Taking the Middle Seat next to the Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival

On episode 44, I’m talking with Lydia VanHoven-Cook and Courtney Stuart from the Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival (Facebook, Facebook event, Instagram). This year’s Film Festival will be on October 27 at the Wealthy Theatre. They are in their 6th year and offer a FREE day-long film festival for all ages. The films are all short films, 20 minutes or less, “dedicated to elevating voices and showcasing talent from historically underrepresented groups in mainstream media.” The Film Fest will feature the film Teeth and have a keynote by Joyce Pierpoline. You’ll be able to get a rad t-shirt from Citizen Shirt, enjoy a jillion cool films and listen to panel discussions that span so many topics. They’re also partnering with The Learning Commons at Fountain Street Church.

Lydia mentions her zine, The Bandit Zine (Etsy, Instagram). You’ll LOVE her zines and buttons. Think holiday shopping, people.

Lydia and Courtney mention a few past films that they loved: Le Clitoris and Wrap My Hijab by Mona Haydar. So, get involved! You can volunteer and small and big ways. I think you’ll find your people there.

Lydia and Courtney mention some favorite things that include the show Pose, Instagram account @hetsexplainyourselves, Lizzo, Better Body Image Conference, affinity spaces, animal rescue.

So go to the Film Festival! Take your friends! Take your neighbors! Take the middle seat and I know you’ll find belonging, learning, and connection right there.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Rachel Pieh Jones

On Episode 43 I’m talking to Rachel Pieh Jones (Instagram, Facebook). Rachel is a writer living in Djibouti which is in East Africa, and is bordered by Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen. Of writing, she says, “I can’t help it.” It is her work. Rachel is originally from Minnesota. She moved with her husband in 2003 and has lived abroad since. She has written several books (Welcome to Djibouti and Finding Home) and many published articles including an interview she did with her daughter that is great! She has a brand new book coming out in October 2019, Stronger Than Death.: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa. Please purchase it. It sounds FASCINATING. Rachel also writes the kind of newsletter you will WANT to read, Stories From the Horn.

Until September 22, you can enter to win a hard copy of her book. Here are the details… “Go to Net Galley and download the book https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/162744

Write a review and post it publicly by SEPTEMBER 22. Blog, newsletter, Facebook.

Paste the link to the post here

And voila! Entered to win.

Rachel talks about living cross-culturally and cross-spiritually. Rachel is so wise and wonderful. I cherish her social media posts. I think her perspective is so rich with nuance and complexity because she has such a depth and breadth of knowledge. Since we recorded, Rachel has shared that her thyroid cancer has returned so she sometimes speaks to living with cancer in her writings as well. I know Rachel would love your prayers, and maybe even more than that, she would love for us to be curious about each other, care for each other, and honor each other as I know she encourages us to do.

Some of my favorite resources that go along with this conversation are: No White Saviors, an Instagram account that talks about white privilege and white saviorism. (If you are a person who holds white privilege and decide to follow this account, please LISTEN, listen, listen. Do not comment.) Imperfect Courage, a book by Jessica Honegger (Episode 19)

If you’d like to follow along with what I’m up to, head to Facebook or Instagram. I’m also a therapist at Grand Rapids Specialty Therapy. Until next time, keep taking the middle seat.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Toni Rain

On Episode 42, I’m talking with Toni Rain (Facebook). She does 1,000,000 amazing things INCLUDING writing a book called I Was Supposed to be Nothing, creating her own skin, hair and body products, and modeling. She talks about leaving a written legacy for her nieces and nephews and showing them how there is strength in vulnerability. I absolutely LOVED talking with Toni and speaking into the spaces that people shy away from. We talk about sex as self care (clutch your pearls), gender roles, relationships, friendships, race, business and so much more. The short chapters are GREAT for a quick daily inspirational read or a book you read with a group of friends. You will love her and her book! (and keep an eye out for the next book, hint, hint)

Toni lives her life to the fullest and loves so many things. She loves meditation, juicing (local people head to Malamiah Juice Bar!), herbal tea, walking in nature. Her products are available at local shops Nourish Your Curls and Reflections so go grab them and pamper yourself. I also mention a podcast that I love, Therapy for Black Girls. It’s SO great! If you’re looking for a therapist, TBG offers a great directory too.

