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Real Women, Real Stories | Nancy’s Story: Abundant Living Among the Chronically Homeless

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iGnite - Nancy Miller

Roots: I was born in Orange, California, but moved to Dallas in 1969 and then to Austin in 1984.  I’ve been here ever since and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

With my grown children: Sarah, Kim, Rachel, me, Justin & Rebecca

Family Life:  My first husband and I were both in the medical field and saw that older children were not getting adopted after the preschool age. They would age out of foster care or group homes with no place to call home after 18.  Specialists at the time said older children were rarely being placed. We wanted a big family, so we decided to have our “bio babes” first and then adopt older children.

We had Justin, and then Rachel came 17 months later. Then, a year later we added Kimberly (9 years old), then a year later, Rebecca (8 yrs), and finally a year later Sarah (17 years old).  Whew!  What a ride! They all came from different families with different stories. What an adventure!

Grandchildren (it's hard to get them all together at the same time): Trey, Valencia, Brooklyn, Derrick, Kannon, Kyciel and Chasity

Grandchildren (it’s hard to get them all together at the same time): Trey, Valencia, Brooklyn, Derrick, Kannon, Kyciel and Chasity

I am an artist, but being a parent probably required my most creative spontaneity!  Folks asked us how we figured out how to raise this family — well, we kind of made it up as we went along. We had gentle firm rules, and as much fun as possible. We had regular rule breaking to ease the structure. For example we had “bad manners night” one dinner a week (the only rules were no throwing food or eating off of each other’s plates), they had to dress up for church only once a month, they could have a whole box of any cereal (usually with chocolate in the title, ugh) they wanted for their birthday. We also enjoyed pranks, theater plays, a giant dress up/costume room, 10 different pets, and tons of crafts.  I thought I was going to make the biggest impact in their lives, but I am so very changed myself.

After 30 years my husband and I parted and remain friends today, still very involved with our children’s lives. I am in a new chapter of my life. My children have grown, have children of their own (11 fabulous grandchildren and counting). We all love getting together as much as possible.

Ed and I at a Chicago concert

Ed and I at a Chicago concert

I met a wonderful man named Ed Miller who was not frazzled by my huge family, brought two sons of his own and joined me in a new marriage adventure. We have been married now for 7 years. He is also a nurse and works with the elderly.

Work Life:  I am currently a psychiatric nurse, a charge nurse at Seton Shoal Creek Hospital over the adult ICU, and I have been there for 8 years. I began as a nurse in 1978, but after having children, I joined the pastoral staff of a local church as the director of congregational care and counseling.  I received my masters in counseling, obtained my LPC and had a private practice for 10 years. I missed the team spirit I had in the church setting, so I returned to nursing as a psych nurse. I love it — and again I need my creative energy to problem solve and creatively care for our patients.  In 2013 I was named Seton Behavior Health’s Nurse of the Year. In 2014 I was chosen as a TNA (Texas Nurses Association) Fab Five Nurse, the first psych nurse to obtain this award.

Suzanne McConkey & I drinking cowboy coffee, as we get lunch ready for everyone at Community First! Village

Suzanne McConkey & I drinking cowboy coffee, as we get lunch ready for everyone at Community First! Village

A little unknown fact, in 1974 I wanted to be an animal vet but they did not allow women in the A&M vet school, so I went into nursing! Oh how times have changed!

Pastor…counselor…nurse… all different but dealing with people just the same, only from different perspectives.  I love going the extra mile, to help other people grow, to be encouraging. I believe that we all heal and grow best when we do it together!

 

My favorite quote:  I have seasons of quotes that linger and settle on me for a while, then new ones settle. These two I have been sitting with me lately:

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry, to get my work done, and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
-Maya Angelou

“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy,
I woke and I saw that life is all service,
I served and I saw that service is joy.”
-Kahlil Gibrán

With Christine Novak (another missional resident at CF!V) & Heidi Sloan (head of the gardens at CF!V) after I just got my tattoo based on Psalm 121

With Christine Novak (another missional resident at CF!V) & Heidi Sloan (head of the gardens at CF!V) after I got my tattoo based on Psalm 121

I’m Most Inspired by… I once bought a book just because of its title “Playing a Poor Hand Well.”  It talked about people who have had adversity or trials yet remained resilient, positive and thrive. I am inspired by those people. They choose to take what was intended to take them out, and they weave it into their story of joy.

