Sprinkled Sunshine Seven: 7 Women Who Inspire in Central Illinois

Raise your hand if there is a woman out there who inspires you. My hand is raised and surely you’ve got a hand up too. Today is March 8th, today is a day to celebrate, today is International Women’s Day. Taking place annually since 1911, International Women’s Day is a “powerful platform globally that unifies tenacity and drives action for gender parity, while celebrating the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women.” National and international events take place in various forms and this year they center around the 2019 campaign theme, Better the balance, better the world. You can find a plethora of information here.

Our Earth is filled with astounding women, we are surrounded by them each and every single day, and on this Friday I want to highlight seven women in my area, in Central Illinois, who I feel are positive lights to follow. We all have a story to tell and I am excited to share with you today a glimpse into the stories of these seven women: Dr. Shiva Abbaszadeh, Cynthia Bruno, Laura Edwards, Nancy Kidd, Denise Poindexter, Kerry Rossow, and Erin Tarr (alphabetical order by last name). Special thanks to these women for their willingness to take part in the second blog post of the Sprinkled Sunshine Seven series. Each were asked the same three questions and then were given a list to choose from for four additional questions. Be inspired, lift your girlfriends up, and #BalanceforBetter.

Dr. Shiva Abbaszadeh

Dr. Shiva Abbaszadeh is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a primary research area in radiological science. She is originally from Iran and moved to Champaign in 2017 where she has
collaborated with Carle Foundation Hospital to advance the precision of molecular imaging technology for disease diagnostics and treatment utilizing the scans of active cancer patients. Most recently, her research has won a National Institutes of Health award for 2 million dollars to develop a device to aid doctors in treatment of patients with head and neck cancer through identifying small lymph nodes, the extent of the disease, and assessing recurrence at an earlier stage. She is the mother of a 10 month old baby boy whom she adores and she loves being by the water whether she is swimming or stealing a chance at going to the beach whenever she can.

Q1) What woman inspires you and why?

All women that are successful in my field of work inspire me, but if I were to name a couple specifically: Sara Pozzi (University of Michigan) and Kyle Myers (Director of the Division of Imaging, Diagnostics, and Software Reliability in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. I enjoy going to conferences and networking with women in my field, it is very encouraging to talk with them and seek out advice. Although I have lived in Iran, Germany, Canada, and finally landed in the United States, my biggest culture shock has been taking a faculty position. Jennifer Bernhard (Associate Dean for Research, College of Engineering & Donald Biggar Willett Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) has been an inspiration and has given useful advice in that aspect.

Q2) What is one of your favorite things to do in the Central Illinois area?

I love eating out and grabbing drinks at DESTIHL. I also really love taking walks around the artificial lake by our apartment on the weekends. We had originally intended on buying a house after we lived here for a year, but I enjoy the lake so much that I don’t know that we will leave where we are currently at any time soon.

Q3) Any podcasts or books that you absolutely love?

One-on-One with Eric Topol. He is also has a series of books…I’ve read The Patient Will See You Now and I want to read his most recent book, Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again. He’s a cardiologist who writes about how technology relates to medicine. I also enjoy following him on Twitter @EricTopol –he reads papers and then provides highlights on them. He’s a really cool guy. It is important to be as close to what is happening in the hospital as I can to know what the real needs of radiologists and cardiologists are. I could come up with a fabulous device, but if a hospital can’t practically use it in their workflow, then how successful is that?

Q4) What is the best advice you have ever received?

Traditional thinking is that you need one mentor to help guide you into your life success. As a postdoc, so much weight is put on one mentor and who he/she is affiliated with, how successful has he/she been, etc. I’ve realized that a mentor is not just one person who can help you throughout your career; a mentor is an entire network. It is important to figure out what you want out of a career and then find multiple individuals who can help you in different areas from writing and editing to providing emotional support to advocating for you. This has been very useful.

Q5) If you could give your younger self any advice now, what would it be?

You know, I really feel as if I’ve lived a really good past, I am really happy with the life I’ve lived. I would tell my younger self “I am so proud of you.” If I wanted to relive my life up to this point, I feel like I would do it all the same. Maybe there might be one or two small things I might change, but I don’t even know if that is true. Maybe I would have told myself not to take things too slow. What I mean by that is that when I was younger, I went to undergrad, then I worked, then I went back to school for my masters, then I worked, then I went back to school for my doctorate…maybe if I would have moved through these phases a little quicker, I would have had my doctorate faster is all I mean. However, in Iran, I don’t think that was even a possibility structurally. I want to also make note that finding a partner who respects your passion is important –I did this, but along the way I’ve seen so many bright females pick the wrong partner and it has totally impacted the way that they live. Find someone who is supportive of your dreams, someone that you can grow together with.