Toni Rain, author

Toni Rain, author

Taking the Middle Seat next to Erin Eising

On Episode 41, I’m talking to Erin Eising. She is a mom, adventure seeker, therapist and entrepreneur. She does so many things, we could only scratch the surface. She’s a representative for Trades of Hope (Facebook, Instagram) which empowers women around the world by partnering with artisan businesses to sell gorgeous fair trade and ethically made accessories and gifts (see my FAVE item here). Connect with her to shop or set up an event. You’ll learn and get cute stuff. Win. Win.

Erin is also a therapist. She loves working with children, teens and parents. She especially loves teens that seem to have challenging behavior. She connects with the teen and encourages the parents which we ALL need! She’s a wealth of experience and she connects so well with her clients through her authenticity and humor. Check out her therapy practice at Counseling Center of West Michigan.

But wait, there’s more… Erin sits on the board of Derek’s Place, A Recovery Cafe. You’ll remember this rad organization from Episode 36 with Teresa Adkison. Erin is a huge advocate for this organization and would LOVE for you to check out their upcoming family event. Get all the details here.

Erin’s favorite things include her son Riley (who you might hear on this episode), Caramel Marvel from Biggby, and travel!

I hope you learn a ton from Erin and I hope you reach out to her.  Refer your teens, your friend’s teens, your neighbors who are teens to her.  Set up a Trades of Hope event. Attend the Derek’s Place event this weekend. You’ll be taking hte middle seat and I know you’ll fnd adventure and authenticity and magic, right there.


Taking the Middle Seat next to Becky Haderer

On Episode 40, I’m talking to Becky Haderer, owner of Sacred Self Pathways (Facebook, Instagram). She is an innate traditions and well woman healer provider. She helps women align with their soul and move from surviving to thriving. She utilizes ancient traditions to help women access the wisdom that resides in all of us. She offers services for alignment that can help women stay accountable and connected to practice rituals and rhythms that raise their vibration. Becky is also a post partum doula and offers a a variety of services that make women in the post partum phase feel supported and cared for including healing ceremonies. Becky also talks about yoni steaming which may be new for listeners but stay open. You’ll learn so much! Becky is a Reiki provider. You’ll hear the calm in my voice at the beginning of the interview and that is 100% due to a Reiki session right before we recorded. Becky’s energy and love is incredible. I would love for you to connect to her and learn from her.

Becky’s favorite things include her coach Nova Wightman and Nova’s book Awake & Aligned, Unleash Your Heart Healing & Empowerment Circle, putting her feet on the ground in nature, real people, playing with her kids, water, and watching TV in bed with her husband

Remember to follow Becky and reach out to her for all of her amazing services. And go take the middle seat! I know you’ll find wisdom and healing, right there.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Marta Johnson with Treeshrugger

On Episode 39, I’m talking to Marta Johnson. She is the creator of Treeshrugger (Facebook, Instagram) which offers programs and community that help us align our desire to help the environment and our complex lives. Treeshrugger is “…here to tackle the gap between now and what's next for people that care about the planet but aren't seeing those values in their habits and decisions.” Marta talks about what ripples we can all create to make a tidal wave of change. I love how she talks about improvements over perfection.

She loves a good mason jar (of course she does!) and running. She clearly loves people and her Eastown community. She’s the absolute real deal and I know you’ll love her! Happy listening and go take the middle seat!


Taking the Middle Seat next to Lady Ace Boogie

On Episode 38, I’m talking to Lady Ace Boogie (Facebook, Instagram). She is a hip hop artist, musician, community leader, collaborator, storyteller, and all around inspirational, incredible human. Can you tell I adore her? She is a deep well of experience, wisdom and love that is all rooted in her history and path. If you haven’t checked out her music, you are absolutely going to want to follow her. The video you need to watch IMMEDIATELY is You’re Magic. It is impactful for absolutely every age and stage and person.

