July 18, 2016

An Interview with Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations Julie Koh


I am so excited to introduce you to today's bitch! I met Julie back in the early days of Pancake Run and Book Swap, circa 2009-2010. I was a beginner-runner and entering into a group of women who had Ironmans and marathons under their belts. I was intimidated, self-conscious and getting a lot of advice on how to get better and faster, and Julie was like, "Have fun!"

Julie walks through life with her eyes and heart wide open. She seeks out and injects fun into her life way more than you'd expect of someone so professionally accomplished. You can have a 30 second phone conversation with her and she will have laughed through 20 seconds of it, while also giving you precise instructions on how to perform a task. Julie is responsible for turning me into a triathlete, and for keeping me slightly less neurotic while doing so. Meet today's bitch, Julie "Hot Koh Koh" Koh!


What is your job title and where do you work?

I work as the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

Through my volunteer work with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. As a member of Team in Training, I learned that fundraising was necessary for non-profit organizations.

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now? 

When I was a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt, I started doing informational interviews with anybody who had a doctorate and had pursued careers away from traditional research in the laboratory. I met with patent lawyers, clinical trials officers, leaders at foundations and corporations. Someone suggested I meet with a development professional and I had no idea what that was, but I went on the interview anyway. My resume got passed along, and I was invited to meet with the new Vice-Chancellor for medical development at Vanderbilt. What I thought was another informational interview ended up becoming a job interview. Randy (my future boss) outlined the need for a professional who could work with Vanderbilt scientists and develop proposals to foundations to fund critical research. I was immediately hooked and so excited I sent him a follow-up email with my ideas and a business plan the very next day. I had no idea that I had this capability until this one chance meeting sparked all this creativity. 

Almost two years ago, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute came knocking (actually Randy was the one who recommended me for the job), and I moved to Boston to work in Corporate and Foundation Relations. The work is incredibly exciting because the science and research here fires every single geeky neuron in my body. The vision for how medical research is about to evolve and how instrumental Dana-Farber is in this new world inspires me every day. I have officially drunk the kool-aid, y'all!!!


Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

You can’t change what happens to you  -  only how you react to it. I think I realized this in my teens and it probably is a personality indicator of why I became a scientist. It continues to guide me and I am always relearning it.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

The dream of having my own laboratory and teaching students is something that propelled me for a long time until I realized it wasn’t compatible with how I wanted to live my daily life. I love to work but I don’t live to do it. I want to play with friends, experience new things, and spend time with loved ones. It was hard to give up the dream of my own lab, and I was scared that it was the only thing I was good at…. Until I turned it on its head and tried to find other ways I can apply my skills.

In so many ways and at different times in my life, I could have been the perfect first-generation, American-born Korean girl who followed a prescribed life and career path with predictable outcomes. I completely failed at that and could not be happier. I know that with all its flaws my life is completely mine because I looked for it and chose it. 

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

I just got a new puppy, Guiness, who I am completely obsessed with. I have him on puppy cam so I can watch him sleep while I am at work. So I would definitely spend more time with him. Otherwise, I would say reading, but who am I kidding… I would watch TV.

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?

That I leaped to a completely different career successfully.


What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

Facebook and New York Times.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

I take Guiness for a walk, and then we learn to do tricks. He is only 14 weeks old and he has learned sit, stay, shake and leave it. Did I say I was obsessed? Lately, I have also been trying to shut down my screen time (TV and computer) by 8:30 so I can go to bed at a decent hour. I haven’t been able to manage the phone yet since I like to Candy Crush for insanely long amounts of time. Anyway, while I am finishing up housework or getting cooking done, I like to listen to podcasts (Serial, Moth, NPR, Science, New York Times, etc). 

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

Not stepping into political landmines. Who would think that academia is teeming with drama? But it’s true. It involves money, power and ego. I have always thought of myself as a “bull in a china shop” kind of person. I am naturally completely clueless about how people are feeling or why they respond to situations in a certain way. I am still learning how to navigate a political world, but generally my rule of thumb is to listen until I know exactly what I want to say. 

