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Person of the Day

Kacie Fischer Breaks World Records Inline Skating Across America

Kacie Fischer, inline skater/Photo: livegiveskate.org

By Pamela Burke/July 13,2012

TWITTER:@KacieCleveland

If you’ve ever skated for long periods of time, you know how tired your ankles can get and how arduous it can be.  What if you did it for 47 days and covered some 2,500 miles?  At 27, Kacie Fischer (now Cleveland) did, and she now knows what it’s like to set the record for Fastest Female To Cross America on Inline Skates.

“Once I set a goal for myself, I am compelled to accomplish it.”  Kacie Fischer

Kacie recently completed this amazing skate from Solana Beach, CA to Jacksonville, Florida with a team of eight, raising money and bringing attention to the Special Olympics.   When you know that this super athlete had heart failure at 21 and was told by medical specialists that she was not going to survive, the accomplishments are all the more remarkable.

It’s this never give up attitude that made us want to find out more about Kacie, her stamina, and will to succeed…  [Read more…]

Ann Curry: The Fearless Journalist with a Heart

Ann Curry, Co-Host, NBC Today Show

By Pamela Burke/June 28, 2012

It was a moving speech from Ann Curry that closed her era as the TODAY Show co-host today.  As she said her good-byes, she tried to stifle the tears of emotion after these many weeks of speculation about her future.  Apparent in her parting remarks was her passion for the dream job she had at NBC, but it was the viewers who were most important to her.  They were her real love.  Just showing them the world through her stories and adventures was Ann’s main goal.

In this video, you can follow her journey to TODAY from interning at a small television station in Medford, Oregon where she became its first female reporter.  It will give you an idea about how committed she is to her chosen profession.

The good news is that she will get to continue her role as a  national and international journalist.  After 15 years on TODAY, she announced that NBC is making her a correspondent-at-large to cover the world with a team of her own and the network’s platforms to display their efforts. 

What a challenging and unique opportunity for her to continue her relentless search for journalism that matters.  As she has said, “It’s a time when this country needs great clarity.”

Ann Curry, cover of Ladies Home JournalThis fearless reporter has jumped off bridges and out of planes as well as reported from faraway places like the South Pole and Mount Kilimanjaro.  Although this must be a big psychological change for her, the new role could give her access to stories she might not have been able to tackle from behind a co-host desk.

In a recent Ladies Home Journal cover story, she talks about her love of  television news.  She says, “I’m in this business because I want to have a life of value. For me that means giving people information that can give them a better life.”

We wish her great luck, and we wanted include one of her moving stories from Africa where she travelled deep into Darfur in February with Ryan Boyette, a documentarian.   There she witnessed the horror of children living in caves and refugee camps where women were trying to find food and weeping from falling bombs.

In the following video from forbes.com, Ann explains her loyalty to her followers and shows her determination to do a good job covering the news.

Bravo, Ann, for your commitment.  We say,  “Onward.”  Bring us more stories with your keen eye for the human condition.  We’re looking forward to your next report.

Treger Strasberg Humbly Designs Homes for Detroit’s Homeless

 

Treger Strasberg, founder Humble Design in Detroit/Photo: Courtesy Treger Strasberg

UPDATE September 10, 2013: Humble Design is now helping five families a week. It’s become Treger’s passion and she’ll be sharing news about it on this weekend’s The Women’s Eye Radio Show on 1480KPHX.com at 2PM PDT.

UPDATE July 25, 2013: From Treger: We are currently furnishing 39 brand new units for chronically homeless on the east side of Detroit. Our company has grow leaps and bounds and we are now in Austin, Texas as well!

By Stacey Gualandi/May 30, 2012

TWITTER: @smtreger

I am a Michigander, born and raised in Detroit.  So when I heard about Treger Strasberg and what she is doing to help so many who are struggling during the Motor City’s economic woes, I had to reach out and share her story.

“…we cannot fail if we help one family and change the destiny of one child or one mother.”  Treger Strasberg

In 2009, this wife and mother co-founded the non-profit Humble Design.  The company was born out of her desire to help mothers and children coming out of homeless and abuse shelters rebuild their lives.  Humble Design takes gently-used donated home goods and furniture and repurposes them, helping to “furnish a family’s future.”