Something people may not know about me… I love to play hand drums and hope to be part of a drum circle at Community First! Village, where we now live.

My guilty pleasure…  Spending a whole day in the studio painting, playing music, making new colors and trying new techniques .

My “perfect day” would be… Oh my that would be a full day… walk my dog Jack while visiting with friends/neighbors as I go, watch my children play together, work together on a project with people, paint/draw a little, then I’d go dancing with Ed at Don’s Depot downtown, sit on the porch and enjoy the breeze.

My Story:
Abundant Living Among the Chronically Homeless

Ed and I at our new home Community First! Village, where we are missional residents

Ed and I at Community First! Village, where we are missional residents

A large percentage of my patients have fragile housing situations. Every week, I discharge them out the door to the streets. Often they have little or no access to consistent resources to maintain their health. This troubles me greatly.

Serving lunch under the big tent at Community First! Village, everyone knows me by my big hat & plaid shirts

Serving lunch under the big tent at Community First! Village, everyone knows me by my big hat & plaid shirts

Two years ago, my husband and I were invited to visit the small Mobile Loaves and Fishes model of the Community First! Village.  Community First! Village is a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas.  Community First! Village Includes:

  • An innovative mix of affordable housing options
  • Places for worship, study, and fellowship
  • Memorial garden and columbarium
  • A community garden featuring fruit- and nut-bearing trees and vegetables
  • A chicken operation, bee hives producing fresh honey, and aquaponics
  • A workshop with tool bank and art gallery for micro-enterprise opportunities
  • A medical facility for physical and mental health screenings and support services including hospice and respite care
  • Walking trails
  • An outdoor theater and bed & breakfast for mission visits
  • CAP Metro bus stop
  • WiFi

As I walked around the canvas cottages, micro homes, RVs, chicken coop, tilapia pond and gardens, I heard the plan of creating a true working community with micro enterprises, clinic, movie theatre, and more. I kept hearing in my head “I could so live here and be a part of this.” My husband and I talked and prayed for several months. There was a strong sense that God was inviting us to jump into a roller coaster for the ride of our lives. Why would I do anything else!

the garden crew on the bridge at Community First! Village

The garden crew on the bridge at Community First! Village

We then jumped into volunteering on Saturdays out at the gardens… we have been there ever since!

We moved to Community First! Village during Thanksgiving week of this year, into a 300 square-foot RV that we had redone. We’ve learned that so much of our “stuff” is not essential for a rich life. I share much of my day with so many new folks. We walk dogs together, cook/feed volunteers together, harvest crops, sit around a roaring fire on cold nights, share meals — just do life together. So many stories , so many incredibly resilient people that choose to not let the horrible trials of life get them down.

with CF!V chef Dennis Williams & some of the hundreds of fabulous volunteers

With CF!V chef Dennis Williams & some of the hundreds of fabulous volunteers

My kids love coming out and being here with us — the grandchildren harvesting food and feeding chickens.

Life has come full circle, my hopes are unfolding… laughing, tears, getting work done, loving others and finding daily courage to be loved in return.  I am rich!

 

 


iGnite’s Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to hello@igniteyourlifenow.com


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Real Women, Real Stories | Missy Zinnecker: Navigating Life as a Military Wife

Real Women Real Stories | iGnite Your Life

Missy's Story: Navigating Life as a Military Wife

photo: Catherine Sanderson

Roots:  I was born and raised in Austin. Most recently, my husband’s military career took us to The Netherlands for five years. We loved our time there and all of the amazing travel opportunities we had. We are now in the process of moving to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas where Chad will attend Command and General Staff College for a year. We will then begin a new path in the Army, where my husband will receive various levels of training and education to become a Foreign Area Officer. He will specialize in South East Asia, where we will eventually live and work at a U.S. embassy or consulate. We are really excited about this new adventure!