Q6) What do you consider your biggest accomplishment to date?

My son. I think of accomplishments as things that you are fearful of that you push yourself through. For instance, I love my academic career and I’ve always enjoyed doing it; however, when I used to think of pregnancy I would become very afraid. How could I be successful as a professional and as a parent with such limited time? I thought falsely that being pregnant meant being on disability and I didn’t think it was fair that women were the ones that had to be pregnant instead of men. My husband had always wanted a child and after age 35 we were at a point where we needed to make a decision. I now feel completely differently, it is hard, but by no means a disability –going through pregnancy is such a blessing. No matter how the day goes in the lab, I now come home to see such a sweet face and I can detach, whereas before, problems in the lab would prevent me from sleeping at night. Life is about other things now. I guess going back to the previous question, I would’ve had told myself to not be afraid. I could have experienced this blessing sooner.

Q7) What is the most difficult aspect about your work and why?

My work involves a lot of writing to apply for grants and establishing research in labs, but managing students is another big area and this can be very challenging, but in a good way. Everyone is different and it is important to understand the differences. For some in academia, I think there is this idea that you spend all of this time with students, they then get to a point where they challenge you, and then they go and leave you. I don’t think of it this way. First of all, I try to think and live through a beginner’s mind. Unconsciously, we sometimes have a tendency to explain concepts at a level that does not resonate with students. Putting myself in a beginner’s mind, I can really listen to my students and enjoy it, things can get reborn in a different way and it is important to view this as an opportunity to take advantage of and really embrace. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in an expert’s there are few” –Shunryu Suzuki.

Cynthia Bruno

A Wisconsin girl who moved to Champaign in 2010, Cynthia Bruno works for Busey Wealth Management and is the Co-Founder and Board of Directors President for Girls Go For It. She is also involved with Junior League and Leadership Illinois. Bruno is the mother of two boys: Whittier who is 3 and Archibald who is 1. She also has a yellow lab, Wrecker, who is 7 years old. Sometimes she enjoys working out, but always enjoys wine and cheese with friends (re cheese: Wisconsin girl).

Q1) What woman inspires you and why?

Rachel Denhollander- the first woman who went on record to accuse Larry Nassar of sexual misconduct. It’s been a big year for women standing up to this behavior, and her bravery empowered others to come forward. She helped bring light to the suffering of so many that only goes on in the darkness. Her actions are a testament to what can happen when we, as women, share our stories and our truths with one another.

Q2) What is one of your favorite things to do in the Central Illinois area?

I like exploring the area’s restaurants- new and old favorites. I’m particularly in love with patio season in central Illinois. When it’s warm and lively in downtown Champaign- it’s just such a fun place to be and relax.

Q3) Any podcasts or books that you absolutely love?

How I Built This is my favorite podcast. I love hearing about extraordinary people taking a big leap and making something great. It’s always inspiring that the ideas behind these hugely successful companies comes from a tiny spark of imagination or experience and the grit to carry it out.

Q4) In times when you may feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions, how do you calm the storm?

Well, I think I’ve given up on calming the storm, I’ve just learned to weather it. Still learning to weather it, actually. Here’s the thing- I like to take on a lot. I love being involved, I love pushing myself personally and certainly professionally. Over the past five years, I’ve caught myself saying to my husband MULTIPLE times “You know Tony, once this thing is over, things will calm down a bit.” Funny thing is, they never calm down, I just find the next thing to take on and jump into it. That’s what energizes me. The idea of “balance” has always eluded me a bit- in most senses it’s too restrictive. I just try to evaluate from time to time by asking myself a simple question: “Is what I’m doing working for me and my family right now?” I answer that very honestly and then I adjust based on that answer.

Q5) What is most rewarding about your work and why?

I’ll answer this in two ways – my work with Busey Wealth Management is incredibly rewarding because I get to help people in such a real and tangible way- making sure their finances support their dreams. Helping people discover how they can live the way the dream and also from a legacy for when they pass is very powerful. With Girls Go For It, the most rewarding part is hearing young girls say that they stood up for someone else who was getting bullied, or that they aren’t afraid to raise their hand in class, or that they want to become the first girl in their family to graduate high school. The small changes we can make in a girl’s confidence in 5th grade can have a ripple effect throughout her whole life. When you can instill a “spark” to reach higher and achieve more, who knows what that can mean later in life?