Treger Strasberg from Humble Design with Poole Family in Detroit

Treger and co-founder Ana Smith with Poole family after home makeover

Treger’s unselfish act has now brought her to television.  Beginning June 1st, Treger and her life-changing design company will be featured in “Motor City Rising,” a new original series on OVATION that “explores the lives of Detroit locals fighting to thrive in a city many have given up on.”  She’ll also be appearing in upcoming episodes.

I had the opportunity to speak with Treger via Skype about being on TV, her mission, and working with families in need.  (You can also hear her on an upcoming The Women’s Eye Radio Show.)   Below you can also read more about how she is helping to give people a second chance in the city I once called home… [Read more…]

Author Ann Patchett’s Mission to Keep Indie Bookstores Alive

Ann Patchett book jacket photo | Photo: Melissa Ann Pinney

By Katie McCarroll/May 24,2012

Her resume is impressive and diverse—award-winning author of New York Times’ bestsellers, one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, and a guest on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report If you were presented with that eclectic vita, which author would immediately come to mind? How about American novelist and co-bookstore owner Ann Patchett?

Ann Patchett's "State of Wonder"She is often best known for her 2001 novel Bel Canto, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Over the past year, she has been touring to promote her latest novel, State of Wonder.

But what’s really making waves for her recently is her stake in an independent Nashville, Tennessee bookstore called Parnassus Books How many authors go so far as to opening up their own shops, especially in this time of financial uncertainty?

Parnassus debuted in November, 2011 after two other Nashville bookstores shut their doors.  On her recent tour, she confirmed that starting this business was a much bigger process than writing a novel.

Although owning a bookstore was not her passion in life, she said she decided to do it as a gift to her fellow Nashville residents who otherwise would have been left without a local place to buy books.

I had the opportunity to hear Ms. Patchett speak earlier this month when her tour brought her to Changing Hands, my local independent bookstore in Phoenix. It was immediately clear that Ms. Patchett has a passion for her new business as well as for books in all their physical, papery, printed forms.

With Parnassus, she’s on a mission to keep bookstores alive in communities.  She explained eagerly that they are  a place to hear authors speak, to take the kids for storytime, and to have a real, live person recommend books for you based on what you’ve already liked (or not liked, as the case may be).

The day last year when she opened the store, her excitement bubbled into a heartfelt, impromptu speech.  She could hardly suppress her excitement as you can see here.

Not only is Ann working to keep community bookstores relevant in increasingly “wired” populations, she’s also attempting the daunting task of combatting “showrooming”–the consumer trend of trying out products in brick-and-mortar stores with the intention of purchasing them online at discounted prices–by educating her followers on the negative effect this has on stores, especially the independents.

This is a difficult battle in a time of economic recession, when budgets are tight and dollars count for both consumers and retailers, but “showrooming” is a major problem facing bookstores around the country.

Patchett discussed Parnassus Books during her recent interview on The Colbert Report.

Ann shows her love of literature and her passion for her work as an author through her entertaining novels and her lively bookstore appearances. When I heard her speak , I had only read State of Wonder.  It is about a pharmacologist named Marina Singh, who is assigned to travel to the Amazon jungle and track down a missing field researcher.

Ann explains the plot more fully here:

The novel is entertaining, but I was amazed to discover that hearing her speak about it was just as enjoyable. She brings an incredible amount of energy to the room. She is confident and well-spoken, with a good sense of humor and a story for nearly everything.  

Ann elaborated on how she enthusiastically researches each aspect of the novel; how she comes up with character ideas; and the process she follows for writing each of her books.  Once she’s committed herself to a novel, she said, she doesn’t allow herself to begin writing a new one until that one is complete.

Ann Patchett, authorShe affirms that she writes what she would want to read herself, and in the case of State of Wonder, she wanted to create a novel with a strong female character who neither falls in love nor is victimized by men—a surprisingly rare occurrence in the world of fiction.

By the end of her appearance, I felt that Ann had proved her point about bookstores perfectly.    It is wonderful to have a place in the community to interact with authors and fellow book lovers.

I had a great time and left the event thinking, “Wow! I’m really glad I came. I should go to book signings more often.” And somehow seeing an author speak amidst a sea of packed bookshelves feels just right.

Do you have a favorite contemporary writer? Remember Ann Patchett’s mission and support your local bookstores whenever your special author comes to speak there–and anytime you need a good read.

And you can follow Ann’s blog here.   See her recommended reading list.

