Woman Wednesday: Jessica M.

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.         


Q and A with Jessica M., Baltimore, Maryland

“There will be messy days, 2-steps-backward days, and you’re-rocking-it days, but as long as you keep showing up to your life, it’s progress.”

 

 Q: Tell us about you! 

A: I’m a full-time working mom of an active, fun-loving 7-year-old, and I’m still trying to figure out how to balance all the moving parts. I work as an administrator for Atwater’s in Baltimore. I never expected to find myself in a field of finance because my brain runs toward creativity, but Atwater’s is an amazing company! The effort is worth it because I fully support their brand and values of bringing wholesome food to your table. Check them out, seriously!

 

Q: What are you passionate about?

A: I’m still in a place of discovering my passions and what lights my fire. I’ve always struggled with figuring out who I want to be, but most recently, my creative spark has gravitated toward disrupting photography. It’s become a tool on my journey through healing. Mostly what I create, from poetry to photography, has been for me and a select few, but I hope to one day take it a step further and share my truth to the world through an art series.

 

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Q: What were your younger years like?

A: My younger years were a little bit challenging but happy because I was surrounded by a loving family. When I was two, my parents discovered that I have severe bilateral hearing loss. I was immediately fitted with hearing aids and started speech therapy. One thing that many people don’t realize is that I don’t know sign language. Many people assume that I should know it. A lot of my understanding of speech comes from lip reading. Reading lips helps fill in the gaps of what I hear, distinguishing specific letters and sounds.

 

 

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Those working with me (as a very young child) thought I belonged in a school for the deaf like anyone else with a hearing loss, but my parents felt I shouldn’t be limited by my disability, so in 2nd grade, they started me in a mainstream private elementary school. Most teachers were extremely supportive throughout my school years, from taking the time to make sure I was following along okay in class to ensuring I had the best seat to see them. I almost hit a roadblock when I was accepted into a private high school because once they knew I was hearing impaired, they didn’t think I would be a good fit due to a bad experience with a previous hearing-impaired student. My parents, tutor, and I went to the school and fought for my right to be there because I shouldn’t be judged based on the actions of another.

 

I admit that I spent a lot of years embarrassed by my disability and have actively tried to hide it, feeling like I didn’t fit in. But as I get older, I’m learning it’s not a weakness. My mother always reminds me of the strength I’ve had in overcoming it by mainstreaming into an educational world that did not cater to my disability. When my parents started this path with me, there wasn’t a lot of education and understanding out there for hearing loss. My parents have always been my biggest supporters and advocates, and I am truly grateful that they believed in me.

 

Q: What is something valuable you’ve learned that you’d like others to know? 

A: Three years ago, I lost my Dad to cancer and that has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through. He was gone 3 months after his diagnosis. My family and I barely had time to process one piece of information before being hit with something new. It rocked my world losing someone so close to me. It shaped the way I experience health anxiety and dropped me into depression. Each experience that struck after the loss of my Dad eventually set me on the path of taking care of my mental health. That has been my biggest goal this year by starting counseling and learning the tools to cope with my anxiety and depression.

 

 

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Some of the most valuable things I have learned are that talking about your pain instead of bottling it up truly helps, and healing is not a straight, upward line. There will be messy days, 2-steps-backward days, and you’re-rocking-it days, but as long as you keep showing up to your life, it’s progress. And I don’t just mean getting out there when you feel crappy and getting it done anyway. If I feel down and need to lay in bed for a while instead, that’s progress too, because I’m allowed to put down the “happy mask” and say, “I’m not okay,” and care for my mental health first.

 

Q: What does feminism mean to you?

A: In the past, I never really defined myself as a feminist, and I have thought, at times, all I was good enough for was caring for my home and family. The 1950s housewife seemed a normal thing. I personally think that if that’s what you want, then it’s okay. I wish I had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. But when it becomes a situation where you’re treated like that’s your only place and you’re not equal or you’re “less than” others, then it starts to get sticky. It’s all about choices and being able to have the freedom to make them without pressure, judgment, or fear.