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

That I have to go to social events all the time. I don’t and I am really happy about that.


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

Right now, Game of Thrones and cheese puffs.

All photos courtesy of Julie Koh

July 14, 2016

2016 Reading Round Up, Part Two


I typically post two reading round ups a year, but it makes for two loooooong posts, so I'm breaking them up this year. Read part one here. As a reminder, these are off the cuff reviews that I peck into my phone as soon as I finish the book. A literary critic I am not. 

Here's what I've been reading!

Tara Road by Maeve Binchy

This is my first Maeve Binchy book. I loved it! The size of the book is daunting, but it reads fast. A chunk of the middle section is sad and I wasn't always in the mood to pick it up, but the last half of the book is so, so great. It's been a long time since I've cared about characters in a book this much. Great book!

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I liked this book, and I'm glad I read it, but I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. It's powerful and the perspective is interesting (and horrifying), but it wasn't fun to read. I read it during a stressful part of my professional life, and this book didn't offer an escape. I'm still in awe of Margaret Atwood, and highly recommend this book, I just wish I had read it during a different time of the year.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

Holy crap, this book is amazing! I've loved all of Brene's books, but this one is my favorite. It covers so much ground. It covers the important parts of her previous books and introduces all this new stuff, too. This is definitely her best book. A must read!

Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

This book is beautiful. The last chapter is one of the most moving things I've read. Highly recommend, though parts of it may be difficult for those who have lost their fathers. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I loved this book! People have been telling me to read it for years. I wish I had listened! It takes a few chapters to get going, but then it picks up and continues to move pretty fast. The chapters alternate between characters, which I really like - I read faster that way. Also, this book piqued my interest in WWII history and I'm going read Erik Larson's In The Garden Of Beasts next. Fantastic book!

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

This was my first Nora Ephron book. I liked it. It didn't blow me away as much as I expected, but maybe I misunderstood her writing style from watching so many of her movies. It's a quick, fun read. I'll check out some of her other books.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I really liked this book and read it pretty quickly. It was hard to put down. Every night I would lay down to read for a few minutes and find myself awake an hour or two later still reading. It reminds me of The Dive From Clausen's Pier, a book I also loved. This would be a great book to take on vacation since it moves fast, is kind of a love story, and is hard to put down. Great book!

Stiff:  The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

I feel like this is the most I've learned about a topic in a looooong time. This book is fascinating! I mean, it's cadavers, so some of it is gross and hard to read, but so interesting overall! I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the rest of Mary Roach's books.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

This book is great! I know a lot of people hate the book, hate the author and think the whole premise is self-involved and narcissistic, but I disagree. Both this book and her follow-up book, Happiness At Home, have helped me a lot. I think if you're in a dark headspace, this isn't a book to pull you out. But if you're in a good spot and want to get in an even better spot, this is your book. This book helped me bring a lot of things full circle that had been floating around in my head. I'm a fan.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

I loved this book! I was surprised at how much I didn't know about Gloria Steinem. Her work and her life is so less glamorous than I thought. And her work is so much more important. I had no idea how many things she's responsible for starting. I'm also fascinated with the Wilma Mankilker chapter that ends the book and can't wait to read more about Wilma and women's role in the Native American community. Great book!!

July 11, 2016

An Interview with Charter School Teacher Alicia Hunker


I know today's bitch through a little running group in Nashville called East Nasty Running Club. At this point, I haven't run in so long that I should probably quit referring to myself as a runner, and Alicia is training for 50 mile races, so we don't cross running paths as much as we used to. But I love Alicia, even though our friendship exists primarily online now.

Alicia is effervescent. You can't help but to be drawn in by her. She also has the rare quality of loving her job, and I mean, LOVING her job. Which is good, because she's a teacher. And don't we want our teachers to be happy and fulfilled? Meet today's bitch, Alicia not "just a teacher" Hunker!


What is your job title and where do you work?