UICA event Off the Wall is coming up on May 23! Lady Ace Boogie will be performing along with other area artists at this fundraising event for UICA programming. There will be food and drinks and eclectic arts. You should go!

Check out another event on July 20 at The Pyramid Scheme, Lady Ace Boogie Presents: A Dope Ass Lineup.

Lady Ace Boogie has another cool event coming up in August, 2019, Michigan Framily Reunion.

Lady Ace Boogie talks about her wife and…. oh my goodness. The way she speaks of the love she has for her wife will have you all up in your feels. I could not stop smiling hearing about her relationship and connectedness and safety within her marriage. She mentions the Blue Bridge and Love Wins.

This episode taught me yet again… you’ll never be disappointed by taking the middle seat. There is connection and wisdom and magic right there.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Maggie McGuinness

On Episode 37, I’m talking to Maggie McGuinness with Maggie Ann Soap Co. (Facebook, Instagram). Our conversation is like the very best memoir you’ve ever read complete with a gorgeous storytelling, perseverance and resilience. Maggie talks about her history of substance use disorder and mental health issues. She also talks lovingly about her family and their struggles and triumphs with the same diseases. Maggie has an incredible family of her own and a very cool soap business. Everything she does is an expression of love for herself, her family, her community and the world.

Maggie is on the board at Cherry Health. I’d love for you to follow the link and learn more about Cherry Health’s comprehensive services. She also mentions ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), a study of how childhood trauma can affect a person throughout their lifetime.

I mention one of my favorite podcasts called Terrible, Thanks for Asking. Check. It. Out. If you have ever gone through a hard time, if you’re going through a hard time, if you have a friend/family member/neighbor/adjacent human going through a hard time, you’re going to want to listen.

Now first, go buy some soap!!! Maggie Ann Soap is the absolute best thing to have in your bathroom to impress the socks off your grubby guests or the very best thing to send to a friend or the very cutest thing to give to a new neighbor or the coolest party favor. She makes every product with care and intention. And it’s not just bar soap. She has lotions and hair care and beard care and bath bombs. Its the best. And second, go take the middle seat! Ask people questions and listen and ask again. I promise you’ll feel the magic in the middle seat.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Theresa Adkison

On Episode 36 I’m talking to Theresa Adkison, the founder of Derek’s Place (Facebook). Theresa talks about her son Derek from his rambunctious boyhood, through the ups and downs of his adolescence, to his adulthood as a father and hard worker. Through the whole story, she talks about how substance use disorder was also part of his story. Derek lost his battle with addiction in January 2018.

I cannot tell you how honored I feel that Theresa trusted me with her story. She is an incredible person who walks with grief and loss everyday. She has chosen to use her story to help others and has big dreams for Derek’s Place, a Recovery Cafe. I know you’ll want to support her in this work. Derek’s Place is modeled on a Recovery Cafe in Seattle. Theresa wants to create a space for people who struggle with homelessness and substance use disorder where they feel seen and loved.

Theresa talks about a book she loves called Read It Till You Believe It. She carries this powerful little book around with her. It would be the perfect gift for someone you know experiencing loss and grief. She also likes the boo You Are Enough. If you resonate with Theresa’s story, you might want to connect with Families Against Narcotics.

Theresa talked about her favorite things including getting a pedicure, spending time with family and friends, traveling, her grandchildren and being near the ocean. She also talked about how helpful art therapy has been through I Light Art Therapy Studio.

Theresa’s story is so powerful. I hope you’ll listen to each and every word of her story because there is someone you know that is also living the stress and grief and loneliness of substance use disorder. Take the middle seat! They need you to see them and listen to them.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to DaNay Tossey

On Episode 35, I’m talking to DaNay Tossey, owner of Cornerstone Coffee (Facebook, Instagram) in McBain, MI. In a town of less than 1,000 residents, DaNay saw a need for a space to connect. She has seen the magic that happens when you create a welcoming place of acceptance, openness, and…. COFFEE!

