris and Jane decided to survey a broad group of people, including police chiefs, educators, members of other nonprofits, and pastors of other churches, asking them what they thought was a great area of unmet need for women in the community. They received an array of different answers. They then decided to meet with staff from the Keystone Opportunity Center and the Executive Director of Laurel House in May to ask the same question. This time, they got the same answer, in two separate meetings on the same day: Single mothers lack reliable, affordable, and quality child care.
“And so Chris and I met the following Monday,” Jane recalls with a smile. “We looked at each other across the table and said, ‘I think we are going into the childcare business.’ We laughed because we had thought we were going to do something directly related to women. But the more we reflected on it, the more we thought, this is interesting. Both of us are moms, and what better way to a mom’s heart and opening her life to interact with you than to take really good care of her kids?” Jane, a project manager with 30 years of experience, remembers at that time, neither she nor Chris, a counselor by profession, had a background in child education or child care. However, Jane relied on her training in organizational improvement through problem solving, teamwork and leadership to help the pair think through how they could develop a pilot program for care workers providing in-home child care. “We narrowed our focus on the single mom without another adult in the house so that she was truly on her own,” Jane
said. “Her work hours would be any time between 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. and then anytime over the weekends because that is not during the business week. We also considered what it would cost to work out all the details in order to make this operational, such as insurance and if we would need any licenses. You need to think through all of these things in order to have a realistic plan in place.”
The Addition of “The Trailblazer,” Opening for Business
At the same time, at the suggestion of their pastor, Chris and Jane took part in a Culture Index, an evaluation that determines what people an organization needs to make it successful. The evaluation revealed that while Jane contributed business knowledge and Chris contributed her knowledge as a counselor, they were missing the “trailblazer” component. Their organization needed a goal-oriented leader with abundant energy who was a proactive and confident self-starter.
“We then went about interviewing several women who had been suggested to us by our network,” Jane recalls. “As it turned out, one of my dearest friends, Janice said to me, ‘You know, my old next door neighbor April would be perfect for what you are looking for.’ April and I knew each other to see each other because we had each spent time at Janice’s house, but April was in the process of growing up, getting married, and starting her own life.” At the time of Jane’s conversation with Janice, April was a divorced single mother who was living back in the Souderton area. She ran the children’s programs and theater rentals for Renew Theaters, a management group that operates the County, Ambler, Hiway, and Princeton Theaters. During her ten years of employment, April
While it’s not a requirement, many of our staff now come with fun activities, crafts, or ideas for the children to keep them engaged during their time together. Our hope is that our caregivers are extensions of mom. We want the children to have consistency and reliability while mom is unable to be with them due to having to go to work or to school.”
Along the Way founding members from left to right: Jane Reagan, Board Secretary; April Matt, Director; and Chris Moyer, Board President. Photography by Heart and Soul Portraits
participated in community outreach programs that helped her to build relationships with those involved in human services work. In addition, her life experiences and volunteer work with her church motivated her to actively support women’s issues.
running the program for six months to determine what the business model would look like. Along The Way achieved nonprofit status in May 2014, raised the needed funds, and launched the six-month pilot program by officially offering services in July of 2016.
When April met with Jane, April thought she was being asked about her knowledge of communications, marketing, and nonprofits. Jane spoke with April about the pilot for in-home child care and the progress she and Chris had made in planning and team development. Jane then asked a question.
Providing a Safe and Caring Environment for Children
“Jane asked me if I wanted to be their third board member,” April remembers with a smile when she looks back on the moment she agreed to join Chris and Jane. “I looked at her and asked, ‘Do you know me? I’m like a whirlwind!’” After meeting for a few months and working through a book on poverty called When Helping Hurts to see if they were like-minded, April officially joined the board and the three women set to work. Over the next two years, they worked on policies, built a website, and created fundraising activities. The board needed $75,000 to start a pilot program, which included bringing in three mothers and
Now into its second year of operation, Along The Way is able to provide services, based on need, for a maximum of six families with children up to 13 years of age. At this time, ten experienced caregivers on staff are providing in-home child care services to five families with a combined total of nine children, ranging in age from 18 months to 12 years. The staff’s main goal is to provide a safe and caring environment for children. Activities to support this goal include food preparation and helping with homework. To help further engage the children, April describes how one caregiver came up with a creative idea. “One of our caregivers arrived to each shift with a bag full of age-appropriate goodies such as games, coloring pages, toys, and treats,” she said. “We loved this idea so much that we had her teach the other staff how to create a ‘Mary Poppins’ bag.
While a specific caregiver is not assigned to a family due to fluctuating schedules, the staff is committed to being as consistent as possible with its clients and their children. Consistency is encouraged by introducing all of the caregivers to all of the families in the program, while two or three caregivers provide the majority of services for each family. Fostering relationships among the organization is also encouraged through quarterly meetings between the board and caregivers as well as through annual picnics that include the board, caregivers, clients, and clients’ children.