Missy and Chad

Missy and Chad

Family Life:  I have been married to my husband, Chad, for nine years. We are pregnant with our first child and I am due on December 1st. Chad and I have technically known each other since birth. We were both born premature at Seton Hospital around the same time and were in the NICU together, so our mothers got to know one another. We didn’t begin dating, however, until my final semester at Texas A&M University.

Work Life:  Out of college, I worked for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) in Austin for 5 & 1/2 years in their Customer Service Policies and Procedures group. Then, my husband’s military career took us abroad where, instead of working, I completed my master’s degree in international relations. I hope to work in the embassy when we move to SE Asia.

Who Inspires Me Most:  Many of the senior Army spouses I have met throughout our time in the military. These women have raised children both with and without their husbands, navigated numerous moves across the country and abroad, and done it all with a great attitude toward life.

If I Weren’t In My Current Career I’d Be…  An interior designer. I love home design shows and Pinterest!

~ My Story ~

Becoming a military wife wasn’t ever how I envisioned my life. I thought I would graduate from college, begin my career, meet someone along the way and settle down somewhere. All of that changed when Chad and I began dating just before I graduated and I became aware of his commitment to the U.S. Army.

Chad and I married on July 1, 2006. We knew we wanted to get married before his first deployment and this gave us a few months together as a married couple before he went to Iraq for  the first time. We have been through three deployments over the last nine years, and I have learned that staying busy is the best way for me to handle the stresses and the many months of separation associated with deployments. Through the first two deployments, I was fortunate enough to have a full-time job in Austin to keep myself occupied. Living with either my sister or parents also made the challenges much easier.

travelcollage-01

Fun with travels and friends while living in The Netherlands

One of our most difficult times as a couple occurred when we made the international move to The Netherlands. After the initial excitement of living in Europe wore off, we hit a few bumps in the road. Being immersed in a new culture had it’s challenges, and we had to learn that we needed to work a little harder to get things taken care of — everything from figuring out where to buy a vacuum cleaner to how to navigate the narrow roads took a little more effort and patience. The cloudy/rainy weather also affected our mood. These changes, along with the fact that I was no longer working full-time, made my outlook less than positive and affected how I was treating my husband. After some much needed reflection, I realized that I needed to get busy pursuing a few of my passions and focus on my personal goals. Soon, I joined the board of the Military Spouses Club, where I met some wonderful friends, and I also began taking classes in pursuit of a master’s degree. Soon I grew to truly love every aspect of our life in The Netherlands, the sense of home we felt there and the people we befriended. Saying goodbye to that life a few weeks ago was one of the hardest things I have done.

PromotionCeremony-01

At Chad’s most recent promotion ceremony: being promoted to  Major

In overcoming the challenges of moving abroad, I learned the power of the quote, “Bloom where you are planted.”  Moving every few years was never something I desired, but I now look forward to the new opportunities that arise every time we are stationed somewhere different. A new home comes with new chances to experience life differently and opened my eyes to differing perspectives and new opportunities to learn and grow as a person. Working through that challenging time also reminds me to keep my personal goals at the forefront of my life, despite my ever-changing location. 


iGnite’s Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to hello@igniteyourlifenow.com


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Elaine Seeber: Through Hell and High Water, Perseverance & Faith

ElaineSeeber_w-1

A True Texas Girl… I was born and raised in Bertram, Texas.  I married Donny Brown, and we lived in the Philippines for our first 2 years of marriage, then back to Texas in Austin, Georgetown and Riesel.  We had two daughters together, Neissa and Shonna, who have now brought me 4 grandchildren.

