FULL CIRCLE by Terri Lyne Carrington

Teri Lyne Carrington

A story about being a jazz drumming protege in a male-dominated music world . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON 

Terri Lyne Carrington was given her first set of drums at the age of seven. By the age of 11, she received a full scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music. She has toured with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, Al Jarreau and others. She is also a three-time GRAMMY award-winning artist and producer. She is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.

A SHY TV ANCHOR by Wendy Tokuda

Wendy Tokuda

A story from a successful TV news anchor about her extreme shyness . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT WENDY TOKUDA

Wendy Tokuda was a San Francisco Bay Area television staple for more than 30 years, as both TV news anchor and feature reporter. She retired from broadcast journalism in 2016.

A NOVEL IDEA by Kristin McCloy

A story about how caring for animals feels as novel (if not more) as writing a book . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT KRISTIN MCCLOY

Kristin McCloy is a thrice-published author (Velocity, Some Girls, and Hollywood Savage), working on her fourth, and fifth, and a book of short stories, and living in Oakland with the cat who owns her, Zelly, and the family who took them in.  

WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S FIRE by Caroline Paul

Caroline Paul

The first dog I ever rescued bit me. I held on, so he dropped two poops onto the sleeve of my fire coat. I couldn’t blame him: I was just the latest bummer in what had been a very bad doggy day. There had been flames, there had been smoke, there had been the shouts of strange people. With an axe at my side, and an air mask on my face, I was as scary as the rest. But I held him tightly and, whispering promises of dog bones and hugs, I carried him to fresh air. The owner rushed at us, arms outstretched, crying.

This was a fairly typical workday for me. I was a San Francisco firefighter, part of a crew called Rescue 2. Our job was to search for victims in fires, and sometimes those victims were dogs who pooped on our fire coats.

When my career began back in 1989 there were barely any female firefighters, in the whole wide world. In the San Francisco Fire Department, for instance, I was the fifteenth woman hired. That may sound like a lot, until you realize that there were one thousand five hundred men.

This meant that I was the only female firefighter on my shift. Sometimes I was the only female firefighter the other men had ever seen! I loved the job and I respected many of my coworkers but, let’s face it, it’s tough to be different. As the only woman, I was left out of the jokes. I was excluded from the easy camaraderie. I often didn’t understand the social rules. For the most part, the ostracization wasn’t purposeful. I was like that new kid in school with weird hair and crazy clothes who couldn’t find someone to eat with at lunch.

Firefighting was full of adventure and excitement, but it was also difficult, those first years. People had a lot of questions. Were women strong enough? Were women brave enough? I was watched very carefully. Any mistake would not just reflect on me, it would reflect on all women, and each female firefighter knew it. Some of the men were mean in ways that were so dumb and embarrassing for them it isn’t worth mentioning here. But many were decent and respectful, even if they, too, had doubts. Soon three of us women had joined the biggest station in the city, on the rig that responded to the most fires, called Rescue 2.

Art 80 - What it looks likeJoin me now at a fairly typical fire. That’s me, crawling down a hallway. I’m hauling hose, but you can’t see me because the smoke is so thick. I can’t see me, either – not my hand in front of my face, not the beam of the flashlight on my shoulder, not the floor beneath me. My partner, Victor, is behind me, and he keeps bumping into me, but that’s okay, because I keep bumping into Frank, who in turn must be bumping into Andy, who is at the front of the line and is most certainly bumping into walls. The is how it goes in what we call “a really good fire,” which to most people actually means “a really bad fire” – terrible visibility, a lot of clambering around, and air that seems made of molten lava stinging your ears.

One day, there was a small fire, confined to one room; an engine crew had already extinguished it. We jumped from the rig anyway, and walked toward the chief for instructions. I could still see smoke wafting from the window several stories up, but clearly the flames were out. Then something caught my eye. A small black object, on the ledge outside the smoking window. I squinted. Was it alive? Yes, it was.

I took the stairs two at a time. I rushed past the crew in the apartment. I asked someone to grab my coat, then I leaned as far as I could out the window. There she was, just within arm’s reach: a tiny, mewling black kitten. “Hello,” I said in my most soothing voice.

Below a crowd of gawkers milled like ants, but I didn’t allow myself to look down. I extended my arm slowly. I tried to communicate pure thoughts of animal love. I murmured nonsensical assurances. I hoped for a miracle. And the miracle happened. The kitten didn’t run, as kittens are wont to do when strangers approach. I grabbed, latching on to her tiny scruff and pulled her back into the apartment. She was shivering, so I dropped her into my coat. I held her next to my heart. “You’re okay,” I told her, “you’re okay,” and together we headed for the stairs.