Valuable Insights into a Complicated Social Issue
Along The Way has not only provided child care to single working mothers, but it has also provided valuable insights into the daily lives of these women for its founders. For Chris, taking the time to hear each mother’s story and observing her unique situation has led to a greater awareness of the tenacity and perseverance of those whom they serve. “One thing I’ve learned is how you sometimes can’t see what is going on around you in the community,” Chris thoughtfully explains. “These single mothers may be paying a lot for child care, and it’s not always guaranteed that family and friends can provide care when needed. They may wake up and think they are going to a job and then find out their child care plans have fallen through. Then they are left with the decision, do I leave my kids unattended or I do I risk losing a job because I stay home and don’t show up?” April draws on her personal experience of being a divorced single mother as she runs the day-to-day operations. In a voice full of warmth and caring, April describes how board members and clients share a mutually beneficial relationship. Continued next page FALL/WINTER 2018
COMMUNITY…continued “We have learned so much from our moms. point to listen to the stories and ideas of “We are united by our faith in Jesus Christ They are so strong and incredibly resilient,” the children in the program. which propels us to reach out to those in April said. “They have all had trauma in need, however, we are diverse in the way “I have made it a point to introduce myself their lives that we will never understand, that we view and deliver on the offers of to kids, look them in the eyes, and speak but they have come to places of healing. community, acceptance and hope,” Jane directly to them. When you make these All the kids in our program are amazing says, offering the following example. “At kids. They are kind, considerate, sweet and simple gestures a child’s whole demeanor our annual picnic for our clients, their smart. I can’t say enough about them. Our changes,” April said. “Kids have so many children and our caregivers, one of us fantastic ideas about the world. They are families are simply fantastic. Getting to found a way to incorporate a service little mirrors that reflect back our good know them has humbled me and taught project to benefit another organization and bad words and thoughts – they listen me many valuable lessons.” into the event, which allowed all of us to to everything we say. They are smart and work together in a meaningful, communal One such lesson dealt with April’s we can learn from them. I hope more way. At that same event, another had the misunderstanding of what it meant to people will physically squat down to be foresight to purchase extra food for the live in poverty. Through training and her eye-to-eye with a child that they know, picnic which could then be sent home relationships with families in the program, and listen to them. They want to be seen with each family to provide additional she realized that poverty is a complicated and heard, just like us.” sustenance for the week. Yet another social issue. member of the trio has been working Echoing April, Chris notes that listening steadily to bring another group of women “I used to not fully understand why people to mothers is not only humbling and together in order to make homemade would have the latest electronics and full inspiring, but something that is important quilts for each of our clients’ children.” cable but struggle to pay their rent,” April to the mission of Along The Way. recalls. “Then I heard one mother explain How to Get Involved “April excels at listening to our moms; that her neighborhood is not safe and Like many nonprofits, Along The Way our hope is that they feel they are being while she will never be able to afford to needs financial support to serve the women heard and what they have to say is take her kids on vacation, she would do and children in their program and to important,” Chris explains. “When our what she could to give them some form of expand their services. If you are moved by moms feel heard and begin to experience entertainment. That story hit me hard. I their mission, please consider partnering acceptance through a relationship with our was wrong to judge or think that I knew with them by donating or volunteering director, caregivers, and other moms, their what was best because I valued things confidence in using their voice is increased.” your time to plan and host fundraising differently. People in poverty are living in events. One such event, a first Annual the moment while people in higher classes Family Game Night Fundraiser, will be Jane builds on Along The Way’s focus on can look toward the future.” held in Harleysville on February 22, 2019. single mothers by describing how listening to the individual story of each mother has The Challenge of Child Care In addition, on the third Wednesday of shaped the flexibility of the child care the According to April, while there have been every month, you are invited to join Along organization provides. great advances in before and after school the Way’s quilting project. The goal is to care, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and “We have learned that single mothers are create quilts for every child in the program, subsidized financial assistance, child care is far from a homogeneous population,” Jane as well as to raise awareness for Along the still a challenge for single parents as well as said. “It has been important to take the Way and its mission. The group meets at families with two parents. the Indian Valley Public Library in Telford time to hear each single mother’s story from 2:00 to 6:00 pm. No experience and observe her unique situation. This “We know that single moms are not the is necessary, children are welcome, and has impacted our willingness to be flexible only ones who need this kind of care, participants can come and go as their with when and how we provide childbut they are an extremely vulnerable schedules allow. For more information, care services to each client’s children. For population and we are here to support please refer to the following Facebook, example, we had a mom who needed to be them,” April explains. “I hope by sharing website, and email addresses: at work at 2:00 p.m., and she had a long our story, more people will join us in commute. She needed our caregivers to be helping families find safe and caring Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ there earlier than we allow for services, so environments for kids to grow and learn. alongtheway4women/ we talked with our staff and we were able The response to what we’re doing has been Website: http://www.alongthewaypa.org/ to accommodate her schedule, and that overwhelming and I know there is hope in Email: firstname.lastname@example.org allowed for her to keep her job.” creating stronger advocacy around child Donations: https://secure.qgiv.com/for/atw care during nights and weekends.” When asked how combining their voices has helped to make their mission stronger, Melissa Kelley is Managing Editor of U April is also passionate about listening to Magazine. She enjoys learning from and Jane notes that offering acceptance and the voices of children. As she has gotten to writing about women who work to bring hope to women is broader and deeper due know the families who receive assistance about positive change in the community. to all three women working together. from Along The Way, she has made it a 14
INSPIRATION Using My Old Voice
For thirty-three years, I defined myself as an English teacher and theater performer. Theater and vocal performance had always been a part of my life. It defined me. Throughout grade school, middle school, high school, and college, I performed in various groups as a singer, actor, and an orator in Forensics. I even sang the National Anthem at all our home football games in high school and achieved awards for performance in local and state theater competitions and oral interpretation. After college, in 1979, I began teaching for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the classroom became my stage with five performances a day! In 1984 I was hired as an English teacher for high school and middle school by the Pennridge School District. In addition to teaching my five English classes each day, Â I continued to use my talents and my voice to pass on my love of theater and to promote theater and performance education in school. I spread my love for theater by directing school plays and musicals, taking my students to theatre competitions and festivals, and helping to add theater education and performance standards to the middle school and high school English curricula. I used my voice to start the first Thespian Troupe of the International Thespian Society in Pennridge, honoring the work and dedication of students involved in school theater. This led to the formation of troupes in all the other middle schools and high school.