I'm a 6th grade math teacher, Scholar Advisory Council Facilitator and 6th grade House Leader at Valor Collegiate Academy, a college preparatory charter school in South Nashville.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I learned about a significant need for female STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teachers during my undergraduate studies.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

After feeling unfulfilled for about 6 years while teaching at a K-5 public school in Texas, I knew it was time to make a drastic change in my career path. Unfortunately, most Texas public schools were far behind where I wanted to be as far as educational equality and STEM specific schools go. It was important to me to find a school community that I felt connected to, with a diverse culture and a focus on social-emotional development and academics.


What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?

I moved to Tennessee and got hired on the spot at a magnet school teaching 2nd grade. This was not my ideal school, but it was one step closer to working at a STEM school. A year later, I interviewed at a STEM school and was hired to teach 6th grade math.

I learned a lot, loved my scholars, coached the girls soccer teams, and facilitated a lego engineering club. But sadly, this school was not a good fit. My work-life balance was pretty much non-existent. It was clear what I needed, what I would not compromise, and what I wanted to be a part of. It was then that I started heavily researching all other Nashville charter schools. I was introduced to my current school's CEO by a friend and began working at Valor!

Valor not only focuses on academics but seeks to develop scholars’ social-emotional skills, character strengths, and physical health. Valor was the first free, public college preparatory charter school in Nashville to serve a diverse background of students. We teach our scholars, and learn from each other, about the value of perspective, regardless of background, which is something I didn't get to experience until college.


Currently, Valor scholars are 8% Asian/Other, 15% Hispanic/Latino, 17% African American, 20% MENA (Middle Eastern / North African), and 40% white. Additionally, 50% of our scholars qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch (more diverse than most public schools in Tennessee). Not only do I get to teach, I also get to be a mentor to eighteen 5th grade boys. I will be their mentor for the next four years!

My administrators are committed to helping me reflect and refine my practice so that I can make a difference in our community. I also just earned a House Leader promotion for the 2016-17 school year which I am stoked about! I will oversee the 6th grade team leadership, scholar support based on data, and the grade level culture (ramping up the joy factor, celebrating student success). With this will come more unique coaching from my bosses who are brilliant, kind, and empowering! 


Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

  • Embrace change.
  • Work at a place where you feel valued, happy, and challenged.
  • Be joyful and kind no matter what the work situation might toss at you.
  • All things can be communicated with grace and poise.
  • Verbally appreciate your colleagues so they know you care.
  • Transparency is gold! 

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

My journey to a balanced and international workplace took 8 years, 3 different schools, a few unimaginable incidents, and a lot of reflection and changes of direction. Being humble and transparent about any mistake, no matter how big or small, is the easiest way to grow. I mean, who doesn't make occasional mistakes when working 75 hour weeks, maintaining ultra-marathon training schedules, friendships, marriage, and daily house chores and responsibilities? I have learned to embrace the mistakes and uncomfortable conversations because I learn so much from them.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Run more, nap, cook, and read.


What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?

Aside from getting to be a part of my Valor family/team, getting the House Leader promotion and the ability to expand my teaching and leadership experience in a new and challenging way. 

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

Wunderground, Gmail, and Google Calendar.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

Running trails with friends, cooking and eating dinner with my husband on the porch, and reading. 


What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

Maintaining my work life balance despite working 70-80 hour weeks. I know I make it look easy because some of my friends are just discovering the amount of time great teaching takes. I realize that people in general are very uninformed about our education system and structures in Tennessee. In fact, most people do not know what a charter school is! Nothing will predict the future success, enjoyment, and overall experience of our scholars more than the quality of their teachers. I have to go above and beyond, and I happily do it!

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

I am not “just a teacher,” I work at a school that is truly unique, which requires me to work a lot harder and many more hours. I work at a school who aims to be the best in the country. Our mission is to prepare a diverse student population for success in college and to live inspired and purposeful lives. Our scholars will graduate with academic skills, social-emotional skills, and positive character strengths that rival the outcomes of the best schools in the world.


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I don’t like to sit and watch TV at all! However, I love watching documentaries about people who have/are living happy, full lives. Most recently I watched Iris by director Albert Maysles. It documents the exciting life of 93 year old starlet, Iris Apfel. It was phenomenal, just what I like to feed my inspiration! 