DaNay is not only a mama to 6 kids, a business owner, a physical therapy assistant, and a connector… she’s also a living kidney donor. I LOVED hearing about her experience as a living donor. If you’re interested in living donation you can reach out to me. Living donation is one of my favorite things to talk about. You can also check out the local program at Mercy Health or information at the National Kidney Foundation.

I feel like meeting DaNay was such a wonderful surprise. She is a bright light in her community and she will be a bright light in your world. Follow her on all the socials and go pick up a copy of The Turquoise Table to read at a table when you’re sipping coffee at Cornerstone Coffee or at your favorite coffee shop.


Taking the Middle Seat next Kendra McNeil and We Are Lit

On episode 34, I’m talking to Kendra McNeil, owner of the online bookstore We Are Lit (Facebook, Instagram). Kendra is an avid reader and an incredible resource for all things books. We Are Lit is a stunning and carefully curated collection of multicultural books. Kendra highlights books from young adult, to sci-fi, to historical fiction, to nonfiction and everywhere in between. Her love of books is apparent in every aspect of her business.

Kendra talked about how she jump started her business after a conversation with Linda Otterbridge with HASU (Hook a Sister Up). Since then she has gotten out of her introvert ways to do many events and pop up shops. You can find her regularly at the Downtown Market.

Another way to connect to We Are Lit is through Libro.fm. This is an audiobook service that you can subscribe to AND support a local bookstore. I love this so much. Be sure to choose We Are Lit as your local book shop! If you’re local to GR and looking for a book club, check out Women Who Read. Kendra and Toresa Blakely from In Life Now Talk Media started the group and it is going strong.

Kendra talked about one of her favorite book shops, Source Booksellers in Detroit. On her last visit, she picked up My Ideal Bookshelf (If you order, make sure you order from We Are Lit!).

Kendra is doing a story time at the Dream Big Fair that is put on by the Dream Big Sister Circle. This event is May 4.

Kendra loves purchasing special things from women business owners. She loves Rock Candy Earrings & Things by Della Marie Levi. Della made her a personalized wine tumbler that says “bookish” on it. So cute! Kendra also loves wine, and live music especially if said wine and music are on vacation, travelling with her friends or family.

Kendra McNeil with We Are Lit

Kendra McNeil with We Are Lit

Taking the Middle Seat next to Rachael Kaminski

On Episode 33 I’m talking to Rachael Kaminski, alternative hair stylist and owner of Confidence Beyond Hair Loss (Facebook, Instagram). Rachael is an incredible hair stylist working in the area of alternative hair (wigs, toppers etc.) and hair loss. She developed an awareness of the devastation and negative self talk that can result from hair loss after she went through treatment in 2017 for Hodgkins Lymphoma. She now serves men and women in her home-based salon with acceptance and care.

I learned so much from Rachael. She talked about the myriad of reasons that men and women might lose their hair including post-pregnancy, thyroid and auto-immune disorders, alopecia, cancer, scarring, and thinning. Rachael also mentioned a great resource through the American Cancer Society called Look Good, Feel Better.

Rachael talked about her favorite things including a glass of wine in front of the fire place, her pitbull Kira, spending time with girlfriends and travel. She loved her pottery class at the Holland Area Arts Council, adult coloring books, crafting and DIY home decor.

Go take that middle seat, my dear listeners!

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Amber Brandt and Olivia Fitzpatrick

On Episode 32, I’m talking to Olivia Fitzpatrick of Liv Styled (Facebook and Instagram) and Amber Brandt, The Coziness Consultant (Facebook and Instagram). They are sisters who have made it their life’s work to connect people, inspire people, and love people. Olivia is a rad stylist with impeccable style and an incredible gift to make humans feel amazing. Amber works in interior design and has approximately a zillion ideas to create welcoming spaces that elevate everyone who enters them. You’ll hear us laugh A LOT and I’m telling you right this minute, I love these women to pieces. They work in spaces that could be considered surface or frivolous but they know that their work is all about connection and love.