 

When the #MeToo movement gained popularity, the education it provided made me realize certain experiences that happened to me in the past were not okay.
I’ve been in situations where I was made to feel “less than” and my consent was not given. I spent years trivializing those experiences because of a lack of resources and my own understanding.

 

 

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But the movement isn’t just for me, and I’m not the only one that needs a voice. I am married to a trans woman, which has opened my eyes to even more. Though the world seems to be becoming more accepting of the LGBTQ community, there is still a lot of shame, bullying, and stigma placed on those who feel different in their skin. There is so much ugliness in this world, near and far, that it’s heartbreaking. I try to concern myself more with the fact that EVERYONE, regardless of gender, identity, race, religion, income level, who you love, etc. are valuable and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. I value unity and working together to make the world a place we all can thrive in.

 

 

I’d love to connect with you! 

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jnmeola

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blackbird_f1y

 

 

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Woman Wednesday: Ashlee

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.         


Q and A with Ashlee, Boca Raton, Florida

“When you have the strength to ask for help, you will see how far you can go.”

 

Q: What are you passionate about?

A: Passion is what makes you persevere through setbacks, unhappiness, and fear of failure to achieve your dreams. It is the core drive of your motivation. There are two things I am passionate about: mediation and yoga. I love practicing yoga because the act of relaxation makes me remember what I value the most in life: happiness and independence. Unfortunately, with so much clutter in today’s society, it is hard to concentrate on your mental health. The reason I enjoy cleaning is that I become less stressed and breathe again. When I clean, I create a welcoming environment every time someone walks into that home. As Marie Kondo says, “The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment.” 

 

My bedroom is my office

 

Currently, I am working on optimizing google analytics for my home cleaning business, Aurora Professional Cleaning Services. I started out naive about online marketing. However, by studying educational courses and reaching out to seasoned veterans, I am becoming more confident knowing I can be a strong business owner. When you have the strength to ask for help, you will see how far you can go.

 

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: My parents, extended family, and friends were very supportive of me and my younger sister growing up. I am grateful for the experiences my parents provided for me. We had Sunday family dinners and neighborhood pizza nights. I would volunteer at church and school events. I would attend local small-town fairs and support local businesses. It is about family. My father was my soccer coach, which grew my love for sports and friendly competition. And my mother was constantly dedicated to her career, which I admired.  

 

Thomas Family

 

I was fortunate to have traveled around the world to learn about different cultures and my own ancestry in Norway and Sweden. After graduating from Kean University with a B.A. in communications/public relations, I backpacked across Scandinavia–couch-hopping at family and friend’s homes, learning about how I became who I am today. It was an eye-opening experience that will forever be imprinted on me. Plus, it was an amazing experience before I started building my career and life in Southern Florida.

 

Hill Top Mandal, Norway overlooing the North Sea

 

Pictured below are some photos from homes that utilized Ashlee’s Aurora Professional Cleaning Services.

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Q: What is something valuable you’ve learned that you’d like others to know? 

A: There are TWO valuable lessons I have learned through building this cleaning company. One, create homemade products. Keeping it eco-friendly is a safe way to clean and live because you know exactly what you are touching every day. Plus, combining your own ingredients is cost-efficient. Yes, sometimes you need brand name products, but consider DYI first and foremost.

 

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Two, do NOT sell your services for less than you are worth. There are too many stories, some of my own, that after the service is done, you do not ask for enough money. This is a physical labor service, so take pride in your work and make sure you let the clients know it is about quality. Since each job is different, I have learned to pay yourself by the situation NOT by the hour. The person behind my rise in confidence to become an entrepreneur told me, “Give me 1% of your trust, and I will prove the other 99%.”

 

Ashlee and Thor

 

Q: What does feminism mean to you?

A: Feminism is about having the opportunity to speak up and have a choice without fear of animosity. Women should hold their heads high with respect for themselves and value the strengths of other women. Feminism means (to me) there are no boundaries, we are all human. One of my favorite songs/quotes is by John Lennon–

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one.”

 

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I’d love to connect with you!