Snack: Acai bowls, which I have recently learned to make myself! Yum!

All photos courtesy of Alicia Hunker

June 27, 2016

An Interview with Tattoo Artist Shannon Wages


Of all my bitches, I've probably known today's for the least amount of time. I met Shannon last September when she gave me my 9/11 tattoo. I don't know how many of you have current tattoos, but as someone with a tattoo from 1993 and another one from 2015, let me tell you, things have changed. When I got my first tattoo, I flipped through a binder until I found something I liked, then they smoked over me while they permanently etched this cursed flower vine onto my ankle, charging me $20 every time I jerked my leg. They're no longer in business. Probably because they made all of their money off unaccompanied minors.

When I decided to get my new tattoo, I talked to my friend Freya and she connected me to Shannon. She blew me away! Shannon is an artist, she drew my tattoo - no more binders! She also intuitively knew when I needed breaks and was comfortable being present while I felt all of my feelings. Y'all, that is hard to do. I can't recommend her enough. I also highly recommend her Instagram feed for tattoo inspiration. Meet today's bitch, Shannon Wages!


What do you make and what is the name of your business?

I make tattoos at Banshee Tattoo, aka Shannon Wages Tattoos.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I started working in tattoo shops when I was 23. I was in college studying Mass Communications, circa 2003. I started as a counter girl, never having any intention of being a tattoo artist. I had 40 jobs before I was a tattooer, I swear, I counted. I kept them maybe 9 months before I would lose interest and stop going. I have a highly short attention span. I always say that tattooing only keeps me interested because it’s intense and requires a constant front row seat.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I initially had no intention of tattooing, I only knew that I loved the environment of the tattoo shop and I knew where I belonged (I had that “ding” moment your college counselors tell you about). After being there long enough, seeing the way the tattooers and clients interacted, I saw that the field needed to change. I saw clients not being treated the way I thought they should, and I noticed them having more of a connection with me than their tattooer, simply because I would listen to them. My stepdad had a salvage store when I was a kid, where I worked, and I saw his relationship with his customers. He was a great business man, he always believed in being good to his customers and having relationships with them. I wanted to see a tattoo establishment that treated their customers with friendliness instead of snobbery.  


What was your path that lead you to where you are now?

The actual building:  Gentrification. I was sharing a space with Blackbird and we were all kicked out because they wanted to re-do the building and raise the rent. At that point, I was approached by Brandon to join East Tattoo Collective. 

My position as a tattooer:  Being unwilling to accept the run-of-the-mill crap of a walk-in shop. My standards were higher, I wanted more for myself as an artist and a more personal, boutique experience for my clients.  

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I hadn’t found anyone doing it the way I thought it should be done. I wanted to be able to do what I loved without getting burnt out on the same designs over and over. In my current atmosphere, I can persuade clients to choose a more personal design, instead of the typical Pinterest reboot. Setting my own terms (not to mention my own hours) helps me stay in love with what I do. Plus, I’m just a terrible employee, lol.  

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Never have a partner. Everyone in the Collective contributes to the bills, but we operate as separate business entities. I have problems with authority, lol (not lol).


 What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

The fear of not having the client base to sustain me outside of a walk in shop. I’ve been lucky enough to get the best clients an artist could ask for, but I also like to think it’s because I’ve established relationships with them.  

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from those who have been there before you. 

Pay whatever the government says you owe. 

Don’t be afraid to be different. Sometimes being the weirdo is the best trait you have! Just because no one in your friend group/industry/city is doing something, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Weirdness is the hallmark of true innovation!

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

I first operated with the notion that the customer is always right. The customer isn’t always right. That’s why we go to professionals, we rely on their experience. Don’t be afraid to tell your client no. Sometimes you have to stand up to them for what’s best for them, even if they take it personally (although I would argue that a good tattooer can keep it from seeming like a personal style attack). 


What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

I would learn more languages (but probably just play Sim City). OOOOO! I’d play Sim City in different languages. 

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

The family life. I work way too much.

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) related to what you make?

