Women Who Rock : The Heart of Kidwx

about-us-photo1I am terrible with names.  It’s embarrassing to have a whole conversation with someone while running through the mental Rolodex. I was at a networking event and ran into a woman who looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her. I just knew that I knew her, but was drawing a blank. She connected the dots for me. We belonged to the same gym and went to a lot of the same classes, but had never really met. I’m so much more social when I’m not drenched with sweat and breathing like Darth Vader.

Her name was Linda Nimmo, and it turned out we had a lot in common. We’d both left high-stress corporate careers. I was trying to forge a writing career, she was building a new business. But we had a lot more in common than that. We’d both spent time on the educational support hamster wheel.

In these days of larger class sizes and performance-based testing, teachers don’t always have the resources to support a child who has a screwdriver in a hammer world. I had been there. Linda had been there too, and she and her friend and neighbor Jamie Finch were doing something about it.

Finding  a child service provider, from afterschool programs, to learning resources, to pediatric specialists, is like looking for a needle in…a huge pile of needles. It’s even more confusing and intimidating if your child has a learning disability. There are tutoring programs, independent tutors, testing and evaluation experts, and alternative learning methods. There are camps and specialized schools and non-profit organizations that provide resources for parents. How do you know which combination might work for your child?

You ask another parent.

It really shouldn’t be this hard to find someone you trust with your child. There is a ton of information–unfortunately it’s all distributed. Each parent has their own set of experiences, good and bad, but it’s locked inside the confines of their own social circle. What parents needed, Jamie and Linda decided, was a place that captured all of that information in one place so parents could explore a broader range of choices and feel better about those they pursue. Since it didn’t exist, Jamie and Linda created it, and launched Kidwx.

Kidwx is an information portal where parents can read and provide reviews of child service providers. It’s sort of like an Angie’s List for parents. A subscriber can get kidwxinformation on educational services, remediation and tutoring, enrichment, extracurricular activities, health and wellness providers and support groups and organizations, all reviewed by other members.

“There’s no better advertising than a parent’s heartfelt review,” says Jamie. Kidwx accepts no advertising dollars from service providers. Businesses can subscribe and see reviews so they can address any complaints, but can’t post or edit reviews. Kidwx doesn’t filter reviews, either, so parents get to hear both positive and negative experiences. “That’s the one piece we wouldn’t give up,” Linda said, despite the challenges it posed. “We wanted to stay true to that vision.”

Their passion for this business is heartfelt and rooted in helping children. Linda and Jamie both know how difficult it can be to find the right match for your child. You can spend a small fortune and still not find what you need. When you do find it, it can be a game changer. “We’ve had reviews where a parent has said (this service provider) changed my child’s life.”  What rocks more than that?

The women who created it.

Check it out Kidwx here, and meet two women who rock, just like all of you.

Words by J. B. Everett

There really is a top dog, and it’s a woman who rocks

When I asked Lucy Lou Leader to talk to me about her volunteer work visiting nursing, assisted living and rehabilitation communities, she said the best way for me to learn was to come with her. So, on Tuesday, I headed to Cameron Glen, a 173-bed nursing and rehabilitation center, a temporary home for patients well enough to be released from the hospital, but still needing assistance before they are ready to go home.

It’s not surprising to me that Lucy chooses to give her time in this way. She’s the sweetest, calmest being I know, content to sit by someone’s side and be present. Sharing a treat or two is even better. It’s like her personal mission to make people happy, to lick loneliness as it were. Literally. Lucy, is a Fairfax Pets on Wheels Top Dog.

Fairfax Pets on Wheels provides pet visitation to 14 different Fairfax county facilities with a network of more than 300 volunteer dogs. Not just any dog can be a Pets on Wheels Dog. They go through extensive training and temperament testing to make sure they can handle the environment.

“They dropped things, pushed walkers at me, tugged on my ears, you name it,” Lucy explained. “But none of that really bothered me. The hardest part , frankly, was getting busted for talking in class. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a social butterfly.” She was able to curb her playful nature enough to earn the American Kennel Club Good Citizen designation, and eventually become an AKC therapy dog.