Lead Photo: Melissa Ann Pinney

About the Author:

Katie McCarroll is a freelance writer from Phoenix, Arizona, where she likes to escape from the summer heat by hiding out indoors with a good book (or two).

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Elizabeth Gilbert’s “At Home On the Range”

Elizabeth Gilbert, author "At Home on the Range"

Elizabeth’s new release is a cookbook.

By Laurie McAndish King/May 9, 2012

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love was at the top of my reading list when I planned a trip to Bali last year. The memoir so impressed me that upon arriving in Ubud, I followed Gilbert’s path to meet healer Wayan Nuriasih in person, and tried her herbal jamu (traditional Indonesian medicinal concoctions).

Elizabeth Gilbert's At Home on the RangeAnd when I heard Gilbert and her latest book—a cookbook called At Home on the Range —would be the subject of one of the famous Book Passage Cooks with Books events at Left Bank restaurant in Larkspur, California, I looked forward to meeting Gilbert herself.

At Home on the Range was first published in 1947 by Gilbert’s great-grandmother, Margaret Yardley Potter, an early food columnist, beloved hostess, and reckless bon vivant. Gilbert characterizes Potter as a woman ahead of her time, “a dogged food reporter, an intrepid food explorer, and a curious food historian” at that “unfortunate moment in American culinary history when our country was embarking on its regrettable love affair with…easy-breezy marshmallow salads.”

Potter died in 1955—Gilbert never knew her—and republishing the cookbook is her way of honoring her legacy. “Maybe she was reckless and maybe she was wild,” Gilbert says of Potter, “but she lived. And now she lives again.”

Gilbert is honoring her in another way, too. All the author’s proceeds from At Home on the Range go to ScholarMatch, an organization that helps make college accessible for high-achieving, under-resourced students in the San Francisco Bay Area. Thanks to generous contributions like Gilbert’s, ScholarMatch is sending 72 students to college in 2012, and sales of At Home on the Range have already provided scholarships for 20 Bay Area students.

“My great-grandmother had so few opportunities,” Gilbert explained. “It’s fitting now to be giving them to kids with ScholarMatch.”

Elizabeth and ScholarMatch students

Elizabeth and ScholarMatch students

I was delighted to contribute to the cause for many reasons. I have enjoyed several of Gilbert’s books; Book Passage is a fabulous indie bookstore that I’m happy to support; I believe in the work ScholarMatch is doing. And there’s this… Left Bank’s Chef de Cuisine, Fabrice Marcon, had created a remarkable dinner for eighty-five with a twist.

Each recipe came from At Home on the Range. From Shrimps with Curried Mayonnaise to rich Lamb Stew to an intoxicating Sherry Trifle, every course evoked Potter’s full-flavored attitude. (And let me mention right up front that the recipe for sweet Pea Vichyssoise alone is worth the price of the cookbook.)

At Home on the Range is more than a cookbook, though. Gilbert describes it as a “national treasure of culinary history.” Margaret Potter was a confident culinary writer. Almost a generation before Julia Child came onto the scene, Potter was boldly advocating for American women to adopt French cooking techniques, eschew processed foods, and use an artisanal and ethnic approach to grocery shopping. Surely you know Jewish or Italian or Greek people, Margaret exhorted. Follow them and buy food where they do, she exclaimed.

Elizabeth Gilbert illustration of Margaret Potter for At Home on the Range

Illustration of Margaret Potter by Alex Fine

Potter loved language. The chapters are teased with titles like Weekend Guests without a Weakened Hostess, A Soupçon of Soup, and Preserve Yourself in a Jam. Potter also loved fun. Her recipe for Boiled Rock Fish exemplifies Potter’s instinct for bohemian living. “Buy a 3-pound one… Sew it up in cheesecloth or any clean cloth, even a piece of Daddy’s discarded shirt will do.”

On baking bread, Potter says, “Dump the dough on the board and dust with flour. Now relax. Sit down, light a cigarette, write a letter … Is your cigarette finished? Let’s go. This is fun. Start to knead …”

Of her French Onion Soup: “You will find this to be a more oniony soup than the usual kind but, as the cross old lady said when a stranger told her that her slip was showing, ‘I like it that way.’”

On preserves: “Don’t over think the orange marmalade. Constant stirring and average intelligence are really all that’s necessary.”