Q6) What do you consider your biggest accomplishment to date?

Starting Girls Go For It. It’s an after school program that focuses on leadership training and empowerment for 5th grade girls and it’s completely free of charge. It serves 6 schools in the Champaign School District and one in St. Louis. How did I pull it off? By rounding up all the
awesome women I know and asking for their help in starting and keeping this project going. In the early days of forming this idea, and then implementing it, all the people who gave me and my co-founder, Kelly O’Neill, encouragement are the true heroes of this project. We reached
out to so many of our friends and female leaders in the community and essentially “shopped our idea around.” We wanted to make sure we were truly filling a need and that we’d have community support. Those early “Yes, you can this” and “I wish I had that in 5th grade”comments kept our fire going.

Q7) What is the best advice that you have ever received?

“It’s ok to quit.” It’s so counterintuitive to what we hear our entire lives- “Never give up!” “Perseverance!”- and there’s a time and a place
for that. But there’s also a time and a place for moving on and doing something new and different. In my life, I’ve discovered so many new and wonderful things from letting something else go.

Lauren Edwards

Originally from the small southwest suburb of Homer Glen, Laura Edwards came down to Champaign in 2009 and currently resides in Bement. She is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Clark-Lindsey Village and the Founder of Cultivate Central Illinois. Edwards is also a member of Junior League and an alum of Leadership Illinois. She and her husband have two nearly identical pups that they rescued, Nola and Jin, and 6 backyard chickens: Mrs. Cluckles, Pumpkin, Omelet, Srgt. Peppers, Peaches and Poncho. In her free time, she loves to try new experiences, explore the local community (parks, shops, restaurants, you name it!), do yoga, make vegan recipes, dance, run (only in nice weather), play the occasional board game, and relax with her husband, friends and family.

Q1) What woman inspires you and why?

I had the pleasure of getting to know Judy Sorum Brown this past year as a part of a leadership fellowship program. Judy is an educator, researcher, writer, coach and poet. She was a Pan Am flight attendant, a White House Fellow, and has worked as a leadership consultant for huge organizations like Ford and AT&T. She tells incredible stories, and can arguably listen even better than she speaks. Judy has a way of fostering curiosity and genuine leadership through a soft yet powerful method. When dealing with a challenging situation, I often think of the lessons and leadership tools I’ve learned from Judy.

Q2) What is one of your favorite things to do in the Central Illinois area?

I love to spend a Saturday morning strolling through the Urbana Farmer’s Market and visiting my favorite small businesses!

Q3) Any podcasts or book that you absolutely love?

As for books, I love personal or professional development books and anything by Judy Brown or Brene Brown. A couple of my favorites are:
-The Gifts of Imperfections, Brene Brown
-The Power of Vulnerability, Brene Brown
-The Art and Spirit of Leadership, Judy Brown
-The Leader’s Guide to Reflective Practice, Judy Brown

As for podcasts – too many to mention! Here are just a few of my eclectic favorites that change widely based on my mood:
-Dear Prudence
-Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell
-Where Should We Begin
-Dear Sugars
-Lady Gang
-NPR StoryCorp
-Lexicon Valley
-The Minimalists
-Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations
-Skimm’d from the Couch
-The Science of Happiness
-Stuff You Should Know
-Conspiracy Theories
-Forked Up
-On Being
-Becoming Wise

Q4) In times when you may feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions, how do you calm the storm?

Journaling, or just making lists and drawing diagrams. Seeing everything outlined in one place can calm me down and make things feel more doable, or at least help me identify what items are more urgent than others. When things get really bad, I need to disengage and come back to it later. I call this “productive procrastination”, I’ll do laundry, meal prep, grocery shop, etc. Cleaning or organizing an area of my home can also help me feel more “in control”. When all else fails, I call my mom!

Q5) If you could give your younger self any advice now, what would it be?

Take your time, it isn’t a race. I remember taking extra classes each semester in college in order to graduate early. I would moonlight in different jobs to gain more experience and build my resume. I was so high strung on “climbing the ladder” and getting ahead in my career, I don’t think I was able to enjoy or learn as much in the process. I wish I could have told my younger self to SLOW DOWN. Heck, I think I need this advice now! I feel most of us carry such a sense of urgency these days, which just weighs on us. It’s so important for our mental health to just slow down.

Q6) It’s the weekend, your schedule is completely clear, what would we find you doing?