My last tattoo. I always want to be most proud of the tattoo I’ve just finished. My mentor taught me that your portfolio isn’t shit if you can’t perform on command. 


What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

One of three websites of a very sensuous nature, not gonna lie. I make no excuses for sexuality. Then Instagram to see who has posted tattoos overnight. 

Where do you go when you need inspiration for your work?

The book store. Errrr... Well, now more my bookshelf, or Amazon. I’m so sad the bookstore has gone the way of the buffalo! The library is nowhere near as flashy. I love to look outside of digital media; it’s readily available to everyone for reference. I like to try and look outside of something that can be consumed so rapidly. Other than that, exercising (dude, I totally lift and it’s awesome), playing music, or learning something new. Learning a new art form or new instrument always helps me see more clearly what I can do to vary and reinvent my work.


How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

Boyfriend, bath, Lush, wine, weed. In no specific order, but frequently in combination.

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

Knowing when to turn the lights out and take time off. If there are tattoos to be done, I want to be doing them. I have recently hired someone whose list of responsibilities includes telling me to put the machine down and go home.


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

Law and Order (the OG) or Peep Show. Shit. Maybe Bob’s Burgers? Are we talking animated or live action? This is a tough one. Also, I thought The Sopranos was great.

Snacks? Cereal. Hands-down, cereal. Cereal or ice cream with whole milk poured on it (it’s like ice cream soup, aka milkshakes - try it and thank me later).  

All photos courtesy of Shannon Wages

June 20, 2016

An Interview with Burlesque Performer Freya West


You guys, I am so excited about this post! If you know anything about me, you know that Freya is my spiritual guide to body positivity and pizza. I met Freya in 2012 when I was two weeks into what would turn out to be a terrible job. I'm pretty sure my first words to Freya were "Run! Seriously, if you got offered any other job, take it." That job broke my brain and crushed my soul, BUT, I got Freya out of it. And I learned how to do front humps. Kind of.

I don't know a lot of people like me, people who get praise for doing things that other people think they can't do. It's hard because you want to be gracious and you don't want to discount the work, but you also want to help people realize they can do the same thing. It's just work, and you either decide to do it or you don't. Freya is a fantastic performer and teacher, but it's not a superpower, it's work. Meet today's bitch, my soul sister in cheese, Freya West!


What do you make/teach and what is the name of your business?

I’m a burlesque warrior and headmistress. I make ephemeral sexy performance art on stage and I teach the art of charisma at Delinquent Debutantes, Nashville’s very own burlesque finishing school.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I saw my first burlesque show in college in Chicago, mostly because it was at a BYOB theatre and my underaged friends and I knew they didn’t card. Instead of being drunk off booze though, I found this beautiful show of badass women who were bawdy, who were all sizes, and who were all unabashedly sparkly.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

It’s the most terrifying and gratifying thing I’ve ever done. After my first performance, I immediately wanted to start on the next one. And I still leave every class with a smile. In short, it makes me happy.


What was your path that lead you to where you are now?

I found burlesque classes in Chicago. After about a year of classes with Michelle L’Amour, one of the world’s best stripteasers, I made my debut in 2008. I moved to Nashville in 2009 and joined Music City Burlesque the same year. In 2010 I started performing at festivals across the United States and Canada, which are like big networking events in burlesque, just with more rhinestones and less clothing. In 2011 I headlined Iceland’s very first burlesque show with their national circus and began teaching seriously. I opened Delinquent Debutantes as it’s own studio in 2014. That’s the tiny highlight reel of my eight years performing, failing, trying new things, failing better, and growing.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

Performing is always sort of being your own boss, which as someone who’s always had - erhm - struggles with authority, was appealing to me. I started teaching because I was asked to, and it’s absolutely the best decision I’ve ever made.

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, do what will make you money. Can you finish something that will make you $100 today?