Joe and I with our grandchildren Malaine, Claire, Durant and Cole

I now live in Hewitt, a suburb of Waco, (HA!) and have lived here almost 11 years with my second husband, Joe. 1 ½ years ago, I retired from a career at Hillcrest Hospital.

 

I’m inspired by… Daddy and Mother.  I regret I didn’t thank them enough when they were alive and would so love to be able to now.

My pet peeve… Negativism.  It drives me crazy!

 

If I had had a different career… It would have been Home Economics Teacher.

 

Outside of being with the kids and grandkids, my perfect day would be… A very warm day that starts with exercising (sweat profusely) , working in the yard and with my plants (sweat profusely), sitting on the deck and watching the birds and listening to my wind chimes, going inside to eat, taking a shower, and then with the AC turned down to about 68, taking a long afternoon nap covered up with a throw!

 

Growing up a farmer’s daughter… Daddy was a farmer/rancher/carpenter.  Mother was a homemaker.  We were 3 girls and 1 boy: Benda, Sharon, Connie (my brother, and he despises the name!), and the baby ME!

We were extremely close and truly lived in a “bubble.”   We raised chickens as part of the family income — the most chickens we raised at one time was 1,400!…and no, that isn’t a typo.  We had our after-school and summertime chores of gathering, washing, grading and cartoning the eggs.

When my brother and I got “older” (probably 10 & 12), in the winter after school we would burn the stickers off prickly pear cactus for the cows to eat.  In the summer we had hay, corn and maize to haul and put in the barn.  I learned at an early age how to drive the standard pickup truck and tractor pull the trailer.  Our garden provided food for canning, and our meat came from our own pigs, calves and chickens.  We milked our own cows, drank the milk and made butter from it.

Mother was an excellent cook and seamstress, and she made all of our meals from scratch and sewed all our dresses.  Our clothes were wrinkle-free when we wore them, and daddy’s and my brother’s jeans were starched stiff as a board.  I learned carpenter skills from daddy.  There was never buying a new appliance, as cords were repaired by mother. Major repair work, daddy did.  I remember mother getting a wringer washer and how proud of it we were.  Our clothes were line-dried, and in the winter we would hang wet clothes in front of the space heaters, and/or lay them in the oven.

We were in church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night.  Our favorite time of day was eating “supper.”  We never sat down to eat until at least 8:00 pm, and we ate as a family. After eating was our “visiting time,”  and never did we get up quick from the table. We sat there sometimes until 9:30 visiting.

There was one bathroom for all 6 of us, that daddy added on when I was in the first grade.  Since we had our own water well, we weren’t allowed to use but about 2 inches of water in the bathtub.  Baths were quick, and while one of my sisters or I were bathing, the other one would come in and wash faces and brushed teeth.

photo 1-5The only vacation we ever had was going to Alpine and visiting my mother’s sisters.  Neighbors that were chicken farmers would take care of our chickens for a few days, and we would return the favor.  I remember one time I was about 12, Daddy wanted to take us to Inks Lake and spend the night.  So we packed up our car and pickup, and Mother cooked all the food for us (including fried chicken).  Plans were for us to get there mid-afternoon, spend the night, sleep in the back of the uncovered pickup on a pallet consisting of several blankets, a sheet and our pillows.  We were so excited and thought we were in high cotton!  Well, as luck would have it, early that night a thunderstorm came, drenched us and we ended up having to come home that night.  We were of course disappointed, but accepted it as just one of those things that happens.

 

My Story… I shared so much about my upbringing because it is an integral part of who I am and how I overcame obstacles in my life.    I was fortunate to have wonderful parents that taught us to (1) love the Lord; (2) love each other and be a family; (3) have integrity; (4) not covet our neighbor, and (5) have a great work ethic.

In Bertram there was little difference in family incomes.  We had only what we needed, and our community was close-knit and truly cared about each other.  I thought that was the way the entire world was.

Growing up, I never knew Mother and Daddy had arguments, and we as a family very seldom argued.  If we had a problem, we talked it over, settled it and that was that.  So when Donny and I had our first argument, I just knew we were headed to divorce court the next day.

