Empowered Women Change Lives

This is Rosalba. I was moved by her story of trust and triumph. Her story begins like many poverty-stricken people in Guatemala, a story, for many, that stays in an endless loop. Crowded wretched shacks shifting on the hillside, unsafe drinking water, lack of sanitation, and rampant uncertainty.

Then one day, the Women Empowered (WE) initiative formed a group in Rosalba’s village, and that changed her fate. Yet, Rosalba would have her own fears to conquer. First, she would have to garner up Herculean courage and strength to begin to trust others, in order to create a path to turn her obstacles into opportunities.

While most of you reading this are not living in such ghastly conditions, I would bet that at one time or another, you encountered barriers associated with advancing to the next level of your career, or higher education, not landing that job because of your gender or the color of your skin, or something else. Maybe you needed a little boost to get you motivated – a mentor. It’s that first step of asking for help that makes all the difference.

This week at my company, three very high-ranking women in the tech industry came to speak about their own hurtles across their careers – two from Cisco, and a third from Bank of the West.  Each shared their own story of triumph.

The outcome of one of the stories was a mentoring initiative, the Multiplier Effect that one of the women, Yvette, a Cisco SVP, birthed in the hopes of addressing the many women who were leaving the tech industry.  Yvette attributes her own career success to her many mentors, and to the people who believed in her. This gift of guidance she wants to share as a way to work the inclusion angle, not just for women, but any person of diversity.

It’s women like Yvette and the two other women who shared the afternoon with us  (Rebecca, Cisco SVP; and Linda, Bank of the West, SVP) who empower us to live to a higher potential, and women like Rosalba, who give us courage. Each of these women took their predicament and flipped it to seek a better outcome.

2017 Holiday Gathering at Red Bird

A BIG THANKS to our good friends (and family) who came to lend their helping hands. Orlando Rigueira, Donna DeLorenzo Rigueira, and Nora came an hour before folks started rolling in, to help with setup. Even earlier, Morda Scott came to finish decorations and furniture rearrangement for open flow.   

Our house on Red Bird was brimming with 55 or so guests, and a few kids. Some of the visitors penned entries in our memory book, in which we asked them to look back at their year and complete the sentence: “I am grateful for…..” With each passing year, our circle gets bigger. How did we get so lucky? 

Enjoy the pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/zKdvWI3rk2C2kSH42

Like No Time Has Passed Between Them

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Earlier this month, I had the great honor and pleasure to attended Glenn’s 50th Hickman High School class reunion in Columbia, Missouri. It was such a gift to see harmony, right before my eyes, between Blacks and Whites, in spite of a past dotted with uncertainty.  A class full with people from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, dentists, a senator, business owners, CEOs, and others who just made the best of life, raising kids, some still living locally, and some retired. 

In the era following Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), students in Columbia, a small mid-Missouri town, braced for integration. Over the years, I have listened intently to lucid experiences shared by Glenn, whom at this point in history, was a young Black kid, with two brothers – ten and twelve years older than he. To hear the stories from his perspective shed a softer light on what could have been a more oppressive time, for some.

The three-day reunion kicked off day-one at Shakespeare’s Pizza; continued day-two at Hickman, where they planted a tree, toured the school and had a light lunch; and later a tailgate party at Cosmo Park, and concluding day-three at a ballroom in The Hampton Inn. I guess I was a teeny bit jealous because my High School class has had only one reunion, and that was in 1990, at my tenth. Hickman’s Class of 1967 have a reunion every five years. 

At Cosmo Park, organizers set up a big screen to watch a their legendary 1966 football game where Hickman ended Jeff City’s 71-game winning streak. Football was and still is really big in this town, also the home of the University of Missouri Mizzou Tigers.  

With a new tree planted, the tour of Hickman High began, and it was impressive for this first-time-visitor. The entry hall was lined with plaques and trophy cases, honoring alumnae. The late Major James E. Logan, Glenn’s oldest brother,  was named on one of the plaques honoring Vietnam veterans who died in the conflict.  During the library tour, I was astonished to learn that Hickman faculty promote their students to be more socially conscious of the history that is unfolding around them. The Class of ’67, in particular, was well-positioned to make an impact on how well race relations would be in the coming years. A time when you saw a person for their worth and warmth, and not the color of their skin.

At the evening gala, we eulogized deceased classmates, all 65 of them, by streaming each of their Senior class pictures on an overhead. At our table, all wept for the loss of such precious lives that touched many hearts.  Many died too young.  Some died in battle. Others since the last reunion. To call out a few of the recent deaths, Gary Warren, a cousin of Glenn’s, who died three years ago. And Eddie Gross, who shocked everyone by attending the 45th, the only reunion he had ever attended –  he passed away a few months later.

As the reunion came to a close, classmates warmly embraced one another, with only the highest hopes of seeing their smiling faces again in five years. With tomorrows not promised, we pray for peace and cherish these memories in our hearts.