 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/auroraprocleaning

Instagram: www.instagram.com/aurora_pro_cleaning

Website: www.auroraprocleaning.com

 

 

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Woman Wednesday: Ruby B. Johnson

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.         


Q and A with Ruby B. Johnson, Sierra Leone, West Africa

“Three things: take care of your mental health, control your narrative, and work smart and do your research.” 

 

Q: What are you passionate about? 

A: I am a mining engineer and currently work at a gold mining operation. I am also the founder and editorial director of STEMher by Ruby B. Johnson Magazine. Premiered in September 2018 with its autumn issue, STEMher Magazine is a print magazine showcasing the education and experiences of girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM) academia, careers, and programs. STEMher celebrates women thriving in their careers and inspires others to fuel their curiosity and interests in STEM; the status of individuals featured range from middle school through retirement. In one year, STEMher has featured more than 50 STEM girls and women worldwide from countries like the United States of America, Australia, Ghana, Canada, South Africa, India, France, Nigeria, Channel Islands, The Bahamas, Sierra Leone, and England. All magazine issues are available for purchase on stemher.com and Amazon Marketplace.

 

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Summer 2019 Cover

 

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone [in West Africa]. I moved to the United States when I was 12 years old, which meant growing up and completing my middle school and high school education in Maryland. I graduated from Virginia Tech with a BSc in mining engineering and a minor in women’s studies leadership. While in college, I founded When You Believe Foundation, a program that empowers women and girls through social media engagement, workshops, and donations. In 2012, I competed in my first pageant, Miss Sierra Leone USA, with the platform of advocating for the recruitment and retention of girls and women in STEM fields, since I was a STEM college student at the time and women’s empowerment was something I was passionate about. I won the pageant and with that title, I was able to travel across the country as well as in Sierra Leone, encouraging girls and young women to pursue STEM. After the crowns and titles, STEM advocacy and women’s empowerment continues to be my lifelong platform. I wanted to take this platform to another level to be able to reach women and girls I may never cross paths with, so I created STEMher by Ruby B. Johnson Magazine last year. 

 

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Q: What is something valuable you’ve learned that you’d like others to know? 

A: Three things: take care of your mental health, control your narrative, and work smart and do your research. (1) From Monday through Thursdays, I work ten-hour days and a two-hour commute to and from work. Additionally, I am an entrepreneur who runs her own business creating content and putting together each issue for STEMher by Ruby B. Johnson Magazine. I also serve in a couple of ministries at my church. Life gets busy. In the last year, I’m being intentional to prioritize my mental health. Making time to rest and slow down when necessary. In order to be productive with work, I have to take care of myself by sleeping, eating healthy, exercising, spending time with God through prayer, and meditation as well as reading my Bible. I have to be intentional about making time for myself, family and friends, as well as work. It’s okay to say “no” or “not yet” sometimes. I cannot fill the cups of others when my cup is empty. It’s also okay to ask for help—whether it’s in prayer, family and friends, community, or therapy.

 

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(2) As I navigate through the professional world and life in general, I’m realizing how important it is for one to control their narrative. Of course we cannot fully control what people say about us or how they feel about us; however, I believe we can play a role in those things. The way we carry ourselves is very important. We have to learn wisdom on when to speak up or be silent. We must be our biggest defenders and tell people how we want them to treat or address us. (3) Running a business is no easy feat and it’s time-consuming. In college, I learned to not study hard but study smart. I believe that’s important to do when you are a business owner. Being that I don’t have a business or journalism background, I spend a lot of time learning—asking questions, reading articles, listening to podcasts, and everything else in between. I want this magazine to go beyond, so that means I have to put in the work. I may not see harvest immediately, but sowing seeds each day counts. All in all, I believe it’s important to know who you are, stand firm on your values, always remember your why, and never lose your humanity no matter what environment you are in. 

 

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Q: What does feminism mean to you? 

A: To me, feminism means being my authentic self, living out my God-given purpose, and being intentional about making a difference in the community. While working on my women’s studies leadership minor in college, I learned about intersectionality. I am a Christian woman, born and raised in Sierra Leone, a naturalized American citizen, a woman in STEM, usually one of few or only black people in some professional settings, and a family-oriented individual. I thrive because of these lived experiences but also have a heart and a curious mind to learn about those who are different from me. Feminism to me is never compromising my faith and also being compassionate to others. To me, feminism means to reach for excellence and nothing less.