Caroline PaulOnce a young scaredy-cat, Caroline Paul grew up to fly planes, raft rivers, climb mountains, and fight fires. In her book, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure (illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton) Caroline shares her greatest escapades and encourages a new generation to conquer fears, face challenges, and pursue the lives they want — lives of confidence, self-reliance, friendship, and fun. 

A COMEDY WRITER’S STORY by Alexandra Rushfield

A Comedy Writer's Story

A story about joining a top-rated TV comedy writing team . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT ALEXANDRA RUSHFIELD

Alexandra Rushfield is a TV comedy writer and producer. She was a writer and co-executive producer of Undeclared, Parks and Recreation, Love, and Friends from College; co- creator and executive producer of Help Me Help You, In the Motherhood and Shrill; and creator and executive producer of Santa Inc. She is currently recovering from years of non-stop work and trying to figure out what is next. 

THE WISH BEHIND MY NAME by Miho Aida

I am an environmental educator and filmmaker. I directed and produced a short film called The Sacred Place Where Life Begins: Gwich’in Women Speak which advocates for Arctic indigenous Gwich’in women in Alaska and Canada and calls for the permanent protection of their sacred land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from potential oil development. Their way of life depends on this sacred land and through my film they are inspiring audiences around the country to take supportive action.

I have promoted this film on my bicycle over the last two summers, because I love socially and politically driven adventures. Last summer’s adventure was called “1,000 miles for 1,000 allies.” My hope was that by riding 1,000 miles on my bicycle, stopping along the way to show my film at various venues, I would create a community of 1,000 allies along the way. I even prepared myself for spontaneous screening opportunities by inventing a portable theater to show my film anywhere and anytime!

Last summer, I rode solo on my bicycle from Washington D.C. to Bar Harbor, Maine over the course of five weeks. My journey started in D.C. with a surprise invitation to an award ceremony where Sarah James, a Gwich’in elder who is in my film, was to be recognized for her lifetime commitment to protect her people’s sacred place. At the party, I had the most significant political moment of my life – I had the honor of being with Sarah in the presence of Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, as well as President Bill Clinton.

MihoAida002

Photographer: Robert Thorpe

Five weeks later, my journey ended in an epic way. I summarized  the theme of those five weeks in Haiku (Japanese poetry):

Friendly faces, kind hands
Angels whisper when in trouble
Protected always

It was July 22nd at 4:00 AM sharp. Ravens woke me up as if asking me to enjoy the last day of my tour. I packed up my stuff and rode out to see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. I saw a mama deer with a fawn in the morning sun. It was a quiet, magical and peaceful morning. I rode out to a bus station and held a sign on a piece of paper. It said: “Ellsworth or Portland.” I thought it would be safe to do this in the early morning in Acadia National Park. Some people had an early start and passed by me. Rose, one of the people who came to see my film the night before, drove by. She stopped her car and said that she would take me to Ellsworth. I said, “If you don’t need to go there, no worries. I will take a bus.” She said, “I am just going for a hike today so I don’t really mind.”  I told her to enjoy her day and sent her off.

A little after 7:30 AM, the bus showed up. “We can’t take your trailer,” said the driver. I explained to him that this was how I was traveling and that I didn’t have a car. “I have to ride this bus and get as close to Ellsworth as possible, so I can make it to Bangor today to catch another bus to Portland. I have a flight early tomorrow morning from Portland.” He said, “I can’t let you take the trailer. I will get in trouble. It’s against the rules.” I insisted that he help me out. I started to take the wheels off of my trailer so it would look just like a suitcase. Meanwhile, he called his supervisor. The answer was no.

I stood there speechless. All I could think was how the system is set up to make cyclists – minorities on the road – vulnerable. There was nothing I could do. Feeling helpless, I apologized to all the passengers on the bus for the delay that I had caused. I got my bicycle off the rack and wondered what I was going to do – there were 52 miles and lots of up-and-down between here and Bangor. I wouldn’t make the last bus from Bangor to Portland with my 50-pound trailer unless I made no stops.

Right then, a car pulled up behind the bus. It was Rose again. “Did you come back for me?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “I had a feeling that you were in trouble. Here, I can give you a ride. Let’s get your stuff in my car. Everything will fit.” We rearranged her stuff and surely, everything packed in nicely – her stuff, my bicycle, the trailer and me. She took me to Ellsworth and we had a great conversation on the way.