Donny and I divorced after 15 years, and it was devastating.  Our girls were 7 and 11 years old. Like I said….no one was supposed to even argue, much less divorce I lived with a tremendous amount of guilt and failure, but my upbringing gave me strength.  I knew I had two ways to go: either (1) running around and going to bars (which had never appealed to me, nor does it now), or (2) continue going to church and make sure that was a vital part of my children’s and my life.

The age difference Shonna and Neissa was good in that they never competed against each other, but it did mean that every night and weekend we were busy.  Confirmation was 4 years long, therefore for 8 years, our Wednesday nights were taken up. Shonna’s basketball and football games were Friday night, Neissa’s were Monday and Thursday.  Weekends were track meets, tournaments and church youth groups (which of course met at different times on Sunday afternoon).   I had a little red Ford Escape — Margaret was her name — and she got us everywhere.

So many times I wouldn’t have the money to pay our electricity bill on time.  On the cut-off date, I would leave the house at 6:30 am and get the payment to Marlin, come home and get the girls to school.  (That was back when you could write a check and know it wouldn’t get to your bank for at least 2-3 days.)  I made phone calls to utility companies and banks, begging for a few more days.

 

A particularly challenging Christmas… The houses in Riesel we lived in were always COLD in the winter and HOT in the summer.  From living on a farm, I knew to leave the faucets dripping at night to keep the pipes from freezing.  But it seemed no  matter how careful I was, it always froze.  I remember one Christmas it froze on either the 23rd  or 24th…

On Christmas afternoon, we were taking our naps, (a true Watson tradition) and I woke up to a spewing.  The water had unfrozen and the pipes had burst.   Ice cold water was everywhere.  I went outside, turned it off and started  mopping it up.  I always wrapped my outside pipes and prayed they wouldn’t freeze… but they did just a couple of times.  But I knew how to do that because I had seen and helped Daddy do it many times.

One winter night it was icing outside —  I had bought plastic to put on the outside of our windows to protect from the north wind.  I went outside after the girls went to bed and nailed the plastic to the windows.  The wind was blowing hard and it was literally freezing.  As I was coming back in the house, the sidewalk had frozen and I slipped and fell flat on my back, my head missing the corner of the step about an inch.  Scared me to death, but nothing was broken, so I got up and went back inside.

How did I make it?  My faith and my parents! 

 

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Real Women, Real Stories | Patti Rogers: Living a Life that Matters

 Patti Rogers | Catherine Sanderson Photography~ The Basics ~

Roots:  I was born in Chicago, but my family moved to Austin when I was four. Coming from MidWest Irish Catholic roots, I remember feeling totally unsure about what living in Texas would be like… I was ready to give up Irish dancing for tumble weeds and cowboys. But we didn’t actually move to Texas… we moved to Austin, so that stereotype was not a reality.  Instead, we lived in a city that was more about creative expression, fitness, and eating healthy. The original Whole Foods was a tiny little place at 10th and Lamar and it was a daily destination for me and my friends. Those were the days when there was not a fight for a parking space, just a smile knowing you were going to saddle up to the best salad in town. I especially loved the organic peanut butter bins. So original and authentic for the time. And while I expected that living in Texas would mean I would become some kind of rodeo star, luckily, I fell into athletics. I graduated from summer league swimming to year-round swimming at the age of seven. And by chance fell into one of the most elite programs in the country, Longhorn Aquatics which was the club program associated with UT. It was a serious and rigorous program and a 2x/day commitment that transformed my life. It taught me many things:

  • Hard work is the secret to success. There is no substitute for it. Yes, people have good genes, but the people who have good work ethic are the ones who really win. Inside and out.
  • The power and the importance of self-talk. Our thoughts become our words, our words become our reality. So be intentional about what you think and say.
  • You can always go farther than you think. So do.
  • It’s not really a race about you and the person next to you. It’s a race with yourself to be the best of yourself, and achieving what is important to you.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to compete as a Division 1 athlete at the University of Hawaii. Which was a whole other culture-shock discussion we will save for another interview. 🙂 I stayed at Hawaii for one year and graduated from UT at Austin. After graduation I lived in D.C. and LA and worked as a graphic designer and marketing executive. I moved back to Austin in 1994 to start my own business and believe it or not reunited with my high school sweetheart. And we married a year later. Crazy!!