I love being able to support local businesses on the weekends. My perfect day would be (granted it’s summer!) an early morning hike at Allerton with our dogs, visiting the Farmer’s Market in Urbana, getting a treat at Hopscotch, maybe some shopping at Champaign Outdoors, Checkered Moon or Yellow & Co in Mahomet. Then dinner at Monarch Brewing Company in Monticello, Dancing Dog or Big Grove, and finally, watch my husband work in the garden at sunset while laying in the hammock with a glass of wine.

Q7) What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My dogs! They wake us up without fail at about 4:30 every single morning. But besides them, it’s my to do list and knowing that people are counting on me to show up. Whether it’s my workout partner that I know will be waiting in the locker room wondering where I am, or a local female business owner waiting for me at Hopscotch, or a meeting I’m leading at Clark-Lindsey. Knowing that people are counting on me gets my butt moving in the morning. I don’t want to let people down.

Nancy Kidd

Originally from Greenville, Illinois, Nancy Kidd first moved to Champaign-Urbana to attend the U of I. In 1977 she returned to the area and now resides in St. Joseph. Kidd is a retired teacher of the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center and is actively involved in the community as an Assistance Day volunteer at the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. She has two grown sons, one dog, and two granddogs. You can find Nancy reading, blogging, playing the piano, and performing with her husband as part of an acoustic trio.

Q1) What woman inspires you and why?

Hands down, the woman who most inspires me is my mom. Although she passed away over three years ago and suffered with dementia several years prior to her passing, her influence in my life is still quite strong. She had a way of making everyone she met feel special. Although she was a mother to six children, in her home there was always room for more. She was kind and loving, even toward those who appeared unlovable. When she saw a need, she was always quick to jump in and help. In her selfless manner, she never seemed to regret any sacrifices she made along the way. She modeled the importance of being a lifelong learner. Until dementia took its hold, she continued to stretch and to grow, often pushing herself out of her comfort zone. Her playfulness and wonderful sense of humor provided the lesson not to take life or ourselves too seriously. Mom lost her own mother when she was three years old. From what I know, her childhood was unstable. She grew up being passed among various relatives— her alcoholic father, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and an older sister. How she survived to become such an incredibly nurturing woman is hard for me to imagine.
Strength and resilience, but most of all an ability to love above all else—those are the qualities of my inspirational role model. Those are the traits that make my mom my North Star, the one who helps me stay on course with my own life’s purpose.

Q2) What is one of your favorite things to do in the Central Illinois area?

One of my favorite things to do in Central Illinois is spending time at the parks. There are so many lovely options available -state, county, and city parks. We love going on picnics, exploring different hiking trails, and checking out the different music venues offered.

Q3) Any podcasts or books that you absolutely love?

Tattoos on the Heart and Barking to the Choir by Gregory Boyle are among my favorite books. Maria Shriver’s online weekly newsletter, The Sunday Paper speaks to my heart. I also love authors such as Brene Brown, Mitch Albom, and Fredrik Backman.

Q4) In times when you may feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions, how do you calm the storm?

When the stress starts to build and I start feeling overwhelmed, I try to
stop and take a step away. Even if I only have a moment to spare, I turn my focus to breath, following it closely as I inhale and exhale. I’m a firm believer in using meditation and prayer to return to a sense of peacefulness.

Q5) If you could give your younger self any advice now, what would it be?

If I could give my younger self any advice, it would be to step out boldly and let go of fear. I was once rather timid, and I missed out on opportunities because I was afraid. I was afraid of failing or looking foolish, and sometimes I was afraid of what others might think. Fear like that serves no purpose. Life, I believe, is meant to be an exciting journey. Another important bit of advice I would have given my younger self is to check in with your thoughts. Are they uplifting you and helping you live the life you want? Or, are they more of a hindrance? Remember the words of Lao Tzu who said, “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

Q6) Think back to six years ago, is this where you thought you would be?

Six years ago I would definitely not have imagined being where I am today. Back then I barely knew what a blog was. Now, I AM a blogger. My website, www.gatherthegoodblog.com, was launched almost a year ago. I never considered myself a writer, but these days I’m posting essays on a regular basis. As I continue to grow through this venture, my voice is becoming stronger. I feel more intentional about my goal of nurturing others by focusing on positivity.

Q7) What gets you out of bed in the morning?

We have a dog that barks each morning to let us know it’s time to get moving! Even without her help to jumpstart the day, I’m eager to get up
and see what lies ahead. I don’t want to take my days for granted. I want to embrace the precious gift each one offers. I thrive on relationships, and I try to structure my actions with that in mind. It may be through my writing or by engaging in activities with other people. Maybe I will gain a deeper understanding of others through my reading. Whatever I end up doing in a day, my hope is that I always contribute to drawing people closer by building connections of love.