To me, these people are like angels who give me their hands when I am in trouble. This happened constantly throughout my journey and it makes me feel hopeful. We live in a world of despair, injustice, and violence, where people are hurt every day, but when I meet people like Rose, and so many others like her, I believe that the world is a good place, where people look out for each other, even if they’re strangers. The fact is, we are all connected – we are not strangers at all. This reminds me of a plaque with Rachel Carlson’s words that I saw in Wells, Maine. It says:

” . . . all the life of the planet is interrelated, each species has its own ties to others, and . . . all are related to the Earth . . .”

Most people have never heard of the Gwich’in. On my film tour, I saw audiences connecting emotionally to the women on screen, recognizing what it’s like to lose something so important and sacred. This started driving people to want to protect the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Witnessing this inspired me to hop on my bicycle every morning to reach one more person and ride one more mile.

In the end, I rode over one thousand miles on my bicycle that month. I also rode on trains, buses and support vehicles, which enabled me to reach many hundreds of people. In addition, I collected over two thousand signatures on petitions to President Obama as well as Congressional representatives. Behind those numbers is all the love and support that people provided to me.

I am hopeful – even with the news that I heard as I was getting ready to catch my plane from Portland, Maine the very next day: Shell’s Arctic Ocean drilling permit had been approved. The news was a reminder that we have numerous battles to fight, miles of walls to take down and many barriers to break through. Yet there is always hope, as long as there are people who demand justice and peace.

All this was on my mind on a hot humid evening in Washington D.C. the night before I began my journey to Bar Harbor. It led me to ride my bicycle to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and to view the large stone with these engraved words: Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

In the country where I was born, I write my first name 民穂. The first character 民 (mi) means “people” and is a symbol of democracy. The second character 穂 (ho) means “rice,” which is our staple food and a symbol of our cultural and ecological heritage. My parents chose these two characters as my name with the hope that I would become a protector of people, culture and the environment.

I want to live up to my name. Even when I recognize a mountain of despair, I hope to be a person with optimism and courage who takes action to protect others. Still, on my bicycle film tour, so many people were protecting me. Perhaps that’s what my parents actually intended with my name: a secret wish that I be protected.

Maybe?

Miho Aida, originally from Tokyo, Japan, is an environmental educator, filmmaker, and outdoor adventurer in California. She is recognized for her inspirational media project called “If She Can Do It, You Can Too: Empowering Women Through Outdoor Role Models.” Her award-winning film is titled The Sacred Place Where Life Begins – Gwich’in Women Speak

AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN by Sohini Chakraborty

Sohini Chakraborty (Micky Wiswedel photographer Photo Courtsey Vital Voices)

I decided at a young age that I wanted to live my life as an independent woman. I know a lot of women are independent in spirit, but in my case, I also wanted to live on my own, outside of my family’s home. In the cultural context of life in India, this was very bold, as family is a big thing. The traditional way of life in India is that children continue to live with their parents or their families until they are young adults, usually until they marry. I was single, and I wanted to stay single, but I also wanted complete independence. I wanted to not only live in my own space, I also wanted to have financial independence. That was my choice, my decision alone. I was considered a rebel.

My mother died young, so I grew up living with my father. I was a dancer, but I had a degree in Sociology, so I think he wanted me to get a good government job. My decision to live independently was not a decision against him; it was a decision for myself. This was very different from the traditional or “normal” life of a woman in India and it was very, very challenging.

When I was 21 or 22 years old, I had a big idea that dance could change lives. I began to fully pursue that idea when a lot of people were saying that it wouldn’t work. It was a bold decision, but I’ve chosen to live life on my own terms. I think that my independent spirit has helped me to be successful.

Prior to starting Kolkata Sanved in 2004, I had spent about nine years pursuing my dream of changing women’s lives through dance. Most of that time was a constant struggle, but I decided that all those challenges provided me the opportunity to move ahead in life. That’s how I got to where I am today.

I had a daring dream that dance could change lives and I transformed it into an organization: Kolkata Sanved. It was only my dream, one person’s dream, but now it’s the collective dream of many women, and it is truly transforming lives.

For all women who speak Bengali, I share this video message (I have also inserted English subtitles:)

 

Sohini ChakrabortySohini Chakraborty is a sociologist, Ashoka Fellow, dance activist, and Founder/Director of Kolkata Sanved, which has expanded the notions of dance and traditional rehabilitation programs. Through Kolkata Sanved’s groundbreaking dance/movement therapy program, survivors of violence and trafficking release trauma, develop confidence, identify their own potential as human beings, and become independent and empowered individuals rather than victims.