We have lived in Austin ever since. Lots of amazing growth over the last 20 years for us personally, as a family, and as a city too (wow, that makes me sound so old…).


Family life:  
Growing up, my parents were incredibly hard working — both from super humble midwest backgrounds. My dad’s dad drove a cable car in Chicago and his mom taught dance in their basement. And my mom’s dad ran a hardware store in Iowa, and her mom managed the house of four kids during hard times of the depression and world wars. Both my parents knew the power of showing up. They did not put words to the idea of service, they simply served. They always made time for their friends and organizations that needed them. Whether it was their church’s capital campaign, or the YMCA’s board, or their neighbors who were in transition, they always raised their hand. They, above all others, have inspired who I am today.

Both of my parents were entrepreneurs. They started things. In work. Outside of work. At church. At the pool. At home. And by the way, they probably never thought of themselves as entrepreneurs. They just were.

That was definitely passed down to me and my three sisters. All of them creative, hard working entrepreneurs who know the power of showing up. My parents amplified our potential, and I can only hope and pray that I can model the same inspiration for my kids.

I’m also married to an entrepreneur who I absolutely adore and admire. Watching my husband Michael grow his business from a blank piece of paper to being the number one Mac Game publisher in the world for almost a decade now, has been so inspiring. I feel so blessed to be married to a believer. Not just a believer in God but, but a believer in the power of faith. And a believer in the power of activating that faith with your voice and your heart everyday (which takes discipline by the way). It can and does move mountains. We all can be more and do more than we think we can when we practice declaring our vision, our gratitude and our dreams.

Work:  I’m currently founder and CEO of Rallyhood, a community collaboration platform that transforms how people come together with purpose. I founded the company after my personal journey through breast cancer. I witnessed the power of community in action and was changed forever by the extraordinary kindness and love in my life — but also witnessed the frustration of trying to organize a group when the tools are fragmented and hard to use. When I got well, I got inspired to build a new kind of platform to make it easy to come together with purpose—around a person, event or any common cause—in all segments of our lives.

We launched the platform in Fall of 2012 and today Rallyhood is the only platform that enables the social and mobile experience across an organization’s user groups, creating authentic engagement and meaningful daily value. Rallyhood, whose manifesto is “Do Good Today” now empowers more than 12,000 communities and provides solutions for organizations like The LIVESTRONG Foundation, Seton Healthcare, Susan G. Komen, Girl Scouts, Leukemia Lymphoma Society – Team in Training, and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

Rallyhood believes in the positive ripple effect of community. By empowering purpose-driven groups to be more effective, everyone wins. When things are well organized, we can do more together, and have more free time to enjoy the people and the moments that matter most.

Patti Rogers | Catherine Sanderson Photography~ My Story ~

On March 17th, while many of our friends were away on ski vacations and sunny outings for spring break, my heroic husband Michael and I headed into round 4 of chemo for breast cancer at ‘chemo palace.’ This is my term of endearment for the chemo room, which on a good day is as bizarre as Vegas—seriously bad lighting and insane people watching. While it was not exactly a dream vacation, I was thrilled to score a good chair next to the window so I could take in the blue sky and pretend I was in Hawaii. I normally scope out the room and try to choose a chair without a lot of people around, so when my reliable and loving posse shows up with their proverbial boom box and picnic basket, we don’t derail anyone’s luck at black-jack or sour their cocktail.