Denise Poindexter

Denise Poindexter is originally from McCrory, Arkansas and moved to Champaign in 2009 where she continues to work for the University of Illinois. She keeps busy through community involvement in Junior League of Champaign-Urbana and the CU 1:1 Mentor Program and also enjoys reading, traveling, and Bourbon tasting in her free time. Denise has an adorable 12 year old Shih Tzu named Sasha Renee.

Q1) What woman inspires you and why?

While there are many women who inspire me, I will say that Gabrielle Union is one person that I am truly in awe. Besides being smart, funny and gorgeous, she’s brave and courageous. She’s a woman that has experienced many challenges and low points in her life; however, she continues to evolve and thrive to better each day. She spreads love, light, and positivity. She inspires me to live life awesomely and I hope others feel the love and encouragement that share with the world.

Q2) What is one of your favorite things to do in the Central Illinois area?

One of my favorite things to do in Central Illinois is to attend the varied food, music and art festivals that typically happen in the summer/early fall. It’s always a good time to hang with friends or meet new people socializing enjoying a commonality.

Q3) Any podcasts or books that you absolutely love?

A few of my favorite books are The Shack by William P. Young, We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Q4) In times when you may feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions, how do you calm the storm?
I take a nap! After a really good nap, mind is clear and I can focus on how to actually accomplish my to-do list or handle any unforeseen situations.

Q5) It’s the weekend, your schedule is completely clear, what would we find you doing?
I love to volunteer in the local community and honestly, I enjoy being home. From the outside looking in, I live an extremely extroverted lifestyle; however, there is this inner introvert that needs the downtime, alone to recharge for a new day. Reading, watching TV and napping bring me happiness. And of course, cuddling with my precious dog, Sasha Renee is always awesomely peaceful.

Q6) What is the best advice that you have ever received?

Create the life you deserve. My faith in God and my desire to be better a person each day has helped me overcome adversity in my life. Like most people, I have experiences, struggles and many challenges that make me want to quit often. I keep trying to get things right to make the world a better place for those I can impact, positively, in my circle. It takes work but I want an awesome love-filled life!

Q7) If you could give your younger self any advice now, what would it be?

Be the person you want to be, confidently; extend grace and show kindness to others. Mostly, live the life you desire and know you are loved, unconditionally, by God.

Kerry Rossow

Kerry Rossow is originally an Indiana girl, but now lives in Champaign and has been calling Illinois her home since 1994. She spends her mornings in the classroom watching children explore and grow, but switches hats in the afternoon to her role as Community Manager at Montessori School of CU where she gets to tell the world about it in the afternoon. Rossow is Founder of The She Said Project (the That’s What She Said Show at the Virginia Theatre was March 2nd) and builds her framework for community involvement around this. It is an umbrella for shoe drives, mission trips, teen empowerment weekends, and ultimately, the live show to shine a light on women’s stories. Whether The She Said Project is a hobby, passion, business, or maybe a combination of all three, it has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of Kerry’s life. She has 4 children, all currently teenagers –but their dog, Big George rules the roost.

Q1) What woman inspires you and why?
I have 4 sisters so I would be in the doghouse to just pick one. There is no one to cheer louder for me or to put me in my place faster than a sister. Sisters are also the gatekeepers to all of our stories, right? They were there for all the firsts and hopefully will be there for all the lasts.

Q2) What is one of your favorite things to do in the Central Illinois area?
We enjoy taking Big George on family hikes and finding new parks to explore.

Q3) Any podcasts or books that you absolutely love?
I’m re-reading The Handmaid’s tale because my daughter is reading it for school. Reading classics with my “mom’s lens” is a very different experience than reading it 30 years ago.

Q4) What keeps you awake at night?
Everything. Big things. Small things. All the things. Sleep is not my friend so it doesn’t take much to keep me awake. The silver lining is that I have had some of my biggest “AHA!” moments at 3am.

Q5) What do you consider your biggest accomplishment to date?
I love how close our children are -how supportive they are of each other. It sounds like a Godfather movie but we have always tried to tell them, show them, instill in them that family ALWAYS comes first. Trust me, we have totally had our share of bickering along the way but they would run through a wall for each other.

Q6) What is the best advice that you have ever received?
Learn a lot and be kind to others. I repeat that to my own children every morning as they leave the house.