Entertaining as they are, each of the stories has a point about the importance of hospitality, generosity, a relaxed sense of humor, and celebrating one’s own sense of style. And that is what Gilbert is all about, too.

Elizabeth has clearly inherited her great-grandmother’s warmth, wit, and rollicking “Family Voice.” She began writing about extraordinary men for magazines like SPIN and GQ; in her first novel, Stern Men; and in The Last American Man, the true story of Eustace Conway. At 17 he moved from a comfortable suburban life to become an Appalachian mountain man, living off the land for twenty years.

Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray LoveGilbert then switched to the expansive, uber-female fairytale romance that was Eat, Pray, Love. When she spoke to us after the trifle course, Gilbert said the book was such a departure in genre that she had feared “it would be like throwing away whatever career I had.”

As it turned out, the memoir was made into a major motion picture, and her story was so popular it earned Gilbert a spot as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2008.

That best-seller was followed by Committed, a combination of personal introspection, interviews with Hmong grannies in the mountains of Vietnam, who were confounded by the very question of what makes a “good” husband, and research into the varied historical permutations of the institution of marriage.

And now, the cookbook. Gilbert is as at home with this genre as she is with fiction, profiles, and memoir. The book includes a “Selected Recipes” section of Gilbert’s personal favorites, rewritten and clearly notated so the reader doesn’t need to wade through Potter’s charming but sometimes tricky narrative style.

Mom's Marble Cake from Elizabeth Gilbert's book "At Home on the Range"

Mom's Marble Cake from "At Home on the Range"

What’s next for Gilbert? She’s chosen to write an historical novel, just to further mix things up. She is penning the story of 19th-century botanist Alma Whitaker’s world travels in search of a rare moss.

All and all, it was a delicious evening. I took advantage of the opportunity to thank Elizabeth for writing Committed, which resonated with me on a deeply personal level. I was delighted to learn that the author of two best-sellers was, in person, warm, thoughtful and gracious. And I got the recipe for that fabulous Pea Vichyssoise while contributing to a deserving scholar’s education.

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About the Author:

Laurie King, writer for The Women's EyeLaurie McAndish King got to meet healer Wayan Nuriasih, tried her jamu, and wrote about the experience in Wandering in Bali: A Tropical Paradise Discovered. A longtime floraphile, Laurie has conducted fieldwork on medicinal plants in Argentina and Brazil and learned about herbal remedies from a South American shaman. She spends as much time as possible in her own garden in northern California.

Playwright Eve Ensler, Founder of the V-Day Movement, On the Power of Emotions

Eve Ensler at Book Passage 2/24/12

By Laurie McAndish King/March 27, 2012

Eve Ensler changed my life. She did it in fifteen minutes from halfway around the world–she in India, I in northern California. Ensler is one powerful woman.

Eve Ensler bookSo when I heard she was going to be speaking in my neighborhood as part of the Dominican Institute for Leadership Studies’ Lecture Series* in Marin County, CA, I could hardly wait to see Eve in person, to feel her immense-intense-common-sense energy and to thank her.

And I wanted to hear about her latest book and play, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World. The book is already a national bestseller, and the play will make its world premiere at the Berkeley (California) Rep, June, 2012.

Ensler is best known for her play The Vagina Monologues and as founder of the V-Day movement, which has raised more than $85 million to prevent violence and protect abused women and girls. (V-Day is observed around the world on February 14th; the “V” stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.)

Ensler herself is a survivor of incest, cancer, and horrific physical violence. She has earned many awards including honors for playwriting, performance, and anti-gender-violence work.

I had been blown away by Ensler’s “Embrace Your Inner Girl” TED Talk, recorded in India, in which she used the metaphor of a “girl cell”—your inner girl, and mine—to celebrate the power of emotion, compassion, ambiguity, vulnerability, intensity, doubt… and other “girly” traits. It was a new idea for me.

I grew up in a typical mid-western household in the 60s, not religious, but with heavy Puritan undertones nonetheless. My parents believed that man’s ability to reason was what set him apart from the rest of the creatures on earth. Since emotion was the opposite of reason, it followed that overcoming emotionality was essential to being human, and that teaching a child to suppress emotions was one of the most important tasks of parenting and of “civilization.”

Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues"Ensler delivered a different message at the event: Emotions have their own inherent logic. They are essential to balance and wisdom. They are vital to healing ourselves and the world and central to the evolution of our species and the continuation of the human race.