We use our voices, both literally and figuratively, to promote our values and our thoughts on issues or causes for which we are most passionate. Our voices define us. However, if we lose our voices because of unplanned, negative or life-changing events or circumstances, such as forced retirement or physical limitations caused by accidents or chronic illnesses, we lose our identities. When that happens, we must redefine ourselves and find a new voice. Fortunately, being a member of Sisters U inspired me to redefine myself and find a new voice.
Photography by Heart and Soul Portraits
All of this continued until I retired in 2012. Even though it required a great deal of time and energy, my voice for theater education became strong through the support and encouragement of my wonderful husband, two great children, colleagues, and friends. For twenty-eight years, I taught a full English schedule, directed two main stage productions, and directed four one-act plays for festivals and competitions for my middle school students. Additionally, Â I performed in community theater productions and sang in church. Life was hectic, but good. However, during these twenty-eight years, in 1995, disaster struck: I was diagnosed with a chronic lung disease and condition.
Losing My Voice
In 1995, after battling what I thought was persistent pneumonia, I was diagnosed with a relatively rare genetic lung disease and condition called Mycobacterium Avium and Bronchiectasis. My voice, how I had defined myself, was shattered. The disease and condition permanently impacted my life with frequent hospitalizations, constant coughing, breathing difficulties, medications and treatments, vocal cord damage, and a decrease in stamina and energy level. I was able to use a microphone system in my classroom to help, but the illness progressed and the effects became more difficult to manage. I retired early in 2012 because of my deteriorating health and I no longer could participate in my many activities. How I had defined myself--my voice--was literally and figuratively silenced. I was lost. I knew I had to redefine myself and find a new voice.
Regaining My Voice
The first step in finding my voice was to focus on all the things that energized or concerned me. What other issues besides theater education mattered to me? Actually, there were several important
issues. I had always complained that there weren’t enough Young Adult novels for my students who did not like to read or for whom reading was difficult. My husband had always encouraged me to write a YA novel myself, but I never had the time. Once I retired, I had that time and began writing. Having taught middle school for thirty-one of my thirty-three years I knew what they liked, and I paired that with what I like to read: science fiction and fantasy. I took writing courses, attended writing conferences and workshops, and talked to other writers. I joined writers’ groups to receive feedback and to connect with a new community of people who shared my same interests. I developed a step-by-step plan to achieve my goal of writing a quality YA novel that would be enjoyed by middle school students. I wanted to use my voice to promote quality Young Novels for average middle school students so I would do it through example. Although I am still working on editing my “opus” for publication, I hope to finish and submit it to publishers and agents within a year. Another important issue dealt with the culinary arts. Because of my dietary restrictions (I’m hypoglycemic and can’t have sugar or food that is quickly processed into sugar), eating out at a restaurant or even shopping at a grocery store can be challenging. No white bread, white rice, white potatoes, corn, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, or foods high on the glycemic index. (Only whole grain or foods that take a long time to break down.) Gluten-free products are everywhere, but that doesn’t help those of us who must live without sugar since most gluten-free products are highly processed and made with white rice or white potato flour and cane sugar. Because I have had to adapt and alter many of my recipes at home, I decided to become a voice for the sugarfree/no sugar added lifestyle and encourage manufacturers to tap into our large sugar-free population and produce products made from whole grains and natural sugar from fruits, vegetables, and herbs, or relatively safe alternatives like Stevia. Again, I decided to accomplish this through example. I started reading cook books, watching cooking shows, taking cooking classes, and talking to chefs to improve my own cooking skills. My skills did improve and I soon developed some signature dishes. One of those was my Irish Brown Bread. My son suggested I look into selling my bread since you can’t find it very easily here in the US. That became my new goal: sell my Irish Brown Bread. I made a step-by-step list first and have been completing the steps a few at a time. I contacted a former colleague who runs a certified kitchen with twenty independent vendors to find out how one becomes an entrepreneur and how to sell a product. I took and passed the food safety certification class in Pennsylvania. I’m working on developing my brand and obtaining an LLC with liability insurance. My goal is to sell my PattyLou’s LS2 (Living Sans Sugar) brown bread and other sugar free treats in small specialty shops, as well as in farmer’s markets and festivals. I wish I hadn’t lost my voice, but it is exciting to find new ways to reclaim it. I want to be a voice for the “Living Sans Sugar” lifestyle. It will take time, but I’m taking it step-by-step and always moving forward.