Olivia and Amber collaborate to create events called Bright + Becoming Events. I attended their first event and that’s where I just knew they had a special magic that I hadn’t seen before. Their spring event is April 25!! Follow Bright + Becoming to get the details as soon as they’re up. I KNOW this event will sell out quickly.

They also have A Modern Wedding Event coming up on March 23 at Mod Bettie. Olivia and Amber are the keynote speakers!! If you are planning a wedding, bless you. Almost 19 years in to my marriage, I cannot even imagine planning a wedding with hashtags and themes and creativity and organization. I am certain that you’ll love this event if a wedding event is on your horizon.

Olivia and Amber talked about their favorite things including candles, cheap mascara, and dance parties at home!!

Taking the Middle Seat is officially 1 year old! As I reflect on this past year, I am so grateful for all that the podcast has given me. Chief among those gifts is the gift of connection. Listeners, if you’re looking for genuine connection, put. yourself. out. there. Just one tiny step will do it. I promise. Humans are desperate to be heard and seen in this time of division so be that person that does the seeing and the hearing. Be the person that takes the middle seat!


Taking the Middle Seat next to Lisa Anderson with Grace's Table

On Episode 31, I’m talking to Lisa Anderson, the founder of Grace’s Table (Facebook, Instagram), an organization that serves young mothers ages 13-24 in the areas of spiritual exploration, parenting, adolescence, career and education. Lisa founded the organization through a desire to serve young moms; an experience that is near to her heart because she experienced motherhood for the first time at age 17. Lisa is an incredible example of service, perseverance, and unconditional love.

Listen closely for the story of how Lisa found Grace’s table at a garage sale held by a woman named Grace. How can we be a Grace to someone in our lives?

Lisa has always dreamed BIG for Grace's Table and the dream she’s working on right this second is A Space for Grace. Grace’s Table needs to the WHOLE community to rally around this. You can learn all about this campaign to secure a gorgeous house surrounded by beautiful greenspace that will provide an environment that can really care for every aspect of young mothers and their children. I invite you to join me in donating financially to this cause. We ALL benefit from young women being made to feel whole and wanted.

Lisa talks about Chelsea’s story and you can see that here. I LOVE lovety LOVE the idea that Grace’s Table is all about paying it forward.

If you’re looking for a way to connect to your neighborhood, check out The Turquoise Table. It could be one way to get started. Need a recipe to feed a crowd that will make you feel like a connection rockstar? Check this out.

Lisa mentioned some favorite things: Diet Coke, charcuterie boards (Squibb is my fave place for a cheese board), and lazy rivers. She also mentioned loving her time in therapy each week. Yassss! I love that. #shoutouttotherapy

Remember to give a little or a lot to A Space for Grace! What a great way to make an impact and support women, community, and beauty for all. Until next time, remember to take the middle seat. I know you’ll find magic and meaning there.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Dustin Cornett at the Chocolat Inn and Cafe

On Episode 30, I talk to Dustin Cornett. He and his wife Mai own the Chocolat Inn and Cafe (Facebook and Instagram) in Beattyville, KY a small town in Eastern Kentucky (census stats). My family and I visited our extended family in Booneville, KY this past summer and decided to stay at Dustin and Mai’s inn (in the East and West Berlin rooms). I talk honestly in our interview about my assumptions and stereotypes before I went there. And Dustin talks about how he didn’t feel like he fit into the area even when he was growing up there. Dustin and Mai have been around the world and he talks about what brought them back to Beattyville. One of my favorite parts of Beattyville is the Woolly Worm Festival. I love a kooky festival!