Even though there was a lady directly across from this particular chair, I seized the opportunity to settle in at the window position. Trying to mind my own business, I avoided eye contact, but I couldn’t help but notice her sassy grey haircut and her bright spring-colored outfit that was as uplifting as my window view. As I went through a series of comfort rituals—leaning the chair back to just the right position, tucking my cozy blanket around my legs, setting out my touchstones of faith on the table next to me—I closed my eyes to pray for courage to remember the value of the day. This day, every day, is a gift.

When I opened my eyes, I caught the beautiful, angelic gaze of the woman across from me. Suddenly, all of the Vegas surroundings dimmed to grey and all I could see was her face. It was my third grade teacher, Mrs. Clark. We both flew to our feet and into a hug that seemed to last a delicious forever. I held on so tight to her tiny frame while giant tears ran effortlessly down my face. At 82, she was just as bright and loving as I remember her 30 something years before. After the tears, we shared stories and jokes about how chemo had upset her golf game and how we should get together to sample bald-head balm. My cocktail waitress in scrubs hovered with an IV and a bag of saline, so Mrs. Clark and I said our goodbyes. She put her petite hands on my face and looked me in the eyes, “Do good today,” she said.

I did my best to keep from weeping until she left the room. The simultaneous weight and levity of these words washed over me like a second baptism. I remember hearing her say this very same thing when I was nine, when I thought doing “good” meant sitting still or listening well in class and my “today” was something all together different. But here I was, in the middle of chemo palace, I realized that what she meant then was what she meant today: “Open your heart and be the very best of yourself – today. Do something that matters – today. Make it count – today. It is the only today you will ever have.”

I was suddenly reminded of the words from a Native American song I had stumbled across a few days before: “You, whose today it is, get out your rainbow colors and make it beautiful.”

I made a promise to Mrs. Clark in my heart, I would make this journey count… I would find a way to pay forward the kindness that carried me through and I would live to that beat… to that promise…. to do good today!

~ For Fun ~

Patti Rogers | Catherine Sanderson PhotographyFavorite quote:  “It’s not about where you have been, it’s about where you are going.”


Who inspires me most:  
My husband. He is an incredibly successful business person who loves his family and prioritizes his time to never miss a game, an event, a moment to be with his children and me. He doesn’t choose the extra night in San Francisco over his son’s football game, ever. Even when it was flag, even when it was peewee. He never wanted to miss the moments that built the memories of life. He never would choose a dinner with clients over watching my daughter sing in her choir. He knows what matters to him and what doesn’t. He lives with intention… every day. He never lets false obligations keep him from prioritizing the people and the moments that he cares about most. He is also constantly reading and trying to grow and get better in all facets of his life. And he is so sincere and generous with his words. He dishes them out like party cake to all of us, while singing or dancing some embarrassing jig. Which inspires me even more.

Best advice I’ve been given:  It sounds strange, but the best advice I have been given came from cancer. It taught me that there are no days to waste, so we have to choose carefully about how we invest our time. Busy isn’t the same as full. If we believe in ROI in business, then we must believe the same theory applies in life.

While he never said it to me personally, I love the Steve Jobs quote, “Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things. And ‘yes’ to only one.”   He once told the CEO at Nike, “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”  It’s the same thing for our lives. Our calendars. We need to get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.

Something people may not know about me:  My happiest moments are not…definitely not…about reading Facebook posts. They are drawing with my daughter. I love to draw. I draw, and she colors. She is extraordinary with color and sees things I don’t see, which I love. Such a simple activity but my most favorite and I think it is the time we are most connected.

If I wasn’t CEO of Rallyhood, I would… Hmm. I would be trying to complete a book; commit to doing art once a day until I had a worthy collection of art, words, or photography. Or…I would start a different tech company. I think the future of software hinges on everyday insights of everyday problems and will be solved by everyday people as oppose to people who have a theory about what people need.

I’m looking forward to…  my son’s football game this week and his musical in March. My daughter’s reading at church on Sunday. Her volleyball game this saturday. And her learning to speak loud and proud!! Thanksgiving at my house with my mom and sisters and their families and kids. And if there is a skit that night I would not be disappointed. Our next summer vacay which we adore. Beach house in Florida where we make sand castles and ridiculous human pyramids at sunset. More times to love and celebrate my family.