Ensler knows we must own our emotions. She knows how powerful they are. “Being a girl is so powerful that we’ve had to train everyone not to be that,” she said.

I loved Eve’s talk about emotionality as an essential component of humanity! Hearing her speak, I finally understood that my emotions were an essential part of me, that they make me wiser, more powerful, more connected, more complete, more alive. And in understanding that, I have, in a small way, helped my culture—and civilization itself—to evolve beyond patriarchy and towards a more compassionate ethos.

And what did Eve have to say about men? They need to help each other, to give themselves and each other permission to be emotional, to care, to cry, to admit when they’re frightened or sad or lost. What happens to boys who cannot cry? They become violent. “Bullets,” Ensler says, “are hardened tears.” Boys, too, need to embrace their “girl cells.”

But Ensler has done much more than liberate me—a white American with plenty of food and clean water and shelter and work—to be more comfortable with my emotions. She has done more than suggesting that boys and men show grief, tenderness, and vulnerability.

As she traveled the world talking with women about The Vagina Monologues, Ensler heard story after story about rape and gender-related violence. For the past five years she has been hearing firsthand from girls who were sold into slavery, forced into prostitution, raped, circumcised, and brutalized in other ways.

Eve Ensler Visiting the Congo

Eve visiting the Congo

Visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2007, Ensler learned that rape was being used methodically and extensively to destroy family relationships, which, in turn, destroyed communities and which left the area ripe for plunder by militias charged with taking over the mines. Raping girls had made way for raping communities, and then for raping the earth.

Ensler spoke passionately about her latest project, City of Joy, which grew from her own emotional, creative, and defiant response to what she heard in the DRC. Established by her V-Day organization, supported by UNICEF, and created from the Congolese women’s own vision, City of Joy is a place where victimized girls and women can go to be safe, educated, and healed.

It opened in July, 2011, and its first class graduated January, 2012. The graduates have each committed to returning to their communities and sharing what they have learned.

The healing goes both ways. “I don’t think I would have lived through the experience of cancer if I hadn’t been living for the women of Congo,” Ensler said. “Serving is what makes me happy. I know how easily one person can change another person’s life. If I can be that person … to give a person a reason to go on in their life…I can’t think of a better thing to do.”

She does it with joy, compassion, devotion and ferocity. As Eve says, “I love, love, love being a girl!” She finished the lecture with a call to action: for women around the world to participate in a general strike next V-Day, February 14, 2013, to walk off their jobs, out of their kitchens and schools to demand an end to violence and to dance.

The global strike is sponsored by One Billion Rising so named Eve said, because one billion is the number of women on earth who will be beaten or raped in their lifetime. After the lecture I was privileged to shake Eve’s hand and thank her in person for changing my life. I did it with a song in my heart and tears in my eyes—because I am an emotional creature.

*This was a cooperative effort between Dominican University’s Institute for Leadership Studies and the independent bookstore Book Passage.

Lead Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

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About the author:

Laurie McAndish King is an award-winning essayist and photographer with a knack for finding adventure all around the world. Her work has aired on public radio and appeared in Smithsonian magazine, The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2009, and other magazines and literary anthologies. One of her photographs was on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution for six months.

Wyoming Mom Tama Clapper Feeds Hungry Kids with Blessings in a Backpack

Tama Clapper, Blessings in a Backpack: News Record Photo by Alton Strupp

Photo: Alton Strupp,The Gillette News Record

By Stacey Gualandi/February 20, 2012

As a mother of four, Tama Clapper knows how important it is that her children eat healthy meals. But when her family moved to Gillette, Wyoming, four years ago, she had no idea that children were going hungry in this community of 30,000 people. So this minister’s wife set out to help those families who can’t afford to put food on the table.

“I have a really big desire to help children that are in need.”
Tama Clapper

In 2010, she joined forces with Blessings in a Backpack, a non-profit organization that raises money for food; partners with chains like Walmart and Kroger; and then distributes it to children in backpacks every week. Now this mom on a mission has provided nearly 400 needy children with food-filled backpacks to help them get through the weekends. And her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

I spoke to Tama recently on The Women’s Eye Radio Show to ask why she vowed to make sure no more children will go hungry.

EYE: How do find time to do what you’re doing?