Dustin talks about some of the natural gems around the Inn like the Red River Gorge and Daniel Boone National Forest with the Natural Bridge. If you’re into rock climbing or hiking, you absolutely need to visit! There is a really yummy restaurant there called Red River Rockhouse. The fries were legit. He also talks about being in Palau and how that experience made him view his home differently. He also mentions his wife’s home town of Osaka.

Our conversation really highlighted for me how we have become such a divided country. Whether those divides are geographical, technological, racial, political, or ideological they are divides we must work on. And I would argue, this can really only be done by listening, remembering that everything is nuanced, every person’s experience matters, and by taking the middle seat.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Monica Stegeman

On Episode 29, I’m talking to Monica Stegeman, an artist at Little Shrines (Facebook and Instagram). Monica calls her art “found object assemblage.” You can see a piece we talk about here. She talks about how she’s always been an artist, even in childhood. From coloring with crayons, to collecting beautiful treasures in her closet, to finding her confidence. From creating one-of-a-kind valentines, to helping people heal through her found object art. You’ll hear how Monica has gone on a journey with her art and how’s she’s now ready to invite you to do the same.

Monica says, “Today my shrines are out of my closet and lit from within. They are kindled with my longing to give credence to feelings and needs. They’re a quest for order and meaning.”

Monica has created a space in her home to host workshops. You guys. The energy in that space is so peaceful and full of possibility. She has bins and boxes and buckets of found objects. It is like a playground for processing and healing. Follow her to sign up for her workshops.

Her favorite things include Embody GR, a veggie smoothie that includes celery, cucumber, green apple, lemon, ginger and kale (YUM!), and the Cascade Peace Park (this is a repeat guest favorite so I need to go there!).

People and movements where we can pay privilege forward (these are my favorites but there are many many many more. Find what resonates with you, challenges you, activates you and pay for it):

Lesle’ Honore’ - author of Fist & Fire

We Are Lit- multicultural bookshop

Bellamy Shoffner - writer and founder of Hold the Line Magazine

Leesa Renee Hall - author, facilitator, social historian, and creative word artist. Join her Patreon group here.

So, if Monica’s work and story resonates with you, sign up for her workshops, commission a piece of work from her, connect with her art. I loved taking the middle seat next to her. There was absolutely magic and healing there. I’ll be back soon with another episode of Taking the Middle Seat.

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Taking the Middle Seat next to Jennifer DiGennaro

On Episode 28, I’m talking to Jennifer DiGennaro with Nourished Energy (Facebook and Instagram). As there is so much diet culture swirling around us especially this time of year, Jen feels like the perfect oasis. She speaks to how connection, relationships and healing are so needed; not necessarily the next diet or new way of eating. One of my favorite things she said was, “Let’s get out of the edges.”

She is a holistic licensed psychotherapist and couples counselor. She works with people, “Strengthening relationships to self, body & each other.” Her areas of focus include chronic dieting, chronic stress and binge eating disorder. She is a certified intuitive eating counselor and certified body trust provider and works in modalities such as EMDR and Reiki. Jen works from a Health at Every Size perspective. Her website has so much great information on all of her work so head there to learn all the things. You can find even more information about Body Trust at BeNourished.org. I love how she talks about Body Trust as l i b e r a t i o n. Jennifer mentions THE BOOK on intuitive eating. Here it is.

Jennifer talks about her Holistic Nourishment Assessment and it’s FREE. Grab it at her website!

Jennifer talks about lots of favorites: Renfrew Center eating disorder conference, this TED talk, yoga at Lotus Jo’s, Tara Brach’s talks and her books, and epsom salt baths and Cascade Peace Park.


Taking the Middle Seat next to Tara Jones

On Episode 27, I’m talking to Tara Jones, owner of Your Pretty Pennies (Tara on Facebook and Instagram). She is a financial success coach, entrepreneur, and single mom. You will hear her tell her powerful story of “pressing the reset button.” Honestly, I’ve never identified with a financial planner or financial coach of any kind. Taking the middle seat next to super organized, planner, dollars and cents types has me quaking in my boots! Tara is on a whole different level. She reaches out to everyone’s soul and speaks a language that makes sense for everyone to beautify their lives in their own unique way.