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Building a Future for a Deserving Family

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Habitat for Humanity had been on my radar a long time.  I dreamt about helping to build one of those houses for years. The first two tries, I had work-related conflicts. This year, I just scheduled it – cleared my calendar, and took control. After the third try, I finally got a chance to participate in a build. The home would become the future “habitat” of the Hernandez family, a single mother with two boys.

Growing up in a family of handy-persons, there was always a lot of construction going on in our house.  This was different. With every swing of the hammer, every slap of the staple gun, every shot of the nail gun, we were creating a future for people we’ve never met. Inside these walls would be a family making memories. This Hernandez family’s future was literally being shaped by our very hands. This was significant and meaningful. I soaked up every moment, by moment. I was completely in my element.

I had a choice between siding and roofing. I chose siding. On my team were four workers (apprentices), and one team leader – three women, and two men.  Our leader, Kevin, was probably in his late 20s, Larry was in his 60s, Kelley in her 70s, and Nancy in her 30s. I was paired mostly with Kelley, from Mill Valley, California, who said she’d built at least 8 of these homes all around the world. Nancy came from New Jersey, and is a Controller for a beef jerky company.

I know my limits, and holding up a sheet of fiber-cement siding until someone could get it nailed in is one.  I know where I could add the most value, and that is probably during cleanup. While everyone was wrapping up in the last hour, I chose to sweep up the mounds and mounds of wood chips and sawdust inside the house.

Most of the 15 or so workers came via Global Village.  This was their week-long vacation, dedicated to accomplish a major feat, to meet some new people, and see new places. Half of the money they paid went to Habitat. Their costs included food and board for the week, a shuttle to take them to and from the site, and sightseeing.

My hope is to return in November, when the final touches are being added, trim, hardware, paint, and – yes – cleanup.

For your viewing pleasure, the Flikr album of the site, but I’m not in it.

Stay tuned!

 

A Surprise Encounter

Circa 2009.
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This was taken at the Benihana restaurant in the SF Peninsula on one of my trips to the West Coast. I was dining with my brother Eugene, his wife Mare, and my niece and nephew (Mario and Sherina. Near the end of the meal, we learned that the couple who shared our table was ex-NFL player Joe Montana’s father and his companion.  They were the nicest people. They actually sat on the other side of my nephew Mario, and was helping him to use his chopsticks.

Austin Cap10k Run

Original Post: Sunday, March 27, 2011
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I ran the Cap10k last weekend. Had a blast and will probably do it again. I did the timed run and surprised myself that I could run a 9:45 mile, considering the masses.

I totally recommend this as a first-time race. The atmosphere was lively and full of camaraderie. I was with about 2,000 rambunctious HEB employees, being corralled to the start line, when everything fell silent – hands flopped onto chests, in honor of our National Anthem. It moved me to tears – and set the tone for the rest of my day.

My husband volunteered as crowd control at the First Street Bridge, a little more than a mile from the finish line.

Visit http://www.statesman.com/cap10k/ to see the results. My bib number was 3906.

02:13:11 – Not Bad For 13.1 Miles

Original Post: Saturday, April 16, 2011
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I did it! I came, I ran, and made it across the finish line, upright. My time was better at the 10k race a few weeks prior, but that was less than half the distance, AND I didn’t have an injury to contend with.

The course at the Hyatt Lost Pines, in Bastrop, is very pretty, and hilly. What I liked best was the variety of elevations (Ha-! Ha!), vegetation, and scenery. We went from being enveloped in a canopy of trees, out in the open country, passing horse ranches, through seemingly endlessly turns around the tightly cut golf course, then finally to the finish line along the Colorado River.

All the prep in the world could not have prevented it. It was the Wednesday before the race, at the track. We had just finished a couple of laps. I grabbed a drink of water, while the rest of the team started the grapevine drill. I usually do my grapevines going to the left. That morning, I went to the right since I was already facing that way. Bad idea. As the coaches reiterate over and over, don’t try anything new the week before the race. While my body was ready to head right, my brain said, head left. I went down. The knobby part at the top of the femur is where I hit. By race day, I had a bruise the size of a small orange. While it was sore most of the week, I didn’t think it would have any impact on my performance on race day. I was wrong.

By mile 6, I started to feel the pain. I dismissed it. By mile 12, the pain was almost unbearable. That’s when I called on my deceased step-son’s help, James. After all, I was running this race in his honor. “James, I need you…I need to finish…can you take some of this pain away and help me finish?” He came through for me. And the most gratifying feeling was to actually hear my name on the loud speaker as I crossed the line.

The folks who cheered us on those last two miles were a God-send.  Their support, my sheer determination, the undeniable dedication of our coaches, those who donated to the cause, all contributed to my success. It did help that I almost never missed the Monday and Wednesday practices, or the Saturday runs. Truly, though, my real hero through all of this was my husband. He stood by me every step of the way, trained me early on, encouraged me to get out there and train with the team during the week, and on the Saturday long runs. His willingness to open his heart, be vulnerable, and share his story of beloved son James, to let me run in his honor.  Love you babe!