 

I’d love to connect with you!

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Woman Wednesday: Marie

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.         


Q and A with Marie, Charlotte, North Carolina

“We live in a self-absorbed society where it’s all about the selfie. It’s natural to think about ourselves because we are human, but we must fight that urge and continue to put others before ourselves. Live in your gifts; when you do, service will come naturally.” 

Q: What are you passionate about?

A: Organizing is my passion or like my obsession.  I’ve loved doing it since being a kid; my room was always neatly organized.  It’s something that’s always come naturally to me. After having kids, I started realizing I wasn’t living in my gifts and set out to figure out how I could best utilize them. That’s when I discovered blogging and how I could teach others to get organized. I truly believe life is better lived when you are organized. It’s my mission to help women live a better life by being organized. Currently, I’m working on a meal planning course to help women save time, eat healthier, and live better.

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Q: What were your younger years like?

A: Fargo, North Dakota, is the place I call home (even though I no longer live there), it’s where I was born and raised and wouldn’t change a thing. The roots and people there taught me the importance of hard work and humility. These principles are the foundation of who I am today. My parents taught me many things, including never give up and the importance of having an education because no one can ever take that away from you. I am the oldest of three girls, and we all graduated from college from the same university. Sports were a big part of our lives growing up; there was a sporting event almost every weekend throughout the year. Sports taught us to be resilient and how to work with others because when you get out into the ‘real world,’ that’s what life is all about.

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Q: What is something valuable you’ve learned that you’d like others to know? 

A: When you are serving others is when you will truly find success. We live in a self-absorbed society where it’s all about the selfie. It’s natural to think about ourselves because we are human, but we must fight that urge and continue to put others before ourselves. Live in your gifts; when you do, service will come naturally. Also, live out of your comfort zone, nothing great comes from there. If it scares you, you are on the right track. Keep showing up, do the work, consistency matters. Everything will fall into place. 

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Q: What does feminism mean to you?

A: Feminism to me means going for your dreams—no matter how big they are and to not let anyone or anything tell you differently.  It’s also standing up for what you believe in regardless of others’ opinions.

I’d love to connect with you!

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www.organizedmarie.com

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Woman Wednesday: Kezia

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.         


Q and A with Kezia, Warwickshire, England

The doctors told me I might never walk again. When you’re faced with that kind of news, you have a choice—accept what you’re being told or try and do something about it.” 

 

Q: Tell us about you. 

A: I’m Kezia Thomas, a recovered chocaholic and chronic dieter/binger, who used to have no body confidence, completely failed at willpower, and spent the majority of her life obsessing about what/when/how much she ate and what other people thought about it. I left that life behind me and I’m now running a business showing female entrepreneurs how to lose weight and keep it off so that they can feel confident being visible in their business. 

 

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Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I was brought up to believe that the only option for me was to get good grades at school, go to university, and get a degree so that I could get a well-paid job. But university never appealed to me, so although I worked hard at school and got the grades I needed, at 17, I moved out and went to London with a dream of becoming a freelance writer.

I assumed that in London, the opportunities would be easy to find, but the reality was very different! I, then young and not well connected, ended up struggling to find work or pay my way, and after two years, I admitted defeat and asked my parents if I could move back in with them. My family reassured me that I’d tried my best and that the best option was to find a real job. So, I did. But I never stayed in anything for long; I was unfulfilled and unhappy, but I didn’t know what to do about it. I overate on a massive scale just to fill the void, managing the inevitable weight gain with all manner of diets and exercise regimes. On the outside, it looked like everything was fine, but behind the scenes, I was barely holding it together.

 

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By my late twenties, I was working in a company with good prospects—settling for the options I felt were available to me. One day out of the blue, I got struck with an illness that later led me to lose my balance at the top of a flight of concrete stairs, and the fall left me almost completely unable to walk.

 

Q: How did the accident change things for you?  