Tara has so many services you’ll want to check out. She has published the Ultimate Financial Planner, a customizable 12 month planner. She coaches at the Financial Reset Online Academy, a comprehensive online curriculum to “Demolish Debt. Master Your Money. Create Financial Freedom.” She also provides 1-on-1 coaching if you are getting serious about manifesting the financial life you want. Tara is a sought after speaker including my personal favorite, Young Money: 5 Things to do with a Paycheck, a workshop for teens. You guys! Can you imagine if you had that workshop as a teenager!??!! How awesome!

She’s also hosting an event coming up really SOON, January 5! Its called The Ultimate Financial Vision Board Workshop. I’m going to be there and I want you to be there too! I am absolutely certain Tara will help you start your 2019 with a clear vision and plan. I have never made a vision board (or a budget… shhh) so I am totally geeked to be treating myself to this gift. Sign up at the link above!

Tara’s favorite things include her black boots from H&M. These are some cute ones I found. In a recent video Tara also rocks a faux leather skirt and that looks a lot like this and it is one of my favorite things. I’m telling you right now. She also loves the Cranberry Woods candle from Bath & Body Works. She also loves homemaking including ironing and loading the dishwasher. And she’s a huge advocate for therapy for everyone!

I know that Tara is going to be the voice in your head calling you higher in 2019. She is incredible. So dance and sashay into 2019 with this episode playing and remember to take the middle seat! I know you’ll find your very own magic and purpose right there waiting for you.


Taking the Middle Seat next to Nichole Beiner

On Episode 26 I’m talking to Nichole Beiner, an attorney, diversity consultant and community builder. She has a gorgeous presence online at Nichole Gabrielle (Instagram, Facebook) and at Melanin and Moxie (Web, Instagram, Facebook ) which is a space specifically for women of color.

Nichole is navigating living with a chronic neurological disorder and we talk a lot about how having an “invisible” illness can be so challenging. I know many listeners will resonate with her story of strength and struggle. She talks honestly about how privilege, community, vulnerability, and connection impact her journey.

I mention another woman I follow that has informed the way I see my own privilege, Rachel Cargle. Other women I love learning from in the online space are Vilissa Thompson, Leesa Renee Hall, and Layla Saad.

Nichole’s favorite things include Reina Pomeroy (lots of guests have raved to me about Reina’s programs!), movies, baking, The Great British Baking Show, tea, cozy blankets, books (memoirs!) and her husband.

She has a great gift guide up right now so check that out! Remember to check out our Taking the Middle Seat Gift Guide too.

I am 100% certain Nichole is going to change the world. She speaks truth to power. She shines light where it is needed. She is incredible and I want you all to follow her right this minute.

I’ll be back soon with another episode but until then, take the middle seat! I promise you’ll find some holiday magic there.

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This Seat's Taken: Gift Guide with Gretchen

My sister, Gretchen, and I are giving you a gift guide like no other. And by that I mean, it is not super organized, it doesn’t touch on every category, and the list is mostly things that Gretchen and I want to receive. Having said that, I think there are some awesome things on this list! Women-owned! Minority-owned! Locally-owned! Ethical businesses!

**Real quick.. a few other gift guides I love… Jen Hatmaker 2018, Jen Hatmaker 2017, Big Boo Cast

We are starting off with a bang… I have found THE BEST lipstick. The Lip Bar! My fave is the liquid matte style. But if you’re a traditional lipstick gal or a gloss gal, The Lip Bar has you covered. My fave safe color is Unimpressed. My fave take-a-risk color is Crown-Me. These are not animal tested and vegan. And The Lip Bar is a Black-owned business, woman-owned business based in Detroit. Love it!