Share Your Voice
So how about you? Do you need to find or redefine your voice? Here are the steps I recommend: Think about the things or issues for which you are passionate. For what do you want to become a voice? Acknowledge your limitations and create new adaptations. Just don’t give up—keep moving forward! Create new constructive habits to deal with your limitations or external life circumstances. Surround yourself with positive influences: people, places, pets, pictures, music, art, plants, etc. Decide how you want to express your voice and make a stepby-step plan to achieve that. You are stronger and more capable than you think. Come out of the silence and find your voice. I did and so can you! Perkasie resident Patty Yost is enjoying her retirement by traveling with her husband, Peter. She is progressing with her pursuit of publishing her first YA novel while promoting her sugar-free baked goods.
HELPING YOU CONNECT FAITH AND FINANCES FOR GOOD Vicki Lilley
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FOCUS ON U
Finding Your Unique Voice through
“When you find your voice, your life takes on grace.” --M. Night Shyamalan
Of all the ways a person could start an article on using journal writing to find your voice, the sentence “I beg to differ with M. Night Shyamalan,” is probably one of the weirdest. While I’ll gladly defer on all matters of filmmaking, on this point I beg to differ, and since everything I have to share with you about journal writing hinges on this idea, I’m going with it, and hope that you (and M. Night) will hear me out. I don’t think your life takes on grace when you find your voice. I don’t think it’s possible for your life to “take on” grace at all, for the simple fact that grace is something you are already full of. In the Christian tradition, the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the words, “Hail, full of grace.” In the Hindu tradition, the greeting “namaste” means “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.” Grace isn’t something you take on—it’s something you are. And that’s why you should find your voice. Not to get grace, but to connect to the grace already inside you, giving it shape and definition the way a lamp defines a source of light.
Journaling to Find your Voice
If you think of your spirit as a well whose depths hold an inexhaustible store of lifegiving waters, journaling is a bucket you can cast in to draw its riches to the surface. It’s a way of accessing your inner wisdom and getting in touch with your most authentic self. Sounds great, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds so great, and is so widely touted as essential to just about any self-help practice that
it can feel downright daunting. So while I truly believe in the power and value of journaling, I’m here to tell you that if you’ve ever sat in front of a blank notebook frozen with doubt and indecision, you are not alone. The struggle is real, but the good news is there are ways to get past it.
Overcoming “Journal Anxiety”
The first step in overcoming journal anxiety is understanding that it doesn’t mean you are uninspired or unusual in your worries. Here are just a few of the questions many people have about journaling: Is it really as easy as “just write whatever comes to mind?” What if I run out of things to say? And should I keep a gratitude journal? A food journal? A dream journal? What the heck is a sacred journal? How many different notebooks do I need for all of this anyway? The next steps involve dispelling those worries with knowledge, practical techniques, and trust. We’ll tackle them one at a time.
Let’s start with knowledge. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common types of journals: Dream Journal: People generally write in a dream journal when they first wake up and have a better chance of remembering their dreams. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t dream (that you’re aware of ), you can still use a dream journal to record any thoughts or feelings you have upon waking. With practice, lots of people find that this exercise actually helps them remember their dreams more vividly and draw insight from them more easily. Food Journal: For some folks, this conjures up the image of a “tracker”—a place where you record what, when, and how much you ate. This can certainly be an element of a food journal, but the idea here is to also address the why’s and how’s, so this type of journal will often venture into the realm of memories, motivators, and emotions.
Gratitude Journal: Just like the name implies, a gratitude journal is a place to focus on the things for which you are grateful. Some people do this in list format, while others go into more detail. This is one of my favorite types of journaling, and I’ll share my own twist on it in a little bit. Daily Journal: Many people keep a daily journal similar to a diary. It focuses on recording and reflecting on what’s happened each day, and is helpful in identifying patterns of thought and behavior that bring you joy or that no longer serve you. Sacred Journal: This one is a little tricky. Sacred journaling is all the rage now; it’s a buzzword meant to convey that if you master this technique, you will be accessing and operating on an elevated spiritual plane that will help you reach a higher consciousness. There may even be unicorns. There’s a lot of information out there on what it means to do sacred journaling. I titled this article after it. I even lead a workshop on it. But I’m going to tell you the secret right here: There is no magic formula to do sacred journaling. You are the magic. In my opinion, journaling is sacred because you are doing it. Which type of journaling is best for you? Whichever one(s) you’ll do. They are not mutually exclusive, and you don’t have to pick one and stick with it. What kind of journal should you get? The one you’ll use. If you’re always on the go, pick up something super portable. If a leather-bound tome that looks like a prop from a Harry Potter movie feels daunting to you, use a spiral notebook or a marble copybook. Don’t like to put pen to paper but always find yourself on the computer? Use your laptop. (And yes, I am a huge fan of putting pen to paper, and I think there is something to be gained from that physical action, but I think there’s more to be said for feeling comfortable enough with your tools to actually use them.)