 

Tama Clapper of Blessings in a Backpack: photo: Steve Remich of The Gillette News Record

Tama fixing backpacks/Photo: Steve Remich, The Gillette News Record

TAMA: Just knowing that I am helping to feed several hundred children every week is enough to make it easy to find time. I don’t have to spend as much time on the internet or watching TV, but I can use those spare moments to serve my community and feed kids. It’s pretty easy to find that time.

EYE: When you moved to Wyoming four years ago, did you have any notion that this was a problem?

TAMA: No, we had no idea. I have a really big desire to help children that are in need. We have a pretty good community running a 5% unemployment rate so when you look at our home compared to the rest of the nation, you’d think we were fine, but one of the things that has been a big shock to our community is not only is there a need, but there’s a large need. It was not only a big surprise to me but also for our community too.

Tama Clapper, who feeds hungry children through "Blessings in a Backpack"EYE: What was the problem you first saw?

TAMA: I went to the schools and what they told me is because we’ve had such a boom here in housing – small apartments go for on average around $1000 – a family moves here thinking they will get a good job only to find out that it was seasonal or something went wrong, and so now they are working for minimum wage. They now are having a hard struggle, especially for food because the cost of living here is so high.

EYE: Just how bad was it?

TAMA: I had talked to school counselors, and they would tell me that children would be in the lunch room on Mondays and eating very slowly and she would say, “What’s wrong?” One girl in particular said, “My stomach hurts so badly because I didn’t have any food to eat.”

Once I heard that and found out that in that one school, there were at least 50 students not eating, I knew there was something I had to do. It went pretty quickly once you hear that 50 children are going two full days without food. It’s pretty easy to want to meet that need.

EYE: So what did you do? Literally go online and search for a solution?

TAMA: Coming from Chicago, I knew there were resources out there. I did a Google search and stumbled on Blessings in a Backpack and found that it was organization that had already done the legwork, had built relationships with stores, and had developed a menu. I was able to find them, and it was an easy partnership.

EYE: What does the organization do?

TAMA: It’s a national organization founded by Stan Curtis. He was a foster child abandoned by his parents; he has a really big heart to serve children who are in need. He was a stockbroker for many years and decided that his passion would be to serve children.

So what they do is provide backpacks to local programs that want to start it. They take the money and give you a tax donation, but 100% of the money we earn goes directly to the children. There is no overhead. They are an accountable partner to us and that makes it easy to market our program.

“I just wanted to serve my community. I’ve been blessed in the process.”

EYE: How does it work?

TAMA: Once a month we do a really large order. We work with Walmart and have a pretty good system now in place. We pick up four weeks of food which is about two truckloads of groceries. We pick it up and break it down into individual packets and then once a week, we load backpacks. We fill them with that weeks’ menu. It takes about 15 volunteers to fill them all. And then we have other volunteers who bring the packs to the schools. Right now we have ten different schools. We hope to get to 15.

EYE: How do you feel about all the attention you’ve received by doing this?

TAMA: I’m kind of in shock. I’m a quiet person but this organization has been a huge blessing. If it feeds more children it’s totally worth it, but I had no idea going into this. I just wanted to serve my community. I’ve been blessed in the process.

 

The Tama Clapper Family

The Tama Clapper Family

EYE: What is the reaction from the families?

TAMA: We want to respect the families’ privacy, and so I know only a few have talked with counselors in the schools. I’ve read about one family who is really struggling and going through some hard times and just to know that someone is willing to reach out to them and provide their kids with food is really encouraging.

It’s been a real positive connection between us and the schools and the families. It’s just letting them know we are here, no strings attached. They have food for their children and its one less worry they have to have each week.

“If our city needs it, I’m sure many cities need it.”

EYE: What do they say?

TAMA: The families are overjoyed when I get to meet them. They are grateful and amazed that there is a program out there like this. I make sure to let them know it’s a huge community effort out there, beyond just myself. They think we are very kind. Sometimes it’s the only help they had at that moment so it’s very encouraging.

Blessings in a Backpack logoEYE: Do you think this problem is going away any time soon?

TAMA: It’s definitely a sign of what our country is going through…the recession, loss of jobs. There is a very big need. If our city needs it, I’m sure many cities need it. I hope as time goes on there will be more job opportunities and families will get stable again.

EYE: What is the cost?

