~ 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.
~ 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 ~
Favorite 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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