One surefire way to combat journaling anxiety is to have a few tried and true techniques under your belt. Here are three of my favorites:
Dream Recording and Interpretation: As discussed above, this is often done first thing in the morning. The trick here is to not get hung up on whether you can remember your whole dream or even any of it. Write down whatever you do remember, however fleeting or seemingly random an image, and focus on recording how you felt when you woke up. Here’s a snippet from a recent entry of mine: In my dream I was speaking Germanfluently—far more fluently than I ever did when I studied it in college. I don’t remember what I said or who I said it to—just the feeling of complete ease in expression. I woke up feeling in awe of the things that must be hanging out in my mind, and wistful for a waking life where I could access them. A twist I like to add to this technique is to attach dream journaling to setting an intention. Think about it: your dreams are a place of limitless opportunity. You can fly in your dreams, and time travel, and do all manner of amazing things. Your dream world is the place where the boundaries of waking life don’t exist, so why not hitch an intention to that energy? Here’s the intention I hitched to my dream about speaking German: Today I will trust in my limitless potential.
Observation: This method focuses on recording events without analysis or evaluation. In other words, you act as an observer, or witness, to the events of your day, however momentous or trivial. People often do this technique with a timer—five minutes if you’re just starting, up to 20 if you feel comfortable with it. Using this technique to journal about your afternoon might yield something like this: I got a text at work from a friend who needed help. I texted back and my boss wrote me up. After work I drove to the store and bought groceries to make dinner. I also bought flowers. When I got home I hugged my dog and we went for a walk together….. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? That’s OK, it doesn’t have to. The value in this type of journaling is not in producing Pulitzer Prize-worthy prose, but in developing the practice of stepping back from the continuous reel most of us play in our heads that involves analyzing, overanalyzing, and judging everything we do and everything that happens to us. This technique removes the emotion from our recounting, and invites us to rest for a moment in facts, taking the Zen-like approach of observing the flow without getting swept up in the current. Continued next page
If you’ve ever sat in front of a blank notebook frozen with doubt and indecision, you are not alone. The struggle is real, but the good news is there are ways to get past it. FALL/WINTER 2018
FOCUS ON U…continued Gratitude/Abundance: We discussed gratitude journals above, but I’d like to share a twist I’ve added to my own practice that I’ve found really rewarding. I start in the morning by listing 15 things I’m grateful for. I’ve found, with time, that my list gets more detailed; for example, when I first started, I listed that I am grateful for my dog, Max. A few weeks later, my gratitude for our lovable oaf of a German Shepherd sounded like this: I am grateful for the sound Max’s paws make as he scampers across the floor downstairs, full of energy, and blissfully unaware of the havoc he wreaks as he propels his massive frame from the living room to the kitchen when he hears someone open the peanut butter jar. Cool, right? That’s not even the twist, my friends! At night, I go back to that morning’s page in my journal, and I list all the ways abundance came to me that day: I got a new client. My best friend sent me a text that made my day. I found a dime in the Giant parking lot. My boyfriend complimented me. Three more people signed up for my workshop… I love doing this because it becomes a record—and an invitation— to the energetic flow that exists between gratitude and abundance, and I’ve found that the more I recognize my blessings, the more blessings I have to recognize.
What Journaling is Not
So we’ve got some knowledge and we’ve got some techniques. There’s one more piece to the puzzle, and that is trust.
The biggest obstacle people have to journal writing is an attachment to the “should.” I should write every day. I should write in a certain type of journal. I should use a certain technique. I should produce consistent and life-changing revelations. I should feel inspired/fulfilled/happy/wise when I write. I should write like Hemingway. You know how it goes. My best advice for journal writing is to let go of the shoulds. That’s actually my best advice for everything, but that’s another article! Here are three simple truths about what journaling is not that will help you kick those "shoulds" to the curb. Journaling is not something there’s only one right way to do, it's not something you can mess up, and it's not something you have to be “perfect” at to benefit from.
Finding your Voice through Sacred Journaling
There is a sacred connection between spirit and word, and when we’re not distracted by anxiety about the how and where and what if, journaling can take us to that meeting place. So I say to you, hail, full of grace. Namaste. Take up your pen, pencil, crayon, or keyboard, and let yourself speak. Marissa Polselli is a writer, speaker, lover of words, and proud mom of a rescue dog. She’s the founder and CEO of Wordtree, LLC, a company focused on helping people find their voice and express themselves with joy and authenticity through writing. You can learn more about her at wordtree.net. To join her for a Journaling Session or workshop, check out her upcoming events at bit.ly/wordtree-events.
Joe Spallone 215-317-8243 email@example.com www.spallonemediaproductions.com
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An Express Workout for
Your Voice Within Strengthen Your SelfEsteem Muscle
What is your inner voice telling you right now? Is it saying you are not smart enough to get the job, you are not strong enough to move forward, or you aren’t pretty enough to find your match? Stop and do the Let Go/ Let In exercise that author and creator of The Blondesided Blogger, Ann Ciliberto, lays out in her upcoming book, Self-Esteem Express: How to fall in love with YOU! In her book, Ann offers 13 daily practices that collectively take less than 15 minutes. She explains that these practices are like crunches, pull ups, and weight lifting for your self-esteem muscle. And just like those exercises, you can do them all, or only one, or just a few, and at any time of day. Ann explains, “We always should be strengthening our self-esteem muscle because when a road bump in life comes...and it will...you will want to be ready. It’s like being in the Olympics. You don’t just try out one day. No, you have to train hard, practice daily, and keep your mind in check. But, everybody will eventually fall. You cannot always nail that jump, hit the target, or finish first. So it’s totally up to you to get back up. And if you keep honing and building your self-esteem muscle, you will spring back faster and often stronger.”