Q7) What do you see when you close your eyes and imagine an empowered woman?
At the end of each TWSS show, we take a curtain call bow. There is always that moment when I look down the row of women who have just braved the stage, and I am overwhelmed with love and admiration and gratitude for them.

Erin Tarr

Erin Tarr is originally from Southern Illinois and moved to Chambana for college in 1997, she then never left and currently lives in Champaign. Erin is the Founder of Be the Benchmark, where influential and high impact mentorship programs to empower tween and teen girls to become their most vibrant self are at the center of her mission. She is also involved with Junior League of Champaign-Urbana and Quest UMC. Erin is a mother to three amazing daughters (Adsen – 11, Finley – 8, and Logan – 4) and enjoys listening to podcasts, running, singing, and going to conferences.

Q1) What woman inspires you and why?
I am inspired by all the women around me who are persisting. I love to read about famous women both contemporary and historical figures, but I am DAILY inspired by the women I am surrounded with who are doing the hard things day-in and day-out and making an impact from where they are at – whether it’s at home with kids, in the operating room, the boardroom, or the classroom (and everywhere in between).

Q2) What is one of your favorite things to do in the Central Illinois area?
I am the BIGGEST fan of the Champaign Public Library. From their afterschool offerings to middle schoolers, and their business development courses, amazing kid programming, fabulous and helpful staff – I absolutely ADORE our library and go there as often as I can.

Q3) Any podcasts or books that you absolutely love?
I LOVE podcasts, and listen to so many – but I go through phases and binge listen, so my favorite changes from month to month. My current obsession is the HPX podcast from Brendan Burchard and his wife. I also love Oprah’s Super Soul podcast, a ton of the podcasts put out by Gimlet Media, and Akimbo by Seth Godin. I read at least two books a month (via audible—can you tell how I like to consume content?) usually centered around girls and moms – current two faves are both by Lisa Damour – UNTANGLED and UNDERPRESSURE … cannot recommend these two books highly enough for ANYONE with kids (not just daughters).

Q4) What keeps you awake at night?
LITERALLY nothing keeps me awake at night. I love sleep and think it is the most underrated aspect of holistic health and healing. When people ask how I “get so much done,” I always tell them it is because I get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. I have my husband to thank for this, as having a regular sleep pattern was not a habit that I appreciated until we were together and he insisted we make it a priority. I sincerely believe this ONE thing has made an enormous impact on the successes I have had to date. I can say this with a large degree of confidence because anytime I haven’t consistently been able to sleep well (read: the newborn months) – my mood, productivity, and relationships with others have suffered tremendously by comparison.

Q5) What is most rewarding about your work and why?
It is beyond rewarding to get to see lives, and ultimately family legacies changed. I see mothers and daughters improving their relationships. I see girls growing in confidence and being able to speak their truth without anger or fear or timidity … just standing strong in who they are as they set and pursue their goals. Unlike fitness coaches, or adult life coaches, sometimes I have to wait longer to see the results of my “work”… teen girls don’t usually change overnight. But slowly and surely as my relationship with them grows, our time together produces long-lasting fruit – excellent habits that become ingrained and automatic, mindsets that are positive and come naturally to them, strengths that they have developed over time and will last a lifetime, self-worth that trumps everything other people have to say, and a knowledge that they have the power to go out and make a difference in ways that matter to them.

Q6) If you could give your younger self any advice now, what would it be?
Pursue your dreams with more vigor. Go for it – don’t let your negative self -talk, or your perception of what other people may or may not think, or your fear of not having “enough” stop you from taking risks and going all out for the things that matter to you. Stop playing small and start embracing who you were created to be – the sooner the better!

Q7) What do you see when you close your eyes and imagine an empowered woman?
I imagine my daughters as grown women. I dedicate a large portion of my waking hours each day pursing activities that will help them become confident communicators, who are passionate about creating lives of impact and serving others to make change in this world. They are my why behind Be the Benchmark, my inspiration to keep going, and often my greatest teachers. I can’t wait to see all that they accomplish as they launch into the world on their own in the next 8 – 10 years!

Let’s get an applause for not only all of these ladies, but all of you ladies reading this -and then all of the ladies that you know in your life and look up to! I’ll see you next month with the third post of the Sprinkled Sunshine Seven series, but for now, go enjoy your weekend and celebrate being you!

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One response to “Sprinkled Sunshine Seven: 7 Women Who Inspire in Central Illinois”

  1. Ben says:

    I just want you to know you are doing a fantastic job with your Blog darlin. I love you!

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