What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

Money! I had saved from teaching just enough to put down the deposit and first month’s rent when I decided to make the leap to studio ownership, and then we crowdfunded the actual buildout, which was incredible, but we started a business at literally $0 in the bank. It’s quite a motivator to know that you have to make your expenses every month because there is no cushion.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

Every day is a new day. No matter how bad or good yesterday was, get up and do the work today. You can’t rest on your laurels (but you should celebrate your successes!), similarly, you can’t wallow in your failures (but a little cry and sad music helps the process). I also think this keeps you humble, because you’re just there to show up, put your head down and do the work.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

You can’t do everything by yourself. My ever-loving and patient husband, Keith, has saved my ass multiple times, from forgetting little things for a show to big things like those midnight tears when you’re too stressed to sleep. A little support goes a long way. If your work is good and helpful (if it’s not, why are you doing it?), then people will want to help. Pick the right people, and let them help! When we first opened the studio, Shan (my right hand business and friend babe) and I would do all the teaching, all the cleaning, and all the promo. It was way too much. Once we made the leap to trust four incredible women to work the front desk and do cleaning duties, the entire studio shined brighter, our customer service went up, and those women are so much more invested in the success of this business.


What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Spend that time reading and taking in art. I never lack for inspiration, but I feel so much more fed as an artist and as a business owner when I allow myself the space and time to be an audience to someone else’s art.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

My performing career definitely took a hit when I opened the studio, because I had this newborn business that needed all my attention. A year and a half in, that’s starting to shift again as the studio begins to become more self-sufficient. I also tend to keep the worst working hours, as I’m in classes until 10pm and then will answer emails until midnight, but that’s not a huge sacrifice since I’m a night owl.

I’ve been very humbled by the experience of relying on others to help build this business, but it’s all been so worth it. Becoming more vulnerable with my own shortcomings, and owning up to mistakes while still leading a company is living with continual growing pains. Again though, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) related to what you make?

With the exception of about five performers in Nashville, all the rest of the burlesquers here I trained. Some of them are producing shows, teaching at the studio, and performing at festivals and big events now. It’s beautiful to feel like I’ve really grown this community up and provided an opportunity to let these ladies shine.

As a performer, that Iceland gig is still a big highlight for me. This year I’ve also been asked to perform and speak at two major conventions outside burlesque, and I’m thrilled that my work is being recognized outside of our tiny industry. I hope I get to continue spreading the gospel of bawdy positivity!


What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

I’m totally a morning Instagram stalker! I can’t handle my inbox first thing, nor the hectic pace of Facebook, so looking at people’s curated food/travel/clothing happies in the morning makes me feel like I can tackle the other things.

Where do you go when you need inspiration for your work?

I’m going to be boring and tell you that inspiration is everywhere, but it really is true! I get ideas for acts and shows everywhere from being stuck in traffic to a beautiful hike in nature. 


How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

Epsom salt baths save my ass (literally). Being in water at the end of the day means I can’t be online and have to relax. I’m also a big fan of mindless TV and midnight snacks ;)

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

I don’t know if it’s obvious or not, but motivation on bad days. When the self-sabotage in your head starts, you have to be very vigilant that it won’t wreck those precious hours that you need to be productive and move forward. Times like those, I’m thankful to have friends to reach out to. Having a lunch with someone who knows is essential to my mental health.


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

Of all time? Probably Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve watched the series a few times all the way through and it’s still really enjoyable. Right now? I’m watching Six Feet Under and it’s so, so brilliant.

Favorite snack, cheese, without a doubt. I often credit my photos with “body by cheese” and it’s true. Specifically, my favorite weird snack that I can’t keep in the house because I devour it is Ruffles potato chips dipped in cottage cheese. It’s salty crunchy creamy perfection!

All photos courtesy of Freya West

June 16, 2016

Dear Orlando Survivors


I know what it's like to be part of a national tragedy, and to feel like you're not what people are talking about. Survivors don't grieve like a normal person. I'm heartbroken over this senseless fucking tragedy, and I'm horrified that 49 people were shot and killed, but my grief is with the survivors. I know what they're about to face. I know there is going to be a song, or a cell phone ring, they can never hear again, a smell they can never smell again, and that they will never be able to drive past Pulse and not feel a surge of adrenaline, if they can even drive past it at all.