Do the Let Go/Let In Exercise
When describing this exercise, Ann says, “I do this at the end of each day to let go of negative feelings. But I have also been caught doing this in the middle of a busy parking lot or two. Yes, people stare but they are staring at a woman throwing her arms up in the air and smiling. They often can’t help but smile too.” 1. Start with your hands next to your ears. 2. Begin running them down alongside your body while saying, “I am letting go of (identify the negative feeling/ emotion).” 3. When you get to hip height begin to fan out your arms and visualize the negative feelings as a black sludge, starting to ooze out of your body from your hands and feet. 4. Next, stretch your arms out into a “T” and then bring them together above your head with palms touching together. 5. Move them down in front of your head while saying, “I am bringing in a positive emotion/feeling (i.e., hope, love, strong self-esteem, happiness). Be sure to smile as big as possible and feel all the positive energy coming in like rays of light shining into your body and heart!
Ann goes on to say, “I have had the pleasure of facilitating many empowerment groups filled with incredible participants. We would always close our sessions together by each doing three Let Go’s and three Let In’s. This exercise is a great way to end your day and most likely you will wake up still feeling the light!”
Find the Blondeside
Ann started her blog, The Blondesided Blogger, a little over 10 years ago when her life turned upside down with a divorce and financial crisis. She explained, “Being Blondesided is when you find the bright side of being blindsided. No matter how big or small, when you get blindsided by something in life, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.” Ann’s blog is full of anecdotes and insights into finding the bright side of life. Those readers are most important to Ann. She explains, “I would love my blog and book readers to share their self-esteem journeys, ups and downs. What have they done to grow their self-esteem muscles and love for yourselves? Often I find the most success by being open to conversation and learning from others. I hope my book and blog will help readers find the bright side of their problems. Rather than look at problems as roadblocks, look at them as growing pains to a stronger self-esteem.” Ann’s book will be available late 2018. Find The Blondesided Blogger at https:// blondesidedblogger.wordpress.com/. Sherah Cooney is the Internet Director at Ciocca Ford Souderton. If she’s not on the job helping her customers, she is at home with her husband painting and planning for Kindness Rocks Bucks County or playing with her two mutts while K-Love plays in the background.
Giving Voice to Personal Boundaries Most people think of self-care as taking time for ourselves--indulging in a massage, exercising, eating well, enjoying alone time or simply taking the time to read our favorite book. Self-care is all of those things. It is about saying yes to things that are good for us. But it is also about the things we say no to. It is about protecting our time, energy, and well-being and creating healthy boundaries for ourselves.
Have you ever half-heartedly said yes to something because you believed you “should” help or commit to this particular request but really didn’t want to? It can leave you feeling resentful, disappointed in yourself, and exhausted before you even start. Or maybe you allowed a person to speak to you in a certain way and later thought, “That is not OK.” One of my favorite thought leaders and fellow social workers, Brené Brown, shares that “It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” I recently stepped away from a commitment at my daughter’s school. Cue the mom guilt. I helped with this particular task for 3 years. It started because I thought I “should” be more involved beyond helping with classroom parties and field trips. “Maybe I should coordinate something?” I asked myself. It turns out the event dates were chosen by the school district and set in stone, and most of the dates were not a good fit for my schedule. I found myself shifting appointments and juggling a few priorities to get there. I did this for 3 years! The truth is I would love to help more, but I realized a few things. First I realized rushing and juggling never help you show up as your best self. I show up for my daughters all of the time but it isn’t always at school and that is ok. I also realized “should” should never be part of the equation. And I realized by saying no 22
to this commitment, I was actually giving -- giving my daughter, the other students, and the committee -- someone who can commit to this particular task.
Consider Saying No with Love
I recently connected with Tara Bradford, Certified High Performance Coach, Personal Transformation Expert, Keynote Speaker, and Creator of Imposter to Influencer, on the topic of saying no. According to Tara, “We bring our own personal experiences with the word ‘no’ into our conversations and we make assumptions about what it means to other people based on that. If the intention behind it is fear -- fear that someone will feel rejected, hurt or disappointed -- then that’s likely the result we will get. If we set the intention to say no with love then we are also in service of others by not taking on more than we can handle, but also not taking on something we don’t want to do because we won’t be able to able to fully commit to it in a meaningful way.”
Everything Changes When You Really Love Yourself
We all know those sayings, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” or “Put your own oxygen mask on before you try to help others with theirs.” Even if we know they are true, we often still have
that one last person to help, that one last fundraiser to organize, or that one additional work project that leads to missed lunches and shortened downtime. How do we go from giving at the expense of ourselves, our health, our peace, to saying no with confidence and without judgment? It starts with loving yourself first, knowing your value and your self-worth.
Tips for Saying No Slow Your Response
You don’t need to respond right away. Many years ago a mentor of mine taught me that I didn’t need to answer immediately when someone asked me to commit to something. Start by asking yourself if this is an emergency or time sensitive and if it isn’t, let the person know that you will get back to them. It is important to find out when they need to know by. Take the time to decide if the commitment is a good fit for you yet let them know by their deadline.
No Explanation Needed
You do not need to explain yourself. This can be hard for many of us, but whether you are answering with “I will get back to you” or simply “No,” remember they are complete sentences that don’t require elaboration.