A: It was a real low point in my life—I was still young and suddenly, I could barely move, let alone exercise. It scared me senseless because my regimen of diets and workouts had always helped me to keep my weight down, and suddenly, that wasn’t an option for me. 

 

The doctors told me I might never walk again. When you’re faced with that kind of news, you have a choice—accept what you’re being told or try and do something about it. I refused to give up, so I started learning everything I could about my body to find out what I could impact. I became fascinated with the science—of nutrition, movement, and the power of the mind.  began to understand that my negative relationship with my body had been affecting me for years, well before my fall. I learned how I could maintain my weight through changing my eating habits. And I slowly formed a better relationship with food. How I was eating became as important as what I ate—I started to see a shift.

 

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When I felt my confidence coming back, I found a way to start my recovery from my accident. I put up a pole in my living room and used it to pull myself up so I could overcome the pain from the pressure in my hips and legs. 18 months later, with the help of a physiotherapist and my own brand of unconventional muscle rehab, I wasn’t just walking, but I was learning aerial gymnastics. 

 

 

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Q: How did this lead you into running your own business? 

A: Using the pole had given me strength and confidence, I wanted to share that. So, I trained and set up as a fitness instructor. The only problem was, I started to feel super self-conscious. I was worried my body wasn’t good enough for people to take me seriously. Potential clients wanted to see lots of photos and videos…and I didn’t want to be on camera at all. It made it almost impossible to market my business because I was always making excuses not to do the things I knew I needed to! 

 

It drove me crazy, and it was a massive waste of time and energy. 

 

I’d lose the weight, but it felt so difficult, and keeping it off was a nightmare. I’d starve myself, then binge-eat to relieve my stress…and all the while, I was telling other people how to get fit and healthy! I felt like a fraud, and I was so full of anxiety. I realized I needed to take stock and look at things more closely—why was my eating getting out of control again? I had to make another shift to get things back on track for good.

 

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As an entrepreneur, I was under all sorts of new pressures, and I was going through it all on my own. I’m a real high-achiever and was utterly convinced I could do it all…so I kept pushing my needs aside to give more and more to the business.  It took me a while to realize the truth: I am the business. If I’m not looking after myself, I’m not looking after the business.  If I don’t feel confident in my body, I can’t show up and be visible in the way I need to be to promote myself—I can’t network effectively, I can’t do live streams, I can’t put myself out there to attract new clients. And it didn’t matter how many courses I took on getting visible, doing PR, or making money online because I had so many issues with how I felt about my body, I never took the actions I needed to.  

 

To make matters worse, because I was constantly shaming myself for not being able to deal with this one area of my life, it spread into everything outside of work too. My self-doubt, embarrassment, and lack of confidence…it grew into this huge and terrible anxiety that was taking over my life. I knew it had to stop. I needed to do something differently. I’d figured out the what and how with my eating, but I realized there was something else to look at. WHY was I so obsessed with food and my body? 

 

I started to get curious in a way I never had before. I started to dig deeper, underneath the symptoms of my struggles (the shifts in my weight and insane sugar cravings) and find out what the real problem was. The emotional issues: the lack of self-worth, self-love, and self-trust. They were what was really holding me back. When I discovered the real reasons I was overeating, that was when everything I’d learned before about what and how to eat began to work for me in a big way. Losing weight became easy...even pleasurable! Keeping the weight off suddenly wasn’t a problem: it happened effortlessly. I didn’t even have to think about it anymore—it happened as a happy side-effect of the other things I was doing in my life. I’ve never looked back, and it’s exactly why I am so passionate about helping other women make the same changes for themselves. 

 

Q: What is something valuable you’ve learned that you’d like others to know? 

A: Be tenacious. Keep moving forward after every push back, be consistent with whatever you’re doing and give it a chance to work for you. If you believe in what you’re doing, don’t give up. This is your life, and if you allow your own fears or other peoples’ beliefs to scare you or pull you away from your passions, you’ll never feel like you’re living it to the full. Go out there and make mistakes: learn from them. Know that the next time, you’ll do that thing 10 times better. 

 

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