Years from now, there will be another national tragedy, and they'll use yours as a benchmark. The part of your brain that's broken will think you're in danger and will flood your body with fear. You won't recognize it and will wonder why you can't stop crying and why your reaction is so different than everyone else's. Your husband will ask you to call your therapist. Your therapist will ask you to check in with her every day, and to get acupuncture or a massage to release the fear your body is holding.

There is no support club for us. There's no club for people who didn't die in a national tragedy, but were there, saw it, heard it, and smelled it. There's no monthly meeting where we can meet other people like us and then go grab coffee. It is a lonely place.

Dear Orlando Survivors,

I am so sorry for what you saw. Your experience matters, even if no one is giving you space to know that. You'll feel guilty for grieving. Don't. You'll feel guilty for being alive. Don't. You'll feel like you don't deserve your grief. You do.

Surround yourself with people who have earned the right to hear your story and are capable of the compassion and empathy you'll need. Find a professional to help you with the heavy lifting. Know that you matter. Your story matters.

I'm sorry you were forced into this club. So was I. Lonely as you may feel, you are not alone. We don't speak up often, but we're here, and we're holding you up from afar.

Stay well.

--

Please make a donation if you can:

Pulse Victims Fund

Zebra Coalition

June 13, 2016

An Interview with Transformational Facilitator Susi Willis


Though I don't run anymore, I met today's bitch through local running group, East Nasty. I used to write for them, and I wrote their "East Nasty of the Week" profile on Susi. That was in 2013, and even though we knew each other before, that was when we really became friends.

If there was a cloud of good things you could reach up and pluck compliments out of, every single thing in that cloud would apply to Susi. She has shown up unannounced to cheer me on at out of town races; she has reached out when I've been hurting and sat with me while I talked and cried; she has asked me for help when she needed it; and she has gotten me hired for jobs. She inspires me to stay curious, to never settle, and above all, to do what you want to do. Meet today's bitch, Susi Willis!


What is your job title and where do you work? 

I'm a Senior Consultant and Transformational Facilitator. I work as a consultant at Mobius Executive Leadership. I also started my own business recently with 3 colleagues/friends. Our company, Sangha Leadership Group, is providing coaching, leadership and organizational development consulting. We are excited because we will be hosting a 3-day Leadership Development workshop in September. I am also teaching yoga twice a week at Renee’s Groove Room in Hermitage. I love that the coaching, transformation work and yoga all compliment each other.  

When did you first learn about this field of work? 

I had been working at DuPont for 15 years, when in 2008 my job as an Employee Assistance Consultant was outsourced to a call center. I was encouraged by a colleague to apply for a position as a Transformational Facilitator, which sounded very crazy, at least from a title perspective. When I read the job description though, it sounded like it was written for me:  facilitate personal insight workshops for leaders of the company so that they understand what they are doing to either help or hinder their teams and organizations to be successful. It was like my whole life’s experience lead me to this job.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?  

When I was applying for the position, one of the application processes was to write a life journey essay. I wrote about my favorite hobby, which at that time was quilting. I used the analogy that I was making something that would outlast me, that I was investing in a future I wouldn’t necessarily see. I feel the same about coaching leaders and their teams. This work has never become stale, it has always given me so much energy and passion. I love seeing people come away with a broader perspective of themselves AND their co-workers.


What was your path that lead you to the job you have now? 

I have a Masters Degree in Social Work. I worked in both the mental health and substance abuse fields before working in organizations as an Employee Assistance Counselor. I have helped employees and managers with issues since the late 1980s. I moved to Nashville to work for DuPont in 1993. It was an incredible work experience for me.  

In 2008, when I shifted roles to a Transformational Facilitator, my teachers for this work were from Mobius Executive Leadership, where I am a consultant now. I was a Transformational Facilitator about 4 years, then my boss retired and I was named leader of my group. I was able to travel all over the world and see so much I would have never done on my own. I am so grateful for being at DuPont 23 years. My work team and I were caught up in some recent restructuring at DuPont and when I announced I was leaving, I was offered an opportunity to work with Mobius.  