Lucy visits two different facilities every week, logging in over 100 hours of therapy visits every year. She led the way through the facility, stopping periodically to check in with old friends and new patients. We met up with one of Lucy’s friends, Abby, another Pets on Wheels volunteer. They like to travel as a team. “We have different specialties that work well together. Abby is good at the bed sitting stuff. Me, I like the feet. The floor is where all the good stuff falls. I found a roll under the bed once. Best. Day. Ever.”

I asked her if it was hard, being around people when they’re ill and away from home. “Not really,” Lucy said. “People rub my ears and tell me I’m beautiful all afternoon. Who wouldn’t like that? It’s harder when they leave.”

She took me to visit several rooms and introduced me to some of her favorite patients, and we made a quick stop at the rehab room and the community room before I left so she could get on with her work. “If you could do just one thing, tell other companion humans about Pets on Wheels. It’s a great way to make someone’s day brighter. And tell the rest of the dog community that it’s a great gig. Unlimited head rubs, and a few times a year you wear costumes and get treats. It rocks.”

No Lucy, you do.

For more information about Fairfax Pets on Wheels, visit http://www.fpow.org, or search to find a Pets on Wheels in your community.

Women Who Rock – Women Giving Back

Pat Leader wasn’t looking for her “thing,” but it found her anyway.

One day, while grocery shopping, Pat ran into a friend she hadn’t seen in a while, and something was clearly wrong.  Her friend looked haggard and worn, with her children in tow.  When Pat expressed her concern, her friend confided that she had left her abusive spouse. She and her children had quickly packed a suitcase and sought safety in a shelter for abused women where they lived while she worked to get back on her feet again.

When people hear “Northern Virginia,” homelessness doesn’t exactly come to mind. After all, Northern Virginia is home to three of the wealthiest counties in the United States–Falls Church, Loudoun and Fairfax. But poverty and spousal abuse know no boundaries.

HomeAid Northern Virginia, an organization formed by the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, builds and renovates emergency shelters and transitional housing units for the homeless. But housing isn’t enough.  Government and private agencies and temporary shelters provide job training, counseling and food assistance, but many transitionally homeless families lack other basics, like clothing.  So in 2007, HomeAid turned to the WIRMs—Women in Real Estate Marketing–a powerhouse group of women who make things happen.

Pat was a WIRM. Homelessness and women-at-risk weren’t just words to her. The problem had a face, and a name, and a story, and Pat heard it in the middle of Safeway and had carried it with her ever since. She didn’t know how to help her friend then, but this was a chance to help others like her.

The WIRMs helped HomeAid Northern Virginia form a task force called Women Giving Back (WGB), and Pat is their secretary/treasurer. In the last five years, they’ve grown from a handful of women operating in a HomeAid conference room to a non-profit organization with a warehouse full of donated clothing.  Once a month, women from 125 shelters and programs come to WGB store for “shopping day.” WGB has distributed over 175, 000 items, aided by community and corporate volunteers that help sort clothing and staff the store.

Pat says that shopping day is exhilarating, emotional, and exhausting all at the same time.  “There are moments when there may not be a dry eye among us. One day a mother and father with their two little girls came to find clothes. Not only were we able to help them–someone had donated two little tutu’s. You would have thought they hit the lottery! The girls were so excited and the tears of joy began to flow.”

WGB makes a difference. Pat says, “This past Saturday one of the ladies who had shopped with us on several occasions announced that she was starting a new job. Cheers erupted from us all and there were hugs all around. While my legs may be aching from the concrete floors, when that one person comes up and gives all of us a hug and thanks us for what we are doing it makes it all worth it.“

For Pat, it’s like being able to help her friend in a way she didn’t know how to years ago. At any given point in time, Pat and the other volunteers have a trunk full of donated clothing to bring to the store. They’ve used their network of friends and associates to keep the store stocked, and raise enough funds though their annual Cinco de Mayo bash to keep the organization running.

It’s one thing to want to help.  It takes some women who rock to turn it into something real.

Are you a woman who rocks, or do you know one — let me know in the comments, or email me at mobyjoecafe@gmail.com

Click here for more information about Women Giving back and HomeAid Northern VA.