Gretchen is forever devoted to drugstore cosmetics. (Andrea sighs) She loves Morphe lipstick. Check out the cute packaging. We both love cute packaging. I’ve been trying to get her to try BeautyCounter. I love this company and for a really cool gift, I love giving the eyeshadow palettes especially if you’re giving to a young person just starting to navigate makeup. If you’re wanting to really pamper someone on your list, give them the Cleansing Balm. Swoon.

I know there is an artisanal soap around every corner but I’m telling you, Maggie Ann Soap Co. is in a league of their own. This is a woman-owned business local to Grand Rapids. My favorite products are the Mermaid Lagoon soap, Chill Pill bath bombs, and Dog Shampoo bar. These are perfection for gift giving and stocking stuffers. You can also pick them up at the Bridge Street Market.

Gretchen loves Boll and Branch bedding. I know you have ratty ol’ sheets you’ve been meaning to switch out so if you’re gifting someone else or yourself, these sheets look divine.

My next recommendation is for all things Shannon Cohen. She is an incredible leader and motivator and has a whole line of cards, journals, and prints that will make any gift recipient feel seen and heard. I think they’re perfect for your co-workers, friends, 20-somethings. Really anyone. I love them so much!

Gretchen’s next recommendation is for a big splurge super special gift. It is a bag from B. May bags. These are gorgeous leather bags. Here’s Gretchen’s fave (boring) and my fave (exciting).

Up next is We Are Lit. I cannot get enough books and locally owned, woman-owned independent bookstore books are the very best. We Are Lit is a curated collection of multicultural books but Kendra, the owner, can order any book she doesn’t already have in her collection. Just message her! The books will come wrapped in brown paper and love. She also has an audio book service called Libro.fm. So your traditional and audio book lovers are both covered.

We both love businesses that give back and Gretchen is recommending a restaurant in Traverse City that does just that. The Good Bowl. Lots of you travel to the Traverse City area or know someone there so check them out or send your up north loved one a gift card.

Two more local GR businesses that I love are Liv Styled and Polished Nail Bar and Spa. Liv is a closet magician and personal stylist. She does all things style related and is the nicest human. You could give absolutely anyone the gift of Liv’s services and you’ll be a gift-giving hit. Polished is the coolest nail place and would be the perfect place to get your fave gal a gift card. Branch out and support a local business!

The next recommendation is still mine because I’m the host and I can just keep going… Shanalee Hampton makes the coolest stitched art for your activist, empowered, bad ass friend. Her hand-stitched art says the things we want to say! This one is one of my favorites.

And I’m on a roll… My next recommendation is Chaotic & Collected. This woman-owned shop makes handmade garlands and party decor. She has all of the usual things (birthday, holiday, etc.) and so many more fun things that you never knew you needed. Check out her site and I know you’ll find something you need.

We’re headed back to a fashion pick… Everlane. Gretchen loves their cashmere crew sweater and their high wasted skinny jeans, and their black suede kitten heels. Everything at Everlane is made with ethical business practices and fair wages. You can see the actual factories that make the items right on their site. Gretchen mentions another fave cashmere sweater from Uniqlo.

I’m coming back with a book recommendation that you could gift to a kiddo or grown up alike. It is called Modern Herstory. It is jam packed with 70 world changing women, girls and non-binary people who have shaped history. I have LOVED sharing this book with my kids because I can introduce them to world-changers and educate myself on these amazing people. It is a gorgeous book with beautiful illustrations and would be at home on a bedside table or coffee table.

And the last gift is the Because of Them We Can Box. This box launches in the next few days so follow the link to get signed up for updates on when it is available. Every month, your kiddo can get a box in the mail (they love mail!) all about Black History and Excellence. Love this!

I also talk about donating to causes in honor of someone on your list. I would love this as a giftee! Two of my favorite organizations are Together Rising and Donors Choose.

So there you have it. I could make gift recommendations for days! Let gift giving be a source of connection this year. Don’t make it a drag or just get something because you think you have to. Do it up right with meaningful gifts and if actual gifts aren’t in the budget, just take the middle seat. Make someone feel seen and heard. I promise you’ll both feel the gift and the magic in the middle seat.