TAMA: For only $80, you can feed a child for a whole year. And guarantee that the child won’t experience hunger during the school year. It’s good nutritious food.

EYE: You have four kids but you want to add to the mix?

TAMA: Yes, we think kids are a blessing. We are excited as we are adding two more children from Ethiopia. We are in the process of adopting two, ages six and under….

EYE: You’re like the Angelina Jolie of Gillette Wyoming! Will you keep doing this? People can start their own program fairly easily right?

TAMA: Yes! It’s pretty easy. I am talking with new people all the time about starting up in their own communities. If only ten kids need it, it’s worth it.

“I believe 62% of children are in need. That tells us there are many children whose parents are having trouble providing food…

EYE: What do your kids think about what you are doing?

TAMA: They work right alongside me. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to see we can meet the needs of others. It’s often enjoyable and fun packing the totes. So they can see serving others can be fun and it is a blessing to us to be able to serve somebody else. I believe 62% of children are in need. That tells us there are many children whose parents are having trouble providing food over the weekend.

EYE: How do we get involved?

TAMA: You can go right to the website. They can talk to you about how you can start a program, you can donate online, or you can find one in your community.

EYE: Your efforts will continue to be an example to so many. It’s nice to know people like you are willing to devote time and love to those in need. Thank you, Tama!!!

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Parvati Shallow and Erika Shay: From Reality TV to ESP Wellness

Erika Shay & Parvati Shallow | ESP Wellness

Erika Shay and Parvati Shallow

By Stacey Gualandi/December 21, 2011

“We wanted to create a space where people felt safe and comfortable just being themselves.” Erika Shay and Parvati Shallow

What happens when you bring together a survivor of “The Amazing Race” and a winner of “Survivor”? You get a one-stop wellness and fitness business, all under one roof. Best friends Parvati Shallow, the winner of “Survivor: Micronesia” and Erika Shay, a contestant on Season 5 of “The Amazing Race,” decided to join forces last year and open up their own business, ESP Wellness Center in Santa Monica, CA. Their goal is to literally give people the gift of a healthy life, and they definitely practice what they preach!

Stacey rebounding at ESP for TWE

Stacey rebounding with instructor Lindsey

I visited ESP recently and got a real taste of their integrative approach to fitness and health. I enjoyed the detoxifying effects of the “rebounding” class (jumping up and down on a little trampoline)and mellowed in their infrared sauna.

I went back for more with a group yoga class taught by Lauren Eckstrom, who heads their yoga program. It was inspiring and invigorating to say the least.

Two gals: one great healthy cause. So I wanted to know more about these reality stars who opted to parlay their fame and fortunes into helping others.

EYE: Parvati, you just got back from spending 100 days traveling “Around the World for Free,” an online interactive series. You had no money – just your wits – and it was all captured on cbs.com/world. You made it safely back for our interview!

PARVATI: I had the time of my life. It was a dream come true. Since I was a kid, I had always dreamt of hosting a travel show. I had to rely on the kindness of strangers and reaching out through social networking. It gave me the artistic license and freedom to guide the show the way I wanted to. I had such a great time.

EYE: At one point, you were injured on the sand dunes of Namibia. There was a concern that you might not finish…

PARVATI: Yes, I broke my right wrist. But I’m a powerhouse, and there was no way that I was going to stop. I’m back and rehabbing right now at ESP!!

Wellness workout at ESP

Wellness workout at ESP

EYE: Erika, you certainly know a thing or two about traveling the world!

ERIKA: Ha!! And since Season 5, I’ve been casting for “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor.”

EYE: My sister and I have thought about trying out, but I’m not sure if we’d get along…

ERIKA/PARVATI: That’s what they like!!! Hahaha.

ERIKA: It was an amazing experience. And the one great part about casting for the shows is that I don’t know anyone who has ever walked away from them saying I wish I hadn’t done that. It’s life-changing, and its definitely a growing process during and after.

Erika and Parvati ESP gals snowboarding

Erika and Parvati snowboarding

EYE: Have you been long-time friends and why join forces to start a business like this?

PARVATI: We met through mutual friends and have been Super Glued to each other ever since. We found that we wanted to start looking for a change of direction in our lives. We were feeling unfulfilled career-wise; I had just finished “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.” What makes me the happiest is boxing and yoga, and for both of us, making a difference in people’s lives…helping people to achieve their maximum potential.