FOMO Has to Go
Find A Tribe
Surround yourself with others who value self-care, boundaries, and your time. As women, we are taught to give, help, put others first, and not let someone else down. When we do let someone down, the guilt creeps in. Connect with others that value this form of self care. Then support one another on this no journey. You may find that the people around you may struggle with this new no you. Let that be their struggle, because it is. This will shift over time; by creating these boundaries you are teaching people how to treat you. Some people will ultimately grow to respect your ability to model boundaries and self-care. Some may not and that is okay. Saying no isn’t wrong or bad. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t giving or supporting others. You can still say no and be a good person. Saying no sometimes is saying yes to you. Aimee Hoch, LSW, is a Masters Level Social Worker with experience in both healthcare and behavioral health. A Financial Navigator for the Oncology Program at Grand View Health, she has also owned a wellness business for the past four years. She is a speaker on topics such as Creating a Vision for Your Life, Overcoming Fear, and Establishing Goals. Aimee lives in Souderton, PA with her husband and two daughters.
The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) can lead to overcommitment and burnout. At times we say yes to something because we fear we will miss out on an experience. We can’t be in all places at all times or help with everything. Choose commitments that you are most passionate about. You can give more of yourself and enjoy those commitments more.
Put YOU in your calendar first and protect it like it is your most important appointment of the day. Because it is!
Exercising the Say No Muscle is a process. It would not feel natural or comfortable to immediately switch from being a People Pleaser Extraordinaire to a Just Say No Champ. Practice over time. Say no to one thing and sit with that decision. Be okay with it before moving on to say no to more and more things. And while I recommend working on feeling confident with verbally saying no, starting small may mean sending an email or text if appropriate.
Take The Person Out of It
Separate the person from the request. You are not saying no to the person, just the event or commitment.
What Would You Tell A Friend?
Taking the time to step away from the situation can be helpful, as if we are giving advice to a friend. We can see how the situation would impact them from an outside perspective. Ask yourself, “What would I tell my friend?” FALL/WINTER 2018
Thank You Business Members TO OUR
Deborah A Webb, CMC
Committed to Education in the Mortgage Profession www.professordeb.com
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ADVICE FOR U
Focusing on Personal Growth
One Small, Daily Change at a Time
This issue is full of inspirational stories and action
steps to take. To help our readers make the move
from inspiration to action, Christin Smith Myers sat down with Sisters U member Terri Dillinger,
a John Maxwell Certified Coach and Trainer, for some practical advice.
How did you get into using your voice for coaching and training? I am passionate about personal growth. Working in direct sales for 20 years, I developed a passion for helping women grow their businesses from home, have faith in their talents and abilities, and better manage their time. Women who are always trying to balance so many different priorities might lose sight of what they really want out of life and how they’d like to be remembered. The more I watched women grow and recognize for themselves just how amazing and capable they are, the more I knew this was what I wanted to do!
What is your best advice to readers about how to make a significant change? One of my favorite quotes is “It is about progression, not perfection!“ The joy of changing our lives is knowing we are moving daily in the right direction. Put together a plan. Prioritize. Most importantly, know that it is okay to start small. Too many people expect too much too soon and when they don’t experience success immediately or can’t keep up with all the changes, they get frustrated and often stop before they see the results. Instead, focus on incremental change. Start with one small change in what you do daily. Make that daily change a habit, then add a new change. When you start
with these mini-changes or progressions, reaching your goal feels doable. As John Maxwell says, “Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”
Even with small changes, there are bound to be failures or setbacks. Of course. As John Maxwell teaches, “Without failure there is no achievement.” We learn from those failures if we reflect. If we reached our goal, we should ask what helped us to get there. If we didn’t, we need to ask what got in the way, and what we learned from the experience. I like a daily reflection question, “What was my least worthy emotion today?” It helps us consider whether we travelled in the right direction of the goal we seek or whether we instead rode a non-helpful emotion in the wrong direction.
How can women support each other through the inevitable ups and downs of personal growth? We have to show up for each other. During our Mastermind groups, we often find so many similarities in our feelings or common experiences. We need to be open and willing and really connect. We have so many opportunities to learn from each other. We need to surrender toxic relationships and spend time with those who help us rise up.
What’s next on your personal development journey? I am really passionate about youth and hope to become more involved in coaching them through an additional certification. In the meantime, I seek opportunities to open up conversations with young people and to ask them specific thought-provoking questions. Many of us have memories of specific events in our lives during which just one quote, suggestion, or question inspired us to take a particular path. I believe each one of us can unselfishly encourage and motivate a young person. That’s how I’d like to use my voice.
Any final thoughts? I’ll end with another favorite quote from John Maxwell: “You see, success doesn’t just suddenly occur one day in someone’s life. For that matter, neither does failure. Each is a process. Every day of your life is merely preparation for the next. What you become is the result of what you do today. In other words…you are preparing for something.” In addition to serving as Chief Operating Oﬃcer for Combined Resource Solutions, Christin Smith Myers is a speaker and writer on positivity and productivity. She also serves on the editorial board of U Magazine. Photography by Heart and Soul Portraits FALL/WINTER 2018
Using My Voice to Get the Help I Needed was
Life-Changing Growing up with undiagnosed depression and anxiety was a daily struggle. Through my childhood and early adulthood, my mental illness lurked in the background, plaguing me constantly while I did not have the tools or help to manage it.