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?  

I don’t know about others, but I usually dream too small for myself. I think I have historically been ruled by a need to feel and play emotionally safe at work. So the best advice I would give, is what was offered to me by my mentor Kathy, she said that she hoped I would be able to see myself as others saw me.

Don’t let your negative self talk rule how you show up. 

I think that is what kept me in my comfort zone so long. If my job hadn’t been outsourced, I would probably still be doing it, and while I loved that job, it wasn’t the job that gave me the opportunity to stretch and grow. I would hate to have missed the last 8 years doing transformational work. 

The other advice is get a passport and leave the country at least once a year (and don’t go to a place where it’s filled with other Americans), so you can understand why it’s important to be a global citizen.

Here is my beauty advice I wish I would have received in my 20s, moisturize the hell out of your neck.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?  

During the outsourcing of the EAP consultant role, I reached out to a HR leader to ask for help on how to get another job in the company. He told me that there wasn’t a job for me and that if I didn’t agree to relocate, I would be effectively resigning from the company. He then told me I had 3 days to decide if I would relocate or not. For many many years I held a grudge and carried a negative view of him. I later learned that if he had granted my wish to stay at the plant to work, I would have NEVER moved very far from my comfort zone. 

I also learned that I had played a part in that situation. I went to get advice from the person who had the least investment or interest in my career. How this has improved my work is that I now try to look at upsetting situations from the mindset of, “How have I contributed?” and “What am I learning?”. It has changed me from seeing myself as a victim. These are just experiences and they are for here my learning.


What would you do with 2 more hours a day? 

Read more and get a different type of exercise in more frequently than yoga. I have to say, the transformation work led me to getting more active, which lead me to running with East Nasty, which led me to yoga and my recent graduation from Yoga Teacher Training at Sanctuary. So lately I have been very happily immersed in yoga AND recognize I need to get back to more running and zumba. Can I have 3 more hours in the day?

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?  

That I moved from being an individual performer to managing a global team. I am most proud of the relationship that the team I managed created. We didn’t get to meet as a team but maybe every 2 years, this could have been an interference to relationship building, but it wasn’t. This group of about 17 people refer to themselves as a family (even now after after being disbanded), they supported each other, shared and learned together.  

I also think that some of that success came from being willing to really give and receive feedback. My biggest growth came from leading this global team and I owe so much to 2 of my mentors, Sandra Chillous and Kathy Wright. They both saw something in me that I hadn’t recognized for myself yet. 

Also, I have to mention that I am so proud to be doing a job that I absolutely love. I get to work with people I completely adore. When I was looking for pictures of my work to share, what I have is pictures of moments of love and joy, true true gratitude to be sharing this work with people who have become such dear friends. They are part of my chosen family.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning? 

I check email, my calendar, the Book of Face and weather.com… usually lay in bed doing all of that before I roll out.


How do you decompress at the end of the work day? 

Usually when I am working, that means I am traveling, so I use Facebook to connect to others. If I am home, it usually involves yoga, cooking a Blue Apron meal or putting together a new playlist for a yoga class. I also find Pinterest a great way to decompress. A quick thing I do is play a New York Times mini crossword each day.

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious? 

Many times people will refer to this work as the “soft stuff”. I see it as the hard stuff. If it was soft or easy, more leaders wouldn’t have employees plotting against them and teams would be working together more functionally and really excited to come to work. I help leaders understand what it takes from them to co-create these work experiences. Most don’t realize that what helped you become successful at work doesn’t mean it will keep you successful.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do? 

I am not sure people are always clear what I do, but if they do know what I do, they probably don’t understand the connection of what I do that impacts teams, productivity and making sustainable changes.


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack? 

My favorite TV program runs during the summer, whatever is on Mystery on Masterpiece Theatre. I especially love any British mystery, they know how to make a murder cozy, as strange as that sounds. My favorite snack is getting a Starbucks Venti nonfat Chai Tea Latte, or, if no one is looking, lots of bread and with embarrassing amounts of butter.

All photos courtesy of Susi Willis

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