That’s what we strive to do at ESP: create an environment that is personalized to each individual. We give you what you need when come through our doors. I think we’ve created the best of all worlds here.

Parvati Boxing

Parvati teaching a boxing class

EYE: What does ESP mean?

ERIKA: It is a combination of our names. But it also means to have a sixth sense about yourself, to adopt a mindset of health plus wellness that will keep you happy and alive longer.

Our philosophy is to offer services from amazing people who are inspiring people to be the best they can be. We really want it to have a trickle-down effect and to help people live at their happiest.

EYE: You both gained fame as reality stars. We’ve seen other reality contestants who became famous. But you both chose to take your popularity to help provide for others.

PARVATI: Thank you for saying that. We wanted to create a space where people felt safe and comfortable just being themselves. And to help them work on making themselves better emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually – every sense of your being.

Ethan Zohn "Survivor: Africa" champ and friends

Friend, Erika, Ethan, Jenna and Parvati

EYE: Fellow “Survivor: Africa” champ Ethan Zohn has been publicly battling cancer. Was his journey part of your inspiration?

PARVATI: Yes, but even more so his relationship with girlfriend Jenna Morasca of “Survivor: Amazon.” Their relationship inspired us to create ESP. We saw what she was going through as his caretaker. It inspired us to want to provide a safe haven for people like her who are dealing with and supporting someone going through cancer. Ethan has lots of support with his doctors, family, etc., but who is taking care of Jenna and who’s giving her the strength to take care of him?

Yoga Class at ESP Wellness for The Women's Eye website

Yoga class at ESP

EYE: What can people expect when they walk through the ESP doors?

ERIKA: I like to ease into my workouts. I do pilates, but Parvati likes to run hardcore workouts. We have something for everybody from private or group pilates to classes taught by teachers who have over 600 hours of training.

We have rebounding classes; we also do TRX resistance training. We also offer full-body wellness services: an amazing massage therapist, an infrared sauna, and nutrition counseling as well.

PARVATI: Santa Monica is the mecca of yoga but what we’ve been finding with a majority of our clients is that they are looking for more restorative practices…a way to unwind and distress. So they are able to use ESP in an integrated way. You can do an intense cardio class – I like boxing and I compete so I teach boxing technique – and then you might want to help with insomnia, anxiety, all stress-related illnesses.

So many clients are getting into the restorative yoga practices and meditation here. There really is something for everyone. We have personalized instruction, and we follow-up with emails, so you are getting the most out of your session, no matter what.

We make sure that you’re listened to, you’re heard and that your needs are met. Full body wellness services are available as well as massage therapy, and nutrition counseling.

ESP Wellness with Erika Shay and pilates

Erika instructing pilates

EYE: Here you are, two young women coming together to start a business. I imagine at times that has been a daunting task?

PARVATI: It’s definitely not been without a few challenges that’s for sure. But I feel that this is the trend…the world is changing. People are spending more time and money on themselves and bettering themselves, so I felt it was the right time to be starting in this field of health and wellness. It was kind of scary, both in this field and with this economy. But its been a wild ride.

EYE: Do you have any advice for women wanting to start a business?

ERIKA: If you believe in yourself and believe in the power of what you are doing, you can accomplish anything…if you have an idea or passion that you feel strongly about. It’s ESP. Female intuition is so strong. If you believe that nothing can stop you then follow your passions. Go with your heart.

PARVATI: And everyone is going to tell you no. So just keep persevering. Keep pushing through all the obstacles because there’s going to be a ton of them.

EYE: Do you recommend working with a partner, especially a female?

PARVATI: I’d never do it alone!!

ERIKA: We’re an interesting duo. That’s a good question! The secret for Parvati and me is that we are happy with ourselves and with our lives. We can think individually and never take offense with each other. If we argue, it’s over a minute later. We’re strong- headed and we work well together.

ESP gals Parvati Shallow and Erika Shay

Parvati, Erika, and the ESP Mascot Jake

PARVATI: You have to be honest with who your partner is. Don’t be concerned with hurting feelings. Women think too much about whether someone likes you or not. In business, it’s a different set of rules. You have to stand up for yourself. It’s the only way to make yourself happy and make things grow.

EYE: Thanks so much for sharing ESP with me!! I’ll be back!!!

To hear more of my interview with Parvati and Erika, just click on this link

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twitter: @espwellness

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