This was exacerbated by my relationship with my mother, who always had something to say about the clothes I was wearing, my unflattering hairstyle, or how I was gaining weight and unattractive. When she overheard conversations about boys we liked, she would wait until my friends left to tell me I needed to change a lot about myself if I was ever going to get a boyfriend. Mom never said anything in front of anyone else, and I never said anything to her, my dad, my teachers, or even my friends about how I was feeling. I was so afraid that no one would believe that a mother could talk to her daughter that way, so I tucked it away. My depression grew. By high school, I “put on a face” at school and when I was out with friends. But at home, I cried a lot. I was told by my family and friends I should “get over
it” and to “be happy.” But it’s not a switch that can be flipped. No matter how often I was yelled at, ignored, dismissed, or put down, I couldn’t just get over it. It made me feel worse that I couldn’t gain control of my emotions and feelings. What was a mental illness felt like my fault.
Facing the Situation
In my late teens or early twenties, my Psychology professor pulled me aside and asked if I’d ever been treated for depression. I said, “No. I don’t have depression.” He explained that my writings leaned that way, and even though he was not in a position to make a diagnosis, he encouraged me to talk to my doctor and get any medical help I could. I sat in his office and nodded in agreement. But as I walked out, I laughed to myself, “I’m not depressed. Depression is when something traumatic happens, like someone close to you dying.”
However, over the years, I thought a lot about the concern my professor had voiced. Maybe I was depressed. The problem was I was now working a minimum wage job without insurance and living paycheck to paycheck, with no roommate, boyfriend, spouse, or my parents to rely on. Above that, with this job, I needed to wear a smile and a positive attitude all the time. It took so much effort to act that happy on a daily basis that I would be physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the day. I would take days off of work to stay home and cry and sleep. There was also the stigma that went along with depression, anxiety, and mental illness that stopped me from getting the help I needed. I didn’t want to be perceived as crazy. I mean, aren’t crazy people the ones that go to therapy? I worked with the public! It couldn’t get out that I went to therapy! So I didn’t go.
Enter my husband. When we were at a comfortable spot in our new relationship, he asked if I had ever gotten help for my depression. I said no. We went together to my primary doctor. She put me on an antidepressant and suggested I meet with a psychiatrist who would be better trained to prescribe and monitor this medication and disease. As a result of the antidepressant, I was a different person. When I went to work, I was genuinely happy. And I was still happy when I came home. Fast forward a few years, to when I had to be weaned off my medication due to an unexpected pregnancy. After our child was born, our focus was on the baby, not me. I chalked many of my emotional outbursts to having a child, the “baby blues,” but that’s when my mental health started to really spiral out of control. I could blame hormones, my ever-changing body, weight gain, the lack of proper medication or medical support, or all of the above, but I was a mess. A big mess. I felt as if I was failing as a mother, a wife, and a friend. I cried. All. The. Time. I considered ending it all. I thought my child would live a happier and better life without dealing with a mom who couldn’t handle everything. I thought my husband could have peace again and easily find
someone to love, because, let’s be real, after dealing with me, anyone else would be easy. I even planned when and how to do it, resulting in the least amount of clean-up. So what stopped me? It was my husband saying, “I would be completely non-functional. I’d have to move in with your parents to have your mom raise him while I picked up the pieces of my life and attempted to work to support our child.” Something clicked. What? My mom would raise him? Look what she did to me! Look how many of my feelings were pushed aside. How I was at fault for everything I felt. Now my child would be left to survive with a woman who doesn’t listen. I looked at my husband and said, “I need help”. He got me back to a psychiatrist and I got back on medication. This time we decided that therapy would need to be a part of my new life too. I needed someone who listened without judgment, someone who would tell me that my feelings were valid, but also someone to tell me when I needed to take a step back and reevaluate a situation. It took going to three different therapists to find the right fit. Mine has helped me remove toxic relationships and stand up for myself. When family events approach, she focuses attention on how I’m going to cope and get through it without panic attacks and breakdowns. She even tells me when I’m wrong. As difficult as that is, it’s nice to have her tell me the truth instead of what I want to hear.
If you see yourself in any part of my story, I encourage you to look into getting the help you need and deserve. Each person’s symptoms are different. Knowing yourself well enough to know there is more going on is the first step.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your loved ones, there are others who can help you. Contact your primary doctor for assistance in finding the right psychiatrist and/or psychologist for you. You may need a referral for your insurance. You may seek counsel with a member of the clergy. There are also national organizations that provide assistance, such as those listed in the callout box with this article.
If you don’t see yourself in my story, look at others with compassion. If you think someone might be struggling, use your voice to express care and concern. I didn’t appreciate my professor’s words immediately, but they came to mean a lot to me. Finally, if you are a parent, please learn from my story. Stress the importance of mental health to your children so they aren’t afraid to ask for help or express their feelings. Teach them not to put others down for their feelings. Be open about how some people need medicine and therapy to get through these diseases, and assure them they have a support system in you and other family members or professionals at school. Speak to yourself and others with kindness and compassion. And use your voice to get the help you need. It could be lifechanging. The author is just one of many women who have struggled with undiagnosed depression and other emotional issues.
If You See Yourself in any part of this story, you are encouraged to look into getting the help you need and deserve. National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) www.nami.org Find a Psychologist www.psychologytoday.com/ us/therapists
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