When the soHza Sisters asked me to write an article about how I have helped empower other women in our community and around the world, I thought, what have I done that could possibly compare to what so many other influential and inspirational women have done in their lifetimes? Mother Teresa, who I believe is one of the most iconic leaders of our time, defined what it is to be a woman at the “center of change” through her unconditional and fearless attention to the orphaned, sick and dying around the world. So, I decided to tell the stories of women who have made me the woman that I am today and have given me the drive and passion to be a change agent for other women around me.
The most influential woman in my life is most certainly my Mom, Paula. Mom struggled to pay our bills and keep food on the table, working three jobs at once. She was a single mom after divorcing my father when my sister and I were very young. He was physically and emotionally abusive to her, and in and out of prison for drug possession and trafficking. He later passed away of a heroine overdose. While we could have easily followed in his addictive footsteps, the influence of my Mom and the people she surrounded us with kept us from going down that path. She taught us resilience against the oppressive situations around us and shared her ability to find a positive side to our obstacles in life. My Mom no longer works three jobs, but continues to be the hardest worker I know, and the best supporter of everything my sister and I do. That is what has made us the strong, loving, and career-oriented women that we are today!
Another influential woman in my life was my grandmother. She was also a victim of abuse, but that didn’t stop her from teaching us that we could do anything we put our minds to. She taught us to be strong women, and to be active and involved in whatever we were passionate about. She also emphasized the importance of higher education to me, and as a result, I became the first person in our entire family to go to college.
After spending twelve years in the healthcare industry, I decided to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams and opened my own custom window covering franchise called “Budget Blinds.” In addition to helping customers leave their stylistic impressions through choosing draperies, shutters and roman shades, our business also supports the Wounded Warrior Program, and Homes for our Troops, by donating window treatments and volunteering our time to help prepare the homes for the Veterans. Budget Blinds also donated over one million dollars in franchise opportunities in 2015 to military veterans looking to start their own franchises. This year we will be supporting soHza’s efforts whenever possible, as well as The Shoot out for Soldiers, The Family Mentor Foundation, The Worthington Food Pantry, and The Worthington Rotary Club. Through the business, I have had the pleasure of meeting many amazing and inspirational women, women who have faced cancer, loss, disability, and so on. They have touched my spirit in more ways than they will ever know. These women, unbeknownst to them, made me a better, more giving, and more humble person.
I realized that it is not just the grand gestures and world-renown efforts that make a difference in our world. It’s also about the little things we do to bring joy to others around us. It’s the heart and intentions we put out to the world as we go about our daily lives, the interactions we have with others, the examples we set, our attitudes, and the impact others have on us. We all face challenges in life, we all have struggles, and we all have choices. It’s how you react to those challenges and struggles, which make you the person you are.
I choose to be strong.
I choose to be empowered.
I choose to be a leader.
I choose to set a positive example.
I choose to be, like Mother Teresa, at the center of change.
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