When I’m not working I’m… Celebrating every second with my kids and my husband and the friends who truly lift me up.

I collect… Stories and insights about how life is good and how divinity works in our life.

My guilty pleasure:  Wine, chocolate and spa treatments.

My perfect day would be …  Early workout at the gym from 6-7. Green juice. My son singing over his breakfast. My daughter laughing at our sweet dog Sadie. Driving them both to school. Working to build a company that is focused on helping people’s everyday life be easier, with less communication clutter so they can have more time to engage in the people, groups, and moments that matter most. Recounting the day with my husband as we stare up at a huge texas sky full of stars, tearing up about our blessings. And oh…maybe a little wine and chocolate. 🙂

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 In light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we encourage you to visit the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer resource page to learn more, donate, and get involved.

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iGnite Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to hello@igniteyourlifenow.com

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Overcoming Shattered Dreams: Jill’s Journey from Track Star to Leg Crushing Car Accident and Back

BUDDING TRACK STAR

by Jill Watts

by Jill Watts

After moving to a new high school in The Woodlands, Texas my freshman year, I decided to join the track team. I tried out for all sprints and quickly my coaches and I realized that this was my thing.  I ran varsity as a freshman and continued the rest of my high school career, anchoring all three relays in every meet: the 100m, 200m and mile relay, and ran the open 100m and 200m dash. I continued successfully winning district championships and placing in Regionals and was on my way to pursuing a track career in college.

Then… I broke my legs.

THE ACCIDENT

It was the night of the Homecoming dance my senior year, and 6 friends and I were headed to the dance from dinner. Suddenly, the guy who was driving ran through a stop sign and smashed into a telephone pole on my side of the car.

I never lost consciousness, and I remember it all very well in detail.  I looked down and saw that my right leg was completely broken — a compound fracture where I broke my tibia in half and the bone was sticking out of my leg.  My left ankle was shattered, my right hand (which I had used to brace myself and protect my face from hitting the dash) was broken, and I had knocked out a tooth where my face hit the dashboard.  I was the only one in the car that was hurt.

I remember lying there on the table in the hospital after it happened and asking the doctors “when can I run again?” but they continued to say “we don’t know.”  They reassured me that I would be fine, but said they weren’t sure if I would be able to run again.

Needless to say, due to my injuries I could not run my senior year in high school and my chances for running in college were ruined.

RECOVERY THROUGH HARD WORK

This changed everything for me, but I stayed positive and never gave up. The hope of being able to run and snow ski again helped me push through months of physical therapy and 3 surgeries over a year and a half as I transitioned into college.   After hard work and determination, I was walking again, my leg was healing correctly after being reconstructed and the bone straightened, and I was feeling more sturdy and less timid with putting strain on my legs.

Eventually I was back to normal and doing all the activities I loved again — skiing, running, dancing, hiking, and exercising.  I started running again about two and a half years after my third surgery, and I continued to run at the track for fun, but never again competitively.

WHAT I LEARNED…

I learned some tough life lessons, and that accident helped make me the person I am today. It has given me the positive and hopeful outlook that I have on life.

It made me realize that life can change in a moment, and you have to make the best of what you have now and count your blessings. You also can not sit around and wait for life to be perfect, you must make a choice to live the life you want, despite some hard work and perseverance. You can never let anything get you too far down and you must always have faith.

Sometimes in life we are thrown a curve ball, (well, many times) and we can’t just sit around and wait for things to get better. You have to change your attitude, make choices, and figure it out. In most cases it turns out to be a blessing!

I still love the sport of track and am so thrilled that my oldest daughter is following in my footsteps and that I’m now leading others in track workouts.  Track excites me and it is an incredible way to stay fit!

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain!”

iGnite_Track_Workout

Austinites, join Jill at her many weekly classes: Cardio Circuit, Track Workout, Cross Training and Cardio Core

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