MOVING PAST THE FEAR TO EMPOWERMENT by Sharon MacFarland Burrus

I got excited about women’s health in my early teens. My father was a major influence on me. He was devoted to healthy nutrition, supplementation, and natural remedies and became interested in natural progesterone in the mid-’70s. His company, Emerita, developed a product called Pro-Gest, which it still sells today. I helped with the business starting at 16 years of age. When I read reports from women who used Pro-Gest with amazing benefits, I was convinced it was a winner. This is what started my career in women’s health and advocacy.

When I was 23 years old, I passionately took over what my father started. I felt like part of a relay race, carrying the baton on the second leg. It was a long leg, but worth every step. I’m passionate about women having optimal health and vitality, because it supports them in having the confidence and energy to create their best lives. When they don’t have that health or vitality, it’s harder for them to reach full potential and satisfaction.

Doing this work for women’s health and wellness is the wind in my sails and gets me excited every day. I’ve dedicated my life to it. It’s been a long journey, and I have to say, there’s been a lot of daring to be fabulous, because it’s been in the face of a lot of resistance from the medical establishment. There have been a lot of tall walls to scale. Natural products and alternatives to prescription medication weren’t really talked about 40 years ago. We still encounter ongoing battles with the mainstream medical world, despite the fact that we have research to back up our statements; we have positive evidence that bio-identical progesterone, topically applied in physiological amounts, is safe and therapeutic. Since 1978, Pro-Gest has helped millions of women to feel better. I’m very proud of this.

My most poignant experience at Emerita was putting together a team of scientists, hormone researchers, and medical professionals to guide me in doing the necessary research to support the health benefits and potential of Pro-Gest. I was able to blast through my own fears and insecurities about not being a medical professional and create a world-class team to help me in starting some research studies. Conducting scientific research was not part of my business degree, so creating pilot research studies was quite an education and a hurdle for me to overcome. Not to mention, I was a non-scientist working with some renowned researchers.

Initially, as a woman surrounded by men, I couldn’t help but sense that they might be looking at me and thinking, “who are you, little girl?” I was not adept at speaking their scientific language or using the appropriate terminology. Working to gain their respect and support alone was an achievement. Standing up to open that first board meeting in the company of these top-notch researchers was the pinnacle for me.

Our research team conducted four clinical research studies which led to research posters at prominent science conferences. The studies proved that topical progesterone cream was beneficial in several areas, including cardiovascular health, hot flash reduction, and protection to the endometrial lining with use of estrogen, which was a major question from physicians. Still, the medical establishment balked, saying there weren’t enough people in the studies to prove anything significant. Also, even though the science posters won awards, no science journal would publish the results. Did I meet my goal? No, but the results of the studies were still revolutionary and I’m very proud of having accomplished that.

Oprah Winfrey ran a couple of shows about bio-identical hormones in 2009, with experts and patients discussing them. Dr. Christiane Northrup, who was one of our very early customers, was one of the experts on the show, advocating for the benefits of natural progesterone. She explained how it has been used in Europe for decades and the amazing results she saw with her own patients. The program also featured cutaways to actual patients, talking about how they tried the usually prescribed hormone replacement drugs with no success and a lot of side effects, only to find exactly what they needed when they turned to bio-identical hormonal creams. At the end of those two shows, Oprah directed viewers to talk to their doctors about bio-identical hormones. As a result, my company received inquiries from women asking, “How do we find bio-identical doctors?”

This leads to another project that I am very proud to have co-founded, It’s a national non-profit called Women in Balance, created to provide information for women, so they can educate themselves and make different health choices during mid-life. I completed this important project and I feel very DTBF about it! The website also has information for women on how to talk to their providers and ask the right questions, as well as a significant research library on natural hormone studies.

Women owning their bodies. What a concept. We are so disconnected from our bodies and most of us just let the traditional medical complex tell us what to do, i.e. “Here, take this pill.” Many of us don’t feel good taking those pills! For me, it’s about women taking their bodies back and saying, “I’ve got to tune in to me,” instead of turning to the medical establishment and saying, “fix me.” It’s about becoming empowered and taking our bodies back. Part of that tuning in is to realign with our natural collaborative nature as women. It provides us with a way of healing. We need more of that.

Another part of my own empowerment program is challenging myself to be adventurous. I have my motorcycle. I learned how to scuba dive. I learned to fly a small plane. These were all stretches for me – big stretches, because I tend to think I’m really afraid of these kinds of things. Ultimately, it’s about moving past the fear and taking charge of your own empowerment.

Sharon MacFarland Burrus is a pioneer in the natural products industry, as the former founder, owner, and  CEO of Emerita, a leading brand of natural wellness products, including natural menopause solutions, for women. She also helped to found Women in Balance, a national association for women’s health that promotes research and education on midlife health options for women.