Women Who Rock–The Palace of Weariness

Today is the start of my new interview series, Women Who Rock
Following a passion isn’t always easy.  What makes it easier is knowing we aren’t walking the path alone.

Living in the Palace of Weariness
Five element acupuncture describes the Palace of Weariness as the point on the palm of the hand, between the third and fourth metacarpal bones in the proximal transverse crease, otherwise called the headline.  Nina Brugel knows the palace well.  She lived there long enough to redecorate.

Nina was tired.  Not just sort of tired.  She was the kind of tired that aches.  She couldn’t stop thinking, worrying, even when the day was done. She couldn’t sleep, and when she did, even that felt like work.  Raising three children can be a challenge, even with great kids like Nina’s, but when one of them is ill, stress takes on a whole new dimension.  She had a child in pain, and like most mothers, her child’s pain had become her own.

Acupuncture wasn’t entirely new to Nina.  Her husband found relief in the ancient healing tradition after a double hip replacement.  Five element acupuncture balances the different types of energy within the body–wood, fire, earth, metal, and  water, releasing blockages that keep it from flowing freely. Nina hoped acupuncture would help her relax and sleep, but she found so much more than peace –she found direction.

You don’t find passion, it finds you
Nina’s passion didn’t announce itself, it snuck up on her.  “I hadn’t really thought about (studying acupuncture),” she admitted. “Shani (her acupuncturist, a woman who rocks in her own right) planted the seed.  I’d ask her all of these questions about what she was doing, the points she was working with and how they effected the body, and after a while she said ‘you really ought to study this’.”  There was a program about 45 minutes away.  It would take 3 years of full-time classwork, 250 hours of clinical work, and then she’d have to pass the board exam.  But after doing so, she could help people just the way she herself had been helped.

Nina had been searching for her passion for a while.  During college she was sure she was the only one who didn’t know what they wanted.  Even after working in the Capitol, getting married, and having her children, the question still dogged her as she looked for what might come next.  Nothing seemed obvious.  Frustrated, she’d curse out Oprah when told to  “Find Your Passion!”,  as if it was packed in an unlabeled box in the garage, or in that kitchen drawer with all of the other random junk.

Until Nina admitted telling Oprah to take a leap, I didn’t think I could adore her more.

That which creates fear, can also create energy
Which is not to say Nina jumped into studying acupuncture right away. “I had lots of reasons why I couldn’t do it.” Starting with the fact that she didn’t know where Laurel, Maryland was.  “My first excuse was a silly one. Shani just said ‘next’.”

But there were larger impediments–time, money, and her desire to spend time with her youngest child, just going into middle school.  “I’d spent so much time with my oldest when she was sick.  Shouldn’t I be here for my youngest too? He would want me home.”

“Have you asked him?” Shani replied.

Not only was her youngest fine with his mother being gone in the afternoons when he got home, he was proud of her, ready to tell anyone and everyone the cool thing his mother was getting ready to do.  Her entire family was behind her.  The support has been invaluable.

“It was hard going back.  I could literally hear the gears turning in my head, creaking away.” And the challenges continued. “There were times when I thought, why am I doing this?”  Her husband is right there next to her, working to boost her spirits.  “My husband gets to bring out all of his sports analogies.  He likes to coach, he’s in his element.  And you know, when you’re sobbing and ready to give up, they actually work surprisingly well.”

Nina will finish her program and pass her boards (because I know she will) early next year, and join her mentor, Shani, in practice. She hopes that in helping others she can find meaning in what she went through with her child.  Seeing people respond to treatment keeps her moving forward.  “I can be tired and stiff when I get to the clinic, and wonder how I’m going to get through the day.  And when I leave, I actually have more energy.”

That’s what passion looks like–something that adds energy, even while you expend it.

Have you found your passion?  What brings you energy?  Tell me! I’d love to hear.  Even better, if you are, or know, a woman who rocks, tell your story! email me at mobyjoecafe.gmail.com

Learn more about Five Element Acupuncture and the Tai Sophia Institute